Breast cancer occurs less often among women in Asian countries (such as China and Korea) than among women in Western countries (such as the United States and Europe). There are probably many factors that explain this difference. Different genetics are probably a large reason for the differences in breast cancer risk among different populations. But other factors, such as diet and exercise, also can affect breast cancer risk in different groups.
A study found that breast cancer now is being diagnosed more frequently among women living in Asian countries, especially among younger women. This is an alarming trend. The researchers don't explain why this is happening. In the past, the diets and lifestyles of Asian women supported a lower risk of breast cancer compared to Western women. The average woman living in an Asian country:
- eats more fresh vegetables
- is closer to her ideal body weight
- is more physically active
- is less likely to drink significant amounts of alcohol
It's possible that some of the increase in breast cancer diagnoses is the result of more younger women in Asian countries adopting a typical Western diet and lifestyle. Research has shown that Asian women who live in the United States and have adopted a typical Western diet and lifestyle have breast cancer rates similar to the general U.S. population.
It's also possible that other environmental factors are contributing to the rising rate of breast cancer among women living in Asia. Much has been written about higher levels of pollution that have been brought about by rapid industrial growth in China. Environmental factors such as air and water pollution have been associated with cancer.
The researchers also point out that a large number of women in Asia (70%) don't get regular mammograms. Because breast cancer rates are increasing, Asian governments and healthcare systems will have to work harder to boost awareness of breast cancer risk and the importance of annual screenings.
No matter your ethnicity or where you live, there are steps you can take to lower your breast cancer risk. To learn more, visit the breastcancer.org Lower Your Risk section.
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