A 36 year-old spunky, bold, compassionate mother of two (and good friend of mine) discovered her own breast cancer. It wasn’t even a lump, more of a “leatheriness,” she said, and she almost hated to go get it checked out, as it felt like something she might just be imagining. But alas, it was not an overactive imagination. It was advanced breast cancer requiring chemotherapy, radiation, and mastectomy.
When I was in med school, I was taught that breast cancer under the age of 40 was RARE. Yet, every month or so it seems as if I hear a story of someone younger than 40 getting breast cancer. Good friends and acquaintances. Indeed, the statistics are changing, and it is a documented, terrifying fact that breast cancer rates are increasing in women younger than 40 years old, particularly the rates of advanced breast cancer requiring chemotherapy and radiation. (1)
(This post will not be about breast cancer. It’s just going to briefly touch on the idea that thyroid condition patients are at higher risk for breast cancer, a fact I don’t think they all know.)
“Could my thyroid cancer have anything to do with my breast cancer?”
My friend asked her breast surgeon: “Could the thyroid cancer I had when I was younger have anything to do with my breast cancer?”
His reply to her question was apparently a flat-out NO.
He told her wrong.
If you read no further than this next paragraph, here’s my take-home:
If you have thyroid disease, I encourage you to be assertive about breast monitoring. Those with thyroid disease deserve to know that certain thyroid conditions are definitely associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Print off any of the articles I list in my references which may apply to you and take them into your healthcare provider to develop a breast monitoring plan together.
Thyroid Cancer Points to a Woman at Higher Risk for Breast Cancer
Thyroid cancer is associated with an increased breast cancer risk. In 2015, Dr. Jennifer Kuo (M.D.) of Columbia University presented pooled data from something called the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Database-9 (between the years of 1973-2011), reporting that patients who had had thyroid cancer were at an increased risk for developing breast cancer in comparison to the general population.
The 10-year risk for developing breast cancer at 40 years old was 5.6% after having thyroid cancer, while for the general population, breast cancer risk was only 1.5%. By age 50, the rate increased to 12.8% while the general population hung out at about 2.4%.
Simple recap for those with a history of thyroid cancer:
- At age 40, 5.6% risk of breast cancer versus 1.5% risk in “normal people.”
- At age 50, 12.8% risk of breast cancer versus 2.4% in “normal people.” (2)
Review of different data by other researchers indicated that a woman who had survived thyroid cancer was 1.18 times more likely to develop breast cancer than controls. Interestingly, this review also indicated the risk went the other way too! A breast cancer patient was 1.55 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than the general population. (3)
So the answer is not NO. The answer is YES.
If you’ve had thyroid cancer, you and your doctor need to know that you’re at a higher risk for breast cancer and should take steps for monitoring your breast tissue.
Will Continue Next Post
In the next post, I’ll briefly cover other thyroid conditions and what the research indicates regarding breast cancer risk. And of course link it to food and encourage you to stick with whole, real food rich in vegetables and fruits! Both you AND your kids.
Have a wonderful Monday! Remember something that really makes you smile today. Think on it all day. And let that smile out. Share it. The world changes only as people’s hearts change. Your smile and joy can change people’s hearts.
(Doing the citations is the biggest headache of my scientifically related posts, but I think citations are monumental to include–and especially helpful when the citation is linked to the piece of information in the article so you don’t have to go searching for which article information came from. When I re-write paragraphs, it messes the citation order ALL up. What a headache. So please, let me know if something doesn’t look right and I need to look at it again. Or if you’re a scientific writer who knows the trick to doing citations more easily, please do share!)
1. Johnson RH, Chien FL, Bleyer A. Incidence of Breast Cancer With Distant Involvement Among Women in the United States, 1976 to 2009. JAMA. 2013;309(8):800-805; doi:10.1001/jama.2013.776. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=165625
2. Thyroid-Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk of Breast Cancer. Medscape Web Site. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/845605. Published June 1, 2015.
3. Nielson SM et al. The Breast-Thyroid Connection Link: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. February 2016 25; 231. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0833. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/25/2/231.abstract