News Releases

Tip Sheet: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

SEATTLE – Oct. 7, 2019 – Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is committed to reducing breast cancer incidence and death by identifying risk factors for the disease, developing new methods of detecting it, and helping to enhance survivorship and patient outcomes.

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S with more than 250,000 diagnoses and 42,000 deaths each year

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re providing below summaries and highlights of some of our latest research. 

Recent Research

New light on sunshine exposure and breast cancer risk
Understanding the genetic and lifestyle factors that influence the risk for breast cancer is key to treating – and hopefully preventing -- it. New work that was recently published in the journal Environmental Epidemiology
from Dr. Trang VoPham and colleagues, shines new light on understanding the potential association between long-term solar UV exposure and breast cancer risk in females. This study showed that higher exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is associated with circulating levels of vitamin D, during adulthood is not associated with the risk of developing breast cancer,” says Dr. VoPham. “However, higher UV exposure earlier in life (such as at age 30) may be associated with a lower risk of developing a particular subtype of breast cancer called estrogen receptor-negative (or ER-) breast cancer.”

Teasing out the association between oral contraceptives and breast cancer risk
Fred Hutch researcher Dr. Christopher Li and colleagues recently conducted a population-based study of premenopausal women to test the association of oral contraceptive use and risks of certain subtypes of breast cancer. Researchers found that among young women, oral contraceptive use may have a stronger association with risks of l certain breast cancer subtypes but not others.

Breast Cancer Around the Globe

Breast Health Global Initiative (BHGI)
Jointly founded by Fred Hutch and Susan G. Komen in 2002, BHGI develops, implements, and studies evidence-based, economically feasible, and culturally appropriate Guidelines for International Breast Health and Cancer Control for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), to improve breast health outcomes and access to breast cancer screening, detection and treatment for women.

Reducing the cancer burden for women around the globe
The most common types of cancers in women worldwide are breast, lung and colorectal cancer. Fred Hutch researchers are working toward lowering the occurrence rates and overall number of deaths caused by these cancers. To do this, they're developing new strategies to prevent and detect these malignancies early, when they’re most treatable, in women who are most at risk. They're also working to develop individualized therapy tailored to each patient. 

Effects of Exercise

Effects of exercise on breast cancer  
What is the effect of exercise on cancer risk factors in healthy women? Fred Hutch researchers are investigating this. “The Acute Effects of Exercise on Breast Cancer Biomarkers” study (ACE Study) will test the effect of one 45-minute bout of moderate intensity exercise on cancer risk factors in healthy women.

Metastatic Breast Cancer 

Is it possible to prevent breast cancer metastasis?
There is a long-standing belief that chemotherapy can’t kill dormant disseminated tumor cells. Research published in Nature Cell Biology led by Fred Hutch researcher Dr. Cyrus Ghajar proved this belief to be wrong, showing promise for preventing breast cancer metastasis. Ghajar and his team found that blood vessels in bone marrow protect these dormant tumor cells and if you take away the signaling of these cells, then they can be killed in their sleep. This research proposes a shift in how we view these dormant disseminated tumor cells, and potential for a new therapy that will kill these sleeping cells.

Cancer patients find clinical trials, hope, and help
Last month over 300 participants gathered at the fourth annual Northwest Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference to connect patients with researchers, information, and support. This year, one of the focuses of the conference was on clinical trials. Fred Hutch scientists shared new treatments; National Cancer Institute experts and patient advocates offered up searchable trial registries and resources, and a Clinical Trials Fair let patients and caregivers learn about the latest cancer trials at treatment centers in Seattle and across the country.

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At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first National Cancer Institute-funded cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.

Jill Christensen


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