Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

A new report from the CDC (Center of Disease Control) in the US has revealed that up to 40% of premature deaths could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. As this link shows every year about 900,000 premature deaths occur in the US, which are due to 5 major diseases that in the opinion of the CDC can be prevented by 20 to 40%. Here are the diseases that kill: cancer, heart disease, COPD/emphysema, stroke and accidents/injuries. These conditions were responsible for 63% of all deaths in the US in 2010.

Let’s discuss each of these conditions and how one could lower the risk of dying from them.

1. Cancer:

The Framingham Heart Study has shown that smoking and cancer are closely related. Smokers who quit can significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer. We also know that exercise and prophylactic supplements like fish oil and vitamin D3 have cancer preventative effects.

Antioxidant supplementation that included beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E daily or on alternate days for 1 to 12 years, along with selenium supplementation reduced the incidence of cancer of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, stomach or the liver. Insulin resistance due to sugar and starch overconsumption is causing cancer, particularly breast cancer, colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. I have discussed this in a recent blog.

Pollution has been linked to increased lung cancer risks as discussed here.

2. Heart disease:

Heart disease can be caused by several factors in combination. Lifestyle issues are important: Smokers need to quit smoking as the Framingham Heart Study has shown more than fifty years ago that smoking causes heart attacks. Obesity and diabetes also contribute significantly to the risk of heart disease. Often these are connected to faulty nutrition, which is another lifestyle issue that comes to mind when too much sugar and starchy foods are taken in; your liver will convert these into fatty acids, triglycerides and elevated, oxidized LDL cholesterol, which gets deposited under the lining of the arteries. A lack of exercise adds to this problem as a lack of exercise lowers the protective HDL cholesterol and fat is deposited under the lining of the arteries. Start exercising and your protective HDL cholesterol will rise, your total cholesterol to HDL ratio will lower to healthier levels and your risk for hardening of the arteries and for getting a heart attack will fall. If you have diabetes, it is important that you manage your blood sugars well; this means that if you inject insulin, you want the blood sugar tests to be within the normal range and the hemoglobin A1C values to be below 5.5%. Poorly controlled diabetes is an important cause of heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure is also an important cause of developing heart attacks and strokes. It is important to control your blood pressure by taking blood pressure lowering pills and also by exercising regularly. Exercise seems to send a signal to relax the blood vessels thus lowering the blood pressure, which in turn prevents heart attacks.

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented


3. COPD/emphysema:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema is mostly caused by chronic exposure to cigarette smoke from smoking. The earlier you can quit, the better your chances that your breathing will not be the limiting factor when you age. But it is also important to avoid exposure to other noxious gases, such as from welding and from exposure to pollution. This may involve a decision to move to a less polluted area. Or it might involve a job retraining. Those who are suffering from COPD can be helped to a certain extent by a portable oxygen tank with nasal prongs.

4. Stroke:

As mentioned before, quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure and controlling blood sugar, if you suffer from diabetes have been shown to stabilize your blood vessels including the ones that supply your brain. The key is to prevent hardening of the arteries by a healthy lifestyle. Exercising and keeping your weight under a body mass index of 25.0 have been shown to be effective stroke prevention. Healthy nutrition as indicated above under “heart disease” is equally important for stroke prevention. Go green (eat more vegetables, consume more green smoothies), cut down grains, sugar and starchy foods and you will live longer without strokes and heart attacks. Remember, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain!

5. Unintentional accidents/injuries:

Wearing helmets when bicycling, wearing seat belts when driving in a car, avoiding risky behaviors are all measures that save lives. One factor stands out in all of this: if you drink too much, you run the risk of being involved in unintentional accidents or injuries. People may not like to hear this, but your brain lacks the natural inhibitory impulses when you are under the influence of alcohol, so you become more daring and you may not pay attention for the split second that could have prevented an injury or accident. People react very differently to alcohol. Some people feel inebriated after only ½ a glass of wine or beer whereas others can drink more before they make mistakes. The best is to be sober when you drive, ski, use power tools or walk in traffic. Even climbing ladders requires a clear mind!


As the CDC said 20 to 40% of premature deaths (deaths that occurred before the age of 80) could have been prevented, if the above-mentioned recommendations were followed. Let me rephrase this: 180,000 to 360,000 premature deaths every year in the US before the age of 80 could have been prevented! Curative medicine cannot help with these statistics as a heart attack or stroke has happened when it has struck you. Cancer and end stage lung disease are similar conditions that you are suddenly faced with when they occur and unintentional accidents just seem to happen. This is where the importance of prevention can be seen, because these little baby steps every day are adding up to something formidable, a force to be reckoned with. Be part of the solution, think prevention!

More information on:

1. Cancer mortality:

2. Higher vitamin D3 intake lowers mortality from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, fractures due to osteoporosis:

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014


Mold Allergies Often Overlooked

In a recent news story extensive mold infestation was found in a house that had oriented strand boards (OSB) instead of plywood walls. The house also was tightly sealed trapping moisture, which contributed to the extensive mold problem.

Mold problems have been around for centuries, but only in the past few decades allergists  have pointed out to their patients how important it is to prevent this from happening.

In the following I will review a few typical scenarios that can lead to mold accumulation.

1. Mold from airtight house construction

The homeowner described in the link above is not the only case in the world that has a mold problem. Energy efficient homes are popular because they save energy costs; homeowners often also respond to gas companies, electric utility companies and government incentives to convert to airtight home construction.

In the 1980’s the construction industry introduced the cheaper OSB products to replace the more expensive plywood for wall construction. This is often the problem with newer house construction. However, older homes are not immune to mold development.

2. Roof leaks in older homes

Older homes that were built in the 1970’s may have plywood walls and have a bit of airflow from poorer wall construction, which would prevent mold formation. But roofs are older and do not always get replaced right away when a leak is detected. It may even take some time in areas where there is less precipitation before it is picked up during a particularly heavy rainstorm. Water that enters from a leaky roof can form a puddle on top of the ceiling where mold softens the drywall material until a leak in the ceiling causes water to drip down onto the floor. The mold spores multiply particularly well in wall-to-wall carpeting, but OSB material is also a good growth opportunity for molds due to the mini air spaces between the glued wood pieces. Plywood with its several tight layers is much more resistant to water penetration and mold growth.

Mold Allergies Often Overlooked

Mold Allergies Often Overlooked

3. Mold growth after hurricanes

After hurricane Sandy images of “black mold” were frequently shown in the media. The problem is that after 48 hours anything that was in contact with water produces mold. However, often with disasters like hurricanes there are evacuation orders and you cannot return to your home for several days. There may be further delay because there is a waiting period for insurers to assess the amount of damage, before you can clean all surfaces affected by mold.

The end is result often that expensive mold sanitation is needed or the person ends up moving away and the house is levelled before a new house can be built.

4. Effects of molds

People with preexisting allergies and asthma are more susceptible to the effects of molds. It leads to itchy eyes, wheezing, coughing, and exacerbation of asthma.

Here is a brief overview what the CDC is stating about mold. This site also explains that you can recognize a mold problem because of a musty smell or foul stench in the air and because of the appearance (discoloration of ceilings or walls, water damage).

You can clean hard surfaces with bleach water. Bleach kills molds, but it may have to be cleaned several times within a few days to get rid of the last spores. Whatever cannot be sanitized in this way must be removed or replaced.

5. Health concerns regarding molds

Ref. 1 reviewed the public concern about the toxic effects of molds. It noted that with the Internet and the popular press having exaggerated some of the connections of symptoms with mold allergies, the term “mold madness” has been coined (Ref.2). Despite the paranoia in the general public about toxins from molds, there is only a small percentage of the population that is sensitive to molds where IgE antibodies and IgG antibodies against molds can be determined through blood tests. These individuals often are also allergic to other environmental allergens like grass pollen and dust mites. The asthmatic reactions in sensitive people are not as severe as what peanut traces would do to peanut sensitive patients, but skin testing and blood test screening for specific IgE and IgG antibodies do often confirm that sensitive people indeed can have specific mold allergies. In the vast majority of people these tests are negative and correlations between mold infestations and allergic reactions could not be verified (Ref.1).

6. Fixing mold damage and dealing with allergies

It follows from this that you should remove any visible molds and fix whatever the cause was for its appearance. Carefully disinfect the areas with diluted bleach water (the CDC recommends 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water) several times. Make sure the areas are dry and not musty otherwise you  have  work on improving ventilation. If you are not one of these hypersensitive persons, there is nothing to worry further. However, if you are hypersensitive an allergist should examine you. Common indoor molds that cause the so-called “immediate type hyper reactivity” are due to the mold species Aspergillum and Penicillium. Most outdoor molds that can cause problems for sensitive people are due to Alternaria and Cladosporium species. The latter would be the ones found in carpets after a leaky roof has caused problems. When the allergist has found specific allergies to one or several of the mold species, allergy shots may be prescribed that would have to be given weekly to the sensitive person who was found to have environmentally induced asthma. Often it takes several years for these desensitization shots to stop the affected person from reacting  to molds. In some cases patients need to stay on these shots life-long.


The key with regard to mold allergies is to prevent mold growth by being vigilant about detecting early problems with leaky roofs, walls and cleaning up water damage right away. When there is a musty tell- tale smell, investigate right away and remedy the problem. For most people this is the end of the story. However, a small percentage of very sensitive people need to consult with an allergist who should investigate whether or not these people would benefit from allergy injections.

In some rare cases the affected person may have to relocate to another house that is free from molds.

More information about asthma:


1.Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. Copyright 2007 Saunders

2. Zacharisen MC, Fink JN: “Is indoor “mold madness” upon us?” Ann. Allergy Asthma Immun. 2005; 94:12-13.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

Recently new statistics came out that show that 48.8 million people in the US (19% of the population) still smoke. 22 % of the population are male, 17% female. Smoking is responsible for 20% of all deaths in the US (1 in 5 deaths). It is interesting to note that in the older age group (above the age of 65) only 8% are smoking, but 22 % of the 25 to 44 year old group is smoking. Among the American population Native Americans have the highest percentage of smokers (32% are smokers). 10% of Americans of Asian descend smoke. Blacks, Whites and Hispanics are placed in between them and the American Indians. Finally, people who can least afford it (who are below the poverty level) have the highest percentage of smokers (29% smoke) while 18% of people above the poverty level smoke. Education seems to have a protective effects when it comes to smoking: of the least educated group of people 45% are smokers while only 5% with postgraduate education smoke.

Effects of cigarette smoke on the body

As this link shows the concoction of various ingredients in the smoke of cigarettes causes various parts of the body to react differently to these chemicals. Here is a rundown of diseases caused by smoking cigarettes.

1. Lung cancer: This is the most common cause of death in women who smoke, more common now than breast cancer. 90% of lung cancers in women are due to smoking. The same was true in males, but as a group they now smoke less than in the past.

2. Other cancers:  cervical cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder, esophageal, stomach, laryngeal, oral, and throat cancers are all caused by smoking. Recently acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow has been added to the list of smoking related cancers.

3. Abdominal aortic aneurysm: As cigarette smoke destroys elastic tissue, it is no wonder that the loss of support of the wall of the aortic artery leads to the development of large pouches, which eventually rupture with a high mortality rate due to massive blood loss.

4. Infections of lungs and gums: Smokers are prone to infections of the lungs (pneumonia) and of the gums (periodontitis).

5. Chronic lung diseases: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma.

6. Cataracts: lack of perfusion of the lens leads to premature cataract formation.

7. Coronary heart disease: hardening of the coronary arteries, which leads to heart attacks, is very common in smokers.

8. Reproduction: reduced fertility in mothers, premature rupture of membranes with prematurely born babies; low birth weight; all this leads to higher infant mortality. Sudden infant death syndrome is found more frequently in children of smoking moms (Ref. 1).

9. Intermittent claudication: after decades of smoking the larger arteries in the legs are hardening and not enough oxygen reaches the muscles to walk causing intermittent pausing to recover from the muscle aches. If it is feasible a cardiovascular surgeon may be able to do a bypass surgery to rescue the legs, often though this is not feasible and the patients lower legs or an entire lower limb may have to be amputated.

10. Others: osteoporosis is more common in smokers; poor eye sight develops due to age-related macular degeneration that sets in earlier and due to tobacco amblyopia, a toxic effect from tobacco on the optic nerve; hypothyroidism is aggravated by smoking and menopause occurs earlier.

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

Smoking Remains A Health Hazard

What happens in the lung tissue in smokers?

Ref. 1 gives a detailed rundown of the changes in the lung tissue as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke. The various components of cigarette smoke lead to an activation of special white blood cells, called monocytes that after stimulation turn into tissue macrophages. In addition neutrophils (regular white blood cells) also get stimulated. Between them they produce cytokines and chemokines and the neutrophils secrete elastase that digests elastic tissue in the lungs. Breakdown products of the elastic tissue serve as a powerful stimulus to the immune system to mount an autoimmune response. After some time of being exposed to cigarette smoke the immune system considers part of the lining of the lungs as foreign and cytotoxic lymphocytes attack the lining of the air sacs (alveoli). Lung specialists consider chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD or emphysema) to be an autoimmune disease (Ref.1).

The sad part is that when this condition has progressed far enough, even quitting smoking may be too late to stop the autoimmune disease by itself as the body has been sensitized and the immune system is convinced that the altered lung tissue should be attacked. Add to this that carcinogenic substances and toxins in cigarette smoke damage the DNA of all cells and the energy producing mitochondria, and the stage is set for the combination of chronic inflammation and the release of free radicals to cause all of the diseases mentioned above.

Quit smoking still important

It is extremely important to quit as soon as possible to avoid the full-fledged sensitization of the immune system against ones own lung tissue. Studies have shown that 36% of survivors of heart attacks will successfully quit, 21% of healthy men with a known risk of cardiovascular disease will quit when asked to do so and 8% of pregnant women will quit. When a physician examines a patient in the office and asks a smoker to quit smoking 2% of these smokers will respond and still not smoke 1 year after this doctor’s visit. This may not sound like much, but it is an encouraging effect. Perhaps the most important fact is what I mentioned in the beginning of this blog: the least educated group of people smoked the most (45%) while the most educated people smoked the least (5% of people with a postgraduate education). My hope is that the Internet and other educational media will contribute to education to convince people how important prevention is.

Pharmacological assistance to quit smoking

Nicotine replacement therapy can involve any of 2- and 4-mg nicotine polacrilex gum, transdermal nicotine patches, nicotine nasal spray, the nicotine inhaler or nicotine lozenges. Discuss with your doctor what may be best in your case. Typically one of these products is used for 3 to 6 months.

Bupropion is an antidepressant with a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor affinity. Bupropion is useful to help with the withdrawal from nicotine addiction, which occurs in depressed or non-depressed people. It strictly has to do with the stimulation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.  Typically the dose is 150 mg of a sustained released bupropion tablet per day for 7 days prior to stopping smoking, then at 300 mg (two 150-mg sustained-release doses) per day for the next 6 to 12 weeks. 44% quit at 7 weeks versus 19% of controls. A newer nicotine partial receptor stimulator, varenicline, has been compared to bupropion. It was slightly more effective in helping people to get off cigarettes. Varenicline is started at a dose of 0.5 mg per day for 3 days, then 0.5 mg twice daily for 4 days, followed by a maintenance dose of 1 mg twice daily. If nausea is a problem, lower doses can be used. Varenicline has been approved for a 3-month period with an option of a second 3-month period, if relapse occurs. Discuss with your doctor what is best for you.

According to Ref. 1 a combination therapy of bupropion and nicotine patch was more effective than either one alone.

Will power, hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy to quit smoking has been popular, but is not as effective as it is often claimed. Will power, measured by the “placebo” response is quite effective given the fact that nicotine is very addictive and yet 19% in the placebo group were able to quit on their own. According to Ref. 1 varenicline treatment for 12 weeks produced abstinence for 9 to 52 weeks and was compared to bupropion and placebo. The abstinence rates were 23%, 15%, and 10% for varenicline, bupropion, and placebo. This means that will power was still 2/3 as effective as bupropion and 43% as effective as varenicline. Don’t underestimate will power!


The best scenario is to never start smoking. The second best is to quit as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the third scenario of continuing to smoke is still very prevalent worldwide. I have seen the damage done first hand in practicing medicine, which motivated me to never smoke. But I am aware of the difficulties of quitting because of the highly addictive nature of cigarette smoking. Where is the support from governments on this? The problem is that the government benefits from taxation of cigarettes. Nevertheless it is laudable that there are government sites through the CDC to help you quit smoking.

At the end we are all responsible for our own health. If you are presently smoking, psych yourself up for the day that you will quit. Quitting means that you are deciding actively to live longer. Studies have shown that it takes often several attempts before you eventually quit successfully.More information on some of the topics mentioned:

1. Lung cancer and other cancers:

2. Heart attack:

3. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:


1. Mason: Murray and Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, 5th ed.© 2010 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014


Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

In early 1900 lung cancer was unheard of. This was before the cigarette industry started to mass-produce and market cigarettes.

However, ever since the arrival of the industrial revolution air quality has suffered. In China poor air quality has now reached such enormous values that the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has labeled poor air quality as one of the causes of lung cancer.

When you rank countries by average air pollution measurements, one sees that Europe, the US and South America overall have good ratings, whereas the Middle Eastern countries, China and India have poorer ratings.

However, when the pollution index of cities where the population is much denser than in the countries at large, are tabulated a much different picture emerges: Cities in Iran, India and Pakistan stand out as particularly bad followed by cities in China, Eastern Europe, Paris, London, Berlin, cities in California (the populous State), Chicago and New York.

Pollution does not stay local, but travels through the stratosphere around the globe. The result is that now 10 to 15% of lung cancer in the US occurs in patients who never smoked. This translates into 16,000 to 24,000 deaths annually of never-smokers in the US.

In certain cities such as Beijing the lung cancer rates have doubled in 9 years between 2002 and 2011. As this article shows lung cancer in never smokers can be caused from exposure to radon, to second-hand tobacco smoke, and other indoor air pollutants can also cause such cancers. But the outdoor air quality has been a problem ever since the industrial revolution, which started around Europe in the 1800’s and first part of the1900’s. In the latter half of the 1900’s much of the industrial wave has migrated to the Middle East, to India and China. But the air quality of the whole world has suffered as the jet stream and other air currents carry pollution in the stratosphere all around the globe.

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

Pollution And Soaring Lung Cancer Rates

History of pollution in various regions

1. In Germany’s  Ruhr district (“Ruhrgebiet”) in North Rhine-Westphalia, a highly populated industrial area, pollution reached a peak in the late 1950’s. From 1963 onward many of the coal mines, iron ore mines and other mineral mines closed down. 50 years ago the German Chancellor, Willy Brand was concerned about the environment and promised that blue skies would return to the Ruhr district again.  A special task force was initiated and maximally allowable limits were established for industries’ pollution emissions and enforced by the German government. Government and industry were co-operating in developing anti-pollution measures, which have cleared up a lot of the pollution since. With regard to car emissions lead free gasoline was introduced and carburetors ensured more complete burning of exhaust gases. This is now common and accepted anywhere except for diesel fume exhaust, which nobody wants to address despite proven carcinogenicity.

Now Germany is one of the leaders in green technology, which is also important for tourism.

2. England has its own legacy of pollution in soil and air from the industrial revolution. The soil of moorland, which soaked up acid rain for decades, is more acidy than lemon juice and it will take a long time despite industrial complexes having closed long time ago, before the soil quality will be returned to normal.

3. Hamilton in Ontario/Canada has had a longstanding pollution problem, which I witnessed from 1976 until my departure in 1978. It is well known that Stelco, the local steel plant downtown Hamilton is sending polluting emissions into the air. In 1976 a vising professor from Australia gave an interesting talk about a study that was done at that time regarding the risk of developing bronchogenic carcinoma (a synonym for lung cancer) in the immediate surroundings of the Stelco plant. He said that this was one of the first studies to show that the distance of people’s houses from the source of pollution mattered as that determined how concentrated the air pollution was (the closer the more polluted the air). This  affected cancer rates: they were much higher in the immediate surrounding of Stelco when compared to the average rate in the rest of Hamilton. This difference was very significant within a radius of 1 kilometer (= 0.62 miles) from the Stelco plant.

Just in May of 2013 the local cancer agency of Hamilton announced that the lung cancer rate in Hamilton was higher than elsewhere in Ontario because of a combination of poor air quality and of a higher percentage of people smoking. Then in August 2013 the city of Hamilton announced a new air pollution bylaw for stricter pollution measures to improve the air quality in the downtown area. It is just a pity that Hamiltonians had to wait until 2013 before the city approved an anti-pollution bylaw that could have been passed 50 years earlier like in Germany’s Ruhr district!

4. In 2008 Pittsburg, a former steel manufacturer town like Hamilton, Ont. outdid Los Angeles with regard to small particle air pollution.

Lung cancer prevention by the authorities

As mentioned before up o15% of lung cancer is caused by environmental exposure. So, we ourselves can only prevent 85% of lung cancer by not smoking and not exposing ourselves to industrial emissions or to smoke from incense. However, in many cities around the world you will get exposed to air pollutants that are well above the safe limits, so the risk of getting lung cancer from just breathing the air there can be much higher than in rural areas where there is no industry.

Technologies to control air pollution are widely available. We need to exert pressure on politicians to show leadership around the world. Government regulations to lower emission rates need to be put into place and inspectors need to ensure the rules and regulations are adhered to. Without reducing emissions of cancer producing gases and chemicals right at the source (open burning of cuttings in orchards or burning cut trees), cutting emissions of cars, planes, ships, diesel cars, locomotives, electric generator plants etc. the air quality will not improve. Despite some costs involved industry, governments and individuals have to work together to make clean air happen.

The residents of those countries that have low pollution values will not benefit, if pollution continues to occur in other parts of the world as it just travels in the stratosphere around the globe until it arrives right here at home! We need an international pollution police. Satellites can be used to monitor where pollution occurs and this can be followed up through the local regulatory bodies with penalties and remedial actions.

What can I do personally to prevent lung cancer?

1.The most obvious step is to quit smoking and ask smokers who come to your place to smoke outside (not in your home).

2.Consider moving away from the city, if the air quality is unacceptable to a place where there is low air pollution.

3.Vitamin D3 has been shown to prevent colorectal cancer, but as there are vitamin D receptors found on the surface of various cells in tissue around the body including the lungs, many researchers feel that this vitamin in higher doses (2000 IU to 5000 IU) has probably a wider applicability in preventing cancers, even lung cancer.

4.Cutting out sugar and adopting a Mediterranean type diet is a prudent thing to do; also cutting down your calories to the maintenance you need (mildly ketogenic diet). If you bought body composition scales, it would display what your daily calorie consumption is and you should not exceed this, or else you’ll gain weight. An aging man who is overweight will experience hormone changes as fat is being metabolized and the enzyme aromatase contained in fatty tissue will turn male hormones (testosterone, DHT, androstenedione) into estrogen. Estrogen (particularly estradiol) is a known carcinogen that has been proven to cause breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. However lung cancer is also being promoted in women by estrogen as discussed in this link. In men one needs to remember that lung cells have estrogen receptors and there is concern in aging men with higher estradiol levels that this can promote cell divisions in existing lung cancer. So, it is important to maintain a normal body mass index between 21 and 24 (well below 25.0 and well above 18.5, which are the official accepted limits). This way there is no problem with insulin resistance (too high an insulin level), and other metabolic substances (cytokines, growth hormone like factors and tumor necrosis factor-alpha from body fat) that are cancer promoting.

5. If testosterone deficiency is present, which is common in older men, testosterone will have to be replaced with bioidentical hormones. It is a myth that testosterone would cause prostate cancer. Testosterone in males is necessary to maintain a normal metabolism including the immune system, which then can fight lung cancer and any other cancers.

6. Exercise and reducing beef consumption are also often mentioned in terms of preventing lung cancer.

7. Here are several recommendations from the LifeExtension Foundation that I found very useful in terms of lung cancer prevention. This link shows that antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, alpha tocopherol, the minerals selenium and zinc are also helping to reduce the lung cancer rate. Drinking green tea has also been shown to be effective in a dose-response curve manner (more tea protecting more from lung cancer). Vitamin B12 and folate have been shown to reduce abnormal bronchial cell growth in smokers as shown by repeat bronchoscopy studies.

8. Those who have been smokers in the past and those who have been around heavy smokers for more than 10 years in the past should consider having a preventative bronchoscopy done by a lung specialist (also called respirologist or pulmonologists). This way any suspicious areas with precancerous lesions can be biopsied during the procedure and attended to.

Hopeful research for new lung cancer treatments

Lung cancer is a disease that is best prevented. Once a person gets lung cancer, the prognosis is still very poor. However, cancer researchers are getting close to newer treatments involving genetically modified T-cells (killer cells) as was recently achieved for leukemia. Similar research is going on regarding ovarian cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

More information about lung cancer:


It is not acceptable to let pollution take its course , the way politicians around the globe have handled this in the past 6 decades with a few notable exceptions mentioned. We all suffer a higher risk of getting lung cancer, even if we have been life-long non-smokers. Right now up to 15% of lung cancer in most populations are of this type. However, in Beijing this number is already much higher. The technology is available; Germany has led the way in the Ruhr district in the 1960’s and beyond. In my opinion the G8 meetings should have this high on their agendas and send technological aid to all the regions that have higher than the average world pollution index under the mandate of a special UN commission. This should be supported by the major industrial players with the knowledge that they will prevent the death of millions of potential consumers down the road, which will on the long-term pay off the relatively minor investment of installing pollution controls, before lung cancer levels rise even more.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Fighting Back Against The Flu

Every year there is concern about the upcoming flu season. Mostly the discussion centers on the composition of the latest flu bugs and what type of strains would be included in the latest vaccine recommended. The first flu case of the season has just been reported in a child. Here I am going to review what you can do to minimize your probability of getting the flu, or if you get it, how to minimize the severity of the illness.

The immune system

We know for some time that the antibody-mediated immune system is what helps overcome flus. The body’s immune system produces antibodies against the flu via T-helper cells that recognize the glycoprotein (hemagglutinin) of the flu virus and pass a signal on to B cells (bone marrow derived lymphocytes), which in turn are turned on to produce a lot of antibodies (Ref.1). These protect you from future flus of this type. If you have pre-existing antibodies that fit the bug in circulation you are OK ,and you will usually not get the disease.

The factors that protect you from the flu

However, there are many other factors that support your immune system. I will discuss the most important factors in more detail here.

1. We do know that vitamin D3 strengthens the immune system. I would recommend 1000 to 2000 IU per day in the wintertime, but up to 4000 IU or 5000 IU per day during an active epidemic would be reasonable. There is less flu when people are taking Vitamin D3 supplements.

Influenza A was reduced in school children supplemented with 1200IU of vitamin D3. This study recommended higher doses of 2000 to 7000 IU of vitamin D3 per day; but it also stated that as a precaution serum vitamin D levels should be monitored (technically it is serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels that are measured) to avoid vitamin D toxicity. Normal levels are between 40-70 nanograms per ml. Toxic levels are above 100 nanograms per ml. Your family doctor can order a serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D level for you.

2. Eating fruit and vegetables is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. In a randomized study from Belfast, UK elderly volunteers (82 of them, aged 65 to 85) were assigned to either eat 2 portions or 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day over 16 weeks. At 12 weeks into the trial both groups received a Pneumovax II vaccination, and the antibody response was measured at the end of the 16th week of the study.  There was a significant increase in antibody binding capacity to pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide in the 5 portion fruit and vegetable group compared to the 2 portion group that had no such increase. The authors concluded that there is a measurable improvement of the immune system when an older population increases their fruit and vegetable intake.

3. Avoid stress, because stress has been shown to weaken the immune system. This review shows that the immune system is weakened by the stress response via the elevated corticosteroid hormones (the stress hormone ACTH stimulates cortisol release from the adrenal glands). The stress of social isolation is also contributing to the weakening of the immune system in older people.

Fighting Back Against The Flu

Fighting Back Against The Flu

4. Exercise moderately and your immune system will get strengthened. Over exercising should be avoided as too much cortisol is released from your adrenal glands, which is toxic to lymphocytes thus weakening your immune system.

5.  Socializing is good for you as studies have shown that you live 2 ½ years longer. This study here is from Connecticut, but other studies confirmed this as well.

6. Make love. The endorphins that are released in the process stimulate the immune system.

7. Take probiotics, because they help your gut flora to stay normal. A normal gut flora promotes a stronger immune system as the Peyer’s patches (clumps of immune cells) in the gut wall are intimately linked to the immune system. In this way probiotics indirectly support your immune system.

8. Avoid smoking.  Smokers have more upper and lower respiratory tract infections than non-smokers. Here is information that explains this as well.

9. Get enough sleep. The circadian rhythm of your hormones ensures that your hormones function at their optimal level. Melatonin from the pineal gland is important in triggering the circadian rhythm, but melatonin itself supports the immune system as well. Your adrenal glands need resetting overnight so that cortisol is secreted according to your stress level, not too much and not too little. Overstimulation from performance sports, grief reactions, car accidents, injuries etc. lead to a surplus of cortisol and weakening of the immune system.

10. Take your flu shot (but without thimerosal) every year, but take it as a single shot (without thimerosal as a preservative). This CDC link explains that single shot flu vaccines are available without thimerosal. I recommend this type of flu vaccine. The central nervous system is extremely sensitive to nanograms of mercury, and it is for this reason that I would not buy into the argument of the CDC that one should not be concerned about safety of thimerosal. Here is the Burton report, which came to a different conclusion (just read the executive summary in the beginning). The newest for this flu season is the quadrivalent (or four-strain) flu vaccine, which is now available in pharmacies throughout the US.

11. Vitamins and supplements support your immune system, particularly vitamin D3. DHEA, which is available over the counter in the US stimulates antibody production when the flu vaccine is given, particularly in the elderly, in other words DHEA strengthens the immune system Vitamin C is known to support the immune system and is rapidly depleted in those who suffer from any viral infection. There are other nutrients that are useful to stimulate your immune system.

12. Consider herbs: Echinacea, Siberian ginseng, Asian and American ginseng, astragalus, garlic, and shiitake, reishi (also called “lingzhi mushroom”) and maitake mushrooms have all been shown to stimulate the immune system with negligible side effects.

13. Wash your hands, particularly when there is a flu going around. Door knobs for instance are known to keep live viruses for 2 to 8 hours, so washing your hands will reduce the amount of virus you are exposed to.


There is no single solution to prevent the flu, but we can all minimize our exposure to the virus and strengthen our immune system. Although it is wise to get a yearly flu shot to boost your immune system (without thimerosal as a preservative) just before the epidemics come around, this alone is not as good as combining the non-specific factors mentioned here with it. Particularly vitamin D3 (2000 IU to 4000 IU per day) and the old stand-by vitamin C (1000 mg to 2000 mg daily) will stimulate your immune system. Spice up your dinners with mushrooms that stimulate your immune system (maitake, shiitake, reishi mushrooms). Go to bed early enough to allow your circadian hormone rhythms to be reset overnight as you sleep. This will stimulate your immune system (from melatonin and DHEA of your adrenal glands).

More info on the Flu:


1. Long: Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 4th ed. Prevention. Vaccine. © 2012 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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A Study About Parents’ Concerns Regarding Childhood Vaccinations

In the October issue of the medical journal Pediatrics researchers published a study where 3,924 parents had been interviewed in a National Immunization Survey. 28% of the parents either delayed the vaccination because of concerns or refused vaccination of their child altogether. A multivariate analysis was performed that shed more light on this. There was a probability of about 2.35-fold (compared to parents who had no concerns) that one of the following factors was responsible for this: parents who would delay a vaccination had on average 2 or more children (4.3-fold more likely to delay than parents with one child) and unmarried mothers also were more likely to delay (probability 2.14-fold). Parents had a probability of 2.68-fold to refuse a vaccination when the child was 25 to 35 months old when compared to those with a child younger than this. The varicella vaccine, which is a live attenuated vaccine, was mostly the reason given when parents were unsure as to whether to give permission for vaccination or when they refused to give consent.

In contrast, reasons for delays of vaccination were that the child was ill and the vaccination was given at a later date when the child had recovered. The reason that parents decided not to delay or not to decline vaccination was that they discussed their concerns with the health care provider and they felt now informed and assured that vaccination was the right thing to do. The authors felt that the study emphasized how important it is to inform the parents of the science behind vaccinations.

A Study About Parents’ Concerns Regarding Childhood Vaccinations

A Study About Parents’ Concerns Regarding Childhood Vaccinations

Comments: The study did not review the fears of mercury poisoning with the preservative thimerosal, which is still contained in the vaccines of many countries and has been shown to be particularly devastating in autistic children and children with learning disabilities.

Pediatrics. 2008;122:718-725

Last updated December 18, 2014


Flu Shot Not Reducing Risk Of Death

We have all been told over and over that influenza vaccination would reduce mortality risk in the elderly. New research from the University of Alberta published in the September issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine by Dr. Eurich and colleagues is revealing that the facts are different. 700 elderly subjects were matched and half were given the Flu vaccine, the other half were not. The study was controlled and matched for a great number of variables to exclude the “healthy user artifact”, which many previous studies had suffered from. The authors critically analyzed previous similar studies and compared them with their findings. They found that there was no statistical difference between the two groups in terms of mortality or severity of any Flu that was observed. The previous studies had identified differences, but it was noted that this difference had been due to frailty factors among the non-vaccinated controls and a healthy-user artifact among the vaccinated subjects. Dean Eurich, Ph.D. who is a clinical epidemiologist and assistant professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, pointed out that vaccination rates in the US have increased from 15% to 65% in the last few years. However, he said that hospital admissions or all cause mortality rates have not decreased in a comparable fashion. In addition, he points out that only 10% of all winter time deaths in the United States are related to influenza. This would make the prediction of a cut of death rates from all causes to 50% very unlikely. In his study Dr. Eurich took health records from 6 hospitals in the Capital Health region in Alberta. 12% of patients had died overall and there had been a medium length of hospital stay of 8 days. When 704 patients with community-acquired pneumonia were analyzed who were 65 or older and who had been admitted during the Flu season, half were vaccinated, the other half was not. It depended now on which model was used to analyze the study: vaccinated subjects were about half as likely to die when compared to the unvaccinated patients, a result that was comparable to previous publications. However adjusting for smoking history, sex, functional lung status, severity of the disease, socioeconomic status, prior pneumococcal vaccinations etc. gave a completely different result. Now there was only a 19% relative risk of death in the vaccinated group, which was not statistically significant.

Flu Shot Not Reducing Risk Of Death

There are three consequences of this study according to Sumit Majumdar, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta:

1. For patients: people who have chronic lung diseases such as emphysema (COPD), immune deficiencies, or chronic conditions that make them more susceptible to getting the Flu, should still be vaccinated. Also, health care workers, family and friends of elderly patients who are susceptible to get the Flu should get immunized against influenza. But everybody should also take simple steps like washing hands, avoiding hospitals and contact with sick children during the flu season. Antiviral agents for prevention may be something you should consider; discuss this with your doctor. Keep in mind that the flu vaccine is not as effective as it was made out to be.

2. For vaccine manufacturers: previously, claims of effectiveness have been overinflated. They should consider developing more effective vaccines for the elderly.

3. For policy makers and governments: what has been proven is that hygienic measures such as hand washing and isolation procedures are effective. Also, vaccination of children and health care workers will interrupt the infectious cycle.


Last edited December 4, 2012


High Death Rate In India Due To Smoking

Dr. Prabhat Jha of the Centre for Global Health Research, Toronto has published research regarding the risk of mortality associated withs smoking in India, involving data from 1.1 million Indian homes. Data of deceased individuals, all of them in the age group between 30 and 69 years of age, showed that 37% of the men and 5% of the women had been smokers, and smoking doubled the risk for both sexes due to medical causes. Smoking did not only rate as a risk for lung and respiratory cancers but also for tuberculosis, vascular and respiratory disease. Smoking as a causal relationship was estimated to be responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in men and 1 in 20 deaths in women. With the population growth in India the number of death in the age group of 30 to 69 related to smoking is estimated to increase by 3% per year. Currently available data suggests that the rate of smoking is high especially among men in India. Data from other nations show, that smoking bans in public places are effective in turning these statistics around. Italy used to be one of the European nations, where smoking in public was common and as a result the exposure to second hand cigarette smoke was not only an inconvenience but a serious health risk. Cardiovascular events like heart attacks showed a decrease among men and women in Italy after the smoking ban in public places was put into effect in 2005. The findings were related to the improved indoor air quality.

High Death Rate In India Due To Smoking

High Death Rate In India Due To Smoking

There was an increase of sales in stop smoking aids like nicotine replacement products. Sales of cigarettes showed a decrease. Giulia Cesaroni from a local health unit in Rome remarked that even a small reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disease can have enormous public health implications, as coronary artery disease is the leading cause of deaths in Italy. Compared to before the ban heart attack rates of middle aged (35- to 64-years) Italians dropped by 11%, 65- to 74-year-olds had a reduction of 8%, but those in the 75-84 year age group showed no benefit (as coronary artery disease in them likely was irreversible).

More information about:

1. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:

2. Causes of lung cancer:

3. Heart attacks:

References: The Indian data based on (February 13, 2008); the Italian study was published in Circulation 2008 (Feb. 11)

Last edited November 3, 2014


Ginseng Lowers Risk For Common Cold

In Chinese medicine the ginseng plant has been widely used. Its history in North America seems to be shorter at first glance, as it received more attention only, as Chinese medicine and acupuncture have become popular over the last decades. The Asian variety of ginseng known under its botanical name as Panax ginseng is only one of the species. There is however a variety which is native to the eastern part of the North American continent with the botanical name Panax quinquefolius. The first people using it were various Native American groups. They found it useful for childbirth and fertility. It was also used to help those with shortness of breath.

Ginseng root was considered the more valuable part of the plant, and new research has found that root extracts of the North American ginseng have an influence on the immune system. The substance enhances the production of interleukin and interferon-gamma. The immunomodulary effects which can help in the prevention of respiratory disease have also been studied in clinical trials involving older adults.

It turned out that the likelihood of developing acute respiratory illness was significantly lower in the group that was treated with a standardized formulation of 200 mg ginseng extract twice a day than in a group that did receive placebo or no treatment. It was also observed that the number of patient who had common colds was reduced in those who received ginseng. The absolute risk reduction of recurring common colds was 12.8 % and the total number of days with cold symptoms was 34.5% lower in the treatment group.

Ginseng Lowers Risk For Common Cold

Ginseng Lowers Risk For Common Cold

Long term studies are still outstanding, but based on the interim findings ginseng extract taken in the winter month can be beneficial especially in the older population as a weapon against respiratory illness.

More information on:

1. Preventing the flu:

2. General info on ginseng:

Reference: J. Altern. Complement. Med. 2006;12:153-7.

Last edited November 3, 2014


Nicotine Addiction Found More Often in Impulsive Behavior

Why do major depression and nicotine addiction often occur together in middle aged people? This is what Dr. Qiang John Fu, assistant professor of community health in biostatistics at Saint Louis University School of Public Health, asked himself and he conducted a study involving 3,360 pairs of middle-aged, predominantly Caucasian twins to find out. Twin studies are a powerful tool to sort out environmental factors from genetic factors. In this particular study the twins had served in the Vietnam war and 45% were fraternal, the rest were identical twins. With identical twins 100% of the genes are identical while the fraternal twins share about half of the genes.

The researchers found that a group of twins who were addicted to nicotine also had a behavioral disorder, called conduct disorder. This can be well defined with psychological tests and is characterized by behaviors such a stealing, fighting, vandalizing, running away from home and drug addiction (including addiction to nicotine). They were also the ones who were much more vulnerable to develop major depression.  As published in the June issue of Twin Research and Human Genetics Dr. Fu, MD, PhD, the lead researcher explained that he found a set of genes that are responsible for the development of major depression and for addiction to nicotine.

Nicotine Addiction Found More Often in Impulsive Behavior

Major depression and nicotine addiction are linked through a gene

These individuals attempt to self-treat depression with cigarette smoking. Linked with this can also be the conduct disorder mentioned above.  These findings may lead to newer approaches in terms of treatment.

Reference: June issue 2007 of Twin Research and Human Genetics

Last edited December 5, 2012