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.

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.

Calorie Intake and Breast Cancer

Weight Gain Breast Cancer

Weight Gain Breast Cancer

A new study in the United States has highlighted the role that calorie intake may play in the development of breast cancer.

Researchers discovered that when radiotherapy was being used to treat breast cancer in women with a specific form of the disease, the treatment was more effective if their calorie intake was lower.

The “triple negative” form of breast cancer is a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer and affects about 20% of all women with breast cancer. This form of cancer also tends to be found more often in young women, below 40 years of age.

Women with this form of breast cancer often see it spread very quickly with stubborn tumors returning after treatment.

Researchers aren’t sure why a reduced calorie intake helps prevent the tumors return, but it may be to do with reduced calorie intake changing the tissue surrounding the tumor.

The problem is that many of the treatments which women are given to help them fight cancer promote weight gain. Treatments like hormonal therapy and steroids which are used to slow the growth of tumors can increase weight gain by slowing metabolism, making the tumors more resilient!

We know from other studies that being overweight is actually linked to breast cancer if you have a particular genetic marker. Many other forms of cancer are also linked to being over weight, so there are plenty of reasons to maintain your fitness and weight.

Studies also show that breast cancer treatment is less effective if you are overweight and people who gain a lot of weight during their breast cancer treatment are likely to have worse outcomes.

These studies have made researchers more interested in the role of metabolism in the treatment of cancer. If they can make sure the treatments don’t adversely affect metabolism and induce weight gain in patients, then better outcomes for patients are more likely.

Dr Nicole Simone, the study leader of the most recent research says that from the findings: ‘We found that the diet turned on a programme that protected mice from metastatic disease,’. The study was published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, and found that in the dieting mice, cancer cells decreased their production of microRNAs 17 and 20 (miR 17/20).

Those two molecules play an important role in influencing disease pathways. In the triple negative breast cancer patients, this group of MicroRNAs is usually larger.

Researchers used mice in the study and found that the mice who undertook radiation and calorie restriction had the best outcomes.

This latest research is only one of many studies that backup the role of a healthy diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. In 2009 a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) found that:

restricting consumption of glucose, the most common dietary sugar, can extend the life of healthy human-lung cells and speed the death of precancerous human-lung cells, reducing cancer’s spread and growth rate.

Which researchers saw as another indicator that moderating calorie intake helps prevent cancer.

However this is not an argument for unhealthy dieting, but rather an argument for maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, exercising and avoiding processed foods.

The excess weight and cancer link is not a new one either. In 1987 studies were suggesting that people watch their weight: “a complete review of the data suggests that reducing caloric intake and relative body weight may lead to a considerable decrease in cancer risk in humans.”

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!

Exercise to Avoid Cancer

Exercise to Avoid Cancer

Dr Rebecca Moss has written a fantastic article for Slate magazine, aimed at raising awareness for one of the most preventable forms of cancer, colorectal cancer. Dr Moss specializes in gastrointestinal cancers at the research level so has a professional understanding of the cause, symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis of the disease.

Her advice is thorough but can be summarized in a few main points. If you wish to avoid dying from colorectal cancer and want to minimize risk:

  1. Have a colonoscopy when your doctor tells you to so you find tumors and polyps before they become cancerous
  2. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight!

As Dr Moss points out in the article, unfortunately many Americans are not getting enough exercise. In fact the vast majority of people don’t get enough exercise with only 1 in 5 exercising enough. That is a staggering statistic and of great concern to researchers who know that exercise is a key to avoiding this form of cancer.

Meanwhile plenty of Americans are still taking vitamins and other health supplements in the mistaken belief that it will protect them from cancer.

So exercise is really a massive factor with regular exercise helping to prevent some of the most dangerous diseases that face adults in America – Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Colorectal Cancer.

Unfortunately due to the explosion of obesity in the United States, colorectal cancer is a common form of the disease. The article also points out that diabetes increase the risk of colorectal cancer by an astonishing 30%. The horror of these statistics is that these diseases can be avoided with regular exercise and a healthy diet. The diseases are also greatly impacting on aging baby boomers, who having reached retirement age are instead facing horrible health problems because they haven’t been exercising with regularity in the last few decades.

So ladies and gentlemen, takes the doctors advice, get out and about. With exercise you will not only be reducing the risk of diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease, you will also look and feel better. It’s a win/win situation so get off the couch and enjoy a longer and happier life.

Do Vitamins Help Reduce Cancer Risk?

Vitamins & Cancer Prevention

Vitamins & Cancer Prevention

It is a commonly held belief by most people that taking vitamins will not only keep you healthy, but it may help prevent cancer and heart disease. That belief is often developed by manufacturers who make claims about anti-oxidants in their products helping to prevent cancer and maintain overall health.

Well according to a government panel of health experts, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that taking additional vitamins will reduce your cancer risk. Surprisingly, there is even some evidence that taking the wrong vitamins can actually increase cancer risk!

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released it’s findings this week, gathered from numerous clinical trials and dozens of studies. The results have been published in full in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the United States, over 45% of adults take vitamins everyday, some with the belief that they are lowering their cancer risk. A third of Americans take a multivitamin most days.

Why did multivitamin companies market some of their products as cancer preventatives? Because on first glance it appears that they are. In the laboratory, research on animals and in laboratory dishes suggest that oxidative stress contributes to cancer and heart disease. So logically vitamins that are antioxidants like (for example vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A), could be useful to prevent oxidative stress and therefore reduce your chances of getting cancer.

However researchers looked at the actual instances of cancer and the people who were taking multivitamins and did not see a correlation. Mineral supplements, multivitamins, individual vitamins like vitamin E, all failed to show a decreased risk of cancer. They also failed to demonstrate the vitamins and minerals could reduce the risk of heart disease in normal people.

The worst part is some of the vitamins could be increasing cancer risk! The panel found that there was some evidence that people who have an elevated risk for lung cancer may be further increasing their risk by taking beta-carotene supplements (a vitamin A precursor). Those with an increased risk for lung cancer would be smokers and people exposed to environmental hazards like asbestos.

So if anything, smokers should be avoiding beta-carotene as there is no benefit in terms of preventing cancer and heart disease, but there is increased lung cancer risk.

Keep in mind that even if multivitamins do not play a direct role in prevention of cancer, there is still some evidence that they help some people maintain good overall health. Particularly people who do not receive adequate vitamins and minerals from their diet. That would include pregnant women, elderly people, people who are ill, who may need extra vitamins for their overall health.

So while the effect of multivitamins in relatively healthy people may not have a preventative role for cancer, they may still be important for people not receiving sufficient nutrients and you should continue to take them if that is the case with you.

There is still plenty of evidence which indicates that diet plays a crucial role in the prevention of certain types of cancer, so by maintaining a healthy diet you will be lowering your cancer risk. These new findings simply mean multivitamins shouldn’t be considered necessary to reduce cancer risk and should only be taken if you are concerned you are not getting sufficient nutrients from your diet.

The best tools for fighting Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer Risk Reduction

Prostate Cancer Risk Reduction

Prostate Cancer is one form of cancer that is being increasingly diagnosed in older males, with diagnosis rates doubling between 1998-2008 in many western countries. One of the reasons for this is that men are living longer now, and the cancer often appears in older men. Decades ago many men would be more likely to die from another cause before prostate cancer became a life threatening illness. However now that people are living longer it is becoming a more prominent and dangerous disease.

Quite simply, the older you get, the more likely you are to get prostate cancer. Given that modern medicine means that most men are going to live to a much older age than 50 years ago, it is now more likely to be a life threatening problem for the average male. The rate of diagnosis of prostate cancer is expected to grow substantially by 2020 as more older males encounter this problem.

The good news is that simple dietary changes and lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of prostate cancer and/or delay it’s onset. Early detection is also key to surviving prostate cancer, just like most other cancers – the earlier you detect the cancer, the greater your chance of survival.

One simple way to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, or delay it’s appearance is to take vitamin supplements. Everyone should take a multivitamin every day as a general rule, but some particular vitamins have been found to have a preventative or delaying effect on prostate cancer. Folate is one of the supplements which may have a preventative effect on prostate cancer, so if that form of cancer is of particular concern, you should talk to your doctor about starting on folate.

Experts are unsure about the role of diet on the appearance of prostate cancer, but we do know that a healthy balanced diet with a range of fruits, vegetables and whole grains definitely reduces the risk of other cancers. So there is no harm in watching your diet, you may be reducing prostate cancer risk, but you are definitely reducing bowel cancer risk. A healthy diet full of flavonoids and antioxidants will reduce cancer risk and help you live a long and enjoyable life.

Watching your diet also includes limiting refined sugar, so that means reducing or eliminating sugar dense sodas and foods from your diet. Various pieces of research into prostate cancer have come to different conclusions about the role of diet, but limiting sugar helps reduce your weight to a healthy level. Given that obesity is a risk factor not only for some cancers, but for heart disease, it is a good step for your health. Stevia is a good sugar replacement for when you really have a craving, but dark chocolate is also a great replacement for other junk foods. Many people have also reported using honey to cure that craving for something sweet.

You could also increase your daily dose of phytoestrogen, which studies have shown might be useful for reducing prostate cancer risk. Phytoestrogen is found in soy, so consuming soy milk will help increase your level. Be sure to choose an organic soy milk which has not been heavily processed. The study found:

These results are suggestive of a possible relationship between phytoestrogen intake and prostate cancer risk. Larger comprehensive studies are needed to further refine the role of phytoestrogen intake in prostate cancer risk.

Increasing your intake of lignan rich foods like flaxseed could also help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Research has shown that lignans may be able to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and the low prostate cancer rates in China and Japanese men points to the role of diet here.

Vitamin D may be of use for men interested in maintaining good health and reducing the risk of cancer in general. Whilst there is no direct evidence that the vitamin can reduce risk of getting prostate cancer specifically, it can help prevent other cancers and maintain strong bones and muscles. At the very least it can help a patient fight a cancer by keeping their body in better condition.

So while prostate cancer is not one of the easiest cancers to prevent, steps can be taken if you expect to live a long life and want to reduce the prostate cancer risk or delay the cancer appearing. By maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy diet you can reduce cancer risk a great deal.

Research Finds Cancer Prevention Methods Successful

Cancer Prevention Works!

Cancer Prevention Works!

Most people have heard health specialists repeat simple advice for cancer prevention – watch your weight, eat fresh fruit and vegetables, don’t smoke, don’t drink too much alcohol and get some moderate exercise. Those simple tips can reduce your cancer risk by a great deal for certain types of cancer.

A new study in the United States has confirmed that those simple tips are indeed accurate and worth pursuing if you want to live a longer life with less cancer risk.

In new research from the University of Arizona it was found that older women who had adhered to the cancer prevention guidelines of the American Cancer Society did in fact have lower cancer rates that older women in society. In fact they had less risk of dying from other leading causes of death as well, including heart disease!

The researchers said that the findings lead to a simple but effective message – if you want to reduce the risk of cancer, limit or avoid alcohol, don’t smoke, be active every day, eat a balanced diet low in processed foods. The American Cancer Society guidelines have been found to be very helpful in cancer prevention.

The full American Cancer Society guidelines can be found here:

Diet is especially important for specific cancers such as bowel cancer. The guidelines suggest not only enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables, but also limiting red meat consumption, avoiding processed foods in general, avoiding foods with lots of chemical additives, eating whole grains instead of processed grains (brown bread instead of white, brown rice instead white etc). If your family has a history of that kind of cancer, then following the dietary elements might be especially beneficial.

Many people are also unsure about how much exercise is enough. As it turns out you don’t need to do that much at all to prevent cancer with the guidelines suggesting as little as half an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise 5 times a week being adequate. That could be a brisk walk or light jog every weekday afternoon and you will not only be feeling and looking great, but reducing your cancer risk.

Women who followed the guidelines had a 17% lower risk of developing cancer and a 20% lower risk of dying from cancer according to the research. Additionally they had a 27% lower risk of dying from any cause! So that’s a great additional benefit. The guidleines are extremely effective for certain kinds of cancer chiefly colorectal cancer which saw a 52% reduced risk from following the guidelines. Women saw a 22% lower risk of developing breast cancer.

Women of certain racial groups benefited more from the guidelines with black and Hispanic women benefiting the most.

The best part of the American Society Guidelines is that by following them you will also have great general health, you will feel healthier and you will look healthier. It’s a win-win situation!

Reduction of Prostate Cancer Risk

Prostate Cancer Prevention

Prostate Cancer Prevention

Recent research has indicated that lifestyle factors play a significant role in the reduction of risk for aggressive prostate cancer. In new research at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, they looked at people adhering to the eight lifestyle recommendations from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and how it plays out with agressive forms of prostate

The eight recommendations include:

  • Staying within acceptable ranges of body mass index
  • Staying physically fit
  • Eating foods with lower caloric density (so avoiding chocolates and fatty foods)
  • Eating fruits and non-starchy vegetables
  • Watching salt intake
  • Eating Legumes
  • Eating unrefined grains, so things like brown bread, brown rice
  • Moderating red meat consumption

The researchers looked at adherence to those eight recommendations and the risk of highly aggressive prostate cancer in subjects enrolled in the North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project. The research was led by Lenore Arab PhD, JCCC member and professor in the departments of medicine and biological chemistry. The results of the study have been published online ahead of print in the medical journal “Nutrition and Cancer”.

That group included 2212 men aged between 40 and 70 with newly diagnosed prostate cancer. Whilst the eight recommendations are for general avoidance of cancer, researchers wanted to narrow it down to look at these aggressive prostate cancers in particular.

For individuals who adhere to less than four of the eight recommendations, the risk of aggressive prostate cancer increased by 38% compared to those who adhered to four or more of the recommendations. The results were similar between racial groups, so men of different races all benefit from adherence to the recommendations.

Researchers found that the most two important recommendations were eating less than 500 grams of red meat per week, and avoiding foods with high caloric density. Those two recommendations really stood out as being important to avoiding the more aggressive prostate cancers.

For each point of adherence from the 8 recommendations, researchers estimated about a 13% reduction in risk of the most aggressive cancers but the people most in danger of aggressive prostate cancers were those who adhered to four or less recommendations.

The lead research, Dr Arab said: “Most men are at risk of prostate cancer, but it is the level of aggressiveness of disease that is most clinically relevant. These findings suggest that even men with prostate cancer can take control of their disease and moderate its aggressiveness through diet and lifestyle choices.”

Researchers determined the level of aggressiveness of the prostate cancer by a number of metrics: TNM malignant tumor classification, Gleason grading system scores, and blood levels of prostate-specific antigen.

Partical adherence to WCRF recommendations was also considered, so point scores and odds ratios were estimated. The research does make the assumption that adherence to the eight guidelines was regular throughout most of the patients adult life.

Very clear evidence here that the eight recommendations may not just help prevent cancer in general, but reduce risk of the more aggressive variants of some cancers.

Vitamin D and Cancer

Vitamin D & Cancer Prevention

Vitamin D & Cancer Prevention

Vitamin D is actually a number of fat-soluble secosteroids including Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). It is an interesting vitamin because the human body can either digest it via food or it can be obtained via exposure to the sun as the body synthesizes it. In that sense it’s not a dietary vitamin in the strict sense as it can come from the human bodies exposure to sunlight.

Vitamin D is essential for the development, growth and repair of human bones, aids in the absorption of calcium and helps the immune system function. Vitamin D also plays a role in improving muscle strength and reducing inflammation.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a number of diseases including rickets (childhood osteomalacia), so in the developed world it is added to a number of food items like cow’s milk to avoid those illnesses. A lack of vitamin D can also play a role in the development of Osteoporosis. People with unusual diets and those who do not obtain enough sunlight are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Between the ages 1-50, 5 μg (=200 IU) of vitamin D is recommended. After 50 most specialists recommend between 10 μg (=400 IU) and 15 μg (=600 IU) of vitamin D.

Vitamin D Studies

Recent studies have suggested that high levels of vitamin D may actually reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and studies are looking at further possible cancer risk reduction for prostate cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancers. This post will take a closer look at the accumulated evidence for vitamin D playing a role in cancer prevention.

Many scientific studies have been performed which look at vitamin D specifically. In early tests, scientists looked at the geographic correlation studies to see if people in more sunny areas of the planet (higher vitamin D intake) had lower risk of cancers. People living in the southern latitudes were found to have a lower incidence of certain cancers than people in the less sunny northern latitudes. From these early studies, scientists suggested that vitamin D played some role in cancer prevention.

In laboratory studies, vitamin D was used on cancer cells and found to have an impact on the growth of the cancer cells and in some cases even killed them. Laboratory studies using cultures are quite often vastly different from the how vitamins operate within the human body however.

Clinical human trials have determined that vitamin D high intake may reduce the risk of cancer. One trial involving 1250 older women who took a combination of calcium tablets and vitamin D tablets for 4 years saw a 60% lower incidence of cancer compared to the placebo taking group. However in that study, a vitamin D only group (without calcium) was not used. The study itself was designed to look at bone health so the cancer findings were supplementary.

Observational studies have been undertaken to look at vitamin D and it’s cancer prevention abilities specifically. The studies haven’t been conclusive so far, largely due to the difficulty of determining how much the patients diet impacts their chances of getting cancer. Quite often the data which is given by patients to researchers is also inaccurate, with their determination of their dietary intake being way off. At this stage many of the studies suggest their is possibly a link between higher vitamin D consumption and reduced cancer risk.

There is also a very close relationship between vitamin D and calcium in the body, so it is somewhat difficult to study just the effects of vitamin D when varying levels of calcium intake are involved in the mix. New randomized trials which look at vitamin D specifically are required.

Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer

The data in this area is somewhat inconsistent, but findings indicate that there is some role for vitamin D in the prevention of colorectal cancer.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention study which featured 120’000 men and women found that men who took 13 μg (525 IU) or more vitamin D per day in their diet had a lower risk of colorectal cancer. However, interestingly this reduced risk was not shown in women.

In a meta-study looking at 10 cohort studies, it was found that people who had very high vitamin D intakes had a slightly lower risk of colorectal cancer than those on the lowest intakes of vitamin D. However the risk was reduced by such a small amount it could have been a statistical anomaly.

In the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a look at over 16’000 participants concluded that those with higher vitamin D blood levels (≥80 nmol/L) had a 72 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer death compared to those with a very low level of vitamin D in their blood.

Of the types of cancer, colorectal cancer prevention is the one most likely linked with high vitamin D intake.

Vitamin D and Breast Cancer

There have been conflicting results in epidemiological studies looking at the link between breast cancer risk reduction and vitamin D. Some studies find a link in risk reduction, but others find no such link. A meta-study involving six other studies saw no association between vitamin D intake and breast cancer risk reduction. That being said, the studies involved did not have very high vitamin D intakes required, and when the study only looked at the very high intakes (>10μg) compared to the very low (<1.25μg) there was a reduced risk in breast cancer found.In another large study which involved many thousands of women taking calcium and vitamin D supplements, there was no reduced risk of invasive breast cancer found.

Vitamin D and Prostate Cancer Risk

Geographic correlation studies (comparing people in sunny locations to less sunny), have found a link between vitamin D and reduced prostate cancer risk. However epidemiological studies have found no such link.

In a large study that looked at the incidence of prostate cancer in men a number of years after their blood was tested for vitamin D levels, high vitamin D blood levels did not have a link to reduced prostate cancer risk. If anything, there was a link between increased vitamin D intake and an increased risk of the aggressive prostate cancer.

Vitamin D and Pancreas Cancer Risk

There is some debate about the role of vitamin D in reducing pancreas cancer risk with some vastly different results. One study involving 120’000 men and women found that participants with higher intakes of vitamin D had a progressively lower risk of pancreas cancer compared to the lower intake participants. However, this study used questionnaires which involved patients estimating their diet and there vitamin D levels.

In a PLCO study, no link was found between vitamin D level and reduced pancreatic cancer risk.

Should you take vitamin D?

Vitamin D is essential for the functioning of the human body. If you do not get much sunlight exposure, and/or you are over the age of 50, vitamin D supplements might be a good idea just for maintaining good health. To identify any vitamin D deficiency, have a blood test done by your doctor.

As to whether vitamin D reduces the risk of cancer, there is a great deal of data for and against it. The strongest evidence is for colorectal cancer prevention. However if you are concerned about prostate cancer, taking high levels of vitamin D might in fact increase your risk. There is potential benefit, but also potential risk of prostate cancer for men. At this stage the best decision you could make, would be to consult with your doctor and determine your levels then decide if you need more vitamin D.

Heartburn Linked to Increased Cancer Risk

Heartburn Cancer Link

Heartburn Cancer Link

A new study suggests that there may be a link between heartburn and certain cancers, such as throat cancer and vocal cord cancer. However the study also suggests that over the counter antacids can help reduce the cancer risk from heartburn.

The author of the study, Dr Scott Langevin, suggests: “Previous studies examining gastric reflux and cancers of the head and neck have generated mixed results, (Our study) is a large, population-based study with robust parameters that strongly suggests gastric reflux, which causes frequent heartburn, is an independent risk factor for cancers of the pharynx (throat) and larynx (vocal cord).”

Gastric reflux is commonly known as heartburn and is a result of stomach acids backing up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest or throat. A number of things can cause heartburn, including excessive alcohol consumption, consumption of certain foods, and even pregnancy (where the baby puts weight on the stomach).

GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) and GORD (gastric reflux disease) are the terms given to people who have a more long term form of heartburn where mucosal damage is caused by stomach acid coming up into the esophagus.

With GERD, the protective barrier between the stomach and esophagus changes and the opening to the stomach stays abnormally relaxed, allowing stomach acid through. As the acid damages the cellular lining of the esophagus it can contribute to the risk of throat cancer forming according to the research.

The research looked at over 600 throat cancer and vocal chord cancer patients in the boston area and looked at the prevalence of heartburn related illnesses in those patients compared to another group of 1200 healthy individuals with no history of cancer.

The research used a questionnaire examined family history, smoking history, alcohol consumption and also tested for papillomavirus (HPV), which can raise the risk of oral cancers.

The study found that people with heartburn had a 78% increase risk of developing cancers of the vocal chord or throat if they were not heavy smokers or heavy drinkers. People suffering from heartburn, who took antacids, had a 40% reduced risk of cancer of the throat or vocal chords regardless of the presence HPV, heavy smoking or heavy drinking. Over the counter antacids were used in the study, so it is unknown whether prescription medications or home remedies would have the same protective effect.

The reason why antacids are so effective is unclear, the researchers saying: “We have hypothesized that by neutralizing the pH of the stomach acid reaching up into the throat, the antacids prevent chronic irritation and cellular damage that can eventually lead to cancer. However, anything that we offer at this time would be merely speculation.”

More studies will be required to understand the reasons why antacids are so useful in preventing cancer of the throat and vocal chords. Other risk factors for throat cancer include chewing tobacco, a poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption.