Breast cancer: the disease is on the rise in people under 40!

Verified on 01/12/2023 by Alexane Flament, Editor
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Every year, breast cancer affects 3,000 women under the age of 40, with more and more young victims. Many scientists believe that their often late diagnosis compromises their chances of recovery.

Breast cancer in women under 40 is on the rise, according to figures from the French National Cancer Institute, which show that they now account for 5% of sufferers.

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

An increase in new cases that could be explained by changes in lifestyle:

  • poor lifestyle habits (junk food, smoking, alcohol),
  • more and more cases of overweight and obesity,
  • increasingly early puberty (before age 11),
  • a growing number of nulliparous women (who have never given birth),
  • an increasingly late first pregnancy (after age 30-35),
  • reduced breastfeeding,
  • a falling number of children per woman,
  • delayed menopause,
  • prolonged exposure to hormones,
  • a growing sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity.

These risk factors have been observed in many young patients, as has a certain history (of precancerous breast lesions such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular neoplasia in situ) or exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation in young women or adolescents treated for Hodgkin’s disease.

Late diagnosis in patients under 40

This new patient profile suggests a number of shortcomings in screening practices. While screening mammograms are currently reserved for women aged between 50 and 74, the tumour is generally more aggressive in patients under 40, mainly due to late diagnosis.

That’s why it’s important to remember that, in addition to self-palpation, women over the age of 25 are advised to have a palpation performed by a professional (doctor, midwife, gynecologist) once a year.

A rise that affects the entire population

While breast cancer is indeed claiming more young victims (more than 61,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2023, compared with 58,000 in 2018), this increase needs to be put into perspective, as it is globally proportional to the number of new patients affected by the disease, all ages combined (the median age is 64).

As for the mortality rate, it is falling by 1.3% every year, as shown by figures recorded between 1990 and 2018.