Update on cancer

Vitamin D reduces cancer risk

Results of a review of 63 studies came out recently showing intake of vitamin D decreased the risk of colon, breast, and ovarian cancer. This review included several large long term (38 years) researches confirming the value of vitamin D. The reviewers from the University of California at San Diego Moores Cancer Center stated that “there’s nothing that has this ability to prevent cancer.” Yogurt, fortified orange juice and cheeses contain around 100 international units of vitamin D per serving. Vitamin D capsule is also available as a supplement, and 1000 IU a day is recommended by the researchers who stated that this dose is within the safety guidelines established by the National Academy of Sciences. The reviewers suggested that deficiency in vitamin D may be responsible for several thousand premature deaths each year from ovarian, colon, breast, and other forms of cancer. I suggest consulting with your physician first before starting any regimen of medication or even food supplement.

Letrozole better for early breast cancer?

The US-FDA approved Femara (letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor) is an adjuvant for the treatment of early breast cancer. Clinical evidence showed that this new drug is superior to the popular old standby, tamoxifen, for the early stage of this disease. While both drugs lowered the risk of recurrent cancer of the breast, Femara decreased the risk of recurrence by an additional 19 percent compared to tamoxifen. Another aromatase inhibitor, Arimidex (anastrazole), was the first drug in this class to be approved by the FDA earlier for the same use.

Cervical cancer vaccine debate            

Every two minutes, around the world, a woman dies of cancer of the cervix, with an annual death toll of about 300,000, making this international killer the third leading cause of cancer deaths in women. In the United States, 20 million have cervical cancer, with 3000 deaths a year. In the Philippines, it is the second most common cancer in females, with 5000 new cases each year, with practically similar death rate as elsewhere.

In this column on November 7, 2005, we wrote about Gardasil, a wonder vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer that was scheduled to be approved by the US-FDA in 2006. It is 100% effective against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), so, the US government now wants to require its use among all students in grammar, middle and high school before they (boys or girls) become sexually active, because once they catch HPV infection, there is no cure; herpes is for life. Unfortunately, unlike love, herpes is forever. They could repeatedly spread HPV. And HPV is the precursor of cervical cancer. At least ten percent of girls with HPV will develop cancer of the cervix, sometime in their lifetime, even as early as in their twenties.

But more alarming than that is the fact that there are between 10,000 to 25,000 women walking around (not seen by physician) who have undiagnosed pre-invasive lesions in their cervix. The vaccine, which is genetically engineered, blocks infection caused by two of the more than 100 types of HPV, strains 16 and 18. These two sexually transmitted viruses are responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers. The other strains of the virus cause painful genital warts, and sometimes, cervical cancers too.

Prophylaxis Gardasil vaccination comprehensively eliminates HPV 16 and 18 associated non-invasive and invasive cervical cancer. The vaccine also cuts down infection with HPV 6 and 11, the causes of 90% of genital warts. This vaccine is in head-to-head competition with a rival (Cervarix) from GlaxoSmithKline, a UK-based company, which is awaiting approval. As the good old cliché goes “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

However, there are civil rights advocate groups in the United States who are objecting to mandatory vaccination, in spite of the proven 100% efficacy and safety of the vaccine. Historically, in similar situations in the past, hundreds of thousands of those who objected to receiving polio and the other vaccines, for religious or other reasons, came down with those devastating diseases that could have been prevented. Indeed, those were most unfortunate and unnecessary morbidities and deaths, rendering modern medical progress useless. Let us protect our children, and ourselves, with whatever new discoveries science brings to the world to improve health and longevity.

Exercise lowers cancer risk

The new cancer prevention guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society puts exercise in the limelight. The new recommendation says “at least 30 minutes a day of dedicated exercise, five or more days a week, above and beyond the usual physical activities of daily life, could significantly help to reduce cancer risk.” Most cancers are deadly, hence the extra work and “hardship” are truly worth the benefit. And, as is commonly known today, exercise also lowers the risk for diabetes, heart attack and stroke. These, in themselves, are great bonuses!

Vegetable, spices, nuts too

                Green leafy vegetables, multi-colored veggies, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, Brussel sprouts, all types of spices, from garlic, onions, peppers, turmeric, curry, and all other spices, nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc.), fruits (berries, citrus, avocados, etc.) are also antioxidants and anti-inflammatory food items that lower the risk for cancer. It is amazing how our mothers, and those of generations ago, had “forecasted” and advised their children that vegetables and those other listed above were good for us. Indeed, mother knows best.

Greatest cancer risks factors: FAT

            The three major risk factors for cancer are: Food (Processed foods, foods high in carbohydrates, soft drinks of any kind), Alcohol, and Tobacco. Acronym; FAT. Medical statistics show that these are the three major contributing factors (greater than 75 percent) in the formation of most cancers. To  a great extent, we can prevent the development of cancer by simple avoiding toxic substances and elements in our environment, including unhealthy food and drink, and by doing daily exercises, managing our stress, and in general, living a healthy lifestyle.

Endoscopy valuable

Detection of fecal blood (blood in stool), especially in adults, is a red tag for more studies to rule out cancer, especially of the colo-rectal cancer. But even the test of occult blood in the stools, it is still prudent for those above the age of 40 to have an esophagoscopy (especially among those with any gastric symptoms, GERD or others) and colonoscopy (especially for those with a history of colon polyps), at least for a baseline data for future reference. Today, these procedures use smaller caliber flexible fiber-optic scopes, fast and painless, and could be done under twilight (quick, 10-15 minute) anesthesia that relaxes and induces a restful sleep. Valuable, life-saving information could be obtained with these procedures.

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