Death rate declining but not for all
Posted by: Anonymous User (IP Logged)
Date: October 13, 2009 12:11PM
WHILE breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women in the US, the death rate from the disease continues to drop, according to a new American Cancer Society (ACS) report.
“The steady drop in the breast cancer death rate means that this year alone, about 15,000 breast cancer deaths were avoided that would have occurred had rates not begun to drop,” said John Seffrin, chief executive officer.
“Since the early 1990s, that decline adds up to more than 130,000 grandmothers, mothers, and daughters who were alive, perhaps to celebrate another birthday, and even to go on to live a full, rich life.”
However, not all women are benefitting equally, the report shows.
“While there is much to celebrate in the fight against cancer, this report is also a strong reminder that far too many women still die of breast cancer and of the work yet to be done,” said Elizabeth Fontham, national volunteer president.
“We need to make sure all women have access to information to help them reduce their risk and to resources to ensure early detection and the best possible treatment.”
Breast cancer death rates have been on the decline since 1990, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. Researchers attribute those declines to early detection through screening, such as mammography, and improvements in treatment.
The number of breast cancer survivors is growing – as of January 2006, there were approximately 2.5 million women in the US living with a history of breast cancer, the report shows.
However, the report highlights disparities among populations.
White women have higher incidence rates of breast cancer than African-American women overall, but while incidence rates have stabilised among African-American women, they’ve declined steadily in white women since 1999, at about 2% per year.
As of 2006, breast cancer death rates were 38% higher in African-American women than in white women. African-American women are also more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, when the cancer is less treatable.
Researchers attribute some of the decline in breast cancer cases among white women to decreased use of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT), after results from the 2002 women’s health initiative linked HRT use to an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
The stable incidence rate among African American women may be due in part to the fact that their use of HRT was already lower and the fact that mammography use has remained fairly stable in this population, according to the report.
The good news is that researchers now know more about the major risk factors for breast cancer, and many, like how much you exercise and how much you weigh, can be controlled.
“We’ve now identified major risk factors for breast cancer, many of which are modifiable,” said Otis Brawley, ACS chief medical officer.
“For instance, we’ve seen a drop in incidence associated with less use of postmenopausal hormones. And while that is gratifying to see, we remain concerned about obesity’s potential to offset that drop, and lead to an increase in the incidence of breast cancer in the future.”