A Cup of Coffee – Can we talk about breast cancer?

Welcome back!  Last week, we had a good chuckle at my expense and that’s fine with me.  If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

This past month, I had yet another one of my friends receive a breast cancer diagnosis.  I lost my cousin to this awful disease, so this one in particular hit home.  

One of the things my friend said is important to her was that people learn from her experience, so in that spirit, I did some research into breast cancer prevention.  There are some things we can all do that could lessen our risk factors. 

There’s also a living donation program that I would like to tell you about, so let’s start with that.

Connect for Cancer Prevention

The National Cancer Institute has a screening process for potential “live donors”.  What this involves is you offer your body for research, starting today until the day after you die.  If you qualify, they start taking regular blood and urine samples from you, and if you have any type of surgery they have the right to any leftover tissue samples to study in the fight against cancer.  When you die, your body goes to them for a complete autopsy as well.

I was accepted into this program recently, and I am no worse for the wear.  I highly suggest as many people do this as possible.  There must be a link out there somewhere that scientists are missing.  For a link to their webpage and to see if you qualify to be a donor, click HERE.

Who Gets Breast Cancer?

Welp, it’s not just for women anymore. Here are the stats from The Susan G. Komen Foundation:


In 2023, it’s estimated among women in the U.S. there will be:

  • 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer (This includes new cases of primary breast cancer, but not breast cancer recurrences.)
  • 55,720 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive breast cancer
  • 43,170 breast cancer deaths


In 2023, it’s estimated among men in the U.S. there will be:

  • 2,800 new cases of invasive breast cancer (This includes new cases of primary breast cancers, but not breast cancer recurrences.)
  • 530 breast cancer deaths

Are Jewish people more at risk?

Breast and ovarian cancer are more common among Jewish women of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) than among other women.

This is likely due to BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations, which increase the risk of breast cancer. These inherited gene mutations are more common in Ashkenazi Jewish women than in other women“.

Does having a breast reduction reduce risk?

According to Food for Breast Cancer, “Breast reduction surgery appears to provide a more immediate decrease in breast cancer risk for postmenopausal women than premenopausal women. For postmenopausal women, breast cancer risk increases with increasing body mass index, waist-hip ratio, waist size, and weight gain.

On the other hand, being overweight (and hence more likely to have large breasts) is protective against breast cancer before menopause, a finding reported by numerous breast cancer studies, but not adequately explained. One study found that a large bra cup size at a young age was associated with a higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer, but only for leaner women with a body mass index less than 25. In other words, premenopausal women whose breasts are large primarily because they are overweight do not have a higher risk of breast cancer (and therefore would not be expected to benefit as much from breast reduction surgery)“.

Limit environmental exposures

Let’s talk about what this means. In a nutshell, we know from studies that smoking and alcohol increase a person’s risk, right? But did you know that if you’re a woman who has two or three servings a day of wine, beer, or liquor, your risk is 20% higher than one who doesn’t drink at all?

The Susan G. Komen Foundation states that “Women who are current smokers and have been smoking for more than 10 years appear to have about a 10 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who’ve never smoked“.

Dense vs Fatty

All breast tissue is not created equal. If a breast has less fatty flesh and more milk glands and supportive tissue, they’re called “dense.” That can raise your breast cancer risk and make abnormal cells harder to spot on scans. Women with dense breasts are four to five times more likely to get breast cancer than women with fatty breasts.

In Feb. of 2023, Dr. Anne Marie McCarthy, Ph.D. wrote, “Women who have highly dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer, and they’re also more likely to have a cancer missed on a mammogram, Dr. McCarthy said. Mammography is very effective at reducing breast cancer mortality, but like all tests, it’s not perfect.”


Dr. McCarthy is partnering with Despina Kontos, Ph.D., a computer scientist and Professor of Research Radiology at Penn, to develop imaging biomarkers for mammograms.

Her lab has computer scientists who take the mammogram image and run computer algorithms to pick out which women might be at higher risk for breast cancer,” Dr. McCarthy explained. “We’re hoping these newer imaging biomarkers might help us identify risk beyond what we’re able to do now.”

Is light a factor?

Breastcancer.org thinks it might be. “The results of several studies suggest that women who work or are exposed to high levels of light at night — factory workers, doctors, nurses, and police officers, for example — have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who work during the day.

Researchers think that this increase in risk is linked to melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a role in regulating the body’s sleep cycle. Melatonin production peaks at night and is lower during the day when your eyes register light exposure. When women work at night or if they’re exposed to external light at night, their melatonin levels tend to stay low.

It’s not clear how much darkness is required to turn on melatonin production. Closing your eyes does a fairly good job of blocking light, but thick curtains or an eye mask can make sure you’re sleeping in darkness. If you’re concerned about excess light exposure at night, you may want to: install blackout shades on your bedroom windows don’t turn on lights if you wake up at night use low-wattage or red bulbs in nightlights install a low-wattage or red-bulb nightlight in your bathroom(s)“.

What would my friend tell you?

The one thing she wanted people to know was that they need to stay current on their mammograms. She wasn’t staying current but was giving herself the recommended self-exams, and found the lump during one of these examinations.

Early diagnosis is so critically important. The earlier you are aware that you are in this fight, the better chance you have of beating it.

Final thoughts

I tried to cover some of the lesser talked about concerns when it comes to conversations about breast cancer. We hear all the time that we should eat healthy, exercise, and get our mammograms, but how often do we caution our men to do the same? Did you know before reading this blog that light could influence cancer? And did you already know that you could donate your body as a living donor to help fight cancer for those who can’t fight for themselves?

I hope you volunteer. I hope anyone who has never had to face this diagnosis gets on this ride with me. Together, we can fight the good fight and hopefully, someday, we will be able to say that cancer has become a horrible tale of the past.


As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.

That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.

Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!

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