University Of Otago Over the past two decades, women belonging to the Maori society have been apparently witnessing a rising trend in breast cancer. According to a groundbreaking study commenced by the University of Otago, Maori women have the highest rates and the largest increase in breast cancer. The precise reason behind this elevation is probably not known.

While European/Other women have been registering a rise from 7 percent in 1981-86 to 24 percent in 2001-2004, the rate of breast cancer among Maori women has heightened from 123 to 210 per 100,000 women. It is assumed that post-menopausal obesity could be one reason for the bigger increase in rates among Maori. Also some undetermined environmental factors may be responsible for breast cancer cases. Scientists presume that certain biological factors have been involved in the high rates of breast cancer among Maori women.

“It is still a bit of a mystery why Maori rates have increased 70 percent compared to 50 percent for European/Other over the research period, and at this stage we can only speculate on some of the possible reasons,” shared Dr Cunningham. Given what we know, one would expect Maori to have lower rates than European women as they give birth earlier, have more children and lower rates of hormone therapy use. All these factors normally reduce breast cancer rates.”

However, in contrast to European and Maori women, Pacific and Asian women report the lowest incidence of breast cancer in NZ. These variations have apparently not altered over the two decades. Pacific rates possibly elevated from 112 to 141 per 100,000 over the study period, and Asian rates jumped from 70 to 126 per 100,000. Additional investigation can be triggered to ascertain the precise reasons for the higher rates of breast cancer in Maori and lower among Pacific as well as Asian women.

The study was funded by the Health Research Council and the Ministry of Health.