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.

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.

Researchers Make Breakthrough Discovery for Bladder Cancer Treatment

Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer

A new study published recently has found an antibody capable of blocking a protein that helps cancer cells evade detection by the immune system. The paper suggests that antibody MPDL3280A blocks protein PD-L1, which was allowing cancer cells to avoid destruction by the immune system.

68 patients with advanced bladder cancer who had failed other treatments participated in the research program. 30 of those patients had tumors which contained the PD-L1 protein. They were given a drug containing the MPDL3280A antibody. Within twelve weeks of treatment, of those 30, 52% saw their tumors shrink in size. In two of the patients, the cancer was completely eradicated! Of the remaining 38 patients who did not have the PD-L1 protein in their tumors, 11% still saw some positive effect from the drug.

The antibody has received “breakthrough therapy” designation status by the FDA, which speeds up it’s approval process.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 74,690 cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in 2014, with 15,580 deaths from the disease this year. The research is very exciting because bladder cancer usually carries a very poor prognosis.

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.

NVIDIA Grants $400,000 to Two Cancer Research Teams

nividia cancer research

nividia cancer research

NVIDIA is not the first company you think of when talking about cancer research. The company makes computer hardware and software that powers visual computing (what you see on the screen of your computer). But NVIDIA has done some great work in philanthropy, including recently providing grants to researchers working in the field of cancer research.

NVIDIA has given $200,000 to each of the research groups, who are using high end computer hardware to examine the genome and uncover how cancer works. One of the research teams is examining the genome data of thousands of cancer patients to uncover any common genomic patterns. The other group is examining how they can use home computers to crunch numbers and lead to new breast cancer treatments.

Because of the high volumes of data involved in analyzing the human genomes and the genomic data of cancer patients, high end computing power is required. NVIDIA hope that the grants will encourage technological specialists to enter the field of medical research with innovative approaches.

Once the genetic patterns that cause cancer are identified, it opens up a number of options for early diagnosis and treatment. Some new drugs work with a patient’s individual genomic data to switch off certain genes. Being able to process that genomic data faster will also help reduce the cost of those drugs.

The research teams are also looking for genetic similarities between various forms of cancer. By identifying similarities, they may find a central genetic marker that indicates cancer risk. The similarities can help in the development of gene therapies.

Learn more about the research funding at the NVIDIA blog.

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