Why is Breast Cancer Increasing in Younger Women?

You probably won’t like this answer

Manchester by the Sea, MA: All sorts of statistics are confirming growing suspicions that invasive breast cancer is increasing among American women of child bearing age.

Seattle-based physician and breast cancer survivor, Rebecca Johnson, wondered what was up when,  at 27 years old, she was diagnosed with the disease.

“…and after that, I’d meet young women patients with breast cancer and it seemed like a lot of friends of friends had breast cancer. And yet the literature kept saying that breast cancer in younger women was rare.” said Johnson, a pediatric cancer specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Johnson’s recent statistical study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, based on small samples of the U.S. population (9.5% – 28%) from 1976 to 2009, estimates  there has been an average annual increase of 2.07% in highly advanced or “distant” invasive breast cancer incidence in women under 40, during the past   three decades.

“Given there’s such a change over a short amount of time, we may find modifiable risk factors or potentially toxic exposures that are fueling this increase,” said Johnson.

A second estimate, compiled from state cancer board data, based on 85%-86% of the U.S. population, as reported by the American Cancer Society,  and published in volume 1 of the new ebook series, Busting Breast Cancer,  shows that invasive breast tumors, in women under 45 years old,  increased by 11.8% a year between 2007 and 2011.

“It appears that American women of child bearing age are facing an epidemic- like increase in invasive breast tumors,” said Dr. Susan Wadia-Ells, PhD, founding director of the National Breast Cancer Prevention Project, a small non profit that translates international research on the known, probable and possible causes of breast cancer into lifestyle changes that women can adopt, to help lower their breast cancer risk.

Wadia-Ells, author of the new Busting Breast Cancer Series, is also willing to talk about birth control drugs as a significant cause behind these emerging numbers.

“I know it is politically incorrect right now to criticize birth control drugs, while Republican lawmakers and the Catholic Church continue to try and limit a woman’s right to receive  contraceptive insurance coverage or choose  a legal abortion,” said Wadia-Ells.  But this outspoken  prevention advocate believes the progestin chemicals found in all birth control drugs are a significant cause of the uptick in invasive breast cancer among younger women.

In her new ebook, Wadia-Ells  points to dozens of epidemiological studies, along with a 2010 lab study led by Austrian geneticist, Josef Penninger, showing how chemical progestin in contraceptive drugs activates the RANKL protein in breast cells, causing or accelerating tumor growth.

“Ten years ago we formulated the hypothesis that RANKL might be involved in breast cancer and it took us a long time to develop a system to prove this idea… I have to admit it completely surprised me just how massive the effects of the system were. Millions of women take progesterone derivatives in contraceptives and hormonal replacement therapy,” Penninger said, after winning a $7.4 million Innovator Award from the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program last October, for identifying a key molecular pathway showing how hormone replacement therapies and contraceptive pills can lead to breast cancer.

Wadia-Ells recommends that American women follow the example of  European and Chinese women, and choose safer and more effective contraceptive methods such as hormone-free IUDs or tubal ligation.




3 Replies to “Why is Breast Cancer Increasing in Younger Women?”

  1. Thank you, Dr. Johnson and the author of this article. I am very glad to know that research is being done in this area. Until recently, it seemed to me that breast cancer in women under 40 was as rare as breast cancer in men. It is very disturbing to me – a middle to old African American woman – as we, too often, see parents out living their children. I hope that more studies will be done to see if other factors may also be the cause – like diet, obesity and/or genetics – and that such information will be widely distributed. Because of this article, I am going to make a donation to Busting Breast Cancer.

    1. Wendy.. so glad for your comments. Yes, invasive breast cancer has been increasing among younger women of all races, geographic areas and of all child- bearing status for the past 20 years according to state cancer registry statistics. But since national statistics, based on these state numbers are not currently available to the public in any transparent form, U.S. women remain focused on finding the cure, instead of on the task of stopping the disease before it can start. Low vitamin D3 blood levels (esp in African American women) and using birth control drugs at all ages are two significant causes of these increasing breast cancer cases in pre-menopausal women in the U.S.

  2. thank you so much wendy for your words of support. national prevention -based groups, such as the breast cancer fund, silent spring institute and busting breast cancer need more support from national and regional foundations and from government funders as we all work to actually stop breast cancer before it can start. giving 99% of breast cancer funds to diagnostic, treatment & patient support programs…does nothing to stop the epidemic-like situation now facing u.s. women of all ages.. we are too
    focused on profitable projects…and not spending enough resources on teaching women lifestyle changes and passing environmental laws that can actually stop this disease before it can start.

    focused on profitable focised
    funds ti diagnoses

Comments are closed.