Currently viewing the tag: "breast cancer"


tall vs shortDid you ever watch the Brady Bunch? Do you remember when Bobby was stressing over being small, and he just could not see any upside to his little boy frame? And then he fit through the meat locker window, saving his and Greg’s life, and in a flash he was enlightened. Well turns out there’s another benefit along with passing through tight spaces that grows with each centimeters (cm) of height NOT developed: it lowers the risk of developing cancer. You heard right, being tall seems to increase one’s cancer risk. At least that is the word out of today’s meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology held in Barcelona.

Researchers, who have not published their findings in any medical journal, say they conducted the biggest study of its kind looking at at birth, health and military records of 5.5 million people born between 1938 and 1991. What they found was that as height increases over a certain baseline, 1 meter or 3 foot 3 inches (3’3), cancer risk increased every 10 cm, by 10 percent in men and 18 percent in women. While nothing has been published, these results do seem to confirm the findings of other studies like a 2013 U.S. study, looking at women only, which found a 13 percent higher risk of developing certain cancers for each 10 centimeters of height.

Breast-CancerAlong with the increased cancer risk, the current study found that for every extra 10 cm, a woman also had a 20-percent higher risk of breast cancer, while there was a jump of 30 percent for every 10 cm in melanoma risk for both genders. A 180 cm woman (5’11) would be about a third more likely to contract cancer than a woman of 170 cm (5’7). Not every expert agrees with the potential height-cancer link, however, as some question the methodology of the study, while doubting the strength of the link, pointing out a much greater cancer association with genetics and obesity. Skeptics also believe that any link might be attributable to growth hormone, which could be affecting both traits.

“It sounds an odd relationship at first glance, but it is actually very plausible that the risk of cancer in a person should be related to the number of cells in their body, since that determines the number of cells ‘at risk’,” Dorothy Bennett, a scientist at University of London said in comments issued by the Science Media Centre.

healthy for all sizesSkeptics wish to emphasize that these results should not have tall people worrying about contracting cancer. I agree. Scientific inquiry into everything has value on many levels, but causing unnecessary stress is not one of them. Nobody wants or needs to have the risks associated with uncontrollable traits hanging over their heads, yet science shows what it shows; what can we do? It’s a tough situation really—an access to truth, yes, but unpleasant findings nonetheless. My feeling is just be grateful for the information so that you can monitor yourself throughout your lifetime as you age, and perhaps an inspiration to pick up the health regimen a bit. Hey, we can all do better than what we are doing now, and I even believe that striving for and achieving better fluctuates constantly throughout our lifetime too, so now is as good a time as any. If you are tall: start juicing, get lots of vitamin D (yes, even in the face of these findings on melanoma – adequate sun exposure is waaaaay more important than any melanoma fear, just sun smartly), take omega 3′s, drink lots of water, eat moderately, sleep plentifully, and so on, and you should be fine.

And before Bobby Brady gets too big for his britches, understand that shorter people were not found to be without risk—they just had a lower risk, but risk all the same. So people of all shapes and sizes need to take part in the same behaviors I have described above. Listen these are good habits no matter who practices them, and frankly, I would rather spend my time focusing on all the health enhancing stuff I can do, and less worrying on which of my traits increases which risks. I mean, life is a freakin’ risk, darnit. Just do the right things and you should be fine.

Aw yeh…looks like vitamin D proponents might be right: higher blood concentrations of the sun-vitamin dramatically cut the risk of several major diseases, including breast cancer.  Booyah!  A recent study shows that adults need 4,000-8,000 IU per day to maintain blood levels of vitamin D metabolites in the range needed to reduce by about half the risk of several diseases–breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.

Some in the scientific community had warned of toxicity related to increased levels of vitamin D in the blood, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) even noted there were preliminary signals that there might be some harms associated with consuming high levels of vitamin D daily, even at amounts under the recommended upper safe limit.  But the IOM since last year has deemed 4,000 IU a day safe, a much lower level than the 10,000 IUs they consider to be at the lowest level of potential risk.

The study looked at several thousand people who took supplements ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 IU per day.  The volunteers also underwent blood tests to determinevitamin D metabolite levels circulating in their blood.  Researchers were surprised by what they found, that the levels required to ward of illnesses like cancer were so much higher than the 400 IU a day needed to vanquish rickets in the 20th century.

Well I, of course, love these results because I’m a BIG proponent of vitamin D supplementation.  Studies have uncovered that many North Americans are deficient in this essential life-giving nutrient.  Chalk it up to our fear of melanoma–thanks dermatologists.  Either way, this study is good evidence that supplementing is safe and effective at warding off chronic illnesses.  Give the body what it needs and it will do what it’s supposed to do.  Guaranteed.

I know, we all want green tea to work for something; but when it comes to preventing breast cancer, green tea comes up short.  A recent Japanese study failed to show any protective effects against breast cancer from drinking green tea.

The study, conducted by the Epidemiology and Prevention Division at the Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening of the National Cancer Center in Tokyo, collected data on 53,793 women who were surveyed between 1995 and 1998.  As part of the survey, the women were asked how much green tea they drank.  A follow up survey was conducted at five years where they the women were asked the same questions but also which types of green tea were drunk (Sencha or Bancha/Genmaicha).

The survey results showed that 12% drank less than one cup of green tea per week, while 27% drank five or more cups a day.  There were also women who drank more than 10 cups per day.

They followed the women for almost fourteen years and found that 350 of them developed breast cancer in that time period.  But researchers found no less risk in women who drank green tea than in those who did not.

According to scientists, the strength in this study was its research design, particularly that green tea consumption was recorded before breast cancer was diagnosed, thus eliminating “the exposure recall bias inherent to case-control studies,” lead researcher Dr. Motoki Iwasaki said.

Still, some people want to hang on.  Like I said, we all really want green tea to be beneficial.  Case in point, Jennifer J. Hu, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Miami School of Medicine‘s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Says Hu, “just by drinking green tea you don’t get enough of the [possible cancer-fighting ingredient] to make much of a difference.”  She also states that population-based studies fail to localize single factors, as many more factors may play a part.

Yes, I can see Ms. Hu’s point.  Perhaps a study on freebasing green tea may produce the results she wants.  Let’s not all hold our breaths, though.

Doing yoga helps cancer patients overcome sleep problems.  So says a recent study to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to be held in Chicago this June.  According to the study, yoga also improved quality of life, reduced fatigue and reduced the need for sleep medications in cancer survivors.  Now how ’bout that?

The study looked at 410 patients who had finished treatment two to 24 months before and who had reported greater-than-average sleep disruptions (80% of cancer patients have trouble sleeping while undergoing treatment, and about two-thirds say the problems persist after treatment ends). Almost all of the participants were women, and three-quarters had had breast cancer, although the cancer had not spread. None had done any yoga in the past three months.  Participants were randomized to either receive regular follow-up care for cancer survivors or to receive regular care plus two 75-minute sessions of yoga per week for four weeks.

Emphasis was on doing postures (asanas) breathing from the diaphragm rather than the chest (pranayama) and on mindfulness, visualization and guided meditation.
Here are the results:

  • 22% of yoga participants reported improvement in sleep quality, while only 12% of controls reported the same
  • 31% of yoga participants who had started out with clinically impaired sleep quality recovered vs. only 16% of controls
  • 42% in yoga group had reduced fatigue, compared to only 12% in the control group
  • 20% of yoga participants had reduced daytime sleepiness, while only 5% of controls had the same 
  • 6% on average in yoga group reported their quality of life improved, while none in the control group did
  • While the yoga group was able to get by with less sleep medication, people in the control group actually used more.

Pretty amazing, but not surprising.  I know firsthand the multitude of health benefits of practicing yoga, as I have been involved in my own practice for 10 years.  What is remarkable is the degree and rapidity with which cancer survivors respond to yoga practice.

The combined focus on physical activity, mental focus and breathing is a recipe to benefit all people.  Yoga has been around for thousands of years precisely because it has taught people a way of enhancing their life forces.  If yoga has the ability to transform the lives of cancer survivors, then it certainly has the ability to do the same for you and me.  I’m doing yoga daily; I encourage you to do the same.  Yoga will transform you.


Get this: Up to one third of breast cancer cases can be avoided through diet and fitness. You don’t say? Yes! Eating less and exercising more can reduce the incidence of breast cancer, said experts at the European breast cancer conference in Barcelona yesterday.

Although better treatments, early diagnosis and mammogram screenings have dramatically slowed breast cancer, researchers estimate that 25 to 30 percent of cases could be avoided if women were thinner and exercised more. The numbers come from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, the WHO estimates that one third of ALL the world’s cancers are preventable.

Please digest this, people: Cancers are preventable. Hmm. One more time: Cancers are preventable. Geez…

Is this concept a part of our new world health order? Not yet, too avant garde. Let me point out the discrepancy between current medical thinking and the most up-to-date health research and information. This should make us all rest easy since we now have equal access to medical care. Our country’s lawmakers have found it in our best interest to give us more of the system that has brought us medical dependence. We’ll call our current system the “old way,” and the newer, not yet accepted by medical standards (and this includes the Congress and POTUS) approach, the “new way.” Here we go.

New way: “What can be achieved with screening has been achieved. We can’t do much more,” Carlo La Vecchia, head of epidemiology at the University of Milan, said in an interview. “It’s time to move on to other things.”

Old way: Any discussion of weight and breast cancer is considered sensitive because some may misconstrue that as the medical establishment blaming women for their disease.

New way: Dr. Michelle Holmes of Harvard University, who has studied cancer and lifestyle factors, said people might wrongly think their chances of getting cancer depend more on their genes than their lifestyle. “The genes have been there for thousands of years, but if cancer rates are changing in a lifetime, that doesn’t have much to do with genes,” she said.

Old way: Tara Beaumont, a clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, a British charity, said her agency has always been careful about giving lifestyle advice. She noted that three of the major risk factors for breast cancer–gender, age and family history–are clearly beyond anyone’s control. “It is incredibly difficult to isolate specific factors. Therefore women should in no way feel that they are responsible for developing breast cancer,” says Beaumont.

New way: Karen Benn, spokeswoman for Europa Donna, a patient-focused breast cancer group, said it is impossible to ignore the increasingly stronger links between lifestyle and breast cancer. “If we know there are healthier choices, we can’t not recommend them just because people might misinterpret the advice and feel guilty,” she said. “If we are going to prevent breast cancer, then this message needs to get out, particularly to younger women.”

Frickin’ duh!

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime is one in eight. Obese women are 60% more likely to develop any cancer than normal-weight women. Many breast cancers are fueled by estrogen, a hormone produced in fat tissue, so experts suspect that the fatter a woman is, the more estrogen she’s likely to produce, which in turn could feed breast cancer. Even in slim women, exercise can help reduce the cancer risk by converting more fat into muscle.

Drinking less alcohol might also help lower the risk. Experts estimate that having more than a couple of drinks a day can boost the risk of breast cancer by 4-10%.

Further, searching for magic bullets is counter-productive. There is no one pill or therapy that will make you healthy and live forever. Please wake up. Women who jumped on hormone replacement therapy to bypass the down-side of menopause increased their risk of developing breast cancer. In the ’80s and ’90s breast cancer rose steadily as obesity and the use of estrogen-containing hormones after menopause increased.

A sharp drop in breast cancer rates occurred as women abandoned hormone-replacement therapy due to a discovered link between the treatments and breast cancer. Experts said a similar reduction might be seen if women ate healthier and exercised more.

New way: Dr. Michelle Holmes, the Harvard expert, said changing diet and nutrition is arguably easier than tackling other breast cancer risk factors.

Well no shiitake, Samurai! That’s the new way; yet, we’re still stuck in the old. But at least we’re ALL stuck in it together.


What do you think—should courts decide how you care for your child’s health? Tough question, since the law is ultimately supposed to protect people, and children are often in need of such safeguarding. But how much is too much?

A Minnesota judge ruled yesterday that a 13-year-old cancer patient must be evaluated by a doctor to determine if the boy would benefit from restarting chemotherapy over his parents’ objections. The family belongs to a Native American spiritual organization called the Nemenhah Band, which believes in natural healing. The boy—who is considered a medicine man and an elder in the group–has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Apparently he has made the decision himself to refuse chemotherapy (he only went through one session) and instead treat the cancer with nutritional supplements and other alternative therapies.

The treating oncologist, Dr. Bruce Bostrom, from Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota has stated that the boy’s tumor had shrunk after the sole chemotherapy session. Other doctors have said that the boy has a 90% survival rate if he continues with chemotherapy; but if he opts out, they say, he only has a five percent chance of survival.

The family, and the boy according to his legal team, want the right to choose whatever treatment option best suits them. But the court has ruled that the boy is unable to properly make that decision, stating that he has a learning disability* and can’t read. According to Judge John Rodenberg, the boy has only a “rudimentary understanding at best of the risks and benefits of chemotherapy. … he does not believe he is ill currently. The fact is that he is very ill currently.”

And so the judgment is that the boy must adhere to the doctors orders regarding chemotherapy, and if the parents refuse, the boy will be taken in protective custody. But it gets even more complicated. Check this out: If the boy refuses the chemo–hold onto your hats–doctors do not yet know how they will administer the drugs to him. Why don’t they just pin him down and inject it into him by force? Isn’t that the way to ensure compliance—gangstick ‘em, Frances Farmer style?

Tsk, tsk, tsk…now if I haven’t heard it all. OK, first let me accede: these Nemenhah Band people are a bunch of nuts—no doubt about it. But who the hell is the government to step in and tell people what to do with their own bodies. Ok, ok…if the kid was absolutely clueless in all this, then maybe the parents are negligent and responsible for child abuse. But this kid knows what he wants. No, he doesn’t understand the full implications. Nonsense! He knows enough; and anyway, who the hell understands the full implications? Nobody has a complete handle on cancer; if they did, it wouldn’t be the new second leading cause of death worldwide.

Here’s the main problem with this ruling: At what point is governmental protection simply intrusion? Sure this is a tough case—as I’ve said, the family is teetering on the brink of lunacy. But ruling for court mandate in these complicated cases can far too easily lead to the same in other less complicated cases—like mandatory vaccinations, or worse, court-ordered psychiatric drugging of children, particularly those in “protective custody” (to get your bloodcurdling, read this frightening essay on state-prescribed medicating of children).

To what degree do we want our freedoms taken away, like the right to choose what each of us deems right for our family’s health and well being? It seems innocuous enough, this case in Minnesota—for sure it’s dealing with loonies right up there with Christian Scientists, those nut jobs refusing any medical treatment at all because of their belief that God will protect them. But this case is bigger, much bigger, because it’s deciding where Big Brother has the right to step in and dictate what we can and cannot do with regard to our families’ health. No vitamins—doctors say they aren’t necessary. Vaccinate your children or go to jail—like in Belgium. And absolutely, positively, without question you must take your pharmaceuticals because…well…doctor knows best. Just one question: What the hell are they going to do if that kid dies anyway? Doh!

*Learning disorder was a term coined by the psychiatry profession in 1963 to include children in the ever-growing envelope of mental disorders and to provide funds for disabled children in schools.

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