More die of breast cancer in UK than east Africa

Breast cancer rates are more than four times higher in Britain than in eastern Africa, figures showed today.

Some 87.9 per 100,000 British women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, compared with just 19.3 women per 100,000 in eastern Africa.

The statistics come from the World Health Organisation's global database of disease prevalence.

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Eastern Africa includes countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said some of the difference was because British doctors were better at diagnosing and recording cases.

However, it warned that British lifestyles – including a high incidence of obesity, too much drinking and a lack of exercise – were contributing to high rates of breast cancer at home.

Research has shown that around four out of 10 cases in British women could be prevented if women kept to a healthy weight, drank less alcohol and were more active.

Women in eastern Africa drink much less alcohol than British women and obesity is far less common.

They are also much more likely to breastfeed – which lowers the rates of breast cancer even further.

According to the statistics, the highest rates of breast cancer in the world are in Belgium, which had 109.4 cases per 100,000 women in 2008.

Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK, with around 46,000 new cases each year. The disease kills about 12,000 British women annually.

The deputy head of science for the WCRF, Dr Rachel Thompson, 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.

"Also, it is not just eastern Africa that has significantly lower breast cancer rates.

"The rate here is double that of South America, for example, and more than three times that of Eastern Asia.

"The fact that rates of breast cancer are much lower in other parts of the world highlights the fact that breast cancer is not inevitable.

"This means we need to do more to get across the message that just by making relatively simple changes to our lifestyle such as drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight, women can reduce their risk of breast cancer."

The policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Dr Caitlin Palframan, said: "It is difficult to directly compare these two populations side by side as it is likely that many breast cancer cases in eastern Africa are not diagnosed or recorded.

"Breast cancer is thought to be due to a combination of lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors and many of these may differ between the UK and other populations.

"Although some risk factors cannot be changed women can reduce their risk by drinking less alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly."

GET FIT OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES SAYS TOP DOCTOR

Parents are neglecting their own health and risking their children's by a reckless attitude towards food, alcohol and smoking, Britain's top doctor said yesterday.

Writing in The Observer newspaper, the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners Prof Steve

Field calls on the nation to get fit or face the consequences.

These included exposing children to the risk of dying before their parents, he warned.

His comments echo that of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley who has called on Britons to take more responsibility over their health.

Prof Field said: "The truth is that too many of us neglect our health and this is leading to increasing levels of illness and early death."

He said that patients should not take offence when family doctors told them to slim down or quit smoking or drinking.

The leading doctor also attack parents' attitudes, claiming that smoking in cars in front of children is a form of "child abuse".

He added: "Unless parents exert more control over their children's diets, they are risking a lifetime of health problems, and even premature death – death before their parents, which is almost too sad to contemplate."