A report from the American Cancer Society finds the breast cancer death rate in the United States continues to drop more than two percent per year, a trend that began in 1990 and is credited to progress in early detection and treatment.
But the report says African American women and women of other racial and ethnic groups have benefited less than white women from the advances that have led to those gains, and that a recent drop in cancer incidence (the rate at which news cancers are diagnosed) is due in part to fewer women getting mammograms.
The findings are published in Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2007-2008. The report, published every two years since 1996, provides detailed analyses of breast cancer trends and presents information on known risk factors for the disease, factors that influence survival, the latest data on prevention, early detection, treatment, and ongoing and future research.
"While many women live in fear of breast cancer, this report shows a woman today has a lower chance of dying from breast cancer than she's had in decades," said Harmon J. Eyre, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "Unfortunately, not all women are benefiting at the same level. Perhaps most troubling is the striking divergence in long-term mortality trends seen between African American and white females that began in the early 1980s and that by 2004 had led to death rates being 36 percent higher in African American women."
Other highlights of Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2007-2008 include:
Since 2000, the incidence rate of smaller tumors has declined by 3.8 percent per year. In contrast, the incidence rate of larger tumors (>5.0 cm) has increased by 1.7 percent per year since 1992, perhaps due to postmenopausal obesity, HRT use, or both. (Larger tumor size at diagnosis is associated with decreased survival.)
The report details the major modifiable factors associated with breast cancer. Obesity increases risk of postmenopausal (but not premenopausal) breast cancer, as does weight gain during adulthood. Alcohol consumption is consistently associated with increased breast cancer risk, with studies showing two drinks a day may increase breast cancer risk by 21 percent.
Most studies have found no link between active cigarette smoking and breast cancer; the link between secondhand smoke and breast cancer remains controversial. Meanwhile, growing evidence supports a small protective effect of physical activity on breast cancer, with most studies finding reduced risk in women who exercise vigorously for 45 to 60 minutes on 5 or more days per week. However, one study suggests that any level of regular physical activity may reduce breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
The report also notes current breast cancer research, including:
"Taken together, this report highlights the remarkable gains we've made in the fight against breast cancer," said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. "But it also puts into focus the challenge before us: to close the gap so all Americans can reap the benefits equally, and to ensure that no American woman faces an increased risk of dying from breast cancer because of her race or ethnicity or because of lack of access to quality care."
Materials provided by American Cancer Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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