Breast Cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer deaths in women, and though the proportion Chinese women who die from breast cancer may be relatively fewer than in most large, developed nations (about 5.7 out of 100,000 deaths in China, as opposed to 14.7 out of 100,000 deaths in the United States) breast cancer rates have risen dramatically in the past two decades – a 2007 report cited a 23 percent increase in Beijing between the years of 1997 to 2007.
Now a more recent China Daily report (via the People’s Daily) cites a survey conducted between 1999 to 2008 by the Cancer Foundation of China that indicates Chinese women developing the disease at “a much younger age” than women in other countries.
Nearly 40 percent of the 4,200 patients surveyed were found to have developed the disease between the ages of 40-49, an average almost “10 years younger than in the West.” As a result experts are advising Chinese women to begin cancer screening starting as early as 36 year of age. Unfortunately little is known about the actual causes of breast cancer, however it has been linked to genetic factors, diet, alcohol consumption, smoking (including second hand smoke) and air pollution (though scientists deemphasize the notion that stress is a direct cause breast cancer).
The number one culprit, however, seems to be diet: A study of Chinese immigrants to the United States conducted in the late 1990s found alarming increases in breast cancer rates for Chinese immigrant women who had been living in the US for over 10 years. The report implicated the Western “meat and sweet” diet as the main cause, particularly for cancers caused by “estrogen-receptor positive tumors” (the study found a 90 percent increase in the chances among the surveyed immigrant women of developing this type of cancer).
Nevertheless, if you’re in Beijing and would like to get screened, check the Beijing United Family Hospital website for more information on mammograms.