Breast cancer death rates drop for younger women, but not older ones

Friday, January 25, 2013 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: breast cancer, younger women, public health

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(NaturalNews) The rate of deaths attributable to breast cancer in Spain has dropped among young and middle-aged women since 1992, but has not decreased among elderly women, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid and published in the journal Public Health.

The study is one of the first to look at variation in breast cancer death rates between different age groups of women. It points to the need for further research into the way that breast cancer progresses in these different age groups, as well as the relative effectiveness of different prevention, screening and treatment techniques.

The researchers analyzed breast cancer mortality data from the years 1981 to 2007 using a technique known as the Lee-Carter model. This model is normally used to analyze mortality from all causes, rather than from one specific cause.

The researchers found that overall breast cancer mortality increased in Spain between the years of 1981 and 1992, then fell between the years of 1993 and 2007. Over the course of the study period, the rate of breast cancer mortality fell among young and middle-aged women, while among women over the age of 85, it continued to increase.

The study comes at the same time that the U.S. Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer (1975-2009) and the American Cancer Society both announced that overall cancer death rates and death rates from breast cancer specifically have both fallen in the United States over the past decade. The incidence of breast cancer in the United States did not change over that time period, however.

"While this report shows that we are making progress in the fight against cancer on some fronts, we still have much work to do, particularly when it comes to preventing cancer," said Thomas R. Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breast cancer on the rise in Europe

In Spain and the rest of Europe, the incidence of breast cancer has actually continued to increase in recent years, but overall breast cancer mortality has decreased an average of 1.8 percent per year since 1997. Much of this drop has been attributed to the increase in the prevalence of mammograms in middle-aged women.

"The new results support this assumption: there is an evident decrease in breast cancer mortality in women under the age of 50," the authors wrote.

But the study results suggest that different factors may be influencing cancer mortality among younger and older women.

The Lee-Carter model also allows predicting future mortality, and suggests in this case that the breast cancer death rate in Spain will continue to decrease until at least 2023, although at a slower rate than it has been. Yet among women aged 85 and older, the death rate might actually increase.

"Therefore, breast cancer preventative practices should be different and specific to the age range of the patient," lead author Alejandro Alvaro Meca said.


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