Advanced Cancer Diagnosis Increasing in Younger Women

Among women ages 25-39, a new diagnosis of breast cancer that is already in advanced stages has steadily increased in incidence over the past few decades. These results were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Breast cancer remains the second cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States. The risk of breast cancer continues to increase as a woman ages. Younger women diagnosed with breast cancer tend to have a more aggressive type of breast cancer than women diagnosed at an older age resulting in a lower long-term survival rate.

The United States National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program recently published data exploring trends of breast cancer incidence among different age groups of women in the United States. The database included 3 SEER registries spanning from 1973-2009.

Women between the ages of 25-39 demonstrated an approximate 2% increase in a new diagnosis of breast cancer that was already in an advanced stage (distal involvement). Distal involvement was defined in this study as having cancer spread to distant sites in the body such as the brain, bones, lungs or liver.
Incidence of estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer increased at a greater rate than estrogen receptor-negative (ER-negative).
No other age group demonstrated an increase in new diagnoses of advanced breast cancer.
Among the 25-30 year olds, incidence of advanced breast cancer was increased among all ethnicities and races, but increased the most in non-Hispanic whites and African Americans.
Incidence increased in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.
The researchers concluded that among women aged 25-39 years old, the incidence of advanced breast cancer at diagnosis has increased steadily between 1976 and 2009. The data evaluated did not offer any explanation as to why this trend has occurred; however, researchers will undoubtedly initiate efforts to explore potential reasons as to the cause of this issue.

Reference: Johnson R, Chien F, Bleyer A. Incidence of Breast Cancer with Distant Involvement Among Women in the United States, 1976-2009. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). 2013;309(8):800-805. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.776.