Archive for the 'Breast Cancer' Category

Heavy Drinkers: Are You In That 5% of the Population?

People drinking wineThe health benefits of alcohol are frequently touted on the daily news, but the many hazards are often omitted.  Americans truly enjoy their alcohol, but the facts remain that excessive alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States and is a risk factor for numerous serious health and societal problems.

What is excessive alcohol use?  It can take the form of heavy drinking, binge drinking, or both.   Heavy drinking is defined for women, as more than one drink per day on average, and for men, two drinks per day on average.  Binge drinking may occur only once per week or once per month but is defined as 5 or more drinks during a single occasion (in about 2 hours) for men or 4 or more drinks during a single occasion for women.  Approximately 5% of the total population drinks heavily and 15% of the population engages in binge drinking, according to the CDC.

Binge drinking alone is associated with a number of very serious and significant consequences.  Not to mention the many accidents, injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, and children born with fetal alcohol syndrome,  alcohol intoxication from binge drinking is often responsible for significant brain damage, liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, sexual dysfunction, and deadly alcohol poisoning.

Have you ever heard on the news that alcohol can cause cancer or brain damage?  Well it can, yet this seems to be a well-kept secret.  Heavy alcohol consumption, and in some cases moderate alcohol consumption, has a huge downside such as increasing the risk of cancer of the breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and liver; not to mention other toxic and harmful effects on the brain and liver.

Despite all the well-documented research that shows the hazards of drinking alcohol, most people when asked will say, drinking a glass or two of wine or an alcoholic drink is “good for you”.  Sure, an occasional glass of wine probably won’t hurt most people, but any more than a glass per day for a woman is considered heavy drinking, and there are bad consequences of heavy drinking.

The daily news is not completely wrong, there does appear to be some health benefits of alcohol, but many leading authorities contend that the hazards outweigh the benefits.

 Source:  National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institute of Health

Drinking Alcohol Linked with Cancer

Drinking alcohol is an enjoyable drink in the U.S.The cardiovascular benefits of alcohol consumption have been touted for several years.  This has been welcome news for those who enjoy drinking, but there may be a huge price to pay in the long run.  

The good news about alcohol has been well publicized, but the bad news has usually been absent from the  news story.   People have grown accustomed to their nightly glass, or two, of wine and are totally surprised to hear that drinking alcohol increases cancer risk.  For years the American Cancer Society (ACS) has been warning of the cancer risks of alcohol, but the ACS has a small voice compared to the nightly news.  Unfortunately, many have now grown accustomed, and yes addicted, to their daily alcohol and don’t want to give it up. 

Recently, a large new study from the University of Oxford further emphasizes the link of regular alcohol consumption with cancer.  The British researchers studied 1.3 million women and found that as little as one drink or more per day increased the risk of a half dozen types of cancer. The increased risk was similar in women who drank wine exclusively and in those who consumed other types of alcohol.

Leading authorities contend that no level of alcohol consumption should be considered safe when it comes to cancer.  The American Cancer Society summarizes the research to date and publishes the following recommendations on its website: “Alcohol raises the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, and breast, and probably of the colon and rectum. People who drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. The combination of alcohol and tobacco increases the risk of some cancers far more than the effect of either drinking or smoking alone. Regular intake of even a few drinks per week is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in women, especially in women who do not get enough folate. Women at high risk of breast cancer may want to consider not drinking any alcohol.”

The Oxford researchers acknowledge that studies have shown some cardiovascular benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption, but they say the cancer risk may outweigh those benefits.  There are many other well known health problems associated with alcohol such as hypertension, stroke, cardiac arrhythmias, mental decline and dementia, cirrhosis of the liver, dilated cardiomyopathy, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Also, the disasterous consequences of acute intoxication such as fatal motor vehicle accidents and chronic destructive addiction are just a few of the many social hazards of alcohol.

The dangers of alcohol are well known, have been known for a long time, and it is far from the whole story to say that alcohol is good for you.  

Source: Allen NE, et al “Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women” J Natl Cancer Inst 2009; 101: 296-305.
Source: Lauer MS, Sorlie P “Alcohol, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: treat with caution” J Natl Cancer Inst 2009; 101: 282-283.  
Source: “Even a Few Drinks a Day Increases Cancer Risk in Women”, MedPage Today, February 24, 2009

Ten important steps to ward off cancer

1. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and grains. Read about the top power foods.Fruits, grains, vegetables, salmon

2. Minimize high-fat foods and meats in your diet. Read and understand food labels

3. Be active and stay fit. Get started on a regular exercise program that you will enjoy. The 18 benefits of exercise and how to get started.

4. Drink minimal alcohol, if you drink at all. How much is unhealthy?

5. Don’t start smoking, and if you do smoke, make every effort to stop as soon as possible. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society. Stop smoking, get results, change your life!

6. Shield your skin from the sun. Sun damage to deeper layers of skin eventually can cause cancer.

7. Get regular pap smear screening and colonoscopy as recommended for your age, family history, and medical history.  Pap smear screening is an important method of detecting early cervical cancer. Colonoscopy both prevents and detects colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths.  Read about colonoscopy.

8. Girls age 11-18 should get the vaccine for HPV (human papilloma virus).  A decision about whether a woman aged 19 to 26 years should get the vaccine should be based on an informed discussion between the woman and her health care provider.

9.  Be aware of and try to avoid environmental carcinogens.

10. Ask your doctor about checking a blood test for Vitamin D levels. Many recent studies have found that adequate levels of Vitamin D appear to be critical in preventing cancer and many other serious, chronic diseases, yet the deficiency is widespread in the U.S. and worldwide. This has prompted a recent surge in the number of general practitioners and pediatricians who are now routinely screening for adequate blood levels of Vitamin D and recommending Vitamin D supplementation

Photo courtesy of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)


Alcohol — Potion or Poison?

DrinksStudies have found an association between moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of developing heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and ischemic strokes. However, many people are not aware than even moderate alcohol consumption has a huge downside such as increasing the risk of cancer of the breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and liver; not to mention harmful effects on the brain and liver. As few as three drinks at one time may have toxic effects on the liver when combined with certain over–the–counter medications, such as those containing acetaminophen.   

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined for men (no more than 2 drinks per day), for women (no more than 1 drink per day), and for people over 65 (no more than 1 drink per day).

News reports on the benefits of alcohol abound, yet the whole story is often missing.   Yes, alcohol may be helpful in preventing heart disease, but it’s certainly not a healthy drink if it causes mental decline or cancer.

More on alcohol from Bay Area Medical Information

Do you know your Vitamin D levels?

Vitamin D is gaining increasing attention for its role in maintaining good health and preventing disease. But despite its benefits, many adults and children still do not receive adequate vitamin D.

New research has shed increasing light on the many benefits of Vitamin D and also revealed widespread deficiencies in both adults and children across the country.  This has prompted a surge in the number of general practitioners and pediatricians who are now routinely screening for adequate blood levels of Vitamin D and recommending Vitamin D supplementation. 

Vitamin D has many important roles in promoting good health in that it helps calcium build strong bones, helps regulate the immune system and the neuromuscular system, and also plays a major role in the life cycle of human cells. Many recent studies have found that low Vitamin D levels are linked with many serious, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, gum disease, multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, osteoporosis, and possibly cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

The new National Osteoporosis Foundation guidelines for adults 50 years and older is 800–1,000 IU of vitamin D3/day (along with 1,200 mg of calcium/day). Currently, the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D in adults ages 51-70 is only 400 IUs (with 200 IUs or less for younger ages)*, which, according to the researchers, leaves circulating blood levels of the the vitamin too low to have a positive effect on certain disease prevention. *The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set the Upper Limits (UL) for vitamin D at 1,000 IU for infants up to 12 months of age and 2,000 IU for children, adults, pregnant, and lactating women.

Talk to your health care provider about about checking a blood test for Vitamin D levels.

via Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, June 2008
via Vitamin D Deficiency Common in Infants and Toddlers from MedPage Today,
Vitamin D, from Bay Area Medical Information,

Teen exercise linked with lower breast cancer risk

There has been mounting evidence that regular exercise is associated with a lower incidence of breast cancer.  A recent study performed by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle supported these findings and found that exercise had the greatest effect on women between the ages of 12 to 22. The amount of activity required to achieve the greatest reduction, 23 percent, was equivalent to 3.25 hours per week of running, or 13 hours per week of walking.

via Journal of the National Cancer Institute, May 21, 2008

A Healthy Diet Can Lower Ovarian Cancer Risk

ApplesWomen who had diets high in fiber, fruits and vegetables showed a 23% lower risk of ovarian cancer than women who consumed the lowest amounts of these nutrients, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, Feb 2008.