Five Things You Need to Know About Cancer Genetics

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Although most cancers are sporadic or occur by chance, a small percentage are due to inherited genetic (or germline) mutations, which can often be identified through genetic testing.  These mutations are different from somatic mutations, which are not inherited, but occur during one’s lifetime. Profile, a research project launched by Dana-Farber and Briigham and Women’s Hospital, has been analyzing DNA from tumor tissue since 2011 to learn more about how somatic mutations drive cancer. “Depending on family and personal history, we can test for genes that confer an increased risk for developing cancer,” says Huma Q. Rana, MD, clinical director for …

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Cancer Between the Lines

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Young adults often have their sights set on the future, anticipating college, working at their dream job, or traveling. One place they don’t plan to be is in an infusion chair undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer disrupts everyone, but especially adults age 18-34 who are growing into adulthood and starting careers and families. The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber works to help combat these unique challenges by providing emotional support from professionals, and by creating a special community. This resource also helps patients interact with their peers for support. One challenge young adults face is communicating what they are going through …

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Eight Healthy Recipes for Your Summer Cookout

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With Memorial Day approaching, we’re all looking forward to getting outside with family and friends to enjoy barbecues. Although hamburgers, hot dogs, and potato salad are staples at these affairs, it’s important to keep an eye on the things you’re eating and make healthy choices when possible. In general, try to stick to lean meats like poultry or fish, or substitute meat with colorful vegetables. For flavoring, use acid-based marinades like lemon or vinaigrettes instead of thick, sugary sauces. There are many recipes out there that offer nutrient-dense versions of our favorite summer foods. Dana-Farber nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, has …

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What’s the Difference Between Melanoma and Skin Cancer?

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Many people consider skin cancer to be synonymous with melanoma. As May marks Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, it is important to understand that melanoma is only one type of skin cancer; other forms of the disease are less aggressive and more common. Melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer, with approximately 76,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. It is also the most aggressive, and is most likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis. Possible signs of …

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Melanoma: Five Things You Need to Know

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Although skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, melanoma accounts for less than 2 percent of all skin cancer cases. The disease, which will be diagnosed in around 76,000 Americans in 2014, is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are found on the lower part of the epidermis. The disease can occur anywhere on the body and usually begins in a mole. “It is important that people protect themselves from the sun and make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of melanoma to greatly reduce their risk of …

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When Should I Begin Regular Mammograms?

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For women weighing whether to have a mammogram for early detection of breast cancer, the findings of some recent studies can seem especially confusing. This month, a team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School published a review of recent mammography studies. They concluded that, for women in their 40s, the benefits of mammograms aren’t as great as they’re often touted to be, and the potential downsides – such as the likelihood of having a repeat screening or biopsy that doesn’t find cancer – are greater than for older women. The benefits of mammography vary with …

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Debunking Common Nutrition Myths

By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD For cancer patients, a healthy, balanced diet is important for managing symptoms and promoting survivorship and overall wellness. But in a world where it’s nearly impossible to tell one fad diet from the next, it can be difficult to determine which foods are actually good for you. We’re debunking some of the common myths about certain foods:

DNA Test May Offer Alternative to Pap Smear

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel has recommended that a DNA test should be the primary screening tool for cervical cancer, rather than the traditional Pap smear. The DNA test detects the DNA of human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted infection that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. “This is an important step forward for cervical cancer screening,” says Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Specifically, the DNA test screens for HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two highest-risk HPV strains, as well as 12 other high-risk HPV …

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