Breast Cancer is the most common type of cancer found among women across the globe. It makes up for 25% of all cancer diagnosed among women from world over. The prevalence of breast cancer and mortality rate has increased globally by 20% and 14% respectively (American Association for Cancer Research). According to World Health Organization (WHO), the survival rates vary universally by wealth and region, with developed countries like North America, Japan and Sweden having a survival rate of 80% compared to a ratio of less than 40% in low-income and developing countries. The top ten countries with highest breast cancer diagnosis rate per 100,000 women are Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Bahamas, Iceland, UK, Barbados, US, Ireland and Germany with Belgium having the highest breast cancer incidence rate (World Cancer Research Fund International).
American Cancer Society (ACS) statistics show that Belgium has highest breast cancer incidence rate with 111.9 cases per 100,000 women followed by Denmark and Netherlands having 105 and 99 respectively, UK has incidence rate of 95, US 92.9, Ireland 92.3 and Germany 91.6. Survival ratio in Belgium is 85% for at least five years after diagnosis. In Denmark, almost 82% women survive for at least five years after diagnosis.In UK, almost 17 women die of breast cancer per 100,000 but the country’s survival rate is high as four in five women diagnosed with cancer survive. US has the highest survival rate as nine out of ten women diagnosed with cancer survive after five years, making survival rate in country highest in world. Though the developed countries have latest technology and good healthcare infrastructure, why is it that developed countries have highest breast cancer ratio compared to developing or low-income countries?
Exact causes of breast cancer are unknown but there are certain factors, identified by experts, which can increase the risk. Predetermined factors like sex, age, race, family history, early menstruation, inherited genes and late menopause are unavoidable contributors to breast cancer. Lifestyle choices that are avoidable and may contribute to increased cancer risk are high alcohol consumption as alcohol boosts the level of oestrogen hormone in the blood and the abnormal levels of estrogen are linked to breast cancer, obesity not having children at all or having at a later age (after 30) as lactation and breast feeding reduces the risk of breast, intake of oral contraceptives, sedentary routine and hormone therapy.
According to Cancer Research UK, almost 11% of breast cancers in UK were associated with alcohol consumption. Higher body weight counts for 7% breast cancer cases in UK. In developed countries, life style is more sedentary, alcohol consumption is much higher, obesity rates are high, women have fewer children and mostly at a later age compared to women in developing countries where women marry early, have more children, are more active in their lives and have little to no consumption of alcohol.
According to NCI (National Cancer Institute), a US govt. organization another major factor responsible for high breast cancer incidence is the advanced technology and better health care system developed countries incorporate which makes the early detection and cure easy. More cases are reported and diagnosed while most developing countries lack the latest technologies and relevant healthcare support, which prevents the early detection and treatment of disease and breast cancer is only diagnosed at advanced stages when little can be done. Most of the times, cases are not reported, also there is no proper record keeping of data which can help in comparison and measuring trends for research purposes. This is the reason mortality rate in developing countries is much higher than that of developed countries.
According to IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), the mortality rate is associated with the inequity in early detection and access to treatment across the developing world. The mortality rate in low-income countries was 48%, 40% in low-middle-income, and 38% in high-middle-income countries, while it was 24% in high-income countries (developed). This means that the countries which have better health facilities and awareness programs have reduced mortality ratios. People in developing countries have low-income and resources which give them limited access to the health care services. The lack of awareness among women about the disease also contributes to high levels of risk. Most women ignore the early symptoms, only to suffer at later stage. Early screening and detection is the best chance at controlling the disease early. This is where early screening devices like Breastlight come in handy, affordable across all income groups, easy to use, helps you avoid the unnecessary hustle of regular clinical procedures. Women can use this device for routine screening of their breasts while sitting at their homes. Stay healthy, Stay happy!