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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Increasing Rates of Breast and Cervical Cancer

Knowing someone with breast cancer once was not common. Today, however, the world is different. The question today is: how many women do you know with breast cancer ?

Why has the question changed to "how many" ? Because the numbers for breast cancer continue to increase, significantly. The rate of manifesting breast cancer has been increasing about 3.1% a year since 1980. The numeric result? The global toll has increased to over 1.6 million cases of breast cancer each year.

In the US, the National Cancer Institute ( provides medical information and data on a page devoted to breast cancer. The overview numbers explain why everyone knows too many women (and some men) with breast cancer. According to the NCI:

Definition of breast cancer: Cancer that forms in tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk). It occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare.

Estimated new cases and deaths from breast cancer in the United States in 2012:

New cases: 226,870 (female); 2,190 (male)

Deaths: 39,510 (female); 410 (male)

Global numbers for breast cancer and cervical cancer are derived from a 2009-2010 study by a group seeking to bring numbers and other metrics to bear on allocation of resources and other decision-making choices for health care. "The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was launched with the goal of providing an unbiased, evidence-based picture of global health trends and determinants to inform the work of a broad range of organizations, policymakers, researchers, and funders.

With the stability of long-term funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the state of Washington, IHME combines the academic excellence of a university research institute with the independence and entrepreneurial spirit of an NGO." The full study is here, and a summary is here.

Set out below are the key excerpts as to numbers:

"Overall, the number of cases and deaths from breast and cervical cancer are rising in most countries, especially in the developing world where more women are dying at younger ages.

Global breast cancer incidence increased from 641,000 cases in 1980 to 1,643,000 cases in 2010, an annual rate of increase of 3.1%. More than two-thirds of cases of breast cancer in 2010 were in women aged 50 years and older, most of which were in developed countries. For women between the ages of 15 and 49, there were twice as many breast cancer cases in developing countries than in developed countries. In 2010, 425,000 women died from breast cancer, of whom 68,000 were between the ages of 15 and 49 in developing countries.

Global cervical cancer incidence increased from 378,000 cases in 1980 to 454,000 cases in 2010, an annual rate of increase of 0.6%. New cases of cervical cancer occur more often in developing countries than in developed countries in all age groups. In 2010, 200,000 women died from the disease, of whom 46,000 were between the ages of 15 and 49 in developing countries."

The implications? Increased cancer litigation as humans and governments seek to cope with the suffering and expense caused by miserable diseases.

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