Global Cases of Breast and Cervical Cancer Rising; International Programs Step in to Help

Women at higher risk of breast and cervical cancer
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The fall season brings beautiful colors; the leaves turn red, orange, and yellow – but everything else seems to turn pink! October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this year the funds that it will bring in are needed more than ever. A recently released research report shows that the number of women being diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide has increased by 3% every year since 1980 and that 1.6 million women were diagnosed in 2010 alone – up from 641,000 thirty years ago.

The statistics for the study, published in The Lancet, were collected by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in the US and the University of Queensland in Australia and funded by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They note that at least two in three cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 2010 were in women over the age of 50 and that most were in developed countries. Thankfully, although total deaths from breast cancer overall has increased, the rate is slower due to improved screening processes and treatments.

Cervical cancer cases are also on the rise. In 2010, 454,000 women were diagnosed with the disease worldwide, compared to 378,000 in 1980. Deaths from cervical cancer are also decreasing, but the disease was still responsible for 200,000 last year.

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Unfortunately, however, developing countries are seeing a rise in both breast and cervical cancer cases among younger women, aged 15 to 49. The greatest impact has been seen in south and east Asia, Latin America and Africa, says Rafael Lozano, a professor of global health at IHME. Breast cancer cases have risen more than 7.5% in some of the poorest countries – more than twice the global rate – and 76% of new cervical cancer cases are in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa alone has 22% of all cervical cancer cases worldwide.

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“If more women are developing breast and cervical cancer during their reproductive years, this adds more pressure on families and societies already suffering from high rates of infectious disease and child mortality,” said Mohammad Forouzanfar of the IHME.
As part of an effort to reduce deaths from women’s cancers, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is committing $1 million in Cervarix® cervical cancer vaccines to the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership over the next five years plus an additional $50,000 to support program operations.

This program is a new initiative led by the George W. Bush Institute, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The goal of the program is to reduce deaths from cervical cancer by an estimated 25%. The program will also offer improved access to breast cancer reduction programs such as screenings for early detection and treatment.

More than 10,000 girls and women will have access to vaccination as a result of GSK’s donation. Duncan Learmouth, Senior Vice President, Developing Countries and Market Access, GlaxoSmithKline said: "We share the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Partnership’s commitment to identifying and developing innovative models that will effectively educate patients and health care providers in developing countries about cancer prevention. It is a sad reality that each year thousands of women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, a potentially preventable cancer. We will continue to support programs that look to increase access for women in developing countries who are most vulnerable to this potentially fatal disease"

Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), a leading global medical technology company, is also supporting the efforts of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon campaign with a goal to help achieve widespread access to state-of-the-art cervical cancer diagnostic technology for women in countries currently supported by PEPFAR. The company will provide deeply discounted pricing on cervical cancer diagnostic tests which will translate to approximately 10 million dollars for every one million women that are screened. The company will also offer education and training for the laboratory staff and healthcare workers on screening for cervical cancer.

Key Facts about the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon program:
• Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon® educates about, tests for, diagnoses and treats cervical and breast cancer in African and Latin American countries.
• Cervical cancer is the most common women’s cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa and is the third most common cancer in women, with 530,000 new cases and 275,000 deaths each year.
• 80-90% of women in sub-Saharan Africa have never had a pelvic exam.
• More than 85% of the global burden of cervical cancer occurs in developing countries, yet the World Health Organization estimates fewer than 5 percent of these women have access to screening even once in a lifetime.
• Cervical cancer is 4 – 5 times more common among women who are HIV-positive .
• Today, almost 7 million people living with HIV are alive because of access to antiretroviral therapy and new HIV infections have fallen by nearly 20 percent in the last 10 years.
• Breast cancer is estimated to result in 1.4 million new cases and kill 458,000 women each year globally.

Journal Reference:
Breast and cervical cancer in 187 countries between 1980 and 2010: a systematic analysis
Mohammad H Forouzanfar MD,Kyle J Foreman MPH,Allyne M Delossantos BS,Prof Rafael Lozano MD,Prof Alan D Lopez PhD,Prof, Dr Christopher J L Murray MD,Mohsen Naghavi MD, The Lancet - 15 September 2011
DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61351-2

Image Credit: Flickr.com

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