Archive for October, 2011

Air pollution tied to lung cancer in non-smokers

October 29, 2011

Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, about one in 10 people who develop lung cancer have never smoked. Lung cancer in ‘never smokers’ is an important cancer. It’s the sixth leading cause of cancer. Previous estimates of how many non-smokers get lung cancer range from 14 to 21 out of every 100,000 women and five to 14 out of every 100,000 men. The fine particles in air pollution, which can irritate the lungs and cause inflammation, are thought to be a risk factor for lung cancer, but researchers had not clearly teased apart their impact from that of smoking.

Pollution levels in different locations ranged from a low of about six units to a high of 38. The levels dropped over time, however, from an average of 21 units in 1979 – 1983, to 14 units in 1999 – 2000, producing an overall average pollution level of 17 units across the study period. After the team took into account other cancer risk factors, such as second-hand smoke and radon exposure, they found that for every 10 extra units of air pollution exposure, a person’s risk of lung cancer rose by 15 to 27 percent. The increased risk for lung cancer associated with pollution is small in comparison to the 20-fold increased risk from smoking. Read more…


Aspirin cuts bowel cancer risk by up to two-thirds

October 28, 2011

Taking just two pills of aspirin a day can cut the risk of bowel cancer by almost two-thirds for those at the highest risk, research has found. Thousands of lives could be saved if people with a particular hereditary condition took aspirin daily, suggests the study. Scientists have described the results, published in The Lancet, as “the icing on the cake” after more than two decades of research into aspirin’s effect on cancer. Today’s study specifically looks at the preventative effect in those with a hereditary condition called Lynch Syndrome. Despite being present in only one in 1,000 people, it is responsible for one in 30 bowel cancers.

Cancer Research UK predicts the number will climb from about 298,000 in 2007 in 432,000 in 2030, which could “overwhelm NHS resources”. The biggest reason behind the rise is the ageing population, but changing lifestyles are also a factor. Cancers of the mouth, kidney and liver are forecast to be among the biggest risers, due in part to smoking and drinking. Read more…

Breast cancer screening review – risk, choice and reality

October 27, 2011

Most of us know someone who has had breast cancer. Some of us knew a woman who tragically died prematurely from the disease. All women, in theory, are at risk. But does that mean all women should have breast screening ? No matter what the service, it’s sensible to undertake reviews as we are constantly adding to our knowledge base in science and medicine. New evidence can come to light and existing advice should be reviewed in the light of the new evidence.

In the case of breast screening, the conflicting evidence for breast screening isn’t actually that new, it’s just taken a brave Professor to publicly flag up that there is an issue and allow the concept that breast screening must always be ‘a good thing’ to be challenged. Part of that issue is that the public haven’t been given all the information on what the different levels of risk are for breast cancer, the risks of having screening, and that screening is not the same as diagnosis. The need for a review was raised by an esteemed group of scientists at the Cochrane Collaboration, who produce research on the effectiveness of healthcare. Read more…

Three cups of coffee a day to help keep skin cancer away?

October 25, 2011

Drinking copious amounts of coffee may reduce the risk of the most common type of skin cancer, a new study finds.  Women in the study who drank more than three cups of coffee a day were 20 percent less likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, a slow-growing form of skin cancer, than those who drank less than one cup a month.

Men in the study who consumed more than three cups of coffee had a 9 percent reduction in their basal cell carcinoma risk. Drinking coffee did not reduce the risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, the study found. Basal cell carcinomas rarely spread to other parts of the body, and rarely return if they are promptly removed. However, any apparent health benefit that is found to come from our diet is a plus, the researchers say. Read more…

Research aims to understand the mechanisms of cancer.

October 24, 2011

CANCER RESEARCH is trying to forge ahead in two of the most common battles in treating breast cancer – the spread of cancer to other parts of the body and resistance to traditional treatments. In the early stages of the disease, the large majority of breast cancers use oestrogen to fuel their growth. The current treatments we have target this aspect with anti-hormone therapies and, as a result, has led to the extensive remissions we have witnessed in breast cancer patients over the past two decades. Unfortunately, more than a third of patients who initially responded to this treatment, will eventually develop what is known as endocrine-resistance as the disease progresses and will no longer be receptive to traditional anti-hormone therapies.

Cancer stem cells make up less than 1% of the tumour mass but are thought to represent a critical cell type that are res-ponsible for many of the aggressive features of cancer including metastasis and treatment resistance. The research teams have sought to identify this rare cell population in breast tumors and determine their significance. Their findings showed the expression pattern of specific stem cell markers in breast tumors can determine the path of the disease. Read more…

Lung cancer vaccine shows promise

October 22, 2011

A vaccine which triggers the immune system to attack the most common type of lung cancer has shown promise in early clinical trials, say researchers. Tests on 148 patients, reported in the Lancet Oncology, showed that adding the vaccine to chemotherapy slowed the cancer’s progression. However, its effect on overall survival was limited and further trials are now needed.

Vaccines for cancer use the same principles as vaccines against infection – training the body’s own immune system. However, instead of protecting against measles or seasonal flu, these vaccines attack tumours growing in the body. The idea is that when a cell becomes cancerous and divides uncontrollably, its starts to look different. Proteins on the surface of the cells change and the immune system can be trained to spot these changes. Read more…

Cancer warning over hormone levels

October 21, 2011

Raised levels of several hormones can triple the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women, a study has shown. Scientists looked at the combined effect of multiple sex and growth hormones on a woman’s cancer chances. They found that one hormone at higher than normal levels increased the breast cancer risk by 10% compared with having no elevated hormones. But the risk for women with five or six hormones at raised levels was doubled, while having seven or eight tripled the odds of getting cancer.

Levels of the growth hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) and c-peptide, a biomarker for insulin, were also measured. Insulin acts as a growth hormone as well as regulating the body’s use of sugar. Over a period of nine years, the scientists identified 320 post-menopausal women who were diagnosed with breast cancer and not on hormone-replacement therapy. Hormone levels in the cancer patients were matched against those of women who did not develop the disease. Read more…

Tooth-decay germs tied to bowel cancer.

October 19, 2011

A type of bacteria that cause dental decay and skin ulcers may also be linked to bowel cancer, say scientists who have found the bug in colon tumors. According to two research teams, which have discovered the pathogen ‘Fusobacterium’ in bowel cancer tumours, say it’s not yet clear if the bug might cause cancerous changes or whether it is just an incidental finding.

The two research studies looked at more than 100 samples of healthy and cancerous bowel tissue and found the presence of the bug. They discovered the link by analyzing genetic material in tumor samples. They then subtracted human genes from the mix. What remained were microbe genes.

Cancers of the liver, stomach and cervix have all been linked to microbes, he knew. And if there is one place in the body with a lot of microbes, it is the colon – microbial cells outnumber human cells there by a ratio of at least nine to one. Read more…


The new killer is breast cancer

October 18, 2011

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has predicted there will be around 1.5 million cancer patients in India by 2015, and most of them will suffer from breast cancer. Of 100 women with various cancers in Bangalore, 31.4% suffer from breast cancer. It has overtaken the number of cervical cancer cases, which initially affected a majority of women patients. As per ICMR figures (the last such study was done in 2008), the disease is on the rise at the rate of 3% every year. A decade ago, the figure in Bangalore was 16%, while it is 34.1% today.

“Approximately 2.5 lakh women with breast cancer are examined in India every year, of which at least 1 lakh are fresh cases. The reasons are urbanization, industrialization, changed lifestyle, unhealthy diet and other factors which lead to hormonal imbalance,” said Dr Anthony Pais, head of the Breast Cancer Unit and Women’s Oncology department, Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre at Narayana Hrudayalaya. Unfortunately, in India most women wait for the symptom of pain. “The average age for a woman to be diagnosed with breast cancer is about 47 years. There is a need to start checking once a woman touches 40. In 98% of the cases, the lump is painless, which is more dangerous,” said Dr Pais. Read more…

Lung Cancer Patients With Diabetes Live Longer Than Those Without

October 17, 2011

Lung cancer patients with diabetes tend to live longer than patients without diabetes, according to a new study  due to be published in the November issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology. The researchers did not offer an explanation for the tendency; they suggested it needs further investigation, and diabetes should not be considered as a reason to withhold standard cancer therapy.

The results showed that:

  • The 1-year survival rate for patients with lung cancer who also had diabetes was 43% compared to 28% for those without diabetes,
  • The 2-year survival rates were 19% and 11% respectively, and
  • The 3-year survival rates were 3% and 1% respectively.
  • When they adjusted for variables such as gender, age, stage of disease, the hazard ratio for survival in patients with lung cancer and diabetes mellitus was 0.55 (95% CI, 0.41-0.75), indicating that at a point in time, nearly twice as many lung cancer patients without diabetes died compared to those with diabetes.
The researchers concluded that:

“Patients with lung cancer with diabetes mellitus have an increased survival compared with those without diabetes mellitus.”  They also found that patients with diabetes had a lower rate of metastatic cancer, that is they were less likely to have tumors that had spread. At first they thought this might explain why the patients with diabetes survived longer, because most patients with lung cancer don’t die from the primary tumor but from the secondary tumors.

But, when they investigated further, things were not as straightforward as one might assume. It looks more like diabetes itself may be the important factor:

“… as we adjusted for stage of disease in our analyses this potential advantage can hardly explain the observed increased survival in patients with diabetes mellitus. In addition, increased survival in patients with diabetes mellitus was clearly demonstrated in the PEG study where all patients had advanced lung cancer.” Read more…