A Breast Cancer Shot?

Breast cancer vaccine ‘within reach’
New study confirms disease is associated with childbirth.

Professor Valerie Beral of Oxford University, who leads the Million Women’s Study into the causes of the disease, told the Guardian the study had put beyond doubt what had long been guessed – that many breast cancers are caused by the absence of hormonal changes connected with childbirth.

Beral challenged the scientific community to turn its efforts to preventing breast cancer. While money and effort is poured into better drug treatments, hardly anyone is working on prevention.

Speaking to the Guardian, she said that while death rates have been slashed by new drugs and earlier diagnosis, the number of women getting breast cancer and having to go through traumatic surgery and chemotherapy was rising.

Genes played a part in only a very small number of cancers. The processes of giving birth and breastfeeding protected a woman from breast cancer more than anything else.

The more children a woman had and the longer she breastfed, the lower her risk was of later contracting breast cancer. Women in developed countries where small families are the norm have six times the breast cancer risk of those in rural parts of Asia with large families.