Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News release] Smoking when pregnant increases cancer risk for daughters

From the 5 March 2015 Australian University news release

A new study has found women who smoke when pregnant are putting their daughters at a greater risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer later in life.

The Australian National University (ANU) study, published in Human Reproduction, found mothers who reported smoking most days while pregnant had daughters who had an earlier age of first menstruation, or menarche.

Lead researcher Dr Alison Behie said reaching menarche at an earlier age increases the number of ovulation cycles a woman will have in her life, and puts her at greater risk of developing reproductive cancers possibly due to increased exposure to hormones such as oestrogen.

“We’re discovering more and more that major aspects of our biology, and even our behaviour, are set before we are born,” said Dr Behie, a biological anthropologist from the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology.

“We know the mother’s exposure to stress, such as smoking in this case, can influence the long-term health of the child.

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] BreastCancerAction says Stop the Distraction; rethinking awareness

Breast CancerAction says Stop the Distraction; rethinking awareness.

From the 3 October 2014 post at HealthNewsReview

As the Green Bay Packers were walloping the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football last night, the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch Day” campaign for breast cancer – which “is focused on the importance of annual screenings, especially for women who are 40 and older” – was on display at the stadium.  Banners similar to this one appeared in the stadium. Some players wore pink gloves or other pink paraphernalia.  It was the first game of October, the first of many more pink pigskin promotions to come throughout this month.

But the Breast Cancer Action group, well known for its “Think Before You Pink” campaign, calls the NFL campaign “a distraction.”  The group names the NFL as part of “a six-point take-down of pink ribbon cause marketing and the broader culture of “pink” which expands BCAction’s long-standing commitment to addressing exploitation, corporate profiteering and hypocrisy in breast cancer fundraising. The six points, according to Breast Cancer Action, are:

…..

October 15, 2014 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bayesian Reasoning, False Positives, and Breast Cancer

 

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March 13, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Overdiagnosis: An epidemic or minor concern?

From the 24th January 2013 article at Medical News Today

An editorial by two oncologists in the New Year’s issue of Annals of Internal Medicine discusses overdiagnosis, a controversial health problem that some have called “a modern epidemic” but others, including the editorialists, feel is a minor concern. Although many chronic conditions are overdiagnosed, cancer is the most thoroughly studied, as well as the most emotionally charged.

I am a generally healthy man with no family history of significant health problems. Yet increasing numbers of men like me who are approaching middle age may be shadowed by a sniper on a rooftop, each armed with a highly accurate loaded rifle pointed directly at our heads. By age 70, nearly half of all men will be shadowed by a sniper, though in only 3 percent of us will he actually take the fatal shot. A 1 in 30 chance of being assassinated without warning still seems too high, and therefore health authorities concerned about the problem of snipers on rooftops recommend that all men after age 50 (or perhaps 40) be offered routine surveillance to determine if there’s a sniper up there. If there is, perhaps he can be safely disarmed.

The  trouble is, the disarmament team is successful at best, 21 percent of the time(reducing a man’s chance of being shot from 3 percent to a barely more reassuring 2.4 percent), and at worst, hardly ever. In addition, attempts to subdue snipers by force often lead to unwanted consequences: stray shots fired in the scuffle that causenon-lethal but persistent injuries to the bladder and reproductive system. In about 1 in 300 men, the attempt to disarm the sniper goes terribly wrong, causing the gunshot to miss the head but deliver an equally fatal round through the heart….

Back to the Annals editorial about overdiagnosis in breast cancer. The authors write:

We believe that the term “overdiagnosis” in the context of breast cancer places this problem in an inappropriate light, suggesting that these patients do not have cancer. The question is not whether we should find early, more easily treatable cases of breast cancer but rather how to treat early-stage cancer found on mammography. … For the individual patient, the question is not whether to have a mammogram that might “overdiagnose” breast cancer but how to treat the early-diagnosed non-invasive or invasive breast cancer once we have found it.

Finally, I apologize to any of you who were offended by my explicit comparison of overdiagnosis to gun violence, given the recent tragedy that has drawn belated attention to the latter as a public health problem.

 

 

 

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January 25, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment

Critics detect hype in “Bra Detects Breast Cancer” news

From the 19 October 2012 article at HealthNewsReview.org

We asked two people at the National Breast Cancer Coalition to react to the announcement.  Annette Bar-Cohen wrote us:

“The discovery of breast changes earlier and earlier in the process needs to go along with our ability to translate that into knowledge that will actually be lifesaving.  Otherwise we will see an increase in incidence, an additional rise in overdiagnosis and overtreatment, and perhaps no reduction in mortality – no additional lives saved. So a recognition of the role of this technology in the early detection field would be good.”

Laura Nikolaides of NBCC responded:

“I am intrigued by the idea – we are always interested in any new ideas = but have found this reporting (note: she was specifically referring to the Boston Globe and CBS pieces) incredibly frustrating.  More questions are raised than are answered.  The details provided aren’t even consistent.  One report implies that a woman would wear the bra over time, on an ongoing basis, the other report claims it would be a one time thing.  Neither report says that in fact, a woman would need to have several sensors or patches applied to her breast and that the bra itself is the monitor (found this on the parent company website).  Another confusion is the temperature issue – a business report on the company says the technology is actually monitoring 9600 data points of cell metabolism that are then converted to temperature changes.

I was very interested to see the data on the clinical trials, but couldn’t get to it.  I was able to get to the parent company website, which said the trials were conducted at Ohio State, but couldn’t get any more info.   So, bottom line, is that as someone who is very interested in any new ideas on detecting early changes in the breast, I found the reporting on this new idea stunning for the lack of details on what the technology actually is, what it does, how it works, how it was validated, etc.”

Finally, I turned to one of our smart story reviewers on HealthNewsReview.org, Mandy Stahre, PhD, a young survivor of breast cancer having been diagnosed at age 31.  She is a graduate of the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Project LEAD training and has served as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.  She also wrote about the Boston and CBS stories:

“A new bra may be able to detect breast cancer six years before a tumor can be detected by imaging.  Sounds too good to be true.  After further reading we are presented with what sounds like impressive statistics referring to clinical trials with results in the 90% range for sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy. Never mind that details regarding what was actually detected seemed to be omitted.

Click here to read the entire article

October 23, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Breast cancer screening ad campaign criticized

 

English: SAN DIEGO (Sept. 22, 2008) Lead Mammo...

English: SAN DIEGO (Sept. 22, 2008) Lead Mammography Technologist Carmen Waters, Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) Breast Health Center, assists a patient preparing for a mammography. In conjunction with NMCSDs pharmacy, the Breast Health Center has started a new program called “Mammograms While You Wait” which allows patients to take the exam while their prescriptions are being filled. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Moon/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 


 

 

Komen adThe Komen Foundation’s ad campaign for breast cancer screening was criticized in a BMJ article by Dartmouth’s Steve Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz, who wrote: “Unfortunately, there is a big mismatch between the strength of evidence in support of screening and the strength of Komen’s advocacy for it.”

Take your pick of places to read more about it:

  • Susan Perry of MinnPost.com wrote: “The commentary is part of BMJ’s “Not So” series, which the editors call an “occasional series highlighting the exaggerations, distortions, and selective reporting that make some news stories, advertising, and medical journal articles ‘not so.'” I wish I could send MinnPost readers to the BMJ website to read it, but for reasons that are inexplicable to me, the journal has decided to keep this paper behind a paywall.

 

 

August 8, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment

Environmental Causes of Breast Cancer and Radiation From Medical Imaging

 

From the article abstract at Archives of Internal Medicine (9 July 2012)

[Full text is free at above link]

Susan G. Komen for the Cure asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to perform a comprehensive review of environmental causes and risk factors for breast cancer. Interestingly, none of the consumer products (ie, bisphenol A, phthalates), industrial chemicals (ie, benzene, ethylene oxide), or pesticides (ie, DDT/DDE) considered could be conclusively linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, although the IOM acknowledged that the available evidence was insufficient to draw firm conclusions for many of these exposures, calling for more research in these areas. The IOM found sufficient evidence to conclude that the 2 environmental factors most strongly associated with breast cancer were exposure to ionizing radiation and to combined postmenopausal hormone therapy. The IOM’s conclusion of a causal relation between radiation exposure and cancer is consistent with a large and varied literature showing that exposure to radiation in the same range as used for computed tomography will increase the risk of cancer. It is the responsibility of individual health care providers who order medical imaging to understand and weigh the risk of any medical procedures against the expected benefit.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists in the United States, asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to perform a comprehensive and evidence-based review of environmental causes and risk factors for breast cancer, with a focus on identifying evidence-based actions that women can take to reduce their risk.Environmental exposures were defined broadly to include all factors not genetically inherited, and the IOM committee appointed to write this report included academicians and chairs from departments of environmental health, toxicology, cancer epidemiology, preventive medicine, and biostatistics in addition to advocates for patients with breast cancer. Committee members conducted their own reviews of the peer-reviewed epidemiological and basic science literature, commissioned several papers specifically for their report, and drew on evidence-based reviews already completed by organizations such as the Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Cancer Research Fund International. The publication Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach was released online in December 2011.1

 

August 6, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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