Advanced Breast Cancer in Young Women Increasing

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 6/13/2018 12:00:00 AM

A study published in February 2013 seems to indicate that the incidence of advanced breast cancer in young women is increasing. The study used data from the U.S. National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database and examined the number of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to distant sites (like the lungs or brain) by the time of diagnosis.

The researchers studied women of all age groups in the U.S. from 1976 to 2009, but an increase in advanced breast cancer was only apparent in young women (defined as 25- to 39-year-olds for this study). In 1976, there were 1.53 per 100,000 women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in the 25 to 39 year age group. This increased to 2.90 per 100,000 in 2009. The increase occurred across all races and ethnic groups but was higher in non-Hispanic white and African American women.

At present, there is no explanation for this small but relevant increase, and more research is needed to explain the trend. While this study does highlight the possibility that advanced breast cancer can occur in women of any age, it is important for women to remember that the number of 25- to 39-year-old women with advanced breast cancer is still relatively low compared with the number of older women who are diagnosed. The risk for developing breast cancer increases with age, about two-thirds of breast cancers occur in women over 55.

Benign (harmless) conditions of the breast are more common than breast cancers. Benign diseases of the breast account for many of the abnormalities detected by screening mammograms as well as for many of the changes in breast consistency that women observe.

The 2013 study does not affect current screening recommendations. Women should always consult their health care professional about any changes they notice in their breasts.


"Breast Cancer." American Cancer Society. 26 Feb. 2013.

Johnson, R. H., et al. "Incidence of breast cancer with distant involvement among women in the United States, 1976 to 2009." Journal of the American Medical Association 309.8 (2013): 800-805.

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