TOPICS. . . speaking of cancer . . .
What Causes Cancer? 7 Strange Cancer Claims Explained
Bras, deodorant, and mouthwash—just a few of the everyday products that have been linked to cancer at some point during the past several decades. Preposterous? Not at the time, and new suspects have been added to the list. The following slides reveal the real story behind ordinary household items that have come under scrutiny.
The link: Calorie watchers scored a win when diet sodas were introduced in the early 1950s. Then lab studies suggested that the sweetener cyclamate caused bladder cancer in rats, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned its use. Then saccharin, the replacement of choice, was also shown to cause tumors in rats. Although saccharin was never banned, all products containing the sweetener were required to carry a cancer warning on their packaging.
The reality: No evidence has since emerged that either cyclamate, which is used in other countries, or saccharin causes cancer in humans, according to the National Cancer Institute. Although cyclamate is still banned, saccharin was taken off the government’s list of possible carcinogens in 2000, the same year in which saccharin products shed the warning label. The sweetener aspartame has come under suspicion, but scientists have found no increased risk of cancer in humans.
The link: A handful of studies since the late ’70s have tied mouthwash that contains ethanol to oral cancer. Investigators theorize that it may make oral tissues more vulnerable to known carcinogens, such as those in cigarettes.
The reality: The evidence against mouthwash is weak, according to the American Dental Association. Studies don’t show, for example, that brands with higher alcohol content present a greater risk than those with lesser amounts. Mouthwash is safe when used as directed, says the ADA, which, depending on the product, may mean swishing once or twice daily and not swallowing. People who smoke, have a family history of oral cancer, or have other risk factors may want to choose alcohol-free brands to be on the safe side, the ADA says.
The link: Could these cholesterol-lowering drugs raise the risk of cancer? A 2007 study inspired this belief when researchers investigating the side effects of certain statins—lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin, and atorvastatin—found that participants taking high doses were more likely to be diagnosed with various cancers, including those of the breast, colon, and prostate.
The reality: A 2008 review of 15 clinical trials involving statins cast doubt on the initial results; low LDL cholesterol levels, the reviewers found, were associated with cancer, whether or not participants were taking statins, suggesting that cholesterol levels, not the drugs, were to blame. “This study should reassure those taking statins that they are not increasing their risk of cancer by trying to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” senior author Richard Karas of Boston’s Tufts University School of Medicine said in a statement. A separate review of research involving roughly 170,000 participants found no link between statins and cancer.
The link: In 1993, a man suing the manufacturer of his wife’s mobile phone claimed on Larry King Live that the device was responsible for her brain cancer. The broadcast provoked a public outcry, a rash of similar lawsuits, and millions of dollars poured into studying whether radio waves emitted by cell phones could be harmful.
The reality: The largest study to date, published in 2010, could neither confirm nor dismiss a connection between cell phones and cancer. Scientists tracked nearly 13,000 adults for a decade and found a slightly higher rate of one of four cancers—gliomas, a particularly aggressive variety of brain cancer—among frequent cell users. But cell users overall had a lower rate of the cancers than never-users. Participants gave their own estimates of how much time they spent talking, which may have muddied the results. Researchers have now embarked on an even larger study in Europe.
Antiperspirant and Deodorant
The link: A decade ago, an E-mail warning women that using antiperspirant could cause breast cancer went viral. Since then, some research has suggested that aluminum in antiperspirants and preservatives called parabens in both antiperspirants and deodorants mimic the hormone estrogen, which in high amounts can increase a woman’s breast cancer risk.
The reality: There is no evidence that antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer. Although a 2004 study heightened concern when researchers found parabens in breast cancer tissue samples, suggesting the chemicals may have caused the tumors, the investigators did not check for the presence of parabens in healthy tissue. Evidence suggests that 99 percent of us are exposed to parabens from numerous sources, including various cosmetics and foods, according to the American Cancer Society. Little evidence indicates they may be harmful. The organization says more study is needed to be certain that there is no risk. A 2002 study of hundreds of women with and without breast cancer, found no sign the antiperspirants or deodorants upped cancer risk.
The link: Women got a shock in 1995 when “Dressed to Kill,” written by a husband and wife team of medical anthropologists, alleged that those who regularly wore bras had a much higher risk of cancer than women who didn’t wear them. They theorized that bras promote the buildup of cancer-causing toxins in the breast.
The reality: Experts stress that a link between bras and breast cancer has never been proven. Considerable evidence points to other variables affecting a woman’s risk of breast cancer, such as weight, age, and family history. Women who don’t wear bras tend to weigh less or have less dense breast tissue, both of which reduce breast cancer risk. Those factors alone, according to the American Cancer Society, “would probably contribute to any perceived difference in risk.”
The link: In 2008 researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) revived concern of a hair dye-cancer connection after finding a pattern of bladder cancer in male hairdressers and barbers. They found too little evidence to say whether people who used the products every so often at home were also at risk.
The reality: The IARC finding was based on studies conducted at different times, so any increased risk could result from heavy exposure to chemicals that were discontinued decades ago after scientists discovered they caused cancer in rodents. It’s unclear whether the chemicals used in current dyes cause cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most evidence, however, does not support a link.
Complementary and alternative cancer treatment: Get the facts
It’s not unusual for you to want to explore complementary and alternative medicine if you have cancer — up to half of people with cancer will try these therapies. Standard cancer treatments often have significant side effects and may not be 100 percent effective. Especially if your cancer treatment is particularly difficult to endure or doesn’t promise you the results you desire, complementary and alternative medicine may appear to be an attractive treatment option. The longer you have cancer, the more likely you are to start searching for these other cancer treatment options.
But keep in mind as you research complementary and alternative medicine that some therapies may improve your quality of life and others, even if used correctly, can harm you. Approach complementary and alternative medicine with an open, yet cautious mind. Gather as much information as you can and discuss with your doctor any treatments you’re considering.
Complementary and alternative medicine marketed as cancer treatment
You’ll probably find advertisements that claim a particular complementary and alternative medicine product or therapy will cure your cancer. Don’t believe it. Complementary and alternative medicine can’t cure cancer. If it did, everyone would be using it. Even so, some people with cancer forgo conventional, proven cancer treatment and spend thousands of dollars trying questionable or ineffective therapy.
Giving up on conventional cancer treatment that has been proved repeatedly in clinical trials to help people with cancer can be risky and even deadly. Avoid alternative therapists who pressure you to give up the treatment your doctor recommends for a treatment that’s unproved. Your doctor can discuss with you the pros and cons of conventional therapy as well as which complementary and alternative therapies are safe to try for your particular situation.
Always tell your doctor before you begin taking any complementary and alternative medicine treatments. This is especially important if you’re currently taking chemotherapy. In some instances, combining complementary and alternative treatments with your chemotherapy regimen can cause great harm, either by rendering the chemotherapy ineffective or by increasing the side effects or toxic effects of the chemotherapy drugs.
Here’s a look at products and therapies that are often marketed as cancer treatments:
[Editor – See the full article here for the description and explanation of this author’s assessment for each of the following therapies and products.]
- Nutrition and herbs – Remember that natural doesn’t always mean safe.
- Antioxidant supplements – Some studies have reported that antioxidants may slow cancer growth in the test tube, but no proof exists that this occurs in humans.
- Alkaline diet – Won’t cure cancer.
- Essiac – Hasn’t been proved to have any effect on cancer.
- Laetrile (amygdalin) – Laetrile hasn’t been proved to work against cancer and has even caused several deaths.
- Macrobiotic diet – The macrobiotic diet is marketed for both prevention and treatment of cancer, though no proof exists that it does either.
- http://www-cgi.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/CM/00002.html – Sometimes requires you to take hundreds of pills a day. Too much of a vitamin can even be dangerous and can interfere with your cancer treatment.
- Mistletoe – Mistletoe extracts have been shown to kill some cancer cells in laboratory and animal experiments. Studies in people have had mixed results.
Proponents claim that detoxification treatments clear your body of harmful substances and stimulate your immune system to attack the cancer in your body. But detoxification therapy can be invasive and dangerous.
Most people with cancer have a functioning immune system, so the need to further stimulate it is unnecessary. And because cancer cells seem to hide from normal immune systems, stimulating your immune system won’t help your body fight off your cancer. Also, no evidence exists to support the theory that removing “harmful substances” affects cancer.[See the full article for explanations and descriptions of the items below.]
- Colon therapy -Treatment can cause infection and mineral and electrolyte imbalances that can be dangerous.
- Gerson therapy – The therapy requires that you consume 13 glasses of organic fruit and vegetable juice every day. Some people on this regimen report feeling more energetic, often due to the large amounts of caffeine absorbed through the colon as part of this therapy.
- Gonzalez treatment – The Gonzalez treatment is highly controversial but showed some promise in a small study. It’s currently being investigated in a larger study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.
Chemical and animal-based treatments
These treatments are based on chemicals or components that come from humans or animals.
[See the full article for descriptions and assessments]
- 714-X. This treatment is a solution of camphor, nitrogen, ammonium salts and ethanol. No scientific proof exists of 714-X’s effectiveness, and it isn’t available in the United States.
- Antineoplastons – Antineoplastons are isolated from horse urine and are taken orally or by injection. Trials of antineoplaston therapy haven’t shown any anti-cancer activity. Several more clinical trials of antineoplaston therapy are currently under way.
- Cancell (Entelev, Cantron, Jim’s Juice, Crocinic Acid) – Cancell is a dark brown liquid that is taken orally or rectally, or applied to your wrist or foot. Its manufacturers say it changes cancer cells so that your body recognizes them as foreign and eventually destroys them. No proof exists that these compounds cure cancer.
- Coenzyme Q10 – No definitive studies have shown that coenzyme Q10 has any effect on cancer. Some practitioners claim coenzyme Q10 protects your heart from damage caused by certain chemotherapy drugs, though research has yet to prove this claim.
- Oxygen therapy – Ozone gas can be mixed with water or air, and users usually drink or inhale the solution. Hydrogen peroxide is sometimes injected into a vein, though it can also be administered rectally. Oxygen therapy hasn’t been studied in people. Hydrogen peroxide bubbles in the blood can block blood flow and lead to death.
- Shark cartilage – The Food and Drug Administration found no conclusive evidence that shark cartilage works and recommends against using it as a cancer treatment.
Complementary and alternative medicine to ease side effects of cancer treatment
Most people with cancer who use complementary and alternative medicine don’t expect the treatments to cure their cancer. They may use complementary and alternative medicine to treat the pain associated with their cancer and control the side effects of treatment, such as nausea and weakness. Your doctor might recommend conventional medications or complementary and alternative medicine therapies, such as acupuncture or massage, for these signs and symptoms. These types of therapy aren’t specific to cancer and can treat pain and side effects of many other conditions, as well.
In general, these treatments aren’t invasive, making them safer than other complementary and alternative medicine treatments. Still, talk to your doctor about these types of therapy before using them.
- Acupuncture. In this treatment, tiny needles are inserted into your skin to stimulate your body’s natural energy, or qi (pronounced “che”). By restoring the natural flow of qi, acupuncture is supposed to help your body heal itself. Acupuncture has been effective in treating pain and nausea in some people with cancer.
- Aromatherapy. Proponents believe that fragrant oils from plants can affect your mood. About 40 oils are commonly used in aromatherapy. They can be smelled at home or at a spa, or applied as oil during a massage. Though little proof of its benefit exists, aromatherapy is said to help pain, depression and stress, and promote a general sense of well-being.
- Hypnotherapy. This relaxation method effectively relieves some chronic pain, and it may also reduce nausea and vomiting in people with cancer. Although you may look like you’re asleep during hypnosis, you actually go into a state of deep concentration. While you’re under hypnosis, your practitioner may suggest you focus on goals, such as controlling your pain and reducing your stress.
- Massage therapy. During a massage, your practitioner kneads your skin, muscles and tendons in an effort to relieve muscle tension and stress and promote relaxation. Several massage methods exist. If you’re currently receiving conventional chemotherapy, check with your doctor before undergoing massage. If you have a low platelet count because of chemotherapy, deep massage can cause bleeding or bruising. Certain types of massage and spinal manipulation can also be unsafe if the bones in your back or neck have been weakened by cancer.
- Therapeutic touch. Touch therapy practitioners claim to use their hands to transmit “energy forces” that can heal the energy force that runs through you. By moving their hands back and forth across your body, they claim to be able to locate and remove your energy force disturbances. Practitioners believe this reduces pain and encourages relaxation.
Many other types of complementary and alternative medicine are promoted for pain relief. They include homeopathy, reflexology, relaxation, spirituality, and art and music therapy. Read the entire article here.
Multivitamins Cut Cancer Risk in Men, Study Finds
By NORLEENA GULLETT, MD
It’s a decision that millions of Americans face every morning: to take, or not to take, that multivitamin. Now, a new study of almost 15,000 men over 50 suggests popping that daily supplement could cut cancer rates by 8 percent.
The study is good news for some Americans, who spend billions of dollars each year on the assumption that taking a daily multivitamin will help prevent disease.
“Despite the lack of definitive trial data regarding the benefits of multivitamins in the prevention of chronic disease, including cancer, many men and women take them for precisely this reason,” said Dr. Michael Gaziano, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Our study shows a modest but significant benefit in cancer prevention.”
“The reduction in total cancer risk in [the study] argues that the broader combination of low-dose vitamins and minerals contained in the [Centrum Silver®] multivitamin, rather than an emphasis on previously tested high-dose vitamins and mineral trials, may be paramount for cancer prevention,” said Gaziano.
“Clearly the notion of megadoses of isolated nutrients has been proven wrong again and again,” said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, who was not involved in the study. “Maybe the active ingredient in broccoli is broccoli.”
Information on Cancer Prevention
People often think there’s little they can do to prevent cancer. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, up to two thirds of all cancer cases could be prevented if people acted on everything known about cancer prevention. Committing to a healthier lifestyle will not guarantee you a cancer-free life, but it will reduce your risk. Here are eight steps to start you on your way:
- Make healthy food choices
- Keep physically active
- Stay tobacco free
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Protect yourself from the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Consider genetic counseling and testing
- Talk to your doctor about medicines that may prevent cancer
Follow screening guidelines
Cancer screening examinations are medical tests performed when you don’t have any symptoms—when you’re healthy. They help to ensure that cancers are identified at their earliest, most treatable, stages.
Take time to discuss your own cancer risks with your healthcare provider, who can best advise you on the screening exams and risk-reduction strategies that are right for you. Your healthcare provider can let you know about the benefits, limitations, and potential harms of cancer screening so you can make an informed decision about testing.
All women should be familiar with their breasts so that they will notice any changes and report them to their doctor without delay.
- Between the ages of 20 and 39: Clinical breast exam (an examination of your breasts by your doctor) every one to three years.
- Age 40 and older: Yearly mammograms and clinical breast exams, continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
- Beginning at age 50, men and women should follow one of the five examination schedules below. All positive tests should be followed up with colonoscopy.
- Colonoscopy every 10 years.
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT)—both of which are take-home tests—annually.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.
- Annual FOBT or FIT and flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years. Having both of these tests generally is recommended over either test alone.
- Double-contrast barium enema every five years.
Screening risks and benefits should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
- For men at increased risk: Annual digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test beginning at age 45. African-American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer are at increased risk
- For men at average risk: Annual DRE and PSA blood test beginning at age 50
- Beginning three years after initiating vaginal intercourse, but no later than age 21, liquid-based Pap test every two years
- Beginning at age 30 and depending on risk factors, liquid-based Pap test and human papilloma virus (HPV) test every three years
- Promptly show your doctor any:
- Suspicious skin area
- Non-healing sore
- Change in a mole or freckle.
Endometrial, Ovarian, and Lung cancer:
- Benefits of screening for individuals at average risk for these cancers have not yet been proven, and screening is therefore not recommended.
- For women with hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, annual endometrial biopsy is recommended beginning at age 35.
- For women with a hereditary ovarian cancer syndrome, annual or semi-annual:
- Pelvic exam
- CA125 blood test
- Transvaginal ultrasound (on the advice of your doctor)
Starting Chemotherapy: 15 Nutrition Tips
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
If you are undergoing chemotherapy, you want to stay as healthy and comfortable as possible during treatment. What you eat during treatment can make a big difference in helping you achieve that goal.
“Chemotherapy and radiation treatments place their own burdens on the nutrition system in addition to the cancer itself,” explains Charlie Pieterick, RN, MS, ARNP, a nurse practitioner with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
Everyone’s experience during chemotherapy is different, so WebMD offers a variety of nutrition and food tips to help you deal with unpleasant side effects.
Coping With Side Effects of Chemo
- Keep Food Tasty. Chemo can do a number on your taste buds, making certain foods and drinks taste metallic or unpleasant. Water and meat are the two most common items that become distasteful during chemo, says Cara Anselmo, clinical dietitian at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. If it becomes difficult to drink plain water, try drinking flavored mineral water or add sliced lemon to tap water. If certain meats become difficult to enjoy, try other sources of protein such as eggs, low-fat dairy, beans, and fish.
- Fight Constipation. While some people experience diarrhea with chemo, others deal with constipation. Keeping hydrated is important to help prevent constipation. Including all types of fiber in your diet also can be helpful. If you aren’t accustomed to large amounts of fiber, make sure to increase your fiber slowly. Getting some exercise — even just a 20-minute walk — can be a powerful intestinal stimulant.
- Manage Weight Gain. Some cancer patients tend to gain weight during treatment, says Jennifer Koorenny, MS, RD, oncology dietitian for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. She suggests low-fat meals, snacks, and lots of vegetables.
- Improve Your Appetite. Many people undergoing chemo find that their appetites suffer. Since carbohydrates are usually digested well, Erika Connor, RD, clinical dietitian for the Stanford Cancer Center, recommends trying snacks such as hot cereals, toast with peanut butter or other nut butter, or pita bread with hummus. Other foods to consider include yogurt and blended soups.
- Ease Diarrhea. If you are experiencing diarrhea, avoid greasy and fried foods, caffeine, sugary drinks and fruit juices, salad greens, raw produce, and sugar alcohols. Foods that are generally well-tolerated include oatmeal, most fruits without skin, sweet potatoes, and squash.
- Keep a Food and Symptom Diary. Write down what you eat and drink, and record any symptoms you experience daily. This will help you and your health care team identify what you are eating that may be causing nausea, constipation, or diarrhea. This way, medications and other dietary suggestions can be tried before problems escalate.
Staying Comfortable During Chemo
- Relieve Mouth Sores. Some types of chemotherapy can cause mouth sores, also known as oral mucositis. To encourage healing, avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and hot temperature foods. Keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Rinsing your mouth with salt water after meals may also be helpful.
- Stay Hydrated. Diarrhea and vomiting combined with low fluid intake can cause dehydration. Signs of dehydration may include a dry or sticky mouth, sunken eyes, low urine output (urine is dark yellow when it is concentrated), and an inability to produce tears. Drinking plenty of water can help you avoid dehydration.
- Control Nausea. Eating cool foods instead of warm foods, chewing on crystallized ginger, or sipping on peppermint or ginger tea can help discourage nausea. It’s also best to avoid greasy or fried foods and foods with strong odors.
- Eat Mini-Meals. Eating smaller sized meals tends to be tolerated better during the chemo process than larger, less frequent meals. Eating smaller, more frequent meals will help with nausea as well.
- Talk to a Dietitian. It may be helpful to meet with a registered dietitian, which is a food and nutrition expert. A dietitian can help you with the specific food and diet issues you are experiencing during cancer treatment.
Staying Healthy During Chemo
- Avoid Alcohol. During chemotherapy, be kind to your liver because it is helping to metabolize all the potential toxins in your bloodstream. According to Anselmo, alcohol can cause undue stress on the liver and make it harder for the liver to process chemo drugs. Alcohol can also make your nausea or other gastrointestinal side effects worsen and may interact with certain drugs that are given in conjunction with chemo.
- Watch Supplements. Dietitians in top cancer treatment centers across the country suggest not taking dietary supplements during chemo. These include vitamins, minerals, herbals, and botanicals. There are potential drug-nutrient interactions that can interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Talk to your doctor about taking any supplements when you are undergoing chemo.
- Limit Green Tea. Some physicians limit the amount of green and white tea consumed by patients who are undergoing chemo. Anselmo advises her patients to limit tea drinking to one or two mugs a day. Green and white teas are packed with antioxidant phytochemicals and may interfere with the desired effect of chemo.
- Ask Your Doctor About Soy-Based Foods. Before eating soy-based foods, check with your oncologist regarding your specific type of cancer or chemotherapy.
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