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 choose contraception or 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 this uptick in invasive breast cancer among younger women.
In her new ebook, Wadia-Ells points to a 2010 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.
Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Science. Breast cancer advance wins IMBA $7.4m US award; Oct 22, 2012.
Rebecca H. Johnson, MD, et al, Incidence of Breast Cancer With Distant Involvement Among Women in the United States, 1976 to 2009, Journal of the American Medical Association, February 27, 2013, Vol. 309, NO 8.
Mike Mitka, Author Insights: Incidence of Advanced Breast Cancer May Be Increasing in Young US Women, [email protected], February 26, 2013,
Susan Wadia-Ells, Busting Breast Cancer: 7 Simple Steps Ebook Series, Vol 1: Birth Control Drugs, 2013