More than 1 million women worldwide develop breast cancer every year and almost 600,000 die, according to background information in the article. Although rates of the disease in Korea remain lower than those in Western countries, the incidence of breast cancer is increasing at a more rapid rate than the world average. This is likely because of continued westernization of the Korean lifestyle, lower birth rates, lower breastfeeding rates and an increase in the number of check-ups for breast cancer, the authors write.
Byung Ho Son, M.D., and colleagues at the University of Ulsan and Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea, analyzed data from a group of 5,001 women who underwent surgery for breast cancer at the hospital between July 1989 and March 2004. They examined a number of factors, including age distribution, surgical treatments, staging, survival rate and risk factors.
Compared with data from 1991, the median (mid-point) age of Korean patients with breast cancer increased from age 44 years to 46 years. About 64.9 percent of cases occurred in premenopausal women younger than age 50. The proportion of asymptomatic patients whose cancer was detected by mammography increased from 3.8 percent in 1991 to 21 percent in 2003. The proportion of early cancers (stages 0 and 1) also increased between 1991 and 2003, from 34.2 percent to 48.8 percent. Although it is increasing, this proportion "is still considerably lower compared with that of Western countries, so we believe that more efforts for early detection of breast cancer through screening
Contact: Sei Hyun Ahn, M.D.
JAMA and Archives Journals