Feb
01
2005

Public Strategies Help Quit Smoking

Quitting to smoke has been a New Year’s resolution for many, and in view of the health care dollars spent for diseases related to smoking and the approximately 440,000 deaths in the United States per year alone, it should be a priority to implement comprehensive tobacco-control programs.
Smoking was more common among men (an average of 24.8 % nationally), whereas a national average of 20.3% of women lit up. There are also considerable differences between various states. In Kentucky 33.8% of men and 28.1% of women were smokers. Utah had the lowest prevalence with 14% men and 9.9% women. The national health objective is a goal for 2010 is to reduce the numbers to 12% smokers, which underscores the need for increased efforts to reduce tobacco use. Strategies include a clean air act to ensure clean indoor air laws, media campaigns, telephone support quit lines, insurance coverage for cessation counseling and pharmaceuticals are effective, but there are substantial variations across the states. In addition there are significant differences in the cost of cigarettes. It comes as no surprise, that Kentucky, which has the lowest price at $3.10 per pack, also has the highest number of smokers. Telephone support lines are available in the majority of states, but in 2002 only 2 states offered Medicaid coverage for medication treatment or counseling, and only six states (California, Conneticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York) have comprehensive statewide smoking bans in effect on indoor workplaces and public places.

Public Strategies Help Quit Smoking

Public Strategies Help Quit Smoking

Too few states have public smoking bans in effect. Only four states (Arkansas, Delaware, Maine, and Mississippi) were investing at least the minimum per capita amount that the CDC recommends for tobacco-control. There is obviously the need to expand efforts and resources, to achieve the goal to reduce the smoking habit to 12% in the population by 2010.

Reference: Journal Of The American Medical Society, December 22/29,2004,Vol.292, No.24

Remarks on Nov. 7, 2012: The smoking rates have not declined in 5 years according to this article in 2010

Last edited December 7, 2012

Jan
01
2005

Vaccine To Eradicate Cervical Cancer

Dr. Diane M. Harper, a lead researcher from Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire has called the results of a vaccination trial against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) “extremely exciting and encouraging”. A simple vaccination against this virus, which is the cause for cancer of the cervix, has the potential to eradicate the vast majority of cervical cancers worldwide.
The injection in the study was tested on 1,113 women between the ages 15 and 25 over an 18-month period. One hundred percent of the patients of the vaccinated group escaped persistent infection.

The protection against initial HPV- infection was at 92 %.
At this point a much larger trial is set to begin, before the vaccination can be licensed for general use. It will very likely soon be a routine vaccination for young women. If it is successful, it will be a powerful tool for prevention and will save thousands of lives that otherwise would be lost to cervical cancer. Even for those patients who dread shots, a needle prick will be a small price to pay.

Vaccine To Eradicate Cervical Cancer

Vaccine To Eradicate Cervical Cancer

More info on cervical cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/cervical-cancer/

Comment on Nov. 7, 2012: In the meantime the vaccine has been introduced into the school vaccination program of many countries around the world, but mostly concentrating on the female population.  In Australia the vaccine is given to boys aged 9 to 15 and girls.  The two main brand names are Gardasil and Cervarix. Here is a detailed medical review from Great Britain.

Last edited October 27, 2014

Jan
01
2005

PSA Screening For Prostate Cancer Not Obsolete

Like with any test there are false positive results, and the blood test called PSA (short for Prostate Specific Antigen) has received some criticism as a result. Negative comments likening it to “Shooting flies with a bazooka” have been voiced, and yet, statistics on the mortality due to prostate cancer tell a different story.

In recent years the mortality rate in North America is down by 25%, and part of it is due to PSA. Currently there is no more effective testing in place, so the alternative is not attractive. It is like going back to the bad old times, where men where diagnosed only, once the prostate cancer was advanced, had formed metastases, and hopes for a cure were remote. There are promising new tests under development which at one point in time will replace the PSA, but for now it’s still the best test available. The only other way to find prostate cancer is by doing a biopsy.

PSA Screening For Prostate Cancer Not Obsolete

PSA Screening For Prostate Cancer Not Obsolete

More info on prostate cancer prevention: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/prostate-cancer/prostate-cancer-prevention/

Reference: National Review Of Medicine, December 15, 2004, page 22

Last edited October 27, 2014

Nov
01
2004

Flax Seed A Source Of Omega 3

Prevention has been gaining more momentum for public health as well as for the health conscious individual. Instead of looking at salvation from a slew of diseases like arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, and the complications from diabetes in the form of super pills, prevention looks a lot more promising.
Flax seed has been around for several thousand years, but it has been making a name for itself as part of healthy eating.

Its most important components are its fiber content, the alpha-linoleic acid, and the lignans. Eating flax seed helps to mop up cholesterol in the bowel, and studies have shown a drop in the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Duke University is publishing results that show flax seed to be helpful in blocking prostate cancer. A publication going back to August 2001 in the Archives of Ophthalmology point out the fact, that the omega-3 fatty acids, which are contained in flax seed, reduce the risk of macular degeneration. The same omega-3 fatty acids also have a favorable influence in the glucose response after a meal, a fact that is important for the prevention of diabetes.

It has to be mentioned at this point, that flax seed oil does not have all the benefits, as the fiber has been removed, and some of the benefits get lost as a result of the temperature used with processing. Also, just eating a spoon full of flax seeds will not be the answer, as flax seed is not fully used during digestion (the seeds are simply excreted in a bowel movement). To unlock the benefits it is best, to grind the seed.

Flax Seed A Source Of Omega 3

Flax Seed A Source Of Omega 3

A coffee mill does the job well enough, and freshly ground seeds are better than the pre-ground variety that has been sitting around in the bin of a store for some time. Two teaspoons of ground flax seed mixed with some yogurt and fruit makes for a good starter in the morning or an easy evening snack. A slice of flax seed bread does not give you the benefits; remember that heat during cooking or baking destroys the key components.
The nice part about flax seed is the fact, that it is inexpensive, plentiful, has no adverse side effects*, and it is the ounce of prevention which is readily available to you.

More info on Omega-3: http://nethealthbook.com/news/inflammation-extinguished-omega-3/

Reference: The Medical Post, October 12, 2004, page 13

* Comments (added Aug.28, 2005): Despite the Duke University study cited above there are disturbing news from a 14 year follow-up prospective study that has been confirmed by other studies showing that there are side-effects. This study showed that in males there is a 2-fold risk of developing invasive prostate cancer when flax seed was the supplement used. As flax seed contains alpha-linolenic acid (=ALA) and fish oil contains eicosapentaenoic acid (=EPA), there are striking differences of action that have not yet been defined in more detail. The same study showed that over 14 years EPA (when mixed with DHA) lowered the risk of getting invasive prostate cancer by 26%. Until it is known more how flax seed works, it likely is wiser to to take a molecularly distilled EPA/DHA supplement daily as this also reduces the cardiovascular risk, but at the same time prevents cancer.

Last edited October 27, 2014

Nov
01
2004

Not All Vitamins Prevent Cancer

Even in the recent past, vitamins were looked at as an essential weapon to prevent illness, however, a large study by the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group at the Centre for Clinical Intervention Research at Copenhagen University has come up with disappointing evidence.

A large evidence-based analysis was performed involving a population of 170,525 persons who were enrolled in randomized trials. They received a regimen of 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 every year for 2 to 4 years.
All trials reported the separate or combined incidence of cancer of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, stomach or the liver.
Results showed that beta-carotene alone, the most widely tested antioxidant for cancer prevention, did not have substantial cancer-fighting properties in gastrointestinal cancers. The devastating blow is the fact that beta-carotene in combination with vitamin A and vitamin C significantly increased mortality! Recent studies examining vitamin C show, that it can be an antioxidant, but it also can be a pro-oxidant (the less desirable quality). Trials involving selenium very clearly showed that it might have beneficial effects on the incidence of gastrointestinal cancers.
Following these news it would be a grave mistake to assume, that fruit and vegetables with their built-in antioxidants, micronutrients, dietary fiber and beneficial plant-chemicals have fallen off grace.

Not All Vitamins Prevent Cancer

Not All Vitamins Prevent Cancer

The truth is, that fruit and vegetables typically contain safe levels of vitamins. Most studies have reported that adequate intake of fruit and vegetables are indeed associated with a low incidence of cancer.
The study, however, clearly points out the pitfalls of vitamin supplementation.
-“The more the better” does not apply when it comes to taking vitamins.
-Antioxidants according to this study are not as beneficial for cancer prevention as was thought of in the past.
– Only vitamin C and selenium held up to the scrutiny of the evidence-based researchers with regard to having preventative effects regarding the above named gastrointestinal cancers.

Reference: The Lancet, Vol. 364, Number 9441, pg.1219-28,  October 2, 2004

Last edited December 7, 2012

Sep
01
2004

Second Hand Cigarette Smoke Kills

A recent publication in the British Medical Journal was reviewed in the Aug.10 issue of The Medical Post. The study was concerning detailed census data from New Zealand where two cohorts of the population were compared in 1981 and 1996.

The 1981 study involved 286,796 people, the 1996 study involved 382,462 people. Both cohorts were further classified into exposure to second hand smoke and non-exposure meaning that they lived in a smoke-free home (controls). I have elected to show the results in a graph below for ease of reference. The authors Dr. Tony Blakely and others from the University of Otago had followed each cohort for 3 years and recorded death rates (mortality rates) for each of the subgroups.

They pointed out that there was a 15% increase in premature death for those exposed to second hand smoke when compared to the controls who were not exposed.

Comments: 1. The mortality in the 1996 study (in blue bars in the graph below) for males is what the authors quoted (15.1%). However, for females, the death rate was even higher with regard to exposure to second hand smoke: mortality was 26.7% higher when the exposed group is compared to the controls.

Second Hand Cigarette Smoke Kills

Second Hand Cigarette Smoke Kills

2. The 1981 study (green bars in the graph below) had a much higher overall mortality than the overall mortality in the 1996 study (blue bars). This likely is due to the 15 year interval between the two study groups and the fact that during that time in New Zealand as in many other industrialized countries the death rate from cigarette smoke exposure has declined significantly.

One such study indicates a reduction between 1981 and 1997 of 38% in all preventable deaths, which includes death as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke. The average death rate reduction in the New Zealand study over the 15 years was 31.7% for men and 29.35% for women when the exposed groups and control groups were pooled.

3. The controls and the relationship of the subgroups within the 1996 study (the blue bars in the graph below) were very consistent , but were not consistent within the 1981 study (green bars).

For instance, the controls of death rates should always be smaller in both males and females when compared to the groups that were exposed to second hand cigarette smoke. In the 1996 study this was the case, but in the 1981 study this was not the case. This may indicate that there were other negative factors included in the 1981 study leading to premature death or that the controls were simply also exposed to cigarette smoke in the past.

Mortalitiy Rates (%) Resulting From Exposure to Second Hand Smoke in New Zealand Study
 Second Hand Cigarette Smoke Kills1

Conclusion: This is an important study as it is based on large numbers and it shows that even relatively small concentrations of cigarette smoke in the environment make a measurable difference in terms of death rates among the population. It also confirms the fact that the death toll has been reduced by about 30% in the population within 15 years (between 1981 and 1996), because many people have quit smoking during that time period and this is measurable as indicated above (green bars higher on average than blue bars).

More info on:

Heart attacks: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

Lung cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/lung-cancer/

Reference: The Medical Post, Aug. 10, 2004, page 48

Last edited October 27, 2014

Jun
01
2004

New Antibody Treatment For Colon Cancer

The drug Cetuximab landed Martha Stewart in the middle of an insider-trading scandal back in December of 2001. Inside information stated that the FDA had turned down the application for this drug in December. However, now there is good news for patients.

The FDA has recently approved the drug, also known as Erbitux. The medication offers treatment for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer who are not tolerating chemotherapy with irinotecan. The most innovative feature of Erbitux is the fact, that it is the first-of-its-kind antibody that inhibits a specific protein, which in turn stops cell division of cancer cells. Clinical trials that were done in Europe consisted of testing stage III colorectal cancer patients with irinotecan (chemotherapeutic agent) alone or in combination with Cetuximab (equivalent of Erbitux). The survival advantage was almost 9 months better in the combination group. Cetuximab alone also had a certain effect, but was not as good as the combination therapy. In the next few years more of these new antibody therapies will be tested in clinical trials to check out the safety and the effectiveness in various cancer types.

New Antibody Treatment For Colon Cancer

New Antibody Treatment For Colon Cancer

More info on colon cancer treatment: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/colon-cancer/colon-cancer-treatment/

Based on a paper by Harris M – Lancet Oncol – 01-MAY-2004; 5(5): 292-302: “Monoclonal antibodies as therapeutic agents for cancer”.

Last edited October 26, 2014

Jun
01
2004

Green Tea Knocks Out Leukemia Cells

Cancer is less common in eastern Asia, where green tea is the most common beverage.
In April 2004 a study was published in the journal “Blood”, which shows that green tea has killing powers in the unpredictable and slow form of B cell leukemia. A component in green tea called epigallocatechin (EGCG) disturbs the chemical information flow in leukemia cells in lab cultures.

It means that the communication between the cells is disturbed, and cancer cells cannot multiply.

Dr. Neil Kay of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. is confident that the compound EGCG will be of benefit especially in the treatment of early-stage patients.
In the meantime, a flavorful soothing cup of green tea has its benefits.

More info on leukemia: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/leukemia/

Based on National Review of Medicine (Canada), April 30,2004

Green Tea Knocks Out Leukemia Cells

Green Tea Knocks Out Leukemia Cells

Last edited October 26, 2014

May
01
2004

Chronic Inflammation Causes Cancer, Heart Attacks And More

When the Time Magazine devotes 7 full pages in the March 22, 2004 issue to the topic of inflammation as the source of most of the diseases of the Western World, you know that something important is happening in medicine. Christine Gorman and Alice Park have summarized some of the groundbreaking research of the past few years in this article. I will report about this article here, but also include direct links regarding some of the relevant research the authors have mentioned including some of the key links regarding the metabolic syndrome, which was not mentioned in the article.

Since the beginning of the obesity wave in North America it has become obvious that a cluster of diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer disease, cancer of the colon, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and others have also become more frequent. Dr. Paul Ridker, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was one of the pioneers of investigating inflammation as a possible cause and the common denominator of these diverse illnesses. He noticed that certain patients got heart attacks although their blood LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol) were normal. The theory at that time was that all patients who would develop heart attacks would come from a high-risk group of patients with elevated LDL cholesterol. The problem was that 50% of patients with heart attacks had normal LDL cholesterol levels. Dr. Ridker suspected that the C-reactive protein (CRP), which is found to be elevated in the blood of rheumatoid patients, would be somehow involved in the disease process of hardening of the arteries before a heart attack would occur. CRP is produced by the liver cells and by the lining cells of arteries in response to a general inflammatory reaction in the body. Examples of this would be rheumatoid arthritis patients and patients with autoimmune diseases, where CRP levels can be readily measured with a blood test. Dr. Ridker found that there was a very good correlation between the CRP level and the degree of inflammation as well as the risk for developing heart attacks and strokes. Further investigation by others confirmed that CRP levels were perhaps more important than LDL levels in predicting impending heart attacks. This is so, because CRP is the body’s substance in the blood stream that would be responsible for breaking up LDL containing deposits (plaques) in the walls of the arteries, which leads to heart attacks in the heart and to strokes in the brain.

Chronic Inflammation Causes Cancer, Heart Attacks And More

Chronic Inflammation Causes Cancer, Heart Attacks And More

Other investigators found that CRP was only one link in a complex chain of events that includes inflammatory substances (cytokines) from the fat cells as well as insulin and insulin-like growth factors from the metabolic syndrome. Leptins are also a factor as has been discussed under this link.
Dr. Steve Shoelsen from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston has developed a mouse model for the metabolic syndrome. These mice will produce huge amounts of inflammatory substances in their fatty tissue in response to any inflammatory process that is started in them. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as the statins or metformin, it is hoped, will be shown conclusively to dampen the inflammatory process and prevent heart attacks, strokes and diabetes as well as cancer, Alzheimers disease and arthritis. Heart disease has already been shown to be improved by anti-inflammatory drugs. Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the small bronchial tubes, which can be stabilized with the anti-inflammatory drug Avastin.

What can we do as consumers to prevent some of those life-threatening diseases? By reducing our weight through calorie restriction on a low-glycemic diet we can help to reduce the insulin-like hormone substances of the fatty tissue. Regular exercise of at least 30 minutes of a brisk walk daily or the equivalent of other sports activities will half our risk for colon cancer and many other cancers. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as fish and fish oils will reduce the amount of free radicals in our system cutting down on the circulating inflammatory substances. This prolongs life, prevents all of the major diseases of modern civilization and leads to longevity as the study of the Okinawa diet has shown.

Based on an article in the Time Magazine, March 22, 2004 edition, page 54 to 60.

Here is a chapter on arteriosclerosis from the Net Health Book, which explains inflammatory changes of the arterial wall:

http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/atherosclerosis-the-missing-link-between-strokes-and-heart-attacks/

Last edited October 26, 2014

May
01
2004

Sugar And Starchy Foods Cause Colorectal Cancer

A study from the Harvard University involving 38,000 women and having been started in 1993 has surprised the researchers. They wanted to find out whether there were certain foods that may cause colon and rectal cancer. So they administered a “food-frequency” questionnaire with 131 questions to women 45 years or older who entered into the study. Such factors as low-dose aspirin, vitamin E and beta-carotene were included in the questionnaire as was the exact food composition for the year prior to enrolment into the study.

A sugar load (glycemic load) was calculated. This way the impact of various sugar and starch containing foods could be assessed and compared among different subgroups regarding the later development of cancer in the colon and rectum.
When Dr. Susan Higginbotham and Dr. Simin Liu analyzed the diets of the 174 patients who did develop cancer (26 rectal cancers, 148 colon cancers) they found that the women with the highest sugar and starch load were 3 times more likely to develop cancer than the controls with a low glycemic load. High glycemic load foods are candy, cakes, cookies; any other refined flour products including white bread, pasta, French fries and baked potatoes. Together with other literature in this field the authors of this study concluded that the high glycemic food load leads to increased insulin levels in the blood as well as insulin-like growth factors. This in turn leads to cell division in normal and cancerous cells including the lining of the colon and rectum. In addition it is known that the C-reactive protein promotes an inflammatory response that will lead to heart attacks and to cancer.

Sugar And Starchy Foods Cause Colorectal Cancer

Sugar And Starchy Foods Cause Colorectal Cancer

Dr. Bob Bruce from the University of Toronto has shown in his research on colon cancer that insulin and related factors are important in the promotion of this cancer. He commented regarding the Harvard study reviewed here that more research is required before the exact cause of cancer of the colon and rectum would be understood. This knowledge is required before more effective preventative measures can be found other than a simple reduction of sugar and starch in the foods we eat.

Based on the Feb.4 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (U.S.) and the National Review of Medicine (Canada) March 15, 2004.

More info about Colorectal cancer can be found through this link.

Last edited October 26, 2014