Breast Cancer Risk: Facts, Fictions and the Future

Progress Educational Trust
Darwin Lecture Theatre, Darwin Building, University College London, Malet Place, London WC1E 6BT
3 July 2014 6.30pm-8.30pm
This public event was organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) at University College London, and was supported by the Wellcome Trust. The event formed part of the PET project 'Breast Cancer: Chances'.
A podcast produced by James Brooks, in which he interviews members of the speaker panel, can be listened to using the player below or alternatively can be downloaded by clicking here (.mp3 16.2MB).
Nicola Davis has written a summary of this event for PET's flagship publication BioNews.
PET invited audiences at the project's three previous events - 'Relative Risk: Breast Cancer and Genetics', 'Risk Assessment: Breast Cancer' and 'Risk Management: Breast Cancer, Business and Patents' - to decide what topics should be addressed at this concluding event. The topics chosen were:
Facts about men and breast cancer
The Australian politician Nick Greiner was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. How does breast cancer impact upon men? What are the facts about male breast cancer? What do men need to know about the possibility that they may carry mutations in breast cancer risk genes (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2), that may then be inherited by their daughters, or indeed their sons? And what of other cancers - such as prostate cancer - that are associated with mutations in these same genes?
Fictions about breast cancer risk
From abortion to aerosols, from breastfeeding to broccoli, from contraception to coffee, there are a bewildering number of factors that - it's claimed by some - can increase or decrease a person's risk of breast cancer. Depending on whom you ask, which websites you look at and what happens to be in the news on a given day, you're liable to be confronted with alarming and often contradictory advice about risk factors. How are patients and their families to know which sources of information about breast cancer are reliable and scientifically sound?
The future of breast cancer, particularly epigenetics
Epigenetics is an increasingly prominent field of research, investigating enduring changes in the pattern of gene expression that do not involve any alteration of the DNA sequence. Epigenetics can help us understand the relationship between genes and environment, within generations and potentially also across generations. Might epigenetics be useful in predicting, preventing or treating breast cancer? How are patients to distinguish fact from fiction, when extravagant claims are made about epigenetics?
This event saw these and other aspects of breast cancer discussed from contrasting perspectives by a panel of experts.

Eluned Hughes
Head of Public Health at Breakthrough Breast Cancer
Fay Schopen
Journalist and former patient
Dr James Flanagan
Research Fellow at Imperial College London's Department of Surgery and Cancer
Gareth Evans
Professor of Medical Genetics and Cancer Epidemiology at the University of Manchester, and Consultant in Medical Genetics and Cancer Epidemiology at the Christie and Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trusts

Dr Jess Buxton
Trustee at PET, and British Heart Foundation Scholar at University College London's Institute of Cardiovascular Science

  Partners and supporters:
  Wellcome Trust