British Breast Cancer Rates ‘Four Times Higher Than Eastern Africa’

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World Cancer Research Fund survey cites lifestyle as reason for difference

A World Cancer Research Fund survey shows that breast cancer rates in Britain are four times higher than those in eastern Africa. Photograph: Robert Llewellyn/Alamy

Breast cancer rates in the UK are more than four times higher than those in eastern Africa, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has revealed.

According to the latest cancer statistics, 87.9 women per 100,000 in the UK (adjusted for age) were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, compared to 19.3 in eastern Africa, which includes Kenya and Tanzania.

Part of the difference is likely to be because the UK is better at diagnosing and recording breast cancer cases. But the WCRF has warned that lifestyle is also an important reason for the difference.

Scientists estimate about four out of every 10 breast cancer cases in Britain could be prevented through maintaining a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol and being more physically active. There is also convincing evidence that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer.

Women in eastern Africa drink much less alcohol than women in Britain and obesity levels are much lower. Breastfeeding rates in eastern Africa are also much higher.

Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science for the WCRF, said: “The fact that breast cancer rates in eastern Africa are so much lower than in the UK is a stark reminder that every year in this country, thousands of women are diagnosed with a case of cancer that could have been prevented.

“That such a large difference in breast cancer rates exists between these two areas is a real concern. Also, it is not just eastern Africa that has significantly lower breast cancer rates. The rate here is double that of South America, for example, and more than three times that of eastern Asia.

“The fact that rates of breast cancer are much lower in other parts of the world highlights the fact that breast cancer is not inevitable. This means we need to do more to get across the message that just by making relatively simple changes to our lifestyle such as drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight, women can reduce their risk of breast cancer.

“And it is not just breast cancer risk that is affected by what we eat and drink and how physically active we are. Scientists estimate that about a third of the most common cancers in the UK could be prevented just through eating healthily, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.”

According to the statistics, the highest rate of breast cancer in the world is in Belgium, which had 109.4 cases per 100,000 women in 2008.

Denis Campbell, health correspondent
Monday 9 August 2010

Source: The Guardian

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