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Metastatic Breast Cancer on the Rise Among Young Women

Published on | Kylie Chin

Metastatic Breast Cancer on the Rise Among Young Women

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle and St. Charles Health System in Bend, Ore., has revealed the percentage of young women in the U.S. who have advanced breast cancer has moderately increased in the last 35 years.

Researchers studied the frequency of metastatic breast cancer (cancer that has spread to vital organs) among women ages 25-39. They found that the rate of metastatic breast cancer increased from 1.53 cases per 100,000 people in 1976 to 2.9 cases per 100,000 people in 2009. The most significant jump happened during the last decade.

Among all young women with metastatic breast cancer:

  • 4.4% diagnosed in the 1970s
  • 5.5% diagnosed in the1990s
  • 7.2% diagnosed in the 2000s

The reason for the significant increase is unclear at this time. Environmental and biological factors were explored to discover correlations within the time period but came up empty. Researchers even crosschecked obesity rate increases in the past thirty years but studies actually indicated a decreased risk of breast cancer in obese young women.

While researchers speculate the reason for the new increase could be due to the adjusting definition of metastatic breast cancer and the fact that it is being diagnosed at a different stage than it used to be. However, if that were the case one would expect to see a decrease in the number of women diagnosed with earlier stages of breast cancer – which has not happened.

This is the first time any evidence has been found that has shown an increase in advanced breast cancer in the U.S. so the findings will have to be confirmed by future studies. If confirmed, the results are quite alarming considering young women are less likely to receive breast cancer screenings on top of the fact that advanced breast cancer has a low survival rate among younger women (about 31% of the diagnosed survive five years).

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