What’s new in breast cancer risk research?

You know. It’s October. October is breast cancer awareness month. Breast cancer awareness month reminds you to get a mammogram. If I didn’t have the rest of this column to write, I could leave it right there. But let’s take a look at the news.

According to the Breastcancer.org an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year which makes one wonder how many won’t be diagnosed until it’s too late for effective treatment.

The good news is that breast cancer rates have been decreasing since 2000. Breastcancer.org says that they “dropped 7 percent in 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.

“About 40,610 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2017 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. Women under 50 have experienced larger decreases. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness,” they say.

Breast cancer develops when abnormal cells begin to multiply and form a tumor. It can affect both men and women although women are way more likely to have breast cancer, like a 1,000 to 1 more likely.

So what’s new in research? In an article published on Medical News Today’s website, Catharine Paddock, PhD wrote that a “review of the latest scientific research on breast cancer shows that there is strong evidence that breast-feeding can reduce women’s risk of premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancers.”

Paddock said that the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund released a report that offers several possible reasons on why risk is lowered by breast feeding.

“One reason is that lactation delays when women start menstruating again after giving birth. This reduces lifetime exposure to hormones such as estrogen, which are linked to increased risk of breast cancer.

“Another way in which breast-feeding may lower breast cancer risk is that, after lactation, the breast sheds a lot of tissue during which it may also get rid of cells with damaged DNA, which can give rise to cancer,” Paddock says. The article also said that the research showed that there’s a chance that there’s a change in genes during lactation that may impact cancer development.

In another article by Paddock published in August she discusses research that claims that a diagnosis of high cholesterol is tied to lowering breast cancer risk. What? Read this carefully and you’ll understand:

“After investigating 14 years of study data on over 1 million people, researchers found that women diagnosed with high cholesterol had lower odds of developing breast cancer compared with women without high cholesterol. Speculating on the finding, they suggest that it shows that taking statins (to lower cholesterol) may protect against breast cancer and call for further research to confirm it,” Paddock says.

Now here’s one I really don’t like. It comes from Sciencedaily.com and says, “Just one alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk, exercise lowers risk.” Well, I don’t mind step two, I like to exercise, sort of. But don’t take my wine away, she whines!

“Drinking just one glass of wine or other alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk, finds a major new report by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).The report also revealed, for the first time, that vigorous exercise such as running or fast bicycling decreases the risk of both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancers. Strong evidence confirmed an earlier finding that moderate exercise decreases the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer,” the article says.

We know that lowering our risk doesn’t replace having our screenings, so I go back to what I said in the beginning. Make an appointment for your mammogram, right now.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.