Breast cancer diagnoses level off; death rate continues to decline

CHICAGO -- The number of women diagnosed with breast cancer -- a number that has been rising steadily for a quarter-century -- has nearly leveled off, according to new figures released by the American Cancer Society.
At the same time, the number of women dying of the disease continues to decline.
"The steady decrease in death rates since 1990 shows that we are making progress against breast cancer," said Dr. Stephen Sener, a surgeon and president of the society. According to the biennial report, Breast Cancer Facts and Figures, an estimated 211,240 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year, and an additional 58,490 women will develop noninvasive or in situ cancers.
The report said much of the long-term increase in incidence was caused by women having fewer children and having them later. But a rapid increase in the 1980s was due largely to greater use of screening mammograms -- X-rays intended to detect cancer before it can be felt.
Cancer incidence rates are still rising slightly -- about 0.3 percent a year -- but only for women 50 and older, the report said. Ahmedin Jemal, program director for cancer occurrence at the society, said that's likely because many of these women have taken hormones, are getting mammograms or are obese.

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