By: Alice Park
Breast cancer deaths are down in many countries worldwide—but some still have major work to do
In the latest analysis of worldwide data from the World Health Organization, researchers led by Cecile Pizot from the International Research institute in Lyon, France, found that in 39 of the 47 countries studied, breast cancer death rates have declined from the 1980s to 2013. The report was presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium of the American Association for Cancer Research. In the U.S., for example, mortality dropped by 42% in that time. Encouragingly, mortality dropped more dramatically for women under age 50, but it’s not clear whether screening or treatments, or a combination of both, are responsible.
Other factors, including use of certain drug or other cancer treatments, may be at work. Pizot says that different health care systems, and differing strategies for managing cancer are also important to consider.
Equally significant are lifestyle factors that have also been implicated in breast cancer risk — things such as diet, exercise and environmental exposure to potential cancer-causing agents including chemicals found in plastics or other products of everyday living. That may be a major reason for the rising death rates among women in South Korea, for example, which saw an 83% increase mortality rate during the study period. That higher rate could be attributed to the western lifestyle that’s been adopted in the country in recent decades, with the introduction of new environmental, dietary and industrial exposures that weren’t present before in the country’s largely pre-industrial, agricultural society.
While Pizot’s study does not delve into the reason for the discrepancies, the data suggest new areas of research and countries where scientists can focus their attention to better understand the most effective ways of lowering breast cancer deaths.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.