A new report about the incidence of and mortality from breast cancer in Australian women has revealed a decrease in death rates from the disease over two consecutive years.
The report, Breast Cancer in Australian Women 1982-1996, was commissioned by the National Breast Cancer Centre and produced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in collaboration with the Australasian Association of Cancer Registries. It shows that while breast cancer is still the most common cause of cancer death in Australian women, a fall in mortality rates of 4% in 1995 and 3% in 1996 was evident.
Director of the National Breast Cancer Centre, Professor Sally Redman, said the findings are encouraging and they may suggest that we are beginning to see a real pattern of falling death rates.
'This good news can probably be attributed to the mammographic screening program, as well as improvements in treatment and a greater awareness about early detection in the community,' she said.
Dr Paul Jelfs, Head of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's Cancer Monitoring Unit, said the fall in deaths was occurring despite the fact that incidence rates increased by an average of 2.2% each year from 1982 to 1996.
'Between 1982-1986 and 1992-1996, breast cancer incidence rates increased by 37% in women aged 50 years and over. There was also a 7% rise in the rate for women aged 15 to 39 years and a 23% increase in the rate for women aged 40-49 years.'
The report found very little difference in the rate of breast cancer deaths in urban and rural areas.
'This is also encouraging, and suggests that care for rural women is on a par with the care received by urban women,' said Professor Redman.
The report is available on the National Breast Cancer Centre's website (www.nbcc.org.au) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's website (www.aihw.gov.au).