Death Rates From Breast Cancer Down For Only Women Of Certain Ages
January 16, 2013

Breast Cancer Mortality Has Not Dropped For Women Over 85

Brett Smith for — Your Universe Online

A new study on breast cancer patients in Spain showed that, despite improving among young and middle aged women, older women still face about the same mortality rate they did in 1992.

The study, published in the latest edition of Public Health by a team of Spanish researchers, analyzed breast cancer mortality rates in Spain among different age groups from 1981 to 2007. The group also modeled mortality rates into the future, through 2023.

"We used the Lee-Carter model to examine the data. This model is normally used to study general mortality but rarely employed to study mortality as a result of specific causes," explained lead author Alejandro Álvaro Meca, a researcher at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

Most experts agree that a global increase in mammographies and advances in technology have increased the survival odds for women around the world.

"The new results support this assumption: there is an evident decrease in breast cancer mortality in women under the age of 50," the report said.

However, older women have not fared as well as their younger counterparts and while the study did not examine the causes behind these trends–the authors did recommend in their conclusion that the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer should differ with age.

Using the second part of the Lee-Carter model, the researchers determined the mortality rate will decrease through 2023, but will not at the same rate as before.

"Predictions show that rates will decrease more slowly. Mortality will decrease in all age groups but will not be the same for all,” Álvaro Meca said. “A more significant decrease will be observed amongst the youngest women, with a great difference in middle aged women where stabilization is predicted and then even an increase amongst elderly women (85 years or over).”

"Although this decrease trend will continue into the future, everything points to a [stabilization] in mortality for elderly women," he continued. "Therefore, breast cancer preventative practices should be different and specific to the age range of the patient.”

Many countries, including Spain, have adopted aggressive prevention campaigns to raise awareness about breast cancer and several studies have shown signs of their effectiveness. For example, the 2006 Spanish National Health Survey found four percent of women between the age of 25 and 34 and 19 percent between the age of 35 and 44 undergo a mammography every two years.

Unfortunately, the rates of breast cancer have increased in Spain and all across Europe in recent years, despite the implementation of national screening programs. The good news is the mortality rates for these patients have decreased almost 2 percent each year, from 1997 to 2006.

"It is probable that such innovation has contributed to improved breast cancer survival rates observed in Europe, although the contribution of each factor is unknown," indicate the study´s authors.

Besides being a public health concern, the monitoring and improving breast cancer mortality rates is important for social and economic reasons, like development of healthcare plans.