Archive for the 'Cancer' Category

New Recommendations for Ovarian Cancer Prevention

Two womenAccording to new recommendations from the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, women with a strong family history of ovarian cancer or BRCA mutations should have prophylactic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy after completing childbearing, to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer .

A bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is a surgical procedure that removes both sets of fallopian tubes and ovaries. 

Read about Ovarian Cancer

Source: “Individualize Decisions about Prophylactic Oophorectomy“, MedPage Today, September 26, 2010

More Information about Prophylactic Oophorectomy from the Mayo Clinic

Beta Blockers May Help Prevent Cancer

Beta Blockers are prescription medications used for high blood pressureTreatment with a certain type of blood pressure medication has been associated with better outcomes in breast cancer, according to British researchers from the Nottingham University Hospital in England.

Based on their review of 466 medical records of breast cancer patients, those taking blood pressure medication referred to as beta blockers, had a 71% reduction in the risk of breast cancer-specific death.  Also, there was a 57% reduction in the risk of distant metastasis, compared with patients on other antihypertensive agents or no antihypertensive therapy. 

The findings of this study add to previous research suggesting that drugs of this type might have anticancer activity.  In one study of patients with cardiovascular disease, there was a significant reduction in total cancer incidence among patients treated with beta blockers versus those on other antihypertensive medications.  In another study, prostate cancer was found to be significantly reduced in patients treated with alpha-1 blockers.

These findings are very compelling, but more research in this area is needed before any definite conclusions can be made.  

Source: Powe DG, et al “Beta-blocker treatment is associated with a reduction in tumor metastasis and an improvement in specific survival in patients with breast cancer” EBCC 2010; Abstract 445. 

Source: “EBCC: Beta-Blocker Role in Breast Cancer Examined ”, MedPage Today, March 30, 2010 

Stop Smoking and Save Your Blood Vessels

Blood vessels throughout the bodySmoking wreaks havoc on every blood vessel in the human body, it damages nearly every organ, and is linked to at least 15 different cancers.  But researchers from the University of Wisconsin offer hope for long-term smokers.  In their recent study of 1,500 smokers, blood vessel function started recovering one year after the smokers kicked the habit. 

More Information: Smoking Cessation  includes a photo of a chronic smoker’s lungs, the facts about smoking, and tips and resources for quitting

Source: University of Wisconsin, news release, March 15, 2010

 Source: “Blood Vessels Bounce Back Once Smokers Quit”, HealthDay, March 16, 2010


A Simple Way to Make a Major Difference in your Health

Vitamin D supplementsA recent study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah has found that people who increase their vitamin D blood levels to 43 or higher may lower their risk of diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Heralded as “One of the Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs of 2007″, Vitamin D continues to surface in new research as a critical nutrient in maintaining good health and preventing disease, yet almost half of the world’s population has lower than optimal levels of vitamin D.  

It is well known that hip fractures and muscle weakness, in people over 50, are linked with a deficiency in Vitamin D.  Many recent studies have also found that low Vitamin D levels are associated with a number of serious, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, gum disease, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, peripheral neuropathy, osteoporosis, cancer, stroke, mental decline, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.

A Vitamin D deficiency can be treated with a simple daily supplement and a blood test can measure the circulating Vitamin D levels in your blood.  A level of 30 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D is considered normal, although this may vary from lab to lab.

Many doctors are routinely drawing blood levels of Vitamin D to to make sure patients are getting enough vitamin D to optimize good bone health and prevent chronic disease. Ask your doctor about this.

Important Note: Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, thus toxicity can occur from high intakes of vitamin D. Overdosage can occur from large amounts of supplements or cod liver oil, but it is unlikely to result from sun exposure or diet. Parents should consult with their pediatrician before giving any child vitamin D supplements. Excess vitamin D can reach toxic levels and be harmful.

  Source: “Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good”, HealthDay News, March 15, 2010 


Avodart (dutasteride) May Prevent Prostate Cancer

Prostate gland as it wraps around urethraAvodart (dutasteride) may both prevent prostate cancer and improve the predictive power of the blood test, PSA, according to researchers from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.  In their recent study of men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the medication was associated with a 40% lower incidence of prostate cancer diagnosis than the BPH drug tamsulosin (Flomax) in at-risk men.   

Several other trials have also found similar results.  The American Society of Clinical Oncology and American Urological Association recommends that healthy older men discuss this with their doctors.

About Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Source: “Prostate CA Prevention Affirmed for BPH Drug”, MedPage Today, March 07, 2010

Gomella LG, et al “Effect of dutasteride on the detection of prostate cancer in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia in the combination of dutasteride and tamsulosin (CombAT) trial” ASCO GU 2010; Abstract 28.

A Carcinogenic Form of Chromium Found in 3 Weight-Loss Supplements

Over-the-counter pillsRecent attention has been focused on three commonly used, over-the counter supplements and weight loss pills which contain chromium.  According to test results by Consumer Labs, a private provider of independent testing of health products, a carcinogenic form of chromium, known as hexavalent chromium, was found in three of these products that are currently on the market.  (The three products in question are not listed in this article, because of copyright laws, but a list of these weight-loss supplements, along with others that did pass testing by Consumer Labs, can be obtained at Consumer Labs online). 

Hexavalent chromium, or chromium (VI) is a more toxic form of chromium than the nutrient, chromium (III). It should not be found in chromium supplements, but it has occurred as a contaminant in some cases. It is known to be a human carcinogen and can cause other harmful health effects such as kidney and liver damage. 

Source: “Carcinogen Found in Several Chromium Supplements (Including Some for Weight Loss)”, Consumer Labs, March 3, 2010

Source: FDA

Breast Cancer Drop Linked to Decreased Use of HRT

2 womenThe decline in breast cancer rates among women over age 50 is linked to less use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), according to Harvard Researchers. In their study of more than 350,000 women, the decline was most significant for cases of estrogen receptor-positive cancer and among affluent, white women who were most likely to have used HRT.

Source: American Journal of Public Health, February 2010

Exercise Linked with Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Aerobic ExerciseA number of studies have found an association between regular exercise and decreased breast cancer risk, and now a new study from Alberta Health Services in Calgary finds further supporting evidence in their trial of 320 postmenopausal women. 

The women in this study did aerobic exercise for at least 45 minutes five days a week over a period of 12 months. During the exercise, they monitored their pulse to achieve 70% to 80% of their heart rate reserve.

Periodically the researchers assessed blood levels of hormones and found that exercise was associated with modestly lowered levels of estradiol which is consistent with a slightly lower risk of breast cancer.

Aerobic exercise involves continuous activity that will increase your heart rate and maintain it at a higher rate for a sustained period of time, such as for 20-60 minutes.

In aerobic exercise, you continually move large muscles in the legs and buttocks. This action causes you to breathe more deeply and your heart to work harder to pump blood, thereby strengthening your heart and lungs.

What are aerobic activities? Walking briskly, bicycling or using a stationary bicycle, swimming, running, jogging, stepping machine or climbing stairs, vigorous dancing, ice skating or roller skating, aerobics (regular or low impact) cross-country skiing, rowing and playing racquetball or tennis. Riding a bike is an excellent aerobic exercise that will also strengthen the quadriceps muscles, (thigh muscles) that stabilize the knee joint. 

How long? Beginners might want to start with as little as three 10-minute walks a day, most days of the week.  People who are younger and more fit might want to aim for as much as 60 minutes a day, most days of the week.

How intense? To achieve the benefits of aerobic exercise, the activity must be continuous, without stopping, and strenuous enough to cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. Hard enough to break a sweat, but not so hard that you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation. If you monitor your heart rate during exercise, what should it be? Calcuate your target heart rate for your age, using this calculater.

In addition to decreasing breast cancer risk, there are at least 17 other very good reasons to exercise regularly. Here is a list of the many benefits of exercise and some important tips on how to get started

Note: Before getting started on an exercise program, it’s always best to first consult with your doctor. 

Source: “For Older Women, Exercise May Cut Breast Cancer Risk”, MedPage Today, February 16, 2010

Source: Friedenreich CM, et al “Alberta physical activity and breast cancer prevention trial: Sex hormone changes in a year-long exercise intervention among postmenopausal women” J Clin Oncol 2010; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2009.24.9557. 

A Blood Test That Detects Colorectal Cancer

Blood testResearchers in Israel have found a new blood test that detects early colorectal cancer and precancerous adenomas.

This is very exciting news, but don’t cancel your colonoscopy yet. The blood test is still under investigation and is not yet available. Colonoscopy remains the best way to detect early colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths.

The current recommendations are for all patients to have screening colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter. Some physicians, however, recommend more frequent screening at 5-year intervals. Also, those at increased risk for colon cancer may be advised to undergo colonoscopy at an earlier age with more frequent follow-ups. Check with your primary care provider to find out what is best for you.

Read more about colonoscopy

Source: “Blood Test Detects Colorectal Cancer”, MedPage Today, January 21, 2010

Scientists Are Learning How to Slow Aging

Scientists are getting closer to unraveling the mystery of aging and now a new study points to evidence that omega-3 fatty acids appear to slow the biological aging process.  University of California researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids may slow aging by protecting the body’s chromosomes from the usual damage that occurs with aging. In their recent study of patients with heart disease, those who had the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the most slowing of their biological aging process, while those who had the lowest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had evidence of the fastest rate of aging.

To determine the speed of biological aging, the researchers measured the length of telomeres on the patients’ chromosomes. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes and the shortening of telomeres has been linked to not only the aging process,  but cancer and a higher risk of dying. Telomeres allow cells to divide while keeping the genetic material intact. Every time a cell divides, telomeres get progressively shorter until the cell ultimately dies.  This normal aging process can be sped up by environmental factors such as obesity, poor diet, inactivity and smoking.  Scientists theorize that counteracting telomere shortening could allow people to be healthier and live longer.

In the University of California study there was no distinction between meals of fatty fish and fish-oil supplements—leaving open the question of whether it’s better for people to eat more fish, to eat plants such as flaxseed or just to take omega-3 supplements.

Experts point out that the results of this study are preliminary and need to be replicated before physicians should use them in practice, but a number of other studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to heart health, and the American Heart Assn. recommends that patients with known coronary artery disease get at least one gram a day of omega-3 fish oil through intake of oily fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines, or the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

Source: MedPage Today January 19, 2010

Video source: JAMA