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.

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.

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.

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.

New Technology to Test For Cancer With a Single Drop of Blood

Miriam,  microRNA cancer detection device

Miriam, microRNA cancer detection device

A simple 3-D printed device my be leading the way in cancer detection in
the coming decades. “Miriam” is a device that can detect the presence of several different cancer from a single drop of blood. The best part is that the device only costs $500 to make!

Currently, most forms of cancer detection are very expensive to perform. Miriam would allow more frequent and widespread screening for these common cancers.

The device has been designed by technology company Miroculus and uses microRNA in the blood to detect cancer.

From the company’s website:

Our proprietary chemistry can detect microRNAs from body fluids or tissue without the need of a specialized technician or expensive lab machinery. Each well of this plate has our patented biochemistry that is looking for a specific microRNA. This biochemistry acts like a trap that closes only when the microRNA is present in the sample. Whenever a trap closes it will shine with green color.

The test takes approximately 60 minutes. The luminosity of the microRNA filled wells is uploaded to the cloud. The combination of luminosity in the wells is tested against a database that has details of various cancers. Common cancers have specific luminosity combinations. The results can then be downloaded with any smart phone.

In addition to cancer detection, the device may be able to check for reactions to various drugs in the future. The more data the system has in it’s database, the more drug reactions and illnesses it can help detect.

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.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The year is moving incredibly quickly and we are almost up to September. The American Cancer Society has reminded us that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) aims to increase awareness of the disease and raise funds for research.

Breast Cancer continues to be one of the most dangerous forms of cancer, with death rates higher than any other form of cancer. More than 232,000 new cases diagnosed in 2013 and nearly 40,000 women died from breast cancer in the same year.

It is a very common and very deadly form of the disease, which makes it a focal point for a of cancer research.

In the past couple of years, public awareness of the gene mutations which are responsible for some breast cancers, has increased. This is largely thanks to Angelina Jolie, who had the gene mutation and undertook a double to avoid breast cancer.

With breast cancer, early detection is incredibly important. Take a read of the breast cancer early detection guidelines at cancer.org.

Toothpaste Linked to Cancer Risk

Toothpaste and triclosan cancer risk

Toothpaste and triclosan cancer risk

A number of recent reports in the media have highlighted the link between an ingredient in toothpaste and the risk of certain cancers. Some common brands of toothpaste, including Colgate have the chemical “triclosan” as one of their ingredients.

Research has established a link between the chemical and cancer cell growth in animal studies. This has led to calls for regulators to re-assess the safety of the chemical. Triclosan is used in a number of products including Colgate toothpaste, soap and even toys. Triclosan is used in toothpaste as way to prevent gum disease.

Colgate are adamant that the chemical is safe and they are pointing to FDA findings indicating that. However some researchers suggest that the FDA findings did not examine the chemical sufficiently. The FDA’s findings on the drug, and Colgate’s submission, were hidden from the public until this year. It shows that the FDA relied upon the veracity of the scientific data that was given to them by Colgate — the FDA did not do a great deal of research themselves.

Researchers are suggesting that the chemical may be interfering with hormonal function and disrupting the endocrine system. The interaction of various chemicals within the human body is also extremely complex so the full effects of the drug are difficult to judge. One expert on the endocrine system even suggested that chemicals like triclosan constituted a widespread experiment with human biology. No one knows exactly what the outcomes of ingesting these chemicals will be, and cancer incidence may be a sign of the chemical’s impact.

Colgate have strongly defended the drug, pointing to the clinical studies that it has conducted. Colgate Total has been in the market for close to 20 years now, and the company argues that if the chemical was horribly detrimental to consumer’s health it would be obvious by now.

Triclosan is also present in a number of hand washes. However, the danger of handling the chemical may be lower than using it in toothpaste. In the United States, Colgate Total is the only toothpaste on the market to use the chemical. In other countries the number of toothpastes using triclosan varies.

For people who are concerned about the link between triclosan and cancer in animal studies, it might be better to err on the side of caution and avoid Colgate Total. While it can’t be said definitively that the chemical is causing cancer in humans, if you are interested in reducing risk, there are other brands of toothpaste.

High Protein Diet Cancer Link?

High Protein Diets and Cancer Risk

High Protein Diets and Cancer Risk

A recent study has had some alarming findings with high protein diets linked to increased cancer risk. The study found that a high protein diet might have a harmful effect on health and found that high protein diets increase cancer risk as much as smoking cigarettes.

High levels of dietary animal protein in people under 65 years of age was linked to a fourfold increase in their risk of death from cancer and twice the risk of diabetes. Nutrition experts have however cautioned people from changing their diets until further studies have been conducted into the animal-protein cancer link.

Interestingly, the increased cancer risk was did not occur to the same extent when the additional protein came from plant sources instead of animals.

In general the study points to middle aged people who consume a lot of animal protein dying younger from cancer and other diseases. Individuals who consumed a diet high in plant protein had less risk of cancer than those on animal protein. Individuals who consumed a diet which was not high in protein had the least cancer risk.

But the findings became even more complex when it was noticed that the high protein diet in old age had better health. That means this research found that in adults should maintain a low protein diet, which avoided animal protein, until they reached old age and then a diet high in protein would actually be beneficial!

This is because when people reach old age they lose muscle density and can become frail. A high protein diet helps combat that effect and preserve overall health. In people over 65, a high-protein diet cut the risk of death from any cause by 28%, and additionally reduced cancer deaths by 60%.

The research came from a pool of 6,381 people aged 50 and over who were a part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the United States.

This study may have some ramifications on the recently popular Atkins and Paleo diets which are very high in protein. According to researchers, individuals should restrict themselves to no more than 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day. So the average 80kg male should be consuming no more 64 grams of protein per day.

Most of protein should also come from plant sources, so legumes, mushrooms and vegetables. According to the study, consuming large amounts of animal protein can be very dangerous to your health so it is worth examining how much animal protein you are taking in.

On average, survey participants consumed 1,823 calories a day, which included 51% carbohydrates, 33% fat, and 16% from protein. On average, about 10% of their total calorie consumption was animal protein. Researchers suggested that people who consumed “high protein” diets were eating diets with 20% or more protein. Midrange was considered 10-19% and low was below 10%.

There are possible problems with this study which might throw off the results. For example do lifestyle factors of various demographics play a role? Vegetarians would have diets low in animal protein but they may also be more inclined to be more health conscious and exercise more often than someone who has a diet high in animal protein including hamburgers and hotdogs. In this case the vegetarian is more likely to be physically fit, not overweight and therefore less likely to have certain types of cancer (colorectal). Lifestyle factors like that could throw the results of the study off slightly.

For that reason nutritional experts like Peter Emery, head of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London says: “I would urge general caution over observational studies, and particularly when looking at diet, given the difficulties of disentangling one nutrient or dietary component from another. You can get an association that might have some causal linkage or might not”

In a follow up study into the role that protein plays in the formation of cancer, researchers found that levels of a growth hormone called IGF-1 rose and fell in line with protein intake. The increase in this growth hormone might in fact be linked with cancer risk. Tests in mice have also shown that high protein diets leads to increased cancer risk and large tumors.