Breast Cancer Genes and the Gendering of Knowledge


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Introduction

Since these genes are passed down from your parents, it is possible to carry a gene mutation from the mother or father's side of the family. Males who carry the BRCA2 gene mutation have a suggested 6 percent chance of developing breast cancer during a lifetime. Having one or more relatives with breast or ovarian cancer, and being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, puts a person at greater risk for carrying a BRCA gene mutation.

Exposure to high doses of chest radiation, such as for medical therapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma , particularly during childhood, can greatly increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers have found that the age at which radiation was received is inversely related to the acquired risk. Thus, women who received radiation after their menopausal years incurred very little risk.

In the s and s, many pregnant women took a synthetic form of estrogen called diethylstilbestrol DES to prevent miscarriage. Many of these women's daughters eventually developed vaginal and cervical cancer at a rate that seemed higher than normal, and studies found that DES exposure was indeed associated with an increased risk of these types of cancer.

Because of the exposure to additional estrogen, women who were exposed to DES in utero also may be at higher risk for breast cancer. A study published in October found that in women who were 40 years and older, breast cancer risk was in fact increased if a woman had been exposed to DES. A woman's amount of exposure to estrogen and progesterone during her lifetime is believed to be a risk factor. The longer a woman is exposed, the more likely she is to develop breast cancer. Therefore, if a woman begins menstruation before age 12, she is believed to be at slightly higher risk. It has been observed that women who have their first child after age 29, or who do not have any children, are at slightly higher risk for breast cancer than women who have their first child before age It has been proposed that breast changes during pregnancy may have protective effects against cancer development because risk of breast cancer appears to decrease with each additional childbirth.

It is important to note that evidence suggests the opposite is true for women who have a family history of breast cancer. In other words, women who have a family history of breast cancer are at lower risk if they have no children or have their children at a later age. Women who go through menopause after the age of 54 have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who go through menopause at age 54 or younger.

Their higher risk may be related to their higher lifetime exposure to estrogen and progesterone. Either atypical hyperplasia or atypia indicates the growth of abnormal cells in the breast. The diagnosis of atypical hyperplasia can be made from a core biopsy or excisional biopsy, and has been correlated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The diagnosis of atypia can be made from nipple aspiration, ductal lavage, or fine needle aspiration FNA , and also indicates an increased breast cancer risk. Although these cells are not yet cancerous, they do raise a woman's risk of eventually developing breast cancer.

While biopsies and FNAs are usually reserved for when there is a current indication that a woman might have breast cancer, nipple aspiration and ductal lavage are methods that may help assess a woman's future risk of breast cancer. Studies have consistently shown that higher breast density is linked with increased risk of breast cancer.

Research is examining whether breast density may be modifiable by changing women's hormones or diet. One medication that has been demonstrated to reduce breast density is tamoxifen. Estradiol is the predominant form of estrogen circulating in the body. In postmenopausal women, higher hormone levels in the blood have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Studies have shown a clear association between obesity and increased risk of post-menopausal breast cancer. Because having more fat tissue can increase a woman's level of estrogen, it is important for a woman to attempt to control her weight, particularly after menopause.

Once a woman has stopped menstruating, her levels of estrogen and progesterone are much lower than they once were. Excess fat tissue may cause significant increases in her hormone levels. Physical activity not only helps a woman reduce her risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy body weight, it may also have its own benefits to risk reduction. Some studies have shown that physical exercise throughout a woman's life reduces her risk, independent of her weight.

One theory is that exercise may reduce a woman's risk by limiting menstrual function, and it has been observed that regular physical exercise can delay menarche — the onset of menstruation — when body fat percentage is low. Since breast cancer risk may be significantly influenced by a woman's lifetime exposure to hormones, reducing that exposure may also reduce her risk. Many epidemiological studies spanning the past 20 years have shown an association between alcohol consumption and increased risk of breast cancer.

Studies have consistently found that women who consume at least three alcoholic drinks per day are at higher risk for developing breast cancer than women who do not drink alcohol. Furthermore, study findings have shown that for women who drink two alcoholic drinks or more per day, breast cancer risk is related to the amount of alcohol consumed — higher consumption of alcohol equals higher breast cancer risk. Among other mechanisms, it has been suggested that alcohol may increase a woman's hormone levels.

A recent study fed women specified amounts of alcohol each day, and demonstrated that a woman's levels of blood estrogen did increase according to the amount of alcohol she consumed. In particular, the breast cancer risk of post-menopausal women, whose bodies make very little estrogen compared with pre-menopausal women, may be affected by alcohol consumption by this mechanism.

A study conducted by the Women's Health Initiative WHI showed that women in the study population who took hormone replacement therapy — combined estrogen and progestin — had a 26 percent increased risk relative to an average woman of invasive breast cancer after four to five years of therapy. This finding is consistent with the growing evidence that exogenous outside hormones increase a woman's lifetime estrogen exposure as well as increasing her breast cancer risk.

An analysis published in July pulled together data from 47 previous studies to show that breastfeeding does in fact slightly lower a woman's risk of breast cancer. The longer a woman breastfed, the lower her risk was. For optimal benefit, we recommend breastfeeding a child for 12 months. The decision of whether or not to breastfeed is certainly a very personal one.

The knowledge that breastfeeding may offer a slight reduction in risk for developing breast cancer is just one of the many factors that will influence how long a woman decides to breastfeed. The effect of oral contraceptives birth control pills on breast cancer risk is still being studied. While some studies have shown that taking oral contraceptives slightly increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, other studies have shown no effect on risk. A recent analysis showed that women who took oral contraceptives in the long term — for more than 12 years — had a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who did not take oral contraceptives.

Once women stopped taking oral contraceptives for 10 years, their risk appeared to return to the baseline, average risk. Before the 20th century, breast cancer was feared and discussed in hushed tones, as if it were shameful. As little could be safely done with primitive surgical techniques, women tended to suffer silently rather than seeking care.

When surgery advanced, and long-term survival rates improved, women began raising awareness of the disease and the possibility of successful treatment. In , the first peer-to-peer support group , called "Reach to Recovery", began providing post-mastectomy, in-hospital visits from women who had survived breast cancer.

The breast cancer movement of the s and s developed out of the larger feminist movements and women's health movement of the 20th century. A pink ribbon is the most prominent symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbons, which can be made inexpensively, are sometimes sold as fundraisers, much like poppies on Remembrance Day. They may be worn to honor those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, or to identify products that the manufacturer would like to sell to consumers that are interested in breast cancer.

The pink ribbon is associated with individual generosity, faith in scientific progress, and a "can-do" attitude. It encourages consumers to focus on the emotionally appealing ultimate vision of a cure for breast cancer, rather than on the fraught path between current knowledge and any future cures. Wearing or displaying a pink ribbon has been criticized by the opponents of this practice as a kind of slacktivism , because it has no practical positive effect.

It has also been criticized as hypocrisy , because some people wear the pink ribbon to show good will towards women with breast cancer, but then oppose these women's practical goals, like patient rights and anti-pollution legislation. Breast cancer culture, also known as pink ribbon culture, is the set of activities, attitudes, and values that surround and shape breast cancer in public. The dominant values are selflessness, cheerfulness, unity, and optimism.

In breast cancer culture, breast cancer therapy is viewed as a rite of passage rather than a disease. Anger, sadness, and negativity must be silenced. As with most cultural models, people who conform to the model are given social status, in this case as cancer survivors. Women who reject the model are shunned, punished and shamed. The culture is criticized for treating adult women like little girls, as evidenced by "baby" toys such as pink teddy bears given to adult women.

The primary purposes or goals of breast cancer culture are to maintain breast cancer's dominance as the pre-eminent women's health issue, to promote the appearance that society is doing something effective about breast cancer, and to sustain and expand the social, political, and financial power of breast cancer activists. Compared to other diseases or other cancers, breast cancer receives a proportionately greater share of resources and attention. In MP Ian Gibson , chairman of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom all party group on cancer stated "The treatment has been skewed by the lobbying , there is no doubt about that.

Breast cancer sufferers get better treatment in terms of bed spaces, facilities and doctors and nurses. Some subjects, such as cancer-related fatigue , have been studied little except in women with breast cancer. One result of breast cancer's high visibility is that statistical results can sometimes be misinterpreted, such as the claim that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lives—a claim that depends on the unrealistic assumption that no woman will die of any other disease before the age of The emphasis on breast cancer screening may be harming women by subjecting them to unnecessary radiation, biopsies, and surgery.

One-third of diagnosed breast cancers might recede on their own. According to H. Gilbert Welch of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice , research on screening mammography has taken the "brain-dead approach that says the best test is the one that finds the most cancers" rather than the one that finds dangerous cancers. Pregnancy at an early age decreases the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. Diagnosing new cancer in a pregnant woman is difficult, in part because any symptoms are commonly assumed to be a normal discomfort associated with pregnancy.

Some imaging procedures, such as MRIs magnetic resonance imaging , CT scans , ultrasounds, and mammograms with fetal shielding are considered safe during pregnancy; some others, such as PET scans are not. Treatment is generally the same as for non-pregnant women. In some cases, some or all treatments are postponed until after birth if the cancer is diagnosed late in the pregnancy. Early deliveries to speed the start of treatment are not uncommon. Surgery is generally considered safe during pregnancy, but some other treatments, especially certain chemotherapy drugs given during the first trimester , increase the risk of birth defects and pregnancy loss spontaneous abortions and stillbirths.

Radiation treatments may interfere with the mother's ability to breastfeed her baby because it reduces the ability of that breast to produce milk and increases the risk of mastitis. Also, when chemotherapy is being given after birth, many of the drugs pass through breast milk to the baby, which could harm the baby.

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Breast Cancer Genes and the Gendering of Knowledge

Regarding future pregnancy among breast cancer survivors , there is often fear of cancer recurrence. In breast cancer survivors, non-hormonal birth control methods should be used as first-line options. Progestogen -based methods such as depot medroxyprogesterone acetate , IUD with progestogen or progestogen only pills have a poorly investigated but possible increased risk of cancer recurrence, but may be used if positive effects outweigh this possible risk. In breast cancer survivors, it is recommended to first consider non-hormonal options for menopausal effects, such as bisphosphonates or selective estrogen receptor modulators SERMs for osteoporosis, and vaginal estrogen for local symptoms.

Observational studies of systemic hormone replacement therapy after breast cancer are generally reassuring. If hormone replacement is necessary after breast cancer, estrogen-only therapy or estrogen therapy with an intrauterine device with progestogen may be safer options than combined systemic therapy. Treatments are being evaluated in trials. This includes individual drugs, combinations of drugs, and surgical and radiation techniques Investigations include new types of targeted therapy , [] cancer vaccines , oncolytic virotherapy, [] gene therapy [] [] and immunotherapy.

Gallen Oncology Conference in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Fenretinide , a retinoid, is also being studied as a way to reduce the risk of breast cancer retinoids are medications related to vitamin A. As of cryoablation is being studied to see if it could be a substitute for a lumpectomy in small cancers. A considerable part of the current knowledge on breast carcinomas is based on in vivo and in vitro studies performed with cell lines derived from breast cancers. These provide an unlimited source of homogenous self-replicating material, free of contaminating stromal cells, and often easily cultured in simple standard media.

The first breast cancer cell line described, BT , was established in Since then, and despite sustained work in this area, the number of permanent lines obtained has been strikingly low about Indeed, attempts to culture breast cancer cell lines from primary tumors have been largely unsuccessful. This poor efficiency was often due to technical difficulties associated with the extraction of viable tumor cells from their surrounding stroma.

Most of the available breast cancer cell lines issued from metastatic tumors, mainly from pleural effusions. Effusions provided generally large numbers of dissociated, viable tumor cells with little or no contamination by fibroblasts and other tumor stroma cells. Many of the currently used BCC lines were established in the late s. A very few of them, namely MCF-7 , TD , and MDA-MB , account for more than two-thirds of all abstracts reporting studies on mentioned breast cancer cell lines, as concluded from a Medline -based survey. NFAT transcription factors are implicated in breast cancer, more specifically in the process of cell motility at the basis of metastasis formation.

Clinically, the most useful metabolic markers in breast cancer are the estrogen and progesterone receptors that are used to predict response to hormone therapy. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is the latest accepted revision , reviewed on 18 September Breast cancer Mammograms showing a normal breast left and a breast with cancer right, white arrows. Main article: Risk factors of breast cancer. See also: List of breast carcinogenic substances.

Main article: Carcinogenesis. Neuropilin-2 expression in normal breast and breast carcinoma tissue. Main article: Breast cancer classification. Main article: Breast cancer screening. Main article: Breast cancer management. Main article: Epidemiology of breast cancer. See also: Breast cancer awareness and List of people with breast cancer. Main article: Pink ribbon. See also: List of breast cancer cell lines.

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The Genetics Of Breast Cancer

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Science and Citizenship in the Cultural Context of the ‘New’ Genetics

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Breast cancer in the eighteenth century. A Concise History of Breast Cancer. A History of Epidemiologic Methods and Concepts. Boston: Birkhauser.

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