Wed, Mar 20, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Study shows 40% hit with breast cancer under 50

STRIKING EARLIER?Study data from Taiwan showed that from 2002 to 2014, about 30,000 women aged 20 to 50 were diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time

By Wu Liang-yi and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

About 40 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer in Taiwan are younger than 50, a study conducted by the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) and National Taiwan University Hospital found.

While the incidence of breast cancer in Asia is relatively low, rates of breast cancer in younger women is rapidly increasing in nations such as Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, researchers said.

Breast cancer in the US tends to affect older women, but about 40 percent of women with breast cancer in Taiwan were 20 to 50 years old when diagnosed, NHRI Institute of Population Sciences Director Hsiung Chao (熊昭) said.

She said that data from the National Health Insurance Research Database and the national cancer registry showed that from 2002 to 2014, about 30,000 women aged 20 to 50 were diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time.

Of those 30,000-plus women, 2,678, or about 8.8 percent, had been pregnant within five years of being diagnosed, she said.

An increasing number of women in Taiwan are being diagnosed with breast cancer before the onset of menopause, the researchers said.

Over the past four decades, the number of women younger than 50 diagnosed with breast cancer has quadrupled, they said, adding that the trend might be associated with women having children later in life, being exposed to endocrine disruptors and other factors.

Many pregnant women choose not to receive cancer treatment, they said.

In Taiwan, only about 12 percent of pregnant women are willing to undergo chemotherapy, Hsiung said, adding that physiological changes during pregnancy or breastfeeding can make it easy for mothers to overlook cancer symptoms, leading to delays in diagnosis or treatment.

More than 60 percent of pregnant women in Belgium and Germany accept cancer treatment, she said, adding that women generally refuse treatment due to concerns about their fetuses.

However, the research team found numerous foreign studies showing that chemotherapy is safe for fetuses after 14 weeks, she said.

The studies showed that breast cancer patients who were more than 14 weeks pregnant did not have to terminate their pregnancy, she said.

They had the same survival rate as women who were not pregnant, and their child’s health was the same as that of other children, she said, urging pregnant or breastfeeding mothers not to refuse treatment.

The mammary glands of women who have given birth are less susceptible to the effects of carcinogens, said Lin Ching-hung (林季宏), an oncologist at the hospital who participated in the study.

A series of studies also showed that delays or declines in childbirth can contribute to an increase in breast cancer diagnoses, he said, adding that exposure to endocrine disruptors, such as plasticizers, are also to blame.

The best time to give birth is from 22 to 30 years old, he said.

Regular exercise, moderate caloric intake and avoidance of endocrine disruptors are ways to lower the risk of breast cancer, Lin said.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top