Important Breast Cancer Highlights 2004-2008

A measuring tape is a good tool for monitoring weight controlObesity linked to increased risk for six cancers
According to a recent report, excess body fat is on course to overtake tobacco as the leading risk factor for cancer in America. Furthermore, the cancer risk increases with only modest weight gain. In this analysis, excess body fat was found to be associated with an increased incidence of cancers of the colon, kidney, and pancreas, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and endometrium, and breast cancer in postmenopausal women.There are two main types of phytoestrogens — isoflavones and lignans. Isoflavones are found in soybeans, chickpeas and other legumes. Lignans occur in flaxseeds, whole grains and some fruits and vegetables. Source: World Cancer Research Fund, American Institute for Cancer Research, October 2007

The American Cancer Society recommends MRI screening for women with lifetime breast cancer risk of 20%
Calculate your Lifetime Risk with this tool. Note: There are different risk models. Each one is imperfect and provides only an approximate estimate of risk. The tool should not be used to calculate breast cancer risk for women who have already had a diagnosis of breast cancer or for women known to have breast cancer-producing mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
Always discuss these results with your doctor.)

Further recommendations from the American Cancer Society include:

  • Screening should begin at age 30 for most high-risk women
  • Annual MRI screening is recommended for patients with BRCA mutations and for patients whose lifetime risk for breast cancer is at least 20%,
  • MRI screening is not recommended for women with lifetime risk below 15%.
  • Annual MRI screening is recommended for patients who received chest radiation (e.g., for Hodgkin disease) between ages 10 and 30 and for patients with several unusual genetic syndromes;
  • The evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against MRI screening for women with dense breasts; women with personal histories of breast cancer, atypical ductal hyperplasia, ductal carcinoma in situ, atypical lobular hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ; or women with lifetime risk of 15% to 20%.

Source: American Cancer Society, June 2007

Women at high risk of breast cancer should get an annual MRI scan plus mammogram
Women who have an especially high risk of developing breast cancer should get magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans along with their yearly mammogram, according to a new American Cancer Society guideline released today. This recommendation applies only to the 1% to 2% of women who have at least a 20% risk of developing breast cancer due to their family history. Performing both a mammogram and MRI together improves the chances of finding breast cancer early, when the cancer is easier to treat. In a related study also being released today, the researchers found that, in 969 women newly diagnosed with cancer in one breast, MRI found 30 additional tumors in the opposite breast that had been missed by mammograms and physical exams.

MRI scans are not recommended for women with an average risk of breast cancer. Although the scans are more sensitive than mammograms, they are more likely to result in false-positives, or false alarms in other words. This creates a great deal of prolonged anxiety, and an additional costly and invasive biopsy or procedure to adequately investigate a questionable area in a woman who is not likely to have breast cancer. Another significant drawback of the MRI scan is that its cost is about 10-times that of a mammogram. Thus the American Cancer Society only recommends the additional MRI scan in those with the highest risk. Source: American Cancer Society, March 3, 2007

Breast Reconstruction Referrals Not Always Offered by Surgeons
Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 mandates that insurance companies cover breast reconstruction for patients who undergo breast cancer surgery. Source: MedPage Today, March 2007

Radiation patients greatly benefit from nutrition counseling
Periodic nutrition counseling significantly improved the nutritional status of cancer patients were undergoing radiation therapy. Those patients who received dietary counseling, not only avoided malnutrition, and also experienced a significantly smaller decrease in overall quality of life, and had a faster recovery with regard to physical function, compared to those who did not receive counseling. Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, March 2007

Weighing yourself daily is recommended for weight controlObesity appears to increase risk of breast cancer
Another recent study strengthens the current theory that adult weight gain increases the risk of breast cancer. In a recent study of 44,000 post-menopausal women not taking hormone therapy, researchers compared women who gained only 20 pounds or less after the age of 18, with those who gained 60 or more pounds. The women in the higher weight gain group had an elevated risk of every type, stage, and grade of estrogen receptor-positive tumor. The most likely explanation offered by the American Cancer Society researchers is that fat tissue increases the level of estrogen circulating in the body, thereby increasing the risk of estrogen-positive tumors. Source:  MedPageToday, May 23, 2006

Reduced levels of fat in the diet may decrease the risk of breast cancer recurrence
In a recent, large-scale clinical study, postmenopausal women who had undergone treatment for early-stage breast cancer and then subsequently reduced the fat in their diet, appeared to reduce their chances for breast cancer recurrence or a second breast cancer.

At the start of the study, women in both control and intervention groups consumed on average 57 grams of fat per day. Both groups decreased their fat intake and maintained this decrease during the five years of the study. The intervention group decreased the fat in their diet by an average of 24 grams per day, while the control group only decreased it by an average of 5 grams per day. By the fifth year of the trial the women in the intervention group not only weighed an average of 6 pounds less than the women in the control group, but had a decreased incidence of recurrent breast cancer. Source: National Cancer Institute, December 2006

Weight gain of 21 pounds or more, after age 18, increases the risk of breast cancer
A recent American Cancer Society Study found that women who gained 21-30 pounds since age 18 were 40% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who had not gained more than 5 pounds, and women who gained 70 pounds doubled their risk. Furthermore, women who gained more than 60 pounds since age 18 were 3 times more likely to have metastatic breast cancer than women who gained less than 20 pounds as an adult. Source:  American Cancer Society

Computer factory workers may have increased cancer risk
Brain, kidney and breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma were more common causes of death for IBM computer employees than the rest of the population from 1969 to 2001, according to a recent analysis of a large mortality database. This data was released by the company involuntarily during litigation. No information was available to link these deaths to any specific chemicals or other toxic exposures.

Computer manufacturing and semiconductor fabrication have been known to expose workers to a variety of potentially carcinogenic chemicals, metals (especially arsenic, nickel and chromium), and electromagnetic fields (especially ultraviolet light, radiofrequency, and, in one process, x-ray radiation). These manufacturing processes have changed over time in the industry, and exposures have changed as well. Environmental Health October 2006

The link between soy protein, heart health and breast cancer risk…
Based on a recent review of 22 studies on the effects of soy protein with isoflavones and its association with heart health, the American Heart Association committee made the following recommendations: Taking soy or isoflavone supplements is unlikely to reduce your risk of heart disease. Eating foods that contain soy protein to replace food high in animal fats may prove beneficial to heart health. Circulation/American Heart Association, April 2006

Phytoestrogens are a weak form of estrogen that occurs naturally in certain foods.
Some studies suggest that high isoflavone levels might increase the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer. On the other hand, some studies show just the opposite–that under some conditions, soy may help prevent breast cancer. It is this scientific controversy that is causing many researchers to urge caution until further clinical evidence is available.

The specific concerns about soy focus on components of soy, such as the soy isoflavones daidzein and genistein, not the whole food or intact soy protein, such as tofu. These chemicals, available over the counter in pills and powders, are often advertised as dietary supplements for use by women to help lessen menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. (FDA) The bottom line, women who have concerns about breast cancer should not take soy dietary supplements (pills) without first consulting with their health care provider.

Large studies are currently underway and should offer better information regarding soy and breast cancer risk.

The medicine in your spice cabinet Turmeric, the main ingredient in curry powder appears to have potent anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity. Turmeric is a yellow powder made from the roots of a plant in the ginger family and is widely used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. For thousands of years, many cultures have used turmeric for medicinal purposes to treat everything from heartburn to arthritis.

A number of clinical studies have focused on curcumin, the most active compound in turmeric, and have found that curcumin can indeed slow inflammation. It also appears to slow the spread of cancer (metastasis), slow down the growth of new tumor blood vessels (angiogenesis), and cause cancer cells to die the way normal cells do (apoptosis). A word of caution, however, at least one study has shown that curcumin may inhibit the action of certain chemotherapy drugs.

Researchers have recently launched a number of new human trials to find out more about curcumin’s anticancer effects. Source: American Cancer Society

Postmenopausal women with more body fat are more likely to develop breast cancer than those with less body fat.
Researchers have found that increased body fat may contribute to breast cancer. Fat cells produce a type of estrogen, the “female hormone,” which can stimulate certain types of breast cancer tumors to grow. Researchers studied more than 7,500 women and found that women who weighed more, who had gained a lot of weight since age 25, had a high BMI, a wide waist, or who had a high percentage of body fat were somewhat more likely to have developed breast cancer. Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, January 2006

Raw cabbage is thought to improve breast cancer riskStudy: A Diet High In raw and short-cooked cabbage may help prevent breast cancer
Cabbage contains anti-carcinogenic glucosinolates and myrosinase enzymes and it may be at the reason why the breast cancer risk of Polish women triples after they immigrate to the United States. The study found the protective effect to be only for raw and short-cooked cabbage, not long-cooked. Source: American Association for Cancer Research

Blood Test Better Predicts Cancer Treatment Outcomes
A new technology that counts cancer cells in the blood helps predict the success of breast cancer treatments more quickly and more reliably than traditional methods. A study published in a recent edition of The New England Journal of Medicine said the new technique allows doctors to determine within weeks, not months, whether a breast cancer patient’s treatment is working. This could help physicians, at the start of treatment, determine more accurately which patients need more aggressive therapy and which patients need less aggressive therapy. This would spare some women from the most potent chemotherapy. Source: New England Journal of Medicine August 19, 2004

Study: Breast MRIs may find nearly twice as many breast cancer tumors as mammograms
Although breast MRIs are not routinely being performed, the procedure is emerging as a recommended screening test for women at high risk for developing breast cancer. It is also being used to further evaluate an abnormality that has already been detected. Unfortunately, MRI may produce a greater number of false alarms than mammography.  Source: The New England Journal of Medicine, July 2004

Tomatoes, citrus fruits, cabbage and broccoli lower your risk of cancerLower your risk of cancer through food by the National Foundation for Cancer Research
Research findings indicate the following foods help protect the body against cancer. Tomatoes, ketchup, tomato sauce, real teas (green, black and oolong), foods rich in Vitamin C (citrus fruits), and cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and turnips). Source: National Foundation for Cancer Research,

Study: Exercise improves survival chances in breast cancer patients
In a study of 2,987 breast cancer patients, Harvard researchers found physically active women to have a greater chance of survival from the disease than those with sedentary lifestyles. This large study of U.S. nurses found that patients who walk or do other types of moderate exercise for three to five hours per week are about 50% less likely to die from the disease as sedentary women. Source:  Journal of American Medical Association, 2005

Combining an MRI scan and a mammogram is the most effective way to detect breast cancer in women with a high risk of the disease
In a study of 650 women at high risk of breast cancer, researchers found that MRI was nearly twice as effective as mammograms in finding signs of the disease. Mammograms picked up 40 percent of tumors in the women but MRI detected 77 percent. When the two methods were combined, 94 percent of tumors were identified.  Source: The Lancet, May 2005

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