Global Cases of Breast and Cervical Cancer Rising; International Programs Step in to Help

2011-09-15 09:36
Women at higher risk of breast and cervical cancer

The fall season brings beautiful colors; the leaves turn red, orange, and yellow – but everything else seems to turn pink! October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this year the funds that it will bring in are needed more than ever. A recently released research report shows that the number of women being diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide has increased by 3% every year since 1980 and that 1.6 million women were diagnosed in 2010 alone – up from 641,000 thirty years ago.

The statistics for the study, published in The Lancet, were collected by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in the US and the University of Queensland in Australia and funded by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They note that at least two in three cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 2010 were in women over the age of 50 and that most were in developed countries. Thankfully, although total deaths from breast cancer overall has increased, the rate is slower due to improved screening processes and treatments.

Cervical cancer cases are also on the rise. In 2010, 454,000 women were diagnosed with the disease worldwide, compared to 378,000 in 1980. Deaths from cervical cancer are also decreasing, but the disease was still responsible for 200,000 last year.

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Unfortunately, however, developing countries are seeing a rise in both breast and cervical cancer cases among younger women, aged 15 to 49. The greatest impact has been seen in south and east Asia, Latin America and Africa, says Rafael Lozano, a professor of global health at IHME. Breast cancer cases have risen more than 7.5% in some of the poorest countries – more than twice the global rate – and 76% of new cervical cancer cases are in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa alone has 22% of all cervical cancer cases worldwide.

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“If more women are developing breast and cervical cancer during their reproductive years, this adds more pressure on families and societies already suffering from high rates of infectious disease and child mortality,” said Mohammad Forouzanfar of the IHME.
As part of an effort to reduce deaths from women’s cancers, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is committing $1 million in Cervarix® cervical cancer vaccines to the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership over the next five years plus an additional $50,000 to support program operations.

This program is a new initiative led by the George W. Bush Institute, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The goal of the program is to reduce deaths from cervical cancer by an estimated 25%. The program will also offer improved access to breast cancer reduction programs such as screenings for early detection and treatment.