Breast cancer has always been a scary thought for women over 40, but a new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that between 1976 and 2009 the rates of advanced breast cancer in women between 25 and 39 has doubled.
The study found that every year starting in the 1970s, the rate of advanced breast cancer in young women has gone up two per cent and it has shown no signs of slowing down. While it is still uncommon for young women to be diagnosed, 1 in 173 women in this age group is at risk of developing the disease. This is a result too significant to call a coincidence.
The scariest aspect of these findings is that survival rates for young women with breast cancer are much lower than that of older women. This is because the cancer behaves more aggressively in younger women. It is still unknown why that happens, but this makes breast cancer much more dangerous for women in the 25-39 age group.
The study found the increase amongst both white and black women living in urban and non-urban areas. This suggests that the cause or causes for the rise in cancer rates are widespread and could be due to a variety of lifestyle changes such as obesity, diet and birth control. However, the reasons for this trend have yet to be fully identified.
Rebecca Johnson, director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology program at Seattle Children’s Hospital, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27, which is part of why she coauthored this study. She told the LA Times that she didn’t think 29-year-olds should run out and get mammograms now.
“But if there’s a take-home message, I would say that it would be awareness of the fact that breast cancer can happen even in young women and that it’s important for both young women and their doctors to be aware of this,” she said.