- Measuring our impact in East London
- Study indicates mammography does not improve breast cancer mortality rate
- Early onset of puberty could increase an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer
Measuring our impact in East London
This week, Victoria and Anisah met with Professor Joy Hinston and Dr Matthew Williamson, both based at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), to discuss QMUL carrying out a monitoring and evaluation project on Cancerkin’s work – specifically Cancerkin’s work in East London.
Dr Williamson is the Head of Educational Development at QMUL and will be heading the project, which will look at the impact of Cancerkin’s East London Programme on patients in East London as well as how successfully the breast awareness message has reached communities there. It will also consider the impact volunteering for Cancerkin has had on our Awareness Ambassadors, all of whom have been recruited from East London Universities.
Study indicates mammography does not improve breast cancer mortality rate
A Canadian study which suggests breast screening does not reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer has been widely reported this week.
The paper, published in the BMJ, covered a 25-year old study. In this, almost 90,000 women between the 40 and 59 years of age were given a physical breast exam and taught how to self-check their breasts. Half of these women were then randomly assigned to have five annual screening mammograms, while the others made up the control group and received no further clinical exams.
In total, 3,250 women in the mammography group and 3,133 in the control group developed breast cancer. However, the mortality rate between the two groups was very similar: 500 women in the screening group died, compared to 505 in the control group.
One of the key arguments against mammography is overdiagnosis, or finding tumours that would never develop into cancers that cause symptoms or death. In this study, the researchers found that mammography overdiagnosed by 22%.
However, as the study authors note, these results will not automatically apply to all countries. The breast screening programmes in the UK are targeted at an older age range and use a three year schedule instead of annual. This is reiterated by Sally Greenbrook, Senior Policy Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, who said: “This is a Canadian study specifically looking at the impact of annual breast screening. In the UK, women aged between 50 and 70 years are invited for breast screening every three years, so while this research is interesting, it’s difficult to see how it applies to the UK setting.
“We know that there is much confusion around the benefits of breast screening and it is essential that all women have balanced information about the risks and benefits of breast screening to ensure they can make an informed decision.”
Early onset of puberty could increase an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer
Data from Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Generations Study has shown that early onset of puberty could lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.
The Breakthrough Generations Study started in 2004 and will follow more than 113,000 UK women over 40 years. Everyone who takes part completes detailed questionnaires about their lifestyle, as well as giving blood samples to provide information about their genetics, so the genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that may change a women’s risk of developing breast cancer can all be investigated.
This particular piece of research, published online in Breast Cancer Research, considered how puberty could affect an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer. It has been thought for some time that early life events, such as the cellular and hormonal changes that occur during puberty, could trigger the early stages of breast cancer. However, little is known about the way this could affect an individual’s risk of developing the disease.
For the first time, this study has found that developing breasts at 10 years old or younger, compared to age 11 or 12, increases breast cancer risk by 20%. They also found that an increased risk was associated with women who had a gap of two or more years between breast development and their first period.
Dr Matthew Lam, Research Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “Puberty may have an impact on breast cancer risk because during this time there is a rapid increase in the number of developing cells, which are more susceptible to becoming cancerous. Drastic changes in the level of hormones, such as oestrogen, could also play an important role. This study shows that the timing of different events during puberty can contribute to an individual’s risk of breast cancer, however, the role of puberty in determining breast cancer risk is incredibly complex and not necessarily associated with any one particular event.
“As we learn more, the implications of this research mean that we could one day have the ability to identify people at a very young age that may be at increased risk of developing breast cancer which would be a huge leap forward. We also hope to be able to spot new ways to detect early stages of the disease based on these findings.”
For more information, please see Breakthrough Breast Cancer