For Immediate Release: August 16, 2010
Contact: Glen Weldon, 202-328-7744 x3021
Stark Differences in Global Breast Cancer Rates
Underscore Role of US Lifestyle in Risk, Say Experts
Breast Cancer Rate in North America Twice That of South America
WASHINGTON, DC – Breast cancer rates in the United States are nearly double those seen in South American countries like Brazil, and experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) said today that differences in diet, weight and physical activity are important reasons why.
According to the latest global cancer statistics, 76 women per every 100,000 in the US (adjusted for age) were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, compared to just 44 women per 100,000 in South America.
Some of this difference is due to US advancements in breast cancer screening, diagnosis and record-keeping. But AICR experts stressed today that lifestyle has been shown to play a central role in breast cancer risk.
In fact, AICR scientists estimate that about 4 out of every 10 breast cancer cases in the US could be prevented through staying at a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol and being more physically active. There is also convincing evidence that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Brazil vs. US: Lifestyle Differences by the Numbers
Obesity rates throughout South America are considerably lower than America’s. In fact, according to WHO statistics, over half (55%) of the Brazilian population falls within the Body Mass Index’s “healthy” range (18-24). Only 36 percent of Americans fall within this range.
WHO figures also show that the average adult in Brazil consumes about 1.2 gallons (5.3 liters) of pure alcohol per year. The average American adult consumes 2.1 gallons (8.1 liters) per year.
When it comes to physical activity, things get a bit more complicated: Figures from the AICR/WCRF report Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention suggest that, although more Brazilians report engaging in no physical activity (50% of Brazilians are inactive vs. 30% of Americans), the percentage of Brazilians who are highly active is 9 times that of Americans (37% of Brazilians are highly active vs. just 4% of Americans.)
And finally, according to La Leche League, 93 percent of Brazilian mothers breastfeed their children, compared to 74 percent of American mothers.
Experts: Lifestyle Changes Lower Risk
“The fact that breast cancer rates in South American countries like Brazil are nearly half that of the US is a clear reminder that everyday choices we make about diet and activity matter,” said AICR Nutritionist Alice Bender, MS RD.
Bender noted that US breast cancer rates are more than three times that of China, and more than four times higher than those of Eastern Africa, which has the lowest rate of breast cancer in the world.
“Many breast cancers can be prevented around the globe,” she said. “We need to get the message out that, here in the US, the prevention prescription looks like this: Women can reduce their breast cancer risk by making basic lifestyle changes like moving more, staying lean and drinking less alcohol.”
The same is true of cancer in general, added Bender. AICR estimates that about a third of the most common cancers in the US could be prevented just through eating healthfully, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.
Notes to editors:
- The new cancer incidence statistics come from GLOBOCAN, a project by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in France. This project provides contemporary estimates of national incidence and mortality from major type of cancers for all countries of the world.
- The rates per 100,000 people have been age adjusted. This means that for each country they have taken into account the differing proportions of people in different age groups to make sure they are comparing like with like. This is important because older people are more likely to develop breast cancer.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association that operates as the umbrella organization for the network. The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).
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