Breast-Cancer Death Rates in the U.S. Have Dropped by 42 Percent

Breast-cancer awareness ribbon. Photo: Getty Images

Breast-cancer death rates in the U.S. have decreased by 42 percent, though overall death rates from the disease differ greatly among women worldwide, according to a new study.

Scientists from the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon analyzed World Health Organization data on breast-cancer deaths in 47 countries between the 1987 and 2013. They found that, overall, deaths from the disease declined in 39 of the countries examined — largely in the U.S. and developed European countries. England and Wales were found to have the steepest decline, with 46 percent fewer deaths at the end of the study period.

Lead study author Cécile Pizot explained that the drop was expected, thanks to improvements in detection and treatment. “Breast cancer is by far the primary cancer site in women and, worldwide, represents a quarter of all cancers in women. Comparing mortality trends between countries helps identify which health care systems have been the most efficient at reducing breast cancer mortality,” Pizot said in a statement.

The study also found that Latin American had countries with “scattered” mortality rates of the disease: Colombia and Brazil had increased death rates, while Argentina and Chile saw decreased rates. South Korea had the highest increase of breast-cancer deaths, with 83 percent more women dying now than before. However, South Korea’s breast-cancer death rate is still lower than that of the United States: 5.3 deaths per 100,000 women, as compared to 14 per 100,000 in the U.S.

“This finding underlines the difficulty of isolating a single, common factor that would have a major influence on mortality trends,” Pizot in the statement. She noted that future research on breast-cancer deaths should investigate other aspects of disease management, such as risk factors, access to care, drug therapies, and more.

Breast-Cancer Death Rates in the U.S. Dropped 42 Percent