More younger women with breast cancer

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2007, 12:00am

Women in their 20s and 30s are being urged to undergo regular breast checks as the number of younger women diagnosed with cancer in the city increases.

The Breast Cancer Foundation revealed that while breast cancer was most common in women in their 40s, a rise in the number of cases over a decade among younger women means women should be more active in having check-ups.

Polly Cheung, founder of the Breast Cancer Foundation, said the rising number of cases involving younger women, including one sufferer who had not reached her 20th birthday, highlighted a trend that should sound an alarm for the public.

'Some new cases of breast cancer diagnosis within the younger age group indicate that these were definitely not isolated cases,' Dr Cheung said.

She said that apart from family history, obesity and high intake of cholesterol in the diet had also contributed to the growing number of younger breast cancer patients in Hong Kong.

Breast cancer diagnosis rose from 14 in women aged 20 to 29 and 208 in those aged 30 to 39 in 1994, to 19 and 307 respectively in 2004. In the same period, breast cancer diagnosis in women aged 40 to 49 rose 45 per cent from 334 to 740.

Breast cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers among women, with one in 22 women falling victim to it, compared with one in 32 for colon cancer, one in 40 for lung cancer and one in 101 for cervical cancer.

The number of breast cancer cases almost doubled from 1,152 to 2,273 between 1993 and 2004 - an annual increment of 6.4 per cent - according to Dr Cheung.

According to the foundation, Hong Kong has the highest incidence of the disease in Asia.

A survey by the foundation found 71 per cent of the 809 women surveyed did not carry out regular monthly self-examinations of their breasts.

To raise public awareness of the disease, the foundation yesterday launched a peer education campaign called the 'Breast Friend Training Workshop', primarily targeting women in the corporate sector by appointing 'breast friend ambassadors' within companies to champion regular screening tests and earlier diagnosis among colleagues.

In another campaign for the younger generation, the foundation will work with secondary school students to cultivate a good lifestyle - with a balanced diet and more exercise - to lower the burgeoning number of breast cancer sufferers.