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Female Breast Cancer Overtakes Lung Cancer As The Most Diagnosed In The World


Rachael Funnell

Social Editor and Staff Writer

clockFeb 4 2021, 16:51 UTC
breast cancer most diagnosed

Female breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed accounting for 11.7 percent of new cases globally in 2020. Image credit: Gorodenkoff/

It’s a grim statistic that every country in the world is united in having cancer as one of the leading causes of death each year. A new report published in CA: A Cancer Journal For Clinicians has revealed that for the first time, female breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide. The news pushed lung cancer down to the second most diagnosed, according to the collaborative report, Global Cancer Statistics 2020, from the American Cancer Society and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The timing of the announcement is pertinent with the news breaking on World Cancer Day (February 4), an international day of reflection observed annually with a goal to encourage the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer. Data from the review revealed that one in five men and women will develop cancer in their lifetime, with one in eight and one in 11 killing men and women, respectively.


In 2020 alone, as the world battled COVID-19, there were an estimated 19.3 million new cancer cases and almost 10 million deaths attributed to cancer. Female breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed accounting for 11.7 percent of cases, followed by lung (11.4 percent), and colorectal (10 percent).

While scientists across the globe continue to develop new and innovative technologies to further our ability to prevent and treat cancer, it remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The reason why breast cancer has climbed isn’t clear, but the researchers behind the review recognized that rates for the disease appear to be increasing in parts of the globe where they were historically low.

"Dramatic changes in lifestyle and built environment have had an impact on the prevalence of breast cancer risk factors such as excess body weight, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, postponement of childbearing, fewer childbirths, and less breastfeeding," the authors wrote. "The increasing prevalence of these factors associated with social and economic transition results in a convergence toward the risk factor profile of transitioned countries and is narrowing international gaps in the breast cancer morbidity."


The review attributes death from breast cancer largely to late-stage presentation, urging that more work needs to be done to ensure affected patients have the information and access to catch breast cancer early on.

"The burden of cancer incidence and mortality is rapidly growing worldwide, and reflects both aging and growth of the population, as well as changes in the prevalence and distribution of the main risk factors for cancer, several of which are associated with socioeconomic development," said Freddie Bray, senior author of the report and Head of the Section of Cancer Surveillance at IARC, in a statement. "Effective and resource-sensitive preventative and curative interventions are pertinent for cancer diagnosis. Tailored integration into health planning can serve to reduce the global burden of cancer and narrow the evident cancer inequities between transitioning and transitioned countries observed today."

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