Advanced breast cancer increases in young women

Advanced breast cancer increases in young women

NEW YORK - Reuters
More young women are being diagnosed with advanced, metastatic breast cancer than were three decades ago, a new study suggests, although the overall rate of cancers in that group is still small.

One in 173 women will develop breast cancer before she turns 40, researchers said, and the prognosis tends to be worse for younger patients.

In the new study, a team led by Dr. Rebecca Johnson at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington found the rate of metastatic breast cancer, in particular, rose about two percent each year between 1976 and 2009 among younger women.

“We think that the likelihood is that since this change has been so marked over just a couple of decades, that it’s something external, a modifiable lifestyle-related risk factor or perhaps an environmental toxic exposure, but we don’t know what,” Johnson said.

One possibility is that overeating and lack of exercise are driving up early-life metastatic breast cancer rates, Johnson added. Or, the use of hormonal birth control could play a role, she said. But Johnson also pushed for more research into the potential effects of hormones in meat or plastic in bottles, for example.

Johnson and her colleagues analyzed data from cancer registries run by the National Cancer Institute.