'Western Lifestyle' Blamed for Rise in Breast Cancer

      February 11, 2010 11:08

      Early menarche, late menopause, no pregnancies, having babies later in life and a "Western" lifestyle including eating fatty foods increase the chances of breast cancer, researchers say. The conclusion is based on 58 papers on the incidence of breast cancer among Korean women published over the past two decades which were studied by a team from Seoul National University College of Medicine and the National Cancer Center led by SNU Prof. Yoo Keun-young.

      "Korea has seen the steepest rise in the incidence of breast cancer in the world, and an increasingly prevalent Western lifestyle is to blame," Yoo said.

      The analysis showed that women’s age at marriage, which affects the age of pregnancy, rose from 24.9 years in 1990 to 28.1 in 2007, and women gave birth to an average of 1.26 babies in 2007, down from two in 1980. Meanwhile, the mean daily intake of meat rose a whopping 14 times since 1969, from 6.6 g to 91.7 g in 2007.

      The proportion of women who started menstruating before the age of 13 increased from 8 percent to 12.8 percent, and that of women reaching menopause after 55 from 6.5 percent to 9.1 percent. The proportion of women who had their first baby after the age of 30 also climbed from 11.1 percent to 16.1 percent.

      The team predicted that if the trend continues, the incidence of breast cancer will be 3.9 times greater in 2020 than it was in 2002.

      In Korea, breast cancer is most common among women aged 45 to 49, while in advanced Western countries the biggest group of sufferers is 75 or older. One reason may be that Korean women born before 1960 were less likely to be exposed to a Western lifestyle. The team forecast that as Korean women under 50 get older, an increasing number will contract breast cancer, bringing the curve in line with the West.

      Yoo called for urgent government action to deal with the expected rising breast cancer rate.

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