Can a study be dangerous?
It sure can, if it manages to scare healthy women into thinking that taking a very risky drug is a way to prevent breast cancer.
In a new study published in JAMA Oncology, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have gone on record as saying that having dense breast tissue is the biggest risk factor there is in the development of breast cancer.
But not only have many experts previously contradicted that finding, it’s also well known that diagnosing breast density in the first place is a medical crapshoot.
And guess what the “intervention” is for dense breast tissue. (Hint: Some Big Pharma executives are probably very happy right now!)
Plenty of woman know all too well the confusion and worry of being told they have dense breast tissue.
If a radiologist interprets your mammogram as showing less fatty tissue, by law in 28 states you must receive a letter telling you that — even though it doesn’t mean the test picked up breast cancer, or even anything abnormal!
So what does it mean?
First, around half of women over 40 have dense breast tissue — and it’s not some kind of “condition” that needs fixing. It simply means that you have less fatty tissue in your breast, which can make it harder to read a mammogram. The concern is that something suspicious might be missed.
But here’s the thing: Even experts admit that determining if a test actually shows dense breast tissue is really just a guess. A study last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine discovered that when 83 radiologists were challenged to make a diagnosis on over 200,000 mammograms, which had been confirmed to show both non-dense and dense breast tissue, most couldn’t agree on which was which.
Many either underrated or wildly overrated (by more than double!) their findings. Their accuracy rate made the weather report look like an exact science!
Which brings me back to this new UCSF study.
Researchers there claim that everything else we’ve been told about breast cancer risk factors, including family history of the disease, is nothing compared to having dense breasts. They went so far as to tell us that it’s the most “prevalent” risk there is, exceeding all others.
And while the researchers said that there’s not much a woman can do if she has dense breasts, the lead author of the study was quick to point out that the only “intervention” known that “substantially reduces breast density” is the drug tamoxifen.
Whoa! Let’s stop and consider that statement for a moment.
In the first place, tamoxifen, which blocks estrogen, is considered to be at the top of the heap of risky drugs. Dangers have been turning up for decades now… ones that include eye damage (even at low doses), liver disease, blood clots and cancer.
That’s right, the most commonly prescribed drug for women with breast cancer causes cancer — especially of the liver and uterus. The medical director of the American Heart Foundation was quoted as calling tamoxifen a “rip-roaring” cause of liver cancer in laboratory animals.
Why, even the label for AstraZeneca’s brand name tamoxifen (Nolvadex) has a black-box warning about these dangers, which it calls “life-threatening events” that can be “fatal.”
How in the world a drug as dangerous as tamoxifen could even be hinted at as a treatment for a perfectly normal condition that may, or very well may not, increase your risk of breast cancer is beyond me.
This is another clear example of how mammograms, which are already known to be notoriously unreliable and produce many false-positives, shouldn’t be relied on as the sole reason to begin any kind of treatment for breast cancer.
Especially if you don’t have breast cancer in the first place.
“Breast density may be leading indicator of cancer risk” E.J. Mundell, February 2, 2017, HealthDay, consumer.healthday.com