BCIS may be curable if diagnosed early

Keeping Out of the Pink

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and – right on time – a new study just published in the journal Cancer may provide us with a simple way to significantly decrease our risk of a specific type of breast cancer.

Glands & Ducts

Breast carcinoma in situ (BCIS) is a cancer that’s confined to the milk glands or the ducts that carry milk from the glands to the nipple. BCIS is highly curable when diagnosed early. But when not discovered in the formative stages, this condition commonly develops into invasive breast cancer. There are currently more than 54,000 new cases of BCIS diagnosed every year in the U.S.

A high level of hormones circulating in the body has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Knowing that exercise may reduce the total amount of circulating hormones, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) launched the first study of how physical activity impacts BCIS.

The USC team began by examining data from a population-based study in Los Angeles County. From that study, more than 550 women diagnosed with BCIS were personally interviewed by the USC researchers. More than 600 women in a cancer-free control group were also interviewed. Subjects ranged in age from 35 to 64 years.

After adjusting for several cancer risk factors, researchers found that women who reported ANY exercise activity were at 35 percent lower risk of BCIS than women who could be described as inactive. The lead author of the study, Dr. Leslie Bernstein, told Reuters Health News that for invasive disease, “the risk decreased proportionally with increasing level of exercise.”

Unfortunately, there was one group that showed no reduction in risk associated with exercise: those women who had a first- degree family history (such as a mother or sister) of BCIS.

The green thingand more

In last week’s e-Alert “Keep it Green” I told you about two studies that demonstrated how green tea intake may reduce the risk of breast cancer. In one study, extracts of green tea inhibited breast cancer cells from manufacturing the new blood vessels necessary to promote cancer cell growth. And in another USC population-based study of almost 1,100 women, researchers found that women who drank less than half a cup of green tea daily reduced their breast cancer risk by nearly 30 percent.

So here are two very simple preventive measures – moderate exercise and a small amount of green tea intake – that most of us could easily incorporate into our daily habits to significantly decrease our risk of breast cancer.

Other lifestyle risk factors that can be addressed to lower breast cancer risk include smoking, HRT use, excessive alcohol intake, and obesity.

As long as we’re talking “awareness”

In virtually every web site and news item that promotes National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you’ll find a mention of National Mammography Day, which is designated as the third Friday in October (10/17 this year). On National Mammography Day, hundreds of radiology facilities offer either free or discounted mammograms.

I’m all for helping women become more aware of the ways they can avoid breast cancer, but on the subject of mammography HSI parts company with the medical mainstream.

In the e-Alerts “Easy as 123” and “And 4” that I sent you last August, I addressed in some detail these four myths about mammogram screening:

  1. Mammography is safe. (It’s not. It may even prompt existing cancer to spread.)
  2. Mammography catches cancer at an early stage. (It doesn’t. Only advanced tumors can be detected.)
  3. Mammography saves lives. (It doesn’t. While there are those who attribute successful cancer treatment to mammogram detection, several studies show that breast cancer mortality is statistically the same among women who have had mammograms and those who haven’t.)
  4. Mammography is the most dependable breast cancer screening method. (It’s not. There are several safer methods of breast cancer screening that are just as dependable or more dependable than mammography.)

The mainstream mantra that all women over the age of 40 should receive a yearly mammogram is so pervasive that many women don’t even realize that there are potential hazards to mammography. If you’re a woman who’s considering a mammogram (or if you know one who is) I urge you to read the August e- Alerts (available online at www.hsionline.com) to learn more about the safe alternatives to mammography.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson

Health Sciences Institute


“Lifetime Recreational Exercise Activity and Risk of Breast Carcinoma in Situ” Cancer, 11/15/03, published online 10/6/03, interscience.wiley.com

“Exercise May Lower Breast Cancer Risk” Reuters Health, 10/6/03, reuters.com