Thursday, March 25, 2010

1/3 of Breast Cancer could be prevented (and probably more): UPDATED

While skimming the health news on FoxNews, I came across this article, and considering today is the Feast of the Annunciation (Happy Feast Day!), I thought it appropriate to address a pressing issue in woman's general and reproductive health:

Experts: One-Third of Breast Cancer is Avoidable

Up to a third of breast cancer cases in Western countries could be avoided if women ate less and exercised more, researchers at a breast cancer conference said Thursday — comments that could ignite heated discussions among victims and advocates....
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. In Europe, there were about 421,000 new cases and nearly 90,000 deaths in 2008, the latest available figures. The United States last year saw more than 190,000 new cases and 40,000 deaths. A woman's lifetime chance of getting breast cancer is about one in eight.
Many breast cancers are fueled by estrogen, a hormone produced in fat tissue. So experts suspect that the fatter a woman is, the more estrogen she's likely to produce, which could in turn spark breast cancer. Even in slim women, exercise can help reduce the cancer risk by converting more of the body's fat into muscle.
Any discussion of weight and breast cancer is a politically sensitive topic, for some may misconstrue that as the medical establishment blaming victims for getting breast cancer. Victims themselves could also feel guilty, wondering just how much a factor weight played in their getting the disease.
Ian Manley, a spokesman for Breast Cancer Care, a British charity, said his agency has always been very careful about issuing similar lifestyle advice.
"We would never want women to feel responsible for their breast cancer," he said. "It's a complex disease and there are so many factors responsible that it's difficult to blame it on one specific issue."
The first issue to be addressed is the idea of responsibility.  If 1/3 of the cases of breast cancer are related to exercise and diet, then yes, women do need to take responsibility for their actions.  This is no different than the same responsibility we would put upon a smoker or excessive drink in the development of numerous cancers.  We do not need to be mean or harsh about it, but we do need to emphasize that our patients have a role in the development of some of these diseases.  We must encourage them to make appropriate lifestyle decisions that will help to eliminate some of these variables as potential causes.

The second issue I have with this article is the lack of discussion on oral contraception and breast cancer.
After studies several years ago linked hormone replacement therapy to cancer, millions of women abandoned the treatment, leading to a sharp drop in breast cancer rates. Experts said a similar reduction might be seen if women ate better — consuming less fat and more vegetables — and exercised more.
 If women stopped using oral contraception, could you imagine the drop in breast cancer rates?  It is very sad that main stream medicine and the media will not recognize the link between breast cancer and oral contraception.  Until that day, we will be fighting a losing battle in the prevention of breast cancer.  So when this issue comes up in class or the clinic, do not be afraid of the truth.  It just might save a woman's life.

For the most recent article on the topic visit

UPDATE Another FoxNews article on breast cancer and pregnancy has me riled up again.  This time, the article focuses on the fact that pregnancy is SAFE for breast cancer survivors.  This is not what is frustrating, rather it is what aspect of the findings that are emphasized.  Here is the first part of the story: 

Pregnancy Safe for Breast Cancer Survivors

Women who have been treated for breast cancer can have babies without increasing their risk of dying from their cancer, according to research published by The Times Friday.
Studies being presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona suggest that pregnancy may even have a protective effect.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not advise against pregnancy, but recommends that women wait for up to five years after treatment, depending on the aggressiveness of the cancer, to allow assessment of long-term survival from the cancer.
A meta-analysis of 14 trials, carried out by researchers from Belgium and Italy, shows that pregnancy is safe for breast cancer survivors. It covered trials that had taken place between 1970 and 2009, involving 1417 pregnant women with a history of breast cancer and 18,059 women with a history of breast cancer who were not pregnant.
Hatem Azim, of the Institute Jules Bordet in Brussels, said that the findings did not support the notion that hormonal changes associated with pregnancy could prompt a cancer to recur or become more aggressive.
This, of course is good news!  We want women who are breast cancer survivors to be able to have children and go on to have a full family life.  It is the next paragraph that frustrates me. (emphasis mine)
The analysis actually suggested that patients who became pregnant after a diagnosis of breast cancer had a reduction of 42 percent in the risk of death compared with those who did not get pregnant, Azim said.
A breast cancer survivor REDUCES her risk of death by 40% by having a child!  What amazing and wonderful news!  And yet, the reason why I am frustrated is because this paragraph is not the headline.  Think of how pro-life and pro-family this story could have been if the headline read something like "BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS REDUCE RISK OF DEATH 40% BY HAVING CHILDREN"

But of course, in our anti-family and anti-woman society, we cannot openly promote women having children because we don't want to 'overpopulate the world' or create 'burdens on women'. Instead of conforming to these ideas,  Let us continue to promote the truth in regards to God's design:  Children make women healthier! 

In Christ