More and more women 25 to 39-years-old in the US are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, according to the research of a medical team led by Dr. Rebecca Johnson of Seattle Children's Hospital and the University of Washington in Seattle. Considering the period between 1976 and 2009, the doctors concluded that the rate of young women diagnosed with this dangerous disease was growing 2.1 percent per year.
Researchers also confirmed that this breast cancer rate is not seen among older women, said The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Doctors warned that in 1976 1.53 women per 100,000 were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. In 2009, it was 2.9 women per 100,000.
“It’s a concern because of the poor survival of metastatic breast cancer compared to other stages,” Dr. Rebecca Johnson, a pediatric oncologist, told FoxNews.com. “Between patients who were diagnosed with metastatic disease and patients diagnosed with either regional or localized disease, the difference in survival is around 55 percent.”
Metastatic breast cancer is especially dangerous because in that stage of disease cancer spreads to some other organs like bones, brain, lungs or liver. Only 23.8 percent of patients diagnosed with this stage of disease survive five years, shows data released by National Cancer Institute.
“I had breast cancer when I was 27,” Dr. Johnson shared of her own experience. “After that I had friends who were diagnosed and friends of friends who were diagnosed, and it seemed like there was a surprisingly large number of young women who were getting breast cancer.”
What could be the reasons for growing breast cancer rate among young women? Dr. Johnson said that there is “perhaps some exposure to an environmental toxin that has changed over time.”
“We tried to understand if there was one known risk factor that was changing at the same rate as the incidence change for metastatic cancer, and we didn’t find such a risk factor. So, we think it’s most likely that either the risk factor that’s behind this trend has not yet been described or is perhaps multifactorial – meaning it takes several risk factors to explain the change.”
Obesity, cigarettes and alcohol, but also genetics could be the reasons, said Dr. Thomas Julian, director of surgical oncology at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. He also warned that it is necessary to diagnose this disease in an early stage.
"That's a problem because we don't usually screen before age 40 unless you know there are genetics in the family or a strong family history," he said for MedPage.