Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's all in the environment

Recently there was an interesting article in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/29/health/research/29cancer.html?pagewanted=3&_r=3&emc=eta1) about how cancer works.Apparently it isn't enough for a cell to mutate; the cancer cells need a proper environment in order to spread and invade. Most research is centered on stopping the cell's growth. Some believe that more effort should be towards studying the environment of the surrounding tissue that enables these cells to become an invading tumor.

Some cancer myths were discussed.One was that that injury to your breast did not cause your cancer. Many women insist that the site of their tumor just happens to be where they were injured. Usually this is scornfully dismissed. According to some of the research presented, there may be some truth into what these women insist. The injury did not cause the mutation but could have altered the surrounding tissue through inflammation making an environment in which the mutated cells, already present, could escape and turn into cancer. Animal evidence produced tumors that thrived when added to a chicken's injured wing but didn't take hold in the uninjured wing. This theory makes biopsies extra scary in that the inflammation that the procedure produces might make these dormant cells escape their ducts and do their damage.

Another issue. Your cancer has been there for years. I still believe that this statement was taught to physicians by their lawyers to prevent lawsuits claiming their cancers weren't treated quickly enough. Of all my readings on how fast tumors grow, there was only one in which a woman wouldn't agree to remove her tumor but did agree to have it measured regularly. They certainly grow quickly when transvected to mice. In 2002, the Women's Health Initiative suggested that taking Prem-Pro actually increased the rate of breast cancers. Many women stopped taking it as soon as they read that.The rate of new breast cancers fell 15% in 2003.This is just in one year. Some thought well maybe less women had mammograms. So if you thought you might have exposed yourself to a possible breast carcinigen, would you choose the next year to skip your mammogram? Causality is a tricky thing. So the authors of the research explain it this way: Prem-pro changes the envirnoment in which already present cells can thrive. It is known that Prem-Pro (and its still just as sinister cousins-bioidenticals)increase breast density. (I always thought this was a good thing-who wants fluffy, saggy breasts) It gives an estrogen-rich environment that if there are tumor cells lying in wait, can begin to thrive.

As for the 2002 study, later it was determined that for women in early menopause, Prem-Pro did NOT increase BC rates as long as it was taken for more than 2-3 years so I believed that and got some. Of course my tumor was estrogen negative but maybe it started out positive.

Finally the issue of DCIS, which is ductal carcinoma in situ i.e. non-invasive cancer cells. There is contraversy on how dangerous these may be. Two schools of thought: they are harmless as they don't have the machinery to invade. They are dangerous cells just caught early. But are the cells different from the ones who managed to invade? No as it turns out. Same bad genes, enzymes, etc. What is different? The environment....maybe. How to keep the environment inhospitable to such invasion? Avoid inflammation? Who knows.

Today will not be a fun day as I will try to work with Naomi concerning many issues. I will need the patience of a saint.

2 comments:

Sara Williams said...

All this research, I hope a cure is found pretty soon.

Teri B. said...

Geez, Sue! This is mind-boggling. So many variables...but at least it seems that science might be open to actually looking at more of the variables instead of basing treatments on results produced only in controlled environments with few variables.

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