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The good, the bad and the hopeful
August 18, 2010
If you've been away from the news, there's some good – and some bad – to report of late.
Mortality is down
Breast cancer mortality rates in the UK have fallen steeply in the last two decades; in fact, more than any other European country, as reported by the British Medical Journal. That's newsworthy, since former reports claimed that women in the UK fare worse after breast cancer than other countries in Western Europe.
Why the discrepancy? Some think it might be due to shortcomings in record-keepin -- i.e., the way cancers are registered in that country. But it's encouraging to note that even though screening at under age 50 is not as common as it might be here in the US, women under 50 were the ones who showed the biggest reductions in mortality rates. That reason could be due to better, more effective targeting of cancer treatments.
What was nice to learn is that since that late 1980s, breast cancer mortality has been declining in many European countries. When you take the combined effects of early diagnosis with better treatments, it all adds up to more survivors.
Long-term hormone therapy increases breast cancer risk
When women – especially those who are lean – use postmenopausal hormone therapy for more than 15 years, it increases the risk of developing breast cancer. That risk is 19 percent higher than for those women who never used postmenopausal hormone therapy. And the risk is much higher (83 percent) for women who used combined therapy of estrogen and progestin.
The present study was a follow-up of sorts to the Women's Health Initiative findings, which were suddenly halted in 2002 after a fifteen-year study found increased risks of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer were found among women who were part of the trial taking combination therapy.
Mediterranean diet = lower breast cancer risk after menopause
When just under 15,000 Greek women were followed for a decade, the women (past menopause) who followed that region's traditional diet most closely were found to be less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than the women who ate differently.
Although these findings are preliminary, they're encouraging for sure. Why? Because the traditional Mediterranean diet has already been linked to lower the risk of other cancers like colon and stomach cancer as well as heart disease.
And the Mediterranean diet, in my opinion, is my diet of choice, full of yummy things like fish, olive oil, veggies, whole grains, nuts and legumes, with relatively small amounts of red meat and dairy.
While it's reported that more research needs to be done, it is already proven that women who adhere to a Mediterranean diet do have lower levels of circulating estrogen, a hormone responsible for fueling the growth of the majority of breast cancers.
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