UK breast cancer rates 'four times higher than in eastern Africa'

In collaboration with Adfero

Breast cancer rates are more than four times higher in the UK than they are in eastern Africa, figures show.

Statistics published by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) show that 87.9 per 100,000 women in the UK were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, compared to just 19.3 per 100,000 in eastern Africa.

The UK is better at diagnosing and recording breast cancer cases, which explains part of the difference in breast cancer rates.

But WCRF also believes that lifestyle factors play an important role.

Keeping a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol and being physically active have all been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

There is also convincing evidence that breastfeeding - which is much more common in eastern Africa than in the UK - helps to protect against the disease.

Meanwhile, obesity rates and alcohol consumption are much higher in the UK than they are in east African nations, such as Kenya and Tanzania.

Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science for WCRF, said: "The fact that breast cancer rates in eastern Africa are so much lower than in the UK is a stark reminder that every year in this country, thousands of women are diagnosed with a case of cancer that could have been prevented.

"That such a large difference in breast cancer rates exists between these two areas is a real concern."

Dr Thompson revealed that the UK's breast cancer rates are also double those found in South America and more than three times higher than in eastern Asia.

She noted that "by making relatively simple changes to our lifestyle, such as drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight, women can reduce their risk".

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "Our risk of breast cancer is affected by hormones. Many women in the west, including the UK, are having children later in life than women in Africa and their families tend to be smaller. Having children early and breastfeeding them for as long as possible gives some protection against breast cancer."

"Other ways to reduce risk include cutting back on alcohol, keeping a healthy bodyweight and being physically active. Also, few women in east Africa have access to breast screening unlike women in the UK, where the national screening programme increases the number of cases of breast cancer detected."