Aging, breast cancer risk are linked Women who live past age 85 found to have higher risk

September 29, 1992|By Newsday

If a woman lives past age 85, her risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime increases from one in nine -- the widely reported national rate -- to one in eight, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Officials at the institute, which reported the rate change in today's edition of its publication, Cancer Statistics Review 1973-1989, said the change does not mean that an individual woman's risk of getting breast cancer has increased. Rather, the change simply reflects that more women are living beyond age 85, the former cutoff for calculating lifetime risk, according to Susan Jenks, spokeswoman for the institute.

"It's very important that women realize that this doesn't state an increase in incidence of breast cancer, it's just a difference in the methodology," said Frank Sala, American Cancer Society spokesman.

About 39.2 percent of women live beyond their 85th birthday. And after a woman turns 85, her risk of developing breast cancer has become one in eight. The data is presented in five-year intervals, beginning at age 25.

Mr. Sala pointed out that an individual woman's risk of getting breast cancer increases throughout her life, as she ages. For instance, a woman at age 50 has a one in 50 chance of developing breast cancer. But a woman at age 63 has a one in 23 chance, and a woman at age 70 has a one in 13 chance, according to the institute's figures.

The lifespan of the average American woman was 79 in 1990, the latest statistic available. At that age, a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, is somewhere between one in 10 and one in 11.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society worked together to calculate the new "one in eight" figure based on 1987-1988 breast cancer rates reported in various states nationwide.

The data is part of the institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, a registry the agency uses to calculate breast cancer incidence nationwide.

After examining the age of women at the time breast cancer cases were detected, the researchers decided to extend the agency's cutoff age for lifetime risk.

Thus, under the old method of measuring lifetime risk, a woman had an 11.5 percent (or one in nine) chance of developing breast cancer by age 85.

Now, beyond age 85, women are calculated to have a 12.1 percent (or one in eight) chance.

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