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Thursday, July 29, 2010

What are the symptoms of Breast Cancer?

What are the symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Screening for breast cancer by mammography (X-raying the breast) is offered every three years in the UK to all women between 50 and 64. The highest number of cases of breast cancer occurs in women between these ages.

Mammography can detect very early breast tumours, when they are too small to be felt. In fact, most of the breast cancers detected by screening are at this very early stage, when they are relatively easy to cure. Studies have shown that women who take part in screening are more likely to have breast cancer diagnosed early and more likely to have it cured and, as a result, are less likely to die from it, than women who do not take part in mammography screening.

Another method of screening available to all women is to feel the breasts for any lumps. A guide on how to do this properly can be obtained at any doctor's surgery. Women should also check for the other main symptoms:

  • Change in the size or shape of a breast
  • Dimpling of the breast skin
  • The nipple becoming inverted
  • Swelling or a lump in the armpit

Vegetables and lower breast cancer risk

Cruciferous vegetables may help lower the risk of developing breast cancer, particularly for women who carry a particular gene variant linked to the disease.

American researchers studied more than 6,000 women and found that those with the highest intake of cabbage and white turnips had a somewhat lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer than those with the lowest intake. The findings add to evidence that compounds in cruciferous vegetables may help fight cancer. Cabbage, white turnips, broccoli, cauliflower and kale contain certain compounds that the body converts into substances called isothiocyanates, which are thought to have anti-cancer effects.

High consumption of cabbage and white turnips were linked to a moderately lower breast cancer risk. But the apparent benefit was stronger among women who carried two copies of a particular variant of a gene called GSTP1. Among these women, those with the highest intake of any cruciferous vegetables had about half the risk of breast cancer as those who ate the fewest.

GSTP1 is an enzyme that helps detoxify the body of potentially cancer-causing substances. Some studies have suggested that having a particular form of the gene - the Val variant - may raise a woman's risk of breast cancer. The current study found that women who carried two copies of the Val variant did, in fact, have a higher risk of developing breast cancer before menopause than women who had other variants in the GSTP1 gene. But the excess risk was cut substantially in those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables.

It's possible that people who carry two Val variants of the GSTP1 gene excrete the beneficial isothiocyanates more quickly, and eating more cruciferous vegetables helps counter this. However, more research is needed to better understand how cruciferous vegetables might modify breast cancer risk.
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