Mammograms Again Found to Have No Impact on Mortality

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Do annual mammograms save lives?

Several studies over the past few years have concluded that mammograms do not save lives, and may actually harm more women than they help, courtesy of false positives, overtreatment, and radiation-induced cancers.

According to research published in 2010, the reduction in mortality as a result of mammographic screening was so small as to be nonexistent — a mere 2.4 deaths per 100,000 person-years were spared.

Another study published in The Lancet Oncology in 2011 demonstrated, for the first time, that women who received the most breast screenings had a highercumulative incidence of invasive breast cancer over the following six years than the control group who received far less screenings.

Now, researchers from Harvard and Dartmouth have published a paper in which they present similar conclusions.

Mammograms Have No Impact on Breast Cancer Mortality

After analyzing cancer registry data from 16 million women in 547 counties across the United States, they found “no evident correlation between the extent of screening and 10-year breast cancer mortality.”

The researchers concluded that mammograms primarily find small, typically harmless, or non-lethal tumors, leading to widespread overdiagnosis.

As explained by Dr. Otis Webb Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society and author of the book, How We Do Harm, the term “overdiagnosis” in cancer medicine refers to:

“…a tumor that fulfills all laboratory criteria to be called cancer but, if left alone, would never cause harm. This is a tumor that will not continue to grow, spread, and kill. It is a tumor that can be cured with treatment but does not need to be treated and/or cured.”

Also, echoing results found in 2011, higher screening rates were associated with higher incidence of breast cancer. As reported by The LA Times:

“For every 10-percentage-point increase in screening rates, the incidence of breast cancer rose by 16 percent… That worked out to an extra 35 to 49 breast cancer cases for every 100,000 women…

The researchers also examined breast cancers according to their stage at diagnosis, a marker of a tumor’s aggressiveness. More screening was associated with a higher incidence of early-stage breast cancers but no change for later-stage tumors, according to the study.

How can this be?

‘The simplest explanation is widespread overdiagnosis, which increases the incidence of small cancers without changing mortality,’ the study authors wrote. ‘Even where there are 1.8 times as many cancers being diagnosed, mortality is the same.’”

To Screen or Not to Screen?

Clearly, the issue of breast cancer screening using mammography can be a deeply emotional one. Virtually all discussions relating to cancer are. A recent article in Forbes Magazine paints a vivid picture of most women’s fears, and warns of the dangers of not getting diagnosed in time.

While it needs to be an individual choice, I believe it can be valuable to take a step back and look at the big picture, which includes population-based statistics such as those presented above.

It’s also well worth investigating all available options and, of course, weigh the risks and benefits associated with each. As reported by Care2:

“[The] study authors… point to a balance of benefits and harms and believe mammography is likely most favorable when directed at women who are at high risk — not too rarely and not too frequently.

They also believe watchful waiting, rather than immediate active treatment, is probably a good option in some cases.”

A main objection to mammography is the fact that it uses ionizing radiation to take images of your breasts, and it’s a well-established fact that ionizing radiation can cause cancer.

So the idea that the “best” way for you to avoid dying from cancer is to expose yourself to cancer-promoting radiation at regular intervals for decades on end (in order to catch the cancer early) really falls short on logic — especially since there are non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques available.

Results published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2012 show that women carrying a specific gene mutation called BRCA1/2 are particularly vulnerable to radiation-induced cancer.

Women carrying this mutation who were exposed to diagnostic radiation before the age of 30 were twice as likely to develop breast cancer, compared to those who did not have the mutated gene.

They also found that the radiation-induced cancer was dose-responsive, meaning the greater the dose, the higher the risk of cancer developing. The authors concluded that:

“The results of this study support the use of non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques (such as magnetic resonance imaging) as the main tool for surveillance in young women with BRCA1/2 mutations.”

Mammograms Do Not Reduce Mortality Beyond That of Physical Examination

Last year, one of the largest and longest investigations into mammography was published.

It involved 90,000 women who were followed for 25 years, and it sent shockwaves through the medical industry when it reported that the death rates from breast cancer were virtually identical among women who got annual mammograms and those who did not.

Moreover, it found that mammography screening had harmful effects. As reported by The New York Times:

“One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman’s health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation.”

At the outset of the study, the women, aged 40-59, were randomly assigned to receive either five annual mammography screens, or an annual physical breast examination without mammography.Over the course of the study, 3,250 of the women who received mammography were diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to 3,133 in the non-mammography group.

Of those, 500 women in the mammography group, and 505 in the control group, died from the disease. However, after 15 years of follow-up, the mammography group had another 106 extra cancer diagnoses, which were attributed to overdiagnosis. According to the authors:

“Annual mammography in women aged 40-59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer beyond that of physical examination or usual care when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is freely available. Overall, 22 percent of screen detected invasive breast cancers were over-diagnosed, representing one over-diagnosed breast cancer for every 424 women who received mammography screening in the trial.”

The rate of overdiagnosis (22 percent) is virtually identical to that found in a 2012 Norwegian study, which found that as many as 25 percent of women are consistently overdiagnosed with breast cancer that, if left alone, would cause no harm. Other studies that have come to similar conclusions include the following:

  • In 2007, the Archives of Internal Medicine12 published a meta-analysis of 117 randomized, controlled mammogram trials. Among its findings: rates of false-positive results are high (20-56 percent after 10 mammograms)
  • A 2009 meta analysis by the Cochrane Database review13 found that breast cancer screening led to a 30 percent rate of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which increasedthe absolute risk of developing cancer by 0.5 percent.  The review concluded that for every 2,000 women invited for screening throughout a 10 year period, the life of just ONE woman was prolonged, while 10 healthy women were underwent unnecessary treatment.

 

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Mammograms can also miss the presence of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), mammograms miss up to 20 percent of breast cancers present at the time of screening. Your risk for a false negative is particularly great if you have dense breast tissue, and an estimated 49 percent of women do. Mammography’s sensitivity for dense breasts is as low as 27 percent, which means that about 75 percent of dense-breasted women are at risk for a cancer being missed if they rely solely on mammography. Even with digital mammography, the sensitivity is still less than 60 percent.

Considering the mortality rate from breast cancer is virtually identical whether you get an annual mammogram or an annual physical breast exam, it suggests physical examination can go a long way toward detecting a potential cancer. It certainly makes sense to familiarize yourself with your breasts and the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. If you notice any of the following symptoms, be sure to address it with your doctor, even if you’re not due for an annual checkup yet.

  • Lump in the breast (keep in mind that breast lumps are common, and most are not cancerous)
  • Pain or unusual tenderness or swelling in the breast
  • Retracted nipple
  • Nipple discharge
  • Vaginal pain
  • Dimpling of the breast surface, and/or “orange peel” skin texture
  • Visible veins on the breast
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (located in the armpit)
  • Unintentional weight loss

 

To learn about Breast Cancer prevention tips, and to read Dr. Mercola’s full article click here.


Vitamin D: The Wonder Vitamin That May Help You Prevent 16 Types of Cancer

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Can Vitamin D Reduce Breast Cancer by 77 Percent?

While more research is always welcome, Carole Baggerly, Director and Founder of GrassrootsHealth, is convinced that vitamin D can have a very real impact on cancer rates.

“[A] randomized trial… published in 2007 by Joan Lappe out of Creighton University… had a group of about 1,100 post-menopausal women who started out with no cancer (plus control group)… One group got [oral] vitamin D [and calcium] and the other got a placebo. At the end of four years, there was a 77 percent difference in cancer incidence between those that had the vitamin D and calcium versus the placebo.  So something is working,” she says.

Her conviction is not surprising when you consider that theories linking vitamin D to certain cancers have been tested and confirmed in more than 200 epidemiological studies, and understanding of its physiological basis stems from more than 2,500 laboratory studies, according to epidemiologist Cedric Garland, DrPH, professor of family and preventive medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. Here are just a few highlights into some of the most noteworthy findings:

  • Some 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancers could be prevented each year if vitamin D levels among populations worldwide were increased, according to previous research by Dr. Garland and colleagues. And that’s just counting the death toll for two types of cancer.
  • Optimizing your vitamin D levels could help you to prevent at least 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate, and skin cancers.
  • A large-scale, randomized, placebo-controlled study on vitamin D and cancer showed that vitamin D can cut overall cancer risk by as much as 60 percent. This was such groundbreaking news that the Canadian Cancer Society has actually begun endorsing the vitamin as a cancer-prevention therapy.
  • Light-skinned women who had high amounts of long-term sun exposure had half the risk of developing advanced breast cancer (cancer that spreads beyond your breast) as women with lower amounts of regular sun exposure, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
  • A study by Dr. William Grant, Ph.D., internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths — which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States — could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D.

 

Sun Exposure is the BEST Way to Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels

In a recent interview, Dr. Stephanie Seneff brought the importance of getting your vitamin D from sun exposure to a whole new level. I’ve consistently recommended getting your vitamin D from regular sun exposure whenever possible, and Dr. Seneff’s review of how vitamin D—specifically from sun exposure—is intricately tied to healthy cholesterol and sulfur levels, makes this recommendation all the more important.

However, when you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water soluble, unlike oral vitamin D3 supplements, which is unsulfated. The water soluble form can travel freely in your blood stream, whereas the unsulfated form needs LDL (the so-called “bad” cholesterol) as a vehicle of transport. Her suspicion is that the oral non-sulfated form of vitamin D may not provide all of the same benefits as the vitamin D created in your skin from sun exposure, because it cannot be converted to vitamin D sulfate.

I believe this is a very compelling reason to really make a concerted effort to get ALL your vitamin D requirements from exposure to sunshine, or by using a safe tanning bed (one with electronic ballasts rather than magnetic ballasts, to avoid unnecessary exposure to EMF fields). Safe tanning beds also have less of the dangerous UVA than sunlight, while unsafe ones have more UVA than sunlight. If neither of these are feasible options, then you should take an oral vitamin D3 supplement.

Carole agrees that sun exposure is ideal as it may also provide other health benefits that we simply don’t fully understand yet. Lack of sun exposure is also the very root of the problem. Vitamin D deficiency is, after all, a fairly recent health concern, historically speaking.

“I think it is obvious that the reason we have this deficiency is because we have become an industrialized nation,” she says. “… What we’ve done is we’ve come inside.  We cover up.  Even in San Diego where I live, when they measured my level it was 18 ng/ml.

When we did a scientific test of what it’s going to take to get enough sun in San Diego… at my age – age is a factor in how much you absorb – we came to a test conclusion that it was going take 15 to 20 minutes a day in the prime time of UV, between 10 am and 2 pm, each and every day… with 40 percent of my body exposed.  … I encourage people to take advantage of the sun.  The only message I have about the sun is: don’t burn.  That’s it.”

If You’re Taking an Oral Vitamin D Supplement, How Much Do You Need?

GrassrootsHealth has greatly contributed to the current knowledge on vitamin D through what’s called the D* Action Study.

“We just published our very first paper,” Carole says. “We have about 10 people in this study now that are taking 50,000 IU a day and they’re not reaching a potential toxicity level of 200 ng/ml.  It should be noted, however, that this is not a recommended intake level. The study reported data on about over 3,500 people.

… One very significant thing shown by this research was that even with taking the supplement, the curve for the increase in the vitamin D level is not linear. It is curvilinear and it flattens, which is why it’s even hard to get toxic with a supplement.”

Based on this research, it now appears as though most adults need about 8,000 IU’s of vitamin D a day in order to get their serum levels above 40 ng/ml.  Not only is this significantly higher than previously recommended, but this also means that even if you do not regularly monitor your vitamin D levels, your risk of overdosing is going to be fairly slim, even if you take as much as 8,000 IU’s a day. This is the type of vital information that is so sorely needed, and GrassrootsHealth is really serving an unprecedented service to all of mankind for facilitating this much needed research.

 

To read the full article, or watch Dr. Mercola’s interview with Carole Baggerly, click here.


Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Top Tips for Women’s Breast Health

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Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among American women between the age of 40-55, and the high prevalence has spawned a very lucrative industry; from mammography and other dangerous or invasive testing methods, to “preventive” double mastectomies and cancer drugs.

Much effort is placed on trying to detect cancer at an earlier stage. Unfortunately, the conventional recommendation to get regular mammograms has shown to be more harmful than helpful, as research shows 10 times as many women are harmed in some way compared to those whose lives are spared by annual mammograms.

Is there a better way to prevent becoming a statistic?

Yes, there is, says Dr. Christiane Northrup, a practicing physician and ob-gyn specialist who has dedicated a good portion of her life to helping women take control of their health.

Dr. Northrup is also a New York Times best-seller author, and is a prominent speaker on natural health issues, especially those related to women, for whom breast health is a major issue.

Having grown up in a health-conscious family where her father was a holistic dentist and her paternal aunt and uncle were conventional medical doctors, she got a chance to see the difference between the two philosophies first-hand.

Her father instilled in her the idea that “It’s not about living forever; it’s about living well while you’re here,” and in order to do that, your focus needs to be on living a healthy lifestyle, opposed to searching for and spending your life trying to treat diseases as they crop up.

Dr. Northrup’s Top 10 Health Tips for Women

  1. Get enough sleep: Proper sleep is essential for optimal health, and it helps metabolize stress hormones better than any other known entity.
  2. Meditate for at least 3-12 minutes each day, to calm and soothe your mind.
  3. Begin your day with a positive affirmation.
  4. Exercise regularly. Ideally, aim for a comprehensive program that includes high intensity exercises and strength training along with core-building exercises and stretching.
  5. Breathe properly. When you breathe in and out fully through your nose, you activate your parasympathetic rest-and-restore nervous system, which expands the lower lobes of your lungs, and therefore engages the vagus nerves.
  6. Practice self love and unconditional acceptance. Dr. Northrup suggests looking at yourself in the mirror at least once a day, and saying: ‘I love you. I really love you.’
  7. Optimize your vitamin D levels. Get your vitamin D level checked. Ideally, you’ll want your levels within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml. According to Dr. Northrup: “Sunlight is not the enemy. It’s lack of antioxidants in your diet that is the enemy. Natural light is a lovely source of vitamin D; you can’t overdose. But many people – to get their levels of vitamin D into optimal – are going to need 5,000 to 10, 000 international units per day. So, vitamin D is important. You can get your level drawn through MyMedLab.com without a doctor’s prescription.”Just remember that if you take high doses of oral vitamin D, you also need to boost your intake of vitamin K2. For more information on this, please see my previous article, What You Need to Know About Vitamin K2, D and Calcium.
  8. Cultivate an active social life; enjoy some face-to-face time with likeminded people.
  9. Epsom salt baths (20 minutes, three times per week) are a simple, inexpensive way to get magnesium into your body.
  10. Keep a gratitude journal. Each night, before you go to bed, write down five things that you are grateful for, or five things that brought you pleasure.

To read the full article, click here.