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Breast Cancer Rates Rise: Experts Say Alcohol, Birth Control To Blame

By Nina Sen , May 03, 2013 07:05 PM EDT
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A new study says the number of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 50 is increasing. Drinking to excess, overeating and lack of exercise also could be contributing factors, according to Cancer Research UK.

Women under 50 are being diagnosed with breast cancer at a record rate, the study says. One in five cases now involve women under the age of 50 and 10,000 new cases have been introduced this year.

"Because breast cancer is one [cancer] that tends to be related to your hormone levels it can have quite a strong impact. The more children women have and the earlier in age they have them, the lower the risk. So when there is a trend in society for women to have fewer children and have them later, that would impact on the risk of [breast] cancer," Jessica Harris, the senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, told the Telegraph.

Higher alcohol consumption or binge drinking, having children later in life, and use of contraceptive pills have all been linked to the increase in cases among younger women.

"The big issue is that a lot of people think there is a safe limit, particularly with cancer, and there isn't. There is a substantive amount of breast cancer associated with what is often called 'sensible drinking', when people do not even think they are taking a risk ... the risk starts pretty well from drinking any amount. Given what we know about the relationships between alcohol and cancers, an increase in breast cancers linked to increased alcohol consumption is inevitable," Prof. Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, told the Telegraph.

The study also says that while more women are diagnosed with the disease, there are also more stories of survival. Advances in technology and medicine have helped curb the rate of death from breast cancer.

"More women than ever are surviving which is great news, however more women are getting breast cancer and we must invest in vital research for new treatments and disease prevention," Chris Askew, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, told the Daily Mail.

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