Vaccine for breast cancer possible says expert

Breast cancer vaccine 'within reach'

A vaccine to stop a woman developing breast cancer is within reach says a leading expert.

Professor Valerie Beral of Oxford University, who heads up the Million Women’s Study which analyses the causes of the disease has stated that the latest study cemented the belief that the absence of hormonal changes connected with childbirth causes many breast cancers.

Childbirth and breastfeeding both significantly lower the risk of later developing breast cancer.

Speaking to the Guardian, Beral explained that while new drugs and earlier diagnosis have significantly cut death rates, the number of women contracting breast cancer and undergoing surgery and chemotherapy is increasing.

Beral said that genes were only responsible for a very small number of cancers.

While Beral recognised that it was unrealistic to hark back to an era when women had babies and breastfed for significantly longer periods of time, she did add: ‘Why aren’t we thinking of mimicking the effects of childbirth?’

‘We don’t know how this happens and nobody is doing research on it. We should be looking at hormone production during late pregnancy and lactation.’

Beral is director of the cancer epidemiology unit of Oxford University. Her work is funded by Cancer Research UK and uses huge amounts of statistical data to pinpoint the characteristics of behavioural patterns which increase women’s risk of developing the disease.

Speaking at the National Cancer Research Institute annual conference, Beral called for more funds to be poured into breast cancer research.

‘It is not well-funded. It is not mainstream research. Why isn’t it a priority of the cancer community?’ she questioned.

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