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.

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

Link Between Cancer and Obesity Examined

Obesity and Cancer

Obesity and Cancer

A new study has reaffirmed the link between obesity and cancer.

The study, published in the Lancet Journal, reaffirms that a high body-mass index of 25 kg/m2 or greater is associated with increased risk of cancer. Researchers believe that in 2012 nearly 500,000 cases of cancer were attributable to high BMI around the world. The vast majority of these obesity related cancers occur in the United States and Europe, because of the higher levels of obesity found in those locations.

Women were more likely to be affected by cancer relating to obesity, particularly breast cancer. The most common forms of cancer caused by obesity were corpus uteri, postmenopausal breast, and colon cancers. These forms accounted for 63·6% of cancers and are attributable to high BMI.

The research looked at cancer rates in over 184 countries and found that obesity was associated with 5.4 percent of cancer in women and 1.9 percent in men during 2012. Those percentages are higher in developed countries with excess weight causing 8 percent of cancers in women and 3 percent in men.

The cancer rates were lowest in parts of Africa, due to lower calorie intake.

According to the researchers:

These findings emphasise the need for a global effort to abate the increasing numbers of people with high BMI. Assuming that the association between high BMI and cancer is causal, the continuation of current patterns of population weight gain will lead to continuing increases in the future burden of cancer.

FDA Warning About Device Capable of Spreading Cancer

FDA Warns of Laparoscopic power morcellator

FDA Warns of Laparoscopic power morcellator

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken action to stop the use of a gynecological device that can spread pre-existing cancer in women.  Laparoscopic power morcellators are used in the removal of the uterus, or to remove fibroids.

The device is used to destroy fibroids, which are then removed by key hole surgery.  There is no way to know if the fibroids contain cancer cells. If they do, the destruction process may released some of those cells, allowing cancer to spread to other organs.

This can lead to more dangerous forms of cancer developing, which cannot be treated as easily.

In a press release,William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for science and chief scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said: “Updating the device label with a boxed warning and contraindications will provide clinicians and patients with critical information about the risk of spreading cancerous tissue when these procedures are performed.”

The FDA was made aware of the flaw with this device by surgeon Hooman Noorchashm.  Dr Noorchashm’s wife, Amy Reed, had the procedure as a part of her hysterectomy and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  The use of the device had spread cancer cells throughout her body.  Thankfully Amy is currently in full remission.

Whilst Dr Noorchashm was arguing for a complete ban on the device, the FDA was chosen to add a compulsory warning to the device.  The warning indicates that the device may spread cancer cells throughout the body.

The FDA chose to only use a warning because younger women may still safely use the device in their procedures.  That is due to the fact younger women are much less likely to have cancer cells in regions that can be spread.  If the device is not used, fertility can be affected.

Some hospitals have already stopped using the device, well aware of the risk before the FDA decision.  One of the companies that manufacture the device has also pulled it off the market, a sure sign that the risk of the procedure is well known.

So while this device might still play a role in certain surgeries, for older women with a higher chance of cancer, it is too risky.

Sitting and Cancer Risk

How Sitting Increases Cancer Risk

How Sitting Increases Cancer Risk

Modern man spends a lot of time sitting down, either while relaxing or at work.  Some jobs involve long stretches of sitting down at a desk with little physical activity.  Many people have recreational activities that also involve a lot of sitting — like watching television or using the Internet.

Researchers are just starting to understand the health ramifications of sitting down for many hours each day.  Unfortunately it’s not good news, with a number of serious health risks associated with sitting.  This article will out line some of the recent research into sedentary behavior and the health problems associated with it.

Cardiovascular Health

One research paper looked at the effect of sedentary behavior on rodents.  One group of mice were allowed to perform exercise on gym equipment while the other were not.  Researchers found that the mice who did not undertake exercise had structural changes in the neurons in their brains.  Those neurons were responsible for regulating cardiovascular function.  It is thought that the changes to these neurons contribute to  cardiovascular disease (Mischel NA, Llewellyn-Smith IJ, Mueller PJ, 2014).

Cancer Risk

In a meta-analysis of 43 observational studies involving more than 4 million people, it was found that sedentary behavior greatly increased cancer risk (Schmid D,Leitzmann MF, 2014).  Researchers found that the risk of lung, colon and endometrial cancers was significantly increased by sedentary behavior.  The more a person sat down, the more their cancer risk increased.  For every 2 hours of sedentary activity per day, lung cancer risk increased by 6%, colon cancer risk increased by 8% and endometrial cancer risk increased by 10%.

The Canadian cancer society suggests that the health impacts of sedentary behavior create other problems that lead to cancer (Cancer.ca, 2014).  For example, most people who spend long periods sitting down gain weight.  That weight gain can substantially increase the chances of getting cancer (Cancer.gov, 2014). 

Sedentary behavior changes hormone levels which can also lead to some forms of cancer (Lynch BM, 2010).  Sex hormones estrogen and androgen increase, which is linked to breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.  Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels decrease because of inactivity.  The decrease in SHBG is thought to play a role in breast cancer (Moore JW, Key TJ, Bulbrook RD, Clark GM, Allen DS, Wang DY, Pike MC, 1987).

Diabetes

The less active you are, the more likely it is that you will have high blood sugar, increased insulin levels and eventually insulin resistance.  Some research has even indicated that regular exercise might not be enough to shield you from diabetes, if you spend a lot of time sitting down (Endocrineweb.com, 2011). 

The production of enzymes that burn fat also drastically slow when you are sitting. One study found that there were 90% less fat burning enzymes in people sitting for an hour or more (NYTimes, 2012).  Your metabolism also slows while sitting, potentially leading to weight gain and obesity.    

Brain Function

Research has shown that the human brain performs better if it has a supply of fresh oxygenated blood (MedicalNewsToday, 2014).  While sitting, your body is at rest and there is less fresh blood and oxygen reaching your brain.

One study demonstrated that people have better neuronal function within the brain while standing, as opposed to sitting (Ouchi Y, Okada H, Yoshikawa E, Nobezawa S, Futatsubashi M, 1998).  Put simply, your brain is more alert when you are in standing instead of sitting.

Muscle and Bone Degeneration

Sitting down for long periods can lead to muscular degeneration, because you aren’t using many muscle groups while in that position.  Your abdominal and back muscles are essentially unused while seated, worsening any back problems you may have.  You leg muscles are mostly unused in the position also, leading to muscle loss there.     

One study noticed that people who spent many hours sitting had a greater risk of  osteoporotic hip fracture (Weiss M, Yogev R, Dolev E, 1998).  This was due to low mineral density in the bones of people who spent a great deal of time sitting. 

Sitting can also damage your posture and can change the natural curve of your spine (Mashable, 2012).  Slipped discs are a common injury in people who spend a great deal of time seated.  Some doctors suggest people should only be seated for a maximum of 20 minutes, to avoid back damage.

The research is clear — prolonged sitting can have a negative health impact which can shave years off your life.  For people who are sitting all day, then going home for more sedentary activity like watching television, the problem is even worse.  To enjoy a healthy life and avoid some particularly nasty health issues, stand as much as possible and keep moving!    

Sources

Cancer.ca (2014). Sedentary behavior.  cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/what-is-a-risk-factor/sedentary-behaviour/?region=on

Cancer.gov (2014). Obesity and Cancer Risk.  cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/obesity

Endocrineweb.com (2011).  Sedentary lifestyles connected to type 2 diabetes.  endocrineweb.com/news/type-2-diabetes/6750-sedentary-lifestyles-connected-type-2-diabetes

Lynch BM, (2010).  Sedentary Behavior and Cancer: A Systematic Review of the Literature and Proposed Biological Mechanisms.  cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/19/11/2691.full

Mashable (2012).  Why Sitting Too Much Is Dangerous.  mashable.com/2012/06/18/too-much-sitting/

MedicalNewsToday (2014).  Sedentary behavior ‘may counteract brain benefits of exercise in older adults’.  medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282745.php

Mischel NA, Llewellyn-Smith IJ, Mueller PJ (2014). Physical (in)activity-dependent structural plasticity in bulbospinal catecholaminergic neurons of rat rostral ventrolateral medulla.  ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24114875

Moore JW, Key TJ, Bulbrook RD, Clark GM, Allen DS, Wang DY, Pike MC (1987).  Sex hormone binding globulin and risk factors for breast cancer in a population of normal women who had never used exogenous sex hormones.  ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2001893/

NYTimes (2012). Taking a Stand for Office Ergonomics.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/business/stand-up-desks-gaining-favor-in-the-workplace.html?_r=0

Schmid D,Leitzmann MF (2014).  Television Viewing and Time Spent Sedentary in Relation to Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis.  jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/106/7/dju098.full

Ouchi Y, Okada H, Yoshikawa E, Nobezawa S Futatsubashi M (1998).  Brain Activation During Maintenance Of Standing Postures In Humans. brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/122/2/329.full

Weiss M, Yogev R, Dolev E (1998).  Occupational sitting and low hip mineral density.  ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9405733