Breast cancer is the most common form of the disease among women in China.
In 2015, the condition accounted for about 17 percent of all newly diagnosed cancer cases among women in the country, a rise of 0.5 percentage points from the previous year, according to a recent report.
The report, which is published annually by the National Cancer Center, looks at the rates of cancer incidence, survival and mortality by compiling and analyzing data submitted by nearly 370 registries nationwide.
The center said the report, which was published in January, is indicative of the epidemiological trends of malignant tumors - that is, the distribution of the disease and related risk factors - in 2015, when about 304,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, up from nearly 280,000 cases in 2014.
The uptick came against a backdrop of the rising incidence of all types of cancer. Total cancer cases registered an average annual rise of 3.9 percent from 2005 to 2015, when more than 3.9 million new cases were diagnosed.
Compared with patients with other types of malignant tumor, those with breast cancer have a much higher five-year survival rate. Between 2010 and 2014, the figure was 83.2 percent, up from 70 percent at the beginning of the century. The overall national survival rate for all types of cancer is about 40 percent.
However, despite being the most common cancer among women in China, breast cancer is only the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths, after lung, gastric, liver and colorectal.
About 70,000 women died from breast cancer in 2015, accounting for roughly 8 percent of total cancer deaths, a rise from 66,000 in 2014.
However, the national survival rate for breast cancer still lags behind the overall rate in developed countries, which has been about 91 percent in recent years.
The report attributes the difference to low rates of early diagnosis, insufficient early-stage treatment and substandard treatment for late-stage patients.
In response, the National Cancer Center has called for the expansion of screening programs, as well as improved early detection and treatment.
The report also noted that, in general, the number of new cancer cases climbs rapidly among people age 40 and older, but peaks among those in their 80s. By contrast, the onset of the rising incidence of breast cancer begins at about age 30 and peaks at about 55.
The data show that urban females are at higher risk of contracting breast cancer: in 2015, about 54 female urban dwellers per 100,000 were diagnosed with the disease, compared with 34 per 100,000 in rural areas.
According to Xu Binghe, from the Cancer Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, incidence rates for breast cancer worldwide have been rising for several years, but the global death rate has fallen steadily as a result of advances in surgery, radiation therapies and chemotherapy.
Speaking in August at the 2018 Chinese Conference on Oncology in Shenyang, Liaoning province, Xu said more needs to be done in terms of promoting public awareness of early-screening measures, establishing more radiotherapy facilities and strengthening the use of agents that can be used to boost pharmaceutical treatments.
Xu added that a wealth of evidence indicates that breast cancer is likely to be the first curable malignant tumor, and eventually even late-stage breast cancer will be treated as a chronic, rather than a terminal, illness.
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