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.

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.

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

Triclosan May Cause Liver Cancer

Triclosan and Liver Cancer

Triclosan and Liver Cancer

New research undertaken at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has found that a common ingredient in antibacterial soaps may cause liver cancer.  Triclosan was found to cause liver fibrosis and cancer in mice.   It is a cleaning agent found in soap, shampoos, toothpaste and other household items.

It was previously believed that triclosan toxicity in mice was unrelated to humans.  The new research casts some doubt on that judgment and suggests triclosan is very dangerous for humans.  The study suggests that further research is required to determine exactly how much damage the chemical is doing to the liver.

Triclosan is already being heavily scrutinised because of some evidence that it can disrupt hormones and alter muscle performance.  The FDA is already looking at triclosan with some concern.

Researchers suggest that triclosan interferes with the constitutive androstane receptor, which helps the body remove foreign substances from the liver.  If the constitutive androstane receptor is impaired, the foreign substances in the liver increase cancer risk.

There are also long standing concerns that triclosan in antibacterial soaps may promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  There is no real benefit from the presence of the chemical in soaps either, with research showing normal hand washing with plain soap being just as effective.

This is the latest concern about Triclosan, which is under close review by the FDA.

According to the last FDA statement in 2013:

What is known about the safety of triclosan?

Triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans. But several scientific studies have come out since the last time FDA reviewed this ingredient that merit further review.

Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. However, data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans. Other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

In light of these studies, FDA is engaged in an ongoing scientific and regulatory review of this ingredient. FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time.

Research Suggests Meditation May Help Cancer Patients

Cancer and Meditation

Cancer and Meditation

For many years now, spiritualists and alternative medicine devotees have suggested that meditation can help a person beat cancer. In a world first, some research may have demonstrated that meditation can alter cells within the human body and play a role in battling cancer.

The canadian-based research, “Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors“, has been published in the journal Cancer. It indicates that meditation and yoga can alter cellular activity of cancer survivors.

Protein caps at the end of chromosome called telomeres stayed at the same length in cancer survivors who meditated or took part in support groups over a 3 month period. This is contrasted with people who did not participate in support groups or meditation, and saw a shortening of their telomeres. Telomeres determine how quickly a cell ages.

The question here is what role telomeres play in regulating disease. There is some evidence that longer telomeres can help protect people from diseases like breast cancer.

There was already evidence that meditation, mindfulness and support groups could make you feel better, but this is the first mind-body link discovered for these practices.

88 breast cancer survivors took part in the research. The average age of the participants involved was 55. One third of the group was asked to attend a weekly 90 minute support session and to practice meditation or yoga for 45 minutes each day.

Another third just used the support group to talk about their emotions. The third group attended a single seminar about stress management and was not asked to meditate.

The people who used the support group and meditated had lower stress levels and maintained their telomere length. The control group saw a shortening.

This is very exciting research for people who have advocated for meditation and mindfulness. While we don’t know exactly what role telomeres play in human health just yet, we do know that maintaining telomere length is positive for human health.

Skin Cancer Costs Rising

Skin Cancer Treatment Cost Increasing

Skin Cancer Treatment Cost Increasing

A report by Kimberly Leonard has found that the costs of skin cancer have increased greatly within the United States.

Treating skin cancer has become more expensive, between 2002 and 2011 growing five times faster than other forms of cancer treatments. The study that the report was based on came from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It found that the average yearly cost for treating skin cancer has increased by 126 percent in the 2002-2011 time period.

Despite massive publicity campaigns, many Americans are still complacent about protecting their skin. Between 2001 and 2011 the rate of skin cancer increased significantly, by 1.6% per year among men. More people are being diagnosed with skin cancer and it is becoming more expensive to treat — a recipe for disaster.

Other forms of cancer have become more expensive to treat, but not to the same degree. On average they increased by 25 percent.

The deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, saw the large increase in treatment costs. It went up by 106 percent. Skin cancer now costs more to treat per person and in the community as a whole.

A large percentage of the costs of treating skin cancer are held by the public, with medicare covering 41 percent of the costs. This is due to the large number of seniors who have been diagnosed with skin cancer.

Skin cancer is usually caused by damaging ultraviolet light from the sun or from tanning beds. Prevention is key when it comes to skin cancer and there are a number of steps that can be taken to avoid it. Skin cancer is also on the increase in many other developed countries, despite many millions spent on awareness campaigns.

NFL Continues to Raise Money for Breast Cancer

NFL Supporting Breast Cancer

NFL Supporting Breast Cancer

The NFL is continuing with it’s annual breast cancer awareness month, which occurs every October. The campaign is designed to increase breast cancer awareness and raise money for breast cancer research. The breast cancer awareness campaign began in 2009. In the United States, breast cancer remains the 2nd most dangerous form of cancer for women.

Similar campaigns have been started in other countries with the rugby league competition in Australia also raising awareness and funding for breast cancer research.

NFL players and fans wear pink to the games in October, leading to the stunning sight of a crowd awash in bright pink. The NFL most definitely has some work to do as it attempts to repair it’s reputation after damage domestic violence incidents from players.

The games in October include cancer survivors honored at half time and player gear auctioned off to support cancer research. It’s not a small amount of money either, with the event raising over $7 million since it began.

The more funding breast cancer research obtains, the close we are to a cure for this terrible disease. While enjoying the games this month, make sure to donate some money and talk to the women in your family about breast cancer.