Mammograms: Putting Headlines in Context

As an organization that focuses on helping people reduce their risk and survive cancer, we’re getting a lot of questions about a major study released this week on mammograms. And if you’ve read about the study questioning the benefits of mammograms, there’s a good chance you’re confused.mammogram_dreamstime_xs_21847816

The Canadian study involving about 90,000 women ages 40-59 was published this week in the British Medical Journal. The study spanned 25 years and during that time about half the women received regular mammograms and annual breast exams; the other half only had the breast exams.

The study found that whether the women received regular mammograms or not, a similar number of women died from breast cancer over the years.

The value of regular mammogram screening has been controversial for awhile– five years ago the United States Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) changed its guidelines, recommending that regular mammogram screening begin at age 50 every two years rather than age 40 every year. As we wrote at that time, AICR’s recommendations relate to the prevention of cancer through diet, weight and physical activity; for screenings, like mammography, AICR’s materials rely on the National Cancer Institute recommendations.

Your own decision about mammography is best made in consultation with your health care provider who can help you weigh the risks and benefits based on your history and personal risk factors.

For more on the study and perspectives from other organizations, here’s a CNN article.

For prevention, AICR’s expert report and it’s continuous updates have found that lifestyle matters. There are specific steps you can take to lower your risk for breast cancers.  For postmenopausal breast cancers, for example:

  • aim to be physically active at least 30 minutes every day,
  • get to and stay a healthy weight
  • avoid alcoholic beverages or if you do drink, limit to 1 drink a day.

AICR estimates that about 38% of breast cancer cases – about 90,000 every year – in the U.S. could be prevented by following those recommendations.

Learn more about the research on reducing risk for breast and other cancers.


From the Field: Working with Survivors for Stronger Bones

dreamstime_xs_12022463Yesterday at our research conference, one popular session focused on bone health for cancer survivors. More than 40 million adults in the US have or are at high risk for osteoporosis, a bone weakening disease.

Often due to some cancer therapies, survivors are at higher risk for bone loss and osteoporosis than the general population.

Breast and prostate cancer treatments may cause low estrogen or androgen levels, two hormones important for strong bones.

Between sessions, I talked with several oncology dietitians about how they work with survivors on bone health in their centers and clinics. While not unanimous, most RDs said their patients are very aware of their increased risk for bone loss and receive DEXA screening — a test for bone mineral density — and treatment, including diet and lifestyle prescriptions as well as appropriate medications. Continue reading


Little Seeds with Big Taste

PumpkinSeedsSeeds are a healthy plant food. Our Health-e-Recipe for Sweet-Hot Pumpkin Seeds with Autumn Spices turns them into a delicious snack.

Like nuts, seeds contain fiber and healthy fats. They can be used for a garnish, as a crunchy coating for fish and poultry or in baked goods like muffins. Each type of seed has fiber and phytochemicals that provide health protection. For example, flaxseed is being studied for possible breast cancer prevention because of its omega-3 fats.

In this recipe, pumpkin seeds are a healthy treat that provide minerals including iron, magnesium and zinc. During harvest season, some folks like to take them right from the pumpkin, clean them and toast them in their shells. But you can find the tasty kernels already packaged (sometimes labeled “pepitas”).

This recipe mixes pumpkin seeds with anti-inflammatory spices ginger and paprika, along with cinnamon, cloves and a little brown sugar. The spices make a small amount satisfying, so you can eat this healthy snack without going overboard with calories. You could even pre-package individual servings in resealable plastic snack bags.

Find more delicious cancer-preventive recipes at the AICR Test Kitchen. Subscribe to our weekly Health-e-Recipes.