Breast cancer increase but outlook brighter

Cases of breast cancer have increased by 81 per cent since 1971, new figures have shown.

A total of 41,000 cases of the disease, which is the commonest cancer in the UK, were diagnosed in the UK in 2004, significantly more than for lung cancer which, at 30,408 cases, is the second most common type of cancer to affect both sexes.

Although breast cancer mainly affects women, accounting for one in three of all newly diagnosed cases of cancer, a few hundred men are also diagnosed with the disease each year.

However, the Independent reports that one in nine women now develops breast cancer and experts believe that the increase in its incidence is largely driven by the rise in prosperity and modern lifestyles, including factors such as diet, obesity and family size.

In addition, the charity Breast Cancer UK warns that exposure to pesticides and other carcinogens needs to be investigated to halt the increase.

"We believe women have a right to know these frightening statistics and should be asking the government what it is doing to tackle the causes and prevention of the disease," the charity told the Independent.

However, the figures did hold some good news as they revealed that the death rate from the disease has fallen.

Over three quarters of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer now survive for longer than five years, compared to just half of patients in the early 1970s.

Better screening programmes and therefore earlier diagnosis of the disease has helped to improve survival rates, in addition to advances in breast surgery and cancer treatment.

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