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Age is an independent risk factor in young women with breast cancer


A 30 year old woman diagnosed with breast cancer has the same chance of survival as a 60 year old woman with breast cancer according to the latest findings presented today at the European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-5).

Scientists have known for a while that young women with breast cancer have a poor prognosis. It was thought to be because younger women were diagnosed later, with more advanced disease. The study set out to see if youth on its own was a factor for poor prognosis.

Researchers analysed the American SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results) database of over 45,000 women with breast cancer. All women with early stage breast cancer (stage 1) were included in the study and the various age groups were compared. The results were surprising and indicated that being young was an independent indicator of poor survival - regardless of other factors known to be predictive of outcomes in older women such as tumour size, location, hormone receptor status, race, or treatment.

In fact the odds of dying from breast cancer rather than any other disease increased by 5% for every year that a women was under 45 when diagnosed. For example, a women who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35 was 50% more likely to die of the disease. The 10-year overall survival probability of a 30-year old patient (85%) was equal to that of a 60-year old, indicating a considerably reduced life expectancy in young patients.

S. Aebi, leading author of the study comments, “These findings suggest that age in young women, more than any other factor affects the chances of survival. It is very important now to carry on more research and analyse what makes the tumours in young women different – what causes these women to die.”

Breast cancer in the under 40’s is rare, making up around 5% of all cases. However the impact of the disease can be hard for young women, who often have young children or want to start a family of their own. Improving survival rates would make a big difference to these women.

EBCC-5 Press Office | alfa
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