Increase in number of breast cancer cases

Breast screening
Breast screening

WOMEN in Wigan are being urged to cut their alcohol intake and eat well as the number of breast cancer cases in the borough has risen by twice the national average.

New figures reveal that breast cancer rates in the region have increased by more than seven per cent over the last decade, whilst the national average rise is 3.5 per cent.

A total of 5,500 women across the region – including Wigan – were diagnosed with the disease in 2008.

Health experts in Wigan explain the rise could be due to earlier diagnosis due to screening, the rise in life expectancy and family history.

But they also warn that life style factors such as alcohol consumption, obesity and women delaying having children later in life could also increase the risk.

Paul Turner, consultant in public health and medicine in Wigan, said: “There has been a steady rise in the incidence of breast cancer in the Wigan borough, reflecting the trend in England and Wales. However, mortality from breast cancer has been falling again reflecting the trend in England and Wales due to screening, earlier presentation of women with symptoms and, therefore, earlier treatment as well as improved treatment.

“The key messages are that more women are surviving breast cancer than ever with more than 80 percent surviving more than five years after diagnosis.

“Secondly, women can reduce their risk by controlling their weight and moderating their alcohol intake. Having children earlier in life will also reduce the risk.”

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “Women cannot change their genes but small changes in everyday habits can help to reduce cancer risk.

“Cutting back on alcohol by keeping within government recommended limits of no more than 14 units a week helps.”

She added that more exercise and a healthier, high fibre and low fat diet can also reduce risk.

The figures reveal the biggest rise in breast cancer rates has been among women aged 50 to 69.

Over the decade, cases rose by more than six per cent in this age group while rates among younger women – aged 25 to 49 – dropped slightly by 0.5 per cent.

However, more women are surviving the disease, with almost two-thirds living more than 20 years beyond diagnosis, and more than three-quarters surviving for at least 10 years.