Breast Cancer: Younger Women Diagnosed More Often

Trend increases for women ages 25 to 39
young woman in hospital gown

A new study finds a small but significant increase in the number of younger women with advance stage breast cancer.

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Researchers at Seattle Children’s Hospital and University of Washington found the number of women between ages 25 and 39 being diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer increased from 1.53 per 100,000 in 1976 to 2.90 per 100,000 in 2009.

Why are these numbers significant?

While researchers say that the increase is small, they point to its significance because the trend shows no signs of decreasing, and that the lowest five-year breast cancer survival rate is among 20- to 34-year-old women.

Cleveland Clinic’s Holly Pederson, MD, who treats breast cancer patients but did not take part in the study, says, “In the 25-39 age group breast cancer is much less common overall, but what we’re finding is that it can present at a much later stage and be much more deadly.”

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Decrease your risk of breast cancer

Dr. Pederson says all young women can decrease their risk of breast cancer by taking an active role in their breast health. She advises them to:

  • Do breast self-exams. Perform a breast self-exam regularly to look for changes such as lumps and thickenings. Do the exam once a month, three to five days after your menstrual period ends. See how to do a breast self-exam here.
  • Know your risk factors. Risk factors for breast cancer may include a previous cancer in one breast (particularly before menopause), older age, genetics and breasts cysts and lesions. See more about risk factors here.
  • Pay attention to family history. Having a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer puts you at higher risk for the disease, with a greater risk if your relative developed breast cancer before menopause. Dr. Pederson says, “The pre-disposition to cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Those families can be identified because they do develop earlier breast cancers that can be more aggressive.”

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