May 02, 2013

Under-50s with breast cancer at record high

A record number of women under 50 are being diagnosed with breast cancer as a result of heavier drinking and later motherhood.
Doctors identified 10,068 new cases of breast cancer among under-50s in Britain in 2010, the first time the total has hit five figures, a report shows.

It represents an 11 per cent rise since 1995, when the number of diagnoses in the same age group was 7,712, or an increase from 38 to 42 cases in every 100,000 women.

The rise in younger patients developing breast cancer contributed to an overall increase in diagnosis rates among women of all ages from 37,107 cases in 1995 to a new high of 49,564 in 2010, figures released by Cancer Research UK show.

Higher alcohol consumption, a growing tendency to have fewer children, having them later in life, and use of the contraceptive pill were last night linked to the increase in cases among younger women.

Binge drinkers are most at risk, but every daily drink raises the risk of the condition even for women who are careful to stay within the Government’s recommended limits, experts warned.
Prof Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “The big issue is that a lot of people think there is a safe limit, particularly with cancer, and there isn’t.

“There is a substantive amount of breast cancer associated with what is often called 'sensible drinking’, when people do not even think they are taking a risk … the risk starts pretty well from drinking any amount.

“Given what we know about the relationships between alcohol and cancers, an increase in breast cancers linked to increased alcohol consumption is inevitable.”

The number of women drinking more than 14 units of alcohol, or seven glasses of wine, per week increased from 15 per cent in 1998 to 18 per cent in 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Having fewer children and starting motherhood later in life can also raise the risk of breast cancer because of the effect on hormone levels.

Even taking the contraceptive pill can temporarily add to the chance of developing the condition.

Jessica Harris, the senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Because breast cancer is one [cancer] that tends to be related to your hormone levels it can have quite a strong impact. The more children women have and the earlier in age they have them, the lower the risk. So when there is a trend in society for women to have fewer children and have them later, that would impact on the risk of [breast] cancer.

“The Pill has a small effect: it does increase the risk of breast cancer, but only while women are taking it. At the age at which women tend to take the Pill the risk of breast cancer is low, so that’s why it has only a small effect.”

Official figures published last year show that the number of women giving birth after the age of 40 rose by 16 per cent between 2007 and 2012, and the average British family now has 1.7 children compared with two in 1971.

While postmenopausal women are most at risk of breast cancer, the new figures show that one in five cases of the disease now occurs in women under the age of 50.

The NHS routinely offers breast screening for over-50s, but the programme has not been extended nationally to the 40 to 50 age group because of concerns about the reliability of the results.

Cases of breast cancer in the under-50s have increased steadily in recent years, numbering 9,312 in 2008 and 9,528 in 2009 before reaching 10,068 in 2010.

Cancer Research UK said the figures alone could not prove what is causing the higher rate of cases among younger women, but that increasing alcohol intake is likely to play an important part.

Despite the increase in cases, death rates from the disease among under-50s fell from nine deaths per 100,000 women in 1995 to five per 100,000 in 2010 due to research, increased awareness and improved care.

The charity said that women of all ages should monitor alterations in size, shape or feel of their breasts and report any changes to their doctor, even if they have been screened for the condition.

Chris Askew, chief executive of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity, added: “These figures show that breast cancer still affects more and more families every year in the UK and the need for research into the disease remains vital.

“Although breast cancer is more common in older women, it’s worrying to see an increase in the number of younger women diagnosed with the disease. We must invest in vital research for new treatments and disease prevention.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is important that the signs of breast cancer are spotted early so women can start treatment and improve their chances of survival. That is why we encourage women of all ages to be breast aware, know what is normal for them, and report any changes to their GP as soon as possible.”


  1. I would like to know how these stats compare to those of other western countries where women also tend to consume more alcohol, have fewer children, have them later in life, and use contraceptives.
    Nationmaster stats:
    Let's try comparing France to UK:
    Breast Cancer:
    France is 13th, UK is 8th (meaning higher rates of BC in UK)
    Alcohol consumption:
    France: 14.8 liters per capita, UK 11.2
    must not be alcohol, then.
    Age of first marriage for women:
    France: 29.1, UK: 27.7
    Couples with children:
    France: 56 %, UK: 52%
    Teenage birth rate:
    France: 9.3, UK: 30.8

    That's about all I could find. Unable to locate stats as to average number of children per woman.

    No time to compare with other countries such as Spain, Netherlands, etc. But form just looking at France, the numbers do not seem to back up the theory as stated in this article.

  2. How about living near a nuclear plant? The toxic emissions low or high are dangerous. LaSalle Nuclear plant in Illinois released radiation into Chicago...we are all in danger.
    No warnings, no nothing. It's you and your children vs the aging plants.
    Go to NUCLEARCRIMES.COM for real information.
    Up to you if your family is radiated. Time to end this insanity.