Tag Archives: breast cancer

Aspirin could become a potential treatment against breast cancer

Credit: Pixabay.

Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), the world’s most popular drug, may one day become an important component in treatments against some of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. Clinical trials have commenced in the United Kingdom in order to establish whether aspirin can enhance immunotherapy for patients with triple-negative breast cancer.

Could aspirin become a generic cancer drug? Some scientists want to find out

Aspirin is classed as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is primarily recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Until not long ago, doctors used to recommend it to prevent heart attacks and strokes, but recent research suggests healthy people with no history of cardiovascular disease shouldn’t routinely use aspirin due to internal bleeding risks.

But, more strikingly, some studies seem to indicate that this cheap and widely available generic drug could also play an important role in battling cancer. A 2014 study led by Professor Jack Cuzick, head of the center for cancer prevention at Queen Mary University of London, found that people who took aspirin daily for at least five years had a 35% reduction in bowel cancer, as well as a 30% reduction in esophageal and stomach cancers.

“Aspirin is showing promise in preventing certain types of cancer, but it’s vital that we balance this with the complications it can cause – such as bleeding, stomach ulcers, or even strokes in some people,” said Dr. Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK.

Emboldened by previous research that hints at aspirin’s potential role in treating cancer, a team of scientists, led by Dr. Anne Armstrong from the Christie NHS foundation trust in Manchester, UK, have embarked on a new clinical trial that will see aspirin combined with avelumab, a fully human monoclonal antibody medication for cancer.

During the trial, patients with triple-negative breast cancer will be given avelumab either with or without aspirin before receiving surgery and chemotherapy.

Triple-negative breast cancer is considered to be more aggressive and has a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer. It is characterized by the lack of the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), hence its name. Around 15% of breast cancers are of this type.

 “Our earlier research has suggested that aspirin can make certain types of immunotherapy more effective by preventing the cancer from making substances that weaken the immune response,” Armstrong told The Guardian.

“Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin could hold the key to increasing the effectiveness of immunotherapy when used at the same time. Trialing the use of a drug like aspirin is exciting because it is so widely available and inexpensive to produce. ”

“We hope our trial will show that, when combined with immunotherapy, aspirin can enhance its effects and may ultimately provide a safe new way to treat breast cancer.”

Gene mutation doesn’t make women diagnosed with breast cancer more likely to die

Angelina Jolie made headlines when she underwent preventative surgery after learning she had an up to 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Doctors had found that the star had mutations in BRCA genes which increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by four-to-eightfold. Now, new findings suggest that Jolie may have been too rushed.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Scientists at the University of Southampton, UK, recently reported that women who carry a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are not more likely to die after a breast cancer diagnosis than non-carriers. What’s more, carrying these mutations might, in fact, boost the odds of beating cancer if the diagnosis is triple-negative breast cancer.

BRCA mutations can cause cancer because the DNA self-repair mechanisms can malfunction. Besides breast cancer, these mutations have been linked to an increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancers.

“Women diagnosed with early breast cancer who carry a BRCA mutation are often offered double mastectomies soon after their diagnosis or chemotherapy treatment” compared to non-mutation carriers, study co-author Diana Eccles of the University of Southampton said in a statement.

“Our findings suggest that this surgery does not have to be immediately undertaken along with the other treatment.”

The study involved 2,733 British women aged 18-40 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2008. About 12 percent of the patients had a BRCA mutation, yet again confirming the association between this ‘faulty gene’ and breast cancer. Roughly 30 to 60 percent of BRCA1 or BRCA2 carriers will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, compared to an estimated 12 percent of women in the general population.

After the women’s medical records were tracked for up to ten years, researchers found that 651 of 678 total deaths were due to breast cancer. Most importantly, they uncovered that there was no difference in overall survival two, five, or ten years after diagnosis for women with and without a BRCA mutation. Actually, those with a BRCA mutation had slightly higher survival rates for the first two years after diagnosis, in the case of patients with triple-negative breast cancer.

About a third of those with the BRCA mutation had a double mastectomy to remove both breasts after being diagnosed with cancer, the same surgery Jolie went through. This surgery did not appear to improve their chances of survival at the 10-year mark, according to the findings published in The Lancet Oncology.

The findings might come as a welcomed breath of fresh air for many young women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly those who are BRCA carriers. It means that they can take time to discuss whether radical breast surgery is the right choice for them as part of a longer-term risk-reducing strategy.

“So long as women are treated appropriately and are safe there is no crashing hurry … they need to be given the space to get as much information as they can and not feel like they need to do it all at once,” Fran Boyle, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Sydney told the SMH. 

“This important topic needs more prospective research as preventive surgical measures might have an effect on what might be a very long life after a diagnosis of breast cancer at a young age,” wrote Peter Fasching from the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.

Progress in medicine drops breast cancer fatality rate by 40 percent, saving 322,000 lives

According to a new report by the American Cancer Society, fatality rates have decreased sharply thanks to better chemo, improved screening, and treatment availability.

The pink ribbon has become a symbol of the fight against breast cancer. Credits: wishuponacupcake.


Science is still a ways away from defeating breast cancer, but it’s certainly inching forward. Between 1975 to 1989, fatality rates have remained relatively stable, increasing by 0.4 percent. But from 1989 to 2015, the same rate has decreased by almost 40 percent, translating to 322,600 lives saved from breast cancer. The latest figures, including data which wasn’t  included in this study, indicate the same downward trend.

Every two years, the American Cancer Society describes the latest trends in breast cancer incidence, mortality, survival, and screening by race/ethnicity in the United States, as well as state variations. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among US women (excluding skin cancers), so monitoring current trends and establishing healthy policies affects hundreds of thousands of women across the country. These are highly encouraging news, indicating a definite improvement. But even as treatments become more effective, the toll of the disease remains high.

This year in the US, 252,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed, with the disease claiming 40,600 lives. An average of 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. To make things even worse, there’s also a major racial disparity.

Mammograms save lives, but there’s still a major racial disparity.

The fatality rate among black women was 42% higher than among white women from 2011 to 2015. Black women also tend to be diagnosed later with the disease, which means that their cancers are often harder to treat. Some states are faring better than others, but overall, there’s a major disparity to work with.

“A large body of research suggests that the black-white breast cancer disparity results from a complex interaction of biologic and nonbiologic factors, including differences in stage at diagnosis, tumor characteristics, obesity, other health issues, as well as tumor characteristics, particularly a higher rate of triple-negative cancer” said lead author, Carol DeSantis, MPH, from Surveillance and Health Services Research at the American Cancer Society.

“This means that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” adds DeSantis. “Some states are showing that they can close the gap.”  Massachusetts, Delaware, and Connecticut highlight improvements in equitable access to health care in these states.

Convincing more women to take regular mammograms, and equalizing access to detection and treatment will ensure that the downward trend continues and more lives will be saved.

Journal Reference: Carol E. DeSantis, Jiemin Ma, Ann Goding Sauer, Lisa A. Newman, Ahmedin Jemal. Breast cancer statistics, 2017, racial disparity in mortality by state. DOI: 10.3322/caac.21412


Five-decade study links pesticides to breast cancer

A long term study conducted by US researchers has found a connection between levels of DDT pesticide and breast cancer – women with high levels of DDT in their body were four times more likely to develop breast cancer.

Yes, they do know what’s good – NOT DDT. Image via Envisioning the American Dream.

DDT has been formulated in almost every conceivable form, including solutions in xylene or petroleum distillates, emulsifiable concentrates, water-wettable powders, granules, aerosols, smoke candles and charges for vaporizers and lotions. First synthesized in 1874, DDT’s insecticidal action was discovered by the Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller in 1939. It was used for decades to control malaria, and then, as a pesticide. As early as the 1940s, scientists in the U.S. had begun expressing concern over possible hazards associated with DDT, and in the 1950s the government began tightening some of the regulations governing its use. The US banned in in 1972, but the substance is still used extensively in Asia and Africa.

“Environmental chemicals have long been suspected causes of breast cancer, but until now, there have been few human studies to support this idea,” said Barbara Cohn of the Public Health Institute in Berkeley, California, co-author of the study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Although DDT is considered a probable carcinogen, it’s the first time a direct connection was observed between it and cancer.

“This 54-year study is the first to provide direct evidence that chemical exposures for pregnant women may have lifelong consequences for their daughters’ breast cancer risk.”

The researchers studied data from a California program called Child Health and Development Studies, which studied 20,754 pregnancies from 1969 to 1967. During that time, DDT was still used and accumulated in foods like milk or butter.

“Independent of the mother’s history of breast cancer, elevated levels of DDT in the mother’s blood were associated with a nearly four-fold increase in the daughter’s risk of breast cancer,” said the study. “Among the women who were diagnosed with breast cancer, 83 percent had estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer, a form of cancer that may receive signals from the hormone estrogen to promote tumor growth.”

Also, by examining the levels of DDT in the mother’s blood, doctors were able to determine with startling accuracy which of the daughters would develop breast cancer later in life. When you consider that billions of people are still exposed to this chemical substance, the implications become evident – we need to find a way to phase DDT out of use.

“Our findings should prompt additional clinical and laboratory studies that can lead to prevention, early detection and treatment of DDT-associated breast cancer in the many generations of women who were exposed in the womb,” the research concludes.


Learn About Breast Cancer Charities Near You

Breast cancer survival rates are improving, but the fight for a cure continues on.  According to the American Cancer Society, “During the last 10 years (2001-2010) for which mortality data is available, death rates declined for 11 of the 17 most common cancers in men (including lung, prostate, and colon and rectum) and for 15 of the 18 most common cancers in women (lung, breast, and colon and rectum). Notably, these decreases in general involved all major racial and ethnic groups.”   (Source)


Photo: albieaware.org

But even as breast cancer survival rates drop, breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death in women. The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes, “About 1 in 8 (12%) women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.” Alarming still, the health organization puts estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2014 at:

  • About 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,000 women will die from breast cancer

With 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone, according to the ACS, it’s important now more than ever to support the breast cancer charities that work tirelessly to prevent and cure breast cancer. Because breast cancer is an important cause for many people across the country—and throughout the world—finding breast cancer charities in your community—or online—should be easy.

Here are a few ways you could begin to support breast cancer charities today:

  • Volunteer your time and resources to breast cancer charities
  • Donate money (also called “donations”) to local breast cancer charities
  • Organize and host a fundraising event for breast cancer research
  • Educate others on the importance of finding a cure for breast cancer

If you wish to help a friend or community member directly, you might want to start by making yourself available to listen. According to the Breast Cancer Network of Australia, “Often women with breast cancer lie awake at night worrying. If you don’t mind taking her calls in the middle of the night, let her know.” Offering practical help, like driving the woman to her medical treatments or appointments, or helping with housework, is also helpful.

Making Donations to Breast Cancer Charities

Breast cancer charities are located throughout the country. Many offer a website where you can sign up for events, or donate money, and your donation is tax-deductible. You can donate “in honor of” or “in memory of” a loved one, or simply give because you support the cause. If you don’t want to make a cash donation, but have an IRA and can contribute that way, go ahead.

According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, “The IRA charitable rollover provision permits individuals age 70 and above to make charitable donations of up to $100,000 from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and Roth IRAs without having to count the distributions as taxable income.”

You can also make a donation in lieu of wedding gifts, include breast cancer charities in your Planned Giving, and donate shares of stocks. Follow the link to give to breast cancer charities, and be on your way to making a difference in the lives of millions of women.

**This is a sponsored post


Can You Trust a Breast Cancer Charity?

If you’ve lived in this world for 10 years or more, you realize that you need the help of other people to thrive. Life is better with friends and family you trust. Let a crisis or an emergency arise and the need to lean on others can increase suddenly, substantially. Being told that you have breast cancer is a time when you need support, some of which may come in the form of charity. Yet, can you trust everyone, including a breast cancer charity, to give you the help you truly need?


Photo credit: nutritionnow.com

Around the world, people have been donating to a breast cancer charity of their choosing for decades. In fact, the pink ribbon was identified as a symbol of commitment to find a cure as early as the late 1970s. However, history aside, some non-profit organizations and local, national and international charities deserve a second look, not because they are ethical but because they have money as their primary focus.

To be trustworthy, a breast cancer charity should educate its workers about moral responsibility, including how to report issues to senior managers at the organization. As reported in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, ” One of the most critical steps that nonprofits can take to promote ethical conduct is to ensure that they have adequate ethical codes and effective compliance programs.”

Making sure your money goes to the best research

Senior management will also act on ethical decisions. Additionally, foremost in senior management’s thoughts are the clients the organization serves. By keeping clients’ needs as the primary concern, breast cancer charity organizations like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), can continue to fund research in a dozen or more countries so prevention, as well as a cure, for breast cancer can be found in your lifetime.

These organizations give up to 91 cents of every dollar that they spend to fund research for a cure in addition to awareness programs. Money the organizations receive is also used to increase public awareness so prevention serves as the frontrunner, possibly helping to keep millions of women from getting breast cancer at all.

Types of research projects a breast cancer charity research foundation may work on include finding a cure for metastatic breast cancer. Scientists whose work is funded by the charities work at college and university medical schools as well as other public and privately owned institutions. Among these institutions are New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, London’s Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre, Stanford University School of Medicine, the Rebecca and John Moores Cancer Center and the University of Michigan Medical School.

Look for transparency

If charitable organizations are ethical, they may provide an abundance of information on research. In addition, they might provide background information on the researchers and institutions they work with. They might also make their financial records public. Each action step is taken to, again, benefit the clients of the breast cancer charity.

At first glance, breast cancer research funds might not appear to be paramount. However, it’s this research that allows healthcare professionals to offer children, women and men who are dealing with breast cancer the diagnosis and treatment they need.

peanut butter girl

Girls who eat peanut butter 39% less likely to develop benign breast cancer in adulthood

A new study made by researchers at  Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Harvard Medical School found that  girls ages 9 to 15 who regularly ate peanut butter or nuts were 39 percent less likely to develop benign breast disease by age 30. Benign breast disease, although noncancerous, increases risk of breast cancer later in life. The findings strongly suggest that eating peanut butter, nut and vegetable fat  significantly improves breast health later in life.

Studies such as these are difficult to be made objectively and relevant since there are so many factors at play. Pinpointing a certain substance that has a beneficial or hazardous effect on the body out of a slew of consumed foods has always proved to be a challenge. This is why scientists need to address a survey as large as possible for findings to become statistically relevant. For their study, the researchers used data gathered from  health histories of 9,039 U.S. girls enrolled in The Growing Up Today Study from 1996 through 2001. Later, from 2005 through 2010, when the study participants were 18 to 30 years old, they reported whether they had been diagnosed with benign breast disease that had been confirmed by breast biopsy.

The team of researchers found that girls who ate peanut butter or whole nuts at least twice a week were 39% less likely of developing benign breast disease than those who never eat them. Nuts and peanut butter benefits were also associated with beans, lentils, soybeans and corn, however consumption of these foods was much lower in girls who eat peanut butter, so evidence was considered too weak in this respect.

“These findings suggest that peanut butter could help reduce the risk of breast cancer in women,” said senior author Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, associate director for cancer prevention and control atSiteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

Because of the obesity epidemic, Colditz recommended that girls replace high-calorie junk foods and sugary beverages with peanut butter or nuts. Findings were published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

Intensive coffee drinking may reduce risk of breast cancer

Lately, I’m feeling quite skeptical about the studies I read regarding coffee consumption, especially since it’s known that sometimes a major industry (like oil, or tobacco, or coffee) tends to… influence certain researchers to publish favorable results. I just recently wrote about how 9 out of the top 10 climate change deniers are influenced by Exxon Mobil. But this doesn’t mean that this is the case here – just explaining why the dose of skepticism.

Jingmei Li, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm claims that women who drink five cups of coffee per day may reduce the risk of breast cancer. She found that drinking this (huge) amount of coffee per day reduces the risk with about 20%.

“The 20% decrease in risk associated with drinking five or more cups of coffee a day was statistically significant only when adjusted for age,”

When she took into account other factors, such as education, alcohol drinking and hormone therapy use, she found a 57% reduction in risk for cancers known as estrogen-receptor negative cancers. The scientific world hasn’t produced many replies to this study, except for Shumin Zhang, MD, ScD, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, who said that:

“Drinking coffee doesn’t seem to increase the overall risk of breast cancer.”

Which doesn’t bring much to the table. If you ask me, this could just be a correlation with the lifestyle, or some other factors, or (why not) just pure randomness, because 20% for all groups is not that big of a difference. The researchers from Karolinska Institutet evaluated coffee drinking and breast cancer risk in 2,818 patients with breast cancer and 3,111 study participants who did not have breast cancer. Even she doesn’t seem convinced, stating that

“It is unclear if this observation was a chance finding” .

Still, if you’re a woman, and you drink more than 5 cups of coffee per day, know that you have a reduced risk of breast cancer; and also know that you’re probably gonna have serious heart issues.