Suffolk/Essex: Breast cancer cases in under-50s rising


NHS - Credit: PA

THE number of women being diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 50 has reached a new high with around 860 cases in the east of England, according to the latest figures.

But the Cancer Research UK statistics from 2010 also reveal fewer women under 50 are dying from the disease than ever before because of better treatment and early detection.

Monica Dale, breast services manager with the Chelmsford and Colchester NHS Breast Screening Service, said the figures were good news.

“It’s a bit of a scary headline figure for women under 50 to think they are likely to get breast cancer but it’s not true,” she added.

“It’s still a disease that predominantly affects older women but the recognition that some younger women develop it is important.” The number of women of all ages in the east of England diagnosed with breast cancer is around 4,500 every year.

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Nationally, more than 10,000 women under 50 were diagnosed with the disease compared to 7,700 in 1995.

Mrs Dale said women aged 50 to 70 are invited to mammogram appointments every three years in Essex. “There is currently an age extension trial with women aged from 43 to 73 randomly invited for breast screening,” she added.

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“It’s to see whether or not it’s a benefit to screen younger women.

“It’s due to run in two three-year rounds and finish in 2016.”

Jane Redman, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for the east of England, said: “Breast cancer is more common in older women but these figures show that younger women are also at risk of developing the disease. “The number of cases in women under 50 diagnosed with breast cancer is increasing slowly, but thanks to research, awareness and improved care more women are surviving than ever before.”

It is not clear why rates of breast cancer are rising in the under 50 age group but increasing alcohol intake and hormonal factors such as having fewer children and having them later in life, and increased use of the contraceptive pill may be playing a role.

Dr Jeptepkeny Ronoh, consultant in public health medicine at Suffolk County Council, said the increase in breast cancer survival rates is due to the disease being diagnosed earlier thanks to the success of breast screening services.

Dr Ronoh added: “Women are now being screened for the disease from an earlier age. All women aged 47 through to 70 are called for screening every three years.

“By getting screened for breast cancer, women are more likely to be diagnosed earlier, increasing their chances of having a more favourable outcome.

“It is therefore important for women not to ignore the screening invitation when they receive it.

“They should also stay alert to any changes in the shape or appearance of their breasts and contact their GP immediately if they notice anything different or have any concerns.”

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