Having a little extra tissue taken off during breast cancer surgery greatly lowers the risk that some cancer will be left behind and require a second operation, said a new study that could change care for more than 100,000 women in the United States alone each year.

Women having a lump removed dread learning there was a positive margin, an area at the edge of the tumor that looked healthy but turned out to harbor cancer when studied later. There are no good ways to tell during the surgery whether the doctor has gotten it all. The new study tested cavity shaving — routinely removing an extra thin slice all around the margins — as a way to lower this risk.

“With a very simple technique of taking a little more tissue at the first operation, we can reduce the chances that somebody would need to go back to the operating room a second time by 50 percent,” said the study leader, Yale Cancer Center’s Dr. Anees Chagpar. “When you think about the emotional impact, let alone the economic impact, of those second surgeries, that’s a big deal.”

Breast feeding, lower leukemia risk

Children who are breast-fed as infants have a lower risk of developing childhood leukemia, a new study suggests.

Scientists have long suspected that breast-feeding might have a protective effect against the blood cancer because breast milk contains many antibodies and immune-strengthening compounds.

In the new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, scientists found that children who were breast-fed for at least six months had a 19 percent lower risk of the disease compared with those who were not breast-fed at all or were breast-fed for shorter periods of time.

The research showed only an association, not a cause and effect, and more research is needed to confirm the link and explain the biological mechanisms involved.

The study was based on data from 18 studies that involved about 28,000 children, including roughly 10,000 who went on to develop leukemia.

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