Breast and cervical cancers are on the rise worldwide, according to the first global analysis of incidence and mortality trends for the two cancers.
Global breast cancer incidence rose to 1.6 million cases in 2010, up 3.1 percent per year since 1980, Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues found.
Global cervical cancer incidence was up 0.6 percent per year to 454,000 cases in 2010, the group reported online in The Lancet.
Together, the 625,000 deaths per year in 2010 from breast and cervical cancers found in the study is staggering, equivalent to six jumbo jets crashing every day, Dr. Jan W. Coebergh of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, wrote in an accompanying commentary.
The findings suggest that -- contrary to previous assumptions -- more women die from breast and cervical cancers than from childbirth in over 60 developing countries.
Specifically, officials say an estimated 343,000 women, mostly in developing countries, die every year due to labor-related complications. Breast cancer, by comparison, now kills 425,000 women a year, the researchers said, while cervical cancer is responsible for approximately 200,000 deaths.
The burden of death from these cancers was uneven, with deaths and incidence rising most in south and east Asia, Latin America, and Africa but decreasing in industrialized countries, she noted.
Women younger than 50 in developing countries accounted for 23 percent of global breast cancer deaths and 34 percent of global cervical cancer deaths, whereas their peers in developed nations accounted for 10 percent of both.
If the overall study trends continue for another 15 years, developing countries could see breast and cervical cancers rising among women's health issues, Murray's group noted.
For women in their reproductive years in developing countries, "breast and cervical cancer are substantial problems of a similar importance to major global priorities such as maternal mortality," the researchers argued.
They compiled data from more than 300 population-based cancer registries and vital status registries along with verbal autopsy data to determine breast and cervical cancer incidence and mortality in 187 countries.
Total breast cancer incidence steadily rose 2.6-fold from 641,000 cases per year in 1980 to 1,643,000 in 2010.
Breast cancer deaths rose 1.8 percent per year from 250,000 to 425,000 over the same period.
For cervical cancer, the global increase in incidence was more modest, increasing from 378,000 new cases in 1980 to 454,000 in 2010. Cervical cancer deaths rose at 0.46 percent per year from 174,000 to 200,000 over the same period.
"Increases in the absolute number of cases and deaths are driven by the interaction of three distinct reasons: rising population numbers in women of at-risk age, population aging such that the median age is rising in most regions, and changes in age-specific incidence and death rates," the researchers explained in the paper.
Whereas two-thirds of breast cancer developed in women 50 and older in developed nations, the same proportion of cervical cancer occurred in developing nations.
The researchers cautioned that many of the countries had population-based cancer registry data available only up until 2002 and weren't able to provide updated numbers and that some countries used an ill-defined "cancers of the uterus" category for cause of death that introduced some uncertainty.
Associated Press reports contributed to this report.