Study: Breast cancer rates declining in Marin Co.

September 24, 2013 7:28:32 PM PDT
There is some encouraging news about breast cancer rates in the state of California and hard-hit Marin County -- they're declining. Fewer Marin County women are dying of breast cancer now than ever before and it's not that they are getting screened more often or consuming less alcohol. It appears it has to do with what many women stopped doing 10 years ago.

There is a reason why so many Marin County women are concerned about breast cancer. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the rates peaked. But researchers say in 2003 something happened which may have changed this trend.

"Around 2003 as women began to discontinue post-menopausal hormone use, we saw a gradual decrease in incident rates," Dr. Mary Mockus said.

In 2003, the women's health initiative first reported a link between combination hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer.

Janice Barlowe is with Zero Breast Cancer, a San Rafael non-profit. She says millions of women in America listened to those media reports.

"So when information from research is given to women, not just here, but other places, I think they use it to make personal decisions," Barlowe said.

Since then the breast cancer incidence and mortality rates have continued to drop in Marin County for white non-Hispanic women. According to the Marin County Health and Human Services, there was a was a 13 percent drop from the five-year period 1996-2000 to the five-year period ending in 2010.

"It's something that is hereditary, something we have to be proactive about and hormone therapy has a tendency to be a red flag on those in the past," Marin County resident Becky Praun said.

Despite the positive news, Marin County still has a high cancer rate.

"California has a higher rate than the rest of the country; Marin still has one of the highest rates in the state of California, but it's an improvement," Mockus said.

Several years ago, some suggested that this high incident rate was due to the higher than normal consumption of wine or alcohol. It is a risk factor for breast cancer, but researchers said it's not the only factor.


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