There is both positive and negative news in a new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS). From 2001 to 2004, breast cancer diagnosis rates dropped an average of 3.7% each year. For women older than 50, diagnosis rates dropped even more: about 5% each year. Breast cancer death rates also dropped about 2% each year. These declines are great news and support other findings.
The researchers believe that part of the reason for the declines in breast cancer diagnoses and death rates is because hormone replacement therapy (HRT) use dropped during the same time period. HRT use dropped dramatically in 2002 after the Women's Health Initiative study showed women taking estrogen/progestin HRT after menopause had a higher risk of breast cancer.
But the researchers also believe that some of the decline in breast cancer diagnosis rates is because more women are not getting regular screening mammograms and so are not being diagnosed in a timely way. This makes it seem as if breast cancer rates are falling more than they really are, which is something everyone should be concerned about.
The ACS report also points out that African American women are not experiencing the declines in breast cancer death rates seen in women of other races. Research suggests that one of the major reasons for this difference is that breast cancers in African American women are biologically different than breast cancers in white women. This can mean that breast cancers in African American women are more aggressive cancers that are harder to treat.
It's encouraging that breast cancer diagnosis and death rates continue to decline. Allow that good news to motive you to do all you can to minimize your breast cancer risk. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco are good places to start. And there is NO excuse for not performing breast self-exam and not having regular mammograms. It's YOUR health and YOUR future and YOU deserve the best.