October is ‘Breast Cancer Awareness’ month; therefore, I thought I would focus on this very important topic this month.
Over 50.000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, which includes around 4,600 in Scotland. Every year about 5.500 additional women are diagnosed with an earlier (non-invasive) form of breast cancer, called in situ breast carcinoma (Carcinoma is a medical term for cancer: most common cancers, and all breast cancers are carcinomas). These are confined to a specific area of the breast (usually milk ducts) but may later develop the ability to spread. Breast cancer is now the commonest cancer in the UK and by far the most common cancer in women. For women, the lifetime risk for of developing breast cancer is now 1 in 8. Most of the women who get breast cancer are past menopause, but over 8.000 are under 50 years old.
Approximately 350 men are also diagnosed with breast cancer every year, including around 30 in Scotland.
Breast cancer survival rates are better than ever thanks to better awareness. An estimated 5 out of 6 women diagnosed with Breast cancer in England & Wales survive for at least 5 years after diagnosis. However, nearly 1,000 women in the UK, including 85 women in Scotland, still die of Breast cancer every month.
Risk Factors: –
-Carrying a breast gene
-Methylation SNPs (i.e Single Nuclear Polymorphisms)
-Increase in age
-Starting periods early and having the menopause late
-Having no children or having them later in life
-A history of benign breast disease
-Exposure to radiation
-The contraceptive pill
-Diet & Lifestyle
Strong Family History:
This means ONE of the following has happened in the family
-3 close relative diagnosed at any age (should come from the same side of the family)
-2 close relatives from the same side of the family with an average age of diagnosis under 60
-Mother or sister diagnoses before they were 40
-Father or brother diagnosed before they were 60
-One close relative (i.e. a parent, brother, sister, child, grandparent, aunt, uncle, nephew or niece) with breast cancer in both breasts, the first cancer diagnosed before the age of 50. If a close relative has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, then this may also be a significant risk factor for breast cancer. The usual recommendation is to start screening 10 years earlier than the age at which the youngest relative was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Genes:
If there is a very strong family history, there may be a faulty gene in the family that increases the risk of breast cancer. There are several gene faults that can increase breast cancer risk, but so far, only 2 of them can be tested, these are BRCA1 and BRCA2. A woman with a BRCA1 mutation has on average a 55% chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 70, & a woman with a BRCA2 mutation has on average a 47% chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 70. The BRCA1 gene does not show up in up to 85% of familial breast cancers; however, its activity can be affected by other genes or by any other breast cancer risk factor such as diet and lifestyle or environmental exposure to other carcinogens. Remember – Most breast cancers are not inherited, it is only 5 out of every hundred that are related to a known inherited breast cancer gene.
Methylation SNPs (i.e Single Nuclear Polymorphisms, which are genetic variations): –
Methylation is a key biochemical process that occurs billions of times every second, & is essential for the function of almost all our body’s systems. Certain genetic variations within one of the five cycles of the Methylation pathway can contribute toward Oestrogen not being detoxified properly, which is then in turn an increased risk for Oestrogen based cancer, of which breast cancer is one.
Benign Breast Disease:
A history of benign breast disease’ includes a wide range of different conditions most of which are not cancerous. One in 10 lumps show that the cells are not cancerous, but that they are growing abnormally. This increases the risk of breast cancer by four times the average, but the condition is uncommon.
Radiation & Breast Cancer: –
Exposure to radiation is known to increase the risk of may types of cancer, but doctors today do try to keep medical exposure to radiation down as far as is possible, i.e. they do not do X-rays or CT scans unless necessary, and the amount of radiation in both is far less than it used to be.
The Contraceptive Pill:
The combined pill contains oestrogen, and it is known that oestrogen can stimulate breast cancer cells to grow; therefore, in theory taking extra oestrogen could trigger a breast cancer to grow. However, a study published by the British Medical Journal in July 2002 found no evidence of increased risk in women between 35 and 64 who had taken the pill, this included women with a family history of breast cancer. Other recent research looking at contraceptive pill use worldwide found that the incidence of breast cancer was very slightly increased while women were on the pill, and for up to 10 years after stopping. However, more than 10 years after stopping, the risk was the same as that of a woman who has never taken the pill.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):
Recently, experts thought that using HRT for 10 years or less was unlikely to increase breast cancer risk; however, an American study published in July 2002 was stopped because the researchers thought there was too big a risk of breast cancer, strokes and heart disease amongst women taking a particular U.S. brand of HRT. The increase in breast cancer in this study was quoted as 26%. Other research in this area suggests that there may be an increased risk if on HRT and drinking alcohol.
The level of fat in a woman’s diet can significantly influence the risk of breast cancer, especially during the peri- and post-menopausal years. As women go through menopause, they tend to gain weight in the form of upper body fat i.e. central obesity. Upper body fat cells contain the enzyme aromatase that influences the production of oestrogen. Studies suggest that dietary fat and increased body fat increases oestrogen production and oestrogen receptors in cells Stephenson & Rose (2003). Elevated levels of oestrogen can subsequently promote the development of breast cancer cells Toniolo (1997). Oestrogen promotes the growth of tissues.
Alcohol has been linked to breast cancer. The international Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer compared 58,515 women with breast cancer and 97,067 without. This data suggests that those averaging 1 glass of wine, small beer or measure of spirits a day are 7% more likely to develop breast cancer over their lifetime than teetotallers are. Those drinking 6 drinks a day on average are 46% more likely to develop breast cancer.
Poor Diet & Lifestyle choices can play a very big role in the development of Breast Cancer:
Breast cancer is an oestrogen-based cancer, therefore diet and lifestyle are very important, as introducing more oestrogen to the body from the diet could potentially tip the balance for someone who is already oestrogen dominant.
Remember prevention is better than cure!
To find out more factors about the importance of a healthy Diet and Lifestyle in respect of helping in the prevention and the fight against Breast Cancer book a Nutritional Consultation, please contact me on: – Freephone number 0800 999 6787, my mobile number 07973 505088 or at my email address email@example.com,
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Stephenson, G.D., and D.P. Rose ‘Breast Cancer & Obesity: An Update’ Nutrition & Cancer’ 2003, 45(1):1-16
Toniolo P.G. ‘Endogenous oestrogens and breast cancer risk: the case for prospective cohort studies’: Environ Health Perspect.’ 1997, 105, Suppl 3, 587-592
BCNH Year 3 – Diploma Course (2004-2005) Module 4 – Part 1 Cancer
Homework No.3 Cancer & AIDS
http://breastcancernow.org/ [Accessed 12th October 2016]