Oxygen plus MRI might help determine cancer therapy. A simple MRI test involving breathing oxygen might help oncologists determine the best treatment for some cancer patients. Because tumours with little oxygen tend to grow stronger and resist both radiation and chemo, gauging the oxygen level has meant inserting a huge needle into the tumour. A new technique, used to measure tumours in cervical, prostate, head and neck cancers, will require the patient to inhale pure oxygen and then undergo an MRI. The results are as accurate as the older method and much less stressful for the patient. (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090603091042. htm)

Child obesity linked to chemicals in plastics. According to a long-term health study on girls living in East Harlem and surrounding communities, exposure to chemicals used in plastics may be linked with childhood obesity. Part of the study concentrated on phthalates (mainly used as plasticizers to increase plastics’ flexi-bility, transparency, durability and longevity) and followed 400 girls aged from 9 to 11. Results indicate evidence linking obesity with endocrine disruptors. (See also the Nicholas D. Kristof’s op-ed piece “Chemicals and our Health” in the NY Times at www.nytimes.com/2009/07/16/opinion/16kristof. html?_r=1) (Association of Obesity and Asthma in Inner City Minority Children. Epidemiology 19(6): S103, November 2008)

A Bad Mix: Exposure May be “Safe” Only With One Chemical at a Time. Exposure to a mixture of environmental chemicals is far more harmful to male rats than exposure to the individual chemicals would predict, even when the level of each contaminant in the mixture causes no effect by itself. The results indicate that assessing the risk of chemicals one--compound-at-a-time will underestimate potential harm. (www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/bad-mix-exposures-safe-only-one-chemical-at-a-time).

Breast tenderness can be a warning sign of cancer risk for women on HRT. Of women who developed breast tenderness during their first year of taking HRT, 2.8 % went on to develop breast cancer in the next five years or so. Women taking HRT who didn’t get breast tenderness had a 2.2% risk of cancer. Although the difference is small, the researchers think it is not merely due to chance. Crandall CJ, Aragaki, AK, Chlebowski RT, et al. New-onset breast tenderness after initiation of estrogen plus progestin therapy and breast cancer risk. (Arch Int Med 2009; 169:1684-1691)

Although extremely rare, girls under 15 can get breast cancer. A report published by CNN.com tells the story of two girls – one 11, one 13 – diagnosed with breast cancer. This highlights the concern that younger women are developing breast cancer. In women with gene mutations (BRCA 1 and 2), the disease is often diagnosed six years earlier than with the previous generation. No one knows why. Obesity explains some cases, not all. (www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/10/26/tweens.breast. cancer/index. html)

Second-hand smoke linked to breast cancer: Panel. A panel of international medical experts at the National Con-ference on Tobacco or Health (Montreal, November 2009) warns about a link between exposure to second-hand smoke and breast cancer in premenopausal women. The experts have called on health advocates to support the inclusion of breast cancer warnings on tobacco products. (Allison Cross, Canwest News Service, Montreal Gazette, Nov. 5, 2009)

Evolution of disease traced in B. C. woman. An unknown B. C. woman donated samples of her cancer tissue to science. Five gene mutations played lead roles when her cancer first showed up with another six mutations in supporting roles. When tumours recurred nine years later, 19 new mutations and a couple of new bit players were helping the cancer to grow and spread. The findings, by a team at the B. C. Cancer Agency, give an unprecedented glimpse of how breast cancer evolves. Mutational evolution in a lobular breast tumour profiled at single nucleotide resolution. (Nature 461, 809-813, 8 October 2009)

Prenatal exposure to bisphenol-A may affect behaviour. Daughters of women who had higher concentrations of bisphenol-A in their urine samples during pregnancy were more likely to have aggressive and hyperactive behaviours. For the study, urine samples were taken from 249 pregnant women in Cincinnati, Ohio, at 16 weeks and 26 weeks of pregnancy, and again at birth. The daughters were more likely to act like boys than girls. (Environmental Health Perspectives, Oct. 6, 2009)

What is chemobrain? Mild cognitive impairment following chemotherapy is one of the most common post-treatment symptoms reported by breast cancer survivors. This can include memory loss, inability to concentrate, difficulty thinking and other subtle changes. A better understanding of these impairments will aid researchers in developing targeted therapies and interventions. Boykoff N, Moieni M, Subramanian S. Confronting chemobrain: an in-depth look at survivors reports of impact on work, social networks, and health care response. (J Cancer Survivorship, 2009; DOI 10.1007s11764-009-0098-x)

Antibacterial found in dolphins. A bacteria-killing chemical widely used in an array of consumer products has made its way down kitchen and bathroom sinks and into dolphins living in U. S. coastal waters. Blood samples taken from dolphins captured in South Carolina and Florida detected triclosan, a common additive in soaps, deodorants and toothpastes. (Occurrence of triclosan in plasma of wild Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and in their environment. Environmental Pollution, DOI 10.1016/j. envpol. 2009.04.002)

Mammograms cut risk of breast cancer death. Three-fourths of deaths due to breast cancer occur among women who do not undergo regular screening mammograms. This study involved 6,997 women diagnosed with breast cancer in Massachusetts between 1990 and 1999. Eighty percent had regular mammograms (at least every two years). Over the next 13 years, there were 461 deaths from breast cancer, 75% among women who did not receive regular mammograms and 25% among women who were regularly screened. (The findings were presented by the American Society of Clinical Oncology prior to the 2009 Breast Cancer Symposium in San Francisco.)

Low-dose estrogen used to treat advanced breast cancer. A very low dose of estradiol sometimes helps women whose breast cancer has recurred. Sixty-six women with advanced breast cancer who had been treated with aromatase inhibitors (Aromasin, Femara or Arimidex) experienced a relapse. Low doses of estradiol stopped disease progression in 30% of the women. In some cases, the improvement was temporary so these women resumed daily treatment with aromatase inhibitors. These paradoxical treatments and results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Ellis MJ, Gao F, Dehdashti F, et al. Lower-Dose vs High-Dose Oral Estradiol Therapy of Hormone Receptor–Positive, Aromatase Inhibitor–Resistant Advanced Breast Cancer: A Phase 2 Randomized Study, JAMA, August 19, 2009; 302:774-780)

One-day treatment option for early stage breast cancer. A pioneering and experimental one-day option is being tested. This involves removing the breast tumour, checking that the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, then implant-ing an inflatable balloon into the breast to enable radiation with a mobile machine. This type of intraoperative therapy is common in Europe but is new to North America. A number of Chicago area hospitals are participating in the trials. (Sheila Burt, Chicago Tribune, August 5, 2009)