Cancer Prevention News: Confusion Over Breast Cancer Prevention, Detection

/ July 6th, 2011/ Posted in Cancer News / No Comments »

Confusion Over Breast Cancer Prevention, Detection

A new study that followed more than 133,000 women over 30 years found women who had regular mammogram screenings had a lower risk of dying from breast cancer. Specifically, researchers found, seven years of mammograms resulted in 30-percent fewer breast cancer deaths.

For patients, all the information out there on breast cancer can be confusing. But doctors in our area are sticking to their mammogram guidelines.

Doctor Lisa Tuszka, a breast health specialist, says starting annual mammograms at age 40 is what she recommends for early detection.

“Women who develop breast cancer in an earlier age — meaning younger than age 50 — tend to have more aggressive breast cancers and are diagnosed at a later stage.”

Tuszka says ten percent of women she’s seen in their 20s and 30s have breast cancer — a significant percentage she knows can’t be ignored.

From her doctoral program, she discovered even more alarming statistics.

“On a national average, about 20- to 30-percent of women have a family history of breast cancer. In this area, 45-percent of women have a family history of breast cancer,” Dr. Tuszka said.

That’s exactly why Bridget Bergstrom goes in for yearly mammograms. Her aunt died of breast cancer.

“She ended up with breast cancer, and I think if she would have gone in sooner, you know, would have been caught sooner, would have been a different story,” Bergstrom said.

But all the studies and recommendations out there can make it confusing for patients.

“At one time they were recommending that women start at the age of 50,” Kathy Jarek, RN, said.

Jarek, a breast health educator at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center, says she’s constantly answering questions about mammograms and self-exams.

“If women are confused or need clarification, I would suggest that they just talk their health care provider,” Jarek said.

Especially if they know they’re at risk, the specialists say, for some an annual check-up is the least they can do.

“Feeling of ease knowing that you’ve got it and you know that you’re good for another year,” Bergstrom said.

How to lower your risk of skin cancer this summer

You’ve heard it many times before: “Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!” But, is there an easier way to keep skin cancer prevention top of mind as summer starts to sizzle?

Dr. Michael Kaminer, member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), says, “Get your skin checked annually around the time of your birthday or a favorite holiday. With summer upon us, opt for July 4 or Labor Day to make sure you get an annual skin cancer screening.”

Many people might be surprised to learn that sun damage is cumulative, and sun exposure in your youth may lead to aging and skin cancer later on. To prevent sun damage, you should develop a routine of wearing and reapplying sunscreen.

“Overexposure to the sun, seen as sunburns, will set skin in a downward spiral,” notes Dr. Kaminer. “In fact, many of my patients can pinpoint the specific sunburn that damaged their skin. Protecting the skin from harmful UV rays is critical not just during the summer, but all year.”

So, what are some steps you can take on a daily basis to lower your risk of skin cancer this summer and beyond? Dr. Kaminer and the ASDS suggest the following:

Be sure to wear sunscreen: No matter what your skin type or how your body reacts to the sun, you should always wear sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply about one ounce (the size of a shot glass) of sunscreen to cover your entire body and reapply every two to three hours spent outdoors. Research shows that many people put on about half of the amount of sunscreen they need, so be sure to lather it on. Also, don’t forget your lips – use lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Take more than a break: Avoid sun exposure during peak hours of intensity from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you must be outside, apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before heading out and reapply throughout the day.

Wear sun protective clothing: Wearing a hat with a full, wide brim can help protect areas often exposed to the sun, such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp. Apply sunscreen under a T-shirt, or wear more protective clothing.

Protect your family: Teach children life-long skin protection habits at a young age, even if you think they aren’t listening. Set a good example by putting on sunscreen together.

In addition, Dr. Kaminer and the ASDS offer the following tips for long-term skin cancer detection and prevention:

Monitor your skin: If any unusual spots appear on your skin, get them checked out immediately. If something looks funny or different, see a dermatologic surgeon.

See the right doctor: When something doesn’t look right, schedule an appointment with a dermatologic surgeon, who can use a number of noninvasive tools to determine if the spot is cancerous. You can then work together to find the right treatment; many newer treatments are painless and do not cause scarring. To find a dermatologic surgeon, visit

Get help from a friend: The best way to detect skin cancer, especially on hard-to-see places like the back, is to have your spouse, partner or a friend check your skin on a regular basis. Be sure to check your skin yourself too.

So, pack that sunscreen wherever you go and reapply. And be sure to schedule an appointment with your dermatologic surgeon this summer. Visit for more information on how to best detect and prevent skin cancer and to find a free skin cancer screening in your area.

About the ASDS
ASDS is the largest specialty organization exclusively representing dermatologic surgeons who have unique training and experience to treat the health, function and beauty of skin. Dermatologic surgeons are experts in skin cancer prevention, detection and treatment. As the incidence of skin cancer rises, dermatologic surgeons are committed to taking steps to minimize the life-threatening effects of this disease. ASDS members are pioneers in the field, having created and enhanced many of the advancements in dermatologic surgery to repair and improve the skin.

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