Breast is best for women predisposed to breast cancer

A recent study headed by Helena Jernström, assistant Professor at Lund University, found that women who are genetically predisposed to breast cancer could almost halve their risk of contracting the disease by breastfeeding their little ones for over a year.

A previous international study revealed that the risk of breast cancer was reduced by 4% for women who breast-fed for 12 months and by 27% for women who were breast-feeding for 55 months or more. According to I-village, Chinese women who had breastfed for a total of six years or more over the course of their lives were found to have a 63% decrease in breast cancer incidence, compared to women who had never breastfed.

However, no large scale studies had yet examined the effect of breast-feeding on the likelihood of getting breast cancer among the high-risk group of women who carry mutations in the so-called breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 – and that’s what the team at Lund set out to discover.

To establish whether there was an association the team at Lund performed a matched ‘case-control’ study of women with mutations in either of the genes. The study involved 965 case subjects diagnosed with breast cancer and 965 control subjects who had no history of breast or ovarian cancer. On average, the time between diagnosis of breast cancer in the case subject and the completion of the study questionnaire was 8.2 years.

Unfortunately the reasons for not starting breastfeeding or for stopping breast-feeding were not recorded, but Jernström told TT that it was sometimes on doctor’s advice, and in direct relationship to the knowledge that there are relatives with breast cancer.

It is thought possible that women with BRCA1 mutations who have difficulty in breast-feeding are at greater risk for breast cancer than carriers who have no trouble breast-feeding. The team previously found that a high proportion of women who carry a BRCA1 mutation cited poor milk production as the main reason for weaning their infants compared with female relatives who do not carry a BRCA1 mutation.

The study concluded that women genetically predisposed to breast cancer can decrease their risk of contracting the disease by 45% if they breast feed for over a year cumulatively. However, among women who carried a BRCA2 mutation, breast-feeding was not associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Precisely how breast-feeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer for other women is unclear but may be related to changes in the mammary gland or to effects on breast estrogen levels.

Don’t swallow the drill

Just as you thought you’d mastered your fear of the dentist’s drill, Svenska Dagbladet reported that we’re surprisingly likely to swallow objects such as crowns, bridges and screwdrivers while we’re at the dentist’s.

A report from Umeå university estimates that up to 250 people per year end up biting off more than they can chew in dental terms. However, the report’s authors are convinced that dentists avoid reporting such cases, not unreasonably fearing bad publicity – and believe the risk could be be much higher. You have been warned.

PS: Screws and drills will come out the natural way, but the odd swallowed injection needle needed to be removed surgically.

Viagra rush cut short

Viagra lovers flocking to pharmacies to stock up on the anti-impotence drug faced frustration this week as the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that, along with another drug, Cialis, it must be priced at its normal rate – although the same court is expected to reinstate the drugs in the health service’s package of subsidised medication.

Only a week ago the Administrative court of appeal ordered the Pharmaceutical Benefits Board to allow the decision of the District Court to apply until the appeal is heard, allowing doctors to prescribe Viagra for patients whose medical conditions may cause impotence. It is unclear when the case will be heard at the Supreme Administrative Court: the battle of the impotence drugs has been raging for the past five years.

Lysanne Sizoo

Lysanne Sizoo is a certified Counsellor, specialising in bereavement, fertility and cultural assimilation issues. She also runs a support and discussion group for English speaking women. You can contact her on [email protected], or 08 717 3769. More information on