Tag Archives: Cancer

Exercise improves mood for those with chronic illnesses

Reuters reports patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and back pain improve their mood by working out on a regular basis, according to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Continue reading

For women who imbibe, red wine may be healthier option

When it comes to the consumption of alcohol, the message has been decidedly mixed. Some studies show that moderate consumption might offer some health benefits, especially for the heart; other studies show an increased risk for certain cancers, especially breast cancer, with even the consumption of a very small amount of alcohol. What’s a woman to do? Continue reading

Three lifestyle changes significantly reduce cancer rates

In two previous blogs (“Thirty percent of breast cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes” and “Three Healthy Habits Cut Breast Cancer Risk, Study Finds“) I’ve discussed the association between cancer risk and lifestyle choices. Continue reading

Aspirin more effective at preventing cancer deaths than previously thought

In the advertisements for aspirin you see every day on TV and in magazines, they have for years called it a wonder drug. Now, more and more of us doctors are finding that is truly the case. In past blogs I’ve told you, “Low-dose aspirin reduces risk of developing and dying from colon cancer,” and “Single Dose of Aspirin Effective in Relieving Migraine Pain.” And, millions of people take 81 mg of aspirin every day for heart health.

Now, a new study in The Lancet indicates that “aspirin may be much more effective than anyone knew at helping prevent cancer deaths.”

The stunning finding came while researchers were studying 25,000 people taking daily aspirin to prevent heart disease. It turns out aspirin was doing something else, reducing the death rate from cancer as well.

In fact, in the trials where people have taken aspirin four, five, six, seven years on average, the risk of dying of cancer was reduced by about 25%.

So, you may ask, “Should everyone take low-dose aspirin?”

The American Cancer Society said no and that “it would be premature to recommend people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer,” considering that “even low dose aspirin can lead to dangerous internal bleeding. Still, evidence that it might help fight cancer is intriguing for doctors.”

Even so, in the Lancet study, daily aspirin use appeared to lower the risk of death from cancer by 21% in randomized trial participants. It’s important for me to point out that the findings, by themselves, do not prove that aspirin prevents cancer or even cancer death and that the role of aspirin as a chemoprevention agent needs clarification by further studies.

Nevertheless, researchers at Oxford reached the conclusion that a daily low-dose aspirin could significantly lower cancer deaths. They came to that conclusion after examining “the cancer death rates of 25,570 patients who had participated in eight different randomized controlled trials of aspirin that ended up to 20 years earlier,” the New York Times reports.

“Participants who had been assigned to the aspirin arms of the studies were 20 percent less likely after 20 years to have died of solid tumor cancers than those who had been in the comparison group taking dummy pills during the clinical trials, and their risk of gastrointestinal cancer death was 35 percent lower. The risk of lung cancer death was 30 percent lower, the risk of colorectal cancer death was 40 percent lower, and the risk of esophageal cancer death was 60 percent lower.”

Only “one-third of people in the analysis were women — not enough to calculate any estimates for breast cancer,” the AP points out.

And, “there appeared to be no benefit to taking more than 75 milligrams daily — roughly the amount in a European dose of baby aspirin and a bit less than the baby aspirin dose in the US.”

In addition, “aspirin was not found to [significantly] influence the risk of death from pancreatic, prostate, bladder, kidney, brain, or blood cancers,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

Yet, lead investigator Dr. Peter M. “Rothwell noted that most of the subjects stopped taking aspirin at the end of the study – or, alternatively, many in the control group began taking it — potentially confusing the results.” He added that “‘it’s likely that if people had carried on taking aspirin,’ the benefit would have been greater.”

Rothwell also said that “healthy middle-aged men and women may benefit the most from taking aspirin over a long period,” and medical guidelines “may be updated on the back of these results,” Bloomberg News reports.

Meanwhile, an 80-year-old expert at Cardiff University “who has published 300 research papers over 50 years” said, “The man on the street knows betting odds.” Peter Elwood, “who has been taking aspirin since 1974 and wasn’t involved in the study,” maintained that “people should ‘evaluate the risks for themselves.'”

But increasingly, my patients, when evaluating the risks and benefits of daily 81-mg aspirin, are choosing to take it.

Overall survival rate for children with cancer approximately 80%

The Wall Street Journal “Health Blog” reported that research published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates that the overall survival rate for children with cancer is now approximately 80%. This is GREAT news.

However, during the past 10-20 years, the five-year survival rates for most solid tumors in children and teenagers have not changed, but overall, we’re curing more childhood cancer than we ever have in the past.

Nevertheless, with many newer and more effective treatments available for kids, the researchers report that “when 1975 age-specific death rates for children are used as a baseline, approximately 38,000 childhood malignant cancer deaths were averted in the United States from 1975 through 2006 as a result of more effective treatments identified and applied during this period.”

The blog also included an interview with Eugenie Kleinerman, professor and head of pediatrics at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Increased spiritual support may be linked to higher quality of life in cancer patients

This headline is likely not news to most of the readers of this blog — or likely to most people. We all seem to know intuitively that terminal diagnoses cause people to begin to think about spiritaul and eternal issues. HealthDay reports, “Addressing the spiritual needs of someone with advanced cancer could be just as important as taking care of their medical needs.” This is based upon a study appearing in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study of 670 patients showed that 60 percent “said that their spiritual needs either hadn’t been met or were minimally supported,” even though patients ranked “pain control and being at peace with God” as the two most important factors “at the end of their lives.”

Patients who received “greater spiritual support from their medical team” said they had “a higher quality of life as they neared death.” Addressing the spiritual needs of someone with advanced cancer could be just as important as taking care of their medical needs, a new study suggests.

The take home for us healthcare professionals is that we all need to do a better job of taking a spiritual history on our cancer patients. In fact, the Joint Commission requires a spiritual history or assessment for all patients admitted to long-term care, home care, behavioral care, and hospital admission.

What should the assessment include? The Joint Commission says that it “should, at a minimum, determine the patient’s denomination, beliefs, and what spiritual practices are important to them.”

Why? They say, “This information would assist in determining the impact of spirituality, if any, on the care/services being provided and will identify if any further assessment is needed.”

The take home for the rest of us is to be sure that our family and friends who receive the diagnosis of cancer have the spiritual support upon which their health and well-being may depend.

The famous Johns Hopkins medical professor, Sir William Osler, writing in an editorial, titled “The Faith that Heals,” printed in the first edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ 1910;1:470-2), wrote, “Nothing in life is more wonderful than faith … the one great moving force which we can neither weigh in the balance nor test in the crucible …” He wrote that faith is”… mysterious, indefinable, known only by its effects, faith pours out an unfailing stream of energy while abating neither jot nor tittle of its potence …”

Psychotherapist Arthur Kornhaber said, in a 1992 interview published in Newsweek magazine, “To exclude God from a medical consultation is a form of malpractice … spirituality is wonder, joy and shouldn’t be left in the clinical closet.”

I was the chief author of a systematic review (Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2002;24(1):69-73) that concluded, “The current evidence would encourage physicians, health-care providers and systems to learn to assess their patients’ spiritual health and to provide indicated and desired spiritual intervention. Clinicians should not, without compelling data to the contrary, deprive their patients of the spiritual support and comfort upon which their hope, health, and well being may hinge.”

“This information would assist in determining the impact of spirituality, if any, on the care/services being provided and will identify if any further assessment is needed.

Here’s the HealthDay report:

When asked what was important to them at the end of their lives, people dying of cancer ranked two factors highest: pain control and being at peace with God, the study found.

“Medicine tends to focus on the more scientific aspects of the person, and we’ve made wonderful strides in improving patient care, but there’s another important component of patient health: spirituality,” explained Dr. Tracy Anne Balboni, a radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the study’s lead author. “This is clearly an area where some important advancements can be made.”

The researchers discovered that people with advanced cancer were far more likely to choose hospice care when their spiritual needs had been addressed. And among those who were very religious, meeting spiritual needs increased the odds that a terminal patient would choose to forgo aggressive, yet often unsuccessful, medical treatments, the study found.

However, at least six of 10 people with advanced cancer reported that their spiritual needs were only minimally or not at all supported.

The new study involved 670 people with advanced cancer from seven treatment centers in the Northeast and Texas. The final analysis included information from 343 people who later died and whose caregivers completed a post-death interview. The average time between the start of the study and the person’s death was 116 days.

For purposes of the study, spiritual care was defined as patient-perceived support of their spiritual needs by their medical team and the receipt of pastoral care services.

Most people (60 percent) said that their spiritual needs either hadn’t been met or were minimally supported at the start of the study, and 54 percent had not received pastoral care visits. In the final week of life, 73 percent of the participants received hospice care, and 17 percent received aggressive care.

Those who had greater spiritual support from their medical team, including doctors, nurses, chaplains and more, reported a higher quality of life as they neared death than did those who felt unsupported spiritually.

People who felt they were getting better spiritual support were 3½ times more likely to receive hospice care. And among highly religious people, those whose spiritual needs were supported were five times more likely to receive hospice care and five times less likely to receive aggressive medical care, the study reported.

“We found that patients whose spiritual needs were well-supported seemed to transition to hospice more frequently and had a marked reduction in the use of aggressive care,” Balboni said.

Yet despite the findings, said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center, “few people are getting their spiritual needs met by the medical system.”

“Many doctors are uncomfortable discussing spirituality and haven’t been trained to do so,” he said. “And churches have a role, too. Although it’s not a popular topic, churches need to talk about the end of life in the pulpit. People don’t know theologically what they’re supposed to do.”

Religious people, Koenig said, are often left to think they should always have hope and should always “give God a chance to provide a miracle.” Hospice care, though, can often provide spiritual guidance and help people prepare for death, he said.

Doctors don’t need to actually provide spiritual care, Koenig said, but it’s important for physicians to acknowledge their patients’ spiritual needs and make sure they’re addressed by pastoral care or hospice. “The doctor does have to be the one to orchestrate this,” he said.

But if someone’s spiritual needs are not being met, Koenig and Balboni agreed that the person — or a friend or family member — needs to speak up. And if the patient’s doctor doesn’t feel qualified to discuss end-of-life spiritual issues, the doctor should be able to refer you to someone who can.

In Lab Tests Vitamin D Shrinks Breast Cancer Cells

I’ve posted a number of blogs about the fact that vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency (low levels of serum vitamin D) is associated with a number of types of cancer, as well as diabetes and asthma, but now new research also shows that vitamin D can kill human cancer cells. The results of this new research fall far short of an immediate cancer cure, but they are encouraging, medical professionals say in a report from ABC News.

JoEllen Welsh, a researcher with the State University of New York at Albany, has studied the effects of vitamin D for 25 years. Part of her research involves taking human breast cancer cells and treating them with a potent form of vitamin D.

She reports that within a few days, half the cancer cells shriveled up and died. Welsh said the vitamin has the same effect as a drug used for breast cancer treatment.

“What happens is that vitamin D enters the cells and triggers the cell death process,” she told “Good Morning America.” “It’s similar to what we see when we treat cells with Tamoxifen,” a drug used to treat breast cancer.

The vitamin’s effects were even more dramatic on breast cancer cells injected into mice.

After several weeks of treatment, the cancer tumors in the mice shrank by an average of more than 50 percent. Some tumors disappeared.

Similar results have been achieved on colon and prostate cancer tumors in mice.

My sense is that, at least for now, you should NOT read too much into these laboratory studies as positive effects in a petri dish or in rats may not necessarily mean similar results in humans.

In addition, it’s also easier to treat cancer in mice than in people.

Nevertheless, it’s another reason either to consider either (1) having an inexpensive vitamin D level drawn during your next medical check up — so as to see if you levels are adequate or not, or (2) taking an inexpensive vitamin D supplement on a daily basis.

Here are some of my other blogs on vitamin D:

The Ten Commandments of Preventive Medicine – Part 6 – Alcohol

In my latest book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, I teach people how to utilize these ten essentials that are necessary to live a happy and highly healthy life. Under The Essential of Self-Care, teach what I call “The 10 Commandments of Preventive Medicine. Here’s the sixth installment of this ten-part series. Continue reading

The Ten Commandments of Preventive Medicine – Part 2 – Obesity

In my newest book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, I teach people how to utilize the ten essentials that are necessary to live a happy and highly healthy life. Under The Essential of Self-Care, I’ve developed a list of what I call “The 10 Commandments of Preventive Medicine.”  Here’s the second installment of this ten-part series.

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Chewing Tobacco No Safer Than Smoking

Tobacco users who think it’s safer to dip snuff or chew tobacco than smoke are dead wrong, researchers say. A study has found that taking one pinch of smokeless tobacco delivers the same amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as smoking five cigarettes.

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Four lifestyle choices reduce risk of chronic disease 80 percent

What an interesting new study. It concludes that to dramatically reduce your healthcare costs, to lengthen your life, to improve the quality of your life, and, in short, to have a happier and more highly healthy life, you need to “only” do four things.

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Researchers say tanning beds cause cancer and are as risky as tobacco or asbestos

The CBS Evening News reported, on July 28, that, according to a paper published online July 29 in The Lancet Oncology, tanning beds may “pose as big a risk as tobacco and asbestos.” Whoa!!! That’s a statement that got my attention.

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Routine Prostate Cancer Screenings Don’t Significantly Prevent Deaths, Research Shows

Two large, long-awaited studies have failed to produce convincing evidence that routine prostate cancer screening significantly reduces the chances of dying from the disease without putting men at risk for potentially dangerous and unnecessary treatment. Does this information surprise you as much as it seems to be surprising the news media and some doctors? It shouldn’t.

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Ironically, the most devout are the most likely to utilize death-to-the-end treatment

The New York Times reports, “Terminally ill cancer patients who drew comfort from religion were far more likely to seek aggressive, life-prolonging care in the week before they died than were less religious patients.” What does this story mean?

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Research suggests wine neither increases nor reduces breast cancer risk

In a recent blog I told you about a study of more than 1.2 million women in the UK that concluded that alcohol consumption may account for nearly 13% of all breast, liver, rectal, and upper digestive tract cancers in women. The study found that even relatively small amounts of alcohol appear to raise cancer risk. But, what about wine? Does it carry the same risk?

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Study indicates moderate alcohol consumption increases women’s risk of cancer

A study on more than 1.2 million women in the UK finds that alcohol consumption may account for nearly 13% of all breast, liver, rectal, and upper digestive tract cancers in women.  Even relatively small amounts of alcohol appear to raise cancer risk.  

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Specific vitamins and a supplement (B vitamins, vitamin D, and calcium) may lower risk of stroke, blindness, and cancer

In recent blogs I have discussed studies showing that multivitamins may not to be helpful for preventing chronic diseases: Are multivitamins helpful or harmful when it comes to preventing chronic diseases? and Report Casts Doubt On Routine Vitamin Supplements. Also, in past blogs I’ve discussed why you should consider vitamin D supplementation: Vitamin D deficiency and diseases linked; Lack of vitamin D raises death risk; and Vitamin D may protect against heart attack, just to name a few. 

However, there is evidence that specific vitamins may be helpful in some people. Today I want to tell you about two studies this week backing up my contention that a specific combination of B vitamins and calcium may be worthy of your consideration. 

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Are multivitamins helpful or harmful when it comes to preventing chronic diseases?

According to the LA Times, “a spate of high-profile studies published in the last few years shows that a variety of popular supplements — including calcium, selenium, and vitamins A, C and E — don’t do anything to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, or a variety of cancers.” And, the New York Times is reporting, “In the past few years, several high-quality studies have failed to show that extra vitamins, at least in pill form, help prevent chronic disease or prolong life.” But what about multivitamins? Are they helpful or harmful

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Warning: Childhood obesity may lead to ‘explosion’ of adult cancer

According to the new president of the European Society for Paediatric Oncology, the current generation of children faces a far higher risk of cancer later in life due to their unhealthy habits. Professor Kathy Pritchard-Jones said western countries should prepare for an “explosion” of weight-related cancers. And, she warns, the said governments should act now.

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Vitamin D may protect against heart attack


In yet another study of vitamin D, Reuters is reporting a study where scientists found that low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk for heart attack. 

Researchers studied medical records and blood samples from 454 men aged 40-75 who had either died from heart disease or who were alive but had a heart attack. Continue reading

CBS Report Casts Doubt On Routine Vitamin Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements are, of course, a staple of a lot of people’s lives. But a report from CBS News suggests that some are not only unnecessary, but could be dangerous.

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