PUBLISHED ON: 21 June 2019

A roundup of the latest news about breast cancer research, treatments and side effects.

UK breast cancer mortality rates predicted to improve

1. UK breast cancer mortality rates predicted to improve in 2019

Mortality rates from breast cancer are predicted to fall in the UK and across Europe (except for Poland), a recent study by University of Milan researchers suggests.

The analysis predicted that mortality rates for breast cancer in the UK would fall to 13.33 per 100,000 women in 2019 – down from the observed rate in 2014 of 15.38 per 100,000 women. The researchers suggest that this would likely be due to improved screening, earlier diagnosis and better treatment options.

Of the six largest countries in Europe, the UK also had the greatest predicted decrease in breast cancer deaths for 2019.

Our Chief Executive, Baroness Delyth Morgan commented:

‘It’s really encouraging that, thanks to research advances and NHS progress, breast cancer mortality rates in the UK are finally expected to catch up with the rest of Europe. But with incidence increasing and over 11,000 mothers, daughters and sisters still dying from metastatic breast cancer each year, this progress cannot come soon enough and we need to do much, much more.

‘While this analysis represents very positive news, our rate of progress appears to be much greater than our neighbours largely because we have had some of the highest mortality rates in Europe for a long time.'

2. Black Women Rising - The Untold Cancer Stories

Black Women Rising was the UK's first all-black female cancer portrait exhibition, held in Peckham in March 2019. Set up by Leanne Pero, who was diagnosed herself in 2016, the exhibition focused on the effects of cancer on black women and showcased photographs of women’s mastectomy and surgery scars, with the aim of raising awareness of breast cancer in the community and getting more black women who have been diagnosed to share their cancer experiences.

Breast Cancer Care have supported Leanne throughout the project and had a stand at the exhibition with information booklets, run by one of our clinical nurse specialists.

Jacqueline, a participant in the exhibition said, 'The Black Women Rising project is such a great platform for women of colour to express themselves and be themselves. I think the photos will shock people, but that will help to start the conversation around breast cancer in black women. I’m so happy to be a part of it.'

Read Jacqueline’s story »

3. NICE approves abemaciclib with fulvestrant for use on the Cancer Drugs Fund


New draft guidance recommends that the use of the medication abemaciclib and fulvestrant as a new option for patients with hormone positive, HER2 negative locally-advanced or metastatic breast cancer in England who have had prior endocrine therapy. The treatment has been shown to extend the time before a patient’s condition progresses by around seven months on average, compared to fulvestrant alone – and could now benefit thousands of breast cancer patients.

Our Chief Executive, Delyth Morgan, said:

'This new combination can offer patients precious extra months before their disease progresses – time to live well that will be so important to them and their loved ones. Being progression-free for longer and able to continue with normal activities such as working is highly-valued by patients, and this combination could also help delay the need for chemotherapy and the difficult side effects that come with it.'

4. Low-fat diet could help lower risk of death from breast cancer by a fifth in postmenopausal womenA bannana

A major study of almost 50,000 postmenopausal women found that people who limited their daily fat consumption and ate at least one serving of a fruit, vegetable and grain had a lower risk of death from breast cancer compared to those continuing their normal diets. Having followed participants for 20 years, the researchers found that women eating a diet lower in fat had a 21% lower risk of dying from breast cancer following a diagnosis of the disease, compared to women continuing with their normal diets.

Our Chief Executive Delyth Morgan said:

'This major trial provides strong evidence that all postmenopausal women [who have not had breast cancer] can reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer by maintaining a healthy diet. These findings are promising as they suggest that by encouraging healthy eating, we could help more women lower their risk of dying from breast cancer.'

Find out more about diet and breast cancer »

5. Trial to train radiographers to help reduce patient's fears of breast cancer returning

University of St Andrews researchers have been awarded over £110,000 by Breast Cancer Now in partnership with the Scottish Government's Chief Scientist Office, to lead a two-year trial to train radiographers to help prevent patients developing long-term fears of recurrence, which could significantly improve their quality of life after breast cancer treatment.

Ashleigh Simpson, Policy and Campaigns Manager for Scotland at Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, said:

'This training package could ultimately help radiographers and other healthcare professionals to adopt the best methods at the most appropriate time to help reduce this fear, which will allow people to achieve the best possible quality of life during and after treatment.'

6. Night shifts do not increase breast cancer risk, study suggests

Night shifts do not increase breast cancer

A landmark study of more than 100,000 women for the Breast Cancer Now Generations Study suggests that night shift work may not have an impact on developing breast cancer. The study, recently published in the British Journal of Cancer,  examined extensive details of women's night shift work, finding those who worked night shifts were no more likely to develop breast cancer than those who had not.

The findings come as the worldwide evidence on night shift work and cancer, including any possible impact on breast cancer risk, is set to be reviewed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in the summer of 2019.

7. Combining ribociclib with hormone therapy could extend life for younger women

Combining breast cancer drug ribociclib with an aromatase inhibitor can extend the lives of premenopausal women diagnosed with hormone positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer, a major trial presented at ASCO annual meeting in Chicago has found. The trial followed 672 premenopausal women from across 30 countries. The trial followed 672 premenopausal women from across 30 countries. This drug combination was made available on the NHS in December 2017 to pre- and post-menopausal patients following major trial results showing it can delay the progression of the disease.

Our Chief Executive Delyth Morgan commented:

‘We cannot put into words what it will mean for so many women to be able to spend precious extra time with their families and create memories that will last a lifetime.We now eagerly await further results to fully understand the life-extension that this and other similar drugs may offer, as well as their survival benefit in postmenopausal women.’