RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS GAPS IN OUR KNOWLEDGE OF BREAST CANCER PREVENTION

September 29, 2014 – 1:28 pm by Genesis

Today’s column inches shine a spotlight on how researchers have identified four key ‘gaps’ in our knowledge of preventing breast cancer for future generations.

The study, which was led by Genesis’ scientific director, Professor Tony Howell, for Breast Cancer Campaign (BCC), revealed that we need to focus on four key areas if we’re to achieve our goal: risk estimation, preventative therapy, lifestyle and biology of risk.

It is extremely encouraging to see organisations such as BCC now shedding light on prediction and prevention, rather than concentrating solely on the treatment of the disease, as is often the case with cancer charities.

Our aim has always been to stop women from ever having to hear the heartbreaking news that they have breast cancer. Our researchers work tirelessly to explore new ways in which we can stop the disease before it starts and offer advice to women about what steps they can take to lower their risk.

Although the majority of press coverage has focused on a preventative drug called anastrozole, another part of the gap analysis highlighted how breast density is also a major risk factor. Density is measured as the proportion of gland (tissue that makes milk) to fat within the breast, and this varies greatly from one individual to another. Women with denser breasts at breast screening age have a higher risk of breast cancer – in fact, women with more than 75 per cent dense breasts have a five times higher risk of developing breast cancer.

So, if we can identify which women have high density – through 3D mammography, for example – then we can take the necessary steps to try to lower their risk of developing the disease. This may be through drugs, such as tamoxifen, which has been approved by NICE for preventative use.

As the country’s only charity which is entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer, it is wonderful to see other charities joining our cause to create a breast cancer free future for all.

Read comments from our scientific directors in today’s papers:

Daily Telegraph
Independent
Daily Express


The ‘Angelina Effect’ and what it’s meant for women in the UK

September 19, 2014 – 9:24 am by Genesis

Angelina Jolie’s preventative mastectomy has had a massive impact on the numbers of women in the UK being referred for preventative treatment.

Research by our professor of clinical genetics, Gareth Evans, has shown a two-fold increase in the number of referrals for genetic counselling and testing for breast cancer risk across the UK in the year since the famous actress announced her surgery.

The paper, which has been published today in the journal Breast Cancer Research, revealed a long-lasting increase in the rate of referrals – meaning that more women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer have come forward for treatment since Jolie’s announcement.

This is wonderful news as it means that two times as many high risk women in the UK are now being monitored or undergoing preventative treatment for breast cancer, reducing their risk of developing the disease.

Angelina Jolie decided to undergo a double preventative mastectomy after testing positive for the mutated BRCA1 gene. Women who have the BRCA1 gene mutation have between a 45 per cent and 90 per cent risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. The gene mutation is linked to those with a strong family history of breast cancer – as was the case with Jolie, whose mother had passed away from the disease.

Professor Evans and his team assessed data from 12 family history clinics – including the one at Genesis – and nine regional genetic centres in the UK. They found that there was a two and a half-fold increase in referrals by their GPs for June and July 2013 immediately after the actress’ announcement, compared to the same two months in 2012. This rise in referrals continued from August to October with a two-fold increase over the same period the previous year. Importantly, the researchers believe that during this period of increased interest, there was no greater proportion of inappropriate referrals by GPs.

This research is particularly significant, as it shows that Angelina’s story has encouraged those who are at high risk of developing breast cancer to come forward to be tested for a mutated BRCA gene or to attend more regular screenings, rather than a knee-jerk reaction from the general population.

These are women who may have a family history of breast cancer, but until Angelina’s announcement last year, had not made the conscious decision to learn more about their situation.

While a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she carries the harmful mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, preventative surgery is by no means the answer for everyone.
Of course, a preventative mastectomy is the most effective way to cut a woman’s risk of breast cancer, however other options should also be considered. These include prevention drugs, such as tamoxifen, which has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Alternatively, many women with a mutated BRCA gene opt for annual check-ups which can be arranged through the NHS.

Here at Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention, we’re excited to see such an increase in the number of appropriate referrals. This means that we’re able to work with those women who are most at risk to take the necessary steps to minimise the chances of the disease developing.

Read press coverage of Professor Evans’ research here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/11103686/Angelina-Jolies-breast-cancer-announcement-doubled-number-of-women-being-tested-study.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/angelina-jolie-effect-credited-huge-4284985

http://news.uk.msn.com/uk/angelina-effect-on-cancer-tests-2


Picking the right preventative measure for you

August 18, 2014 – 2:33 pm by Genesis

Dr Lester Barr on Embarrassing Bodies

While research into preventing breast cancer is a vital part of our work here at Genesis, we also act as many women’s support system as they face the disease head on. Last night, our chairman, Lester Barr, appeared on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies as the programme followed a family carrying a faulty BRCA1 gene.

A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she carries a harmful mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Normally, these genes produce proteins which suppress tumours, repairing damaged DNA and, as a result, play a key role in stabilising a cell’s genetic material.

However, when one of these genes is faulty, its reparable qualities may be hindered. Therefore, cells are more likely to be prone to further mutations that can lead to cancer.

A faulty BRCA gene can be inherited, increasing a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by up to 80 per cent. So, those with a family history of breast cancer are encouraged to have genetic testing to check whether they are a carrier.

This was the case with the family who featured on Embarrassing Bodies last night. After losing her mother, one woman – Niki – had genetic testing and decided to undergo a preventative double mastectomy in a bid to lower her risk of developing the disease later in life. Following that, her two cousins also decided to be gene tested – one, Helen, had already tested positive and was preparing for a mastectomy and removal of her ovaries, while her sister, Lucy, was getting ready to have her DNA screened. Lucy visited Dr Barr at Spire Cheshire Hospital to talk through her options.

Sadly, the screen revealed that she too carried a mutated BRCA1 gene and she decided to follow in the steps of her sister and cousin and consider preventative surgery.

One thing that was unusual about the programme was her cousin, who had chosen to have reconstructive surgery – as many women do – suffered some complications, resulting in a series of corrective procedures. She then decided to have her reconstructed breasts removed, too, in order to draw a line under her breast cancer treatment.

It is extremely rare to see women who have had reconstructive surgery post-elective mastectomy suffer from these complications. We see hundreds of women every year who opt for reconstructive surgeries, yet have only ever encountered a handful of instances where complications occur.

Should a patient test positive for the mutated BRCA gene, a preventative mastectomy is the most effective way to reduce breast cancer risk. However, it won’t eliminate the risk completely and is by no means a guarantee that the disease will not develop later on in life. Figures show that it reduces risk by around 90 per cent per cent, down to a level equal or lower to the average risk in women without the gene.

Here at Genesis, we champion various preventative measures, including different therapies, such as the drug tamoxifen, which has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Rather than surgery, many women with a high risk gene opt for annual check-ups which can be arranged through the NHS in the UK.

We advise women to think about swapping their oral contraceptive pill for a non-hormonal alternative when they reach their mid-thirties and limiting alcohol intake to two to three units per day. A healthy diet and regular exercise are also essential to reduce breast cancer risk.

Every case and every patient is treated individually. What’s right for one woman isn’t always right for another. If you do test positive for the BRCA gene mutation, it’s important to talk to professionals and find the right course of treatment that you’re comfortable with.

For further information about breast cancer risks and how we can support you, visit our FAQ page. If you want to watch Dr Barr discuss the BRCA1 gene mutation with Helen, Niki and Lucy, you can see the programme online.


‘SCAREMONGERING’ STUDY CLAIMS STATINS DOUBLE BREAST CANCER RISK

July 24, 2014 – 9:46 am by Genesis

An American medical body has made the bold claim that statins can double the risk of developing breast cancer.

The National Cancer Institute studied 3,000 women and claimed that those who took the cholesterol-lowering drugs were more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer later in life, especially if they took the drugs for more than 10 years.

The findings, which were reported by the Sunday Express, come as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) encourages doctors to prescribe statins to millions of people in a bid to lower the risk of heart attack or stroke. However, the breast cancer study has led experts to call for a re-think on the new recommendations, according to news reports.

What the reports don’t tell you is that they have been extremely selective in quoting this one study published in September 2013 which is potentially biased and should therefore be viewed with the utmost of caution. It is worth noting that the same journal in which this study featured last September also included a much larger study a month later, which showed no increased risk of breast cancer following long-term use of statins.

There is a lot of evidence available from cohort studies and randomised clinical trials into the possible link between the statin drugs and breast cancer, none of which points to anything like what this particular study showed.

It is worrying that many women – and men – will have read this article and panic that they are increasing their risk of breast cancer by taking statins. But this is simply not the case.

Here at Genesis, we work tirelessly to research how the disease can be prevented and therefore welcome any new findings which might help us to achieve a future free from breast cancer. However, we also believe that claims, such as this one from the National Cancer Institute, shouldn’t be taken at face value and should be read in context with other research.

In summary, we believe this article is somewhat irresponsible, suggesting that such drugs as statins – which are essential for some people and are proven to have a host of health benefits – can double the risk of breast cancer.


THE ‘ANGELINA EFFECT’ – ONE YEAR ON

July 4, 2014 – 9:10 am by Genesis

Just a little over a year ago, Angelina Jolie grabbed the headlines after announcing she had undergone a double mastectomy. Having discovered that she was a carrier of the BRCA gene mutation – meaning she had an 80 per cent chance of developing the disease – the actress took the drastic step in a bid to cut her risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

Having a high-profile celebrity that attracts so much media attention has shed a lot of light onto BRCA carriers, their breast cancer risk and this particular course of action. I’m sure many women will find comfort and strength knowing that Angelina, a woman famed for her good looks as much as her talent, proudly announced this decision, which is often a taboo subject.

A recent study found that an increasing number of breast cancer sufferers are opting for a double mastectomy, despite having no family history of the disease or carrying the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations – two of the primary motivators for undergoing risk reducing surgery.

The study – highlighted on last night’s Tonight programme – suggested that a bi-product of the media attention surrounding Angelina’s decision, is that many women are also considering and even taking this dramatic step, when it may not be necessary or in fact appropriate for them to do so.

This is quite alarming. To say that all breast cancer sufferers should think about having both breasts removed would be incorrect. Equally so, to state that they have no risk of developing the disease in their healthy breast would also be wrong. In fact, the risk in the unaffected breast of a woman with breast cancer is usually twice that of those who have never suffered from the disease. It can be confusing.

A woman with breast cancer aged 40 with no family history has a five per cent risk every 10 years. So, if she has normal life expectancy, she will have a 20 per cent risk in her unaffected breast.

However, even after taking this into consideration, a mastectomy may not be necessary in all cases. There are other alternatives to surgery, such as tamoxifen or other endocrine therapy, which can halve the potential risk.

Also, by following a healthy diet, such as The 2-Day Diet and taking regular exercise, women can significantly reduce their risk of having breast cancer later in life.

Here at Genesis, we’re committed to creating a future free from breast cancer and in order to do that, we’re constantly evolving our research and looking at how women (and men) can adapt their lifestyles to prevent the disease, ensuring they receive the correct type of treatment that’s right for them.

Thankfully, contrary to this study, which refers to the ‘Angelina Jolie effect’, we’re mainly seeing an increase in appropriate requests for risk reducing mastectomy from women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

While a double mastectomy may be the answer for some, it is by no means the correct course of action for everyone.

For more information about Tonight: Can women save themselves from breast cancer? visit http://www.itv.com/news/2014-07-03/tonight-beating-breast-cancer.


COULD A NEW BLOOD TEST PREDICT BREAST CANCER RISK?

June 27, 2014 – 3:14 pm by Genesis

Research released today has revealed a new blood test could have the ability to predict a woman’s risk of breast cancer up to 10 years before she is diagnosed. Here at Genesis, we know how important prediction and prevention is to create a breast cancer-free future, so we were eager to learn more about these new findings from the University College London.

The test, which could be carried out on women every five years, could identify those who are in danger of developing the disease, allowing them to work with their doctors to find out how to reduce their risk.

While Professor Gareth Evans, head of the Family History Clinic at Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention, welcomed the findings, he commented that more detailed research is needed to ensure the test is worthwhile.

Professor Evans said: “This is an important finding which can certainly add to breast cancer risk profiling and give hope to millions of women. However, it should be viewed with a degree of caution as more research is needed before it can enter practice.

“For example, the test isn’t specific enough to use alone and, therefore, women shouldn’t undergo radical procedures, such as a mastectomy, because the test does not predict a high enough risk.

“It may be that a positive result could indicate the need for more sensitive tests, such as MRI scans, to hopefully detect signs of breast cancer earlier, so that patients have a better chance of survival.

“Here at Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention, we’re uniquely placed to validate this research as we’ve collected 10,000 DNA samples from women in Greater Manchester as part of a population study on breast cancer screening.”

This test may not be a fix-all solution, but it’s a step in the right direction towards a future free from breast cancer.

To read more about the research, visit:
The Telegraph
The Daily Mail


CAN RED MEAT INCREASE BREAST CANCER RISK?

June 24, 2014 – 8:29 am by Genesis

With new research breakthroughs and landmark scientific findings occurring almost weekly, it seems as though we can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the television without being told to cut yet another dish from our daily menus. Last week, the Harvard School of Public Health suggested that in order to reduce the risk of breast cancer, women should reduce their intake of red meat.

According to the US study, eating a lot of red meat during early adulthood could increase the risk of developing the disease and it should be replaced by beans, peas, lentils, poultry, nuts and fish. However, UK health experts urged us to view the research with caution, as other trials have not shown a clear link between the two.

Here at Genesis, we fully support the notion that being a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet can help to reduce the risk of breast cancer and we’ve spent 11 years developing The 2-Day Diet. We know that being overweight can increase the risk of developing breast cancer and that losing and maintaining a healthy, lower weight is one of the best ways to reduce this risk. One of the most effective ways to do this is with a diet which includes healthy protein foods such as fish , poultry and lentils beans low fat dairy, fruit and vegetables and also includes healthy fats and high fibre starchy foods

The Harvard study is not consistent with many other trials which have shown that meat intake in women is not specifically linked to breast cancer risk.

Dr Michelle Harvie, who helped to develop The 2-Day Diet for weight loss, said: “This study shows that women who had a high intake of red meat were likely to have breast cancer. This group were also heavier and had higher energy intakes, and were also more likely to be smokers – which are all risk factors which could explain their higher risk The study did not take into account weight gain or sedentary behaviours which are risk factors which may have been found in the meat eaters

“The study does not suggest that meat needs to be omitted totally from the diet. The harmful effects of meat intake at a younger age were seen at very high daily intakes – more than 120g (4 oz) per day.”

Although we don’t believe this study proves a direct link between high red meat intake and breast cancer, we always welcome new research into possible links to the disease. This study raises the important issue that we should consider a lifelong approach to healthy living to reduce risk of breast cancer. By ensuring we have as much information as possible, we become closer to creating a breast cancer free future.


Do breast cancer survivors exercise enough?

June 9, 2014 – 11:36 am by Genesis

Following the article released earlier today by BBC Health, Genesis dietitian, Dr. Michelle Harvie, discusses the link between exercise and breast cancer risk, and the important work The Nightingale Centre & Genesis Prevention Centre is undertaking in this area.

The BBC article cited an American research study published in the Journal of Cancer, which looked at the pre and post-diagnosis exercise levels of 1,735 women aged 20-74. All women involved had breast cancer between 2008 and 2011 in North Carolina.

In the US and the UK, adults are recommended to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week.
This study found only 35% of women who had experienced breast cancer met the physical activity guidelines.

Dr. Harvie commented;

“Here at Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention, we know that most people can benefit from doing more exercise and breast cancer patients tend to do less exercise when going through treatment due to the effects they encounter. There is increasing evidence that doing moderate or vigorous exercise is beneficial to breast cancer patients. It may reduce the chances of recurrence, improve overall health, reduce fatigue and improve bone health. We are studying the best ways to keep breast cancer patients a healthy weight and active during treatment in our B-Ahead 2 study. Further information can be found here on our website”.

Dr. Harvie’s work includes the publication of the international best selling book ‘The 2-Day Diet’ which focuses on how to achieve and maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle – more information can be found here.


In the press – Former New South Wales premier praised for raising men’s awareness of breast cancer

May 2, 2014 – 2:06 pm by Genesis

At Genesis we strive to promote breast cancer awareness not only for women but also for men.

Currently 1 in 1000 men will develop breast cancer in their lifetime yet many men still do not realise that they can develop the disease.

Nick Greiner, former New South Wales premier in Australia has spoken out about his personal experience with breast cancer leading to the Cancer Council Australia calling for greater awareness of the disease in men.

Nick Greiner

The chief executive of Cancer Council Australia, Professor Ian Olver, said men who noticed changes to their breasts or nipples should act quickly and be tested.

“There’s a pretty high cure rate for men if they present early. The problem is that men don’t believe they can get breast cancer,” he said.

“So the first message is ‘yes, you can get breast cancer’, and the second message is that if you see blood or you feel a lump get it checked out as soon as you can. Don’t ignore a change.”

The Guardian have recently published the article in which Greiner discusses the impact his breast cancer had on him and the comfort he found to tackle the disease through telling family and friends about it.

Greiner discovered the cancer after finding a red dot on his shirt, and said talking about his cancer helped him through the difficult period.

“I think it helped by telling my family and, when I knew I was going to have surgery, telling others.”

Greiner had a mastectomy to remove the cancer and the operation was successful.


DO FATTY DIETS LEAD TO A HIGHER BREAST CANCER RISK?

April 14, 2014 – 8:19 am by Genesis

With a new diet or weight loss plan filling column inches almost every week, it’s sometimes difficult to know what to believe and what to dismiss as the latest fad. This week’s papers broke the news that, following new research, high fat diets can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

This study, which was published by the National Institute of Cancer, links dietary intake to whether participants subsequently developed breast cancer over the next 11 years. The results showed that women with the highest fat and saturated fat intake were more likely to develop breast cancer, especially the type which is linked to oestrogen levels.

Women who ate the most saturated fat – 50 g per day, which is double the recommended level – were 30 per cent more likely to develop the disease.

However, these population studies are sometimes difficult to interpret. We know that women with more fat in their diets will often be heavier and less active, which has the potential to increase breast cancer risk. Although researchers try to take these factors into account, we need to consider whether or not these other factors may account for the relationship between fat and cancer risk.

Provided you are a healthy weight and don’t consume too many calories overall, the amount of fat in your diet shouldn’t make a difference to the risk of developing breast cancer.

At Genesis, our evidence suggests women should maintain a healthy weight by controlling their calorie intake and undertaking regular exercise to have the best chance of preventing the disease.

We developed The 2-Day Diet to encourage people to make small adjustments to their lifestyles and in turn, cut their risk of developing breast cancer later in life. Through a low calorie, low carb diet two days a week and a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet during the rest of the week, followers can lose almost twice as much fat around their waist than those who are trying to follow a daily calorie-controlled diet.

Find out more about The 2-Day Diet here: http://www.thetwodaydiet.co.uk/