New Studies: Cancer Deaths Decline Overall and Breast Density Linked to Cancer

Beth Brophy Health Guide
  • The headlines are full of the good news: Cancer deaths in the U.S. declined for the second straight year. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3,000 fewer Americans died from cancer in 2004 than in 2003.

    This positive trend was fueled by drops in three major forms of cancer—breast, prostate, and colorectal, and for men, a decline in lung cancer. Experts attribute the drop to a variety of factors such as wider screening, better treatments and, for men but not women, a decrease in smoking.

    Breast cancer incidence has finally leveled off after decades of climbing higher. Specifically, 666 fewer women died of breast cancer, probably as a result of abandoning menopausal hormone treatment after a 2002 study found it increased breast cancer rates. Also, rates of mammography, and thus, new diagnoses, have leveled off. Still, for women ages 20 to 59, breast cancer is still the leading cause of death from cancer.
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    There are two caveats to consider along with the good news: Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease. And President Bush has been cutting funds for health research, the very tool that has helped fight cancer.

    Another study, published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine established breast density as a major risk factor in breast cancer. Women with dense breasts, a genetic condition that affects about one on six women, are about three times as likely to develop breast cancer. About 17 percent of adult women have dense breasts (breasts with more lean tissue than fat), and they carry a higher risk of developing the disease.

    According to experts, for better detection, women with dense breasts should opt for a digital mammogram, instead of a film-based mammogram.

Published On: January 18, 2007