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ThAnks To Tireless reseArch, The AbiliTy of physiciAns To beTTer mAnAge breAsT cAncer is consTAnTly improving. TexT By SATUMIIA MASALIN PHOTO By JUHA SALMINEN heart of The mATTer sTriking AT The B eng 48 blUe Wings reast cancer is afflicting growing numbers of women, particularly in developed countries. The illness has become more common over the past three decades. About one in nine women develops breast cancer at some point in her life. According figures from the Finnish Cancer Organisations, about 4,600 new cases are diagnosed annually in Finland. Within the Nordic region, Danish women suffer the highest rate of breast cancer. Breast cancer is much more common in western countries than in Asia. "There is speculation that the Asian diet might have something to do with this," says Carl Blomqvist, oncologist and acting professor at Helsinki University Central Hospital (HUCH). An Aggressive illness Blomqvist says that lifestyle changes have had an impact on the proliferation of the disease. For instance, women now tend to give birth later in life ­ if at all ­ and may have only one or two children. ocTober 2011 Hormone replacement treatment also increases the risk of breast cancer. "An earlier start of puberty or a latter onset of menopause may also affect the risk of cancer," Blomqvist notes. Untreated breast cancer is aggressive, spreading quickly. Controlling it requires early diagnosis and treatment. Continuous research into breast cancer has borne fruit. The ability for early diagnosis and the treatments have improved and mortality has decreased. In the 1950s, more than half of all breast cancer patients died, whereas now about one in five does. Still, it remains the most common cause of death among middle-aged women in high-income countries. inTernATionAl cooperATion Breast cancer has been studied for decades around the world. According to HUCH associatiate professor Heli Nevanlinna, the technological level of research in many of these countries is top-notch. Finnish scientists are involved in many international research projects. The country has a strong position in international teams, as reliable clinical

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