The cases of young women diagnosed with advanced, incurable breast cancer have increased about 2 percent each year since the mid-1970s. The findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed statistics of women ages 25 to 39.
"It's a very small percentage increase and the question really remains, is this real or this related to other factors?" said Dr. Deanna Attai, a breast surgeon with the Center for Breast Care in Burbank.
Researchers don't have the answer. It could be rising obesity rates, early menstrual periods and even environmental factors. More study is needed. But Attai says there is one possible explanation: The advanced imaging technology has improved significantly over the years, making it easier to diagnose metastatic breast cancer today.
"So maybe we're just finding the metastatic disease better now than we did back then," said Attai.
Breast cancer is not common in young women, but when it does occur, it tends to be more deadly. Attai says while women should be aware of the latest study, they should not be overly alarmed.
Attai says this latest study is not a reason for young women to rush out and get a mammogram. The recommended age for women to start getting mammograms is 40 years old. In the meantime, practice self examination and if you have any concerns, consult your doctor.