Medical mystery: Advanced breast cancer increasing steadily among young women

Friday, March 01, 2013 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: breast cancer, young women, medical mystery

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(NaturalNews) Why on earth are younger women developing more malignant breast tumors -- especially the kind that spread to other parts of the body? That's the worrisome question a new study raises.

Rebecca H. Johnson, M.D., of Seattle Children's Hospital and University of Washington, Seattle, and colleagues have found a statistically significant increase in the incidence of advanced breast cancer for women who are only 25 to 39 years of age. What's more, older women -- who are supposedly at a greater risk for breast cancer -- were not found to have a corresponding increase.

In the United States, breast cancer is now the most common malignant tumor in adolescent and young adult women between the ages of 15 and 39 years of age. Young women with breast cancer tend to have the more aggressive form of the disease than older women and they also have higher death rates from breast cancer. Because of these factors -- coupled with the fact doctors have reported in recent years that they seem to have more and more young women patients who are diagnosed with advanced breast cancer -- Johnson and her research team decided to investigate the national trends in breast cancer incidence in the U.S.

Their study, just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) , involved analyzing breast cancer incidence, trends, and survival rates as a function of age. The researchers also looked at data about the extent of the disease at diagnosis. Data for the study was obtained from three U.S. National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registries and covered the years 1973-2009, 1992-2009, and 2000-2009.

The results? Since 1976, there has been a constant increase in the incidence of distant disease breast cancer (which is defined as remote metastases to the bone, brain, lung and/or other organs) in young women. Overall, the compounded increase is slightly over 2.07 percent per year over the 34-year interval. While that may seem like a small increase, it is a steady one and, the researchers noted, "..the trend shows no evidence for abatement and may indicate increasing epidemiologic and clinical significance."

"The trajectory of the incidence trend predicts that an increasing number of young women in the United States will present with metastatic breast cancer in an age group that already has the worst prognosis, no recommended routine screening practice, the least health insurance, and the most potential years of life," the scientists wrote.

What's more, the increase in breast cancer in young women was across the board -- whether women lived in cities or non-metropolitan areas -- and whether they were African American or Caucasian. The greatest increases in breast cancers occurred in 25 to 34-year-old women. Curiously, there was no statistically significant increase occurred in breast cancer rates in women 55 years or older.

"Whatever the causes -- and likely there are more than one -- the evidence we observed for the increasing incidence of advanced breast cancer in young women will require corroboration and may be best confirmed by data from other countries. If verified, the increase is particularly concerning, because young age itself is an independent adverse prognostic factor for breast cancer," the researchers wrote. "The most recent national five year survival for distant disease for 25 to 39-year-old women is only 31 percent according to SEER data, compared with a five year survival rate of 87 percent for women with locoregional breast cancer."

While the study does not attempt to delve into causes of the increase in breast cancer in young women, the fact that older women have not experienced an increase in the disease suggests some obvious questions researchers might want to pursue. For example, have younger women experienced more exposure since childhood to cancer-causing environmental toxins and pesticides? Has the well known hormone disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) found in countless plastic products that younger women have been exposed to since an early age played a role in the rise in their breast cancer rates?

And as Natural News recently reported, researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have found low serum vitamin D levels in young women may predict there's a high risk that breast cancer will, in fact, be found in upcoming months. So could increasing numbers of young women be developing breast cancer because they are deficient in vitamin D after using sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure their entire lives, unlike many older women?


About the author:
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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