Try Your Best Not to Freak Out About Higher Rates of Advanced Breast Cancer in Younger Women

Illustration for article titled Try Your Best Not to Freak Out About Higher Rates of Advanced Breast Cancer in Younger Women

More women ages 25-39 are getting advanced breast cancer, according to a new study that some experts think we shouldn't stress about, which hasn't stopped this particular Jezebel writer from feeling herself up three times while writing about it.


From the New York Times:

The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that advanced cases climbed to 2.9 per 100,000 younger women in 2009, from 1.53 per 100,000 women in 1976 - an increase of 1.37 cases per 100,000 women in 34 years. The totals were about 250 such cases per year in the mid-1970s, and more than 800 per year in 2009.

Though small, the increase was statistically significant, and the researchers said it was worrisome because it involvedcancer that had already spread to organs like the liver or lungs by the time it was diagnosed, which greatly diminishes the odds of survival.

The "good" news is that the finding was only based on an analysis of statistics; way more research is needed to verify and figure out what actually caused the apparent increase. Therefore, "some outside experts questioned whether the increase was real, and expressed concerns that the report would frighten women needlessly," the New York Times reports. (Hi!)

For now, the only advice the researchers have for younger women is to see a doctor quickly if they notice lumps, pain, or other changes, and to not assume that it's impossible to get breast cancer if you are young and healthy and have no family history of the disease. They did not recommended Googling "what does a breast lump look like," FYI.

They're also not advocating that women get mammograms earlier, although that might be a reason for the findings, according to some medics like Dr. Donald A. Berry, an expert on breast cancer data and a professor of biostatistics at the University of Texas' M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "Not many women aged 25 to 39 get screened, but some do, but it only takes a few to account for a notable increase from one in 100,000," Dr. Berry said.

In conclusion: don't worry but don't not worry to the extent that you don't keep tabs on how your body is doing. And don't expect to find a reasonable stock photo for "breast cancer," because they are all pink-hued, even the ones of tumors.


[New York Times]

Image via
Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock.



Question for more knowledgeable peeps: yesterday on the news report about this, they said only a very small percentage of breast cancer is genetic. They specifically said this stat was, cancer related to the BRCA1 and 2 genes. Can breast cancer have a genetic correlation if you do not have the BRCA genes? I cannot imagine it's completely random if your mother and grandmother had cancer, you don't have either BRCA gene, and you get breast cancer. Am I off base, or is it just that without either of those two genes, doctors cannot definitively tie the cause to genetics?

Edit: has been pointed out I should have said if you have a MUTATION of either BRCA gene, not the gene itself.