Breast cancer deaths set to rise in UK by 2022, new analysis finds

Story highlights

  • Breast cancer deaths set to rise within four years
  • Inadequacies in the healthcare service, an aging population and rising obesity rates are to blame

(CNN)Rising rates of breast cancer in the UK are projected to see deaths from the disease rise from 2022 due to healthcare inequalities, find a new analysis by the UK charity Breast Cancer Now published Friday.

Despite progress in recent decades, the rising incidence of breast cancer has seen efforts plateau, with the number of deaths set to increase within four years.
According to the research, Britain's National Health Service, NHS, has a "postcode lottery" in breast cancer services, meaning success rates vary depending on where you live.
    If all breast cancer units had the same quality of care as the best 25% in the country, over 1000 additional deaths can be prevented yearly, say the findings, calculated by the York Health Economic Consortium.
    Britain's aging population and the growth in obesity rates are also causes for the negative predictions, the report says.
    "This projected rise in breast cancer deaths is deeply worrying," said Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now in an email to CNN. "But it is not too late to stop it."
    "We know progress is achievable by tackling the unacceptable geographic variation in NHS diagnosis and care, improving screening attendance and supporting more women to make sustainable lifestyle changes. With incidence continuing to rise, and survival progress now stalling, we simply cannot afford to let such clear chances to prevent thousands of deaths pass us by," said Morgan.
    The amount of people dying due to breast cancer decreased from 15,625 cases in 1989 to 11,563 in 2016, according to Cancer Research UK figures.
    Breast Cancer Now predict that numbers will begin to rise from 2022, reaching a new total of 11,876 women by 2035.
    Most deaths from the disease are caused by metastatic breast cancer, when the tumor cells spread from their origin to other parts of the body.
    The charity has urged the UK government to take action over the new findings, specifically suggesting they address variation in breast cancer services, increase investments for local screening -- which is at a decade-low attendance -- fund interventions that address 'avoidable' breast cancers -- such as increasing awareness of cancer with alcohol consumption or obesity -- and establish a dedicated fund for cancer alliances.
    "This analysis makes it crystal clear that breast cancer is not fixed and more funds are now urgently needed to save more lives," stated Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of the charity Breast Cancer Care.
    Screening attendance is at a record low, with 71.1% for the year 2016/17, the report says. Rates were 73.6% during 2006/07 according to the NHS.
    The charity's findings estimated that increasing attendance to 80% -- equating to an additional 230,323 women -- could prevent 1260 deaths from breast cancer per year.
    Other studies showed that up to 23% of all breast cancer cases can be avoided by lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking. Breast Cancer Now estimated that with the current level of public health interventions more than 89 000 women are at risk of developing 'avoidable' breast cancers by 2027.
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    An estimated 55 000 women and 350 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year, making it the most common cancer. Other European countries like Sweden, Germany, France, Portugal and Malta have higher breast cancer survival rates than the UK.
    Breast cancer is also the most common cancer in women in the US, with 242,476 new cases in 2015 and 41,523 dying from the disease, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.
      "It's incredibly troubling to contemplate that death rates from breast cancer could in future, after such a promising era of progress, start climbing again. And it's outrageous that geographical pot-luck continues to determine who lives longer after breast cancer," said Qadhi.
      "We know the stark everyday reality for thousands of people with breast cancer is the struggle to live well in the absence of ongoing care. So it's crucial the injection of money tackles all aspects of breast cancer, not only early detection but also professional support to manage long-term effects and vital nursing to help those living with incurable disease."