~ An epidemic? ~
By Peter Amato
Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in the US and the most common cancer among women. One in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Of all breast cancers diagnosed in women, over three-quarters are diagnosed in postmenopausal women and one quarter in premenopausal woman. Clinical research shows that only 6% of those first diagnosed with breast cancer have metastatic disease. Metastasis means the cancer has gotten into the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. Research suggests that the five-year survival rate for local breast cancer is 99%, whereas the five-year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer is 23%. Although 80% of breast lumps is NON-cancerous, 70% of breast cancers is found through self-exams. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women ages 40-55.
What causes breast cancer?
In the 90s, board certified general physician and plastic surgeon Christine Horner became very active with the American Cancer Society, eventually becoming Kentucky spokesperson for the American Cancer Society on breast cancer issues. She is quoted as saying, "We were trained to say that we don't know what causes breast cancer and we have no known cures; the best thing a woman can do is to have breast exams and mammograms." After many years of providing surgical breast reconstruction and watching younger and younger women get breast cancer, Dr. Horner thought to look through the peer-reviewed medical research to see what women can do to better lower the risk and perhaps understand why breast cancer has increased from one in 20 in the 1960s to one in seven today. What she (and I) found were thousands of research studies as to exactly why we have a cancer epidemic today.
Although, the precise causes of breast cancer are unclear, medical research is clear and vast regarding the main known risk factors. In the largest review of research into lifestyle and breast cancer, the American Institute of Cancer Research estimated that approximately 40% of breast cancer could be prevented if people made wiser lifestyle choices. Additional medical research suggests that 75-90% percent of breast cancer could be avoided through diet and lifestyle changes. The latest paleoanthropological research, which is the study of the origins and predecessors of the present human species, shows that cancer was virtually non-existent in human before diet concern and pollution appeared. What factors have led to this deadly man-made disease?
We now know that breast inflammation can be KEY to the development and progression of certain types of breast cancer. Inflammation is not the cause; however, it is a key process that may set the stage for breast cancer to occur. Scientific studies today show that the inflammation process within the breast itself promotes growth of breast cancer stem cells. Current research reveals that immune response involving inflammatory cells can result in the promotion of tumour development and disease progression.
Inflammation is the body's attempt to protect itself. It is the natural response to injury, infection or damaged cells in the case of breast cancer. One research study which enrolled 3,088 women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer suggested that inflammation may be the link between "problem lifestyle factors' and health outcomes for breast cancer survivors. Further work is needed to identify whether lowering inflammation will lead to a major improvement in our epidemic with breast cancer. In my next article on breast cancer, I will discuss research on oestrogen, mammography, research, medical school education, diet and lifestyle.