Breast cancer: prevention and control

Breast cancer burden

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women both in the developed and less developed world. It is estimated that worldwide over 508 000 women died in 2011 due to breast cancer (Global Health Estimates, WHO 2013). Although breast cancer is thought to be a disease of the developed world, almost 50% of breast cancer cases and 58% of deaths occur in less developed countries (GLOBOCAN 2008).

Incidence rates vary greatly worldwide from 19.3 per 100,000 women in Eastern Africa to 89.7 per 100,000 women in Western Europe. In most of the developing regions the incidence rates are below 40 per 100,000 (GLOBOCAN 2008). 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.

Key message

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.