Breast cancer: prevention and control
Breast cancer burden
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, comprising 16% of all female cancers. It is estimated that 519 000 women died in 2004 due to breast cancer, and although breast cancer is thought to be a disease of the developed world, a majority (69%) of all breast cancer deaths occurs in developing countries (WHO Global Burden of Disease, 2004).
Incidence rates vary greatly worldwide, with age standardized rates as high as 99.4 per 100 000 in North America. Eastern Europe, South America, Southern Africa, and western Asia have moderate incidence rates, but these are increasing. The lowest incidence rates are found in most African countries but here breast cancer incidence rates are also increasing.
Breast cancer survival rates vary greatly worldwide, ranging from 80% or over in North America, Sweden and Japan to around 60% in middle-income countries and below 40% in low-income countries (Coleman et al., 2008). The low survival rates in less developed countries can be explained mainly by the lack of early detection programmes, resulting in a high proportion of women presenting with late-stage disease, as well as by the lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment facilities.
Breast cancer is the top cancer in women worldwide and is increasing particularly in developing countries where the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages.