Archive for the 'Cancer' Category

Over 100,000 Cancers in the U.S. Each Year are Linked to Obesity

Weighing yourself is a good way to keep an eye on any upward trendsAccording to data recently released by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), more than 100,000 cancers in the US each year are linked to excess body fat. It is well known that being overweight puts people at an increased risk of some types of cancer, but this research highlights the extent of the problem.

Excess body fat appears to be linked to 49% of endometrial cancers, 35% of esophageal cancers,  28% of pancreatic cancers, 24% of kidney cancers, 21% of gallbladder cancers, 17% of breast cancers, and 9% of colorectal cancers. 

According to one of the researchers, “The evidence is clear: If people sustain a normal body weight and remain physically active throughout life, it will have a major impact on cancer incidence.”

Learn more about the benefits of exercise and How to Start an Exercise Program

Source:  American Cancer Society, November 2009

Electronic Cigarettes Contain Chemical Used in Antifreeze

Electronic cigarettes are loaded with carcinogens and addictive nicotine Readily available on the internet and shopping malls, electronic cigarettes are marketed to teens and touted as a healthy substitute for cigarettes.  E-cigarettes, which are often made to look like real cigarettes, are far from healthy.

The FDA has recently analyzed the ingredients in a small sample of cartridges from two leading brands of e-cigarettes. A chemical used in antifreeze that is toxic to humans was found, as well as other  known carcinogens, such as nitrosamines, were detected.   

These products have never been submitted to the FDA for evaluation or approval, so at this time the agency has no way of knowing, except for the limited testing it has performed, the various levels of nicotine or the different amounts or kinds of other chemicals that these products deliver to the user. In fact, little is known about the devices.

The devices, known as e-cigarettes, are battery operated and contain nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals that are converted into a vapor that the user inhales.  Flavors such as chocolate, cola and bubble gum provide a youthful appeal.  Manufacturers provide no health warning on the product and claim that they are a safe alternative to cigarettes because they do not burn tobacco.  

The FDA said it has been examining and detaining shipments of e-cigarettes at the borders since Summer 2008, and is currently involved in a lawsuit challenging its jurisdiction over certain e-cigarettes.
 
Source: “E-Cigarettes Subject of FDA Warning”, MedPage Today, July 23, 2009

Ginger Relieves Nausea Due to Chemotherapy

Ginger Half a teaspoon of ground ginger a day can significantly reduce the nausea associated with chemotherapy, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine.   In a recent randomized controlled trial, researchers found that ginger reduced nausea by 40%, when taken along with standard antinausea medications, in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

In the study the participants took the spice in capsules, but it should “theoretically” also work in cookies or soft drinks — as long as the ginger flavor isn’t artificial. The optimal dose of ginger was 1.0 gram per day in this trial, which is equivalent to about half a teaspoon of ground ginger, dried or fresh. 

The rhizomes and stems of ginger have had significant roles in Chinese, Japanese, and Indian medicine since the 1500s.  In the U.S., ginger tea and ginger ale, has long been used as a folk remedy for upset stomach and diarrhea.  It is also frequently found in over-the-counter digestive products, as well as antitussive, antiflatulent, laxative, and antacid products.   

The herb is believed to affect receptors in the digestive tract for the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is the action similar to conventional antinausea drugs, according to the leading researcher Dr.  Suzanna Zick. “Ginger has been shown to be effective in a number of clinical trials against nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, pregnancy, and postoperative recovery,? said Dr. Zick in an article on the website of the National Cancer Institute. Some researchers discourage large doses of ginger during pregnancy, however, due to concerns about mutations or abortions.

Caution: Ginger can be a problem for those on the anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin). The herb increases the anticoagulation of Coumadin which could increase the bleeding risk.

Source: “ASCO: Ginger Eases Chemo-Related Nausea”, MedPage Today, May 14, 2009
Source: “ACP: Garlic, Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, and Ginger All Bad Actors with Coumadin”, MedPage Today, April 9, 2006

 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Protective Against Prostate Cancer

Salmon are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acidsOmega-3 Fatty Acids, particularly those found in dark fish and shellfish, appear to reduce the risk of advanced prostate cancer, according to researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.

In their recent study, men who consumed the greatest amount of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids had a 63% reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer compared with those who ate the least. More specifically, men who ate boiled or baked dark fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and bluefish) one to three times a month had a 36% reduced risk of aggressive disease compared with those who never ate it, and those who ate dark fish at least once a week had an even greater reduction in risk. There was also a significant benefit for those with a cox-2 genetic predisposition to the disease.

How much fish per week is thought to be safe?  Because of concerns for exposure to mercury, the FDA has made the following recommendations:

  • Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
  • Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
  • Another commonly eaten fish, albacore (”white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.
  • Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don’t consume any other fish during that week.
  • Follow these same recommendations when feeding fish and shellfish to your young child, but serve smaller portions.

Source: Fradet V, et al “Dietary omega-3 fatty acids, Cyclooxygenase-2 genetic variation, and aggressive prostate cancer risk” Clin Cancer Res 2009; DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2503.

 

Source: MedPage Today, March 24, 2009

Red Meat Again Linked with Cancer and Heart Disease

Cheese burgersToo many burgers, steaks and hot dogs may shorten your life, according to researchers from the National Cancer Institute. In a recent large prospective study, investigators found that eating more red and processed meat is associated with an increased risk of mortality, particularly from cancer and cardiovascular causes.  On the other hand, white meat had a small protective effect against total and cancer mortality.

 

Source: Sinha R, et al “Meat intake and mortality” Arch Intern Med 2009; 169(6): 562-71.
Source: “Red Meat Associated With Increased Mortality Risk” MedPage Today, March 23, 2009

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

The Truth About Coffee

Cup of coffeeMost of us truly love our coffee and especially look forward to that first cup in the morning.  It’s delicious, it helps you wake up, and quite honestly, most of us are addicted to this wonderful brew.  But are we going to regret this delicious indulgence some day? 

A number of researchers have recently investigated the health benefits of coffee and found that drinking regular coffee on a routine basis was associated with many important health benefits such as a decreased risk of stroke, diabetes and dementia.  Also, several studies have found that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s.  Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily was linked to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.

Coffee has been found to be helpful in people who have asthma.  It also has been known to stop a headache,  improve mood, increase concentration and give you that extra energy needed to get through the day.  

Some of the health benefits of coffee are merely from the caffeine.  An eight ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee contains about 85 mg of caffeine, whereas eight ounces of black tea only has about 45 mg of caffeine and 12 ounces of Coke has 35 mg of caffeine. Many of the so called “Sports/Energy Drinks” on the market are loading up on caffeine for that extra jolt and may contain over 150 mg of caffeine.

Researchers believe that most of the health benefits from coffee probably originate from substances other than caffeine. Phenolic compounds in coffee have strong antioxidant properties, which may improve endothelial function.  Caffeinated coffee appears to have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, inflammation, and endothelial function which would account for protection against diabetes and stroke.

Of course adding cream which is loaded with fat may counteract some of the health benefits of coffee, and pouring several spoons full of sugar into the cup adds another carbohydrate load that is not beneficial. 

While these studies are very good news for coffee drinkers, be aware that coffee can lead to a number of health problems. These can include fast heart rate, tremors, irritable bladder, excessive urination, stomach irritation, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), nausea, vomiting, restlessness, anxiety, depression,  and difficulty sleeping.

Caffeine is notorious for interfering with much-needed sleep. Many people get in a viscious cycle of using caffeine to mask their sleep deprivation, but then the excess caffeine keeps them from falling asleep the following night. The best way to break this cycle is to avoid all caffeine eight to ten hours before your desired bedtime.  Drinking coffee later in the day is more likely to cause insomnia as well as stomach irritation and reflux for many people. 

Another drawback of coffee is that certain drugs can interact with caffeine. Pregnant women and people with coronary heart disease or peptic ulcers are often advised to restrict or avoid using caffeine altogether. 

Contrary to the popular belief that coffee will sober you up after drinking too much alcohol, it can actually worsen the problem.  A recent study found that a high caffeine energy drink mixed with vodka actually reduced the participants’ perception of motor coordination compared with vodka alone.  This could obviously lead to disasterous consequences in a person who is drinking heavily away from home and has several cups of coffee to sober up before driving home.

So, is coffee good for us?  It depends on who you are, how much you drink, and when you drink it.  It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the amount of coffee you drink. 

Source: “High Coffee Consumption Linked to Lower Stroke Risk for Women”, MedPage Today, February 17, 2009
Source: Lopez-Garcia E, et al “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women” Circulation 2009; 119: 1116-1123.

Smoking Pot Linked with Testicular Cancer

Marijuana plantsSmoking marijuana increases the risk of testicular cancer, according to researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  In their recent study, men diagnosed with testicular cancer were 70% more likely to be current marijuana users, although the risk was especially elevated in men who had started using the drug before they were 18 or who used it frequently. Much of the increased risk is associated with tumors which typically peak between the ages of 20 and 35 and account for about 40% of all cases of testicular cancer.

Although little is known about the long-term health consequences of marijuana, it is known to have adverse effects on the reproductive system.  Researchers have also found a link between long-term heavy cannabis use and shrinkage in certain areas of the brain.  In addition, studies have found an increased risk of mental illness in pot smokers, such as depression and schizophrenia.

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the developed world.  The naive notion that smoking pot is harmless takes its toll on our society. Marijuana is not harmless and it is addictive. More young people are now in treatment for marijuana dependency than for alcohol or for all other illegal drugs combined.  Photo courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Source: Daling JR, et al “Association of marijuana use and the incidence of testicular germ cell tumors” Cancer 2009; DOI: 10.1002/cncr.24159.

Many OTC weight-loss pills are from China and dangerous

PillsMore and more products with  unidentified and harmful ingredients are finding their way into the U.S. marketplace, and the FDA is quickly taking action to file criminal charges and help ensure that these products are removed from the store shelves.  It is an extensive process, however, and dangerous products are still advertised on the TV and radio and readily available online as well as on the shelves of local grocery stores, pharmacies, and health food stores in the U.S. 

Most of the dangerous and illegal products are for weight loss, but there are also many for erectile dysfunction, diabetes and hair loss.  Usually they are labeled as dietary supplements or supplements. Often the manufacturer is not listed on the label or in the advertisements.  However, the FDA has discovered that most of the products with illegal and undeclared ingredients have been manufactured in China.

Some of these ingredients are known to be carcinogenic and cause damage or mutations to DNA.  Other known side effects include increased blood pressure, stroke, tachycardia, seizure, depression, anxiety, insomnia, aggressiveness, and suicidal thoughts.  

The FDA urges all consumers to be aware of the following signs of health fraud:

  • Promises of an “easy” fix for problems like excess weight, hair loss, or impotency.
  • Claims that the product is safe because it is “natural.”  
  • Claims such as “scientific breakthrough,” “miraculous cure,” “secret ingredient,” and “ancient remedy.”
  • Impressive-sounding terms, such as “hunger stimulation point” and “thermogenesis” for a weight loss product.
  • Undocumented case histories or personal testimonials by consumers or doctors claiming amazing results.
  • Promises of no-risk, money-back guarantees.

In other words, if it’s too good to be true, it is.  The only OTC drug approved for weight loss in the United States is Ally.  Orlistat is the active ingredient in Ally which helps produce weight loss by decreasing the intestinal absorption of fat.  Some people have lost weight with Ally, but there are a number of people who shouldn’t take Ally.  Click on the link below for more about Ally.

Read more:

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)