Colon Cancer Awareness Month Finishes

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

We have just reached the end of march, which signifies the end to colon cancer awareness month. Colon cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the developed world and claims more than 50’000 lives per year.

The key to surviving colon cancer is to catch it in the early stages of development. Thanks to improving treatment technologies, stage 1 colon cancer has survival rates as high as 90%. Unfortunately many people don’t have regular checkups and notice symptoms, so find themselves with stage 2 or stage 3 upon diagnosis.

Colon Cancer Screening is crucial to avoid death from colon cancer, but there are also some simple lifestyle choices that greatly reduce the risk of colon cancer:

Eat a Healthy Diet Containing Fiber

The best way to avoid colon cancer is to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside fiber rich foods like oats, wholemeal pasta and wholemeal bread. By eating a diverse range of foods, you help your body remain naturally resistant to colon cancer.

Don’t Use Tobacco

Tobacco use increases the likelihood that you will get colon cancer.  If you are a smoker, quitting could add years to your lifespan and greatly improve the quality of your life.

Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obese people are much more likely to get colon cancer than fit people.  By simply getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day you can greatly reduce your colon cancer risk.

 

Most People Still Don’t Understand What Causes Cancer

Americans Don't Know Cancer Risks

Americans Don’t Know Cancer Risks

A new survey published by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) suggests that most Americans don’t understand what causes cancer. Most Americans blame things like genetically modified foods, stress and food additives for causing cancer and don’t understand the steps they can take to minimize cancer risk.

Instead of worrying about food additives and GMOs potentially causing cancer, Americans should be looking at:

  • A lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco consumption
  • Exposure to carcinogenic chemicals at work
  • Obesity
  • Poor quality diets

The survey was conducted by the AICR to mark world cancer day (February 4).

The survey revealed that many Americans think the things that cause cancer are beyond their control — genetics, family history. However, cancers cause by genetics only account for 1 in 5 cancers. Most are related to chemical exposure and lifestyle habits.

According to the survey most people believed genetics played a much more important role in determining if they would cancer than anything else. The reality is that exercise and diet play a far more important role in preventing cancer.

The AICR wants to stress that Americans should focus on the lifestyle factors that they can control, instead of the less common genetic factors.

Cancer remains the second highest cause of death globally. In the past few decades, cancer death rates have declined thanks to improved medical technologies and medicines. Unfortunately the growing obesity epidemic has seen the rates of some cancers increase in developed countries.

Red Meat and Cancer Risk

Red meat cancer risk

Red meat cancer risk

A number of studies have suggested that red meat can play a role in the development of certain cancers. The largest study to provide evidence of the red meat-cancer link involved 478,000 men and women in Europe. It found that eating more than 5 ounces of red meat per day could raise your colon cancer risk by approximately a third, when compared to those who ate the least red meat.

The consumption of chicken did not appear to alter the colon cancer risk and eating fish actually lowered colon cancer risk.

The other substantial study involved nearly 150,000 Americans between the ages of 50 and 74. It found that a diet heavy in red and processed meats increased cancer risk of the colon and rectum. Eating fish and poultry appeared to protect individuals from these forms of cancer. Other studies have sugested that red meat can increase colon cancer risk by between 20% and 28%.

Red meat consumption is also believed to increase the risk of other cancers, including breast, prostate, lung and ovarian cancers.

Why does red meat increase cancer risk?

The conventional thought in recent years was that the act of grilling red meat created various carcinogens. However, new research at UC San Diego has highlighted at alternative theory. Researchers believe that the risk of cancer is increased because red meat contains a substance that is not found in the human body. This substance (called Neu5Gc), increases inflammation which can result in higher cancer risk.

Researchers established the interactions of this chemical by using mice, genetically engineered to not produce it internally. When this foreign chemical integrated with tissue, it triggered a reaction from the immune system and increased inflammation.

Interestingly, the inflammation and cancer risk from this chemical only occurs in humans, which is why researchers had to use genetically modified mice in their tests.

The inflammation from this chemical may also help other forms of cancer take hold within the body. For example, a smoker might be at greater risk of getting lung cancer if they eat a lot of red meat.

Researchers don’t suggest we should stop eating red meat, but simply eat it in moderation. It contains high levels of iron and protein, which benefit the human body. The senior author of the paper, Dr Varki, suggests that red meat consumption for people under 40 years of age is less of a problem. As people get older and their cancer risk increases, the inflammation presents a large threat.

If you decide to continue eating meat, researchers suggest having 3-4 ounce servings 1-3 times a week should present no substantial increase in cancer risk. Interestingly, the lead researcher only eats chicken and fish!

Neu5Gc is a type sugar molecule, referred to as a sialic acid. Researchers believe that sialic acids can affect many parts of the body, causing inflammation, altering brain development and affecting the immune system. It is believed that some diseases make use of sialic acids to hide themselves from the immune system.

The reason that fish and chicken do not carry the same inflammation risk, is that for the most part, they do not carry nonhuman sialic acids like Neu5Gc. The fish that do carry it, carry small amounts. Fish in particular carries properties than can reduce cancer risk, like high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.

The next step is to find a medication which is capable of helping the body deal with the chemical and prevent the inflammation. These research findings could eventually help lower cancer rates in countries where red meat consumption is very high — like the United States.

New Research Helps Understand Lung Cancer Progression

Lung Cancer Protein TIAM1

Lung Cancer Protein TIAM1

According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer in both men and women. With many Americans having a long history of smoking cigarettes that is unlikely to change soon. A staggering 159,260 Americans will die from lung cancer in 2014, which is approximately 27% of all cancer deaths. Over 400,000 Americans are currently battling lung cancer.

Unfortunately lung cancer is both prevalent and extremely dangerous, remaining one of the most deadly forms of the disease. The amount of damage that lung cancer has caused our society is massive and it is expected to continue for many years because of cigarette usage. Surprisingly, cigarette usage is increasing in many parts of the world!

Thankfully, some new research will help specialists understand how lung cancer spreads, potentially leading to new treatments. Researchers found that lung cancer cells had severed proteins, which helped them separate and proliferate through the body. While cells do normally separate, cancer cells are especially prone to cell separation.

By understanding how these proteins work, researchers believe they may be able to prevent cancer cells from metastasizing. One protein link which is important in the functioning of lung cancer is TIAM1. TIAM1 helps determine how strong the links are between cancer cells in the lungs.

Lead researcher Dr. Angeliki Malliri explains: “This important research shows for the first time how lung cancer cells sever ties with their neighbors and start to spread around the body, by hijacking the cells’ recycling process and sending it into overdrive. Targeting this flaw could help stop lung cancer from spreading,”

If drugs can be developed to change the way specific proteins function, researchers may develop drugs that completely stop lung cancer from spreading. If the research comes to fruition, it could save millions of lives.

Lifestyle Factors Increasingly to Blame for Cancer

Excessive Eating and Cancer

Excessive Eating and Cancer

New figures from Cancer UK have revealed how many cancers are a result of lifestyle factors. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that as many as 4 in 10 cancers are a result of lifestyle choices. Cancers in more than 600,000 people could be avoided if people were healthier and avoided behaviours that increase cancer risk.

Smoking is the most prevalent lifestyle choice that increases cancer risk. The obesity epidemic and unhealthy eating is also largely responsible for the number of cancers within the UK.

Excessive alcohol consumption is also known to increase risk and can increase cancer risk from tobacco consumption.

Researchers recommend that people maintain healthy weight, stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption and take part in regular exercise. Moderating sun exposure is also a good idea for reducing cancer risk.

Processed food also increases the risk of cancer, with researchers indicating almost 150,000 cancer cases were a result of unhealthy eating. Obesity contributed to nearly 90,000 cases of cancer.

Researchers encourage people to take a hard look at their lifestyle choices. To maintain good health and lead a long life, they recommend limiting excess and getting healthy.

Huge Obesity Related Cancer Numbers

Obesity and Cancer

Obesity and Cancer

There is a well known link between obesity and increased cancer risk, particularly with breast cancer. New research has highlighted the astonishing figures associated with cancer promoted by obesity.

The study looked at the body mass index of people from 184 countries in 2002 and contrasted it with cancer rates for those people in 2012. The researchers focussed on cancers which are linked to obesity — breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer. They estimate that 3.6 percent of cancer cases were caused by obesity. If you take that percentage and extrapolate it to global cancer statistics, you are looking at as much as half a million cancer cases triggered by obesity, each year.

Women are more likely to get cancer if they are obese, with 5.4 percent of women presenting with cancers caused by obesity. The United States has the highest rate of obesity related cancers, with over 100,000 in 2012. Postmenopausal breast cancers and some uterine cancers are very closely tied to obesity, which explains the higher percentage for women.

Researchers partially understand why obesity causes cancer. Obesity creates various unusual actions within the human body, including an overload of certain hormones. Those hormones can contribute to cancer, particularly breast cancer. One of those hormones is insulin-like growth factor 1, which has been linked to pancreatic cancer.

Doctors recommend a healthy diet and exercise to reduce your risk of getting cancer.

Doctors Failing to Incorporate New Breast Cancer Treatments

Elderly women having unnecessary radiology

Elderly women having unnecessary radiology

New research published in the Journal “Cancer” highlights some problems in the changing treatment options for patients and doctors. The study looked at the use of radiology in elderly patients with early stage breast cancer.

Some research indicates that most elderly women see no change in life expectancy after using radiology to treat their early stage breast cancer. The radiology treatments can be painful and in many cases, ultimately unnecessary. The research found that many doctors are continuing to follow treatment paths that are not providing any actual increase in the life expectancy of their patients.

The study looked at survival rates and cancer recurrence for women who had surgery and chemotherapy, then compared that to women who had surgery, chemotherapy and radiology. The women who undertook radiology saw no additional benefit in terms of survival rate.

The data from the research indicates that adjuvant radiotherapy could be safely omitted from the treatment program in elderly women with breast cancer. The research points out that — while there has been a large decrease in radiotherapy, almost two-thirds of women are still receiving radiotherapy unnecessarily.

68.6% of patients treated between 2000 and 2004 compared with 61.7% of patients who were treated between 2005 and 2009 received some form of adjuvant radiotherapy. There was an increase in the use of implant radiotherapy from 1.4% between 2000 and 2004 to 6.2% between 2005 to 2009 (P < .001).Radiology carries some significant side effects including nerve damage, swelling, blistering, lymphedema and tiredness.The fact that doctors are continuing to use radiology on elderly women indicates they are not aware of the latest research into survival rates. This highlights a disconnect between treatment practices and research that must be addressed.

Immune System Boosting Drug to Work With Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Nivolumab PD1 inhibitor drug

Nivolumab PD1 inhibitor drug

A number of new drugs have shown the ability to boost the immune system to help it fight cancer. Some of the drugs simply help the immune system detect and kill cancer cells. They do this by disabling the mechanisms cancer cells use to remain hidden.

One such drug is Nivolumab. There is a protein called programmed cell death 1 (PD-1), that helps the immune system understand which cells should die. Another molecule can attach itself to PD-1 to form PD-L1, which tells the immune system to not attack a cell. This prevents the immune system from going overboard and killing too many cells. The problem is the fact that cancer cells are smart enough to product their own PD-L1 protein and avoid detection by the immune system. The drug stops cancer cells from creating PD-L proteins, which helps the immune system notice and attack the cancerous cells.

Trials have seen some great results with Nivolumab, particularly in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other lymphatic system cancers. The drugs are especially useful for shrinking the size of tumors, as the immune system starts to recognize the cancerous cells and pull them away from the tumor mass. Researchers expect these kinds of drugs to be particularly effective at beating cancers affecting the blood and bone marrow.

A drug called pembrolizumab is another (PD-1) receptor inhibitor, showing promising results. A small study showed that the drug shrank tumors in 66% of the sample group.

These results should be looked at with some caution though, because they are phase one trial results. The research has only used small groups of test subjects so far.

According to Cancer.gov, there are 185,793 people living with Hodgkin Lymphoma in the United States. The five year survival rate is 85.3% (based on 2004-2010 figures).

There are some serious side effects with drugs that inhibit PD-1. 22% of the people involved in the nivolumab trial had a serious side effect. That can include inflammation of internal organs like the colon, lung and pancreas.

If the trials continue to go well, we will see these drugs in the market within a couple of years.

New Study Looks at Cancer “Alarm” Symptoms

People ignoring potential cancer symptoms

People ignoring potential cancer symptoms

A new study has taken a look at the number of people who attribute cancer symptoms to another less dangerous illness. By attributing the symptoms to a less dangerous illness, cancer diagnosis is delayed. The study, entitled “Attributions of Cancer ‘Alarm’ Symptoms in a Community Sample“, looked at potential cancer symptoms experienced by 1,724 people over the age of 50.

The researchers asked people if they had experienced any of 17 specific symptoms (that may indicate cancer) in the last three months. The questions were similar to the following:

“Have you experienced unexplained weight loss?”
“Do you have unexplained lumps on your skin?”
“Have you experienced extra tiredness or dizziness?”

The researchers found that many people ignored the possibility of cancer despite suffering a number of symptoms that could indicate cancer. From the 1,724 respondents, 53% had experienced a symptom of potential cancer, but only 20 (2%) thought cancer was a possibility. The most potential cancer common symptom was an unexplained lump, which was reported by 7% of respondents.

The paper indicates that many people ignore or are unaware of potential cancer symptoms. Early detection is crucial for many forms of cancer, particularly for older adults with a higher cancer risk.

Source:
Whitaker, K., Scott, S., Winstanley, K., Macleod, U., & Wardle, J. (2014). Attributions of Cancer ‘Alarm’ Symptoms in a Community Sample. PLOS ONE, 9(12), e114028. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114028

Cancer Survival Rates Tied to Location

Cancer 5 year survival rates

Cancer 5 year survival rates

One of the largest meta-study of cancer survival rates ever done has been published in the journal, “The Lancet”. Global surveillance of cancer survival 1995—2009: analysis of individual data for 25 676 887 patients from 279 population-based registries in 67 countries

The study highlights the massive discrepancy in survival rates between some countries. Cervical cancer, for example, has a 70% 5 year survival rate in some countries, but 40% in others. Some forms of leukemia offer 90%+ survival rates in the United States, but 16% in some parts of the Middle East.

The study used 279 population based cancer registries, from 67 countries to gather data. That encompassed more than 25.7 million adults and 75,000 children. The types of cancers involved were cancer of the stomach, colon, liver, rectum, lung, breast, cervix, ovary and prostate. They also examined childhood leukemia.

The study found that 5 year survival rates for common cancers like colorectal and breast has been increasing in developed countries. Developing countries were lagging behind.

It also found that liver and lung cancers remain extremely dangerous, with very low survival rates around the world. 20% for all of Europe, 15-19% in North America and as low as 7-9% in parts of asia.

Some of the good news included a 10-20% increase in the survival rate for prostate cancers. At it’s lowest, the survival rate is 60% in Thailand and Bulgaria, 95% at its highest in Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the USA.

For cervical cancer, 5-year survival rates range from less than 50% to more than 70%. Regional variations are much wider, and improvements between 1995—99 and 2005—09 have generally been small.