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Understanding Oestrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancer

Age related illnesses, Women's Health | August 11, 2015 | Author: The Super Pharmacist

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Understanding Oestrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women (excluding basal and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin), accounting for 28.0 per cent of all new cancers in women. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in Australian women (lung cancer being the first). One in eight women in Australia will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the age of 85.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide. The incidence rates are highest in North America, Australia/New Zealand, and in western and northern Europe, and lowest in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These international differences are likely related to societal changes as a result of industrialisation (eg, changes in fat intake, body weight, age at menarche, and/or lactation, and reproductive patterns such as fewer pregnancies and later age at first birth).

The incidence of breast cancer has been on a downward trend in recent years. It is likely that two factors have contributed to this: the discontinuation of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the saturation/leveling of screening mammography rates. Of these factors, the discontinuation of HRT has probably had a greater effect.10,13,14 This was demonstrated in a report from the Women’s Health Initiative where a rapid decline in breast cancer incidence was noted in trial participants following discontinuation of HRT.13

What Is Oestrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancer?

The oestrogen receptor (ER) is central to the biology of most human breast cancer. A cancer is called oestrogen receptor positive (or ER+) if it has receptors for oestrogen. This suggests that the cancer cells, like normal breast cells, may receive signals from oestrogen that could promote their growth. Cell receptors, including hormone receptors, are special proteins found within and on the surface of certain cells throughout the body, including breast cells. One type of receptor found in normal breast cells is the hormone receptor. By attaching to hormone receptors, oestrogen and/or progesterone contribute to the growth and function of breast cells. Like healthy breast cells, most breast cancer cells — but not all — have hormone receptors and respond to the signals coming from these hormones.
For hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer cells, hormonal therapy can be used to interrupt the influence of hormones on the cells’ growth and overall functioning. If the hormone is taken away or blocked, the cancer cells are less likely to survive.

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