According to Anne McTiernan, a cancer prevention researcher at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the equivalent of a small glass of wine, an eight-ounce beer or one ounce of hard liquor is associated with a 5 percent increased risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women and a 9 percent increase in postmenopausal women, as discussed a few weeks ago here.

Many women obsess over their risk for breast cancer. Which is why news media often flash provocative headlines whenever a study suggests a link between breast cancer and an “exposure” or “risk.”

The news of increased risk due to wine and alcohol consumption, from the renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, set off the usual alarms. But it also raises more questions.

Questions of how best to interpret this “increased risk” finding within the appropriate context.

Helping in this process is a new book, “Making Sense of Science: Separating Substance from Spin,” by New York Times science writer Cornelia Dean. The author seeks to help non-scientists evaluate scientific claims, with attention paid to studies related to health.

“People who want to scare us typically give us relative risk figures,” Dean writes. Raising a risk that starts off small can result in a risk that’s higher but still very small in absolute terms. This is best shown in an example. “Something that raises your risk of heart attack by 30 percent [relative risk],” she explains, “could be no scarier than raising your odds from 6 in 1,000 to 8 in 1,000 [absolute risk].”

Back to the “increased risk due to wine consumption” announced in May, when we hear that a small glass of wine a day may raise a premenopausal woman’s breast cancer risk by 5 percent and a postmenopausal woman’s by 9 percent, remember, these numbers portray relative risk. Instead, what we need to know is absolute risk.

“We know drinking modestly raises the risk of breast cancer,” Dean said. But “it is widely believed that moderate drinking is associated with better heart health and longer life expectancy. And we know that almost half of American women die of heart/vascular causes, whereas about 3 percent die of breast cancer.”

So, for the reader not versed in scientific research, what does this advice mean?

First, when discussing breast cancer risk factors with your doctor, ask them to explain the absolute risk raised by the results of a particular study, compared to the relative risk.

Second, understand that when medical study risks and numbers are reported by journalists, the headlines may reflect relative risk, rather than the news you truly need, which is the absolute risk of a behavior or exposure.

And finally, grab a copy of Cornelia Dean’s book to assist in finding the appropriate context for the reporting of research studies.

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Many doctors have traditionally focused on detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible moment after a tumor develops so treatment can start right away. But studies are showing many small, early tumors don’t present a danger, and don’t require treatments such as tamoxifen, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as reported at NPR Health News.

A study published days ago in JAMA Oncology suggests it may be possible to distinguish precisely between “ultralow-risk” tumors that are unlikely to cause problems and those that are more aggressive and likely to spread — thus allowing some patients to avoid unnecessary treatments.

“You can really say to someone, ‘You’re not going to die of this disease. And we don’t have to be aggressive upfront and treat you with everything, just in case,’” says the lead author of the study, breast cancer specialist and surgeon Dr. Laura Esserman, of the University of California, San Francisco. “There are breast cancers that pose little or no systemic risk.”

Researchers used a diagnostic test called MammaPrint to measure a tumor’s genomic “fingerprint” and compared it with survival time after a tumor was removed. MammaPrint is a genomic test that looks at a set of 70 genes in a tumor, showing how the genes are controlling the production of the proteins that drive a tumor’s growth, and is covered by some insurance plans in the U.S.

To learn more listen to the NPR Health News report appearing above, or read more at NPR Health News.

Posted in Early Detection, Emotional Reconstruction®, Genetic Screening & Testing, Information Strength, Radiation Therapy, Research News, Video, We Live You®: The Latest | Tagged , , | Comments Off

The underdiagnosis of mammography because of dense breast tissue – a false negative, resulting in an advanced breast cancer diagnosis – is barely mentioned by the medical community as a harm. It’s a breast cancer diagnosis that occurs not because of faithful yearly mammograms, but only after a cancer is large enough to be felt and has progressed to an advanced stage.

It’s the opposite of what many women are led to believe about what mammograms accomplish, and don’t accomplish, in this report from the Huffington Post.

The results from a 2016 national survey sought to determine the perceived importance of the harms and benefits of mammographic screening among women. The survey asked respondents about four benefits and seven harms. The harms included anxiety, stress of a false positive, risky surgeries, radiation dosage, slow-growing cancers and increased costs to the patient and health care system. The underdiagnosis of breast cancer by mammography was not included in the survey as a harm.

The survey authors surmise that physicians, public health officials, news media and advocacy groups lack balance by emphasizing mammography screening benefits while ignoring harms. They conclude this unbalance poses a challenge to shared patient-doctor decision making about screening.

To learn more read the story in the Huffington Post, and the survey published in JAMA.

Also, watch breast cancer expert Dr. Jay Harness discuss how to determine if you have dense breasts in the video above.

Posted in Dr. Jay Harness Expertise, Early Detection, Information Strength, Mammograms, Video, We Live You®: The Latest | Tagged , , | Comments Off

A new type of microscope could drastically reduce the number of women having multiple breast cancer surgeries, researchers at the University of Washington claim, in this report from

Until now, there’s been no reliable way to determine whether surgeons have completely removed all cancerous tissue during surgery, meaning between 20 and 40 percent of women have to undergo second, third or even fourth procedures.

The invention will help surgeons identify left-behind cancerous tissue in real-time, as discussed in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

To learn more, read what researchers have to say, and see the full story at

Posted in Breast Cancer Surgery, Emotional Reconstruction®, Information Strength, Research News, We Live You®: The Latest | Tagged | Comments Off

More breast cancers have been found at earlier — and potentially more treatable — stages since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as reported in the New York Times.

The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, adjusted for other variables and found that after Obamacare, the percentage of cancers diagnosed at the earliest stage increased by 3.2 percent for white women, 4.0 percent for blacks and 4.1 percent for Latinas.

The change is traced to a provision in the Affordable Care Act – popularly known as Obamacare – preventing private insurance companies nor Medicare from charging co-payments for mammography screening.

Learn more by reading the full report in the New York Times, and the study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.

Posted in Early Detection, Information Strength, Mammograms, Newly diagnosed breast cancer, News, Research News, We Live You®: The Latest | Tagged | Comments Off

According to researchers from Rutgers University, there is a chance that specific hair care products may lead to breast cancer.

Here’s what the researchers found:

Dark-hued hair dyes (dark brown or black) were associated with a 51 percent increased overall risk of developing breast cancer among African-American women and a 72 percent increased risk of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer among African-Americans.

The medical investigators also concluded that the use of chemical relaxers or straighteners was associated with a 74 percent increased risk among Caucasians, with some differences in breast cancer risk observed by estrogen-receptor status.

Learn more by reading the media release by Rutgers University researchers.

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A classic company founder origin story is that they find a pain point, look around for a ready-made solution, discover that there isn’t one — and start a company to solve their own problem.

Dana Donofree, founder of AnaOno, accomplished this very thing, only her pain was literal, not metaphorical, in this report from Forbes.

Donofree was diagnosed with breast cancer the day before her 28th birthday. That was in 2010, seven years ago, now. She did a year of therapy. She underwent a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. She had six rounds of chemotherapy, a year of additional treatment, and she’s on continuous hormonal therapy to keep her cancer away.

She discovered, during all this, that she couldn’t find a bra that worked for her post-cancer body. She was a fashion designer, and she ultimately decided to make the perfect bra herself.

Read Donofree’s complete story in Forbes, and listen to the interview to hear her explain in greater detail what AnaOno does—and why those who have experienced breast cancer truly need special bras.

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Women who carry genetic mutations in the “breast cancer genes,” called BRCA1 and BRCA2, have about a 70 percent chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetimes, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA, as reported in Live Science.

The new study also found that breast cancer risk in women with these mutations could vary — by as much as twofold — depending on whether the women had specific mutations within their genes. In addition, having close family members with the disease also indicated a greater increase in risk.

The findings suggest that health professionals who counsel women who have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations about their risk of breast cancer should take into account both a patient’s family history and the particular location on the gene of the individual’s mutation, researchers said.

Previous studies have estimated that the lifetime risk of breast cancer ranges from 40 to 87 percent for women with BRCA1 gene mutations, and 27 to 84 percent for women with BRCA2 gene mutations, according to the researchers. In contrast, the average American woman has about a 12 percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 85, according to the Susan G. Komen foundation.

The findings “demonstrate the potential importance of family history and mutation location in risk assessment” of breast cancer, researchers said.

Learn more in Live Science, by reading the study, and by watching the video above from the Breast Cancer Answers information channel – and site – provided by breast cancer expert Dr. Jay Harness.

Posted in Clinical Trials, Dr. Jay Harness Expertise, Genetic Screening & Testing, Information Strength, Prevention, Research News, Video, We Live You®: The Latest | Tagged , , | Comments Off