By DANA SMITH email@example.com NEARLY 1,400 people took to the starting line Saturday morning for the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure which is on target to raise almost $100,000 in donations for cancer research. The race is the world's largest educational fundraiser for breast cancer, a disease which recent research has indicated affects Bahamian women more than any other nationality. Sharlyn Smith, Marathon Bahamas board member, called breast cancer "a national issue" and told The Tribune event organisers kept that fact in mind as they were planning the race. "Breast cancer is a national issue in the Bahamas and that is one of the things we made a point of as we were planning this," she said. "The aim of the race was just to raise awareness of breast cancer and also celebrate survivors of breast cancer and remember those we lost to breast cancer," Mrs Smith said. "Overall I think we achieved the aim. We raised the awareness and reminded people that this is a real problem for our country." According to published reports, aggressive strains of breast cancer appear in Bahamian women at an unusually early age. Only 12 per cent of American women under 44 years old are diagnosed with breast cancer, while 34 per cent of Bahamian women are diagnosed at that age or younger. Mrs Smith cites this fact as a driving reason to raise awareness. "For some reason Bahamian women get breast cancer a lot earlier than our American counterparts - a recent study said that a part of it is genetic," she said. "Basically half of the women who are diagnosed with breast cancer in the Bahamas are under 50, while in the US it's 60. "And when we are diagnosed, it's at the later stage. We need to continue to test and encourage testing. We need to start screening and being more conscious of breast cancer and the risk. We need early detection and we need to have women going out there and doing screening a lot sooner than 40." Mrs Smith claims all of these issues were highlighted at the race and states: "Hopefully we'll just keep the discussion up until we find the cure." She "doesn't have a final figure" for the number of participants in the race but Franklyn Wilson, chairman of Sunshine Insurance, which is the lead sponsor of the event, stated that it was a "substantial increase" from last year. Mr Wilson also noted that about $100,000 in donations was given and the money raised will fund breast cancer research in the Bahamas. The race started at 7am on Church Street and led participants over the western Paradise Island bridge before ending at Atlantis' Royal Towers after a 5k tour (3.1 mile) of the island.