Five facts about the drop in Marin County breast cancer rates


By Sharima Rasanayagam, Ph.D., Breast Cancer Fund Director of Science

    1. Non-Hispanic white women in Marin County once had among the highest breast cancer incidence and mortality rates in the world. In 2001, there were 188 cases per 100,000 women.
    2. Recently, breast cancer rates plummeted, bringing Marin County on par with the California average. Since 2001, Marin County breast cancer incidence rates have dropped 31 percent. Since 1988, mortality rates decreased 65 percent. Learn more >
    3. The decline in Marin County breast cancer rates can likely be explained, in part, by decreased use in Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT is a pharmaceutical hormone therapy used to treat the symptoms of menopause that often includes a combination of estrogen and progestin. It is considered a known carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program. Use of the therapy by Marin women age 50 and older dropped from 21.2 percent in 1998 to 6.7 percent in 2006-07, corresponding with the decline in breast cancer rates. It’s important to note that other California regions have experienced similar declines in the breast cancer burden.
    4. In addition, the decline in breast cancer rates could also be attributed to a combination of other factors including healthy lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, decreased alcohol and tobacco consumption, and the avoidance of chemicals linked to breast cancer, although additional research is needed to pinpoint the exact reasons. In our daily lives we are exposed to toxic chemicals and radiation from a wide range of sources, including cleaning and personal care products, plastics, food, air, water, medical treatments, our workplaces and our neighborhoods. A large and growing body of scientific evidence tells us that some of these exposures can increase breast cancer risk. Learn more >
    5. Despite the good news, the odds are still too high. Today, 1 in 8 women in Marin County and throughout the United States will be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime. That’s a mother, a friend, a neighbor, a teacher. While there is great public awareness of breast cancer—with pink ribbons emblazoning everything from makeup bottles to soup cans—the emphasis has generally been on screening, treatment and searches for a cure. The Breast Cancer Fund is working to #RethinkThePink and shift public focus to prevention—to changing the odds so that far fewer people will ever have to hear the words “you have breast cancer.” Join us>

Breast Cancer Fund Director of ScienceAbout Sharima Rasanayagam, Ph.D., Director of Science, Breast Cancer Fund

As the director of science, Sharima oversees the Breast Cancer Fund’s science-related activities, including monitoring and interpreting emerging research, and developing and managing science-related program and policy initiatives. She also serves as chair of the California Breast Cancer Research Program Council, the largest state-funded breast cancer research effort.  Sharima holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Kent at Canterbury, U.K.


2 thoughts on “Five facts about the drop in Marin County breast cancer rates

  1. Thanks for this cogent reminder that while breast cancer, and all cancers, have multifactorial causes there are some specific known risk factors – like synthetic hormones. It surprises me how many women are still not aware of the link between HRT and breast cancer. And more importantly, the corresponding risk from hormonal birth control devices, since 4 out of 5 women will use them at some point in her life.
    It’s nice to see your focus on true prevention instead “monitor until we find it.”
    I wrote an article a while back regarding the BRCA gene risk. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

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