Breast cancer in New Zealand: A brief overview

7 Jan

Breast cancer in New Zealand:

A brief overview

Breast cancer is a common form of cancer in New Zealand women and is becoming more common:

Information on the Women’s Health Action website (dated December 1998) states:

“Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in New Zealand. Each year about 1600 women develop breast cancer and about 580 New Zealand women die from the disease.

“The chances of developing breast cancer are similar for Maori and non-Maori women.

“Nearly 10% of New Zealand women will develop breast cancer in their lives; put the other way, over 90% of New Zealand women do not get breast cancer.”

According to information on the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation website (dated October 2009):

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among New Zealand women, with more than 2500 new cases expected this year – also approximately 20 men will be diagnosed.

More than 600 women will die from the disease this year – making it the leading cause of cancer-related death in females.
1 in 9 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.
90-95% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.”


What does this information tell us?

Firstly, assuming that projections of  breast cancer incidence are accurate, the number of New Zealand women who are developing breast cancer has increased significantly since the late 1990s.  Thankfully, the breast cancer death rate is not increasing as fast as the incidence rate.

However breast cancer is both the most common form of cancer in NZ women and the most common cause of cancer-related death in NZ women.

Despite the increase in breast cancer incidence, 8 out of 9 New Zealand women live out their lives without developing this disease.  Only a small proportion (5-10%) of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease.  This suggests that for most women, genetic factors are less important than lifestyle and environmental factors as contributors to the increasing breast cancer rate.

Disclaimer:  Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other health professional.  Readers are urged to think carefully about the risks and benefits of different breast screening options and to seek additional information if necessary.  Inclusion of  links to other websites on this site does not imply endorsement of that organisation by nor does it imply endorsement of by any other organisation or company.