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After a sharp decline in breast cancer rates between 2002 and 2003 among non-Hispanic white women in the US, overall breast cancer rates did not change significantly between 2003 and 2007. These results were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention.

Between 2002 and 2003, breast cancer rates in non-Hispanic white women in the US dropped by 7%. The decrease was most apparent among women between the ages of 50 and 69 and for estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancers. Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women did not experience a large decrease in breast cancer rates during this same time period.

Some of the decline in breast cancer rates among non-Hispanic white women was thought to be due to decreasing use of postmenopausal hormones after results from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) were published in 2002. The WHI reported that use of combined estrogen plus progestin was linked with an increased risk of breast cancer.

To explore trends in breast cancer rates after 2003, researchers collected information from a large US cancer registry (the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program). Another database (from the National Health Interview Survey) was used to evaluate trends in postmenopausal hormone use.

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  • Between 2003 and 2007, overall breast cancer rates did not change significantly among non-Hispanic white women, non-Hispanic black women, or Hispanic women.
  • Use of postmenopausal hormones continued to decrease from 2005 to 2008, but to a lesser extent than it did between 2000 and 2005.

In summary, the decline in overall breast cancer rates that occurred among non-Hispanic white women between 2002 and 2003 did not continue after 2003. Overall breast cancer rates remained fairly stable between 2003 and 2007.

Reference: DeSantis C, Howlader N, Cronin KA et al. Breast cancer incidence rates in US women are no longer declining. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention. Early online publication February 28, 2011.

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