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Study: High risk women may benefit from mammograms starting at age 40
April 30th, 2012
05:59 PM ET

Study: High risk women may benefit from mammograms starting at age 40

When to get a mammogram screening? Beginning at age 40? 50? Every year or every other year?  Recommendations over the past few years have been varied depending on which medical organization you look at.  Now two new studies suggest that women who are at increased risk for breast cancer will benefit from mammogram screenings every other year starting at age 40.

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More evidence long-term estrogen therapy raises breast cancer risk
April 3rd, 2012
03:24 PM ET

More evidence long-term estrogen therapy raises breast cancer risk

New research reveals that women who take any type of hormone replacement therapy for longer than 10 years may increase their risk of breast cancer.

Some women still use hormone replacement therapy to help ease unpleasant symptoms of menopause, which can include hot flashes, night sweats and memory problems.

Estrogen plus progesterone is prescribed for women who still have a uterus because research has shown that progesterone decreases the risk for cancer in the uterus lining. Women who no longer have a uterus because they’ve had a hysterectomy are treated with estrogen-only therapy.

Over the past decade research has gone back and forth about these drugs, raising concerns about their impact on breast cancer and heart disease. A study published just last month suggested estrogen might be good for you in the short term, but a new study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in Chicago this week is the first study to examine the effects of hormone replacement therapy for longer than 10 years.
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Cancer deaths lower, but some say not enough
January 4th, 2012
02:55 PM ET

Cancer deaths lower, but some say not enough

A new report from the American Cancer Society shows that death rates from cancer have been going down since 1999, with the risk of death from cancer declining by more than 1% in both men and women. About 1 million deaths from cancer have been avoided since around 1991.

That sounds promising, but it's not as good as it could be, says Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society and CNNHealth.com conditions expert.

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Should nuns be on the pill?
December 7th, 2011
06:50 PM ET

Should nuns be on the pill?

Catholic nuns take a vow of chastity, so you might not think that any sister would need to be on birth control.

But oral contraceptive pills have other uses besides preventing pregnancy; in fact, Catholic bioethicists say there is no inherent conflict in nuns (or any other Catholic) taking these very same substances for prescribed, therapeutic reasons, such as for treating heavy menstrual bleeding or endometriosis.

A new article in the journal The Lancet goes one step further. It argues that nuns "should be free to use the contraceptive pill to protect against the hazards of nulliparity” – that is, heightened cancer risk among women who do not bear children.

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Report: Certain environmental exposures can increase breast cancer risk
December 7th, 2011
06:04 PM ET

Report: Certain environmental exposures can increase breast cancer risk

A report,  released by the Institute of Medicine on Wednesday, says there are steps women can take to reduce their risk of getting breast cancer that is associated with environmental exposures. 

The IOM says there are several environmental factors that can increase a woman's chance of getting breast cancer.  According to the report, "Breast Cancer and the Environment," exposure to ionizing radiation (that's radiation associated with diagnostic tests such as mammograms, X-rays and CT-scans) is one such environmental factor.

Others include combination estrogen-progestin hormone therapy, oral contraceptives and weight gain - especially after menopause. Limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking, staying physically active and avoiding weight gain also help reduce the risk, the study found. When researchers talk about environmental factors, they are referring to anything that is not related to inherited DNA.

It is less clear how exposures in the workplace to things like gas fumes and car exhaust, or chemicals found in things like benzene (a solvent used to make lubricants, dyes, detergents and pesticides) or ethylene oxide, a chemical used in antifreeze, adhesives and even cosmetics add to the risk of getting breast cancer. The committee found that because there is such little testing on chemicals in cosmetics, dietary supplements and other products before they actually go to market, they were unable to draw conclusions as to whether minimizing exposure to these chemicals is actually beneficial.

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Radiologists say mammograms should start at 40
November 29th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Radiologists say mammograms should start at 40

When the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended in 2009 that routine breast cancer screenings should begin at age 50 instead of 40, controversy ensued about the benefits of screening for breast cancer and the age a woman should have her first mammogram.

Now a new study, presented at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago, found that women between the ages of 40 to 49 do have a high rate of developing breast cancer even if they don't have a family history of the illness.  

The study authors believe their results support the recommendation that annual screening mammograms begin at age 40, which other organizations like the American Cancer Society and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also endorse.
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FDA rejects Avastin for use against metastatic breast cancer
November 18th, 2011
02:03 PM ET

FDA rejects Avastin for use against metastatic breast cancer

The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it was revoking its approval of the drug Avastin for metastatic breast cancer after concluding that it has not been shown to be safe and effective for that use.

"The FDA recognizes how hard it is for patients and their families to cope with metastatic breast cancer and how great a need there is for more effective treatments. But patients must have confidence that the drugs they take are both safe and effective for their intended use," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who made the announcement.

“As a doctor, a woman and a parent, I know how frightening a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer can be and the need for good treatment, but after reviewing the available studies," she said, there is no evidence that Avastin does "help women with metastatic breast cancer live longer or improve their quality of life."

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Moms, you deserve to take care of yourselves
November 8th, 2011
07:08 AM ET

Moms, you deserve to take care of yourselves

Anthony Youn, M.D., is a plastic surgeon in Metro Detroit. He is the author of “In Stitches,” a humorous memoir about growing up Asian American and becoming a doctor.

When I imagine the stereotypical Korean mother, I think of my mom. If there were four servings of food left for our family of five, she’d promptly announce that she wasn’t hungry.

My wife, a pediatrician, spends all day taking care of other people’s kids, then all evening taking care of ours. I’ve encouraged both my mother and my wife to put their needs first once in a while, instead of always trying to take care of everyone else. It’s not selfish to occasionally put yourself first. I’ve learned that it can mean the difference between life and death.

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A drink a day increases breast cancer risk
November 1st, 2011
03:00 PM ET

A drink a day increases breast cancer risk

Even moderate drinking increases a woman’s breast cancer risk, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The research found as few as three to six glasses of wine a week increased the chance of developing breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer rose with the amount of alcohol consumed, the study found, with the best measure of risk being a woman’s cumulative alcohol consumption throughout her lifetime.

“This study doesn’t tell women, ‘Don’t drink at all,’” said Dr. Wendy Chen, lead author and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “It’s really what someone does on average over a long period of time, not what they did this past month, not what they did this past year.”

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October 28th, 2011
04:21 PM ET

Does diet really matter in breast cancer?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Asked by Katherine in California

Does diet really make a difference when it comes to breast cancer?

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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