Tag Archives: cancer

You Can Take Steps to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

Fear of breast cancer is widespread, yet many women don’t realize that adopting protective living habits may help keep it at bay. The habits described below may also help to ward off other life-threatening ills, like heart disease and diabetes.

Certainly, women have ample reason to worry about breast cancer. The disease is very common. One woman in eight in the United States will develop it in the course of a lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed, and 40,610 women will die from the disease.

Regular screening is touted as the most effective way to reduce breast cancer deaths, although experts continue to debate who should be screened, how often and at what ages. But not nearly enough is said about what women can do on their own to lower their risk of getting breast cancer in the first place.

One of the most important actions is an inaction: not smoking. The incidence of smoking has fallen significantly in the last half century, yet every day on the streets of New York I still see young women and teenage girls smoking. A decades-long study conducted among 102,098 women in Norway and Sweden found that, compared with nonsmokers, those who smoked 10 or more cigarettes a day for 20 or more years had a third higher risk of developing invasive breast cancer, and girls who started smoking before age 15 were nearly 50 percent more likely to get breast cancer.

An editorial in The Journal of Clinical Oncology last year stated that as many as 20,000 women in the United States continue to smoke even after a diagnosis of breast cancer. The authors, Dr. Barbara A. Parker and John P. Pierce of the University of California, San Diego, said breast cancer patients who quit smoking can add significantly to the benefits of postoperative chemotherapy and radiation.

Another important factor under personal control is weight. As body mass index, or B.M.I., rises, so does a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, especially if she carries much of her excess weight around her waist. That’s because abdominal fat is particularly metabolically active, producing growth factors and hormones, including estrogen, that can stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

 

‘Weekend Warriors’ Show Survival Benefits

Working out only on the weekends or otherwise compressing your total physical activity into one or two prolonged runs or a single vigorous basketball or soccer game each week could lessen your risks of dying prematurely almost as effectively as more frequent, shorter workouts spread throughout the week, according to an interesting new study of the so-called weekend warrior phenomenon.

As most of us have heard by now, the standard recommendation about how much exercise we should complete each week for health purposes is 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. Moderate exercise consists of activities like brisk walking or easy cycling that raise heart rates while still allowing us to talk to training partners, and vigorous activities are those like running, fast-paced cycling, and many team sports, including basketball and soccer, that raise heart rates into a zone where speaking is difficult.

Meeting these guidelines is associated with a substantially reduced risk of developing a wide range of diseases and dying too young.

The guidelines also suggest that, for practical purposes, people consider breaking the 150 minutes into five moderate 30-minute sessions each week or a comparable number of shorter, more vigorous workouts.

But many people apparently do not have the time or inclination to exercise five times per week. About a third of American adults engage in zero weekly exercise and others pack their workouts into one or two sessions on Saturday or Sunday, when they have more free time.

There has been little information, though, about whether the weekend warrior pattern of exercise lowers the risk for premature death as effectively as more frequent and generally shorter workouts.

So for the new study, which was published on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at Loughborough University in England and other institutions decided to delve into the exercise routines of tens of thousands of men and women already participating in the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Exercise Tied to Lower Risk for 13 Types of Cancer

Anyone who still needs motivation to move more may find it in a new study showing that, in addition to its other health benefits, exercise appears to substantially reduce the risk of developing 13 different varieties of cancer. That is far more types than scientists previously thought might be impacted by exercise. The comprehensive study also suggests that the potential cancer-fighting benefits of exercise seem to hold true even if someone is overweight.

The idea that exercise might change someone’s susceptibility to cancer is, of course, not new. Many studies have found that people who are physically active, either through exercise or while on the job, tend to be less likely to develop certain types of cancer than people who are sedentary.

But those studies primarily looked at associations between exercise and a few common malignancies, such as breast cancer in women, and colon and lung cancers in both women and men.

Whether physical activity, and more precisely, regular exercise, would also lower our risk for other cancers has remained an open question.

So for the new study, which was published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine, scientists with the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, as well as Harvard Medical School, and a number of other institutions around the world turned to a large trove of epidemiological health studies conducted in the United States or Europe.

To gain sufficient numbers now, the Cancer Institute researchers gathered data from 12 large-scale studies that, pooled together, involved 1.44 million men and women.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Fasting Diets Are Gaining Acceptance

Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging in Maryland, has not had breakfast in 35 years. Most days he practices a form of fasting — skipping lunch, taking a midafternoon run, and then eating all of his daily calories (about 2,000) in a six-hour window starting in the afternoon.

“Once you get used to it, it’s not a big deal,” said Dr. Mattson, chief of the institute’s laboratory of neurosciences. “I’m not hungry at all in the morning, and this is other people’s experience as well. It’s just a matter of getting adapted to it.”

In a culture in which it’s customary to eat three large meals a day while snacking from morning to midnight, the idea of regularly skipping meals may sound extreme. But in recent years intermittent fasting has been gaining popular attention and scientific endorsement.

It has been promoted in best-selling books and endorsed by celebrities like the actors Hugh Jackman and Benedict Cumberbatch. The late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel claims that for the past two years he has followed an intermittent fasting program known as the 5:2 diet, which entails normal eating for five days and fasting for two — a practice Mr. Kimmel credits for his significant weight loss.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

 

Organization of Economic Research and Development to Measure the ACA

Research by the Organization of Economic Research and Development has gathered 15 years of data on diseases to measure the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act.

Charting the numbers number of deaths from diseases that could have been prevented if the patient had access to appropriate health care, called the “amenable mortality” rate, shows that the United States is far behind European nations.

These diseases — like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers — are tracked because early treatment significantly increases the likelihood of survival.

Nearly 20 years ago, the United States was closer to the middle of the pack, but other countries, like Ireland and South Korea, sharply improved their rates by 2007, according to the most recent data available from the Organization for Economic Research and Development.

The rate of improvement in the United States was 14 percent, the lowest of all countries surveyed.

In the Organization of Economic Research and Development survey, some countries that started with high amenable mortality, like the Czech Republic and Poland, had great improvement in their rates. Seven countries improved their rates to pass the United States, which is now on par with countries like Chile and Portugal.

The rate of uninsured Americans has crept up since 1999, a trend that may change with more than eight million people enrolled in health care plans under the Affordable Care Act by mid-April. Researchers will use these mortality rates as one measure of the success of this expansion in health care.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary

President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary