Monday, November 30, 2009

Short-Term Follow-Up a Viable Alternative in Some Cases

According to new research published in the December issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, short-term follow-up of palpable breast masses might be a reasonable alternative to biopsy in some cases.  In their study, investigators examined cases of women who had palpable breast masses and who were recommended short-term follow-up (rather than biopsy) because breast imaging suggested that the masses were benign (non-cancerous).  Data from 320 women with a total of 375 palpable masses were available for analysis.  Of these 375 lumps, 85 were biopsied shortly after discovery and only 1 of these 85 turned out to be a form of breast cancer.  After the follow-up period (average length was slightly more than 2.5 years), only 26 of the breast lumps (about 7%) had grown.  Twenty-four of these 26 lumps were biopsied and no breast cancer was diagnosed.  The overall results showed that breast cancer incidence in these women with palpable masses defined by non-cancerous imaging characteristics was only 0.3%, suggesting that short-term follow-up might be a reasonable alternative to biopsy for women with benign looking breast masses.

This is good news for many women.  If routine breast screening results in the discovery of a lump and further evaluation of the lump shows benign characteristics (according to this new study, these characteristics included: round or oval shaped, clear margins, and equal tissue density compared to normal breast tissue), short-term follow-up might be one option to discuss with your physician.  Short-term follow-up would potentially be less invasive and in this new study was less expensive.  Of course, the final decision as to whether to proceed with a biopsy or not will depend upon a physician's recommendations and one's own personal risk of breast cancer among other factors. 

In addition to getting routine breast screening examinations, there are many diet and lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your personal breast cancer risk.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer ( to learn more.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Increasing MRI Breast Screening Efficiency

Interestingly, breast screening exams using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be complicated by the stage of the menstrual cycle in premenopausal women.  If a breast MRI scan is taken during the follicular phase (typically days 3-14) of the menstrual cycle, visualization of the breast tissue can be compromised by high background noise.  This often ends up in scans that have no value in terms of diagnosing breast cancer and additional scans to obtain an adequate scan.

New breast cancer research explored the optimal timing of breast MRI exams in premenopausal women with irregular cycles.  In this study, blood tests for the hormone progesterone were used to time breast MRI exams.  This study showed that using a simple blood test to time the breast MRI scans resulted in scans without a high background level, that were of the quality needed to provide accurate diagnosis, and prevented false positive results.

This is great news for many women.  False positive test results of any type of breast cancer screening has a lot of negative effects.  Just rescheduling an exam in hopes of getting an accurate scan can be difficult for many women in regards to juggling work and personal schedules.  But in addition to having to reschedule, there is also the additional stress of not having an answer, leaving the patient to worry and stress over the poor scan until the next one is completed.  Improvements in screening techniques like this one are an important and welcome step in the right direction.

If you are looking for things you can do each day to reduce your own breast cancer risk, visit to read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Exploring the Breast Cancer Process

Despite all the amazing progress that is being made in breast cancer research, there is still a lot we don't know about the process by which breast cancer develops.  New breast cancer research shows us one of the mechanisms that appears to be important in the development of breast cancer tumors. 

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom have been exploring the role of an enzyme, LOX (lysyl oxidase), in the development of breast cancer.  Some of their previous research has suggested that LOX is important in the spread of cancer cells.  Their newly published study indicates that LOX might also be important in the formation of the tumor itself.  The investigators report that breast cancer formation is associated with an increase in the cross linking of collagen fibers in the breast connective tissue, which results in a stiffening of the tissue and invasion of cancer cells.  By blocking the enzyme, LOX, responsible for the initial collagen cross linking the investigators reduced tissue stiffening and reduced breast tumor formation.  More details of the study can be found in the press release.

This is exciting news.  Discovering specific pathways by which breast cancer tumors develop opens new opportunities for breast cancer treatment.  If LOX is truly a critical step in the formation of breast cancer tumors, then drugs or antibodies that block LOX might have the potential to reduce tumor formation.  In addition to the challenge of developing new breast cancer therapies based on blocking this enzyme, there will also probably need to be some research done to determine when best to start such a therapy.  For example, at what point does collagen formation and tissue stiffening in the breast become critical for tumor formation.  Questions like these are probably already being explored and I look forward to learning more about these new discoveries.

To find out more about some of the simple things that you can do to reduce your personal breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer (

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nuclear Medicine Breast Imaging

In attempts to improve breast cancer screening methods, scientists have been exploring nuclear medicine breast imaging.  The current state of research into nuclear medicine breast imaging was discussed in the Fall 2009 issue of the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) Newsletter.  According to an article in the SBI newsletter, three nuclear medicine breast imaging techniques show promise:  breast specific gamma imaging, positron emission mammography, and molecular breast imaging.  According to the article, these techniques have a number of benefits including:
  • High sensitivity for detecting breast cancer
  • Specificity slightly better than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Capable of detecting very small atypical & non-invasive breast lesions
  • Appears to be better than mammography for screening patients with dense breast tissue
  • Is well received by patients
  • Cost is usually less than MRI
  • Less compression than mammography
Despite these benefits, there is still some work to be done to make these techniques ready for prime time.   Some of the current limitations with these techniques include:
  • It takes 40-60 minutes to complete the imaging process
  • Radiation dose currently is slightly more than what is used for mammography and is distributed throughout the body
  • A standardized system of reporting and interpretation still needs to be developed
This ongoing breast cancer research is exciting and offers important improvements in breast cancer screening.  While it is clear that more needs to be done before these nuclear medicine breast imaging techniques become ready for regular use, the future use of these techniques look promising.  Improvements like these in breast screening methods offers the possibility of earlier detection, which can lead to an increase in lives saved.

While scientists and physicians keep making new discoveries and developing new and better methods of detecting early breast cancer, we can all make important lifestyle changes to reduce breast risk.  To find out more about the kind of dietary changes you can make, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Friday, November 20, 2009

Single Dose Breast Cancer Radiation Therapy?

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America recently announced the availability of breast cancer radiation therapy given in a single dose during breast cancer surgery that apparently does not require the standard 5-6 weeks of post-operative radiation therapy.  According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, they are the first in the United States to offer this breast cancer radiation therapy.

This new radiation therapy is a form of intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) that incorporates the new Novac7 technology.  The Novac7 technology is a robotic mobile intraoperative electron beam unit that uses a patented autofocusing structure.  These new adaptations make the new system small, light weight and minimizes diffusion of radiation to surrounding non-malignant tissues.  According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America's PRESS RELEASE, the benefits of this new machine include:
  • Shorter treatment times of only 4-5 minutes.
  • Minimizes or eliminates the need for additional radiation treatments.
  • Delivers a high dose of radiation directly to the tumor site immediately after the tumor is removed.
  • The precision of the radiation dose helps spare surrounding healthy tissues.
  • Helps reduce side effects.
If this new technique is as good as advertised, then this is great news.  Developments in breast cancer therapy that can effectively kill cancer cells, reduce radiation side effects, and minimize the need for follow-up radiation treatments are always desired.  This would theoretically allow more women to resume their regular routine much sooner, while enjoying a better quality of life at the same time.  Should this new radiation therapy continue to prove effective, hopefully more hospitals will make it available to their patients.

While advances in breast cancer treatment are happening nearly every day, the ultimate goal remains to prevent breast cancer from occuring at all.  While that breakthrough is still years away, you can make lifestyle changes to reduce your personal breast cancer risk.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at to find out more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Breast Cancer Risk - Coffee, Alcohol & Total Energy

If you are reading this blog, then you are probably well aware that individual dietary habits can impact breast cancer risk.  New breast cancer research published in The Breast Journal increases our awareness of dietary changes that can be made to reduce breast cancer risk. 

In this new study, the dietary habits of 560 French-Canadian women without the BRCA gene mutation were investigated in relation to their breast cancer status (280 women with breast cancer and 280 women without breast cancer).  The women were asked to complete questionnaires designed to assess both dietary intakes and lifestyle risk factors.  The results of this study showed that:
  • Consuming more than 2,057 Calories/day increased breast cancer risk by about 2.5-fold.
  • There was a 1.4-fold increase in breast cancer risk in women who drank more than 8 cups of coffee per day.
  • Drinking more than 9 grams of alcohol per day was associated with a 1.5-fold increase in breast cancer risk.  [Note:  9 grams of alcohol per day would amount to less than 1 beer per day, less than 5 ounces of wine per day, and less than 1.5 ounces of 40-proof liquor per day.]
While the study summary does not mention the possible mechanisms by which these dietary factors increase breast cancer risk (for example: what component of coffee is responsible or were the individuals that were eating over 2,057 Calories/day overweight?), these results provide additional information showing the effect that our diet and lifestyle choices can have on breast cancer risk.   Enhancing our awareness of what can increase breast cancer risk is an important first step in reducing that risk.

You can find out about other diet and lifestyle changes that can reduce breast cancer risk in my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer ( 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Wow... the new breast cancer screening guidelines released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are definitely causing a major stir among the healthcare communities and the various breast cancer organizations!  Since these new recommendations regarding routine breast cancer screening for women at normal risk for breast cancer are a substantial move away from the current recommendations and since healthcare policy can be effected by the Task Force's recommendations, it wouldn't be surprising to see the ramifications of these new recommendations discussed for quite some time to come.  Since news stories can sometimes become heated, I wanted to take this opportunity to outline what the recommendations are and the rationale the Task Force used in making them.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Recommendations:
  1. The USPSTF recommends against routine screening mammography in women between the ages of 40-49 years.  The Task Force indicates that there is convincing evidence that mammogram screening in women ages 50-74 years results in a greater reduction of breast cancer mortality than in women 40-49 years of age.  The Task Force futher indicates that there is a moderate certainty that the net benefit of mammogram screening for women 40-49 years of age is small.  Part of the reason for observing only a small net benefit is that false-positives are more common between the ages of 40-49 years, leading to potential harms such as unnecessary biopsies, treatment of cancer that might not become clinically apparent during a woman's lifetime, and psychological stress.  While the Task Force recommends against routine screening for women under 50 years of age, they do suggest that women make individualized and informed decisions regarding when to start mammogram screening.
  2. The USPSTF recommends mammogram screening every two years between the ages of 50-74 years of age.  In their recommendation statement, the Task Force indicates that a large percentage (81%) of the benefits of mammogram screening is retained by screening every other year, while potentially reducing the harms associated with mammogram screening by half. Additionally, the Task Force indicated that the benefits of mammogram screening would likely be reduced if the interval between mammograms was longer than 2 years.
  3. The USPSTF recommends against teaching breast self-examination.  The Task Force reports that there is adequate evidence suggesting that teaching breast self-examination does not reduce breast cancer deaths.  The Task Force's recommendation statement further indicates that there is 'moderate certainty' that harms associated with teaching breast self-examination outweigh the benefits.
In addition to these recommendations, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force  indicated that there was not enough evidence to assess the benefits and harms of:
  • Clinical breast examinations
  • Digital mammography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
For anyone interested, the full USPSTF Recommendation Statement and the two major papers used to generate these recommendations are freely available to the public.  They can be read online or the full PDF documents can be downloaded.  You can find all these documents HERE.  It would be a good idea for all women, particularly those younger than 50 years of age, to discuss these new recommendations with their physician.

I indicated earlier that these new recommendations are causing quite a stir in the healthcare communities.  One group in particular seems to oppose these recommendations.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stands by their current recommendations.  You can read both their RESPONSE to the new USPSTF recommendations and their INTERPRETATION of these recommendations.

 The video below provides a nice overview of the media coverage this story is getting.

In addition to developing a personalized breast cancer screening strategy with your physician, there are many other diet and lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your breast cancer risk.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at to learn more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Breast Cancer Risk & Consumption of Animal Products

Blood levels of steroid hormones have been implicated as a breast cancer risk factor.  This is particularly true for estrogen and hormones like sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) that impact estrogen's effects within the body. 

A new study published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the impact of consuming animal products on estrogen and SHBG levels.  For this study, the investigators measured estrogen and SHBG levels in the blood of 766 postmenopausal women and then asked the study volunteers to complete a food frequency questionnaire about their dietary habits.  Relationships between dietary habits and hormone levels were analyzed.  The results indicated:
  • Postmenopausal women in the highest quarter of red meat consumption had about a 10% lower SHBG level compared to women in the lowest quarter of red meat consumption.
  • Total and free estradiol levels were approximately 15% higher in postmenopausal women with the highest quarter of dairy product consumption compared to women with the lowest quarter of dairy product intake.
  • No associations were observed between hormone levels and consumption of processed meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cholesterol, fat or protein.
While this new research does not examine breast cancer specifically, it provides some very interesting information further suggesting that diet and nutrition can have an important impact on breast cancer risk factors.   High estrogen levels have been linked to increased breast cancer risk, so limiting foods that can increase one's estrogen exposure might help lower breast cancer risk.  The impact of red meat consumption on breast cancer risk is still debatable with some studies reporting an increased breast cancer risk with increased red meat consumption and with other studies reporting no association at all.  If future studies suggest that red meat and dairy consumption might be associated with increased breast cancer risk, this new study could indicate that changes in the hormonal environment might be one mechanism by which risk is increased.

If you are interested in learning more about the role estrogen plays in breast cancer risk, the National Cancer Institute provides some excellent information in their Breast Cancer Prevention PDQ and their Understanding Cancer Series: Estrogen Receptors/SERMs

To learn about my favorite breast cancer risk reducing foods, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Monday, November 16, 2009

Breast Cancer Risk & Hormone Therapy

Ever since the Women's Health Initiative clinical trial, it has been known that postmenopausal hormone therapy (estrogen + progestin) increases breast cancer risk.  For this reason, physicians typically recommend that hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms be taken for as short a period of time as possible.  New breast cancer research points out one of the potential reasons for the increased breast cancer risk associated with postmenopausal hormone therapy.

In this new study, researchers studied nearly 2.5 million mammograms taken between 1996 and 2005 in order to examine atypical ductal hyperplasia and other breast cancer risk factors.  Atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) is a benign condition where abnormal cells grown in the ducts of the breast.  While ADH is a non-cancerous condition, its presence is a breast cancer risk factor.  Numerous relationships were examined in this study including associations between ADH, hormone therapy, and age among others.  Some of the more interesting findings included:
  • Atypical ductal hyperplasia was present in 1,064 breast biopsies
  • Atypical ductal hyperplasia was present in 833 breast cancers
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy declined from 35% to 11%
  • Both atypical ductal hyperplasia and breast cancer were significantly associated with use of postmenopausal hormone therapy.
This is interesting breast cancer research that might provide some additional insight into the mechanisms behind the increased breast cancer risk associated with postmenopausal hormone therapy.  The fact that atypical ductal hyperplasia decreased with decreasing hormone use, suggests that postmenopausal hormone therapy might be one cause of the development of this breast cancer risk factor.  Fortunately, the breast cancers linked with ADH were generally a lower grade of breast cancer.  While postmenopausal hormone therapy use has declined, this research helps clarify how some breast cancers might develop.  For anyone taking postmenopausal hormone therapy, it is important to follow your doctor's usage directions.

Whether you are on postmenopausal hormone therapy or not, there are things you can do to lower your personal breast cancer risk.  To learn some of the diet and lifestyle changes you can make, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shorter Breast Cancer Therapy With Radiation Possible

Two separate breast cancer research studies presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology suggest that shorter breast cancer radiation therapy might be just as effective as the current standard radiation therapy of 6 - 7 weeks.

One study conducted at the Fox Chase Cancer Center used Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy to treat 75 patients who had breast-conserving surgery for early-stage breast cancer.  For this study, patients received a higher than normal dose of radiation therapy (2.25 Gy/day versus 2.0 Gy/day) for a shorter period of time than normal (20 days [4 weeks] versus 30-35 days [6-7 weeks]).  The high-dose radiation boost (2.8 Gy/day) given directly to the lumpectomy site was delivered during the same 4 weeks rather than afterwards, helping to shorten the length of radiation treatment.

The second study was conducted at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and used Accelerated Hypofractionated Whole Breast Irradition to treat 105 women with early-stage breast cancer.  In this study, breast cancer patients received an even higher dose of radiation (2.7 Gy/day) for an even shorter period of time (15 days) than the study described above.  Like the Fox Chase study, this study administered the boost dose (3 Gy/day) during the same 3 weeks.

Both studies reported excellent results.  The doses were well tolerated by the patients and negative cosmetic side effects were apparently minimal.  Risk of breast cancer recurrence was only 4% in the Fox Chase Cancer Center study over a 5 year period and no relapses were observed within the first two years of the Beth Israel Medical Center study, which also reported a 95% 5-year survival rate.

While larger clinical trials will likely need to be conducted to confirm both the effectiveness of these treatments and patient acceptability, the possibility of breast cancer radiation therapy that is shorter and just as effective as the current therapy is reason for optimism.  While there is no such thing as 'convenient' breast cancer therapy, reducing the time that someone has to dedicate to radiation treatments could reduce the amount of work missed and reduce treatment payments.  That is something that is probably important to everyone, particularly with the typical busy schedules we all keep.

While breakthroughs in breast cancer therapy like these are exciting and desperately needed, taking measures to reduce breast cancer risk is also important.  To discover some of the things you can do to lower your breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Contralateral Breast Cancer Risk in BRCA Gene Mutation Carriers

Past research has made it clear that women with genetically inherited forms of breast cancer are at increased risk for breast cancer recurrence.  However, the factors associated with this increased risk remain unclear.  A new breast cancer research study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology was conducted to estimate the risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast (contralateral breast cancer) in patients who were members of families known to be positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations and to determine what factors might affect that risk.

For this study, research investigators examined data from over 2,000 women with unilateral breast cancer from 978 families with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations.  Statistical analysis was conducted to determine the relationship between age at first breast cancer and the amount of time between the first breast cancer and the opposite breast cancer.  This relationship was examined for both types of breast cancer gene mutations.  The results of this breast cancer research study showed:
  • Overall contralateral breast cancer risk 25 years after first breast cancer was nearly 50%.
  • Members of families with BRCA1 gene mutations were at nearly twice the risk for contralateral breast cancer risk than members of families with the BRCA2 gene mutation.
  • For patients with the BRCA1 gene mutation, diagnosis of first breast cancer before the age of 40 was associated with a 63% increased risk for contralateral breast cancer compared to only a 20% increased risk for patients initially diagnosed after 50 years of age.
An editorial that is free to read was published along with the original research study and can be found HERE.  

These new research findings enhance our breast cancer awareness about some of the factors associated with increased contralateral breast cancer risk.  By knowing more about what might be responsible for a second cancer in the opposite breast, medical professionals can become better equipped to discuss breast cancer treatment options designed specifically for an individual patient's level of future risk.  For breast cancer patients, increased awareness of their personal breast cancer risk might help them make more informed, and potentially less stressful, decisions regarding their breast cancer treatment options.  The results from this study could prove to be an important step in improving personalized care for breast cancer patients. 

Each of us can also make personal lifestyle choices to reduce our breast cancer risk.  To learn more about some of the important choices you can make, read my book, Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Caner, at

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mammogram Breast Density & Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence

It is well known that breast tissue density as determined by mammogram is an important breast cancer risk factor.  However, it is unclear whether mammogram breast density has any impact on breast cancer recurrence.  A new study published in the journal Cancer, starts to shed some light on this potential relationship.

In this new breast cancer research, study investigators assessed the possible relationship between breast tissue density and the risk of breast cancer recurrence by examining the medical records of 335 patients who had breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) for invasive breast cancer and for whom mammogram records were available.  In addition to mammogram records, the breast cancer researchers examined tumor features, patient characteristics, and breast cancer treatments received.  For the study analysis, mammogram density was classified as either low (< 25% density), intermediate (25-50% density), or high (> 50% density).  The results of this new breast cancer research showed that patients in the high mammogram density group had a 21% chance of breast cancer recurrence over a 10-year period compared to only a 5% chance of recurrence in the low mammogram density group.  The risk of breast cancer recurrence in the high mammogram density group increased to 40% in patients that did not receive radiation therapy in addition to their breast-conserving surgery.

This is important new breast cancer research and something of which all breast cancer patients should be aware.  The results of this study further support the importance of getting a mammogram.  If this relationship between mammogram breast density and breast cancer recurrence holds up in larger clinical trials, then information on the level of breast tissue density might become an important tool for determining appropriate adjuvant therapy.  Women with high mammogram breast density might want to consider radiation therapy after surgery to further reduce their risk of breast cancer recurrence, while women with low mammogram breast density might not need radiation therapy.  This is important information to discuss with your oncologist.

In addition to performing a frequent self-examination and getting scheduled mammograms, you can reduce your breast cancer risk through simple diet and lifestyle changes.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at to learn more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cancer-Cell Specific Breast Cancer Therapy

New cancer research published in the open-access journal Breast Cancer Research demonstrates the future potential of a cancer-cell specific breast cancer therapy.  PolyADP-ribose polymerase (PARP), a cell messenger, is best known for its important role in DNA repair; however, in combination with a different cell messenger (ERK2) it has been shown to increase some cancer genes.  This new breast cancer research examined the effect of blocking PARP on the growth of normal and malignant cells.

In cell culture studies the breast cancer research investigators treated human breast cancer cells and normal (non-malignant) human epithelial cells with three different PARP inhibitors.  In all the cells studied, treatment with this potential new breast cancer therapy stopped cell growth; however, the normal human cells overcame this stoppage and continued to grow normally, while the breast cancer cells did not overcome the arrest of cell growth and subsequently died.  Therefore, this potential new breast cancer therapy successfully killed breast cancer cells without harming normal cells in culture.

In a subsequent mouse study of this potential new breast cancer therapy, mice were injected with human breast cancer cells and then treated with a 14-day continuous infusion of the PARP inhibitors.  In mice not receiving breast cancer therapy, tumors developed within about 2 - 7 weeks.  In contrast, mice receiving the breast cancer therapy did not develop tumors out to at least 10 weeks.  Additionally, this 14-day breast cancer therapy had no effects on the growth, vitality, or behavior of the mice.

This is very interesting and potentially promising new breast cancer research.  While additional research will need to be conducted, especially human clinical trials, the possibility of a breast cancer therapy that specifically kills cancer cells without harming normal, non-malignant, cells is exciting.  While this new breast cancer therapy showed an impressive ability to prevent tumor formation, it will be important to determine if this breast cancer therapy can destroy existing breast cancer tumors, since breast cancer treatments are generally not given until after diagnosis of breast cancer.  You can download and read the full journal article HERE

While science keeps making impressive headway in breast cancer research, you can make simple choices each day to reduce your personal risk of breast cancer.  To learn more read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Monday, November 9, 2009

Obesity Responsible for 33,000 Breast Cancers Yearly

The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) issued a press release last week to announce their new estimates of cancer cases directly associated with obesity.  Several sources of information were used to determine these estimates, including a 2009 report, Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention, published by AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) that estimated the percentage of cancers due to poor diet, excess weight and physical activity level.  You can read the full Policy Report and Expert Report HERE

Overall, this report indicated that 17% (33,000 cases) of breast cancer cases each year are due to being overweight.  That is a huge proportion of breast cancer cases that could have been preventable by simply maintaining a healthy body weight.  Other findings included:
  • Increasing BMI was associated with an increasing breast cancer risk.
  • Increasing amounts of physical activity reduce the amount of breast cancer recurrence and mortality.
  • Current methods of breast cancer therapy do not discuss the link between obesity and a sedentary lifestyle with breast cancer prognosis.
  • Obesity and a lack of physical activity are common both before and after breast cancer diagnosis.
 According to a separate AICR press release, breast cancer awareness (as well as other cancers) is shockingly low in the U.S.  Some of the cancer awareness numbers discussed in the press release include:
  • Only 51% of Americans realize that obesity is a cause of cancer
  • Only 46% of Americans are aware that a lack of physical activity increases cancer risk, including breast cancer risk. 
  • Only 52% of Americans realize that a diet low in fruits and vegetables increases breast cancer risk (as well as other cancers).
  • Only 20% of the population rated cancer, including breast cancer, as highly preventable.
  • In contrast to the above, 90% of Americans blame breast cancer and other cancers on 'cancer genes'.
This press release really highlights the nearly desperate need for an improvement in breast cancer awareness.   There are several things you can do to decrease your personal breast cancer risk.  In addition to increasing your physical activity and maintaining a health body weight, eating right can help reduce your breast cancer risk.  To read about my top 10 foods for fighting breast cancer, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer (

Friday, November 6, 2009

Risk of HER2-Positive Breast Cancer Recurrence

About 20% of breast cancer patients have tumors that over-express the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), a characteristic that has been associated with lower breast cancer survival rates.  For these breast cancer patients, treatment with the drug Herceptin has provided substantial improvements in breast cancer recovery.  However, most of the breast cancer research in this area appears to have focused on tumors greater than 1 cm in size.  Two studies (summaries can be read HERE and HERE) and one editorial (available for free HERE) recently published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, examined the risk of breast cancer recurrence in patients with small (< 1 cm) HER2-positive tumors.

Both studies reported an increased risk of breast cancer recurrence of about 2-5 fold in patients with small, HER2-positive tumors.  Additional results included:
  • 5-year recurrence-free survival was only 77% in patients with HER2-positive tumors compared to 94% in patients with HER2-negative tumors.
  • Patients with HER2-positive tumors had about 5 times the rate of breast cancer recurrence compared to patients with hormone receptor-positive tumors.
  • Breast cancer patients who were both hormone receptor-positive and HER2-positive had a worse prognosis (by about 5-fold).
These studies suggest that breast cancer patients with HER2-positive tumors, even small ones, are at a substantially increased risk of breast cancer recurrence.  The accompanying editorial discusses the pros and cons of Herceptin treatment in this group of breast cancer patients.  In general, the editorial suggests that risks of adjuvant therapy and Herceptin side effects might make it hard to justify their use for tumors smaller than 5 mm.  However, for larger (6 mm or greater) HER2-positive tumors, this type of treatment might warrant consideration.

This new breast cancer research highlights the importance of personalized breast cancer treatment.  It is clear that there are several specific types of breast cancer and that each of these types of breast cancer need to be treated in a specific manner whenever possible.  By tailoring breast cancer treatment, the medical profession hopes to decrease recurrence and improve survival while minimizing serious side effects.

While the medical and scientific communities continue to make amazing discoveries in breast cancer prevention and treatment, you can help reduce your own breast cancer risk by making important lifestyle changes.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer ( to learn more.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Healthy Lifestyle Might Reduce Breast Cancer Mortality

New research conducted in Norway suggests that physical activity and metabolic characteristics (body mass index, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels) can impact a breast cancer patient's chances for survival. 

In this population-based survival study of over 1,300 breast cancer patients, measurements of body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and cholesterol levels as well as physical activity were analyzed in relation to the risk of dying.  The following findings were reported: 
  • Women with a BMI of 30 or higher (obese) were at a 1.47-fold greater risk of dying compared to women with a healthy BMI.
  • For women with a healthy BMI and at least 55 years of age when diagnosed with breast cancer, regular physical activity reduced the risk of dying by 66% compared to women who did not exercise.
  • Breast cancer patients with higher levels (among the highest third) of blood cholesterol were at a 29% greater risk of dying compared to women with the lowest blood cholesterol levels (lowest third).
  • Having a higher blood pressure increased the risk of breast cancer patients dying by 41% compared to having a lower blood pressure.
It is well understood that being overweight or obese substantially increases breast cancer risk.  These new data not only support that relationship, but expand upon it.  Body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and physical activity levels are all considered markers of healthy living by many health care professionals.  Individuals that lead a less than healthy lifestyle can often have issues with being overweight, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, putting them at risk for several chronic health conditions, including breast cancer.  This new study suggests that these characteristics also decrease a breast cancer patient's chance of survival dramatically. 

While it is never too late for anyone (breast cancer patient or otherwise) to start living a healthier lifestyle, it is always better to start sooner rather than later.  To learn more about lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vitamin D & Calcium Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Vitamin D has been one of the most, if not the most, talked about vitamin in 2009.  Clinical and pre-clinical research continues to be published on the importance of appropriate vitamin D levels for protection against a variety of chronic conditions.  In fact in an earlier blog, I discussed some new vitamin D and breast cancer research that examined vitamin D levels in breast cancer patients. 

A new meta-analysis published online ahead of print in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment provides more support for vitamin D, as well as calcium, for breast cancer protection.  For their analysis, researchers examined data from 21 studies on vitamin D (intake and blood levels) and breast cancer risk and 15 studies on calcium intake and breast cancer risk.  The results of their vitamin D analysis showed that as vitamin D intake increased, breast cancer risk decreased slightly.  Furthermore, examination of blood levels of vitamin D showed that the highest blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D were associated with a 45% reduction in breast cancer risk compared to the lowest levels.  Analysis of the calcium data showed that the highest level of calcium intake was associated with a 19% decrease in breast cancer risk.

These data provide excellent support for the concept that diet and nutrition can have an important and beneficial impact on breast cancer risk.  To learn more about the importance of vitamin D and to find out my top 10 foods to fight against breast cancer, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer (

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Technology for Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Typically, breast cancer diagnosis is done either by surgical biopsy or needle biopsy, a topic I discussed in an earlier blog.   A few years ago, an imaging technique called Positron Emission Tomography (PET) started being used for breast cancer detection; however, this technique had a few drawbacks related to the marker used for breast cancer detection.  Now, new breast cancer research conducted at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital reports on the use of a new molecular imaging marker for the PET procedure for breast cancer diagnosis. 

This new marker, called NVB-64, has been shown by the researchers to detect genetic changes at the cellular level.  In a pre-clinical breast cancer research study, the investigators demonstrated that this new imaging marker detected a specific breast cancer cell receptor.  In fact, all breast tumors detected by this marker were malignant, suggesting that this new imaging marker might be a way to differentiate between malignant and benign tumors.  According to NuView, the company that designed this new marker, clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of PET imaging with the NVB-64 marker for breast cancer detection are currently in progress.

If the results from human clinical trials are as positive as the pre-clinical studies have been, this could be ground-breaking breast cancer research that could have a major impact on breast cancer diagnosis.  The development of imaging technologies that can differentiate between malignant and benign tumors and do so accurately and consistently, would dramatically reduce the need for surgical biopsies or needle biopsies.  This technology might also reduce the time between surgery and diagnosis, thus helping to reduce the stress and anxiety that often comes with waiting for the results of these tests.  This breast cancer research is excellent news for the future of breast cancer diagnosis.

While breast cancer research continues to forge ahead and make new discoveries, you can take your own steps to reduce your personal  risk of breast cancer.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at to learn more.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Breast Cancer Research Examines Breast Cancer Metastasis

New breast cancer research published in the journal Nature Cell Biology investigated the method by which breast cancer cells spread throughout the body (breast cancer metastasis).  Using new imaging techniques that involved dyes and marker proteins, the investigators demonstrated that breast cancer metastasis can occur in two ways, either by single cells or by groups of cells collectively.  Cells that spread as a group were limited to spreading into the lymph system, which is a more restricted breast cancer metastasis.  In contrast, breast cancer cells that spread singly were able to spread through the blood vessel system and were therefore able to spread further, a more dangerous form of breast cancer metastasis.  Using state-of-the-art imaging techniques, the investigators were able to show that activation of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) gene caused cells to switch from group metastasis to single cell metastasis.  However, these breast cancer metastatic cells, which spread to the lungs, did not grow until the TGF-beta gene was turned back off. 

This is important new breast cancer research.  Not only have these investigators discovered a cellular mechanism involved in breast cancer metastasis, they have shown that at least this particular gene not only has to be turned on, but also has to be turned back off in order for the breast cancer to continue to grow in the new site to which it spreads.  Knowing the methods by which breast cancer cells metastasize to new sites might one day allow for the development of new breast cancer treatments, likely designed to prevent this specific cell signaling pathway.  Breast cancer metastasis is one of the main causes of death from breast cancer, so new discoveries in how this occurs has the potential to save lives.

While new breast cancer research continues to provide hope for breast cancer prevention and breast cancer treatment, you can take steps on your own to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer at all.  To learn more, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at