Friday, July 29, 2011

Breast Cancer News for July 29: Risk, Prevention and Screening

Breast cancer research news is not always about breast cancer treatment. Today, we'll examine the latest data on breast cancer in America and highlight the latest breast cancer research on risk and prevention.

U.S. breast cancer incidence rates vary by estrogen receptor status

Yesterday,, citing a Journal of the National Cancer Institute study, revealed that although American breast cancer incidence rates appear to be stable, rates of estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer are actually falling and rates of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer are on the rise. The decline in ER-negative breast cancer, which is more difficult to treat, is good news. The rise in ER-positive tumors, however, is concerning, and will likely be the focus of future research on risk and prevention.

Three new risk studies: fiber, breast density and BRCA biology

According to Reuters, a Chinese study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who were in the top fifth of fiber consumers were 11 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who were in the bottom fifth. Reuters notes that the findings do not prove that fiber lowers breast cancer risk. Fiber consumers may just be healthier overall. Also, Dr. Linos, from Stanford, noted that the potential effect of fiber was "very small." More on diet and breast cancer can be found on the fruits, vegetables and nuts page of the website.

Medical News Today reports that a Harvard study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute discovered that women whose mammograms reveal dense breasts have not only a greater risk of breast cancer, but a greater risk of developing more aggressive tumors. The women in the study were postmenopausal. Higher breast density was associated with larger tumors, higher-grade tumors, estrogen receptor-negative status and a higher risk of developing ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). This was the first study to link breast density with tumor characteristics.

From the biology labs, BRCA 1/2 gene mutations have long been associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Yesterday, a EurekAlert! press release discussed a Spanish study which examined the chromosomes of BRCA carriers. It found that BRCA 1/2 carriers have chromosomes with short telomeres, which are complex structures that protect the end of chromosomes. Interestingly, it also found "genetic anticipation" of breast cancer in daughters whose telomeres were shorter than their mother's. According to the press release, "The significance of generational changes in telomere length has interesting potential clinical applications in the management of familial breast cancer, and could be extended to other hereditary cancer syndromes."

Low risk of some serious side effects when Tamoxifen is taken for prevention

According to a July 18 study in Cancer Treatment Reviews, women younger than 50 who take tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention have only a low risk of developing endometrial cancer, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. The risk decreases from the active to follow-up phase of treatment. The authors note that education and counseling are "the cornerstones of breast cancer chemoprevention."

Please check back on Monday for the weekend breast cancer news highlights. Even though we don't write the daily news blog on the weekends, we continue to add the latest breast cancer news and research to the website and database.

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