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Breast Cancer – The Most Commonly Diagnosed Cancer in the World
Breast cancer has now become the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide, with around 2.3 million people diagnosed with the disease globally each year. In Australia and New Zealand (Aotearoa), it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
While more people are being diagnosed with breast cancer each year, thanks to improved screening techniques and treatments, less people are dying from the disease. Without clinical trials research, such as that conducted by Breast Cancer Trials, this wouldn’t be possible.
Breast Cancer Statistics Australia
More than 20,640 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2022. While the number of people being diagnosed is increasing, more people than ever are surviving their disease and clinical trials research has played a significant role in this improvement.
Breast Cancer Statistics New Zealand
The most common cancer diagnosed in women in New Zealand is breast cancer. The incidence of breast cancer has increased slightly over the past 20 years for both wāhine (female) Māori and non-Māori women, which researchers attribute to increased exposure and hormonal factors, as well as the expansion of the national breast screening program in 2004 to include women aged 45 – 69.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis / Breast Cancer Incidence
In Australia, it is estimated that 20,640 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that 20,428 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis, as will 212 men.
This number has significantly increased since records began. In 1983, 5,316 women and 61 men were diagnosed with breast cancer. This increase is thought to be due to a number of reasons including reproductive and hormonal factors, and improved screening and awareness. You can learn more about this increase here.
Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older, with the average age of first diagnosis being 61 years of age.
Thanks to the Breast Screen Australia program, which invites women aged 50 to 74 to participate in free screening mammograms, it’s more likely breast cancer will be diagnosed at an early stage. This greatly increases a person’s chance of surviving their disease.
In New Zealand (Aotearoa), it’s estimated more than 3,500 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year. Of this, almost 500 will be wāhine (female) Māori and around 25 will be men.
Breast Cancer Survival Rates
In Australia, more people are surviving their breast cancer diagnosis than ever before. Thanks to the advancements made through clinical trials research, there are more tailored and advanced treatments, preventions, and screening techniques available.
However, for some people, their breast cancer will progress to an advanced or metastatic stage and this greatly reduces their chances of survival.
Your age and stage of disease has an impact on your chance of surviving five years past your breast cancer diagnosis. Those diagnosed with stage one breast cancer have an almost 100% chance of surviving five years post diagnosis, however those diagnosed with stage four breast cancer only have a 32% chance of surviving five years post diagnosis.
Overall, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 91.8%, and 86.5% for men.
In 2022, it’s estimated that 3,214 people will die from breast cancer in Australia. From this 3,178 will be women and 36 will be men.
The lifetime risk of dying from breast cancer for Australian women is 1 in 34. The lifetime risk of dying from breast cancer for Australian men is 1 in 2,897.
Breast cancer survival rates in New Zealand (Aotearoa) are improving. Most people diagnosed with breast cancer will now survive their disease. Although slightly lower than Australia’s survival rate, New Zealand’s (Aotearoa) rates are still positive with 89% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer surviving five years past their diagnosis. This has increased from 79% since 1999.
However, this rate doesn’t illustrate the reality for those with advanced or metastatic disease who, despite improved treatments can still die from the disease. It’s estimated that around 670 people will die from their breast cancer this year in New Zealand (Aotearoa), around 75 of these will be wāhine (female) Māori.
However, an evaluation of the national screening program Breast Screen Aotearoa from 1999 to 2011 found that participation in the screening program reduced mortality from breast cancer in women overall by 34%. This benefit was slightly lower in wāhine (female) Māori at 28%, but researchers say this discrepancy is due to lower numbers of wāhine (female) Māori participating in the program.
Breast Cancer Risk
The lifetime risk of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia is 1 in 7. For men it is one in 726. However, there are a number of ‘risk factors’ that can increaseor decrease this risk.
A risk factor is something about a person, or what that person is exposed to, that increases their “risk’’ of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. There are many different risk factors that can increase or decrease an individual’s personal risk of developing breast cancer. This includes genetic factors, such as an inherited genetic mutation like BRCA1 or BRCA2 or lifestyle factors such as alcohol, smoking, or lack of exercise. Although just because you have some risk factors does not mean you will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
You can assess your risk factors and their impact on your cancer risk using the iPrevent tool.
In New Zealand (Aotearoa), the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer for women is 1 in 9.
It’s important women in New Zealand (Aotearoa) participate in regular breast screening every two years between the ages of 45 to 69 years. Participating in regular screening has been proven to reduce illness and death from breast cancer by detecting the disease early.
Breast Cancer Research and Clinical Trials
The Future of Breast Cancer Research
Through clinical trials we will be able to:
- Develop more targeted and personalised treatments;
- Develop new treatments for all stages and subtypes of the disease;
- Develop new prevention drugs for those at high risk and prevent breast cancer from recurring;
- Safely de-escalate or reduce treatments in select patients to improve quality of life;
- Improve survival rates and save lives for those affected by breast cancer.
Clinical trials are a vital part of our health system in Australia and New Zealand. Without clinical trials there could be no new treatments, prevention strategies or screening techniques to help treat, control, prevent and detect breast cancer.
Clinical trials are carefully designed research studies that find out if new treatments are more effective than those currently accepted as the best available standard of care.
All of the major milestones in controlling breast cancer worldwide have come through clinical trials. These include
- Chemotherapy and hormone treatment to prevent breast cancer recurrence and save lives;
- Mammograms which save lives through early detection;
- Surgical techniques which allow doctors to remove just the cancer and preserve the remaining breast;
- The prevention of breast cancer in some high-risk women;
- Personalised and tailored treatment to specific disease subtypes which can improve survival outcomes substantially.
Breast Cancer Trials is a leader in clinical trials research world-wide and is the leading breast cancer research organisation in Australia and New Zealand. For more than 40 years, our clinical trials have helped to save millions of lives from breast cancer through research collaboration.
We currently have six clinical trials open for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer: