Two new studies are turning up some surprising findings about breast cancer. The first suggests women who take a common thyroid drug called Synthroid have less than half the normal risk of developing breast cancer. Thyroid patients who do develop breast cancer have a less aggressive disease with smaller tumors. Another study finds a heart protecting benefit from the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen. That study found Tamoxifen patients have half the heart attack risk of other cancer patients. Researchers believe Tamoxifen's heart benefit comes from it's impact on cholesterol levels and possibly from it's suppressing effect on estrogen.
Hypothyroidism develops when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, which regulates the way the body uses energy. A lack of thyroid hormone affects many body systems. The incidence of hypothyroidism tends to increase with age, with older women at highest risk. About one third of American women who develop breast cancer have cancer that is dependent on estrogen to grow. These women are candidates for therapy with Tamoxifen, which blocks the production of estrogen and helps reduce cancer recurrence in these patients. Tamoxifen is recommended for use for five years. The thyroid study is from researchers at MD Anderson Medical Center in Texas. The Tamoxifen study is from researchers at Boston University. Both are published in the February 14th issue of Cancer.
There's new proof that putting out your cigarettes can add years to your life even if you're lungs are already damaged. Researchers studied nearly 6,000 people who smoked an average of two packs a day for 20 years and they found that even among the smokers with early stages of lung damage, those who quit smoking for five years cut their risk of death from smoking nearly in half. The study in the Annals of Internal Medicine says this is proof that even if you've been a lifetime smoker, quitting can improve lung function and help you live longer.
That cup of coffee in the morning may do more than just get you going, it may offer some protection against cancer. A Boston study found people who drank a cup of decaf every morning had a 50% lower risk of colorectal cancer compared to regular coffee drinkers. It has to be decaf because researchers believe caffeine may cancel out whatever protective benefit the coffee provides. Researchers believe coffee may be protective because it helps stimulate a bowel movement and if that sounds like good reading material, you'll find it in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.