Last month, an article published in the National Institutes of Health News discussed results of the National Cancer Institute's HEAL (Health, Eating, Activity, & Lifestyle) study. In this well conducted study, researchers were able to identify biological markers that may indicate poor breast cancer outcomes. The research report states that:
"breast cancer patients with elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and serum amyloid A (SAA) were approximately two to three times more likely to die sooner or have their cancer return than those patients who had lower levels of these proteins, regardless of the patient’s age, tumor stage, race, body mass index, or history of previous cardiovascular issues."
Wow! These protein markers have the potential to identify breast cancer risk of recurrence in women who have had treatment and show no visible signs of cancer. This could contribute to a better understanding of why cancer returns in some women and not in others. Also, these biological markers could be indicative of why an initial breast cancer develops in 1 out of 8 women. With this insight women could have the ability to address risk factors with lifestyle changes. We all know that when it comes to disease, prevention is the first and best treatment of all!
So why are CRP and SAA important? They are both markers for inflammation.You might remember from a previous post that there are two kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is the beneficial response that occurs immediately after an injury to the body. Chronic inflammation is the same response in the body, but it occurs on a long term basis and can cause tissue damage.
(Image from:DeNardo and Coussens Breast Cancer Research 2007 9:212 doi:10.1186/bcr1746)
Experts now believe that tumors are triggered by cancer stem cell growth in response to chronic inflammation. So in my mind the really big question is, how do I avoid chronic inflammation? Well, I'll get to that in my next post. My take away now is knowing I may be able to do things that potentially help prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. Obviously there's no sure bet, but it looks like the odds may be improving!