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The troubling global trend for breast cancer

With greater affluence comes a global increase in breast-cancer risk, reports cancer biology researcher Peggy Porter

Jan. 28, 2008
Dr. Peggy Porter

Dr. Peggy Porter said it is crucial that women increase their awareness of their breast-cancer risks along with their expectations of their government and the medical community regarding breast-cancer detection and treatment.

Photo by Gordon Todd

Around the world, the risks of breast-cancer incidence and related death are rising. While Eastern Asian women still have the lowest rates, the numbers in Japan, Singapore and Korea have doubled or tripled in the past 40 years. Similar trends show up in urban areas or China and India.

As Dr. Peggy Porter reports in her Jan. 17, New England Journal of Medicine “Perspective,” the most widely cited reasons for the global rise are increasing prosperity and the “Westernization” of traditional lifestyles.

“As more countries modernize, more women will enter an increasing sedentary workforce, delay childbearing, exert control over their reproductive lives, live longer and eat a more westernized diet, their breast-cancer rates will no doubt increase," said Porter, of the Human Biology Division. "It is crucial that women’s awareness of their risk and their expectations of their government and the medical community regarding detection and treatment increase at a similar rate.”

Read Porter’s full NEJM Perspective article and hear an audio interview at


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