Why are breast cancer survival rates higher in Israel than most countries?

Every year, 1% of such malignancies occur in men • Arab women have lower death rate than Jewish women

 Illustrative image of a breast cancer ribbon.   (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Illustrative image of a breast cancer ribbon.
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

During the last 20 years, the incidence of invasive breast cancer – going beyond its original location and spreading to other areas of the body – has been stable compared with an increase in diagnoses of localized breast cancer.

In the last five years, the survival rate from malignancy has increased compared with the period before that, according to data released by the Health Ministry.

In 2019 – the latest data provided by the ministry – 5,539 Israeli women were diagnosed with a breast tumor. The percentage of women diagnosed at an early stage increased by more than 10% compared with previous years. Israel is No. 26 in the world in the incidence rate of the disease and No. 69 in the death rate from the malignancy – evidence that it is detected early and treatment is advanced.

The Health Ministry’s Centers for Disease Control, which provided the data, said 87.6% of the women who were diagnosed had an invasive tumor and 12.4% had a localized tumor. About three-quarters of all cases were in women over the age of 50. Between the years 2015 and 2019, some 23,163 women were diagnosed with this type of cancer.

Each year, the rate of men – all of them over the age of 50 – diagnosed with breast cancer was about 1% of all cases. In 2018, 51 men were diagnosed, and 48 were the following year.

Breast cancer illustrative photo. (credit: IBEX MEDICAL ANALYTICS)Breast cancer illustrative photo. (credit: IBEX MEDICAL ANALYTICS)

Screening reduces mortality

Screening using mammography has been proven to reduce mortality from breast cancer and to change the course of the disease. The program here was established in the early 1990s at the initiative of the Israel Cancer Association and in collaboration with the ministry, based on evidence from clinical trials and guidelines from professional bodies. One of the parameters for the effectiveness of a screening program is an increase in the proportion of women who are diagnosed at an early stage of the disease.

In 2019, more than two-thirds (68.7%) of all new patients were diagnosed with the disease at an early stage, compared with 58.2% who were diagnosed in 2005. In women, invasive breast cancer accounts for about a third of new cancer diagnoses and is the most common of all types of cancer. Of the women diagnosed in 2019, 90% were Jewish and “others” (non-Arab Christians and those without religious classification), and 10% were Arab.

The average age at diagnosis in 2019 among Jewish and “other” women was 62.4; among Arab women, it was 55.4. In most age groups, the diagnosis rate of the disease among Jewish women was higher than among Arab women due to the more widespread use of screening tests to detect the disease.

The survival rate for breast cancer in Israel is high

The survival rate from breast cancer in Israel among women diagnosed between 2008 and 2014 was high: 89.2% among Jewish women and 84% among Arab women. This is an increase compared with the years 1996 and 2001 when the survival rates were 84.3% among Jewish women and 73.7% among Arab women.

About 1,000 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer die each year, and in 2019, 1,085 Israeli women died from it. Most of the mortality is among older women, where there is a significant decrease of 2% in mortality among Jewish women and a stable mortality trend among Arab women.

The ministry recommends a routine mammogram for early detection of breast cancer in women aged 50 to 74 every two years.

Women aged 40 and over who have a first-degree family member diagnosed with breast cancer or benign breast disease are at increased risk of the disease. These women should undergo a mammogram once a year.