Bringing the issue home
Published 23/08/2011 | 05:00
Over 2,000 new cases of breast cancer are being diagnosed in Ireland annually with the number of new cases rising by 3.7% every year.
Breast-cancer levels here are among the highest in western Europe with an estimated 295.1 women developing the disease out of 100,000.
But while the incidence is increasing, breast cancer mortality has declined by 26% in Ireland between 1989 and 2006.
Recent studies point to alcohol consumption, obesity and lack of exercise as contributory factors to the international rise in the incidence of the disease.
However, some experts argue that the role of these so-called lifestyle factors is not hugely significant in the development of breast cancer.
One of the few indisputable facts surrounding the disease, is that being a woman, particularly an older woman, remains the main risk for breast cancer.
Breast-cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have the disease and someone who has had breast cancer is of greater risk of getting a new cancer.
Not having children or having them in later life can increase slightly the risk of developing breast cancer.
Studies have also found that the recent use of birth-control pills or hormone-replacement therapy can have an impact on the development of certain types of breast cancer.
Controversially, a recent study concluded that screening had little effect on breast cancer death rates.
Experts compared data from three pairs of European countries, including Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Death rates in Northern Ireland fell by a similar rate to the Republic even though extensive screening began in Northern Ireland more than 10 years earlier.
The report said that "improvements in treatment and in the efficiency of healthcare systems may be more plausible explanations", for the decline in death rates from breast cancer.