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: Does eating meat affect breast cancer risk?

Eating meat has been suggested to increase breast cancer risk. The recent Sister Study looked at meat type, cooking methods and breast cancer risk in a study of 42,012 women.  (9/10/19)

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

A study showed that African American women with increased breast cancer risk 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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STUDY: Breast cancer risk increases modestly after childbirth

Does having children alter the risk of breast cancer? Women who give birth have a lower lifetime risk of breast cancer. However, newer data suggests that breast cancer risk increases immediately after childbirth. A study published in December 2018 examines data from the Premenopausal Breast Cancer Collective Group seeking to clarify this issue. (12/28/18)

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ARTICLE: Cancer experience in families affects decision making

Women with inherited mutations in genes that increase breast and ovarian cancer risk have an additional challenge: coping with how those mutations impact their families and how a family member’s cancer experience can shape their own perception. In a recent U.S. News and World Report article, Elaine Howley explores how a woman's decisions about healthcare, cancer prevention and treatment are affected by experience with cancer in the family. (9/25/18)

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STUDY: Hormone therapy and breast cancer risk after ovary removal in women with a BRCA1 mutation

Does hormone therapy (HT) alter the risk of breast cancer for woman carrying a BRCA1 mutation who have never been diagnosed with cancer? In this study, researchers showed that among women with BRCA1 mutations, HT use did not increase breast cancer rates for 10 years after ovary removal. More women taking combined estrogen plus progesterone developed breast cancer compared to those taking estrogen only, though this difference was not statistically significant. (9/7/18)

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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: 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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GUIDELINE: 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: Routine breast cancer screening leads to overdiagnosis

Routine breast cancer screening for women of average risk has been controversial for many years because some believe that the benefits do not outweigh the risks. Recent headlines covering a study in Denmark suggests that routine breast cancer screening leads to “overdiagnosis” of breast cancer. (4/4/17)

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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: Removing ovaries before age 50 may increase the risk of chronic conditions for some women

Removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes prevents ovarian cancer, but it may come with other health risks. Experts recommend removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes in women at high risk for ovarian cancer due to inherited mutations in BRCA or other genes linked to ovarian cancer risk. For these high-risk women the benefit of ovarian cancer prevention outweighs the risk of long-term complications. Based on a recent study, some researchers feel that for women who are not at increased risk for cancer, the risk for some chronic conditions is too high to consider removal of both ovaries. (11/1/16)

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STUDY: Breast cancer screening should be tailored to a woman’s risk factors and breast density

The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends a screening mammogram every other year for women ages 50-74 who are at average risk for breast cancer. But do all patients in this category benefit from this screening regimen?

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STUDY: Are mutations in BRIP1, BARD1, PALB2, and NBN associated with an increased risk for ovarian cancer?

Many women who have genetic testing for an inherited mutation find that they do not carry a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 despite their personal and family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer. Panel tests look for mutations in other genes associated with increased cancer risk. However, the cancer risk for people with mutations in some of these other genes is not yet known. This study looks at whether mutations in four genes, BRIP1, BARD1, PALB2, and NBN, are associated with an increased risk for ovarian cancer. The researchers found that BRIP1 mutation carriers have about a 6% risk of developing ovarian cancer by age 80. (02/09/16)

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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. (11/14/2015)

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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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