Younger women in Hong Kong are increasingly getting breast cancer, a specialist said yesterday. Bonita Law Ka-bo said women should start regular mammogram tests from the age of 40 - not 50 as is recommended in Europe and the United States. Breast cancer has been the most common cancer among women in Hong Kong since the early 1990s, according to Dr Law, director of the Breast Centre at Union Hospital. The youngest breast cancer patient she had treated was only 17 years old and was about to take her school exams. 'I would recommend all ladies practise self-breast examinations ... Screening the high-risk group has always been supported. 'As age is an important risk factor of breast cancer, I would also recommend ladies to start screening at 40 years of age. Screening intervals of 12 to 18 months is recommended,' she said. The high-risk group includes people whose relatives have breast cancer and women who are above 50 years old. William Foo, cancer specialist and director of the Hong Kong Cancer Registry, agreed that more women between aged 35 to 49 had developed breast cancer in recent years, but he stressed that the trend was not straightforward. Every year between 80 and 100 women get breast cancer compared with between 10 and 20 a few years ago, but this trend was also because Hong Kong's population was dominated by the 35 to 49 age group, he said. Regular mammogram screening is recommended for women once they reach 50 in the US and Europe, but according to Dr Foo, the Hong Kong Department of Health currently does not recommend any early detection mammogram tests. He said doctors worldwide were still debating whether screening for early detection was worthwhile, given the high cost of the tests. Dr Foo said breast cancer was widely regarded as a byproduct of a western lifestyle. He said only one out of 23 Hong Kong women developed the disease compared with three out of 23 western women. According to the World Health Organisation website, there is limited evidence that undergoing mammogram tests every two to three years is effective for women aged 40 to 49 because breast cancer usually affects older women.