Breast Cancer Named Most Diagnosed Form Of Cancer Over Lung Cancer

Breast cancer exceeded lung cancer as the most diagnosed form of cancer in the world for the first time in history, experts found.

The American Cancer Society calculated about 19.3 million new cancer cases occurred last year, 10 million of which ended in patients not making it. Breast cancer in women was diagnosed in 2.3 million cases (11.7%) followed by lung (11.4%), colorectal (10%), prostate (7.3%) and stomach (5.6%) cancers.

In countries where rates have been historically lower, cases are rising there as well, according to the American Cancer Society and the International Agency for Research on in a joint report released Feb. 4.

“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,” Hyuna Sung, PhD, who is the principal scientist in cancer surveillance research for the ACS, and co-authors wrote in the journal CA.

However, lung cancer is still the leading cause of mortality in cancer, with 1.8 million deaths (18%) in 2020, followed by colorectal (9.4%), liver (8.3%), stomach (7.7%) and female breast (6.9%) cancers.

Specialists are predicting an estimated 28.4 million new cancer cases will occur in 2040, a roughly 47% increase from last year.

The authors also point out the grim effects of coronavirus as it greatly limits the availability to doctors and care.

“Delays in diagnosis and treatment associated with the concerns of individuals, health system closures—including suspension of screening programs, and reduced availability of and access to care—are expected to cause a short‐term decline in cancer incidence followed by increases in advanced‐stage diagnoses and cancer mortality in some settings,” Sung and co-authors noted.

Northwestern University radiologist Sarah Friedewald, MD, wrote in blog post on Thursday that these trends have started to materialize. She reports of cases where delayed breast cancer diagnoses by a missed screening led to dire consequences. At the peak of the pandemic, radiologists witnessed breast imaging volume declines as high as 94%, and data will eventually confirm the long-term ramifications of such interruptions.

Friedewald expects a drop in scheduled appointments from March to May this year since patients weren’t screened at the same time in 2020. But she urged in the ACR’s Voice of Radiology Blog that this is a “prime opportunity” to both reach out to patients who missed their mammogram, and court those who have never had one.

“Our outreach is critical to decrease the negative impact of COVID-19 on our patients,” Friedewald, vice chair of clinical operations and women’s imaging and an associate professor of radiology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, wrote Feb. 4.