Monday, June 10th, 2013
A new analysis of health statistics published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology is suggesting that women who breastfeed their babies for at least a year–the recommended period for breastfeeding–may significantly lower their risk for breast cancer, heart disease, and hypertension, as well as saving the medical establishment hundreds of millions of dollars. The findings, not based on new research, are sure to be controversial, as Time.com reports:
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If new moms adhered to the recommended guidelines that urge them to breast-feed each child they give birth to for at least one year, they could theoretically stave off up to 5,000 cases of breast cancer, about 54,000 cases of hypertension and nearly 14,000 heart attacks annually.
Averting those diseases could also save $860 million, according to research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Those figures, while significant and intriguing, are not actual numbers from documented cases. Rather, they’re the result of a sophisticated statistical model used to compare the effect of current breast-feeding rates in the U.S. to ideal rates.
The study, led by Harvard researcher Dr. Melissa Bartick, simulated the experiences of about 2 million U.S. women from the time they were 15 until they turned 70, estimating outcomes and cumulative costs over the decades in between.
Number-crunchers ran the data applying current breast-feeding rates – about 25% of U.S. women breast-feed for the recommended 12 months per child — and again assuming that 90% of women embraced the guidelines. “To be totally scientifically accurate, those are costs for a cohort of women in a certain year,” says Bartick, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Harvard Medical School. “If breast-feeding rates change, the cost would be different.”
Still, she says, the point is that breast-feeding boosts mom’s health in a big way. “We know that 60% of women don’t even meet their personal breast-feeding goals, whether it’s three or four or six months,” says Bartick. “We need to do more to support women so they can breast-feed longer. There are thousands of needless cases of disease and death that could be prevented.”
Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
The actress Angelina Jolie’s announcement this week that she underwent multiple surgeries for a double mastectomy has given a very public face to the difficult decisions women face if they find out they have the BRCA-1 gene, which significantly raises a woman’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer in her lifetime. Many women, like Jolie, undergo preventative surgeries to remove their breasts, ovaries, or both. The decision is particularly grueling for women who may want to have children before surgery.
Jolie, in a New York Times editorial, wrote about her decision and how, although complex, her surgeries have not negatively affected her family:
I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.
It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.
I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.
For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.
Image: Angelina Jolie, via vipflash / Shutterstock.com
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Monday, January 7th, 2013
Four sisters who have all been diagnosed with breast cancer are suing the makers of a drug their mother took when she was pregnant in the 1950s. More from The Associated Press:
The four sisters are now suing a former maker of DES, or diethylstilbestrol, in a case set to unfold in federal court on Friday, when it will become one of the first of scores of such claims around the U.S. to go to trial. The Melnick women are seeking unspecified damages.
The numerous pharmaceutical companies that made or marketed the drug argue that no firm link has been established between breast cancer and DES, a synthetic estrogen that was prescribed to millions of women from the late 1930s to the early 1970s to prevent miscarriage, premature births and other problems.
It was eventually pulled from the market after being linked to a rare vaginal cancer in women whose mothers used DES. And studies showed the drug did not prevent miscarriages after all.
All four Melnick sisters had miscarriages, fertility problems or other reproductive tract problems long suspected of being caused by prenatal exposure to DES. Then in 2008, one of the sisters read about a study reporting an increased incidence of breast cancer in the daughters of women who took DES during pregnancy.
‘‘That’s when we really started to say, ‘Wow, there really could be a link. It’s not just in our head,’’’ said Donna Melnick McNeely, a special education assistant from Las Cruces, N.M., who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 49.
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The sisters, who grew up in Tresckow, Pa., say they have compelling anecdotal evidence within their family: Their mother took DES while pregnant with Donna, Michele, Andrea and Francine. All had reproductive problems and developed breast cancer in their 40s. But their mother did not take DES while pregnant with the oldest sister, Mary Ann. She did not have fertility issues and has not had breast cancer.
Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
A new study from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston has found that delivering a high-birthweight infant more than doubles a woman’s breast cancer risk. The researchers suggest that having a large infant is associated with a hormonal environment during pregnancy that favors future breast cancer development and progression.
“We also found that women delivering large babies – those in the top quintile of this study, which included babies whose weight was 8.25 or more pounds – have increased levels of hormones that create a ‘pro-carcinogenic environment.’ This means that they have high levels of estrogen, low levels of anti-estrogen and the presence of free insulin-like growth factors associated with breast cancer development and progression,” said lead author Dr. Radek Bukowski, professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine in a statement.
“Women can’t alter their pregnancy hormones, but can take steps to increase their general protection against breast cancer,” Dr. Bukowski continued, noting that breastfeeding, having more than one child, following a healthy diet and exercising have been shown to reduce breast cancer risk.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Giuliana and Bill Rancic, the couple who first went through infertility and miscarriage, and then endured Giuliana’s treatment for breast cancer, finally has good news to share–they are expecting a child late this summer. According to news reports, the couple is using a gestational surrogate to carry their child. The baby is genetically Giuliana and Bill’s. The LA Times reports:
“It’s incredible,” Giuliana said on the “Today” show. “We’ve been trying for so long, we’ve been through so much, and, especially we just had such a hard year last year with the breast cancer and everything and to finally get that call from the doctor of, you’re pregnant — or, you’re having a baby!
“I’m not quite pregnant, but you know what I mean, we’re pregnant!,” the bubbly red carpet host said. “It was just, it was another world, on another level.”
The Rancics have documented their journey as a married couple on the Style Network reality series “Giuliana and Bill.”
Image: Giuliana and Bill Rancic, via Featureflash / Shutterstock.com
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