XRAYS - Making Sense of Cancer Headlines

FORCE’s eXamining the Relevance of Articles for Young Survivors (XRAYS) program is a reliable resource for breast cancer research-related news and information. XRAYS reviews new breast cancer research, provides plain-language summaries, and rates how the media covered the topic. XRAYS is funded by the CDC.

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Risk Management

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STUDY: Take your time, follow your heart: strategies for communication about family planning

When a woman is newly diagnosed with a BRCA mutation, she faces many risk management decisions. Although many of these decisions impact family planning, little guidance is available on how to communicate this information. This study examines female previvors’ advice on effective strategies for discussing family planning decisions. (03/28/18)

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STUDY: Should biannual MRIs replace annual mammograms in high-risk women?

The risk of breast cancer is exceptionally high in women who have a personal or family history of breast cancer or who carry a mutation in BRCA or certain other genes. More frequent screening is one strategy for early detection of breast cancer for these women. Study results presented at the 2017 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium suggest that MRI screening every 6 months may be more effective than the currently recommended annual breast MRI and annual mammogram in detecting early stage breast cancers-which are more treatable-in high-risk women. (2/1/18)

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STUDY: What is the risk of breast cancer recurrence after nipple-sparing mastectomy?

Nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM) offers better cosmetic results for women who have immediate breast reconstruction (at the same time as their mastectomy). Over the past decade, NSM has gained popularity among surgeons and patients. Studies show that women who keep their own nipples have higher rates of satisfaction and psychological well-being after mastectomy and reconstruction compared to women who lose their nipples. However, little data exists on the long-term risk of recurrence following NSM. New research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that risk of recurrence is low after NSM in carefully selected patients with breast cancer. (1/25/18)

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STUDY: Does extended hormonal treatment impact risk of recurrence?

Hormonal therapy significantly reduces the risk of recurrence for women with early-stage estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Standard hormonal therapy is given for 5 years; extending that therapy for a longer period offers additional protection but has added side effects.  A new study looked at women who stopped hormonal therapy after 5 years and identified factors that may guide the decision to extend treatment.  (12/21/17)

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STUDY: Birth control and breast cancer risk among younger women

On December 7, 2017 the New England Journal of Medicine published results from a study by Lina Mørrch of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues showing that hormonal contraceptives (birth control) increase the risk of breast cancer. The study is unique because it is one of the first to specifically assess the breast cancer risk associated with newer, low-dosage methods of contraception. The large and significant effort analyzed medical data of nearly 1.8 million young women in Denmark on average for over 10.9 years. Results were covered widely in the U.S. by many major media outlets, including the New York Times, USA Today, Forbes and Time.  (12/14/17)

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ARTICLE: Dense breasts and mammograms: Jill Goodacre’s story

Korin Miller’s piece for SELF magazine focuses on why women with dense breasts may need more than a screening mammogram. Miller highlights the recent story in People magazine of Jill Goodacre, a former Victoria’s Secret model and the wife of recording artist and talk show host Harry Connick Jr. Goodacre told of her breast cancer diagnosis 5 years ago after having additional screening of her dense breast tissue following a normal mammogram.  (12/8/17)

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STUDY: Alcohol and breast cancer risk in African American women

The link between alcohol intake and breast cancer is well known, but most studies have involved only White women. Recently, a large study of more than 22,000 African American (AA) women found that similar to White women, increased alcohol consumption is associated with a greater risk of breast cancer. (10/27/17)

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ARTICLE: Mixed reviews of at-home genetic testing

National guidelines recommend that patients meet with a genetics expert before undergoing genetic testing for cancer risk. Genetic counseling can help patients decide whether genetic testing is right for them and order the most appropriate test. Once test results are available, genetics experts also help patients understand their results. Over the last decade, the popularity of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing, such as 23andMe has grown. Some genetic tests are marketed to consumers on television, in print advertisements, and on the Internet. These “at-home” genetic tests give people direct access to their genetic information without first involving a healthcare provider in the process. A recent report outlines the benefits and limitations of DTC genetic testing. (10/20/17)

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STUDY: Angelina Jolie spoke out on BRCA testing: Did genetic testing increase?

Angelina Jolie published an editorial in the New York Times in 2013 about her choice to have a double mastectomy after finding out she was positive for a BRCA1 mutation. Researchers from a recent study claim that her celebrity endorsement of BRCA testing may have missed its target audience (previvors), due to the increase in BRCA testing following publication of the editorial but a decrease in the number of mastectomies performed. However, the study failed to take into account that many women without breast cancer do not pursue mastectomy in the months following genetic testing. (1/4/17)

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ARTICLE: After mastectomy: reconstruct or not?

Today, more women know they can have breast reconstruction after removing their breasts for cancer treatment or risk reduction. But what about choosing not to undergo reconstruction? Roni Caryn Rabin writes about the experiences of women who decide against reconstruction in her New York Times piece “‘Going Flat’ After Breast Cancer.” (12/14/16)

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ARTICLE: Genetic testing has become more affordable and available. Should you get it?

What are reasons to get or not get genetic testing? Cynthia Graber gives her thoughts on the matter in her Wired opinion piece, "Why I Won't Get the Genetic Test for Breast Cancer." (11/15/16)

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STUDY: Smoking before or after a breast cancer diagnosis associated with poorer breast cancer survival

Cigarette smoking is an important public health issue that causes more than 480,000 deaths annually. Smoking increases the risk of many diseases, from heart disease to stroke. This research indicates that smoking before and or after a diagnosis of breast cancer affects survival, and also shows that it is never too late to quit smoking.

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STUDY: Aerobic exercise lowers estrogen levels in premenopausal women at high risk for breast cancer

Many treatments that lower estrogen levels also reduce breast cancer risk. Unfortunately, these treatments are also associated with negative side effects. A recent study looked at the effect of regular aerobic exercise on the estrogen levels of women who are at high risk for breast cancer.

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STUDY: Mutations found through multigene panel testing for cancer risk can change patient care

Multigene panel testing can look for mutations in many genes associated with increased cancer risk. Some panels include genes associated with increased risk of multiple cancers, including breast, ovarian, colon, and gastric cancers. This study demonstrates that multigene panel tests yield findings that can change the care for patients by uncovering cancers for which they are at increased risk.

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