6 Symptoms of Breast Cancer That Aren’t a Lump

Lumps get most of the attention when you think about the symptoms of breast cancer. You’ve probably heard that you should check your breasts regularly and be on the lookout for new or unusual bumps you can’t remember being there before. If you do find one, don’t panic—some women’s breasts happen to be lumpy without it being a sign of cancer. But if it’s a new lump, feels different from other lumps, or you just want some reassurance, it’s a good idea to get it looked at by a doctor.

But there are other breast cancer signs you should know, too. “It’s not uncommon for breast cancer to present itself as something other than a lump,” Jack Jacoub, M.D., a medical oncologist and medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells SELF, estimating that anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers he’s seen don’t involve one. While the most common symptom of breast cancer is still a new bump or mass, according to the American Cancer Society, here are a few others that should be on your radar, too.

1. Skin dimpling

Tumors can be deep in your breast and cause inflammation around them that tethers to the ligaments and skin, Dennis Holmes, M.D., a breast cancer surgeon and researcher and interim director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells SELF. When this happens, part of your skin can be pulled in, creating a dimpled effect. This tends to be more obvious when your arms are raised, Dr. Holmes says, so make sure you also elevate your arms when you’re inspecting your breasts and bring this change up with your doctor.

2. Nipple retraction

Most women’s nipples stick out, but it’s possible to have inverted nipples, where your nipple is pulled into the breast. That’s no biggie from a medical standpoint. What is concerning, though, is if your nipple used to stick out and starts to get pulled inward. Nipple retraction can be caused by a tumor that’s located in the center of your breast, says Dr. Holmes. “It involves the milk ducts and causes them to shorten, pulling in the nipple, ” he explains. Like dimpling, this is more obvious when your arms are raised and is more than enough reason to check in with your doctor.

3. Nipple discharge

It’s important to take a few things into account with this one, says Dr. Jacoub. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s normal to have some nipple discharge. But if you’re not and you have bloody or clear discharge from your nipples, even when you’re not squeezing them, it’s important to get it checked out, John Kiluk, M.D., F.A.C.S., a breast cancer surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center, tells SELF. Keep in mind, though, that nipple discharge isn’t automatically a sign that you have cancer. Noncancerous tumors in the breast, called papillomas, can cause a bloody discharge, according to the Mayo Clinic, and birth control, breast infections, and having fibrocystic (i.e., lumpy) breasts can also cause discharge. In any case, a medical professional can help you determine the cause and figure out the best course of treatment if necessary.

4. Breast asymmetry

It’s pretty likely that your boobs aren’t a perfectly-matched set, but if you start to see that one is suddenly becoming bigger than the other or its shape is changing somehow, it’s time to call your doctor. “The most important thing is noticing a change,” Dr. Kiluk says. A ductal or lobular breast cancer can cause asymmetry in your breasts, although weight gain and loss can as well. Bottom line: You won’t know what’s going on until you get it checked out.

5. Redness or a rash

Your boobs are regularly subjected to things that can irritate them, like your bra, lotions, and soaps. But if you notice a redness or freckle-like rash on your breast that feels warm to the touch and isn’t going away, you should get it checked out. Again, it could just be the soap you found in your partner’s shower or the new detergent you switched to. However, in rare cases, it could be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer, Dr. Holmes says. Worth noting: People with nipple piercings can develop the skin infection cellulitis, which has similar symptoms, Dr. Jacoubs says. Cellulitis requires a doctor’s care, too, so if you’re dealing with strange nipple symptoms, you might as well make an appointment.

6. Breast or nipple pain

This is an unusual symptom of breast cancer, but it can happen, especially as a sign of inflammatory breast cancer. “It could be an infection, but you might need a mammogram or ultrasound to be sure,” Dr. Jacoub says. If you get an ultrasound or mammogram and it’s inconclusive or negative for breast cancer but doctors can’t find another cause for your symptoms that makes sense, don’t let it go. “Don’t lose sight of it and keep pushing for answers,” Dr. Jacoubs says.

If you find something off with your boobs, the odds are pretty high that it’s something that’s completely unrelated to cancer. “It’s important to put everything into context,” Dr. Jacoub says. Still, it’s a good idea to get new and unusual breast symptoms checked out, just in case.


8 Reasons Your Boobs Are So Damn Itchy

Itchy boobs can be such a predicament. Of course, one of the universal truths of having skin is that it’s going to get itchy at some point. And that’s usually no big deal—if you have an itch on your arm, you scratch it. Ditto for your leg. But when it comes to itchy boobs? Sure, you could scratch them, but you might get a side eye or two in the process depending on your surroundings.

Boob itchiness is normal, and being itchy to the point where you’d see a doctor about it also isn’t unheard of. “I see a few patients every month with this complaint,” Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, tells SELF. Women will usually mention itching around their nipples or under their breasts, he says, and they often have skin irritation and a burning sensation along with it.

While regularly scratching your breasts (or, well, itching to) is probably nothing to worry about, it could be a sign that something is up. These are the top eight reasons why your boobs might be itchy, plus when you need to discuss the issue with your doctor.

1. You last washed your bra…uh…you actually can’t quite remember.

You probably have a go-to bra or two that you wear more often than you’d care to admit, and you probably wash them close to never. Unfortunately, this can cause issues with your boobs. “Dirty clothes, including underclothes, often have bacteria that can infect and irritate the skin,” Dr. Goldenberg says. Your chest in general tends to be a place where bacteria may grow thanks to the sweatiness that can happen in the area, so you really should wash your bra at least once a week, Dr. Goldenberg says. (That number goes up if you sweat a lot or if it’s a sports bra—you should wash those after every wear.) If you think your itchy boobs are due to a dirty bra, using a topical antibiotic like Neosporin can help with the irritation, but you should really just do a load of laundry.
2. You got a sunburn.

Topless sunbathing on your weekend trip to Miami may have sounded like a good idea at the time, and you hopefully slathered on sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher before you whipped off your swimsuit top. Still, your breast skin is sensitive and can easily get burned, especially since it’s not typically exposed to sunlight. Along with delightful side effects like peeling, sunburns can cause intense itching thanks to skin irritation. You can help soothe your itching with a moisturizer like Aquaphor, Dr. Goldenberg says. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends cool baths or showers and aloe vera-based moisturizers, too.
3. Your soap, laundry detergent, or dryer sheets aren’t agreeing with you.

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction that can happen when your skin is exposed to something it doesn’t like, and itchiness is one of its major giveaways. If you wash your bras with regular detergent or dry them with dryer sheets, it’s possible your boobs will riot and become itchy. (Same goes for towels, sheets if you sleep in the nude, and basically anything else that can come into contact with your chest, including your body wash.) Fragrances in particular are suspect, which is why Dr. Goldenberg recommends switching to fragrance-free products if you notice any reactions.
4. You have eczema.

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, itchy inflammation that can show up as a red rash. If you’ve had breast itchiness for a while and you can’t pinpoint why, eczema could be the cause, Jack Jacoub, M.D., a medical oncologist and medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells SELF. An over-the-counter topical steroid cream should help, Dr. Goldenberg says (as should avoiding potentially irritating fragrances in your products). If not, call your doctor to ask about something stronger.
5. You have psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a condition that causes skin cells to build up and form scales as well as dry, itchy patches. Unfortunately, much like eczema, it can show up on or under your boobs. You can also treat this itchiness with a topical steroid, Dr. Goldenberg says, as well as avoiding fragrances, which can exacerbate psoriasis flare-ups.
6. Your boobs hate your bra.

Bras are made with all different types of fabric, and some cheaper versions can be seriously irritating to your breasts. “Synthetic fabrics are the biggest problem,” Dr. Goldenberg says, calling out polyester and latex as some of the top potential irritants. If you recently tried out a new bra and developed itching, Dr. Goldenberg recommends switching to something that uses a natural fabric like cotton.
7. You have a yeast infection under your boobs.

You probably associate yeast infections with your vagina, but they’re actually pretty common under the breasts, too, Dr. Goldenberg says. Moisture can get trapped under there, creating an environment that’s perfect for yeast to grow, which can make your skin all itchy. To treat it, you’ll need to keep the area dry and use a topical anti-yeast medication.
8. And, in extremely rare cases, itchy boobs can be a symptom of cancer.

If you have breast itchiness, it’s much more likely that it’s due to one of the above reasons and not breast cancer. With that said, there’s a small chance it could be inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but aggressive form of the disease that invades your skin’s dermis (the layer of skin that lies beneath your epidermis, the outer layer of skin), creating an inflammatory response, Dr. Jacoub explains. Inflammatory breast cancer also usually has other symptoms like a rash, orange-peel skin, and red, inflamed skin that’s hot to the touch, Dennis Holmes, M.D., a breast cancer surgeon and researcher and interim director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells SELF.

It could also be Paget disease of the breast, another rare form of breast cancer where cancer cells go through the milk ducts and collect in or around the nipple, Dr. Holmes says. With Paget’s disease, you may also have flaky or scaly skin around your nipple, bloody nipple discharge, or a newly inverted nipple, per the Mayo Clinic.)

Again, if you have itchiness and it’s new, it’s probably due to something pretty harmless like a bad detergent. But if it persists, comes with other symptoms, or you can’t think of a reason why you’re so itchy, call your doctor just in case.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes May Increase Breast Cancer Risk in African-American Women

Findings from an observational study show type 2 diabetes increased the risk for an aggressive form of breast cancer in African-American women by more than 40 percent (Cancer Res 2017;77(22):6462-6469).

African-American women are disproportionately diagnosed with ER-negative breast cancer, with double the incidence of white women, according to researchers.

“Our results showed statistically significant evidence of an increased risk of ER-negative breast cancer in black women who had type 2 diabetes before they ever had breast cancer, primarily in the women who had diabetes for at least 5 years,” said Julie R. Palmer, ScD, Associate Director of Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center, Professor of Epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, and Associate Director of Population Sciences at the BU-BMC Cancer Center.

“If these results are confirmed, type 2 diabetes would be a modifiable risk factor for ER-negative breast cancer.”

The study did not show diabetes increased incidence of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer, which is the most common subtype (75%) and has a very high survival rate, Palmer noted.

Also garnering attention from oncologists and cancer researchers around the country is that the association Palmer and colleagues made between type 2 diabetes and ER-negative breast cancer was only observed in non-obese black women.

“This study’s findings are both surprising and compelling,” commented Dennis Holmes, MD, Breast Cancer Surgeon and Researcher, and Interim Director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center, John Wayne Cancer Institute, at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, Santa Monica, Calif.

“Obesity has long been recognized as a cause of both diabetes and breast cancer. However, this study demonstrates a convincing direct relationship between type 2 diabetes and ER-negative breast cancer, even among non-obese women. This insight is critically important, because [ER]-negative breast cancer is particularly challenging to treat,” Holmes told Oncology Times.

Troubling Epidemiology

Although black women and white women get breast cancer at about the same rate, black women have a 40 percent higher mortality rate, according to the CDC. About 20 percent of white women in the U.S. are diagnosed with the ER-positive subtype, which is typically treated very successfully with hormone therapies (MMWR 2016;65(40):1093-1098).

The far more aggressive ER-negative breast cancer subtype typically is treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. It also is prone to returning, according to the CDC (MMWR 2016;65(40):1093-1098).

“A troubling aspect of breast cancer epidemiology is the higher risk of ER-negative breast cancer in African-Americans, which accounts significantly for the higher risk of breast cancer-related deaths among African-American women,” Holmes said.

Yet, little is known about associations by breast cancer subtype in African-American women, Palmer revealed. “We are still trying to understand the basic biological processes that lead to ER-negative breast cancer. One way to do this is to study factors that are more common in an African-American population.”

For the study, Palmer and colleagues analyzed data from the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS) to assess for an association between type 2 diabetes and breast cancer. The nationwide prospective cohort study utilizes questionnaires to collect self-reported medical histories from 59,000 enrollees on a biennial basis. Palmer was instrumental in creating the BWHS, which began in 1995.

From this massive dataset, the researchers identified 1,851 cases of invasive breast cancers, including 914 ER-positive diagnoses, and 468 women with ER-negative breast cancer. Among the latter group of women, the researchers found a 43 percent greater risk. Among non-obese black women, type 2 diabetes was associated with increased risk for ER-negative cancer 92 percent of the time.

“Our findings may account for some of the racial disparity in breast cancer, and could partly explain why mortality from breast cancer is so much higher in black women than white women,” Palmer stated.

Metabolic Derangement

African-American women also are twice as likely as white women to be diagnosed with diabetes, according to the CDC. The federal agency estimates more than 50 percent of black women will develop type 2 diabetes due to a high prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a lack of exercise.

“Researchers now believe triple-negative cancers have an inflammatory component, and patients with diabetes are in a perpetual inflammatory state,” noted Nisha Unni, MD, Assistant Professor and Breast Cancer Oncologist, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

About 20-25 percent of all breast cancers are the so-called “triple-negative” subtypes, which include ER-negative, progesterone-negative, and HER2-negative breast cancers; hence, the name (MMWR 2016;65(40):1093-1098).

But while the observational study led by Palmer showed incidence of ER-negative breast cancer is higher in black women with type 2 diabetes, “it does not prove a causal association, which means it does not prove that diabetes led to the development of breast cancer,” Unni pointed out. “Since the prevalence of both triple-negative breast cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes, is higher in African-American women, the association could just be a reflection of that,” she told Oncology Times.

Jack Jacoub, MD, Medical Oncologist and Medical Director, MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center, Fountain Valley, Calif., agreed the study by Palmer, et al. “is a hypothesis-generating dataset, as we have long known African-American women have worse prognostic breast cancer, higher mortality rates from breast cancer, and high rates of triple-negative breast cancer than their white counterparts.”

However, the study’s findings helped reinforce Jacoub’s position that women at risk “be counseled about metabolic health, diabetic control, and the possible link to increased breast cancer risk due to chronic inflammation.

“Cancer-screening should be emphasized,” Jacoub told Oncology Times. “Frankly, I also look for reasons to put female patients at risk on metformin, given the recently accumulating data on its efficacy (Curr Oncol 2017;24(2):e85-e91).”

The study by Palmer, et al. “also informs physicians that diabetic and metabolic derangement control should be emphasized, and perhaps that more metformin and other hypoglycemic agents should be used in treating this patient population,” he commented.

Targeted Clinical Strategies

Several studies have suggested diabetes is a risk factor for breast cancer. One recent study also found an association between type 2 diabetes and breast cancer in African-American women, for example; however, the researchers did not report results separately for ER-negative and ER-positive disease.

Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD, MS, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence, College of Public Health and Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, said the findings in the Palmer-led study “are in line with recently published work by our group (Obesity 2017; doi:10.1002/oby.22067).”

The research led by Akinyemiju showed a significant association between lack of metabolic health—defined as a patient with any combination of the following three conditions: high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, high triglycerides, diabetes or high fasting blood glucose, high waist circumference and cancer mortality—but only among normal-weight individuals, she explained.

Speaking to the clinical implications of the results from the Palmer-led study, Akinyemiju told Oncology Times: “If type 2 diabetes is found to increase the risk of the more aggressive ER-negative breast cancer subtype, then targeted interventions focused on patients with diabetes may help reduce breast cancer incidence among African-American women, and reduce racial disparity in breast cancer outcomes that have remained intractable over the past few decades.”

Akinyemiju further noted the study led by Palmer also shows women with diabetes and using medication to treat it had a 30 percent increased risk of ER-negative breast cancer, compared with more than a two-fold increased risk among those not using medications.

“This suggests strongly that clinical strategies to ensure that type 2 diabetes is well-controlled using either medication, or lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and exercise, may be a promising approach to reducing the risk and mortality of breast cancer in African-American women,” she concluded.

If borne out with additional research, the findings of Palmer, et al. could lead to new treatment approaches “to reduce risk or even prevent triple-negative breast cancer in a population that is at higher risk,” said Melissa D. Fana, MD, FACS, Chief of Breast Surgery, Southside Hospital at Northwell Health System, Bay Shore, N.Y.

The results of the study “also support the recent understanding that it is the biology of breast cancer which is key in understanding how to better treat patients with individualized treatment regimens, and perhaps one day soon prevent breast cancer with targeted strategies,” she concluded.

Chuck Holt is a contributing writer.

Breast Implants

FDA Links Breast Implants with Rare Form of Cancer

A rare form of cancer tied to breast implants has been linked with nine deaths, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday.

Anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was first associated with breast implants in 2011, and the FDA has been investigating the link ever since.

The FDA has received 359 reports of the cancer associated with breast implants as of Feb. 1. However, the organization says, the number of cases could be underreported. The administration also found a stronger link between textured breast implants and this particular form of cancer. Of 359 cases the FDA uncovered, 231 had information on the surface of the implant — 203 were textured and 28 were smooth.

There does not seem to be a significant link between what’s in the implants and cancer — 312 of the 359 reports included information on implant contents, with 186 filled with silicone gel and 126 filled with saline.

It’s worth noting that anaplastic large-cell lymphoma is not a form of breast cancer. Rather, it’s a cancer of the immune system. Only about 1 percent of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are ALCLs, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation, and symptoms typically include fever, backache, painless swelling of lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and tiredness. ALCL can appear in the skin via raised red skin lesions that don’t go away, in the lymph nodes, or in organs throughout the body, the Lymphoma Research Foundation says.

More than 290,000 women received breast augmentation in 2016, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons — a 4 percent increase over 2015 — making this a concern for a lot of women.

The FDA is not the only organization to link this form of cancer with breast implants: The World Health Organization also recognized it in 2016, and the Plastic Surgery Foundation and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network published information to help doctors understand more about the disease, its diagnosis, and treatment.

Brian Czerniecki, MD, chair of the Moffitt Cancer Center department of breast oncology, tells Yahoo Beauty that breast implants may cause cancer because they can create bodily inflammation. “Your body wants to create a wall around the implants,” he explains. “You get some inflammation — your immune system is attracted to that — and you can get lymphoma from your immune system being overstimulated.”

Textured implants may be particularly suspect because more of the implant goes into bodily tissue, causing more of an inflammatory response, Jack Jacoub, MD, medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty.

Why use the textured implants? Surgeons do so if they want the implant to stay in place. Smooth implants are more likely to flip or shift.

Lymphoma is typically treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Jacoub says, and patients who develop ALCL would also need to have their implants removed. But, he adds, “This type of lymphoma has a good prognosis if one does develop it.”

If you have breast implants, don’t panic and remove them out of an abundance of caution. Czerniecki points out that this is a pretty rare thing that can happen and you don’t want to have unnecessary surgery.

Roberto N. Miranda, MD, a professor of hematopathology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, tells Yahoo Beauty that women who have been diagnosed with this form of cancer present with some symptoms first, including a seroma — a pocket of fluid. “It’s not like any person who has an implant and no symptoms should be concerned,” Miranda says.

However, Jacoub notes it’s a good idea to do regular breast checks — typically, ALCL manifests as a lump — and be aware of the symptoms. If you notice something off, talk to your doctor right away.

When Your Immunotherapy Stops Working

When Your Immunotherapy Stops Working

Immunotherapy is a new and different treatment option for people living with advanced lung cancer. It helps your body’s immune system better find and destroy cancer cells, even when they try to hide. The breakthrough therapy is helping some people with hard-to-treat cancer feel better and live longer.

But it doesn’t work for everyone. Currently approved drugs for lung cancer only help 1 out of 5 people. Scientists are hard at work to find new treatments to help more.

If you or a loved one is scheduled to have lung cancer immunotherapy, you need to know the key warning signs of treatment failure and what to do if they occur.

How Do You Know It Isn’t Working?

Three immunotherapy medicines, called checkpoint inhibitors, are FDA-approved for lung cancer: atezolizumab (Tecentriq), nivolumab (Opdivo), and pembrolizumab (Keytruda).

No one can tell you how well these treatments will work for you. There’s no blood test or other method to predict if the drug will shrink your tumor or make you feel better. However, there are some signs that it isn’t helping.

Tell your doctor if you have:

  • Cough
  • Pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Any other symptoms that concern you

They may be a sign that your cancer is getting worse, or they may be side effects of treatment. Only a doctor can tell the difference. However, pain is rarely a side effect of lung cancer immunotherapy treatment.

Side effects don’t mean the medicine isn’t fighting your cancer — but a severe reaction can be life threatening and may require you to stop treatment. Serious side effects are rare, but include inflammation of the lungs (pneumonitis), liver, kidneys, intestines, and other parts of the body.

When the Cancer Looks Worse but Isn’t

Your doctor will order CT scans of your tumor to keep track of it and make sure your treatment is working.

Your cancer might look worse on the first CT scan after your start immunotherapy. But it may really be getting better. Doctors call this “pseudoprogression.“ It doesn’t mean the drug isn’t working. Immunotherapy causes your immune system to attack cancer cells. The rush of helper immune cells can cause your tumor to swell and look bigger. The report may say your cancer has progressed, when it really hasn’t.

Your doctor will review your scans and discuss your symptoms. She’ll decide if your treatment is really working and your cancer is stable.

  • If the scan shows a larger tumor but there are no new areas of cancer and you feel OK, it may be pseudoprogression. Doctors usually suggest you wait two or three more treatment cycles (about 2 months) then get another scan.
  • If you feel worse and the scan shows a larger tumor and new lesions, immunotherapy likely isn’t working. The doctor will recommend you stop it and try something else.

Other Treatment Options

If immunotherapy doesn’t work, you and your doctor will discuss other ways to treat your cancer. These include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drug treatments

If these options also fail, your doctor may suggest you to take part in a clinical trial. They provide access to cutting-edge immunotherapy treatments that aren’t yet approved for lung cancer. These include other checkpoint inhibitors, therapeutic vaccines, and adoptive T-cell transfer.

If nothing helps at all, it may be time to ask your doctor if it’s time to stop treatment and start hospice and palliative care to ease your symptoms and make you feel better. An honest discussion will help you and your family make the most of every day.


New Cancer Drug Is So Effective Against Tumors, the FDA Approved It Immediately

A small but significant new study is blowing experts away after it found that a particular cancer drug overwhelmingly helped shrink or eradicate tumours in patients whose cancer had resisted every other form of treatment.

The study, which was published in the journal Science, followed 86 patients who had advanced cancer of the pancreas, prostate, uterus, or bone.

The patients were given pembrolizumab, which also goes by the brand name Keytruda, and the results were very promising.

Sixty-six patients had tumors that shrank significantly and stabilized, among them 18 patients whose tumours disappeared and haven’t returned.

The patients all carried genetic mutations that kept their cells from fixing damaged DNA.
Pembrolizumab is known as a PD-1 blocker, an emerging type of immunotherapy drug that helps the immune system find cancer cells and attack tumours.

The study was small, and there was no control group (i.e., a group that didn’t receive pembrolizumab that scientists could compare results against), but the results were so striking that the US Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, has already approved pembrolizumab for patients whose cancer comes from this particular genetic abnormality.

According to the New York Times, this is the first time a drug has been approved for use against tumours that share a particular genetic profile, regardless of where they appear in the body.

Dr Jack Jacoub, a medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told Yahoo Beauty that the study was “interesting, welcomed, and exciting.”

There has been a general opinion that the immune system is integral in the development and spread of cancer and these new findings show that targeting the immune system to treat cancer can be effective.

“To finally see now proof that targeting the immune system improves the situation and doesn’t necessarily correlate with one specific cancer … that’s a really powerful message,” Dr Jacoub said.
Dr Jacoub also points out that the FDA’s move to approve pembrolizumab quickly was a big step.
“The FDA doesn’t take these kinds of things lightly,” he said. “The data was so good, they had to approve it.”

Dr Jacoub says he suspects that drugs like this will be used in the future in connection with more established cancer treatments for specific types of the disease.

“This may improve outcomes,” he said.

“This form of therapy, plus something else, may allow us to potentially cure and eradicate cancer. These are the steps that are getting us closer to that goal.”

risk for melanoma

This is why redheads are more at risk for melanoma

It’s been acknowledged for some time that people with red hair and fair skin are more likely to develop skin cancer. But for the first time, medical researchers have uncovered the reason behind this connection, as well as a possible prevention plan.

Investigators from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) proved that MC1R (melanocortin 1 receptor) — the protein involved in pigmentation — is affected by a modification process called palmitoylation. But the researchers found that enhancing palmitoylation in MC1R proteins —demonstrated in a lab experiment using molecules and ultraviolet light — was shown to reduce risk of melanoma.

“We hope our study allows for the development of a pharmacological prevention strategy for red-headed people to protect their skin and let them enjoy the sun like other people,” said Dr. Rutao Cui, professor of pharmacology and dermatology at BUSM, said in a press release.

Making up 1 percent to 2 percent of the world’s population, redheads carry variants of MC1R, which increases their risk of skin cancers — the most dangerous being melanoma. According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, about 87,110 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed (about 52,170 in men and 34,940 in women) in the United States in 2017. Rates of melanoma have been rising for the last 30 years, and while it accounts for only about 1 percent of skin cancers, it is responsible for a large majority of skin cancer deaths.

“This is very exciting!” Shannon Trotter, a dermatologist who specializes in melanoma and skin cancers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Research that focuses on prevention and reducing melanoma risk is much needed. This study is promising, but more research will be needed to see how we can put this into practice.”

Trotter explains that palmitoylation is a special process where proteins are changed by adding fatty acids. “This can affect the function of a protein in the body and have an impact on how our cells function,” she explains.

Jack Jacoub, MD, medical oncologist and medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty that both cancer cells and normal cells have different pathways that are actively in progress.

“And palmitoylation is one of those pathways,” he states. “This is a pathway that is also being investigated in other types of cancer-related therapeutics, just like other pathways are being investigated. But the researchers in this study took it one step further. Mitigating or reducing the risk is the big message — it’s very interesting.”

Trotter adds that because palmitoylation is a chemical process, “we might be able to use a medication that enhances its function to have a desired effect.”

Jacoub agrees, but believes a one-a-day prescription in the name of prevention could be a “very hard sell.”

“It’s going to have to be, I imagine, some dietary influence or environmental influence that can be changed,” he concludes. “Or it may be a limited intervention that will have a long-term effect against risks.”