Your healthcare news library

Posts tagged ‘breast cancer’

Fish oils can help prevent breast cancer

Brown bear fishing for salmon at Katmai National Park, Alaska, USA.
Bears know how healthy salmon are
Credits: Washington Sasquatch Research Team


A good piece of fish can be an important component to a healthy diet, unless the piece of fish comes from this meal. Even better, new studies show that fish oils can help prevent breast cancer. This article, published July 4, reports that the British Medical Journal compiled information from almost one million participants from 21 studies. As stated in the article, “those women who consumed the highest levels of fish oil had a 14% lower rate of breast cancer.”

The study focused on women who live in the UK, where fish oil is not a regular part of the diet. The article mentions that a 100mg per day dosage would prevent 5,000 cases of breast cancer per year. The article explains that fish oils are so effective in the fight against cancer because they are an anti-inflammatory and cancer thrives in an inflammatory environment. Additionally, fish oils decrease production of oestrogen, which is known to lead to breast cancer when in an imbalance. One issue that the article does not address is the whether fish oils would benefit men in the fight against breast cancer.

The article recommends that 1-2 servings of fish per week are sufficient to provide the benefit from fish oils. However, the fish must be oily, which includes herring, salmon, trout and mackerel. Also of note is the fact that omega 3 ALA does not provide any protective effect. ALA is the omega 3 that is found in flaxseed oil, for example. Therefore, vegetarians and others who do not eat fish or take fish oil supplements need to take an algae supplement to get the same benefits that fish oils provide.

via Fish oils can help prevent breast cancer – Los Angeles Cycling Fitness |

Long-term night work linked to higher breast cancer risk

_breast cancer

Working night shifts for more than 30 years could double women’s risk of developing breast cancer, a new study from Canadian researchers suggests.

Researchers with Queen’s Cancer Research Institute, the British Columbia Cancer Agency and elsewhere, looked at 1,134 Canadian women who had developed breast cancer and compared them to 1,179 similar women without the disease.

They asked all the women about their work and shift patterns, and found that about a third in both group had a history of night shift work. The final numbers of women who developed breast cancer were thus relatively small.

But the researchers found that those women who had worked nights for 30 or more years were twice as likely to have developed breast cancer. There was no evidence that those who had worked nights for up to 14 years or between 15 and 29 years had any increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Previous research has linked breast cancer with shift work done by nurses. This latest study also found an increased risk in women in other professions, such as cleaners, retail workers, and call centre handlers.

“An association between more than 30 years of night shift work in diverse occupations and breast cancer is supported here, consistent with other studies among nurses,” the authors write in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Because shift work is necessary for many occupations, the researchers say that understanding specific shift patterns increase breast cancer risk, and how night shift work might raise the risk for breast cancer is needed.

Night shift ‘probably carcinogenic’

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — the cancer arm of the World Health Organization which ranks cancer risks — has declared working the night shift as “probably carcinogenic” to humans. It’s the same designation also given to UV rays and diesel exhaust fumes.

Scientists have long suspected that overnight work is dangerous because it disrupts the circadian rhythm, which is the body’s biological clock. They also note that the sleep hormone melatonin, which can suppress tumor development, is normally produced at night.

The researchers of this study say it’s possible melatonin plays a role in any increased cancer risk, but they also that sleep disturbances could play a role too, as could a lack of vitamin D.

Or it could be that night work is linked to other lifestyle differences, such as less time for exercise or poor diet and obesity.

CTV medical specialist Dr. Marla Shapiro says that previous research has shown that even people who have been on night shifts for long periods of time and who get the recommended amount of sleep during the daytime, still never produce the same amount of melatonin as people who work during the day and sleep at night.

“The question I keep getting asked when people read these studies is: should we be adding melatonin? Should we be taking supplements? But there’s no data that answers that question,” Shapiro told CTV’s Canada AM Tuesday.

Shapiro agreed with the researchers that more work is needed to determine what changes can be made to help people who need to work night shifts keep their cancer risk low. In the meantime, she says, staying healthy is otherwise still important.

“If you’re a night shift worker, your lifestyle – your exercise, what you eat, your alcohol intake, your vitamin D intake – all those things you can control,” she said.

Read more:

via Long-term night work linked to higher breast cancer risk | CTV News.

Q&A: Drugs to prevent breast cancer

Drugs may not be the best option for all women

New guidelines for England, Wales and Scotland say women with a strong family history of breast cancer could take a course of tablets to cut their own risk of the disease.

This gives women a choice other than mastectomy or close monitoring.

But which option is best?

Why are doctors now recommending drugs?

The NICE guidelines for England and Wales, and separate guidelines in Scotland, say there is good evidence that drugs can help stop breast cancer if they are taken for five years.

Studies suggest that tamoxifen or another drug called raloxifene can halve a woman’s risk of breast cancer if she takes a daily course for five years. And it’s thought that benefit lasts for at least a decade after the course ends.

Are drugs the best option then?

That is unclear.

Some women may prefer to take drugs than have invasive treatment such as surgery to remove both breasts.

However, for others, having a mastectomy may be more appealing because it reduces the risk of breast cancer to almost zero.

Other women may not want any treatment since both surgery and drugs carry risks and side effects. Instead, they might opt for close monitoring so that any tumour will be detected early on.

How do I know if I am at risk of breast cancer?


Most breast cancers aren’t inherited and occur by chance. Age is one of the biggest factors that affects breast cancer risk.


Women, in general, have a 1-in-8 chance of getting breast cancer at some stage of their life, with most of these cancers affecting women over the age of 50.


But about one in five women diagnosed with breast cancer has a significant family history of the disease – close family members such as a mother or sister who developed breast cancer at a young age, for example.


The new NICE guidelines apply to such women who have a ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ risk of developing breast cancer.


By this they mean women with at least a 1-in-6 chance of getting breast cancer.


If you think you may fit this category, you should see your doctor to discuss your breast cancer risk.


Your doctor will be able to take a detailed family history from you and may want to run some tests to check wither you have inherited certain genes linked with breast cancer.


How do I choose between surgery, drugs and monitoring?


It is important to talk to your doctor so that you have enough information to weigh up the risks and merits of each treatment option.


Tamoxifen is not suitable for every woman – if you are trying for a baby you should not take it, for example. And it can cause unpleasant and dangerous side effects, including hot flushes and blood clots.


NICE says women over 35 might consider drug treatment.


Although the treatment might work for women who are younger than this, the risk of side effects might outweigh any potential benefits. Cancer risk goes up with age, so women are unlikely to get breast cancer in their 20s and early 30s even if they have a strong family history of the disease.


While tamoxifen cuts breast cancer risk, some women on the drug will still go on to get breast cancer. And it’s not clear whether preventive tamoxifen has any impact on breast cancer deaths.

via BBC News – Q&A: Drugs to prevent breast cancer.

BBC News – Breast cancer risk has risen for South Asian women

Lifestyle changes may explain the increased risk

The breast cancer risk for British Asian women has increased, a study carried out in Leicester suggests.

Historically women from this ethnic group have had a lower risk of the disease than white British women, the University of Sheffield team said.

But they found breast cancer incidence had risen in recent years for South Asian women.

Experts said lifestyle factors such as obesity, or more coming forward for screening could explain the change.

The researchers, who are presenting their work to the National Cancer Intelligence Network Conference in Brighton on Friday, looked at census and cancer data for 135,000 women from different ethnic backgrounds from 2000-2009.

Between 2000-2004, South Asian women were found to have a 45% cent lower rate of breast cancer compared with white women.

But by the 2005-2009 period, rates of breast cancer among South Asian women had increased significantly and had risen to be 8% higher than white women, whose rates had not changed significantly.

Lifestyle factors

Dr Matthew Day, of the University of Sheffield who led the study, said: “Historically South Asian women, and women in lower socio-economic groups, have been considered at lower risk of developing breast cancer.


More research needs to be done to see if this trend is also true for South Asian women across the UK”

Dr Hannah Bridges

Breakthrough Breast Cancer

“Based on our study in Leicester, this should no longer be considered the case.”

He added: “The exact causes behind this change are not clear cut, they could relate to increases in screening uptake among these groups of women, which have in the past been shown to be lower than in other groups.

“Or they could be due to changes in lifestyle factors, like having fewer children and having them later in life, increased use of oral contraceptives, and increased smoking and alcohol intake – factors linked to increased breast cancer risk across the board.”

Dr Mick Peake, clinical lead at Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network, said: “The results of the Leicester study should assist public health services to both plan for, and respond to, the changing risk profile of breast cancer in the population, particularly with regards to Asian women who for a long time have been another group whose attendance rate for screening has been low.

“At the individual level, if women are concerned about breast cancer, they should speak to their GP.”

Dr Hannah Bridges, of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, says: “More research needs to be done to see if this trend is also true for South Asian women across the UK and to understand the reasons behind this potential change.”

via BBC News – Breast cancer risk has risen for South Asian women.

Breast cancer trials ‘failing to save younger patients’

A mammography of a woman's breast
Breast cancer in the under-40s represents under 5% of all cases

A lack of clinical trials aimed at younger breast cancer patients could be partly to blame for longer-term survival problems, experts believe.

The study, funded by Cancer Research UK and the Wessex Cancer Trust, analysed nearly 3,000 women under 40 in the UK with diagnosed breast cancer.

It found a rapid rise in relapse after five years in younger patients with a certain type of the cancer.

This contrasts with what normally happens with the disease.

The data, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that survival five years after diagnosis was 85%. By the eight-year mark it was 68%.

Breast cancer is mostly diagnosed in post-menopausal women, although those with a diagnosis under 40 represent fewer than 5% of all breast cancers treated in the UK.

The study looked at cases involving oestrogen-receptor-positive disease, whose cancers are fuelled by the female hormone oestrogen.

Underlying problem

This form of the disease is usually treated by chemotherapy followed by the drug tamoxifen for five years to block oestrogen receptors.

Researchers suggested that taking tamoxifen for a longer period may help, but they said the underlying problem was that trials needed to involve more younger patients.

Chief investigator Prof Dianna Eccles said: “This study adds to the evidence that breast cancer can behave very differently when diagnosed in younger women.

“They may require a different approach to treatment, which isn’t necessarily understood from cancer trials in older patients.”

Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical research, said: “Although in general breast cancer survival has improved dramatically in recent decades, with women now twice as likely to survive their disease for at least 10 years compared to those diagnosed in the 1970s, the same can’t be said for younger breast cancer patients.”


Breast cancer cases in UK under-50s top 10,000 a year

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue had breast cancer at a young age


The number of British women under 50 having breast cancer diagnosed annually has topped 10,000 for the first time, according to Cancer Research UK.

The charity says one case in five in the UK is among the under-50s, though fewer than ever in that age group are dying of the disease.

Higher alcohol intake and childbirth patterns could be factors, it believes.

In 1993-95, 38 women per 100,000 had breast cancer diagnosed, compared with 42 per 100,000 in 2008-10.

In total, more than 49,500 women of all ages had breast cancer diagnosed in 2010, compared with 37,107 in 1995.

The majority of cases occur in older women.

These figures show that breast cancer still affects more and more families every year in the UK and the need for research into the disease remains vital”

Chris Askew Breakthrough Breast Cancer

However, the incidence rate of breast cancer in women under 50 rose by 11% over that period.

In 2010, 10,068 women under the age of 50 in the UK were told that they had the disease – 2,300 more than the number diagnosed in 1995, Cancer Research UK said.

It says it is not clear exactly what factors are behind the rise, but that increasing alcohol intake and hormonal factors such as having fewer children and having them later in life, and increased use of the contraceptive pill may be playing a role.

Sara Hiom, the organisation’s director of health information, said: “Women of all ages who notice anything different about their breasts – including changes in size, shape or feel, a lump or thickening, nipple discharge or rash, dimpling, puckering or redness of the skin – should see their GP straightaway, even if they have attended breast cancer screening.

‘Better care’

“It’s more likely not to be cancer. But if it is, detecting it early gives the best chance of successful treatment.”

Ms Hiom said the improvements in survival rates are linked to research, more awareness and better care, as well as the availability of new drugs that can be used to treat the disease.

The charity said that as breast cancer had affected younger people in the public eye, such as Kylie Minogue, that might have encouraged women to come forward sooner. But that would not explain the rise in the number of cases.

Chris Askew, chief executive of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity, said: “These figures show that breast cancer still affects more and more families every year in the UK and the need for research into the disease remains vital.”


Breast cancer drug ‘biggest boost since Herceptin’

Perjeta extends the lives of those with HER2+ breast cancer, but at more than £30,000 for a year's supply - in addition to Herceptin - it isn't cheap.

Perjeta extends the lives of those with HER2+ breast cancer, but at more than £30,000 for a year’s supply – in addition to Herceptin – it isn’t cheap. Photo: GETTY


Thousands of women with a type of advanced breast cancer could benefit from a drug described as the biggest step-change in treatment of the disease since Herceptin was introduced in 1999.

Perjeta has been shown to cut the chance of dying within three years of starting treatment by a third.

It works in combination with Herceptin, for the fifth of patients who are suitable for the established drug. These are women whose cancer cells have particularly high levels of a protein called HER2.

Dr David Miles, a consultant oncologist at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre near Watford, said: “Perjeta has been shown to extend survival and control cancer for longer than the current standard of care – showing a magnitude of benefit that has not been seen since the launch of Herceptin more than ten years ago.

“This marks a significant step forward in the treatment of this aggressive, difficult-to-treat disease.”

Roche, which makes Perjeta, has just been given permission to market the drug across Europe by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). It costs £31,135 for a year’s supply.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which rations expensive treatments, has not yet decided on whether to make it available as standard in the English and Welsh NHS .

However, for the moment women in England will be able to apply for it through the Cancer Drugs Fund.

It received the EMA’s approval after a trial found that using it with Herceptin and chemotherapy, cut the chance of dying within three years by 34 per cent, compared to using Herceptin and chemotherapy alone.

The Cleopatra study also found it extended the average time that tumours were stalled, from 12.4 to 18.5 months.

Perjeta works by blocking a method by which tumour cells get around the ‘blocking’ effect of Herceptin.

While Herceptin blocks the ‘survive and multiply’ signals that HER2 receptors send out, often the receptors get around that by sending out even more powerful signals by pairing with related receptors in this family of proteins. The process is known as dimerisation. Perjeta blocks this pairing process.

Despite its benefits the drug, like other cancer medicines, has unpleasant side effects. For instance, when used with Herceptin and chemotherapy, two-thirds suffered from diarrhoea.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign said it “should be made available to all women who will benefit from it as soon as possible”.

She said: “Perjeta has the potential to bring a significant, and precious, extension of life to around 2,000 women with advanced breast cancer each year, by preventing the cancer from progressing for longer than we’ve seen with other treatment combinations.”

Dr Emma Pennery, clinical director of the charity Breast Cancer Care said: “This drug, when combined with Herceptin and chemotherapy can provide a more effective, targeted treatment option to delay progression of this aggressive disease than Herceptin and chemotherapy alone, but with comparable side effects.

“The priority now must be that Perjeta is made widely accessible across the UK as soon as possible for patients with secondary breast cancer whose lives could be extended from its use.”

Nice is likely to make a decision on Perjeta next autumn or winter. Roche is working on a ‘patient access scheme’ to bring down the cost to the NHS, said a spokesman.

*Only one in eight women who have pregnancy-related diabetes are later checked to see if they are at risk of developing life-long diabetes, according to research due to be presented in Manchester today.

Telegraph –

Tag Cloud