Background: Incidence of breast cancer is rising in Asian countries, and breast cancer is the most common cancer among Asian women. However, there are few recent descriptive reports on the epidemiology of breast cancer among Eastern and Southeastern Asian populations.
Methods: We examined incidence trends for invasive breast cancer in women aged ≥20 years from 15 registries in Eastern (China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan) and Southeastern Asia (the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand) for the period 1993-2002 mainly using data from Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, Volumes VIII and IX. We compared trends in annual incidence rates and age-specific incidence curves over a 10-year period. We also compared the incidence rates of Asian-Americans with the rates of their Asian counterparts.
Results: Breast cancer incidence rates increased gradually over time in all study populations. Rates were relatively high in Southeastern Asia and became progressively lower along a south-to-north gradient, with a fourfold geographic variation within the study populations. Age-specific incidence curves showed patterns that gradually changed according to incidence rates. Breast cancer incidence among Asian women living in the United States was 1.5-4 times higher than the corresponding incidence rate in the women's respective countries of origin.
Conclusion: Breast cancer incidence is expected to continue to increase for the next 10 years in Asia and may approach rates reported among Asian-Americans. The number and mean age of breast cancer cases is expected to increase as the female Asian population ages, the prevalence of certain risk factors changes (early menarche, late menopause, low parity, late age at first live birth, and low prevalence of breastfeeding), and as Asian countries introduce mass screening programs.