Tag Archives: Cancer

Men May Be More Likely Than Women To Die From Most Cancers

The Seattle Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/13, Daza) reports that “men are at higher risk than women of developing cancer within their lifetime, and astudy Share to FacebookShare to Twitter ” published in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention “shows they are also more likely to die from it.” Michael Cook, lead investigator and researcher at the National Institutes of Health, and colleagues “examined 36 types of cancer by gender, using almost 30 years of data, from 1977 and 2006.”

The CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter /Health.com (7/13, McMillen) reports, “Leukemia and cancers of the colon and rectum, pancreas, and liver killed about one and a half to two times as many men as women in the US over” the “30-year period.” The researchers also found that “lung cancer killed nearly two and a half times as many men during that time.”

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/13) reports that the major explanation for the disparity is that females face a lower risk of developing cancer, compared to males, Cook contends.

MedPage Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/12, Walsh) reported that the investigators “found that there had been some changes over time, such as decreases in the male-to-female ratios in lung, laryngeal, and pancreatic cancers but increases in esophageal, skin, and hepatic cancers.” The researchers “also found changes in mortality by age.” For instance, “for skin cancer, the male-to-female mortality ratio has increased in patients 50 and older, because mortality has increased in men but remained stable in women.”

WebMD Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/12, Hendrick) reported that “the highest male-to-female death rate ratios were 5.51 men for every woman for lip cancer, 5.37 to 1 for cancer of the larynx, and 4.47 to 1 for cancer of the hypopharynx.” Meanwhile, “three cancers had a higher death rate in women than men: gallbladder cancer, anal cancer, and cancer of the peritoneum, omentum, and mesentery.” HealthDay Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/12, Reinberg) also covered the story.

Cancer Researchers Advocate Updating Family Histories Often. The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/12, Roan) “Booster Shots” blog reported that when it comes to determining a person’s risk of cancer and need for screening, “family history needs to updated every five or 10 years,” according to a study Share to FacebookShare to Twitter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers “looked at thousands of adults with a personal or family history of cancer and found that many changes in one’s family history of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer occur between age 30 and 50,” and important changes could be missed if the patient’s family history is not updated accordingly. The blog entry also pointed out that “the frequency of cancer screening tests has become a topic of debate in recent years as medical experts try to balance the benefits of screening against the potential risks and costs.”

HealthDay Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/12, Mann) quoted Massachusetts General Hospital researcher Dianne M. Finkelstein, who recommended that “if anyone in your family gets cancer, you should know the age when they were diagnosed and the original site of the cancer,” since “this information changes the doctor’s strategy…and they may find any cancer earlier, which may change the outcome.”

MedPage Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/12, Smith) provided some details illustrating the changing family histories and risks as patients age. For instance, “At age 30, 2.1% of participants met the criteria for high-risk screening for colorectal cancer, compared with 7.1% at age 50. For breast cancer, the rates were 7.2% at age 30 and 11.4% at age 50. And for prostate cancer, the rates were 0.9% at 30 and 2% at age 50.” The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute.

WebMD Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/12, Boyle) reported that Finkelstein said that “after the age of 50 family history becomes less important because screening is recommended for everyone.”

US Adds 8 Chemicals to Carcinogen List

There are now eight new substances on the official U.S. list of toxins known to cause or suspected of causing cancer.

There are now 240 agents on the list, maintained by the National Toxicology Program (NTP). The NTP lists agents in two categories: those known to cause cancer, and those expected to be added to the “known carcinogen” list once there’s more scientific evidence.

It’s not possible to totally avoid exposure to carcinogens, says John Bucher, PhD, associate director of the NTP, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

“We are exposed to small levels of carcinogens every day: in drugs, in chemicals, in sunlight, in tanning beds, in tobacco smoke, over and over every day,” Bucher said at a news teleconference. “This report is just to allow people to have the information they need to make choices every day. Simply avoid using products containing these substances if you are uncomfortable with the risk.”

Most of the known risk comes from industrial exposures to workers at manufacturing plants. It’s not clear how much risk, if any, comes from the many consumer products that emit small amounts of these carcinogens.

Bucher says he’s not worried about his own daily exposures. “I probably won’t be making many changes,” he said.

New Carcinogens

The two new known carcinogens are aristolochic acids and formaldehyde.

Aristolochic acids are the active ingredient in a number of unsafe herbal remedies. The FDA has been warning Americans about these herbs since 2000. All herbal remedies suspected of containing aristolochic acid are banned in the U.S. and in Europe.

Formaldehyde is used to manufacture a wide range of products. The most common source of formaldehyde exposure is cigarette smoke. Cars and wood stoves give off formaldehyde, but most exposure comes from indoor air. New home finishing products and consumer goods such as some hair-smoothing/straightening products, cleaning agents, and glues may contain formaldehyde.

The six agents now “reasonably anticipated to be carcinogens” are:

  • Styrene, a compound used to make polystyrene. Although disposable cups made from polystyrene leach small amounts of styrene, Bucher says the amounts are very small.
  • Captafol, a fungicide once commonly used in agriculture but no longer produced after 1987 or used after 2006 in the U.S.
  • Cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder or hard metal form) is used to make hard-metal tools. The major source of exposure is from plants manufacturing such products.
  • Certain inhalable glass wool fibers used in air filters or as insulation. The type of glass wool used for insulation and filtration may be less dangerous than the special kind used for manufacturing.
  • O-nitrotoluene is used in the manufacture of dyes. Most exposures come from air or ground pollution.
  • Riddelliine is a plant compound found in a type of daisy found in the Western U.S. and in other parts of the world. It has been used accidentally in medicinal herbs and may contaminate the milk of cows that graze on the plants.

Listing of a substance as a carcinogen by the NTP does not limit its use. However, NTP determinations are used by agencies such as the FDA and OSHA as the basis for regulations.

~Daniel J. DeNoon

International Panel Of Experts Categorizes Cell Phones As “Possibly Carcinogenic.”

ABC World News (5/31, lead story, 3:10, Sawyer) reported, “An important new alert about the safety of cell phones and the possible risk of cancer, brain cancer in particular…comes from the World Health Organization.” NBC Nightly News (5/31, lead story, 3:10, Williams) reported, the WHO “statement labeling cell phones as a possible carcinogenic hazard comes from a panel of 31 scientists.”

According to the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Cheng), the statement was “issued in Lyon, France, on Tuesday by the International Agency for Research on Cancer” (IARC) after a “weeklong meeting” during which experts reviewed “possible links between cancer and the type of electromagnetic radiation found in cellphones, microwaves and radar.” The IARC classified cellphones in “category 2B, meaning they are possibly carcinogenic” to humans. The assessment now “goes to WHO and national health agencies for possible guidance on cellphone use.”

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Martin, Hobson, Subscription Publication) reports that the IARC working group did not conduct new research. Instead, the panel reviewed existing literature that focused on the health effects of radio frequency magnetic fields. Its findings are slated to be published July 1 in Lancet Oncology.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/31, Parker-Pope, Barringer, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog noted that the panel’s decision to “classify cellphones as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ was based largely on epidemiological data showing an increased risk among heavy cellphone users of a rare type of brain tumor called a glioma.” Most “major medical groups,” including the National Cancer Institute, have “said the existing data on cellphones and health has been reassuring.” Earlier this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association “reported on research Share to FacebookShare to Twitter from the National Institutes of Health, which found that less than an hour of cellphone use can speed up brain activity in the area closest to the phone antenna.”

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Roan, Gabler) reports that a 2010 study Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (pdf) published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found a “40% increase risk of gliomas for people who used a cellphone an average of 30 minutes a day over a 10-year period.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/31, Kresge) reported that the most recent research “considered dated to 2004, and exposure levels from handsets have dropped over time,” said IARC Working Group Chair Dr. Jonathan Samet from the University of Southern California. The age of the studies also means the participants “had used their phones for no more than 10 to 15 years, leaving open the question of the effect of longer-term exposure,” he noted. The CBS Evening News (5/31, lead story, 2:50, Smith) also covered the story.

 

Coffee May Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

Regular coffee consumption is associated with a striking decrease in fatal or metastatic prostate cancer, according to an analysis of long-term data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Kathryn M. Wilson, ScD, with the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues led the new study, reported online May 17 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

According to the researchers, coffee contains “diverse biologically active compounds that include caffeine, minerals, and phytochemicals.” They add that many studies suggest that long-term coffee drinking may be linked to improved glucose metabolism and insulin secretion.

Using data from the prospective Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the researchers analyzed information from 47,911 men who reported intake of regular and decaffeinated coffee first in 1986 and were observed every 4 years thereafter.

From 1986 to 2006, there were 5035 of the 47,911 men who had developed prostate cancer; of those, 642 patients had so-called lethal prostate cancers, defined as fatal or metastatic. The study participants overall consumed an average of 1.9 cups of coffee per day.

Among men drinking at least 6 cups per day, the adjusted risk for overall prostate cancer was 18% lower vs that in nondrinkers (relative risk [RR], 0.82; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.68 – 0.98; P linear trend = .10).

Notably, the risk was decreased by approximately 60% in this group vs nondrinkers (RR, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.22 – 0.75; P trend = .03) when only lethal forms of prostate cancer were considered.

The researchers also found that coffee consumption did not appear to be associated with a decreased risk for nonadvanced or low-grade cancers and only slightly correlated with a reduced risk for high-grade cancer.

However, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee appeared to decrease the risk for lethal prostate cancer. For each cup, the risk declined by approximately 6% for regular coffee (RR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.88 – 1.01; P = .08) and by roughly 9% for decaffeinated coffee (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.83 – 1.00; P = .05).

Men drinking at least 6 cups a day had an age-adjusted incidence of only 425 prostate cancers per 100,000 person-years vs 529 in those not consuming coffee. Likewise, the incidence of lethal prostate cancers was 34 vs 79 per 100,000 person-years in those drinking at least 6 cups vs nondrinkers, respectively.

“It is premature to recommend that men increase coffee intake to reduce advanced prostate cancer risk based on this single study,” Dr. Wilson and colleagues conclude. “In addition, the effects of coffee consumption on other aspects of health must be considered in making consumption recommendations,” they add. “However, our findings are potentially important, given the lack of identified modifiable risk factors for advanced prostate cancer.”

According to the researchers, coffee may provide as much as half of total antioxidant intake in many settings. Compounds in coffee that may affect cancer risk could include chlorogenic acids, which inhibit glucose absorption; quinides, the roasting products of chlorogenic acids; and lignans, phytoestrogens with potent antioxidant activity that may benefit glucose.

~Emma Hitt, PhD