Skip to content

 Another large study looking at screening mammograms for breast cancer has raised the issue of overdiagnosis and overtreatment once again. The purpose of mammography screening is to find cancer when it is small and so prevent cancer from growing and becoming advanced cancer. However, the researchers did not find this - there was a major increase in finding small cancers (the kind that may grow so slowly as to never cause any problems or that may even regress), but the rate of advanced cancers stayed the same.

The problem of overdiagnosis (finding small tumors that may never cause problems) and overtreatment (treating unnecessarily), which is leading to medical experts "rethinking cancer screening" is a major shift in how cancer screening is being viewed for a number of cancers. This is because studies show that overall death rates are basically the same in screened vs non-screened persons for mammography, colon, prostate, and lung cancer screening (see post). The view of how cancer grows and spreads may have to be reexamined and changed. One possibility suggested by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch is that aggressive cancer is already "a systemic disease by the time it's detectable" (Oct. 28, 2015 post).

The following excerpts are from the thoughtful review of the study in Health News Review: Overdiagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ: ‘the pathology equivalent of racial profiling’

Danish researchers are providing new evidence that many breast cancers found via screening mammograms don’t need to be treated. Women with these non-threatening tumors are said to be “overdiagnosed” with breast cancerOverdiagnosis occurs when breast screening such as mammography detects small, slow-growing cancers that may never cause the patient any trouble. Yet, women diagnosed with such tumors are exposed to very real harms–possible surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and living life as a “cancer patient.”

How much overdiagnosis are we talking about? If you don’t include cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in the tallies, anywhere from 14.7% to 38.6% of breast cancers found via screening represent overdiagnosis, the study authors found. The rate ranges from 24.4% to as high as 48.3% when DCIS is included.

DCIS is a collection of abnormal cells inside a milk duct that may–but usually doesn’t–break out to become invasive and potentially lethal cancer. About 60,000 women are told they have DCIS each year in the United States. Some experts estimate that up to 80% of women with DCIS found via screening may not need any treatment at all–and instead should just keep an eye on things. Obviously, women need to be fully and accurately informed about the benefits and risks — including the risk of overdiagnosis — before embarking on any decision to get screened for breast cancer or choosing a course of action following a diagnosis.

Otis Brawley, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society, says it’s been difficult for modern medicine to wrap its brain around the concept of overdiagnosis. The natural inclination is to assume that cancerous-looking cells “will grow, spread, and eventually kill,” he writes in an editorial accompanying the Danish study. “However, some of these lesions may be genomically predetermined to grow no further and may even regress. In many respects, considering all small breast lesions to be deadly and aggressive types of cancer is the pathologic equivalent of racial profiling.

Excerpts from the original study from the Annals of Internal Medicine: Breast Cancer Screening in Denmark: A Cohort Study of Tumor Size and Overdiagnosis

Background: Effective breast cancer screening should detect early-stage cancer and prevent advanced disease. Objective: To assess the association between screening and the size of detected tumors and to estimate overdiagnosis (detection of tumors that would not become clinically relevant).... Setting: Denmark from 1980 to 2010. Participants: Women aged 35 to 84 years. Intervention: Screening programs offering biennial mammography for women aged 50 to 69 years beginning in different regions at different times.

Conclusion: Breast cancer screening was not associated with a reduction in the incidence of advanced cancer. It is likely that 1 in every 3 invasive tumors and cases of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) diagnosed in women offered screening represent overdiagnosis (incidence increase of 48.3%).

Breast screening is associated with a substantial increase in the incidence of nonadvanced tumors and DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) in Denmark but not with a reduction in the incidence of advanced tumors, and the overdiagnosis rate is substantial. These findings support that screening has not accomplished the promise of a reduction in invasive therapy or disease-specific mortality.

 Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in a variety of cancers (herehere, and here). Now a study found that vitamin D levels are linked to the long-term outcome in women with breast cancer. Researchers found that after 7 years, women with the highest levels of vitamin D had about a 30 percent better likelihood of survival from breast cancer than women with the lowest levels of vitamin D, The study put women into one of three groups based on their levels of vitamin D (as measured in the blood 2 months after the initial breast cancer diagnosis): deficient - levels below 20.0 ng/mL; insufficient - 20.0 to 29.9 ng/mL; and sufficient - greater than or equal to 30.0 ng/mL. They found that almost half of the women were vitamin D deficient, and another third were insufficient.

The researchers said the findings "provide compelling observational evidence for inverse associations between vitamin D levels and risk of breast cancer progression and death". In other words, the higher the vitamin D levels, the better the outcome. NOTE: Good vitamin D levels can usually be obtained with one 1000 IU supplement of vitamin D3 per day. Or expose bare skin to sunlight - after all, it is called the "sunshine vitamin". From Medical Xpress:

Higher vitamin D levels associated with better outcomes in breast cancer survivors

Women with higher vitamin D levels in their blood following a breast cancer diagnosis had significantly better long-term outcomes, according to new research from Kaiser Permanente and Roswell Park Cancer Institute....Vitamin D is a nutrient best known for its role in maintaining healthy bones; conversely, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with the risk for several cancers.

Common sources of vitamin D include sun exposure, fatty fish oils, vitamin supplements, and fortified milks and cereals. While the mechanisms for how vitamin D influences breast cancer outcomes are not well understood, researchers believe it may be related to its role in promoting normal mammary-cell development, and inhibiting the reproduction of and promoting the death of cancer cells.

"We found that women with the highest levels of vitamin D levels had about a 30 percent better likelihood of survival than women with the lowest levels of vitamin D," said Lawrence H. Kushi, ScD....principal investigator of Kaiser Permanente's Pathways study of breast cancer survivorship. The current study included 1,666 Pathways study members who provided samples between 2006 and 2013....had a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer in 2006. Participants provided blood samples within two months of diagnosis and answered questions about diet, lifestyle and other risk factors, with follow-ups at six months and at two, four, six and eight years.

"With the extremely rich data sources from a large sample size, we were able to prospectively analyze three major breast cancer outcomes—recurrence, second primary cancer and death," said Song Yao, PhD, associate professor of oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the study's lead author....In addition to lower overall mortality among all breast cancer survivors studied, the researchers found even stronger associations among premenopausal women in the highest third of vitamin D levels for breast-cancer-specific (63 percent better), recurrence-free (48 percent better) and invasive-disease-free survival (42 percent better), during a median follow up of seven years. [Original study]

More bad news about BPA (bisphenol A) - an endocrine disrupter linked to a number of health problems, including reproductive disorders (here, here, and here). A new study has lent support for a  link between bisphenol A (BPA) exposure during pregnancy and later breast cancer. BPA can cross the placenta in the womb, and so expose the fetus, it has been found in placental tissue, and newborns can be exposed through breastfeeding. BPA is found in the urine of about 95% of the U.S. population.

It's hard to avoid BPA because it's found in so many products, but a person can lower exposure to it by avoiding canned products (it's in the can linings), as well as plastic bottles and containers, microwaving or heating food in plastic containers, and fast food (it's in the packaging and leaches into the food) . Glass and stainless steel is OK for storing food. By the way, BPA substitutes such as BPS  and BPSIP have the same negative health effects (because they're chemically similar) - so also avoid "BPA-free" products. From Endocrine News;

A Pervasive Threat: The Danger of in utero BPA Exposure

A new study presented at ENDO [Endocrine Society] 2016 revealed a possible link between bisphenol A exposure in utero to breast cancer later in life. In the process, the researchers created a new bioassay that can test chemicals much faster than typical animal studies. Almost every single person alive today has detectable amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in his or her body, according to the 2015 joint Endocrine Society/IPEN publication Introduction to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs): A Guide for Public Interest Organizations and Policy-Makers.

These EDCs — phthalates (plasticizers), bisphenol A (BPA), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and others, in their bodies — are hormone-like industrial chemicals that did not even exist 100 or so years ago. Studies on human populations consistently demonstrate associations between the presence of certain chemicals and higher risks of endocrine disorders such as impaired fertility, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer.

The xenoestrogen BPA is especially prevalent as a component used in rigid plastic products such as compact discs, food and beverage containers, food and formula can linings, and glossy paper receipts. In the case of food containers, when they are heated or scratched, the BPA can seep out into the food and then be ingested. BPA also escapes from water pipes, dental materials, cosmetics, and household products among others and is released into the environment or directly consumed. According to research, such exposures help account for why BPA has been found in the urine of a representative sample of 95% of the U.S. population.

Notably, BPA can cross the placenta in the womb, indirectly exposing the fetus — it has been found in both maternal and fetal serum as well as neonatal placental tissue. Newborns can also be directly exposed through breastfeeding.

The results of a study presented at ENDO 2016 provide compelling support for the idea that fetal exposure to BPA might increase risk for development of breast cancer in adulthood; in fact, it may explain why overall incidence increased in the 20th century. Lucia Speroni, PhD, a research associate and member of the Soto-Sonnenschein lab at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and the study’s lead investigator, reports, “We found that BPA acts directly on the mammary gland and that this effect is dose dependent: A low dose significantly increased ductal growth, whereas a high dose decreased it.”

“Because these effects are similar to those found when exposing the fetus through its mother, our experiment suggests that BPA acts directly on the fetal mammary gland, causing changes to the tissue that have been associated with a higher predisposition to breast cancer later in life,” Speroni explains. In replicating the process of mammary gland development in vitro, this method additionally allows for live observation throughout the whole process.....The lab team had previously shown that the most harmful time for exposure to BPA is during fetal development by causing alterations in the developing mammary gland.

  Yikes! A good reason to lose weight now rather than years from now, and the importance of not ignoring a weight gain (you know, over the years as the pounds slowly creep up). The researchers found that for every 10 years of being overweight as an adult, there was an associated 7% increase in the risk for all obesity-related cancers. The degree of overweight (dose-response) during adulthood was important in the risk of developing cancer, especially for endometrial cancer. This study just looked at postmenopausal women, so it is unknown if it applies to men. From Medscape:

Longer Duration of Overweight Increases Cancer Risk in Women

A longer duration of being overweight during adulthood significantly increased the incidence of all cancers that are associated with obesity, a new study in postmenopausal women has concluded. The large population-based study was published August 16 in PLoS Medicine.

Dr Arnold and colleagues found that for every 10 years of being overweight as an adult, there was an associated 7% increase in the risk for all obesity-related cancers. The risk was highest for endometrial cancer (17%) and kidney cancer (16%). For breast cancer, the increased risk was 5%, but no significant associations were found for rectal, liver, gallbladder, pancreatic, ovarian, and thyroid cancer.

When the authors took into account the degree of excess weight over time, the risks were further increased, and there were "clear dose-response relationships," they note. Again, the risk was highest for endometrial cancer. For each additional decade spent with a body mass index (BMI) that was 10 units above normal weight, there was a 37% increase in the risk for endometrial cancer.

Study Details: The researchers used data from the huge American Women's Health Initiative (WHI) trial of postmenopausal women (aged 50 to 79 years at time of study enrollment). For this analysis, the team focused on a cohort of 73,913 postmenopausal women. During a mean follow-up of 12.6 years, 6301 obesity-related cancers were diagnosed. About 40% (n = 29,770) of women in the cohort were never overweight during their adult life....Women who were ever overweight were on average overweight for about 30 years, while those who were ever obese had been so for an average of 20 years. The authors found that the risk of being diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer rose for every 10 years of being overweight.

 Get active, really active, to reduce your risk for 5 diseases: breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, and ischemic stroke. Instead of the 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes per week of running (which is equal to the 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes now recommended by the World Health Organization), this study found that much more exercise is needed for best health results.

This study (which was a review and analysis of 174 studies) found that there is a dose-response effect, with the most reduction in the risk of the 5 conditions by getting 3000 to 4000 MET minutes per week. This sounds like a lot, but the researchers  point out that this can be achieved by incorporating exercise into your daily routines. The researchers write: "A person can achieve 3000 MET minutes/week by incorporating different types of physical activity into the daily routine—for example, climbing stairs 10 minutes, vacuuming 15 minutes, gardening 20 minutes, running 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for transportation 25 minutes on a daily basis would together achieve about 3000 MET minutes a week."

So start thinking creatively about how to increase exercise or activity into your daily life, especially moderate or vigorous intensity activity. For example, park your car far from the store door, or better yet, bicycle or walk to the store from home. From Medscape:

Get Moving: High Physical-Activity Level Reduces Risk of 5 Diseases

High levels of physical activity can reduce the risk for five major diseases, including type 2 diabetes, new research shows. Findings from the systematic review and meta-analysis were published online ....The data, from a total 174 studies comprising 149,184,285 total person-years of follow-up, suggest that the more total regular daily physical activity one engages in — including recreation, transportation, occupational activity, and/or daily chores — the lower the risks for breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke.

However, significant reductions in those conditions were seen only with total activity levels considerably higher than the minimum 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes per week recommended by the World Health Organization for health benefits. That 600 METs equates to about 150 minutes/week of brisk walking or 75 minutes/week of running. (A MET is defined as the ratio of the metabolic rate during that activity to the metabolic rate when resting.) Risks of the five conditions dropped significantly with an increase in MET minutes per week from 600 to 3000 to 4000, with less additive benefit seen above that level.

For reference, the authors say, "a person can achieve 3000 MET minutes/week by incorporating different types of physical activity into the daily routine — for example, climbing stairs 10 minutes, vacuuming 15 minutes, gardening 20 minutes, running 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for transportation 25 minutes on a daily basis would together achieve about 3000 MET minutes a week." "This amount might seem a bit large, but this is about total activity across all domains of life.…For people who currently don't exercise, clinicians could encourage them to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines, [such as] turning household chores into exercise. 

Another recent meta-analysis of trials involving more than one million individuals indicated that an hour of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking or cycling, offsets the health risks of 8 hours of sitting. The message that physical inactivity is a killer — leading to 5.3 million premature deaths annually worldwide, which is as many as caused by smoking and twice as many as associated with obesity, has been emerging over the past few years, with warnings that "sitting is the new smoking."

This new research is the first meta-analysis to quantify the dose-response association between total physical activity across all domains and the risk of five chronic diseases. The 174 prospective cohort studies included 35 for breast cancer, 19 for colon cancer, 55 for diabetes, 43 for ischemic heart disease, and 26 for ischemic stroke. (Some included more than one end point.)....Higher levels of total physical activity were associated with lower risks of all five outcomes.

With the development of diabetes, for example, compared with no physical activity, those with 600 MET minutes per week (the minimum recommended level of activity) had a 2% lower risk. That risk reduction jumped by an additional 19% with an increase from 600 to 3600 METs/week. Gains were smaller above that, with the increase of total activity from 9000 to 12,000 MET minutes/week yielding only an additional 0.6% diabetes reduction.

Overall, compared with insufficiently active individuals (total activity < 600 MET minutes/week), the risk reduction for those in the highly active category (≥ 8000 MET minutes/week) was 14% for breast cancer; 21% for colon cancer; 28% for diabetes; 25% for ischemic heart disease; and 26% for ischemic stroke

 Credit: Medscape

A medical article in the journal Addiction states that there is strong evidence that alcohol causes 7 cancers, that there is evidence that it probably causes more, the effects are dose related, and if one also smokes the risks are greatly increased. The 7 cancers are: oropharynx (mouth and pharynx), larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and female breast. An earlier post reported on conflicting results from some studies (e.g. that low to moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial), as well as the finding that effects are dose-related (the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher the risk of cancer). NOTE: One standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, and is equivalent to one ordinary beer, a small glass of wine (100 mls or 5 oz) or a nip of spirits (30 mls). The article excerpts below state that the strongest effects are from consuming 50 grams or more of alcohol per day (compared to those who don't drink at all). From Medscape:

No Confusion: Alcohol Causes Seven Cancers

There is "strong evidence" that alcohol causes seven cancers, and other evidence indicates that it "probably" causes more, according to a new literature review published online July 21 in Addiction. Epidemiologic evidence supports a causal association of alcohol consumption and cancers of the oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and female breast, says Jennie Connor, MB, ChB, MPH, from the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, in Dunegin, New Zealand.

In short, alcohol causes cancer. This is not news, says Dr Connor. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and other agencies have long identified alcohol consumption as being causally associated with these seven cancers. So why did Dr Connor, who is an epidemiologist and physician, write a new review? Because she wants to "clarify the strength of the evidence" in an "accessible way." 

The newly published review "reinforces the need for the public to be made aware of the causal link between alcohol and cancer," said Colin Shevills, from the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, in a press statement....The lack of clarity about alcohol causing cancer, Dr Connor believes, is related to alcohol industry propaganda as well as the fact that the "epidemiological basis for causal inference is an iterative process that is never completed fully."

Dr Connor writes that the strength of the association of alcohol as a cause of cancer varies by bodily site. The evidence is "particularly strong" for cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and esophagus (relative risk, ~4-7 for ≥50 g/day of alcohol compared with no drinking) but is less so for colorectal cancer and liver and breast cancer (relative risk, ~1.5 for ≥50 g/day). "For cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and oesophagus there is a well-recognized interaction of alcohol with smoking, resulting a multiplicative effect on risk," adds Dr Connor.

Other cancers are also likely caused by alcohol. Dr Connor writes that there is "accumulating research" supporting a causal contribution of alcohol to cancer of the pancreas, prostate, and skin (melanoma). One British expert had an opinion about alcohol's carcinogenicity. In a statement about the new review, Prof Dorothy Bennett, director of the Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute at St. George's, University of London, said: "Alcohol enters cells very easily, and is then converted into acetaldehyde, which can damage DNA and is a known carcinogen."

In the new review, Dr Connor describes various hallmarks of causality that have been found in epidemiologic studies of alcohol and these seven cancers, such as a dose-response relationship and the fact that the risk for some of these cancers (esophageal, head and neck, and liver) attenuates when drinking ceases. Current estimates suggest that alcohol-attributable cancers at the seven cancer sites make up 5.8% of all cancer deaths worldwide, she states. The alcohol industry has a lot at stake, she says, which in turn leads to "misinformation" that "undermines research findings and contradicts evidence-based public health messages."

But there is no safe level of drinking with respect to cancer, says Dr Connor, citing research about low to moderate levels of alcohol, which has been covered by Medscape Medical News. This was also the conclusion of the 2014 World Cancer Report, issued by the World Health Organization's IARC.

 Amazing!  Researchers found that the bacteria found in breast cancer patients and healthy patients are different. (See post on their earlier work on breast microbiome.) And not only that, but the types of bacteria (Lactobacillus and Streptococcus) that are more prevalent in the breasts of healthy women are considered "beneficial" and may actually protect them from breast cancer. Meanwhile, elevated levels of the bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis found in the breast tissue adjacent to tumors are the kind that do harm (e.g., known to induce double-stranded breaks in DNA) . This research raises the question: could probiotics (beneficial bacteria) protect breasts from cancer? From Science Daily:

Beneficial bacteria may protect breasts from cancer

Bacteria that have the potential to abet breast cancer are present in the breasts of cancer patients, while beneficial bacteria are more abundant in healthy breasts, where they may actually be protecting women from cancer, according to Gregor Reid, PhD, and his collaborators. These findings may lead ultimately to the use of probiotics to protect women against breast cancer. The research is published in the ahead of print June 24 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

In the study, Reid's PhD student Camilla Urbaniak obtained breast tissues from 58 women who were undergoing lumpectomies or mastectomies for either benign (13 women) or cancerous (45 women) tumors, as well as from 23 healthy women who had undergone breast reductions or enhancements. They used DNA sequencing to identify bacteria from the tissues, and culturing to confirm that the organisms were alive. 

Women with breast cancer had elevated levels of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis, are known to induce double-stranded breaks in DNA in HeLa cells, which are cultured human cells. "Double-strand breaks are the most detrimental type of DNA damage and are caused by genotoxins, reactive oxygen species, and ionizing radiation," the investigators write. The repair mechanism for double-stranded breaks is highly error prone, and such errors can lead to cancer's development.

Conversely, Lactobacillus and Streptococcus, considered to be health-promoting bacteria, were more prevalent in healthy breasts than in cancerous ones. Both groups have anticarcinogenic properties. For example, natural killer cells are critical to controlling growth of tumors, and a low level of these immune cells is associated with increased incidence of breast cancer. Streptococcus thermophilus produces anti-oxidants that neutralize reactive oxygen species, which can cause DNA damage, and thus, cancer.

The motivation for the research was the knowledge that breast cancer decreases with breast feeding, said Reid. "Since human milk contains beneficial bacteria, we wondered if they might be playing a role in lowering the risk of cancer. Or, could other bacterial types influence cancer formation in the mammary gland in women who had never lactated? To even explore the question, we needed first to show that bacteria are indeed present in breast tissue." (They had showed that in earlier research.)

But lactation might not even be necessary to improve the bacterial flora of breasts. "Colleagues in Spain have shown that probiotic lactobacilli ingested by women can reach the mammary gland," said Reid. "Combined with our work, this raises the question, should women, especially those at risk for breast cancer, take probiotic lactobacilli to increase the proportion of beneficial bacteria in the breast? To date, researchers have not even considered such questions, and indeed some have balked at there being any link between bacteria and breast cancer or health."

Besides fighting cancer directly, it might be possible to increase the abundance of beneficial bacteria at the expense of harmful ones, through probiotics, said Reid. Antibiotics targeting bacteria that abet cancer might be another option for improving breast cancer management, said Reid. In any case, something keeps bacteria in check on and in the breasts, as it does throughout the rest of the body, said Reid. "What if that something was other bacteria--in conjunction with the host immune system?

Surprising results (to me at least) from research comparing various diets and incidence of several cancers in 11,082 individuals in the Netherlands over a 20 year period. I expected the daily meat eaters to have higher rates of the 3 cancers studied, but no....

Their main conclusion: vegetarians, pescetarians (no meat, but does eat fish), and low-meat consumers did not have a reduced risk of lung, postmenopausal breast, and overall prostate cancer when compared with individuals consuming meat on a daily basis. This is after taking confounders such as smoking into account (because smokers have higher rates of cancers such as lung cancer). The researchers do point out that some other similar studies had mixed results, but that perhaps those studies did not take confounders (variables that distort the results) such as smoking, physical activity levels, alcohol consumption, etc. into account. From the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

Vegetarianism, low meat consumption and the risk of lung, postmenopausal breast and prostate cancer in a population-based cohort study

The few prospective studies that examined lung, female breast and prostate cancer risk in vegetarians have yielded mixed results, whereas none have studied the effects of low meat diets. Moreover, little is known about the explanatory role of (non-) dietary factors associated with these diets.The Netherlands Cohort Study—Meat Investigation Cohort (NLCS-MIC)— is an analytical cohort of 11,082 individuals including 1133 self-reported vegetarians (aged 55–69 years at baseline). At baseline (1986), subjects completed a questionnaire on dietary habits and other risk factors for cancer and were classified into vegetarians (n=691), pescetarians (n=389), 1 day per week (n=1388), 2–5 days per week (n=2965) and 6–7 days per week meat consumers (n=5649).

After 20.3 years of follow-up, 279 lung, 312 postmenopausal breast and 399 prostate cancer cases (including 136 advanced) were available for analyses. After adjustment for confounding variables, we found no statistically significant association between meat consumption groups and the risk of lung cancer. As well, no significant associations were observed for postmenopausal breast and overall prostate cancer. After adjustment for confounders, individuals consuming meat 1 day per week were at a 75% increased risk of advanced prostate cancer compared with 6–7 days per week meat consumers.

Vegetarians, pescetarians and 1 day per week meat consumers did not have a reduced risk of lung, postmenopausal breast and overall prostate cancer compared with individuals consuming meat on a daily basis after taking confounders into account.

Although vegetarian diets are primarily defined by the absence of meat and fish, they are also shown to be associated with high intakes of fruits and vegetables and a favorable distribution of non-dietary factors.1, 2 Consequently, vegetarian diets may reduce the risk of different types of cancers through multiple mechanisms, depending on the etiology and preventability of the tumor.3, 4

We previously reported a nonsignificantly reduced risk of vegetarian and low meat diets on colorectal, and especially rectal, cancer5 and set out to study its effect on three other major cancers. Although meat consumption has been hypothesized to be implicated in the etiology of lung, female breast and prostate cancer, data are not consistent across studies and meat subtypes.6, 7, 8However, on the basis of the existing body of literature, vegetarians may be at a lower risk of developing lung cancer (because of lower smoking rates) and to postmenopausal breast cancer (because of lower alcohol consumption, lower body mass index and higher physical activity levels).

Results from this prospective cohort study showed that, in age- and sex-adjusted models, vegetarians and pescetarians were at a reduced risk of lung cancer compared with individuals consuming meat on a daily basis. This effect disappeared after taking confounders, especially smoking, into account. We did not observe an association between the meat consumption group and the risk of post-menopausal breast and overall prostate cancer.

Our null findings regarding post-menopausal breast cancer risk are in line with other prospective studies comparing vegetarians with non-vegetarians and a pooled analysis of five cohort studies on breast cancer mortality. In contrast, the UK Women’s Cohort Study reported a lower post-menopausal breast cancer risk among non-meat consumers compared with high meat consumers,14 although this was not observed in their dietary pattern analyses.15 Vegetarian diets are rich in fiber and soy. Fiber was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in a meta-analysis of prospective studies,19 and soy contains isoflavones, which have previously been associated with a significant reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in Asian populations.20 However, compared with the average soy intake in four Asian countries (ranging from 38 to 134 g/day21), the soy product intake among vegetarians in our population was likely too low to exert an effect (~15g per day).

 A recent study pooled the data from over a million Europeans and Americans and found that higher levels of leisure-time physical activity was associated with a reduced risk of developing cancer in 13 of the 26 cancers looked at. For that group of 13 cancers, the cancer risk reduction ranged from 10% to 42%. And most of these associations (leisure-time physical activity and lower risk of cancer) were evident regardless of body size or smoking history. Bottom line: getting active may lower your cancer risk. From Science Daily:

Physical activity associated with lower risk for many cancers

Higher levels of leisure-time physical activity were associated with lower risks for 13 types of cancers, according to a new study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine. Physical inactivity is common, with an estimated 51 percent of people in the United States and 31 percent of people worldwide not meeting recommended physical activity levels. Any decrease in cancer risk associated with physical activity could be relevant to public health and cancer prevention efforts.

Steven C. Moore, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., and coauthors pooled data from 12 U.S. and European cohorts (groups of study participants) with self-reported physical activity (1987-2004). They analyzed associations of physical activity with the incidence of 26 kinds of cancer.The study included 1.4 million participants and 186,932 cancers were identified during a median of 11 years of follow-up.

The authors report that higher levels of physical activity compared to lower levels were associated with lower risks of 13 of 26 cancers: esophageal adenocarcinoma (42 percent lower risk); liver (27 percent lower risk); lung (26 percent lower risk); kidney (23 percent lower risk); gastric cardia (22 percent lower risk); endometrial (21 percent lower risk); myeloid leukemia (20 percent lower risk); myeloma (17 percent lower risk); colon (16 percent lower risk); head and neck (15 percent lower risk), rectal (13 percent lower risk); bladder (13 percent lower risk); and breast (10 percent lower risk). Most of the associations remained regardless of body size or smoking history, according to the article. Overall, a higher level of physical activity was associated with a 7 percent lower risk of total cancer.

Physical activity was associated with a 5 percent higher risk of prostate cancer and a 27 percent higher risk of malignant melanoma, an association that was significant in regions of the U.S. with higher levels of solar UV radiation but not in regions with lower levels, the results showed.

The authors note the main limitation of their study is that they cannot fully exclude the possibility that diet, smoking and other factors may affect the results. Also, the study used self-reported physical activity, which can mean errors in recall."These findings support promoting physical activity as a key component of population-wide cancer prevention and control efforts," the authors conclude.

 For the first time ever, one type of cancer has been reclassified as a non-cancer. An international panel of pathologists and clinicians has reclassified a type of thyroid cancer to reflect that it is noninvasive and has a low risk for recurrence.The panel renamed encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (EFVPTC) as noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTP). There has been concern for a while of the costs (financial, physical, and mental) of the overdiagnosis and overtreatment for something that won't spread (it's "indolent" and "low-risk").

There have been discussions for some time now in the medical community regarding the move away from the word "cancer" in the description of early stages of both breast and prostate cancer. In 2013, a medical team sanctioned by the National Cancer Institute proposed that a number of premalignant conditions, including ductal carcinoma in situ and high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, should no longer be called "cancer." Instead, the conditions should be labeled something more appropriate, such as indolent lesions of epithelial origin (IDLE), the group suggested. " Use of the term 'cancer' should be reserved for describing lesions with a reasonable likelihood of lethal progression if left untreated," the group said at the time.

From Futurity: NONINVASIVE THYROID ‘CANCER’ ISN’T CANCER

The reclassification of a noninvasive type of thyroid cancer that has a low risk of recurrence is expected to reduce the fears and the unnecessary interventions that come with a cancer diagnosis, experts say. The incidence of thyroid cancer has been rising partly due to early detection of tumors that are indolent or non-progressing, despite the presence of certain cellular abnormalities that are traditionally considered cancerous, says senior investigator Yuri Nikiforov, professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh.

“This phenomenon is known as overdiagnosis,” Nikiforov says. “To my knowledge, this is the first time in the modern era a type of cancer is being reclassified as a non-cancer. I hope that it will set an example for other expert groups to address nomenclature of various cancer types that have indolent behavior to prevent inappropriate and costly treatment.”

In particular, a tumor type known as encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (EFVPTC) has increased in incidence by an estimated two- to three-fold over the past 20 to 30 years and makes up 10 to 20 percent of all thyroid cancers diagnosed in Europe and North America. Although studies have shown EFVPTC is not dangerous, it is typically treated as aggressively as other types of thyroid cancer. At the recommendation of the National Cancer Institute, the panel sought to revise the terminology and to see if the word “cancer” could be dropped from its name.

As reported in JAMA Oncology, two dozen experienced pathologists from seven countries and four continents independently reviewed 268 tumor samples diagnosed as EFVPTC from 13 institutions....In a group of more than 100 noninvasive EFVPTCs, there were no recurrences or other manifestations of the disease at a median follow-up of 13 years. They decided to rename EFVPTC as “noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear featuresor NIFTP. The new name cites key features to guide pathologists in diagnosis, but omits the word “cancer,” indicating that it need not be treated with radioiodine or other aggressive approaches.

“We determined that if NIFTP is carefully diagnosed, the tumor’s recurrence rate is extremely low, likely less than 1 percent within the first 15 years,” Nikiforov says. “The cost of treating thyroid cancer in 2013 was estimated to exceed $1.6 billion in the US. Not only does the reclassification eliminate the psychological impact of the diagnosis of ‘cancer,’ it reduces the likelihood of complications of total thyroid removal, and the overall cost of health care.”