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Breast Cancer survivors face heightened risk of second cancers, new research reveals


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Higher risks of breast cancer and second primary cancers for individuals residing in areas of greater socioeconomic deprivation 

A groundbreaking study analysing data from nearly 600,000 cancer patients in England has shed light on the increased risk of second cancers among breast cancer survivors.

The research conducted by University of Cambridge in association with the Lancet Regional Health-Europe studied data from over 580,000 female and over 3,500 male breast cancer survivors diagnosed between 1995 and 2019 using the National Cancer Registration Dataset.

The findings suggest that survivors of breast cancer, the most prevalent cancer in the UK, face a substantially higher risk of developing second primary cancers.

According to the research, female survivors exhibited a twofold increase in the risk of contralateral breast cancer compared to the general population.

The data highlighted an 87 per cent greater risk of endometrial cancer, a 58 per cent greater risk of myeloid leukemia, and a 25 per cent  greater risk of ovarian cancer in female survivors.

Additionally, male breast cancer survivors were found to be 55 times more likely to develop contralateral breast cancer and 58  per cent more likely to develop prostate cancer than the general male population.

The risk was found to be particularly elevated in individuals residing in areas of greater socioeconomic deprivation facing a 35 per cent greater risk of second primary cancers.

The study also factored the age of patients during their first diagnosis, with younger survivors facing a substantially higher risk of developing second primary cancers compared to their older counterparts.

Isaac Allen, a PhD student at Clare Hall, stressed the importance of addressing health inequalities, stating:

“We need to fully understand why they are at greater risk of second cancers so that we can intervene and reduce this risk.”

Furthermore, researchers emphasised the need for further investigation to understand the underlying factors driving these differences and to develop strategies to tackle health inequalities.

The research, funded by Cancer Research UK with support from the National Institute for Health and Care Research Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, underscores the importance of robust data sets in advancing our understanding of cancer risks and outcomes.

Katrina Brown, senior cancer intelligence manager at Cancer Research UK, highlighted the significance of the study, stating, “More research is needed to understand what is driving this difference and how to tackle these health inequalities.”



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