Can we prevent breast cancer?

Dr Masako Kataoka

Saturday, 24 June, 2006; 7:00-8:30pm

Seminar room, No1. Newnham Terrace, Darwin College

Cancer has been the top cause of death in Japan since 1981. Of note is the recent increase in incidence of breast cancer among Japanese women (more than doubled). Now breast cancer is the most common cancer among Japanese women. Epidemiological study and clinical trials help to identify risk factors for breast cancer. The risk factors can be classified into two types; non-modifiable risk factors (e.g. age, family history) and modifiable risk factors (e.g. diet, use of hormones). While the non-modifiable risk factors might be useful in investigating the mechanism of cancer, the modifiable risk factors can be used to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
The strategy of preventing breast cancer is to reduce risk factors whenever possible. Unlike the effect of smoking on lung cancer, there is no modifiable risk factor to significantly reduce breast cancer risk. Thus, the best available method to reduce breast cancer death is early detection.
Breast cancer screening by mammography has been conducted in several countries including UK and recently introduced in Japan. I will discuss pros-and-cons of the screening and future perspectives of breast cancer prevention, which can also be applied to the prevention of other cancers.