In developing countries, breast cancer strikes women a decade earlier

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month ended in the U.S. last week, new information reminds us that focus shouldn’t be delegated to just one nation, let alone to just one month. AP had a story yesterday not only on the rise of breast cancer in poverty-striken nations, but on how women are developing the disease at a much younger age than in the developed world. Additionally (and not surprisingly), diagnosis is often made late in the game:


International cancer specialists meet this week to plan an assault on a troubling increase of breast cancer in developing countries, where nearly two-thirds of women aren’t diagnosed until it has spread through their bodies.

Adding to the problem, some worrisome data suggests that breast cancer seems to strike women, on average, about 10 years younger in poor countries than it does in the U.S. No one knows why.

“Today in most developing countries you see a huge bulge of young, premenopausal women with breast cancer,” says Knaul, who heads Harvard’s Global Equity Initiative and was herself diagnosed at age 41 while living in Mexico.


New Harvard research is estimating that developing counties will account for 55 percent of the world’s 450,000 expected breast cancer deaths this year. Fortunately, there are some initiatives in place like the Global Equity Initiative and the Breast Health Global Initiative working towards increasing access to care and early diagnosis in various countries worldwide, but it’s apparent that things aren’t getting better. There just simply isn’t enough being done.