Category Archives: Cancer

How Much Cancer Is Obesity Causing?

The debate rages on about whether or not obesity is really harmful. There are those who believe it’s just a function of society. Others see signs of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and of course joint damage due to the extra pressure placed on the joints. Unfortunately, while the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes or heart disease has been well established, it is now official that cancer is also walking hand in hand with it.

Researchers have been working on this for a while. They officially gathered thousands of samples in 2002 in 184 different countries. Then they looked at cancer rates in 2012. Those who has previously been measured with obesity had higher rates of colon, kidney, pancreatic, and postmenopausal cancers as it turned out.

But it’s worse than that. With something like colon or kidney cancer, most could easily see the connection. However, you might not see it initially. Researchers weren’t expecting to find 3.6% of new cases of cancer in 2012 (including skin cancer) being directly connected to cancer. According to researchers, it even explained why women had more cancer than men.

So how does all of this work? The exact connection varies between individuals according to researchers. Hormones seem to be a key part of obesity that can disrupt all of these different parts of your body into a state of cancer. George Wang, professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University and a researcher of obesity and cancer risk says, Using animal models, we believe it’s mostly relate to hormone changes with obesity. For example, for breast cancer, one of the pathways is related to hormones that are produced by fat tissue and can lead to cancer development.

According to Wang, there is one hormone meant to stimulate healthy cell growth called IGF-1. He reports, It’s what we call a survival hormone. In healthy people, it prevents apoptosis, or programmed cell death. The problem is, obese people’s level of IGF-1 may be twice that of a normal-weight person, allowing cells to proliferate too quickly. We believe that increases cancer risk.

So what about the growing obesity rates? If the average BMI had stayed the same as it was in 1982, experts estimated that we could have prevented 118,000 new cases of cancer in 2012 alone. There are of course other reasons why our cancer rates are as high as they are. Study co-author Nirmala Pandeya says, Other important risk factors for cancer, such as smoking, are declining, but we see the proportion of overweight and obese men and women still rising in most countries. If this trend continues we are likely to see an increasing number of people diagnosed with cancers that could have been avoided by maintaining a healthy weight.

It is critical to stop obesity now, not just because of the cancer risk of course, but because of all of the factors. However, this is just one more piece of evidence that has been added to the pot

Scientists Have Designed Stem Cells To Kill Cancer

Another cancer breakthrough: scientists have developed a new method of stem cells that will target and kill cancer. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute have tested this method on mice, and they have published their initial findings in the journal Stem Cells. The new stem cells will secrete a toxin that effectively kills cancer cells. They were also able to remove brain cells from mice without any damage to the healthy cells.

Lead author Khalid Shah described his research saying, Cancer-killing toxins have been used with great success in a variety of blood cancers, but they don’t work as well in solid tumors because the cancers aren’t as accessible and the toxins have a short half-life. Now we have toxin-resistant stem cells that can make and release cancer-killing drugs.

In short, doctors would ideally be able to target cancer cells rather than radiation, which doesn’t discriminate. They would leave healthy cells unharmed, allowing them to come back and replace cancer cells or fight them off more effectively.

The researchers started with mice with brain cancer, surgically removing their tumors. They then extracted the genetically engineered stem cells and put them in place of the old tumor in a gel. Their biggest concern at that time was that the gel might kill healthy brain cells as well, and they were successful in getting around this issue.

Next, Shah plans to target other types of cancer, and of course to test his theories and treatments on human subjects. He believes that we can now cure brain cancer, but there will be plenty of work ahead to perfect and apply this to other types of cancer. It’s still amazing news.

Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London said, This is a clever study, which signals the beginning of the next wave of therapies. Cells can do so much. This is the way the future is going to be.

Is Fashion Increasing Your Risk of Skin Cancer?

In the past century, everything has changed. We have looked at sunbathing a different way. Swimsuits have gotten skimpier and skimpier, even in their most modest form, and at the same time, skin cancer has come more common. If you’re wondering if they’re connected, you’re not the only one.

A new article has been published by researchers from New York University’s Langone Medical Center that looks at skin cancer from social and cultural perspectives. Different trends are coming into play including being tan, different clothing styles, social norms, and travel patterns that lead to higher incidence of melanoma.

They’re not saying that swimsuits are the direct cause of the rise of skin cancer, specifically the deadliest form, melanoma. Luckily, doctors are getting better at seeing its earliest stages, and maybe that explains part of the rise as well. We see it more readily.

The researchers looked at store clothing catalogs, and they used the rule of nines, which is a standardized system that is used to measure the percentage of the body’s surface that could be affected by the sun to look at sun exposure. They then looked at those against melanoma rates throughout the 20th century.

They found a clear correlation, finding that the tanner we get, and the more our clothes have changed, the more melanoma rates have gone up.

Breast Pain: Why It’s Probably Not Cancer

Breast pain can be scary, especially when you hear so much about it in your local health news and from your doctor. You immediately think cancer, and if you go on the online diagnosis tools, it literally always tells you that it might be some form of cancer, no matter what your symptoms. You could have a bloody nose, and it would tell you that you might have cancer.

This said, Dr Michael Cowher, a breast surgeon with the Cleveland Clinic explains, The important thing for patients to realize is that while it can be a sign of cancer, it is very rare. Breast caner rarely comes with pain. The best way to find it is still by looking for lumps and other signs with your fingers. Breast pain is typically associated with hormonal changes, but here are a few of the big contributors:

Premenstrual Pain

Yes, if you’re nearing or on your period, you may experience breast tenderness and pain. Many women have heaviness in their breasts right before their periods, even experiencing pain while walking up the stairs. Higher estrogen and progesterone levels cause the milk glands and ducts to enlarge, retaining water in the breasts, causing the pain. However, this type of pain usually goes away shortly after your period when your hormones have evened out again.

Costochondritis

This is a type of arthritis pain in the middle of the chest. It happens between the ribs and the breastbone, and it is typically caused by poor posture or aging. Women who experience costochondritis describe it as a burning sensation in the breast that can mimic a heart attack or other heart condition. If there is swelling, it could be Tietze Syndrome. You can apply heat or ice and take an ibuprofen for this.

Noncyclical breast pain

This type of pain is not related to your period, and it’s typically isolated to one specific area of the breast. Women sometimes experience this after a breast biopsy, breast injury, or trauma as well as pain from tissue or muscles around the breast. This is most common in women between 40 and 50, but it can strike pre or post menopausal women. It generally lasts for a couple years.

Fibrocystic breast condition

Fibrocystic breast condition used to be known as a disease, and it is now seen as a natural change in a woman’s breasts. More than 50% of women will experience it at some point or another. It is characterized by breast tissue that ends up feeling lump or rope-like, and it causes pain and tenderness in the upper to outer areas of the breasts right around your period.

Too much caffeine

If you drink too much caffeine, yes, that could ultimately cause breast pain. Some doctors ask about this first, because an estimated 25% of women will benefit in the area of breast pain by eliminating or reducing caffeine. A Duke University study found that 61% of women with breast pain who stopped drinking caffeine had reduced breast pain. Caffeine leads the blood vessels to dilate, causing the breasts to swell and hurt.

An old bra

I know, it seems like an odd thing to cause breast pain, but your bra is around your breasts so much, it has to do something. Dr Cowher says, I see plenty of postmenopausal women who may not have purchased a bra in several years, and that’s why they are getting pain. Both the elastic in the bra and in the body wear out as you age. Sometimes you have to adjust elastic in the bra to adjust for the elastic in the body. If you gain or lose weight, that would also be another time to get a new bra.

Infections

Mastitis is when you get an infection in the breasts. Bacteria enters, causing pockets of pus to form that need to be drained. Antibiotics unfortunately cannot penetrate the pus, and breast abscesses can also form during breastfeeding. If the infection comes with a red swelling in the breast, fever, or chills, go to see your doctor.

Thoracic outlet syndrome

Breasts have a ton of nerve endings, and in some rare cases, women have pain due to thoracic outlet syndrome. Nerves that pass through the breasts become compressed. If you experience a shooting pain, you most likely have this condition. Persistent arm pain could be a sign of other issues though like a heart attack or other heart condition. So it still should be checked out.

Subareolar abscesses

This is also known as Zuska’s disease, which causes small abscesses beneath the nipple. It also comes with painful discharge. This can be caused by smoking. So if you have it, one of the best things you can do is stop smoking. Unfortunately, this is often misdiagnosed as breast cancer, and it leads to false and unnecessary mastectomies. If treated properly, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Could A Deadly Disease Kill Cancer?

Every day we’re hearing more and more about new cures for cancer, new prevention, new treatments. There are always new people claiming breakthroughs in medical science when it comes to cancer, including a recent cancer vaccine. It’s not preventative. You would simply inject a certain mix into tumors and make them shrink quite dramatically in a short period of time.

Most recently, experts are trying what they call virotherapy, which means that they inject the measles vaccine to fight cancer, which seems to be having extremely positive effects thus far. It was first announced in May, and just recently, they published a follow-up with the patient Stacy Erholtz, who has been completely cancer-free for a year. The next phase of the clinical trials will be starting shortly.

Erholtz reported to Minnesota’s Brainerd Dispatch, I’m really excited about it, not for myself, but I want some multiple myeloma measles friends. I’ve had a dose, and you can’t be redosed. It’s time for other people to have a dose. It’s a giant step forward for cancer. Let’s get it out there. Let’s put some money behind it and get it out there.

Erholtz previous had an aggressive form of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer found in the plasma cells of the bone marrow. It spread across her whole body in just 10 years. She ended up in the Mayo Clinic’s experimental study when she ran out of other options. They gave her a single high dose injection of the measles vaccine, which could have inoculated 10 million people on a normal basis. She went into complete remission after just one dose.

Research on mice has suggested that viral therapy overwhelms cancer cells and makes them literally explode. Viruses like herpes and poxvirus are particularly effective, and they bind tumors and use them as hosts to replicate their own genetic material; the cancer cells eventually explode and release the virus.

Unfortunately, the measles vaccine has not been found to be effective for all types of cancer. Other patients in the study did not see remission as Erholtz did. The effects are partially dependent on your immune system. Most people have already been vaccinated against measles, but if you have a suppressed immune system (and little previous exposure in Erholtz), you are more likely to respond to the measles virus.

You only get once chance with this kind of treatment. Once the body recognizes it, it will start attacking it before it can bond to the cancer cells. They are currently researching how to determine the right dose for each patient.

The Mayo Clinic will be offering 15 doses of the measles treatment in the new trial. 350 people are currently on the waiting list, and they want to experiment on numerous types of cancer in the brain, ovaries, neck, and head. They hope to receive FDA approval in the next 4 years.

Half Of Cancer Deaths Are Preventable

According to recent reports, half of the cancer deaths we see are completely preventable. That’s a pretty weighty assumption, but it was announced by the American Association for Cancer Research.

Dr Ernest Hawk, spokesman for the AACR, says, The important part here is that it points out gaps that we have in translating knowledge into action by much of the population. Part of it is human nature, but we can at least keep sharing the knowledge.

The report notes some important points including:

  • Tobacco use is responsible for almost 30% of cancer deaths across the United States
  • Ultraviolet radiation from the sun and indoor tanners is responsible for most skin cancer
  • You can develop a personalized cancer screening with your doctor
  • 1 in 5 cancer diagnoses worldwide can be attributed to persistent pathogen infection. These can be prevented with vaccines or treatment
  • As much as 1/3 of all new cancer diagnosis in the United States are related to being overweight or obese along with lack of physical activity and poor diet habits

The release includes various other studies and updates about treatments, clinical trials, and plenty of other breakthroughs. It includes studies specifically on cancer survivors today.

To avoid cancer, experts recommend eating more healthy foods, exercising regularly, and not smoking to start. The report also notes that in 2015, 200,000 people will die of cancer due to tobacco use. Despite the issues we have seen with tobacco, almost 800,000 people will start smoking in a single year.

Hawk also believes that Cervical cancer should be entirely preventable between screenings and vaccines.

An Aspirin A Day Could Keep Cancer Away

There is no shortage of research on cancer. We are all looking for a cure. Yes, there are some who speculate that the big drug companies want to keep those secrets from you so that they can make more money, but there really isn’t much to substantiate that.

Some of the newest research has shown that just one aspirin a day could actually reduce your chances of getting common forms of cancer. Once you have cancer, of course, you will still want to seek real medical treatment, but the best treatment is sometimes prevention.

The study was led by Jack Cuzick, head of the center for cancer prevention at Queen Mary University of London. They recommend a 75mg dose of aspirin per day, and Cuzick says that the regimen looks to be the most important thing we can do to reduce cancer after stopping smoking and reducing obesity, and would probably be much easier to implement.

The study shows that a subject would have to take aspirin for at least 5 years. If it were 10, it could be better. The Guardian’s Sarah Boseley says:

Concluding that the benefits outweighed the risks, Cuzick’s team, writing in the cancer journal Annals of Oncology, said that by taking low-dose aspirin every day for 10 years, bowel cancer cases could be cut by about 35% and deaths by 40%. Aspirin could reduce rates of esophageal and stomach cancers by 30% and deaths from them by 35% to 50%.

However, taking aspirin every day for 10 years increases the risk of stomach bleeds among 60 year olds from 2.2% to 3.6%. In about 5% of those who have a stomach bleed, it could be fatal….

Subsequently, Cuzick recommends that you talk to your doctor before you go ahead with any plan, including this seemingly basic aspirin regimen. Aspirin has previously been used as a preventative measure for heart disease as well, which interestingly has recently been questioned. The US Food and Drug Administration said that the data do not support the use of aspirin as a preventative medication by people who have not had a heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular problems.

Yes, aspirin may have certain benefits, but ultimately, you will have to balance it out. You will have to consider all the benefits versus all the risks, and you should consult your doctor before starting any regimen.