Cancer Questions

Cancer Questions is a podcast by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that addresses some of the most common questions surrounding cancer risk and prevention. From screening recommendations to actionable ways to decrease your cancer risk, our experts provide research-backed insights that everyone can use.

Does Eating Grilled Food Increase Cancer Risk?

Christina Conte, RDN, LDN, nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, explores the link between grilled food and cancer risk, offering practical tips for healthier grilling. She explains why choosing lean meats like skinless chicken and fish, using vinegar or lemon-based marinades, and opting for smaller cuts can help reduce your exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.

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    Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I'm Christina Conte, the nutrition coordinator in the Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living and today's question is “Does eating grilled food increase cancer risk?”

    Eating grilled food is not a major cause of cancer, but there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of exposure to some chemicals linked to cancer which can form during grilling.  

    If you're grilling meat, choose lean cuts like skinless chicken, fish and 93% lean turkey or beef. Leaner meats create less smoke on the grill, which is a key part of minimizing cancer risk. Marinate chicken and fish in vinegar or lemon containing marinades. This has been shown to reduce cancer-causing that can form when grilling food. Limit how long food is on the grill. Try smaller cuts of meat like kabobs because they take less time to cook, and always thaw frozen meats before putting them on the grill.

    Lastly, grill vegetables. They have less protein, which means they don't form the same amount of cancer promoting compounds on the grill.

    Does Breastfeeding Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

    Harold Burstein, MD, PhD, breast oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, highlights studies that have shown the longer women offer breastfeeding to their infants, if they have the option, the lower the risk of breast cancer.

    Learn more about breast cancer screening, risk and prevention.

      Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I'm Dr. Harold Burstein, a breast oncologist in the Susan F Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber. Today's question is "Does breastfeeding reduce the risk of breast cancer?" The answer seems to be yes.

      Many epidemiological studies have shown over the years that the more frequently and the longer women offer breastfeeding to their infants, the lower the risk of breast cancer. And in fact, some of the variation in the rates of breast cancer between different countries and different societies reflects the likelihood that women breastfeed after they deliver their babies.

      So, for women who have the option of breastfeeding, it's a small secondary reason to think about it. Obviously, not every woman can breastfeed, and the impact of breastfeeding on breast cancer risk remains a relatively minor effect and so there shouldn't be too much distress one way or the other if you're able to breastfeed or not. 

      Are At-Home Tests a Good Screening Option for Colorectal Cancer?

      Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, highlights various screening methods for colorectal cancer, including at-home stool-based tests and colonoscopies.

      Learn more about colorectal cancer screening, risk and prevention.

        Welcome to Cancer Questions from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I'm Dr. Kimmie Ng, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber. Today's question is "Are at-home tests a good screening option for colorectal cancer?" The answer is yes.

        There is a dedicated effort to make sure that there are a menu of screening options available for individuals at average risk of colorectal cancer. Although colonoscopy is widely considered to be the gold standard test because it can both prevent cancer as well as catch cancer at an earlier stage, at-home tests are equally effective at trying to catch cancers at an earlier stage and have been shown to decrease deaths from colorectal cancer. The take home message is the best screening test is the one that gets done. 

        What Is the Association Between Soy and Cancer Risk?

        What is the association between soy and cancer risk? Wendy Chen, MD, MPH, medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, helps shed light on the link between soy and breast cancer risk, drawing from cultural and laboratory studies to provide guidance on how to eat soy safely.

          Welcome to Cancer Questions from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I'm Dr. Wendy Chen, a breast cancer medical oncologist at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers. Today's question is: What is the association between soy and cancer risk?

          This question comes up most in relation to breast cancer risk. And that's because soy contains what are called phytoestrogens, which are plant-based estrogens. And in laboratory studies, high concentrations of soy proteins can be associated with breast cancer cell growth.

          Interestingly, however, when you look at studies of cultures where they consume large amounts of soy, like in China and Japan, the high consumers of soy actually have slightly lower risks of breast cancer.

          So what I tell my patients is if it's food-based soy, they can definitely eat that in moderation.

          However, I would not buy highly processed or any type of soy supplement. 

          How and When Should I Get Screened for Skin Cancer?

          In this episode of Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber, we address the question: How and when should you get screened for skin cancer?  

          Elizabeth Buchbinder, MD, senior physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, highlights what you need to know about skin cancer screening.

          Learn more about skin cancer risk, screening, and prevention.

            Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber. My name is Elizabeth Buchbinder, and I am a senior physician at Dana-Farber within the Melanoma Disease Center.

            Today's question is "How and when should I get screened for skin cancer?"

            There are several things we think about when recommending patients get screened for skin cancer. The most important is history.

            If you have a history in your family of skin cancer, a relative with a melanoma or other skin cancer, it's a good idea to get checked by a dermatologist at some regularity.

            In addition, if you have any history yourself of a skin cancer, be it a melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma, [that's] definitely a reason to be seeing dermatology pretty regularly to keep looking for new lesions or other new skin cancers.

            The second factor we think about a lot is exposure, so exposure to the sun or other forms of UV radiation.

            So that could be tanning booths, history of prior sunburns, anything that is an increase in UV exposure is a reason to potentially get checked.

            The third factor we think about is the skin itself. And if you're noticing that a mole is changing or there's a new spot on the skin, whether that spot is changing in size, color, is becoming more irritated or even just seems a little different. It's worth getting that checked.

            And that initial check could be with a primary care doctor who takes a look at it. But that doctor may send you on to the dermatologist if there's anything concerning about that spot.

            Risk factors include persistent infection with high risk strains of the human papillomavirus, smoking, or those who have a weakened immune system.

            It is important to talk to your health care provider about your individual risks for each of these different cancers and what you can do to help prevent them.

            What Are the Risk Factors for Gynecologic Cancers?

            Gynecologic cancers, including ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancers, have varying risk factors. Susanne Menon, NP, a women's health nurse practitioner at Dana-Farber, helps break down these factors for prevention and early detection.

            Learn more about gynecologic cancers.

              Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana Farber. My name is Susanne Menon, a women's health nurse practitioner with the GYN group at Dana-Farber.

              Today's question is: What are the risk factors for gynecologic cancers?

              About 21,000 individuals are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in the United States, making ovarian cancer the fifth deadliest cancer in the U.S. for women.

              There are some known risk factors, however, and these include personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer, known high risk genetic mutations including BRCA mutation or Lynch syndrome, having a history of infertility, not having had children, or having a late onset of menopause.

              Uterine cancer is the most common of all of the gynecologic cancers. The majority of individuals are diagnosed with uterine cancer over the age of 50.

              Other risk factors include obesity, having taken estrogen without progestin as part of hormone replacement therapy after menopause, having received tamoxifen as part of breast cancer treatment, having a personal or family history of colon cancer, or an ovarian cancer, or a family history of uterine cancer, or high risk genetic mutations such as BRCA or Lynch syndrome.

              Cervical cancer was once the most common and the most deadly of the gynecologic cancers. But now, with current screening techniques, fewer women are being diagnosed and are dying with cervical cancer than ever before.

              Currently, about 11,500 individuals per year are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States.

              Risk factors include persistent infection with high risk strains of the human papillomavirus, smoking, or those who have a weakened immune system.

              It is important to talk to your health care provider about your individual risks for each of these different cancers and what you can do to help prevent them. 

              Do Wireless Devices or Bluetooth Devices Cause Cancer?

              In this episode of Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber, Tim Rebbeck, PhD, Dana-Farber's Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention, breaks down the latest research and addresses the common fears and misconceptions about the radiation emitted by devices.

              Learn more about cancer prevention and risk reduction.

                Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I'm Tim Rebbeck, the Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention.

                Today's question is whether Bluetooth devices or wireless devices can cause cancer.

                The question about whether these devices cause cancer comes from the fact that they do emit radiation.

                However, the kind of radiation emitted by these devices cannot cause cancer.

                Based on all of the research we have so far, you can use your devices safely without worry.

                Are There Any Screening Options for Lung Cancer?

                In this episode of Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber, David Jackman, MD, senior physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, breaks down screening options like annual low-dose CT scans for individuals ages 50-80 with a history of smoking. Dr. Jackman emphasizes the importance of discussing the potential benefits and risks of lung cancer screening with your physician.

                Learn more about lung cancer screening and treatment.

                  Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber. My name is David Jackman. I'm a senior physician here at the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber.

                  Today's question is "Are there any screening options for lung cancer?" And the answer is that, yes, lung cancer is one of the cancers for which we have an approved and validated screening test.

                  Specifically, annual low-dose CT scans have been recommended for patients between the ages of 50 to 80 who have smoked at least 20 pack years and who either still smoke or have quit within the last 15 years.

                  A number of questions arise from that.

                  First: What's a pack year? A pack year is the number of packs of cigarettes you smoke per day, times the number of years that you did that. So if you smoke one pack a day for ten years, that's ten pack years.

                  Another question that arises is, well, I don't quite meet those criteria, but I think I might be at increased risk for lung cancer due to environmental exposures or family history. Should I be screened? And the answer to that one is we don't know. The data and the studies that were conducted were specifically in heavier smokers, in patients with potential risks caused by other things.

                  You should have a conversation with your physician about the potential benefits of screening, but also about the potential risks.

                  The summary message here is, yes, if you have a significant smoking history according to the guidelines previously mentioned, please do talk to your physician about proceeding with CT screening for lung cancer.

                  How Do I Know if I Should Do Genetic Testing for Cancer Risk?

                  How do you know if you should do genetic testing for cancer risk? We address this common question in the latest episode of Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber, featuring Huma Rana, MD, MPH, clinical director of Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber.

                  Learn more about cancer risk and prevention.

                    Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber. My name is Dr. Huma Rana, and I'm clinical director of Cancer Genetics and Prevention. Today's question is: How do I know if I should do genetic testing for cancer risk?

                    Testing for cancer risk is done by testing one's germline DNA or the DNA that one is born with and has inherited from one's mother and one's father.

                    It's recommended if someone has a cancer diagnosis, specifically if there's a diagnosis of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, early onset endometrial cancers or colorectal cancers.

                    In addition, it's recommended if somebody has a rare cancer diagnosis — for example, sarcomas or a rare benign tumor, such as pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.

                    Genetic testing can also be recommended when there's a strong family history of cancers.

                    So if there's a pattern of breast and ovarian cancers or a pattern of colorectal and uterine cancers in the family, we recommend germline genetic testing.

                    Individuals who have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry should also have germline genetic testing. If one has at least one grandparent of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, then they have a higher risk of carrying a mutation in the BRCA one or BRCA two gene.

                    Germline genetic testing is very much a personal decision, and one can always meet with a genetic counselor to determine if it's right for them. 

                    What's the Connection Between Coffee and Cancer?

                    This episode of Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber addresses the question: What's the connection between coffee and cancer?

                    Christina Conte, RDN, LDN nutrition coordinator at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, highlights how coffee, especially black coffee without cream and sugar, can positively impact health and potentially lower the risk of developing cancer. 

                    Learn more about integrative therapies and healthy living.

                      Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Today's question is "What's the connection between coffee and cancer?"

                      I'm Christina Conte, the nutrition coordinator in the Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living.

                      Coffee, especially black coffee without sugar and cream, has more potential health benefits than it does risks.

                      In fact, we now have decades of research that shows drinking coffee may lower the risk of developing some types of cancer.

                      So enjoy your coffee! Thanks for watching. 

                      How and When Should Women Get Screened for Breast Cancer?

                      In this episode of Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber, Harold Burstein, MD, PhD, a breast oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, highlights what you should know about breast cancer screening. Mammography has significantly reduced breast cancer mortality globally.

                      Learn more about breast cancer screening, risk, and prevention.

                        Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I'm Dr. Harold Burstein, a breast oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber. Today's question is "How and when should women get screened for breast cancer?"

                        That's a really important public health question. And to be honest, there are different answers around the country and around the world. But the recommendations that we follow most closely are those of the American Cancer Society, and they suggest that women get a screening mammogram every year, beginning around age 40 and continuing to around age 70.

                        For women who have higher risk of developing breast cancer, perhaps because of a very strong family history or because of a known gene mutation that might predispose them to breast cancer, we also recommend additional breast imaging with an MRI typically done every year or two.

                        Mammography is a very important tool for lowering the risk of death from breast cancer, and around the globe has made a substantial impact in reducing the burden of breast cancer mortality for women everywhere. 

                        How and When Should I Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer?

                        In this episode of Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber, Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, highlights the latest guidelines for colorectal cancer screening from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

                        Learn more about colorectal cancer screening, risk, and prevention.

                          Welcome to Cancer Questions with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I'm Dr. Kimmie Ng, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber. 

                          Today's question is “How and when should I get screened for colorectal cancer?” The latest guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are that people at average risk should start colorectal cancer screening at age 45. 

                          There are a variety of different options for screening tests, including at-home stool-based tests, as well as colonoscopy, which is widely considered to be the gold standard test. 

                          Colorectal cancer is a highly preventable cancer. Getting screened means a chance at preventing colorectal cancer from developing as well as potentially finding a cancer at an earlier stage when it is more curable.

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