Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Dr. Mark Rosenberg gave a talk on prevention of telomere shortening. This was presented at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The detailed title was: “The Clinical Value of Telomere Testing”.

What are telomeres?

Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes. They are very important in the aging process. Prematurely shortened telomeres are linked closely to all major diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and more. Telomeres are also a measure of the aging process. Aging occurs due to a decrease of the number of cells in organs and/or because of a lack of functioning of these organs. Telomeres get shortened every time a cell divides. But when the telomeres are used up, there comes a time when cells can no longer divide. These cells become senescent cells or they enter apoptosis (programmed cell death).

The senescent cells can become a problem when they get transformed into cancer cells and their telomeres lengthen again. These cancer cells divide rapidly and this can become the reason why cancer patients to die.

What is the significance of telomeres?

Telomere dysfunction is the first sign that the telomeres are getting shorter in a person compared to the average telomere length in a comparable age group. This is not only important for aging, but also has clinical implications. The shorter telomeres are, the higher the risk for cardiovascular disease. Telomere length also provides prognostic information about the mortality risk (risk of dying) with type 2 diabetes and for many cancers. Many physicians incorporate a telomere blood test into periodic health checks, if the patient can afford it.

Interventions that help telomere length

Here are a number of things we can do to lengthen our telomeres.

  1. Rosenberg mentioned that the strongest effect on telomere lengthening comes from caloric restriction and weight loss. 80 years ago they showed at the Cornell University that rats put on calorie restriction had a 30% increase in their mean and maximum lifespan. Many research papers have confirmed that the same is true in man and that the common denominator is telomere lengthening.
  2. Next are regular physical activity, meditation, reduction of alcohol consumption and stopping to smoke.
  3. Taking antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids regularly will also lengthen telomeres.
  4. Improving one’s dietary pattern by adopting a Mediterranean type diet that contains cold-pressed, virgin olive oil.
  5. Telomerase activators. Here is some background on the TA-65 telomerase activator, which is based on Chinese medicine. A one year trial was completed with 250 units and 1000 units of TA-65 per day. The lower dose (250 units) showed effective telomere lengthening, while the placebo dose did not. The 1000 unit dose did not show statistical significance.

Should you wish to take TA-65, only take 250 units per day, not more.

Cancer and telomeres

There is a strong correlation between cancer and telomere shortening. When cells are at the brink of dying toward the end of their life cycle the telomeres get shorter and shorter. This is the point where the cells can turn malignant. Certain genetic abnormalities help the malignant transformation, like 11q or 17q deletions or a p53-dependent apoptosis response. Once cancer cells have established themselves they activate telomerase in 85% of cases. In the remaining 15% of cancer cases telomeres are activated through telomerase-independent mechanisms. Here are a few examples.


CLL stands for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It is a disease of the aging population. At age 90 people’s bone marrow cells have a telomere length of only 50% of the length at birth. This is the reason that in older age CLL is more common. Researchers observed a population segment and found that the shorter telomeres were, the poorer the overall prognosis and overall survival for CLL was.

Lung cancer

In patients with non-small cell lung cancer the telomerase activity was examined. When telomerase activity was present, the 5-year survival was only 55%. When telomerase activity was absent, the prognosis was 90% survival after 5 years.

Prostate cancer

  1. Telomere shortening in stromal cells was found to be associated with prostate cancer risk. Men with shorter telomere length in stromal cells had a 266% higher risk of death compared to men with normal telomere length.
  2. Another study took blood samples and determined the telomere length in lymphocytes (the immune cells). Those men who came down with prostate cancer within a year after the blood sample was taken had short telomeres. The risk for prostate cancer in these patients was 355% higher than in the prostate cancer negative controls.

Yet another study looked at surgical tissue samples from 596 men that

Underwent surgery for clinically localized prostate cancer. Patients whose samples showed variable telomere lengths in prostate cancer cells and shorter telomeres compared to prostate samples with less variable telomere length and longer telomeres had a much poorer prognosis. They had 8-times the risk to progress to lethal prostate cancer. And they had 14-times the risk of dying from their prostate cancer.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is diverse and consists of cases that are genetically inherited (BRCA1 and BRCA2), but there are also cases where the cancer is local or more advanced (staging). In families with mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 telomeres are significantly shorter than in spontaneous breast cancer. Increased telomerase activity in breast cancer cases is directly related to how invasive and aggressive the breast cancer is.

  1. One study was shown where blood leukocytes were analyzed for telomere length in 52 patients with breast cancer versus 47 control patients. Average telomere length was significantly shorter in patients with a more advanced stage of breast cancer than in early breast cancer. Mutated HER patients had the shortest telomeres. It follows from this that checking for the HER status and blood telomere testing adds to the knowledge of potential cancer development and prognosis.
  2. Short telomere length was associated with larger breast tumors, more lymph node metastases and more vascular invasion. More aggressive breast cancer cells have higher telomerase activity. More than 90% of triple negative breast cancers have short telomeres.

CNS disorders and telomeres

Dr. Rosenberg presented evidence that shorter telomeres are associated with dementia. But dementias with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer’s disease are also linked to short leukocyte telomeres. The length of blood telomeres predicts how well stroke patients will do and how people with depression will respond to antidepressants.

Cardiovascular disease and telomeres

Our blood pressure is kept constant through the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. When this system is not stable, our blood pressure shoots up and causes cardiovascular disease. This is tough for the heart, as it has to pump harder against a higher-pressure gradient. A study of 1203 individuals was examining the connection between leukocyte telomere length and renin, aldosterone and angiotensin II activity. It concluded that oxidative stress and inflammatory responses affect the telomere length of leukocytes and that the more stress there is in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, the more cardiovascular disease develops. The conclusion of the study was that the overall cardiovascular stress leads to shortening of leukocyte telomeres.

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening


Telomere length testing from a simple blood test will become a more important test in the future as hopefully the cost comes down (currently about 300$). It can predict the general aging status by comparing a single case to the general telomere length of the public. But it can also predict the cancer risk, risk for mental disease and cognitive deficits (Alzheimer’s disease). In addition your cardiovascular status is also globally assessed with this test. What can be done, if the test comes back with short telomeres?

It allows you to change your lifestyle and adopt a healthy diet. You can exercise regularly, take antioxidants and meditate. There are even telomerase activators that are gradually becoming more known. They lengthen the telomeres. The cost of telomerase activators will likely still be a problem for some time. All in all telomere length tests are here to stay, but effective intervention at this point is largely limited to healthy lifestyle choices. This is good news: healthy lifestyle choices like non-smoking, exercise and avoiding non-processed foods are either free or have a reasonable price tag. Telomerase activators are big business and at this point not really affordable!


Cancer By Chance

A new theory talks about cancer by chance. In other words, it likely is mostly bad luck when cancer develops. Mathematician Cristian Tomasetti and cancer geneticist Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland developed a new model of cancer development. They found that stem cells in different organ systems divide at different rates. The faster they go through cycles of cell divisions, the higher the chances of a mutation. The mutations happen in the genetic material and can lead to cancer. Dr. Vogelstein applied this model to 32 different cancer types and found the following.

  • 66% of cancers: cancer-promoting mutations develop by chance during cell division in various organs
  • 29% of cancers are due to environmental causes
  • 5% of cancers are inherited

Stem cells in organs can turn into cancer by chance

Key to the new theory of “cancer by chance” is that cancer likely is developing from stem cells in different organs. Different stem cells have different rates of stem cell divisions.

In pancreatic cancer they found that 5% were inherited, 18% were from environmental factors (smoking) and 77% came from chance mutations. This data was derived from the Cancer Research UK database.

For prostate cancer the rate of spontaneous mutations is 95%. When all of the cancers are looked at about 1/3 of cancers are due to either environmental or inherited factors, but 2/3 of all cancers are due to random mutations (“bad luck mutations”). They pointed out this fact in their first publication.

With the second publication, as mentioned in the beginning, Vogelstein and Tomasetti concentrated on 17 common cancers in 69 countries. They searched 423 international cancer databases. Again they found that the more stem cells divided in an organ, the more random mutations occurred. This caused cancers in that organ.

Here are a few examples for lifetime stem cell divisions:

  • Colon: 6,000 cell divisions in stem cells of the colon
  • Breast: 300 cell divisions in breast stem cells
  • Lung: only 6 cell divisions in lung stem cells

Colon cancer is very common because of the high stem cell division rate. But they also looked at environmental factors. For instance, lung cancer is rare in non-smokers because stem cells in lungs divide slowly. However, the carcinogens from cigarette smoke add a huge environmental risk. The end result: there is more lung cancer in smokers. Vogelstein said that with every stem cell division there is the creation of three new cell mutations because the body has a “poor copying machine”. During meiosis DNA breaks can occur that lead to mutations. Once they occurred, they continue to get copied.

Environmental factors versus cancer by chance

In the first paper the medical community was critical about how the authors had overemphasized that two third of cancer is caused randomly. So in the second paper Vogelstein and Tomasetti mentioned quite a bit how a change of the environment can change the final outcome of developing cancer.

This is also reflected in this summary from the CNN.

They mentioned that one mutation is not enough to cause cancer. You need three or four such mutations. As we get older there is a higher likelihood that we accumulate this number of mutations, and cancer can develop. But if we exercise, stop smoking and avoid red meat, this can contribute to a much healthier environment in the dividing stem cells. In this case we may not accumulate enough stem cell mutations in our lifetime to come down with cancer.

There is a problem with prostate cancer as indicated in this German summary of Vogelstein and Tomasetti’s work.

Japanese men have an extremely low rate of prostate cancer, namely 1/25th of the rate in the US. When Japanese men immigrate to the US, it does not take long before their risk is the same as that of US men. This is a classical case of the importance of environmental factors in cancer causation. Song Wu has pointed out in a publication in Nature that in his opinion Vogelstein and Tomasetti did not pay enough attention to extrinsic (environmental) factors in the causation of cancers.

This could explain the prostate cancer conundrum just mentioned. There may be more xenoestrogens in the environment in the US when compared to Japan, and this may have caused the additional prostate cancers when Japanese men moved to the US. Xenoestrogens are estrogen-like hormones in the environment, which can cause prostate cancer.

Prevention undermines “cancer by chance”

The role of prevention is likely larger than previously estimated. Now that we know that on average 2/3 of all cancers are due to chance mutations, it is important to realize that prevention and early detection play an enormous role.

  1. Most cancers can only be cured in stage 1 and stage 2 out of 4 stages. And this is only the case when the mutated stem cells are removed along with the clone of cancer cells.
  2. In terms of reducing the risk for lung cancer this means to stop smoking.
  3. With colon cancer it means having regular colonoscopies where the suspicious polyps are removed.
  4. For prostate cancer it means to do a mapping biopsy and to do cryoablation therapy, which has a prostate cancer vaccination effect as well.
  5. Not all cancers can be diagnosed early. Pancreatic cancer is such a difficult to diagnose cancer. But screening methods have been developed that are more sensitive and very specific such as the Oncoblot test.  With this test even cancer of the pancreas can be diagnosed years before it would be clinically detectable.
  1. We do know that chronic inflammation can lead to cancer. It makes sense therefore to start with an anti-inflammatory diet like the Mediterranean diet. Fish oil is also anti-inflammatory.
  2. Add to this regular exercise, as we know it reduces the risk for cancer development and strengthens your heart and lungs.
  3. Vitamin D3 can reduce cancer risks in both males and females. When vitamin D3 was given and blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were above 40 ng/ml, the breast cancer rate was reduced by 71% compared to a low vitamin D3 group. Similarly in men the prostate cancer rate dropped by 71% with vitamin D3 supplementation.  There is more good news with vitamin D3. You can read about it in the link.
Cancer By Chance

Cancer By Chance


The causes of cancer have always been by chance, by environmental exposure and by inheritance. In recent years more detail about this has come to the forefront. Now we know that the majority of cancers develop by chance, but this does not mean we should sit back and do nothing. The PAP test with early diagnosis of cancer of the cervix and early treatment has almost eradicated this cancer. HPV vaccinations have added to the armamentarium. Colonoscopies have reduced the incidence of colon cancer, but only through screening at regular intervals. The PSA test has enabled men to check for prostate cancer, and early treatment for this is quite successful. More is known about cancer prevention through supplements and lifestyle.

Nature is cruel and wants to knock us off, as we get older. The only alternative we have is to fight back as follows: reducing environmental causes, increasing preventative steps and going for early treatment, when cancer is diagnosed.

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Breast Cancer Risks

Dr. David Zava, PhD gave a talk on breast cancer risks. This was presented at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The detailed title was: “The Role of Hormones, Essential Nutrients, Environmental Toxins, and Lifestyle Choices on Breast Cancer Risk”.

He pointed out that both estrogens and progesterone are safe hormones, as long as they are not overdosed and they are balanced. Unfortunately many women in menopause have too much estrogen on board as the ovaries are still producing them, but there is a lack of progesterone, the moderating hormone that makes estrogen safe.

In the following I am summarizing Dr. Zava’s talk with regard to the essential messages, but leaving away much of the highly technical detail that was presented as this would dilute the message of this blog. I will include a few links for those who are inclined to read more details about the topic.

Balance between estrogen and progesterone

Most of her life a woman is used to cyclical hormone changes between estrogen and progesterone. When a woman no longer ovulates in premenopause and menopause there is a surplus of estrogen and a lack of progesterone. Having no ovulation means that there is no corpus luteum developing, where in the past progesterone was made. This creates a disbalance where estrogen is dominating; it is called “estrogen dominance”.

This is a dangerous hormone disbalance, because the breast ducts are stimulated to grow and the modifying, calming effect of progesterone is missing. Mixed into this is that the stress hormone, cortisol also can make the effect of estrogen worse. On the other hand Dr. Zava showed slides from studies where progesterone was replaced through a skin progesterone cream (percutaneous bioidentical progesterone cream). Plasma and breast tissue concentration of progesterone were measured in 40 premenstrual women. They had been diagnosed with breast lumps and were scheduled for surgery. One group was treated with progesterone cream for 10 to 13 days; the other group was the placebo group. At the time of surgery the plasma (blood) values were unchanged, but progesterone levels in breast tissue were elevated more than 100-fold over the values from the placebo group who had been treated with a neutral skin cream. The same experiment also showed that progesterone reduced the number of proliferating epithelial cells (experimental progesterone group). Estrogen on the other hand was shown to increase the number of proliferating epithelial cells (placebo group).

Another example that Dr. Zava gave was a study where 25 mg of bioidentical progesterone cream applied directly to breasts of premenopausal women increased breast tissue progesterone 100-fold, while blood concentrations of progesterone remained the same. Again breast stimulation by estrogen of normal epithelium cells was decreased by progesterone.

How to measure progesterone levels

Dr. Zava who runs the ZRT laboratory spent some time to explain how to measure progesterone in a physiological way. He said that these experiments and others that he also projected tell a clear story. Blood (serum) progesterone levels do not adequately reflect what tissue levels in a woman’s breasts are. On the other hand saliva hormone levels do give an accurate account of what breast tissue levels are like. A woman received 30 mg of topical progesterone application. She then had hourly progesterone levels in the serum and in the saliva done. The serum progesterone levels remained at around 2 ng/ml, while the saliva progesterone levels peaked 3 to 5 hours after the application. It reached 16 ng/ml in saliva, which also represents the breast tissue progesterone level. Dr. Zava said that the important lesson to learn from this is not to trust blood progesterone levels. Too many physicians fall into this trap and order too much progesterone cream, which leads to overdosing progesterone. With salivary progesterone levels you see the physiological tissue levels, with blood tests you don’t. Dr. Zava said: avoid using venipuncture blood or urine in an attempt to interpret hormone test levels, as you will underestimate bio-potency and overdose the patient.

Historical failure of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)

A review of breast cancer would not be complete without mentioning the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiated this trial in 1991.

  1. The WHI ended suddenly in July 2002. The authors stated: “The overall health risks exceeded benefits from use of combined estrogen plus progestin for an average 5.2 year follow-up among healthy postmenopausal US women.” The study found a 41% increase in strokes, 29% increase in heart attacks, 26% increase in breast cancer, 22% increase in total cardiovascular disease, a doubling of blood clots. The recommendation made by this study was to discontinue PremPro.
  2. Another study that was mentioned was “Breast cancer and hormone-replacement therapy in the Million Women Study”.  In this study postmenopausal women were given HRT with synthetic hormones, either estrogen alone or estrogen mixed with a progestin (in British English “progestagen”. After 5 years estrogen alone was associated with a 30% increased risk of developing breast cancer. HRT with an estrogen-progestagen mix was associated with a 100% increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  3. Unfortunately in both of these human experiments the wrong hormone substances were used, namely synthetic estrogens and synthetic progestins. They are NOT identical with natural estrogens and progesterone that a woman’s body makes. As long as the hormones used for hormone replacement therapy are chemically identical to the natural hormones, the body will accept them as they fit the natural hormone receptors in the body. It is the misfit of synthetic hormones that blocks the estrogen receptors or the progesterone receptors. You can readily see from the illustrations of this link that there is a fine balance between the workings of these receptors and there is absolutely no room for patented side chains that Big Pharma introduced into synthetic HRT hormones. The other problem of both these studies was that every woman was getting the same dose of hormones and that nobody measured their estrogen blood or estrogen saliva hormone levels. In retrospect the regulatory agencies should never have allowed these “hormones” to hit the market.

Breast cancer develops in three stages

Dr. Zava explained that it has been known for some time that there are 3 stages involved in the development of breast cancer.

  1. Initiation

Damage to the DNA of one of the cells types in the breast is what starts the process in the development of breast cancer. This can be done by catechol estrogen-3,4-quinones as was shown by these researchers.

Aromatase inhibitors can be used to reduce estrogen in overweight or obese women where aromatase is present in fatty tissue. The reason obese women have more breast cancer is likely from the extra estrogen production from androgens, male hormones produced in the adrenal glands that get converted by aromatase into estrogen.

Iodine/iodide has been shown to alter gene expression, which reduces breast cancer development, but also slows down cell division in existing breast cancer. The authors suggested to use iodine/iodide supplements as adjuvant therapy in breast cancer treatment.

  1. Promotion

The next step is that something has to promote the DNA mutation into becoming part of a cancer cell. Estrogen quinones are dangerous estrogen metabolites. They can form from catechol estrogens (other metabolites of estrogen) by reactive oxygen species. But selenium, a trace mineral can interrupt the formation of estrogen quinones, which stops the breasts cancer promotion process. A study from the Klang Valley, Malaysia showed that selenium showed a dose-response effect with respect to prevention of breast cancer; the more selenium in the food, the less breast cancer occurred.

  1. Progression (includes invasion and metastases)

Several factors can help the breast cancer cells to progress, grow bigger locally and eventually move into other areas of the body as metastases. Dr. Zava showed several slides where details of metabolic processes were shown and how changes in some of these would lead to progression of breast cancer. Estrogen excess is a common pathway to breast cancer. The key is to balance it with progesterone, supplements, remove anything that causes estrogen overproduction like obesity (via the aromatase pathway).

The fallacy of overdosing or underdosing

When estrogen is overdosed, it becomes aggressive as indicated before; it can initiate DNA mutations that can cause breast cancer. If it is under dosed, the lack of estrogen can cause heart attacks, strokes and osteoporosis. When estrogen is balanced with progesterone a postmenopausal woman feels best and she is protected from the negative effects of estrogen.

Measures that help prevent breast cancer

  1. When supplementing with bioidentical hormones, keep estrogen within physiological limits and don’t overdose. This can be measured through blood tests or saliva hormone tests. Your most important natural opponent of estrogen is progesterone, which is usually missing in menopause. Measure hormones using tests (progesterone only with saliva tests, estrogen either by blood tests or saliva tests). Don’t rely going by symptoms.
  2. Keep the progesterone to estrogen ratio (Pg/E2) at an optimal range, which is in the 100- to 500-fold range. Measure the saliva hormone level of both progesterone and estrogen and calculate. Remember that progesterone serum levels are meaningless. The much higher progesterone level protects the postmenopausal woman from estrogen side effects. Here is a statement worth noting: “Until evidence is found to the contrary, bioidentical hormones remain the preferred method of HRT.” This was the conclusion of a study using bioidentical hormones, where the protection from breast cancer and heart attacks and strokes was also noted.
  3. Increase fiber intake and reduce red meat consumption. This will eliminate conjugated steroid hormones in the stool. It also increases the sex hormone binding globulin in the blood, which limits the bioavailability of estrogens. Fiber absorbs bile toxins and removes them from the body.
  4. Calcium-D-glucarate is a supplement that will decrease beta-glucuronidase. The estrogens were conjugated with the purpose to be eliminated, but beta-glucuronidase causes the conjugated estrogens to be reabsorbed.
  5. Probiotics likely stimulate the immune system and help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  6. Avoid toxins like petrochemical pollutants and toxic chemicals. Avoid trans fats. If toxic, heavy metals are present (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury) remove these. Some naturopaths use EDTA chelation to do this.
  7. Supplements: sulforaphane (broccoli), EGCG (green tea), alpha-lipoic acid (antioxidant), cruciferous vegetables, resveratrol, selenium and iodide/iodine, N-acetyl cysteine-glutathione. All these supplements/nutrients will prevent estrogen to go to the “dark side”. The dark side is the formation of toxic 4-OH estrogen that could further be converted into catechol estrogen-3,4-quinones that can damage DNA and cause mutations.
  8. Increase methylation of catechol estrogens: vitamin B1, B6, B12 and folic acid. Methyl donors also are useful for this purpose: MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), SAMe, and Betaine.
  9. Improve your diet (Mediterranean type), exercise moderately, reduce stress, and replace hormones in physiological doses as discussed under point 1 and 2.
Breast Cancer Risks

Breast Cancer Risks


Dr. David Zava, PhD gave an interesting talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It became clear that estrogens, when unopposed by enough progesterone, could cause mutations in breast tissue of women and cause breast cancer. He also reviewed two major clinical trials where hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was used. The problems with these were the synthetic estrogen hormones that caused breast cancer and the synthetic progestins that also behaved like estrogens (not like progesterone) and caused even more breast cancer. The lesson to be learnt from this is that only bioidentical estrogens and progesterone can be used in hormone replacement for menopause. Also, the hormones must be balanced as discussed under point 2 of measures that help to prevent breast cancer. In addition there was a list of other useful supplements given that can be taken to reduce the danger of breast cancer.

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Cancer Rates Increased In Women

A recent review of cancer rates worldwide shows that cancer rates increased in women. This by itself is alarming, but based on that data the rates likely will go up by 60% in the year 2030. The main reason is the smoking discrepancy among women and men. Men as a group have been smoking more than women. But women as a group are more and more embracing smoking. All of the negative health consequences of the last 3 decades for men are just starting to show now for women as well.

The World Health Organization explains it this way: in high-income countries like Australia, Canada, the US and Western Europe women smoke at nearly the same rate as men.

But in low and middle income countries women do not smoke as much as men do. For instance in China 61% of men are smokers, but only 4.2% of women are smoking. In Argentina 34% of men are currently smokers, which compares to 23% of women who smoke in this country.

When this gap will close, likely by the year 2030 women will have a whole host of diverse cancers, heart attacks and strokes caused by the smoking habit.

Some statistics and facts

High-income countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel and many northern and western European countries have a 5-year survival rate for breast cancer of 85%. In contrast the 5-year survival rates are 60% or less in low- and middle-income countries like South Africa, Mongolia, Algeria and India.

Cancer prevention measures can make a big difference later in life. Examples are hepatitis B vaccination, which will prevent liver cancer; vaccinating boys and girls against HPV, which will prevent cervical cancer in women; also having regular mammograms will detect breast cancer earlier and improve breast cancer survival rates.

Dr. Nestor Esnaola, surgical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center at Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia, PA said that the cancer prevention methods just mentioned might not be available in developing countries. Instead of mammographies repeat breast self-examinations are more important there. Campaigns against smoking can be utilized in order to prevent cancer of the lungs, the throat and neck. And if colonoscopies are not available, stool samples can be tested for blood and hemoglobin to check for colon cancer.

Different cancer rates increased in women in different countries

There are different cancer types that make the top chart for different countries. For instance in 2012 breast cancer was on top of most countries worldwide as the number 2 killer behind heart attacks and strokes. But other cancers ranked fairly high as well as causes of death: colorectal, lung and cervical cancers.

Despite this trend there were other countries like China and North Korea that had a higher incidence of lung cancer rather than breast cancer. The cancer researchers stated that the reason for this is that the smoking rates are higher in these countries. As already pointed out in China more than ½ of the men smoke, but only a small minority of the women smoke. But women in China are exposed to high amounts of secondhand smoke in addition to environmental pollution, which still causes a lot of lung cancer in women who live in this environment.

In many African countries cervical cancer is very common. Women, who are HIV positive, have a 5-times higher rate of cervical cancer. Southern and eastern Africa where there are higher rates of HIV, have higher rates of cervical cancer.

More data about women’s cancer rates

The American Cancer Society has produced a report entitled “Global Burden of Cancer in women, current status, trends, and interventions”, which points out some interesting statistics.

The greatest numbers of cancer cases and deaths occur among women in Eastern Asia. The estimate for 2012 worldwide was for 1.7 million cancer cases and 1 million deaths in women. China dominated its region with 75% of all female cancer cases and deaths in the region. In North America cancer cases and deaths within the US comprise 90% of the region. The cancer cases and deaths in India make up about 65% of the region of South-Central Asia.

The top mortality rates are found in low to medium income countries, namely in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea.

The most frequently diagnosed cancers in women are breast, lung, and colorectal cancers in economically more developed countries. However, the statistics are different for less developed countries where the top three most diagnosed cancers are breast, cervix, and lung. Similarly the leading causes of cancer deaths for women in developed countries are lung, breast, and colorectal cancers. In developing countries the leading causes of cancer deaths for women is cancer of the breast, lung, and cervix.

Cancer frequencies for women in different countries

The American Cancer Society reports that breast cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer among women in 140 countries. Cervical cancer is most common in 39 countries, all of which are low to medium income countries. There are some countries where other cancer types are more common. For instance in China and North Korea lung cancer is more common among women, in Mongolia and Laos liver cancer, and in South Korea it is thyroid cancer.

The most common cause of death from cancer in women is breast cancer in 103 countries, cancer of the cervix in 43 countries and lung cancer in 27 countries. Other most common cancer deaths in women are in the following countries:

  • Stomach cancer: in Bhutan, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Tajikistan
  • Liver cancer: in Laos, Mongolia and The Gambia
  • Colorectal cancer: in Japan and Slovakia
  • Esophagus cancer: in Turkmenistan.

Prevention and early detection

Changing the risk factors could modify 20% of breast cancer mortality worldwide. Avoiding excess body weight, physical inactivity and reducing alcohol consumption could all significantly reduce breast cancer mortality. For instance, women with a body mass index of greater than 35.0 have a 1.6-fold higher risk of breast cancer and a 2.1-fold higher mortality rate from breast cancer than women with a body mass index of less than 25.0.

Regular breast cancer screening with mammography is another tool that will reduce breast cancer mortality as the cancer is diagnosed earlier and treated at an early stage where it can often be cured. The WHO recommends for those countries where mammography programs are established that screening should be done only every two years and only between the ages of 50-69 to avoid X-ray over exposure.

Early detection, like for any cancer is the key for successfully treating breast cancer. When the cancer is found early, surgical removal in healthy tissue (lumpectomy) often cures breast cancer. Unfortunately in low to medium income countries the cancer is often found too late, requires more invasive mastectomies and radiotherapy and has a lower survival rate than in developed countries.

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer accounts for the 4th most frequently diagnosed cancer in the world. In 2012 there were 527,600 cases diagnosed worldwide and 265,700 deaths from cervical cancer occurred in the same year. 90% of cervical cancers occur in developing countries with India accounting for 25% of the total cases. The key in detecting cervical cancer is a regular screening program. In developed countries where this has been in place cervical cancer incidence has decreased by 80% in 4 decades. At the other end of the spectrum are countries like Uganda, Zimbabwe, and some countries of Central and Eastern Europe where cervical cancer rates have been climbing. The reason for the spread is that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is now more common and screening methods for cervical cancer are not in place. HPV 16 and 18 are the most common carcinogenic subtypes of the human papilloma viruses; they are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers worldwide. By vaccinating teenagers before they engage in sex is a powerful tool to interrupt the infectious spread of an important risk factor for cervical cancer.

Instead of the traditional Pap test from the past the new test that is used now is an HPV-DNA test, a cervical swab that will detect DNA from HPV directly. It is more sensitive than the traditional Pap test. If the HPV-DNA test is positive, the patient is sent to a gynecologist who will perform a colposcopy test, which is a microscopic exam of the cervix. The gynecologist can use several effective treatment methods like a loop electrosurgical excision procedure, laser ablation therapy, cryotherapy or conization for deeper cervical cancer lesions.

As with any cancer early detection and treatment is paramount with cervical cancer. In developed countries the 5-year survival rate is 60 to 70%. In India the 5-year survival rate is 46%.

Cancer of the lung

In 2012 there were 583,100 cases of lung cancer in women worldwide and 491,200 died from it. Lung cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women and the third most common cancer. The statistics of lung cancer reflect the tobacco epidemic. It takes about 20 to 30 years after widespread smoking begins in a country before the deadly statistics set in. The peak of the cancer epidemic and the heart attack rates occurs about 30 to 40 years following the peak of smoking in that population.

Lung cancer rates in women have lagged behind men, because women as a group have started smoking later. In places like Hong Kong, the United Kingdom,

Australia, and the United States women started smoking earlier, and they are in the process of declining their smoking habit or quitting. This is reflected in the new lung cancer cases and also in the lung cancer mortality rates. Sadly, in many countries of Europe and Latin America women started smoking much later and they are still increasing their lung cancer statistics and mortality rates. Lung cancer killed 1.1 million men and 0.5 million women worldwide in 2012. In addition it is estimated that there are 21,400 lung cancer deaths annually from second-hand smoke in non-smokers worldwide.

Beside smoking there are other risks causing lung cancer. The estimated risk for women to die in millions is: exposure to household air pollution, 1.6; outdoor air pollution, 1.4; second-hand smoke, 0.35; occupational risk factors, 0.10; and residential radon, 0.03.

Cancer Rates Increased In Women

Cancer Rates Increased In Women


Women are still in the midst of a global increase of cigarette smoking, which starts often with female teenagers. As long as the smoking rate goes up there will be more breast cancer, lung cancer and cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society provided a detailed review of various cancers and how they are still increasing worldwide, because nobody pays attention to preventative measures. A simple step to prevent cancer is to quit smoking. Another step is to engage in regular physical activity. Finally keeping your body mass index under 25.0 is a third step that can be done by adopting a Mediterranean diet.

There are several pockets within the developed countries where cancer rates are coming down, which is encouraging. The initial overview and the three examples given here, breast cancer, cervical cancer and lung cancer were thought to illustrate this complex topic.

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New Breast Cancer Cure?

According to the popular press there is a new breast cancer cure. But we have to be careful with general statements like this. First of all, only 20% of breast cancers are HER2 positive. When the surgeon biopsies breast cancer, the sample is sent to the pathologist. Out of 100 samples, 20 come back with the finding that it is HER2 positive breast cancer.

Herceptin ® (trastuzumab), the first step of breast cancer cure

Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that interferes with the HER2 receptor. Its main use is to treat HER2 positive breast cancers. But trastuzumab (brand name Herceptin ®) has serious side effects. In early HER2 positive breast cancer it can cause heart failure in 5.7–35.4% of patients, while it can cure breast cancer with a 35% cure rate of Her2-positive patients. It is significant to note that many of the studies used trastuzumab in combination with the chemotherapeutic agent anthracycline concomitantly. Anthracycline by itself has some cardio-toxic effect. Most of the studies that investigated heart toxicity of trastuzumab used this monoclonal antibody for 52 weeks. Newer studies show that as little as 9 weeks can be as effective in tumor cures, which reduces the risk of toxic effects on the heart to 2.2–2.3%.

Here is a link that shows visually what the effect of Herceptin ® may be on the HER2 surface marker in a woman with this type of breast cancer.

Lapatinib (Tykerb ® or Tyverb ®), the second step of breast cancer cure

Absorption of aging cancer cells, called apoptosis, is inhibited by overexpression of oncogenic receptor tyrosine kinases. These are proteins that normally function to remove dying cells at the end of their life span. In HER2 breast cancer these kinases are particularly common and are responsible for the cancer cell survival. Lapatinib is a dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor, which interrupts the HER2 and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathways. Expressed in simpler terms, it removes dying cancer cells, so they cannot get reactivated or continue to survive.

A phase 3 clinical trial was done with Lapatinib and a chemotherapeutic agent, capecitabine (brand name Xeloda ®).  When the two drugs were combined there was a 51% reduction in the risk of the disease progression.

Herceptin ® and Lapatinib combined as new breast cancer cure

At the 10th European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam professor Nigel Bundred reported about a trial involving 257 women with newly diagnosed, operable, HER2 positive disease. They were recruited between November 2010 and September 2015. Their biopsies were taken and the surgery was scheduled for 2 weeks later.

The trial was in two parts: The first 130 women were treated with trastuzumab (Herceptin ®) only, or lapatinib (Tyverb ®) only, for 11 days after diagnosis and before surgery. From other trials evidence became known that the combination of trastuzumab and lapatinib had better survival rates. The investigators decided to include a second part into their trial starting August 2013 with 127 women. Part of this trial was a combination treatment of trastuzumab and lapatinib.

Samples of tissue were taken from the original breast biopsies and then again two weeks later from the material of the breast surgery.

The pathologist examined the breast cells for a drop in the Ki67 protein, an indicator of cell proliferation. They also looked for an increase of apoptosis of 30% or more from the first date of the first biopsy. A “pathological complete response” was the term they used for a cure. When there was a partial cure, this was termed “minimal residual disease“. This meant that the tumor was less than 5 mm in diameter at the time of surgery. Women who had received the combination treatment had 11% pathological complete response (11% cure rate). 17% of the combination therapy group had minimal residual disease. There was no cure for those randomized to only trastuzumab and only 3% of that group had minimal residual disease.

New Breast Cancer Cure?

New Breast Cancer Cure?


Essentially this new research shows that two inhibitor drugs together are better than one or one in combination with conventional chemotherapy.

But we have to keep in mind that HER2 breast cancer includes only 20% of all types of breast cancer. When you hear that 11% of HER2 breast cancer was cured with the combination therapy in 11 days, it translates into only 2.2% of all types of breast cancer cured and only 3.4% of all breast cancer cases had minimal residual disease (tumor size less than 5 mm in diameter). This could be easily removed by surgery.

What everybody is excited about are the cures of 2.2% of all types of breast cancer (or 11% of HER2 breast cancer). This is a good start. But much more research needs to be done to increase this number of cures. While we are seeing some progress for one group of breast cancer patients, it is not nearly sufficient to advertise this treatment as a “cure”.

For all breast cancers a more promising option is available. A study from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan has shown that cryoablation therapy for breast cancer without excision can give a much higher cure rate of 100% over a period of 1 ½ years. In this procedure the tumor is left in place, but killed by cryotherapy (extreme local cold temperatures). It gives a cosmetically superior result. This is an accepted alternative, but is not yet widely practiced.


Catch Cancer Early

Cancer of the cervix was the first cancer where early diagnosis was practiced and this changed reduced the mortality due to this cancer significantly.

Pap test

When the Pap test was invented and used on a large scale, cervical cancer could be diagnosed at the earliest stage, which is “stage 0” or “cancer in situ” (the earliest local cancer). In 1943 Dr. Papanicolaou published the book “Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer by the Vaginal Smear” where he described in detail how to do the Pap test. This became the norm very quickly and the use of the Pap test spread all around the world following WWII.

This was important, because later it was detected that cure rates of close to 100% could be achieved by removing the tiny accumulation of local cancer cells, which are present with cancer in situ. This could be achieved by surgical removal (cone biopsy), radiation therapy, and cryotherapy or later also with laser treatment. The key to success in cancer treatment is early detection and early treatment.

Other cancer prevention and early detection

  • With melanoma, a darkly pigmented skin cancer, the earliest stage, namely stage 0 or carcinoma in situ is treated by surgical excision leaving a wide margin of healthy skin around it. This is the cure, because it was detected early and had not yet invaded the surrounding tissues.
  • The most common breast cancer type is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), of which 80% are diagnosed by mammography. Treatment for this is usually by local surgical excision, called lumpectomy followed by radiation.
  • Colon cancer typically arises out of colonic polyps. Colonoscopy in high-risk patients with a history of colon cancer in a first degree relative is typically done every three years. Any polyps that are found are removed during the procedure. My mother died at the age 59 of colon cancer. I had colonoscopies every three years since the age of 40 and on several occasions polyps were removed. Had I not had the colonoscopies, an unnoticed carcinoma in situ would have developed within one of the polyps and subsequently invasive colon cancer would have developed. Colonoscopies are a means of true colorectal cancer prevention.

The newest development: Oncoblot test to detect in situ cancers

At the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec. 11-13) Dr. Mark Rosenberg spoke about the universal cancer marker ENOX-2 that is only expressed during embryogenesis (the development of the fetus) and in adulthood only again when cancer develops. A test has been developed to check for the ENOX-2 gene, which becomes positive 5 to 7 years before cancer can be detected clinically. This is called Oncoblot test. Sensitivity of ENOX-2 is high and false positives are negligible, which makes the ENOX-2 marker ideal for cancer screening.

There are various isoelectric points for various cancer tissues, so the lab physician can tell the treating physician from which tissue a positive cancer test originates. The interesting aspect is that a combination of green tea and capsicum has been able to suppress the expression of the gene, and the cancer gene can be turned off. Corresponding biopsy samples showed that the cancer cells had disappeared. This is an entirely new concept and will have to be further investigated by clinicians for the various cancer types.

Here are the 25 cancers that are screened with the Oncoblot test: Bladder, Breast, Cervical, Colorectal, Endometrial, Esophageal, Gastric, Hepatocellular (liver), Kidney, Leukemia, Non-Small cell (lung), Lung Small cell, Lymphoma, Melanoma, Mesothelioma, Myeloma, Ovarian, Pancreatic, Prostate, Sarcoma, Squamous Cell, Follicular Thyroid, Papillary Thyroid, Testicular Germ Cell, Uterine. Considering that testing for all of these cancers is 1000 USD, this means that each specific cancer test is only 40 USD per test. I suspect that in future the price will come down as mass screening will be done. But the key is that this test is available right now; it is highly specific and highly sensitive.

But the important finding right now is that we have a very sensitive and very specific cancer screening test for over 25 various cancer types that can detect these cancers in the in situ stage (very early).

This has not been the case in the past except with the introduction of the Pap test for cervical cancer.

Change of treatment protocols may be required

The company producing the Oncoblot test states that the results need to be discussed between patient and treating physician. Although the treatment protocol does not change, there will be a lot more early diagnoses of cancer than in the past. In the past stage 1 and 2 stage cancers were considered to be early cancers and protocols to have these treated have been worked out. But with this very sensitive blood test (Oncoblot test) in situ cancers (stage 0) can be found. Mind you, it sets you back about 1000 USD, the cost for processing your blood and the test. But despite the monetary barrier I believe, that enough people will want this test done, because with the knowledge that cancer is diagnosed, it can be treated effectively with high cure rates.

The down site may be that those who have the test done and are found to be positive may have to undergo additional tests to locate and treat the tumor.

Suggested future approach to cancer detection and treatment

I envisage four steps to the future of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

  1. Screening for cancer using the Oncoblot test and other similar tests that likely will be developed in the future. This will give a tissue specific cancer diagnosis at the earliest possible point in time when clinically in most cases no tumor can be found for another 5 to 7 years.
  2. Staging of the cancer found: this requires confirmation of the cancer by doing imaging studies and possibly biopsies. An MRI scan of the affected area will likely be very useful, also to rule out early lymph gland metastases. Without being certain about the stage of the cancer the treating physician can not be certain what treatment schedule to follow as treatments differ for various stages of a cancer.
  3. Minimal invasive therapy like low-dose laser phototherapy using three different photosensitizers as shown in the example of end stage prostate cancer in this link under the heading “Photodynamic therapy of a group of inoperable prostate cancer patients”. The tragedy in this pilot study was that all of the men presented with end stage prostate cancer, which is difficult to cure. But early prostate cancer is easy to cure with the same method, simply because the cancer cells are local (in situ). Every cancer expert knows that cure rates are very high in the early stages of cancer, with the highest cure rates for cancer in situ (stage 0) and somewhat lower success rates for stages 1 and 2. Stages 3 and 4 have very poor cancer cure rates, as the cancer is already spread into the surrounding area in stage 3 and presents with distant metastases in stage 4. To make an impact in these latter cases requires toxic therapies like chemotherapy, radiotherapy and/or extensive surgery. Having said this, 20% of these end stage prostate cancers still experienced a cure with the triple photosensitizers and low-dose laser therapy (see link above), which conventional therapies would not have achieved.
  4. Retesting for residual cancer using Oncoblot test. Two months after the cancer treatment has been completed, the Oncoblot test should be repeated, which will reassure the patient and physician as well that all of the cancer cells have disappeared. As this test is so sensitive, any remaining cancer cells would shed tumor protein into the blood, which the Oncoblot test would immediately pick up. In the few cases that would remain positive this would enable the physician to do further tests, modify treatment and hopefully get rid of the last cancer cell that way.

Examples of two clinical scenarios

Two common cancers are prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.

1. Prostate cancer is very common in older men. From the age of 50 onwards the risk of getting prostate cancer is higher with every decade.

Another problem is that not every prostate cancer is invasive, some cancers are low grade and sit around for a long time and may never metastasize. A cancer expert discusses this here.

To attempt to distinguish between the aggressive form of prostate cancer and the slower “wait and see type”, a score has been developed, called the 4K score. This score combines the PSA test and a prostate specific kallikrein marker within one blood sample. Patients with a high 4K score are the ones who have an aggressive prostate cancer that needs urgent treatment. Patients with a low 4K score are the ones where many urologists recommend to wait and observe.

If I were the patient I would lean towards treating any kind of prostate cancer. Any cancer can do whatever it wants to, and you do not really know how these cancer cells will behave in the future. The only difference in prostate cancer is that the prostate has a tough capsule where the tumor stays localized for a long time, sometimes for decades, but it grows until it breaks out of this shell and metastasizes to the rest of the body. At that point it is often too late to rescue the patient, because it suddenly is a late stage. As stated earlier, late cancer stages are associated with poor treatment successes. Knowing this, I would suggest to use either a radical prostatectomy in a stage I cancer or low-dose laser phototherapy with three photosensitizers and three matching laser frequencies as indicated in the link to my blog mentioned above.

 2. Breast cancer is common in women. Often early cancer is found on a routine mammography or else with the Oncoblot test. An MRI scan can localize the tumor when it has a certain size, but it may take 5 to 7 years following an Oncoblot test to be visualized. This may be a diagnostic dilemma, which has to be worked out in the future. But as most breast cancers develops from the epithelium of the breast ducts, low-dose laser phototherapy with photosensitizers could be given to treat this early cancer stage. If a repeat Oncoblot test 2 months later is negative, the treatment was successful. If not, the clinician will have to closely follow the patient with repeat MRI scans of the breasts. Compared to the present diagnostic system without utilizing the Oncoblot test, this method is still superior, until perhaps in the future another way to localize early cancer becomes available. The fundamental difference between breast cancer and prostate cancer is that breast tissue is very vascular and any cancer of the breast tends to metastasize very early. For this reason it is crucial to treat breast cancer very early to have optimal treatment successes.

Catch Cancer Early

Catch Cancer Early


The introduction of the Oncoblot cancer-screening test may revolutionize diagnosis and treatment of 26 or more cancers that can be screened with this test. I have only highlighted the possibilities with the example of two cancers and explained what this might mean in practical terms. The exciting news is that cancer can now be detected earlier. The confusing part is that it can be diagnosed 5 to 7 years before the cancer is clinical detectable, and many physicians will feel uncomfortable treating cancer that early. Having seen many cancer patients in their end stages in clinical practice, I can only state that you cannot be too early diagnosing cancer. Only stage O (cancer in situ) and stage 1 (and sometimes stage 2) can be treated successfully and guarantee a cure. Experience will teach us what the best way is in the future. In the meantime this is an approach to an early diagnosis without taking any risks.

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The “Macaroni And Cheese” Myth

There is hardly a child that did not go through the macaroni and cheese phase. Now the maker of the Kraft’s dinner is in the news for their plan of removing artificial coloring and artificial flavors. This in itself is a positive step in the right direction. Although Kraft’s is painting the positive image of being concerned about the food quality for children, I think that the trigger for the change lies in the downward spiral of the sales of junk foods. Kraft’s is not alone with this. McDonald’s has been in the news having to close down franchises and losing business to Chipotle.

Chipotle has a slogan: “whole or nothing”, meaning whole foods, no antibiotics in their meats, everything fresh.

There also has been pressure from the informed consumer. Kraft’s probably responded to the petition where 365,000 signatures were collected asking Kraft’s to remove dyes from macaroni and cheese.

Kraft did some research and found that it was indeed possible to keep the taste the same, while improving food quality by replacing food coloring with paprika, annatto and turmeric.

Food value of macaroni and cheese

So, let’s assume that this switch will be successful, which itself is positive. But what are kids actually eating? Are noodles (essentially a form of pasta) and processed cheese healthy? What about missing protein, vitamins, vegetables and lettuce?


I have explained before that starchy food is essentially the same as sugar. Would you say that sugar is healthy? No, because it oxidizes LDL cholesterol causing hardening of arteries leading to inflammation in the body and causing the pancreas to produce a whole load of insulin leading to hyperinsulinism with reactive hypoglycemia. This also undermines adrenal gland function causing adrenal fatigue.


Since 1993 it is legal for the dairy industry in the US to use bovine growth hormone from Monsanto. And, yes, it is contained in processed cheese that finds its way into the cheese portion of macaroni and cheese. In Canada or Europe cheese does not contain bovine growth hormone, as it is illegal.

Here is a link that states that bovine growth hormone from dairy in the US is one of the causes of breast cancer. Now the Kraft’s macaroni and cheese story takes on a completely different twist: the longer you are exposed to this weak carcinogenic effect of cheese (due to rBGH or rBST) the higher the likelihood of developing breast cancer in girls later in life. In boys a similar glandular tissue is the prostate gland and prostate cancer in older men is common. According to the American Cancer Society research has already shown a connection between rBGH/rBST and prostate cancer later in life. I find the increased risk of breast and prostate cancer in the US concerning. However, starchy foods (the macaroni part of macaroni and cheese) are known to cause cancer of any kind because of the insulin response. So, macaroni and cheese is not an appropriate, healthy food.

Missing vegetables and salad

We need the vitamins from vegetables and salads to counter any effect of the carcinogenic effects of macaroni and cheese. Don’t stop at the pasta aisle of the supermarket.

You will need to pick up some vegetables before you go home. Often kids are reluctant to consume vegetables. One alternative is to run green leaf vegetables through the blender, add an orange and a piece of banana for better flavor and offer it as a smoothie drink.

What does this do? It adds Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants.

Organic food

Despite the effort of changing macaroni and cheese and skipping artificial colors and flavoring substances, it does not measure up as a healthy food. Introduce new options that pack more flavor than any bland pasta product. Shop for organic food to avoid traces of pesticides and herbicides. Get used to the flavor of a Mediterranean diet without starchy foods or sugar. This diet has been associated with a long life and less disabilities in old age. So, replace the macaroni with a piece of chicken or lean grass-fed beef. Replace the cheese with vegetables. Buy an imported cheese (Parmigiano or cheddar, either organic or imported from Canada or a European country), which can be used over the vegetables. And –voila! – You got another meal, not macaroni and cheese!

The "Macaroni And Cheese" Myth

The “Macaroni And Cheese” Myth


It seems that concentrating solely on changing coloring and food additives, we lost our vision of what healthy food really is. We get so worked up about the old, familiar tastes, even calling it “comfort food”, that we do not care any more about the quality of our food. This should be something, which the consumer is entitled to have, and it should not be left to the maneuvering of the food industry. We need to take the control of our kitchen back into our own hands. Dr. Victoria Maizes, executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a professor of medicine and public health, asked a simple question: “What’s wrong with Girl Scout cookies?” In this article she explains her concern about GMO, sugar and trans fats in the cookies Girl Scouts sell. She makes the link between cookie consumption and obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. You may not know all the intricacies of the human body, but whatever food you decide to swallow will decide which way your metabolism goes. Do you want to become hypoglycemic, diabetic or do you just want your metabolism to stay normal?


Macaroni and cheese is a topic that leads to a discussion of what quality nutrition should be in general. The gold standard is a Mediterranean diet, as this is associated with longevity. At the same time it is tasty. Adults need to be aware of the side effects of junk food that I mentioned above. Despite advertisements otherwise, macaroni and cheese is not a quality food as it is deficient in vital nutrients, such as quality protein, minerals and vitamins.

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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


Protect Yourself From Radioactivity

Even though the Chernobyl catastrophe was bad enough, it appears now the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant catastrophe was 7 to 10 times worse in terms of worldwide radioactive pollution. Even as late as Feb. 20, 2014 there was a new report of further radioactive water spill into the Pacific Ocean.

It is important that you start thinking about preparing yourself to cope with radioactive pollution.

In this blog I will briefly review the history of several radiation disasters in various parts of the world and will mention how coping mechanisms with radiation were fortuitously developed. Finally, I will summarize what you can do to reduce any damage to your health that is caused by radiation leaks.

History of the first nuclear bombs with radioactive fallout in 1945

On Aug. 9, 1945 the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Dr. Akizuki  worked at the St. Francis Hospital (Uragami Daiichi Hospital), about one mile from the epicenter. He and a staff of 20 were serving at this hospital that looked after 70 tuberculosis patients.

Miraculously all of the staff and most of the patients survived because of a vegetarian diet, which consisted of uncontaminated brown rice, fermented foods, sea algae and vegetables. Dr. Akizuki did not allow sweets of any kind. Salt was allowed as the main condiment. Everybody was fed at least one helping of a soup with fermented soy and seaweed in it (wakame miso soup). Other investigators have confirmed that in a mouse model miso soup has radio protective effects.

The staff and the patients of another hospital also one mile form the epicenter were not so lucky. Almost 100% of them died. They were not on the strict miso/seaweed diet without sugar and sweets.

Protect Yourself From Radioactivity

Protect Yourself From Radioactivity

The experience with Chernobyl

Perhaps the best way to start reviewing the Chernobyl disaster of April 26,1986 is by looking at how children fared who had been directly exposed to the radiation spill from this disaster. As this link shows about 7 million people living in the nearby area were exposed to the highest radiation exposure ever since the atomic age. The children of this population have experienced a 2,400 % increase in thyroid cancers, a 100 % increase of cancers and leukemia and a 200% increase of breast cancer. There were about 800,000 men who risked their lives when working on containing the radiation spill. 25,000 of these men have died and 70,000 are disabled. 20% of the deaths (5000 men) were due to suicide. Here is a report for those who like more details about the health consequences as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. Here are more questions and answers regarding the Chernobyl disaster.

The question is whether a similar accident could happen with any of the other nuclear power reactors. This link explains that such an accident can “only happen in a reactor operating with a Positive Temperature Effect combined with a Positive Steam Effect, and built without a containment structure to mitigate the potential atmospheric effects of a worst-case reactor accident.” It goes on to say that only the reactor in Chernobyl was this type of a reactor, the RBMK series made by the former USSR. The link above goes on to say: “All other reactors for the production of electricity, including all those in America, operate on natural Negative Temperature and Negative Steam Effects, and are encased in air-tight multi-layered containments, the integrity of which rivals that of Egypt’s pyramids.” It ends with this rather strong statement: “This being understood, it is entirely correct to say that an accident like the one that occurred at Chernobyl in 1986, will never happen anywhere else.” The same website reports in another section about the Fukushima disaster, without mentioning that this should not have happened. Nobody could have predicted the forces of nature (a double whammy of an earth quake of the magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, followed by a horrendous tsunami), which destroyed part of the nuclear power plant. From the literature it is not clear whether the government went through any major efforts to provide chelating agents, Prussian Blue and iodine salts to the affected population either in Chernobyl or in Fukushima to minimize the radiation effects from the radioactive emissions.

Part of the problem in Chernobyl was at the time that this all happened behind the iron curtain and that there was a news blackout, which only gradually improved after 1989. In Japan the problem was severe denial and underreporting on behalf of the Japanese government.

Goiania accident involving radioactive cesium-137 in Brazil

On September 13, 1987 two fellows illegally entered an abandoned private radiation treatment hospital in Goiania where a radiation unit containing cesium-137 had been used for treating cancer patients. They stole the radiation head thinking that it might  be valuable scrap metal that they could sell. They managed to sell it to a junkyard owner, Devair Ferreira.

Having a lack of insight that the radiation head would contain radioactive cesium-137, which was emanating ionizing radiation, Devair proceeded to probe for a precious metal with a screwdriver. As the details in the Wikipedia link show, shortly after a total of 112,000 people were screened for potential radiation exposure. There were 4 deaths including the junkyard owner’s wife, and his 6-year old daughter. He himself survived the incident. 249 people were significantly contaminated with cesium-137 and 1000 people had received a dose twice the amount of the yearly background radiation. 20 patients developed radiation sickness and required treatment. As this link shows the Brazilian authorities arranged treatments for  patients who had proven contact with cesium-137 with 10 Grams of Prussian Blue daily, which reduced the effective radiation exposure by 70%. This was the reason for the relatively low mortality and disability rates from this serious accident.

The Fukushima experience

Fast-forward to the latest disaster that has made clear how an earthquake of the magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale followed by an enormous tsunami in combination could lead to the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Following the catastrophe on March 11, 2011 there have been several leaks of radioactive material into the ocean, which are described here.

Dr. John Apsley II also pointed out that with the explosions in Fukushima there were also significant releases of radioactive pollution into the stratosphere that subsequently traveled around the globe. He has made it his ambition to help people minimize radiation exposure from nuclear accidents such as Fukushima.

The initial denial of the Japanese authorities caused a problem of assessing the true significance of the Fukushima incident.

As mentioned in the introduction to this blog there are still ongoing releases of radioactive material, which will eventually work their way into the oceans and into the atmosphere. Dr. Apsley II describes in detail in his book that there were 29 radioactive elements that were released into the air and into water, the main ones being Cesium-137 (and 134) Iodine-131, Plutonium-238 and 239, Strontium-89 and 90 and Uranium-234 and 238. As the body takes up these radioactive elements, they have different organ preferences and they metabolize differently so that each of them causes a certain disease pattern. Radioactive Iodine for instance causes thyroid disease and thyroid cancer, while radioactive Plutonium is causing leukemia, heart disease, lung and breast cancer, several childhood cancers and infant mortality. There is a wave of radioactive cesium-137 coming across the Pacific Ocean that will start to show on the west coast of Alaska, Canada and the US mainland by 2015 and stay peaked until 2020 and beyond.

Ref. 1 points out that it is difficult to know the real concentration of the radioactivity in the water and in the radioactive rain over the US and Canada, as government agency measurements were kept hidden or were falsified. However the author comes to the conclusion in comparing various reference sources that the radiological leak and impact of the Fukushima crisis was and is about 7-fold to 10-fold bigger than that of Chernobyl.

Depending on what story you believe, the fear mongering or the more balanced reasoning arguing that there is enough water in the ocean to significantly dilute the amount of spilled radioactivity, you may or may not eat the sushi on the West coast.

With all this noise it is unclear whether the local population made use of the simple method of chelation at home using miso soup and uncontaminated seaweed. One would hope so. But did they know that it is only effective in combination with a strict diet without sugar and starchy foods?

Protection from radioactive fallout

This brings us to toxicity studies and simple ways of how to protect you from radiation in the environment. First, you need to know how radioactive materials can enter your body. Most nuclides (that is another name for radioactive compounds) enter the body through contaminated food via the gut where they are absorbed into your blood. You can inhale gases like gaseous radioactive Iodine or Radon. Cesium, which has now leaked into the Pacific Ocean can be absorbed through your skin when you walk on a beach that is contaminated with radioactive Cesium-137 containing ocean water. Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years meaning that after 30 years it still emits 50% of today’s gamma rays (these are strong X-rays). The biological half-life of Cesium-137 in the body is 110 days. But we do not want this stuff in our bodies causing free radicals to destroy our body cells. So we need effective methods to remove radionuclides.

By reviewing the history above, we already have learnt of two effective ways to remove such radionuclides: Miso soup with seaweed in Nagasaki; and Prussian Blue in Brazil. Prussian Blue works on eliminating the radioactive Cesium-137 before it is absorbed from the gut into the blood. It disappears from the body with bowel movements and also in the urine. However, it should only be taken, when there is proven food contamination with Cesium-137 as it can seriously affect your potassium levels, which could cause serious side effects to your heart. A physician knowledgeable in the use of Prussian Blue can monitor your potassium levels and follow you along.

In comparison to that it is easy to implement dietary habits as was done in Nagasaki:  miso soup and seaweed can be consumed without any side effects. So, why is it important to avoid sugar and starchy foods? The reason is that sugar oxidizes your cholesterol and any tissue it comes in contact with. It also causes the pancreas to overproduce insulin, which causes an inflammatory reaction. Cesium-137 also causes an extreme inflammation in your body, because of the free radicals that are caused from the gamma radiation of cells. Add to this a situation where there is a fire burning inside of your body (inflammation from sugar and starch consumption) and you have a recipe for disaster, comparing it to dumping gasoline into a fire. Inflammation is amplified ,and the radioactive Cesium-137 causes havoc in your system. You quench the fire when you do not eat sugar and starch and you give it an extra dousing by taking chelating agents (miso soup with seaweed), which removes the radioactive Cesium-137. The successful outcome of Dr. Akizuki’s treatments in his hospital in Nagasaki speaks volumes.

There are a number of other useful antioxidants like melatonin, vitamin C, and glutathione. Co-Q10 supports the mitochondria and protects cholesterol from being oxidized. But other substances are also useful. Cabbage contains isothiocyanates that will bind radionuclides before they are even absorbed from the gut. Edible clays, like calcium bentonite works similar to Prussian Blue, but it also supplies extra calcium for the body. For further details consult Ref. 1, which contains a lot more details.


The surprising twist for me when I researched this topic was the fact that what is good for your heart, what prevents Alzheimer’s disease and what helps you to live longer also helps you to cope with processing and eliminating radioactive pollutants. When we adopt a healthier lifestyle now, we are at the same time preparing ourselves for the worst nuclear pollution.

More information on vitamins, minerals and supplements:


1. Dr. John W. Apsley II : “Fukushima Meltdown & Modern Radiation: Protecting Ourselves and Our Future Generations” © 2011. Temet Nosce Publications, Sammamish, WA 98075

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014


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