June 26, 2010 at 4:05 pm #34605
note: This article made me wonder whether the sexual energy circulation in Taoist breast massage might be a method for breaking up dense breast tissue that seems to be a fertile ground for breast cancer. I would be interested in comments by any women…Michael
BREAST DENSITY LINKED TO CANCER RISK
By Karen Ravn
Los Angeles Times
June 21, 2010
Although mammograms often include measures, women are rarely told about
them. But it’s knowledge that could lead to informed choices about testing
Density. It’s a less obvious feature of the female breast than, say, size.
But at least when it comes to good health, it’s probably more important.
In fact, it just might be the greatest cancer risk you’ve never heard of.
Study after study has found that as breast density goes up, so does the risk
of breast cancer. “There are very few things we know about that are so
reproducibly found,” says Dr. Norman Boyd, senior scientist at the Campbell
Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research at the Ontario Cancer Institute
And the relationship can be very strong: Evidence shows that for women with
extremely dense breasts, the cancer risk can be four to six times higher
than for women whose breasts are not dense. By comparison, a family history
of breast cancer — long considered an important risk factor — usually only
doubles the risk.
The link between breast density and breast cancer was first discovered in
the 1970s. “It took a long time for people to accept it,” says Malcolm Pike,
a professor of preventive medicine at the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center
at USC and an attending epidemiologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center in New York. “But nobody’s arguing about it now.”
Yet as widely accepted as the link is in the scientific community — and
despite the fact that many researchers are convinced it could help identify
high-risk women and maybe lead to treatments to reduce their risk — to date
it has played a small part in the battle against breast cancer.
“Most women don’t even know their own breast density,” says William Barlow,
a senior biostatistician at Cancer Research and Biostatistics in Seattle.
If you’ve ever had a mammogram, your breast density has probably been
measured and recorded — but not reported to you. After all, the measurement
has traditionally been considered of interest only to radiologists. It was
instituted not as a harbinger of breast cancer risk but rather as an
indication of how difficult a mammogram is to read. (The denser the breast,
the harder the read.)
Even now, when the link to cancer risk is well established, many health
professionals fear that giving women information about their breast density
will serve little purpose other than to confuse or worry them, since it’s
largely determined by factors outside of their control (such as heredity,
age and ethnicity).
But Connecticut passed a law last year requiring that patients’ mammography
reports must include breast-density information. And many doctors and
researchers are in favor of more disclosure.
“I think patients should be told as much information as possible —
recognizing they may not be able to use all of it. It certainly should be
available if women ask for it,” Barlow says. “After all, you can’t change
most of the risk factors for breast cancer.”
Besides, Barlow and others argue that there are ways to use breast density
information. If you know you have dense breasts, you may choose to have more
clinical exams or mammograms than you would otherwise. Or you may choose to
have an MRI, which doesn’t become harder to read in cases of dense breasts
the way mammograms do.
Also, density can change over time, so you may want to track your density
from mammogram to mammogram. Two studies reported in April at the American
Assn. for Cancer Research 101st Annual Meeting 2010 found that if a woman’s
breast density changes, so does her risk of breast cancer — if density goes
up, so does risk, and vice versa.
One of the studies used data from the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative trial
that found postmenopausal women using hormone replacement therapy (estrogen
and progestin) had a greater risk of breast cancer than women taking a
placebo. In the new study, researchers found that in mammograms done a year
apart, breast density went up for 85% of the women in the replacement group,
and this increase in density could explain the increased cancer risk in that
These findings suggest that knowledge about breast density could be
important to a woman deciding whether to use hormone replacement therapy for
relief of hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms, for example, says Celia
Byrne, assistant professor of oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer
Center at Georgetown University and lead researcher on the study. “If she
has dense breasts, she might consider not taking hormones.”
Another way to use the breast density-breast cancer link might be to
incorporate it in the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, a method developed
by the National Cancer Institute and the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast
and Bowel Project that is widely used by health professionals to assess a
patient’s breast cancer risk. So far, this has not been done.
But researchers have developed other assessment tools that do take breast
density into account — and in their studies so far, these tools give better
(if only modestly better) results than the standard one. The National Cancer
Institute says that additional studies done by independent researchers are
necessary before changing the standard tool.
And there’s another hang-up. Many researchers acknowledge that implementing
such models would not be easy because of a fundamental problem with breast
density: measuring it.
The measure in most common use — the one made with most mammograms — is
rather imprecise and subjective. It simply rates densities according to four
categories from the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (or BI-RADS),
which is widely used by radiologists, from 1, for predominately fat, to 4,
for extremely dense.
Researchers often aim for greater precision by estimating the percentage of
dense breast tissue or using computer-based systems to calculate it. MRIs
can provide very precise measures too but are probably too expensive for
New techniques are on the horizon. Another study reported at the April
meeting of the American Assn. for Cancer Research found that a technology
commonly used to measure bone density and total body composition — dual
energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DXA — can provide breast-density
measurements that correlate well with mammographic measurements but with
lower radiation exposure. Other researchers are working on ways to make
totally radiation-free measurements with ultrasound.
To date, though, no method exists that is precise and objective enough to
provide consistent results while at the same time being simple and
inexpensive enough for wide use.
Indeed, Boyd says, the fact that density is so closely associated with risk
is even more remarkable considering the weaknesses in density measurement.
“Probably,” he says, “the relationship is much stronger than we know.”
Boyd suggests that down the road, the breast density-cancer link may be
useful not only in identifying those at high risk but also in helping to
lower that risk. Preliminary evidence supports that belief. More than a
decade ago, for example, Pike and a number of colleagues found that a
particular type of hormonal contraceptive could lead to substantial
reductions in breast density. More recently, another study found that the
cancer drug tamoxifen can reduce breast density.
“Theoretically,” Boyd says, “in the same way that people now take drugs to
lower their cholesterol and thus their risk of heart attack or stroke, you
could someday take a drug to lower your breast density — and thus your risk
of breast cancer.”June 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm #34606
What this me reminds of, are the articles you posted previously about how
there is a breast cancer correlation between wearing tight bras and
developing breast cancer, and in particular, women who are braless have
almost 0% chance of developing it (according to prior article I remember
In particular, it makes sense to me that wearing a bra or tight bra would
“compact” breast tissue and make it more dense, and thus make the person
more susceptible to cancer.
This makes me wonder about other cancers . . .
(musing: tight underwear? pressure from bicycle seats? (e.g. Lance Armstrong))
(musing: colonic pressure from tight clothing, chronic constipation, etc.)
Is cancer just a biological response to chronic “condensation”?
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