Young women under
45 years old diagnosed with early breast cancer have a
higher risk of dying from the disease than older patients,
scientists said on Thursday. "The younger the woman,
the poorer the chance of survival," said Vincent
Vinh-Hung of University Hospital in Brussels.
Breast cancer is
the most common cancer in women, with more than 1
million new cases detected worldwide each year. Most are in
women over 50; the disease is rare in young women.
told Reuters that although only a small fraction of early
breast cancers occur in young women, they account for a
disproportionate percentage of deaths.
In a study of
45,000 breast cancer patients presented at the Fifth
European Breast Cancer Conference in Nice, France, Vinh-Hung
and his colleagues found that the odds of dying from
breast cancer rose by 5% for every year that a woman
was under 45 when diagnosed.
They focused on
women with early breast cancer that had not spread beyond
the breast and whose tumors were less than 0.8 inches in
previously suspected that the poorer prognosis in young
women was due to being diagnosed later with a more
advanced cancer. Breast tissue in younger women is
usually denser, which can make detecting a tumor more
difficult. Younger women may also ignore a suspicious lump
in the breast, thinking it is harmless or that they
are too young to have breast cancer.
said the findings suggest that in young women, age more
than other factors affects the chance of survival.
He and his team
suspect there may some type of unknown genetic damage
that may increase the chances of developing the disease
early and contribute to the poor prognosis in younger
A family history
of breast cancer, early puberty, late menopause, not
having children or having them late, and genetic mutations
are risk factors for breast cancer.
Studies also have
shown that lesbians are at a higher risk of breast
cancer than heterosexual women, and that they are less
likely to receive adequate care for the disease due to
barriers that prevent them from accessing health care
services. (Reuters, with additional reporting by The
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