O: What about the safety of birth control pills?

Love: In young women, breast cancer is relatively rare, so the slight increase of breast cancer risk caused by the Pill is not very significant. The concern is that doctors are now giving it to women in their forties around perimenopause, even menopause, saying it's a way to treat the symptoms. And in that age group, breast cancer is not so rare.

Norton: Birth control pills are an estrogen-progesterone combination, so they bring up the same fears as HRT. Some disagree with me, but I just don't see a reason to take the Pill—even for younger women. The fact is, breast cancer cells, at least in the formative stages, like estrogen. So the more continuously you feed them the estrogen, the greater the likelihood you'll have a malignancy. With the sexually transmitted diseases that we have to worry about nowadays, I think barrier methods make a lot more sense.

O: Are there any breakthroughs in sight?

Norton: People should keep their eyes on cancer vaccines. We're working on vaccines for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. And I think there's still a lot of promise in the antiangiogenesis approach—drugs that interfere with the formation of new blood vessels that feed tumors.

Love: Several companies are looking at why we have to take out tumors at all, as long as we kill them—by freezing, lasering, or microwaving. One company is working on a balloon that you can stick into the biopsy cavity, fill with radiation for a day or two, and then be done. There's another company that's looking at giving the radiation right in the operating room.

O: Will we ever conquer this disease?

Norton: Even in a few decades, breast cancer may be one of the diseases that is just a matter of history.

Love: I really think we're going to eradicate it in our lifetime.


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