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3 May 2013, 05:19 | Updated: 3 May 2013, 05:26
New figures from Cancer Research UK show the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 50 has exceeded 10,000 for the first time.
In the East of England around 860 women under the age of 50 are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, while the total number diagnosed across all age groups in the region is 4,500.
Although more women in the East of England are being diagnosed with breast cancer, the good news is that more are surviving it than ever before.
This means that one in five breast cancer cases is in women under the age of 50, as the latest UK figures show the total number of women diagnosed each year is now approaching 50,000.
The better news is that fewer women under 50 are dying from the disease than ever before. This is largely because of better treatment developed thanks to research, which is supported by Cancer Research UK’s fundraising events like Race for Life.
Jane Redman, Cancer Research UK spokesperson 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.
“Cancer Research UK’s crucial work in the laboratory is behind many important drugs, such as tamoxifen and herceptin, and our trials of drugs called aromatase inhibitors paved the way for the development of anastrozole – all of this is helping to give women with breast cancer more treatment options.
“This vital research is funded thanks to the generosity of our supporters and that’s why we are calling on women across the East of England to enter their nearest Race for Life event as soon as possible.”
It’s not clear why rates of breast cancer are rising in this 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.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said: “Women of all ages who notice anything different about their breasts, including changes in size, shape or feel, a lump or thickening, nipple discharge or rash, dimpling, puckering or redness of the skin, should see their GP straight away, even if they have attended breast cancer screening. It’s more likely not to be cancer but if it is, detecting it early gives the best chance of successful treatment.”