African American women have higher rates of a type of breast cancer that isn’t dependent for growth on the hormones estrogen or progesterone. They also have a higher rate of childbearing than do white American women.
A new study finds there is likely a link between those two facts – that bearing a baby to term raises the risk for this type of cancer, called estrogen or progesterone receptor-negative breast cancer.
The study also finds that black women who breastfeed their babies can lower their odds of developing this cancer back down again.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, followed a group of 47,000 African American women from 1996 through 2009. Researchers had participants fill out, every two years, a detailed questionnaire assessing a wide range of factors that affect a woman’s risk for breast cancer — including weight, age at which they began menstruating, pregnancies and age of first childbearing, birth control or hormone-replacement use, physical activity and alcohol consumption.
What they found was that African American women who had given birth to more children were more likely to develop estrogen or progesterone-negative cancer than their peers who had not given birth or who had given birth to only one child. But when a woman with two or more childbirths breastfed her babies, that risk declined considerably.
The authors — epidemiologists from Boston University, Georgetown University and Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Rochester, N.Y. — surmised that given the prevalence of infectious diseases in Africa, women of African origins may respond to pregnancy with a particularly strong immune response, which in turn can allow cancers to gain a foothold in the body. Lactation, they noted, appears to blunt that effect.
Estrogen or progesterone receptor-negative breast cancers are less common than those that are fueled by those hormones, representing just one in four breast cancers. But they tend to be more aggressive and harder to treat.
Despite aggressive public health campaigns touting the benefits — to mother and child — of breastfeeding, the practice is less common among African American women than among white women. Future efforts to promote breastfeeding, wrote the authors, should let African American women know that moms who nurse their babies may also reduce their odds of developing a breast cancer that affects them disproportionately and is difficult to treat.
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When facing a cancer diagnosis, whether for yourself or a loved one, you know that cooking healthful, delicious food is not always easy. The body goes through various changes from the side effects of cancer and treatment that can affect taste buds, including a diminished appetite, limited foods that are appealing and changes to your taste and smell. Although the goal of cancer treatment is to destroy the cancer cells, normal cells can be damaged in the process, affecting how you feel. When going through treatment, each hour, each day and each week you can feel differently. As a person experiences these side effects, it is important to know the foods that are better tolerated and help to ease the symptoms.
The most common side effect of chemotherapy is loss of appetite, or anorexia, which can be a result of radiation, stress, depression and the cancer itself. Taste changes may also be an issue caused by treatment, resulting in flavor changes and or no taste at all.
Neutropenia, or low white blood cell count, occurs after chemotherapy treatments for most patients. Neutropenia normally lasts for three to seven days. As soon as your counts have returned to normal, you can return to a regular diet.
To decrease your risk of infection, avoid fresh fruits, vegetables, raw meat or fish during the time your blood counts are low.
A dry or sore mouth, caused by chemotherapy or radiation, can get sore seven to 10 days following certain chemotherapy treatments. Precaution and care in choosing foods must be taken to sooth this sensitive side effect. Practicing good oral hygiene can help tremendously. Soft foods should be readily available, while avoiding rough textured, spicy, pain inducing foods.
The gastrointestinal tract is often affected by cancer treatments, which can bring nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation along with it. Healthy well-tolerated high fiber foods are important for alleviating constipation, while low fiber foods are helpful for vomiting and diarrhea relief.
Maintaining adequate calories and nutrition during this time can be a difficult task, however it is very important to keep nutrition a priority for optimal health and strength, while incorporating nutrition therapy to help ease the side effects of your treatment.
Integrative Oncology is an important part of patient care at Radiotherapy Centers of Georgia.
Katie and Kim Messer are mother and daughter, facing cancer together. Katie is a Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer survivor. And, her daughter Kim is now facing stage IV breast cancer. Watch their moving story.
Today is the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis with stage-1 bilateral BC. I had a double mastectomy, two reconstruction surgeries, and a complete hysterectomy in 2010. I’m SO HAPPY to be on this end of it all. It was the toughest year of my life … and in other ways, the best. I discovered how much I was loved and cared for. THAT’S what pushed me into becoming a SURVIVOR!
Hard to believe it’s been a year ago today
that my life took an unexpected turn.
The phone-call that came April 1st, at mid-day
was my Dr., with a voice of deep concern.
I heard the diagnosis; it was far from good.
The biopsy results revealed cancer.
I had never imagined this likelihood
as I’d prayed, and awaited the answer.
I felt so forsaken, disbelieving, alone.
How could this be happening to ME?
What wrongs had I done, that I now must atone?
Would my life be cut short, needlessly?
I wanted to hope, yet I feared life’s quick end.
I lacked trust, and let doubts intrude.
But I was surrounded by hundreds of friends
whose love and prayers my own faith renewed.
Four surgeries later: pain, heartache, despair!
“Survival” seemed distant at best.
And yet, here I am, proof of healing and prayer;
knowing my life has been richly blessed.
Thank you, my beloved family and friends
for pushing and pulling me through.
You all stood beside me, through thick & through thin.
What would I have done without ANY of you?
That old voice of gloom? I no longer hear it.
I’m now a SURVIVOR & cancer-free!
God is healing my wounded body and spirit,
and I rejoice in the life left to me.
[by Ruth Andrews-Vreeland, April 1, 2011]
A moving 10 minute short about a climber’s journey to climb Mount Everest for his sister who died from a rare form of cancer and how he raised breast cancer awareness for a charity – www.climbingforacure.org.
You know their faces; you heard they had breast cancer. But do you know what really happened to these women? We’ve pulled together the details about how 10 of the world’s top performers and public figures endured breast cancer’s treatments and traumas——all while living in the public eye.
To read about their stories, click here.
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