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Simple steps to prevent cancer

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About a third of some of the most common forms of cancer could be prevented through healthy diet, physical fitness, and limiting alcohol intake, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund say in a new report. About 7.6 million people die from cancer every year worldwide, and 12.7 million new cases are diagnosed. According to the Union for International Cancer Control, a third of cancer cases could be cured through early diagnosis and treatment and 30% to 40% could be prevented. About 340,000 cases of cancer could be prevented annually in the U.S. if more people started eating a varied and healthy diet, started a regimen of physical activity, limited alcohol intake, and maintained a healthy weight, the new report says.

“Physical activity is recommended for people of all ages as a means to reduce risks for certain types of cancers and other non-communicable diseases,” says Tim Armstrong, MD, of the World Health Organization, says in a news release. “In order to improve their health and prevent several diseases, adults should do at least 150 minutes moderate physical activity throughout the week. This can be achieved by simply walking 30 minutes five times per week or by cycling to work daily.”

To reduce cancer risk, people also should quit smoking, avoid excessive sun exposure, and protect themselves against cancer-causing infections.

Tim Byers, MD, MPH, of the Colorado School of Public Health, says scientists urge Americans “to make the simple lifestyle changes of eating healthy food, getting regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight to reduce cancer risk.” The World Cancer Declaration outlines 11 targets it says could be achieved by 2020 to fight cancer. These goals include: significant drops in global tobacco use, obesity, and alcohol intake; universal vaccination programs for hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV); universal availability of effective pain medication; and efforts to dispel misconceptions about cancer. The health organizations say in a detailed report that the most common cancers in the U.S. and Britain are of the breast, colon/rectum, lung, and prostate.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends the following cancer-prevention steps.

  • Limit consumption of calorie-dense foods, particularly processed foods high in added sugar, low in fiber, or high in fat.
  • Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans.
  • Limit consumption of red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb, and avoid processed meats.
  • Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with sodium.
  • Dietary supplements for lowering cancer risk are not recommended.
  • Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
  • Be physically active for 30 minutes or more every day.
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World Cancer Day

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Cancer is a leading cause of death around the world. WHO estimates that 84 million people will die of cancer between 2005 and 2015 without intervention. Each year on 4 February, WHO supports International Union Against Cancer to promote ways to ease the global burden of cancer. Preventing cancer and raising quality of life for cancer patients are recurring themes.

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Age related protein linked to cancer

Age related protein linked to cancer
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The most common type of breast cancer in older women — estrogen and progesterone receptor (ER/PR) positive breast cancer — has been linked to a protein that fends off aging-related cellular damage. A new study led by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researcher David Gius, M.D., Ph.D., now shows how a deficiency in this aging-associated protein may set the stage for these tumors to develop.

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The findings, published in Molecular Cell, provide information that could assist in the screening, prevention and treatment of these common age-related cancers. While the young are certainly not spared cancer’s wrath, cancer is primarily a disease of aging, with the majority of cases occurring in people over 50. However, the biological processes that underlie this association are not clear.

“The connection between aging and cancer is one of the most established phenomena in cancer research,” said Gius, associate professor of Cancer Biology, Pediatrics and Radiation Oncology. “The problem to address this clinically significant question is that this field lacks in vivo models to study this.”

In the late-1990s, proteins called “sirtuins” were linked to extended lifespan observed in several species maintained on a calorically restricted diet. These nutrient-sensing sirtuin proteins seemed to defend against aging-related cellular damage. Sirtuins are present in all living organisms, with humans having seven different sirtuin proteins. “When (the sirtuins) were discovered, it seemed obvious to conclude that there might be a mechanistic connection between the genes that determine length of survival and cancer,” Gius said. Previously, while at the National Cancer Institute, Gius and colleagues created mice lacking some of these sirtuins.

They reported last January in Cancer Cell that when they knocked out Sirt3 — a sirtuin localized in the mitochondria, the cellular “power plants” — the mice developed ER/PR positive breast tumors, the most common type of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. These tumors also exhibited increased levels of damaging free radicals and “reactive oxygen species” (ROS) — including superoxide, the primary metabolite of oxygen in the mitochondria — which provided an important clue as to how Sirt3 deficiency might permit these tumors to develop. “The mechanism, at least in part, for why these mice develop receptor positive breast cancer is altered mitochondrial ROS, including superoxide,” Gius said. But how deficiency in a longevity gene led to increased ROS was not clear. Since superoxide is generally removed from the cell with the help of a detoxifying enzyme called manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), Gius hypothesized that the Sirt3 deficiency may abnormally regulate MnSOD.

In the current study, the researchers show that Sirt3 knockout mice have decreased MnSOD activity despite having normal levels of the protein. Gius and colleagues determined that the MnSOD in Sirt3 knockout mice was abnormally modified (with a chemical “acetyl” group) at a specific amino acid (lysine 122). This aberrant modification of MnSOD reduced the enzyme’s ability to detoxify superoxide and appeared to explain the increase in ROS in Sirt3 knockout mouse tumors. “These results suggest that aberrant regulation of MnSOD plays a role in receptor positive breast cancer,” said Gius.

Gius and colleagues also developed an antibody that can assess the acetylation status of MnSOD, which he says can potentially be used “to screen breast tissue samples to determine what women are at risk for (receptor positive) cancer or for recurrence because of this dysregulation of MnSOD.” Additionally, agents that target the acetylation of this amino acid on MnSOD may be useful as chemopreventive therapies in women at risk of these cancers and of recurrence, he noted. The research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense.

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Social ties help breast cancer

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Breast cancer patients who have a strong social support system in the first year after diagnosis are less likely to die or have a recurrence of cancer, according to new research from investigators at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and the Shanghai Institute of Preventive Medicine. The study, led by first author Meira Epplein, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine, was published in a recent edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

 

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Patients in the study were enrolled in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survivor Study, a large, population-based review of female breast cancer survivors in China, which Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Shanghai Institute of Preventive Medicine have carried out since 2002 under the leadership of principal investigator Xiao Ou Shu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Medicine, and senior author of the study.

From 2002 to 2004, a total of 2,230 breast cancer survivors completed a quality of life survey six months after diagnosis and a majority responded to a follow-up survey 36 months postdiagnosis. The women were asked about physical issues like sleep, eating, pain, psychological well-being, social support and material well-being. The answers were converted to an overall quality of life score. During a median follow-up of 4.8 years after the quality of life assessment, the investigators documented participants who had died or been diagnosed with a cancer recurrence.

Six months after diagnosis, only greater social well-being was significantly associated with a decreased risk of dying or having a cancer recurrence. Compared to women with the lowest scores, women who scored highest on the social well-being quality of life scale had a 48 percent reduction in their risk of a cancer recurrence and a 38 percent reduction in the risk of death.

Among the facets that comprise the social well-being domain, emotional support was the strongest predictor of cancer recurrence. Specifically, women reporting the highest satisfaction with marriage and family had a 43 percent risk reduction, while those with strong social support had a 40 percent risk reduction and those with favorable interpersonal relationships had a 35 percent risk reduction.

“We found that social well-being in the first year after cancer diagnosis is an important prognostic factor for breast cancer recurrence or death,” said Epplein. “This suggests that the opportunity exists for the design of treatment interventions to maintain or enhance social support soon after diagnosis to improve disease outcomes.” While a strong social support network influenced cancer recurrence and mortality during the first year, the association tapered off and was no longer statistically significant by the third year after diagnosis.

This may be related to a smaller sample size of patients who answered the questionnaire, or other factors beyond quality of life that take precedence in the later years of survival. The study was supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program and the National Cancer Institute.

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Genetic damage minutes after smoking

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In research described as “a stark warning” to those tempted to start smoking, scientists are reporting that cigarette smoke begins to cause genetic damage within minutes — not years — after inhalation into the lungs. Their report, the first human study to detail the way certain substances in tobacco cause DNA damage linked to cancer, appears in Chemical Research in Toxicology, one of 38 peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.

Stephen S. Hecht, Ph.D., and colleagues point out in the report that lung cancer claims a global toll of 3,000 lives each day, largely as a result of cigarette smoking. Smoking also is linked to at least 18 other types of cancer. Evidence indicates that harmful substances in tobacco smoke termed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are one of the culprits in causing lung cancer. Until now, however, scientists had not detailed the specific way in which the PAHs in cigarette smoke cause DNA damage in humans.

The scientists added a labeled PAH, phenanthrene, to cigarettes and tracked its fate in 12 volunteers who smoked the cigarettes. They found that phenanthrene quickly forms a toxic substance in the blood known to trash DNA, causing mutations that can cause cancer. The smokers developed maximum levels of the substance in a time frame that surprised even the researchers: Just 15-30 minutes after the volunteers finished smoking. Researchers said the effect is so fast that it’s equivalent to injecting the substance directly into the bloodstream.

“This study is unique,” writes Hecht, an internationally recognized expert on cancer-causing substances found in cigarette smoke and smokeless tobacco. “It is the first to investigate human metabolism of a PAH specifically delivered by inhalation in cigarette smoke, without interference by other sources of exposure such as air pollution or the diet. The results reported here should serve as a stark warning to those who are considering starting to smoke cigarettes,” the article notes. The authors acknowledged funding from the National Cancer Institute.

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Can soy stop prostate cancer spread

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Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in men. Previous cell and animal research suggests that genistein, a potent soy isoflavone, may prevent the spread of prostate cancer. Now research reports that a genistein-derived drug may help prevent the spread of prostate cancer in men with prostate cancer.

The study, presented at the Ninth Annual American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, investigated the effect of the genistein-drug in men with localized prostate cancer. Researchers at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University administered the genistein-drug once daily to 38 men with localized prostate cancer one month before prostate surgery.

The participant’s prostate cancer cells were analyzed after surgery. The researchers found an increased expression of genes that stop cancer cell spread (metastasis). Furthermore, there was a decreased expression of genes that enhance metastasis.

“The first step is to see if the drug has the effect that you want on the cells and the prostate, and the answer is ‘yes, it does,'” says lead researcher Raymond Bergan, MD, professor of hematology and oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a news release. “All therapies designed to stop cancer cell movement that have been tested to date in humans have basically failed have because they have been ineffective or toxic. If this drug can effectively stop prostate cancer from moving in the body, theoretically, a similar therapy could have the same effect on the cells of other cancers.”

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Tomatoes may reduce prostate cancer

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Choosing to eat tomatoes not only reduces a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, but also shrinks the existing tumors, claims a new Italian study. Researchers theorize that the secret may lie in lycopene, the powerful anti-oxidant that makes tomatoes red. Lycopene helps neutralize harmful free radicals that are implicated in various kinds of cancer, cardiovascular problems, macular degeneration and other age-related illnesses. However, the benefit was strongest for prostate cancer.

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In a bid to assess the prostate cancer-fighting properties of tomatoes, the researchers at the University of Naples conducted an experiment on rodents. For the purpose of the study, the researchers fed laboratory rats implanted with prostate cancer cells, with either a normal diet or that containing 10 percent tomato powder. The tomato powders were made from whole foods so the effects of eating the entire vegetable could be assessed as a nutritional supplement. The investigators noted that the animals fed on tomato powder exhibited slow progression of the disease and also had lower rates of prostate cancer. In contrast, those fed on a normal diet displayed no such benefits.

Joanna Owens, from Cancer Research Britain disagrees stated, “This study doesn’t provide enough evidence that tomatoes can reduce the risk of prostate cancer or prevent progression of the disease in humans. “Other risks such as age, family history and ethnicity are likely to play a much greater role than diet alone.” The study has been published in the journal ‘Cancer Prevention Research.’

 

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Vitamin D reduces obesity-induced uterine cancer

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Georgetown University researchers suggest obese women can reduce their risk of endometrial cancer by taking vitamin D supplements.Scientists from Georgetown's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center recently showed that 67 percent of obese mice fed a regular diet developed this cancer, versus only 25 percent of obese mice fed a vitamin D-supplemented diet. “In the obese mice, vitamin D offered a very strong, very significant protective effect,” says the study's lead investigator, professor of oncology Leena Hilakivi-Clarke. The findings, published in Cancer Prevention Research, also reported that vitamin D offers no protective effects for mice of normal weight. About 60 percent of mice predisposed to endometrial cancer developed it no matter what diet they were fed.

All of the mice in the study were genetically predisposed to develop endometrial cancer because they lacked one of two tumor suppressor genes. People without one of these genes are strongly predisposed to the cancer, and obesity adds a strong risk factor for the disease, researchers say. “Vitamin D has been shown to be helpful in a number of cancers, but for endometrial cancer, our study suggests it protects only against cancer that develops due to obesity,” Hilakivi-Clarke says. “Still, if these results are confirmed in women, use of vitamin D may be a wonderfully simple way to reduce endometrial cancer risk.”

Until further studies are conducted, she says women concerned about their risk of this disease may wish to take vitamin D supplements or spend a few more minutes each week in the sun, They also should strive to lose weight if they are carrying around too many pounds. The National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense funded the research, which also included investigators from the National Cancer Institute, Northwestern University, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Walter Reed Hospital. 

“But we really don't know why dietary vitamin D works so well in our obese mice,” Hilakivi-Clarke says. “We are currently investigating the mechanisms, and we are hopeful that we can find an answer.”

 

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1 in 3 believe cancer is down to fate

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A new UK research has found that more than a third believe cancer is down to fate and there is nothing they can do to avoid it. Cancer Research UK stated that one in five men and women feared cancer ahead of debt, knife crime, Alzheimer's disease and losing their job whereas 34 percent believed the disease was down to fate, rising to 41 percent of those aged 55 to 64.

The findings come in the midst of growing evidence suggesting lifestyle factors such as losing weight, taking exercise, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer.

The survey questioned more than 2,000 adults aged 16 and over. Those questioned were asked to choose what they feared most from a list including developing Alzheimer's, being in debt, old age, being the victim of knife crime, cancer, being in a plane crash, motor neurone disease, being in a car accident, having a heart attack, losing your job and losing your home.

More people (20 per cent) overall chose cancer than anything else, followed by 16 per cent who feared Alzheimer's disease the most. Among adults up to the age of 44, cancer was feared most by 25 per cent while 7.5 per cent feared Alzheimer's most. For those aged over 65, Alzheimer's was feared most by 30 per cent while 14 per cent feared cancer most.

John Fyall, Cancer Research UK's spokesman for Scotland, said: “It's absolutely vital for us to get the message out that people can do something to alleviate their emphatic fear of cancer. Cancer is no longer the death sentence people still seem to dread,” the Scotsman quoted, John Fyall, Cancer Research UK's spokesman for Scotland, as saying. “Spotting early signs and symptoms of what could be cancer – but probably isn't – and getting these checked out by a doctor means that the disease can be diagnosed more quickly,” he added.

Teresa Nightingale, general manager of the World Cancer Research Fund, said, “It is a concern that so many people think cancer is a matter of fate, because there is now strong scientific evidence that people can make relatively simple changes to reduce their risk.” “Scientists estimate about a third of the most common cancers in the UK could be prevented just by eating a healthy, plant-based diet, being regularly physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. This includes about 40 per cent of breast and bowel cancer cases,” she added. Nightingale further informed that, “The strong evidence that diet, activity and weight affect our risk, together with other well-known risk factors such as smoking and sunburn, means that cancer is actually a largely preventable disease.” (ANI)

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Low Vitamin D levels common in breast cancer

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More than half of women with breast cancer have low vitamin D levels, British researchers report.”Women with breast cancer should be tested for vitamin D levels and offered supplements, if necessary,” says researcher Sonia Li, MD, of the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Middlesex, England. The findings were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Some studies have suggested a link between low vitamin levels and breast cancer risk and progression, but others have not, she says. No studies have proven cause and effect. Previous research suggests a biologic rationale for vitamin D putting the brakes on breast cancer development and spread, Li says. Breast cancer cells have vitamin D receptors, and when these receptors are activated by vitamin D, it triggers a series of molecular changes that can slow cell growth and cause cells to die, she says. Even if it does not have a direct effect on the tumor, vitamin D is needed to maintain the bone health of women with breast cancer, Li says. That's especially important given the increasing use of aromatase inhibitors, which carry an increased risk of bone fractures, she says.

Vitamin D is found in some foods, especially milk and fortified cereals, and is made by the body after exposure to sunlight. It is necessary for bone health.

For the study, Li and colleagues collected blood samples from 166 women with breast cancer and measured their levels of vitamin D. Of the total, 46% had vitamin D insufficiency, defined as levels between 12.5 and 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) of blood. Another 6% had vitamin D deficiency, with levels lower than 12.5 nmol/L. When ethnicity was considered, vitamin D levels were lower in Asian women than in white or other women: an average of about 36 nmol/L vs. 61 nmol/L and 39 nmol/L, respectively.

The researchers theorized that vitamin D levels would be higher in the summer, when there are more daylight hours, but the study showed no association between vitamin D levels and seasons. Last month, the U.S. Institute of Medicine issued updated guidelines stating that a blood level of 50 nmol/L (or 20 nanograms/milliliter) is sufficient for 97% of people.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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