Breast Cancer Archive

Articles

Aspirin and breast cancer risk: How a wonder drug may become more wonderful

Over the years, the list of aspirin’s potential benefits has grown: a number of studies suggest that taking aspirin regularly can lower the risk of certain types of cancer. Now recent studies suggest that aspirin may also reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Study finds weak link between birth control and breast cancer

Overall risk is very small, and older women who used hormonal contraceptives many years ago aren't likely to have a higher risk.


 Image: © designer491/Getty Images

Hormonal birth control — whether it comes as pills, injections, a ring, an intrauterine device (IUD), or an implant — may raise your risk of breast cancer, according to a study published Dec. 7, 2017, in The New England Journal of Medicine.

If you're like many women who currently use one of these contraceptive methods, or if you used one for years in the past, should you be worried?

Your breasts may offer clues about your heart health

Could a closer look at your mammogram help guide efforts to prevent heart disease?

Your mammogram could offer a glimpse at more than just the health of your breasts. It may also provide important clues about your heart.

When a radiologist reads a mammogram, she or he sometimes sees little white streaks that look like lines of chalk inside the arteries of your breast. These lines are actually deposits of calcium called arterial calcifications. If you have them, it could mean that you have similar deposits in other arteries inside your body, including those that bring blood to your heart muscle — a known risk factor for heart disease.

Can I outwalk breast cancer?

Ask the doctors

Q. I've heard that walking could reduce my risk of breast cancer. Is this true?

A. Yes, it's true. Walking is not only a great form of exercise to help keep your heart healthy, it could potentially reduce your risk of breast cancer. One 2013 study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that women who walked seven hours a week — an hour a day on average — had a 14% lower chance of getting breast cancer when compared with women who walked three hours a week or less. The benefit was seen even in women who were at higher risk for breast cancer, including those who were overweight or who were taking hormone therapy. It's not clear how walking helps, but experts speculate that physical activity might help keep the body's levels of estrogen and insulin in check. Both of these hormones can fuel breast cancer, so regulating them more effectively could reduce your risk.

Breast pain: Not just a premenopausal complaint

Breast pain after menopause can come in many forms

Menopause has come and gone. Why do I still have breast pain?

In most cases, breast pain is a by-product of reproductive life: Like breast swelling, it waxes and wanes during the menstrual cycle, and it's one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. Many women expect breast pain to go away after menopause. When it doesn't, they may fear they have breast cancer. Fortunately, breast pain is rarely a symptom of cancer, regardless of age. Still, that possibility should be considered, along with a number of noncancerous conditions that affect the breasts.

Can a high-fiber diet reduce your risk of breast cancer?

Research we're watching

Your diet may influence your breast cancer risk. An analysis of 20 studies by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which was published online April 6, 2020, by the journal Cancer, found that women who ate the most fiber were 8% less likely to go on to develop breast cancer compared with the women who ate the least.

The reduction in breast cancer risk was seen for both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancers, as well as different types of breast cancer, including those that were estrogen and progesterone receptor–positive and estrogen and progesterone receptor–negative. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said that that the reduction may be due to fiber's effect in reducing both blood sugar and estrogen levels in the body.

Are you old enough to give up your screening mammogram?

There's no easy answer to this question. Rather, women should make the decision based on their individual needs.

Most women don't look forward to their routine mammogram, which can be uncomfortable and stressful. You may wonder: Is there an age when can you dispense with this regular chore? 75, 80, 85?

The truth is that experts haven't determined a magic age when women no longer need breast cancer screening — largely because scientific evidence in this area is lacking, says Dr. Kathryn Rexrode, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Women's Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital. But many experts also agree that continuing mammography might not be the right choice beyond age 75. The real question, they say, is what is the right age for you to stop based on your individual needs? To decide, you need to understand both the potential risks and benefits of breast cancer screening.

Cancer death rates continue to decline

Research we're watching

According to a report published March 12 in the journal Cancer, the rate of death from cancer has continued to decline in the United States, dropping on average 1.5% a year from 2001 to 2017. The decline showed up for all ethnic and age groups between 2013 and 2017. The findings were based on cancer incidence data collected by the CDC and the National Cancer Institute.

But not all news was good: the number of new cancer diagnoses in women rose slightly during 2012 to 2016. A more detailed look at cancer deaths among women found a drop in cancer deaths for a majority of the most common cancers, including breast cancer, melanoma, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer. But deaths in women increased when it came to uterine, brain, liver, heart, and pancreatic cancer.

Is it time to give up your annual mammogram?

The question of what age a woman can stop having mammograms does not have a definite answer, but is one each woman must answer based on her circumstances and her feelings about the risks of the procedure versus its benefits.

Toxic beauty

Are your personal care products putting your health at risk?

The average woman uses 12 different beauty products every day — cleansers, conditioners, hair dyes, fragrances, skin care products, scented lotions, nail polish, and makeup, to name a few. Take a quick glance at the labels, and you'll see a cocktail of chemical components.

You might assume that all these ingredients have been tested to ensure that they're safe for long-term use. That's not the case.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Sign Up
Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.