UK Women Under 50 Diagnosed with Breast Cancer in Record Numbers


Breast cancer researchers in the UK have noticed a troubling trend recently, which is that more women under the age of 50 are being diagnosed with breast cancer. A record number of women under 50, actually — according to Cancer Research UK, 10,068 women under the age of 50 in the UK were diagnosed with the disease in 2010, 2,356 more than were diagnosed in 1995.

According to the Guardian, the rise in diagnoses “represents an 11% growth in incidence rates of breast cancer in women aged under 50 over the same period – from 38 per 100,000 women diagnosed in 1993-1995 to 42 women per 100,000 in 2008-2010.” Cancer Research UK isn’t quite sure what’s behind the unsettling rise in under-50 breast cancer diagnoses, but it has suggested that there’s a correlation between the 11 percent growth in incidence rates and growing alcohol consumption, more widespread use of the contraceptive pill, and a growing number of women choosing to have fewer children later in life.

The silver lining here is that the death rate for breast cancer patients fell from nine per 100,000 women under 50 in 1993-1995, to five per 100,000 in 2008-2010. Routine screenings are offered to women in the UK between the ages of 50 and 70, but changes are now being made to the prevention program so that women in their 40s are also invited to have regular screenings. That’s a start, but according to Chief Executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer Chris Askew (who doesn’t have the most trustworthy surname, but moving on), the rise in the under-50 breast cancer rate merits attention from the medical community:

Although breast cancer is more common in older women, it’s worrying to see an increase in the number of younger women diagnosed with the disease. We must invest in vital research for new treatments and disease prevention.

That probably means going a few steps beyond just having all the English football players wear pink cleats for a month.


Image via AP, Rich Pedroncelli

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