March 04, 2012
By William C. Phelps, PhD
How did you feel the last time someone sneezed in the elevator? Whether it is the common cold or the seasonal flu, we know some illnesses are caused by infections with viruses or bacteria. But what if cancer could be caused by an infection?
Some cancers caused by viruses and bacteria
Although it is not widely realized, 15%-20% of cancers around the world are caused by infectious agents - viruses or bacteria. Fortunately for all of us, the infectious agents linked to cancer are not easily spread from person to person like the common cold virus. It turns out, even when many of these viruses and bacteria infect people, only a small subset will go on to develop cancer. In most cases, we still do not understand why certain people develop cancer and others do not - even though they were also infected. More...
February 09, 2012
By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD
Love is in the air - and not just because Valentine's Day is right around the corner. It's also National Heart Month - a time to show our hearts a little love, and do what we can to reduce our risk heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
Fortunately, there are things we can put in our cereal bowls, lunch boxes and dinner plates every day that can help reduce our own risk for developing heart disease. Not only that, a lot of these things can also be part of a healthy diet that can also reduce your risk of developing a variety of types of cancer. A two-for-one! Now who wouldn't love that? More...
January 10, 2012
By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD
Today, the American Cancer Society released its 2012 Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention. Based on sound science and strong evidence, our best advice to the general public to help reduce their risk of cancer through nutrition and physical activity is to:
- achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life
- adopt a physically active lifestyle
- consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods
- limit consumption if you drink alcoholic beverages
As a matter of fact, for the majority of us who don't smoke, these are the most important ways to reduce cancer risk. More...
December 06, 2011
By Mia M. Gaudet, PhD
Certain types of cancer often seem to run in families. Sometimes, it's because families share certain risk factors (like smoking) that can cause cancer. Other times, though, there is an inherited link - a slight difference in the genetic code that is passed down from generation to generation.
Only about 5% - 10% of all cancers are inherited. It's an important area of research because identifying genetic causes of cancer could help us understand who might need to be screened for a certain type of cancer more often, or take other steps to protect themselves from this disease. This is the first blog in a series where we'll explore what researchers have learned about some of the cancers that have a strong genetic link, and who might be candidates for genetic counseling and testing. Today we'll focus on breast cancer. More...
November 03, 2011
By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD
It may be time to jump on the "bran wagon," if you're not already on it.
In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers report that eating a high fiber diet reduces the risk of dying at an early age from a variety of causes, including heart disease, respiratory and infectious diseases, and among men, cancer.
During a 9-year study looking at diet and health, more than half a million AARP members between the ages of 50 and 71 completed a survey about their eating habits. Those who reported eating the most fiber (about 30 grams a day for men, and 26 grams a day for women) were 22% less likely to die from any cause during the study compared to those consuming the least amount (about 13 grams for men and 11 grams for women). More...
September 26, 2011
By Durado Brooks, MD
Has your doctor ever talked to you about collecting part of your bowel movement to be examined (referred to as a "stool test")? If you're anything like the patients I've treated, you recoiled in shock and horror! The idea just sounds disgusting, doesn't it? Without getting too technical, stool tests have what we doctors call a high YUCK factor. (No, it's not an acronym; it's what patients say when we ask them to do the test: "Are you kidding, doc? Yuck!")
But stool tests are one of the tried and true approaches to finding colorectal (colon) cancer early and saving lives. There are a number of different tests for colon cancer that are recommended by the American Cancer Society and other organizations, including colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and CT colonography (a special type of x-ray test, sometimes called "virtual colonoscopy"). But the fact is, out of all the tests that are recommended for colon cancer screening, stool tests actually have the strongest evidence that they save lives - a fact that most patients (and many doctors) don't appreciate. More...
September 01, 2011
By Debbie Saslow, PhD
For years, patients, doctors, and researchers have been trying to find a way to catch ovarian cancer early, when it's most treatable. For women, the chance of getting ovarian cancer is about 1 in 70. In most cases, the cancer is found at an advanced stage and survival is, sadly, quite low.
Most women get tested regularly for breast cancer and cervical cancer, and hopefully colorectal (colon) cancer. Why aren't they checked for ovarian cancer, too? Unfortunately we don't have tests like mammograms or Pap tests for the ovaries. Doctors often do a pelvic exam, which includes checking the ovaries, but this exam rarely finds ovarian tumors unless they have grown very large.
Some other tests, like the CA-125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound, have been studied to see if they can be used to test for ovarian cancer, but none have proven to be accurate enough to consistently find cancer. More...
August 16, 2011
By Marji McCullough, ScD, RD
Can popping vitamin pills prevent cancer? The simple answer is no, based on what we know so far. In fact, some vitamin supplements have even shown harm. What I'm talking about mostly are pills containing individual nutrients in amounts that are greater than that found in food. Before you stop reading, thinking this is simply another "just eat your vegetables" message, let me give you a little history.
Toward the end of the last century, scientists observed that people with healthy diets, and with higher levels of certain phytochemicals ("phyto" for plant) in their bloodstream, such as beta-carotene, had lower rates of cancer. But observations don't prove cause and effect.
So, after careful evaluation of promising dietary compounds, the scientists began planning randomized, placebo controlled clinical trials ("RCTs") with tens of thousands of healthy people to see if taking supplements of individual phytochemicals could actually prevent cancer. RCTs are considered by most to be the gold standard for proving something works. Most of the supplements tested were antioxidants, which are chemical compounds that combat "free radicals" in the body that can damage DNA and possibly lead to cancer. More...
July 26, 2011
By Debbie Saslow, PhD
Many people ask me about whether or not their daughters should get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can help prevent cervical cancer. As with all new vaccines, there has been some controversy. Some parents have been reluctant to get their daughters vaccinated before they are sexually active, yet this is precisely when the vaccine will be most effective. Others were concerned about safety; the HPV vaccines are extremely safe, based on tens of millions of doses distributed worldwide. There was also an initial push, generated by the manufacturer, to require HPV vaccination for middle school enrollment. To date only Virginia and Washington, D.C., have such a requirement.
To answer the question of whether to vaccinate, it helps to have some background:
In the United States, an estimated 12,200 cases of invasive cervical cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2010, with an estimated 4,210 deaths. But there have been fewer deaths over the past several decades due to cancer screening tests. That's great news. But we can reduce the number of people even getting cervical cancer by doing what we know works. More...
June 22, 2011
By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD
OK, admit it - you have no idea what current cigarette packs in the U.S. have to say about the dangers of tobacco use. I've been working in this field for nearly 30 years and I'm not really sure, either. And we're not alone - very few of us remember that they say things like "Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health" in very tiny letters and are virtually hidden on one side of the pack. More...