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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STUDY: MRI or mammograms for detecting breast cancer in families with unknown genetic mutations?

MRI and mammograms are used together to detect breast cancer in high-risk women who test positive for a BRCA or other gene mutation that increases the risk for breast cancer. For women with a family history of cancer breast cancer but no known genetic mutation, increased screening is recommended. But what method is best? A recent clinical trial in the Netherlands compared MRI and mammography for this population. (8/15/19)

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STUDY: Do Vitamin B supplements alter breast cancer risk for women with BRCA mutations?

Vitamins are an essential part of our diet. Vitamin supplements are often used to improve general health. This study explores how vitamin B supplements may affect breast cancer risk in women with BRCA mutations. (5/17/19)

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STUDY: Breast surgeons recommend genetic testing for all breast cancer patients


The American Society of Breast Surgeons published statement on genetic testing for hereditary breast cancer on February 10, 2019. It includes recommendations about who should be tested. Among these is the recommendation that all breast cancer patients get genetic testing, as well as women who do not have breast cancer but fit the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines. (3/25/19)

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STUDY: Gaps in information about breast cancer risk and prevention impact African American women

A study showed that African American women experienced greater burdens in obtaining information at each step compared to white women. Racial differences in preventive choices correlated with differences in information and provider access. (3/14/19)

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ARTICLE: Interview with Angelina Jolie's doctor promotes meatless diet and scientific inaccuracies

Dr. Kristi Funk, Angelina Jolie's Hollywood breast surgeon, is promoting her new book about breast cancer. This article from the UK newspaper The Times includes an interview with Funk about her book, which proposes that diet is responsible for breast cancer. This XRAYS addresses scientific inaccuracies in this article. (8/7/18)

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STUDY: Evaluation of some direct-to-consumer genetic testing reveals inaccuracies and misinterpretations

A clinical genetic testing laboratory examined results from direct-to-consumer genetic testing ordered directly by patients. They found many instances of false positives—reported mutations that were not actually present—and in some cases, reports of variants that "increased risk," but were actually benign. This study emphasized the importance of involving genetics experts in the interpretation of genetic test results. (6/28/18)

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STUDY: XRAYS Follow Up: Does expanded genetic testing benefit Jewish women with breast cancer?

In this follow-up, we update a recent XRAYS on expanded genetic testing in Jewish women with breast cancer.  An expert in the field suggests a different interpretation of the original study than the authors. We examine the key differences in interpretation of the data. (6/7/18)

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ARTICLE: The right not to know when not knowing is dangerous

Healthcare providers are bound by the guiding principle of doing no harm. But how does this concept apply to their patients who have not consented to genetic testing or who do not want to know their results? In that case, is providing test results more harmful or not? Anna Clausen explores these issues in the context of breast cancer gene testing in her Global Health Now article “The Right Not to Know: When Ignorance is Bliss but Deadly.” (4/20/18)

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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: Can lifestyle changes impact breast cancer risk?

A recent New York Times article shared how “adopting protective living habits”  could help keep breast cancer “at bay”.  While many of these lifestyle changes and strategies like not smoking, avoiding weight gain, reducing alcohol consumption, eating a heart-healthy diet, and increasing physical activity have been shown to reduce breast cancer risk, there are other risk factors that one cannot control such as having a BRCA or other mutation that significantly increases breast cancer risk. Importantly, no one strategy has been proven to totally eliminate breast cancer risk. However many of these approaches have overall health benefits. (9/21/2017)

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ARTICLE: Report on vaccines to prevent hereditary cancer

On May 30th Good Morning America aired a segment entitled “Can a vaccine help prevent breast cancer at its earliest stages?” The story outlines the need for cancer prevention and hints at early research into a cancer vaccine. (8/1/17)

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STUDY: Diet during teen years and early adulthood is linked to breast cancer risk

During teen years, breast tissue grows rapidly in young girls and is more likely to be harmed by substances that are known to cause cancer. Few studies have looked at the relationship between diet during puberty and breast cancer risk. This study looks at how a woman’s diet during their teenage years and early adulthood is associated with breast cancer development later in life. (6/30/17)

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STUDY: Early research on a drug to prevent breast cancer

Many researchers are interested in non-surgical options to reduce the higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer in BRCA mutation carriers. This research study identified a type of drug, called a “RANK ligand inhibitor,” that may prevent breast cancer. Among mice that were genetically engineered to have no BRCA1 genes, those that were given the drug developed tumors less frequently than those that did not. While this is an exciting early study for BRCA mutation carriers, more work and human clinical trials need to be done before this can be used as a prevention therapy in humans. (7/12/16)

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STUDY: Breast cancer risk model updated for average risk women with genetic, lifestyle and environmental information

A number of factors are known to increase breast cancer risk, but some newly discovered factors have not been incorporated into breast cancer risk prediction models. This study incorporates some of these risk factors, such as genetics, smoking, and drinking, to give white women in the U.S. a more individualized breast cancer risk assessment. (6/29/16)

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STUDY: Breastfeeding may reduce hormone receptor negative breast cancer risk

Previous studies have shown that women who breastfeed have a reduced breast cancer risk. This study examines this association in the different breast cancer subtypes (ER, PR, HER2 negative/positive) and finds that breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of ER-/PR- breast cancer. (11/16/2015)

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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 all in the same test. Some panels include genes associated with increased risk of multiple cancers, including breast, ovarian, colon, and gastric cancers. This study showed that results from multigene panel testing may change medical options for patients who test positive for a mutation linked to increased cancer risk. (9/22/15)

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