Kylie cancels Showgirl tour after announcing she has breast cancer

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The Independent Online

She has gone from playing a tomboy mechanic in a soap opera to being dubbed one of the world's sexiest women, via a rollercoaster of a career and love life that has been feverishly documented in thousands of tabloid headlines.

She has gone from playing a tomboy mechanic in a soap opera to being dubbed one of the world's sexiest women, via a rollercoaster of a career and love life that has been feverishly documented in thousands of tabloid headlines.

But yesterday, the gossip and the glamour surrounding Kylie Minogue's latest, sell-out world tour ground to a halt after the star announced she had breast cancer.

She cancelled all her remaining concert dates, including a top billing at the Glastonbury music festival in June, apologising to her fans for letting them down. "I was so looking forward to bringing the Showgirl tour to Australian audiences, and am sorry to have to disappoint my fans," she said in a statement. "Nevertheless, hopefully all will work out fine and I'll be back with you all again soon."

She was diagnosed while on holiday in her home town of Melbourne, where she was staying with her family. Her boyfriend, the French actor Olivier Martinez, was with her and had planned to accompany her as she toured in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities.

The news was announced by her tour company just 10 days before her 37th birthday and at a time when she is at the peak of her music career. She will undergo immediate treatment in Australia, according to her management, although the disease has been caught at an early stage.

The diagnosis brought forth a deluge of messages of support for a woman who has grown up in the glare of publicity, and after 17 years of hits, retains a charismatic mix of girl-next-door accessibility with a pop diva's A-list lifestyle.

Her spokesman, Michael Gudinski, said: "It has come as a shock to her, the world and to her family but she is very fit. She is a fighter and hopes to be back doing what she loves sooner rather than later. Let's just hope she is pretty lucky."

Her sister Dannii, also a singer, thanked people for their messages. "We're all very thankful for the endless messages of love and support Kylie has been receiving. I know all your kind thoughts will mean the world to her as she gets better."

Ms Minogue is relatively young to have developed breast cancer, a disease which, in 80 per cent of cases, affects women over 50 who have gone through the menopause.

Since she won her first role in the Australian series The Henderson Kids at the age of 12, the star's life has often mirrored the melodramatic vicissitudes of a soap opera.

In 1985, she joined the cast of Neighbours as Charlene Mitchell. Set in the Melbourne suburbs, the soap was broadcast at lunchtime and teatime on British television and soon became a national phenomenon.

The 1987 marriage of her character to her childhood sweetheart Scott, played by her then real-life lover Jason Donovan, was recently voted the most-loved television wedding of all time by readers ofRadio Times.

She scored her first British number one hit with the single "Locomotion" in 1987, and left the soap to pursue her singing career a year later.

After two best-selling albums, her career hit the doldrums. She embarked on a relationship with the late INXS singer Michael Hutchence, and tried to shed her girl-next-door image to reinvent herself as an indie star.

She was dropped from her record label, but bounced back in 2000 with a best-selling album which saw her hailed as a gay icon and "queen of pop".

After appearing in a pair of gold hotpants for one pop video, The Sun newspaper launched a campaign to have her rear declared a protected site, while this year's Showgirl tour has been dominated by coverage of a corset which allegedly reduces her waist to a mere 16 inches.

Now worth an estimated £35m, she has had 39 hit singles, nine albums and is the only act in British pop music to have had all her first 13 singles go into the top 10.

Ms Minogue's situation resembles that of Delta Goodrem, another Australian pop singer and former Neighbours cast member, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in 2003.

How science is learning to combat a killer

* Of the 40,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year, only around 2,000 are in their twenties and thirties.

* While the lifetime risk of having the disease is one in nine, just one in 200 women will have developed it before 40.

* Cases of the disease are on the rise, partly because of lifestyle factors such as increased alcohol consumption and obesity.

* Screening, improved surgical techniques and widespread use of the "wonderdrug" tamoxifen mean that survival rates are high.

* Almost 80 per cent of women diagnosed with the disease are alive five years later, rising to 90 per cent for those whose cancer is caught early.

* Breast cancer has a strong genetic link, with women who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations at higher risk.

* Women with early stage breast cancer are often given the all-clear after six to eight months of chemotherapy, although some may need a further course of radiotherapy.

* If the disease is of a hormone sensitive type, patients can also be prescribed the drug tamoxifen for a further five years to reduce the risk of recurrent cancer.

* One of the biggest worries faced by younger breast cancer patients is the threat to their fertility from the aggressive chemotherapy treatment.

* Women who have a child in early adulthood have a decreased rate of the disease, while alcohol consumption and weight problems are associated with an increased incidence.

* Some patients opt to have their eggs frozen before they receive chemotherapy in order to undergo fertility procedures after they have finished their cancer treatment.