New Study Shows Breast Cancer on the Rise Globally

A new study published in The Lancet Global Health looked at breast cancer incidence trends in 41 countries, finding that rates of premenopausal breast cancer are increasing in higher income nations, while postmenopausal breast cancer rates are increasing in lower income countries [1, 2].

According to the study, there were 645,000 premenopausal cases (130,000 deaths) and 1.4 million postmenopausal cases (490,000 deaths) of breast cancer diagnosed in 2018 [2]. While the study showed that generally, breast cancer rates are increasing in women of all ages globally, what is most concerning is the rise of premenopausal breast cancer rates.

As the study’s Principal Investigator explains, a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Factors like obesity and delaying pregnancy until later in life can all contribute to breast cancer risk. However, risk factors associated with developing breast cancer at a young(er) age are still not well understood [1]. Moreover, women’s breast density during their younger years of life make it more difficult to detect breast cancer early [2].

As the study results show, greater prevention initiatives are necessary across the board to reduce females’ risk of developing breast cancer. Efforts to increase physical activity/ reduce obesity, decrease alcohol consumption, and promote breastfeeding should be incorporated in public health initiatives [1].

The study findings also reinforce previous statistics showing low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to be disproportionately affected by breast cancer mortality. While most tend to think that breast cancer is only a significant problem in developed nations, according to the WHO, 50% of breast cancer cases and 58% of breast cancer deaths actually occur in developing nations [3].

This specific study found that while only 11% of women with premenopausal breast cancer will die in developed countries, the mortality rate is more than 4x greater in developing countries (47%). Similarly, the mortality rate among postmenopausal breast cancer cases remains at 21% in developed nations and a whopping 56% in developing nations. Thus, early diagnosis and access to treatment are key to combatting breast cancer in LMICs [1].


1. Study finds global trends in women’s breast cancer show cause for concern [Internet]. ScienceDaily. 2020 [cited 1 August 2020]. Available from:
2. Heer E, Harper A, Escandor N, Sung H, McCormack V, Fidler-Benaoudia M. Global burden and trends in premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer: a population-based study. The Lancet Global Health [Internet]. 2020 [cited 1 August 2020];8(8):e1027-e1037. Available from:
3. Karlovitch S. Study Shows Breast Cancer on the Rise Globally [Internet]. Pharmacy Times. 2020 [cited 1 August 2020]. Available from: