CHICAGO — Advanced breast cancer has increased slightly among young women, a 34-year analysis suggests. The disease is still uncommon among women younger than 40, and the small change has experts scratching their heads about possible reasons.
The results are potentially worrisome because young women’s tumors tend to be more aggressive than older women’s, and they’re much less likely to get routine screening for the disease.
Still, that doesn’t explain why there’d be an increase in advanced cases and the researchers and other experts say more work is needed to find answers.
Dr. Rebecca Johnson, the study’s lead author and medical director of a teen and young adult cancer program at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said the results translate to about 250 advanced cases diagnosed in women younger than 40 in the mid-1970s versus more than 800 in 2009.
During those years, the number of women nationwide in that age range went from about 22 million to closer to 30 million — an increase that explains part of the study trend “but definitely not all of it,” Johnson said.
Other experts said women delaying pregnancy might be a factor, partly because getting pregnant at an older age might cause an already growing tumor to spread more quickly in response to pregnancy hormones.
Overall U.S. breast cancer rates have mostly fallen in more recent years, although there are signs they may have plateaued.
Read more in Wednesday’s Arizona Daily Star and at azstarnet.com