Shanghai has the highest incidence of breast cancer in China. More than 60 in every 100,000 women in the city contract the disease. About 6.4 percent of those who do are under 35 years old, medical experts said over the weekend.
"The incidence of breast cancer is rising in China due to the changing lifestyle, the increasing pace of life and rising pressure," said Dr Shao Zhimin from the Shanghai Tumor Hospital. "Though the disease is most prevalent in Chinese women between the ages of 40 and 45, more young women have started to develop the disease. It may relate to family history and personal genetic problems, or overconsumption and the improper use of medical treatments, many of which contain a high dose of female hormones."
Doctors said they also suspect that early sexual development may have a relationship with developing breast cancer in adulthood.
In about 70 percent of cases, the disease is discovered through self-checkup, but doctors stressed the importance of regular professional health checks.
"We encourage women aged 35 or older to visit a hospital every year for a professional checkup, since many early stages of breast cancer can't be detected with self-examination," Shao said.
Early detection is the key to successful treatment and survival. About 90 percent of breast cancer cases can be cured if they are detected early enough and treated properly, while less than 20 percent of patients can survive for five years if the disease is discovered in its middle or terminal stages.
About 1.4 million women contract the disease around the world every year and around 400,000 die. Those most at risk include women with a family history of the disease, those with an unhealthy lifestyle, the obese, long-term users of hormones or hormone-replacement therapy, those without children, mothers who did not breast feed and women who have had other breast diseases.
"We highly recommend women protect themselves by doing no less than four hours a week of physical exercise, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, conducting a monthly self-checkup and having an ultrasonic screening once a year once they've reached the age of 35," Shao said.
October is breast cancer awareness month. In Shanghai, a series of medical forums, patient consultations and public education programs have been launched.
(Shanghai Daily October 27, 2008)