Breast Cancer Research

The decline in mortality rates among breast cancer patients can be credited to breast cancer research. While advocates would argue that it is early detection and breast cancer awareness that have saved more lives, it cannot be denied also that research also made a contribution in this undertaking. With the millions of dollars spent on research, it is only logical for research to generate more discoveries and developments.

Breast cancer research is usually done by agencies such as the National Cancer Institute and by breast cancer associations. The National Cancer Institute has organized a Progress Review Group, composed of members from different fields such as scientific, medical, industry and advocacy communities, that convene to discuss research issues. They release recommendations for a research agenda, which contain research goals in different fields such as biology, genetics, prevention, treatment, and others.

Breast cancer associations also fund their own research and submit whatever recommendations that they may come up with. What they usually conduct are clinical trials, where effects of new treatments are studied among those diagnosed with breast cancer. Organizations also lobby the passage of laws both at the state and national level for the allocation of more funds for research.

One of the more important aspects of breast cancer research is identifying risk factors. By identifying risk factors and controlling those which are modifiable, we are able to reduce the risk of breast cancer incidence. Treatments are also being developed to control, if not eliminate, the “uncontrollable” risk factors. Development of new technology for better breast imaging is also being done. With better equipment, tumors can be more easily detected, even for those women who have high breast density.

Among the developments in breast cancer research is the discovery of a new gene that can increase breast cancer risk. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the two genes that can be linked to breast cancer and these are genes that we inherit from our parents. That is why if one parent has had cancer, the risk of acquiring this defective gene is high, making the risk of breast cancer also high. However, even if one inherits a bad gene, one gene is sufficient to do its task, which is to control cell growth. It is therefore important to take care of this gene. If both genes are damaged, cell growth cannot be controlled anymore. This being so, the abnormal, uncontrollable cell growth results in cancer cells. Recent studies now show that aside from these two genes, there is another gene called HMMR that increases breast cancer risk. A mutation of this gene increases the risk of breast cancer. Studies show that women with a mutation in this gene have a risk which is 2.7 times higher than those without it. It was also seen that this gene interacts with BRCA1 and their interaction results in gene alteration, making either gene unstable and paving the way for breast cancer to develop.

Research and clinical studies have shown that there are certain workplaces where breast cancer risk factors may be increased. These are working in a textile industry and in hospital departments where radiation may be exposed. While these increase the risk, there are also factors that reduce the risk. These include working in a managerial position and eating a high-fiber, low salt diet.

Another research was made to determine the connection between fat consumption and breast cancer risk and researchers found that there was no association between fat consumption, whether monounsaturated, polyunsaturated or saturated, and the overall risk for breast cancer.

Researchers are still studying the effects of birth control pills to breast cancer risk. While recent studies showed a slight link, the results are not conclusive yet.

Breast cancer research is an important aspect in the fight against breast cancer. Without it, no new treatments are made available, no new risk factors are discovered. That is why it is necessary to fund research programs of the government and of other organizations dedicated to public service. Participate in fund-raising activities or make donations by supporting causes or purchasing merchandise where a fraction of the sales is given to fund research. These donations, minimal as they may be, will go a long way to help us fight breast cancer.