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breast cancer

Helping people to live well and beyond breast cancer

Helping people to live well and beyond breast cancer

The Haven Breast Cancer Support Centres

Written by Barbara S. Baker, PhD., Julia Harrington, MSc, Caroline Hoffman, PhD

The Haven, Effie Road, London SW6 1TB

Special Service Report (February 16, 2012)

The Haven is a unique charity that supports anyone affected by breast cancer in our three Haven centres in London, Hereford and Leeds, and also online (http://www.thehaven.org.uk/). We provide a free support programme consisting of information, emotional support and complementary therapies to help people through the experience of breast cancer.

402 visitors to all three of our centres completed a self-evaluation questionnaire (Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCaW)) before and after receiving the programme to determine whether there was an improvement in their quality of life. Women with breast cancer found our support programme to be valuable in both addressing their main concerns, and improving their feeling of wellbeing.

Women with breast cancer more frequently turn to complementary therapies to help them with symptoms and side effects related to the disease and its medical treatments than people diagnosed with other cancers; up to 80% complementary medicine use was reported in one study. Our data showed that the highest proportions of concerns (48%) were psychological and emotional, whilst physical, wellbeing and hospital cancer treatment concerns made up 23%, 17% and 11%, respectively. Fear and anxiety, physical problems and poor energy, mind/body and side effects of chemotherapy and cancer treatment generally were the issues most frequently listed.

A significant improvement in the main concerns and in wellbeing was found in the women with breast cancer after taking part in The Haven’s support programme. The six therapies most commonly used to address these issues were: acupuncture (19%), nutrition (10%), massage and aromatherapy (9%), shiatsu (8%), counselling (8%) and reflexology (8%). When we asked them to rate the impact of the therapies on their concerns, 91% rated the concern as much better, a little better or gone.

The visitors were also asked what they felt were the most important aspects of The Haven to them personally. Appreciation of The Haven and its resources (27%), individual and group therapies (22%) and support and understanding received (18%) were the most frequent answers.

Important aspects of The Haven for its visitors

Women with breast cancer often experience emotional and physical problems related to their diagnosis and medical treatments. These findings show that such women find that our integrated support programme can really help with these concerns and lead to an improvement in their quality of life.

Information published in this report is a summary of the following original article published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice journal.

Harrington et al., Effect of an integrated support programme on the concerns and wellbeing of women with breast cancer: A national service evaluation. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. (2012) 18 (1) 10-15.

More about The Haven Breast Cancer Support Centres


Copyright © 2012 Nutrition Remarks. All rights reserved

Can Vitamin D reduce the breast cancer risk?

Can Vitamin D reduce the breast cancer risk?

Is there a link between Vitamin D and Breast Cancer Risk?

Written by NalinSiriwardhana, Ph.D, Editor In Chief for Nutrition Remarks Knoxville, TN, USA

Reviewed by Theresa Shao, MD, Beth Israel Medical Center and Continuum Cancer Centers of New York, New York, New York, USA

Nutrition Remarks Health News Highlights (February 07, 2012)

Scientific evidence suggests that the breast cancer risk might be greatly reduced by vitamin D (Sunshine Vitamin). While some studies show no or less beneficial effects, many studies provide strong evidence that vitamin D can lower the breast cancer risk. Cancer and nutrition expert, Dr. Theresa Shao, MD, and colleagues, analyzed the pre-clinical, epidemiological, and clinical data published within the last 20 years and suggested that vitamin D may have a promising potential to reduce breast cancer risk. Summarized below are selected important information based on her review article published in The Oncologist scientific journal.

Vitamin D is critical for a healthy life. While human bone health and mineral balance (specifically phosphorous and calcium) can be greatly affected by inadequate vitamin D levels, many laboratory studies show that Vitamin D deficiency can promote cancer development in animals. Accordingly, women diagnosed with breast cancer often tend to have lower serum vitamin D levels.

Epidemiological studies showed that women who take adequate amounts of vitamin D or expose to sunlight (to naturally produce Vitamin D in the body) have a significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer. The prevention is more noticeable in younger premenopausal women compared to the postmenopausal women. Also, one study showed that Vitamin D can reduce ER (estrogen receptor) positive breast cancers (most common breast cancer which grow in response to estrogen) in postmenopausal women.

However, vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem in the world. Vitamin D deficiency is even associated with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Oily fish, mushrooms, eggs, fortified dairy products are known dietary sources of vitamin D. Plant based Vitamin D is called ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and animal based form is called cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). The current recommended daily Vitamin D intake for adults under age 70 years is 600 IU (International Units) and 800 IU after 70 years.

How does vitamin D work against breast cancer?

In preclinical studies, vitamin D has been shown to reduce inflammation, specifically, the common inflammation reactions mediated by molecules called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and nuclear factor -kB (NF-kB). Vitamin D can increase the expression of E-cadherin, which prevents breast cancer invasion and metastasis. Moreover, several studies suggested that vitamin D can also block synthesis and biological actions of estrogen. In addition to those, vitamin D plays a significant role at the cellular level by controlling cell growth, differentiation as well as cell death.

What can go wrong with vitamin D?

The recommended upper limit of vitamin D is 4000 IU/day for adults. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (National Institute of Health USA), extremely high levels of vitamin D can cause toxicity which leads to anorexia, weight loss, polyuria, and heart arrhythmias. But sun exposure or eating vitamin D containing food would not lead to an increase in vitamin D level to such high levels.

In general, vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem in the world. Aging and several disease conditions including obesity, digestive system problems and cancer can further lower vitamin D levels in the body. Over the last few years, research in the vitamin D area shows a steady increase due to the recognized importance for human health. In case of breast cancer, available scientific evidence suggests that vitamin D status needs careful attention.

This information is primarily based on the following article published in The Oncologist journal. Some general background information was acquired from PubMed and NIH sources.

Shao et al., Vitamin D and Breast Cancer.The Oncologist first published on January 10, 2012;doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2011-0278

Copyright © 2012 Nutrition Remarks. All rights reserved


Consumption of well-done meats and breast cancer risk

Consumption of well-done meats and breast cancer risk

Can green tea reverse these adverse effects?

Written by Suhanki Rajapaksa, MBBS (Nutrition Remarks writer), Reviewed by Dr. Shambhunath Choudhary, DVM, PhD

Health News Highlights (April 17, 2012) <<Print PDF>>

Breast cancer is the top cancer in women both in the developed and the developing world. One in every eight women is at risk of developing breast cancer over the course of a lifetime. Among various factors such as age, family history, and genetics, lifestyle (especially diet) has also been shown to be involved in causing breast cancer.

About 5 to 10% of breast cancers are associated with abnormal changes (mutations) in genes inherited from parents. But around 85% of breast cancers are attributable to long-term exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing substances), such as those present in foods cooked in certain methods, despite an absence of a family history of the disease. One such carcinogen is 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine, abbreviated as PhIP. PhIP belongs to a group of compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs); these compounds are formed during cooking of meat from the reaction of creatinine, amino acids, and sugar. However, substantially more HCAs are formed when meats are cooked at higher temperatures and for longer periods of time. An abundance of PhIP is found particularly in well-done meats (charred on the outside, thoroughly brown and chewy on the inside).

In a recent publication, Dr. Shambhunath Choudhary from the Anticancer Molecular Oncology Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee Knoxville, report that daily consumption of well-done meat – as is often seen in the western diet – may lead to breast cancer development. The laboratory is led by prominent scientist Prof. Hwa-Chain R. Wang and has published several exciting findings revealing early cellular level changes associated with prolonged exposure to environmental carcinogens present in tobacco and dietary choices, which in turn leads to undesirable clinical outcomes such as cancer. Prof. Wang’s lab has introduced a “cellular model system” that can easily recognize the early stages of breast cancer caused by various environmental carcinogens, and has extended the use of this model system to test various natural compounds that can prevent breast carcinogenesis.

For normal cells to grow and survive, they need growth factors (naturally-occurring substances that stimulate cell growth and multiplication) and an ability to attach or anchor to the framework of tissues that provides support for the cells to grow. Using the above-mentioned cellular model, Dr. Choudhary showed that when breast cells had prolonged exposure to the dietary carcinogen PhIP, at a concentration seen in human blood, their need for a surface for attachment decreased and they no longer depended on anchorage to a tissue (anchorage independence). PhIP exposure also lowered the cells’ dependence on growth factors and increased their expression of a growth-related gene and protein. These characteristics, which are commonly found in breast cancer cells, help the cells to grow rapidly and spread throughout the body without being dependent on the original tissue for nutrition and support. In other words, normal breast cells become cancerous upon prolonged exposure to PhIP. In addition, a single exposure to PhIP causes an increase in the mechanisms that lead to increased cell growth, multiplication, and migration (movement and spread).

Using the same cellular model, Dr. Choudhary further studied the preventive effects of substances found in green tea (catechins), on breast cancer development. They reported that epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG) and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) – two major components of green tea catechins – were effective in reducing PhIP-induced initiation and progression of breast cancer. The cancer-related cellular characteristics, as discussed above, such as reduced dependence on growth factors, anchorage-independent growth, and increased cell proliferation, were also reduced significantly by exposure to both ECG and EGCG.

Though the exact ways in which PhIP induces the gene modifications leading to breast cancer remain to be studied, findings by Dr. Choudhary and Prof. Wang have provided valuable information about the risk of human breast cancer development in a population consuming higher amounts of well-done meat daily. The cellular model described in this study has the potential to screen and validate novel agents to prevent breast cancer.

Correctly identifying risk factors and early detection could play a major role in reducing breast cancer incidence. Even better is understanding and abstaining from risky behavior that could increase the chance of the disease occurring. As the above research shows, eating well-done meats in excess or over a prolonged time period could increase the risk of breast cancer. Therefore, the consumption of such foods should be done with caution. As HCA intake is determined by the meat-cooking technique and doneness level (rare, medium, well-done, and very well-done), it is possible to reduce HCA formation in meat by reducing heat and length of cooking. Its formation may also be reduced by pre-heating meat in a microwave oven, which removes creatinine and therefore reduces the amount of HCA formed. In addition, adding known cancer preventing agents such as green tea to your diet could also help to decrease the added risk associated with adherence to a diet rich in carcinogenic material.

This information is primarily based on the following article published in the Carcinogenesis journal. Some general background information was acquired from PubMed health, NIH, and WHO sources.

Shambhunath Choudhary, Shilpa Sood, Robert L. Donnell, and Hwa-Chain R. Wang. Intervention of human breast cell carcinogenesis chronically induced by 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine. Carcinogenesis. Online publication February 3, 2012; 1–10.


Shambhunath Choudhary, Shilpa Sood, Robert L. Donnell, and Hwa-Chain R. Wang. Intervention of human breast cell carcinogenesis chronically induced by 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine. Carcinogenesis. Online publication February 3, 2012; 1–10.

World Health Organization. Breast cancer: prevention and control. http://www.who.int/cancer/detection/breastcancer/en/. Accessed April 5, 2012.