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Genes Explain Why Asians Get Less Breast Cancer

Newswise - It's long been known that Asian women have less breastcancer, and when they do develop the disease, they livelonger than other women. No one knew whether this was due totheir lifestyles or their genes. Now it's been discoveredthat Asian women living in England and Wales have a muchlower risk of breast cancer than women of other races,suggesting that it's genetic.

The annual rate of breast cancer among South Asian women wasalso lower: 40.5 per 100,000 compared with 57.4 per 100,000among all other women, a difference of 29%. Over 70% of theAsian women were alive five years after diagnosis, comparedwith just under 67% of all other women with the disease.

But when Asian women DO get breast cancer, they get it at amuch younger age. When they were diagnosed with breastcancer, the Asian women studied averaged just under 52compared with almost 63 for other women. Three times as manyof them were younger than 40. If these studies had takenplace in Asia, the difference could have been attributed tomore efficient diagnosis and health care in those countries,but since these women were likely to go to the same NationalHealth doctors as other women in the U.K., it's doubtfulthat this is what's behind these differences. Even among thepoor and disadvantaged, survival rates were still between 3%and 8% higher in Asian women. Differences in survival werenot accounted for by differences in how advanced the diseasewas at diagnosis.

South Asians form the largest ethnic group in the UK, makingup almost 3% of the population. The research team trackedthe health and survival of almost 116,000 women who had beendiagnosed with breast cancer in England and Wales between1986 and 1990. Their progress was monitored until 1995.

The jury is still out on whether or not being overweightmakes you more likely to get breast cancer. If that IS thecase, it could account for some of this difference, sincethanks to their genes or their metabolism, Asian women tendto be slimmer than Western women. However, when fast foodfranchises arrived in Japan, for instance, the Japanesestarted having the same kind of weight problems that plagueAmericans, so eating habits alone can't account for thebreast cancer disparity.

Photo credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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