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The Cancer Project: The News You Need

Flaxseed and Prostate Health

North Carolina researchers enlisted 25 men with prostate cancer to test whether a low-fat, high-fiber diet with daily flaxseed supplementation (30 grams per day) for 21 to 77 days would affect certain blood biomarkers that indicate risks for cancer progression. Significant decreases were seen in levels of total serum cholesterol, testosterone, and prostate-specific antigen, a marker of activity in prostate cells. The longer participants were on the diet, the healthier these levels became.

Demark-Wahnefried W, Price DT, Polascik TJ, et al. Pilot study of dietary fat restriction and flaxseed supplementation in men with prostate cancer before surgery: exploring the effects on hormonal levels, prostate-specific antigen, and histopathologic features. Urology. 2001;58:47-52.

Kids and Cancer Protection

Overweight children are likely to become overweight adults, increasing their odds of developing cancer. A new study suggests that restaurant meals are a major culprit in America's obesity epidemic.

University of California researchers studied 800 children, aged 7 to 17, and found they generally consumed 31 percent of calories from fat and 11 percent from saturated fat. These figures are much higher than those in Asia, where populations are both slimmer and healthier, but are only slightly above U.S. government recommendations for good health and weight maintenance. They ate most of these high-fat meals when dining out.

Today's youngsters are facing high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes as well, complications of overweight once heard of only in adults. Researchers encourage eating more home-cooked meals made of whole grains, such as rice, pasta, or even veggieburgers; eating plenty of vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and carrots; including a variety of beans in soups, burritos, or dips; and having fresh fruits on hand for snacking. Less time watching television and more time in physical activities are important as well.

Zoumas-Morse C, Rock CL, Sobo EJ, Neuhouser ML. Children's patterns of macronutrient intake and associations with restaurant and home eating. J Am Diet Assoc. 2001;101:923-925.

Estrogen May Boost Lung Cancer Risk

Women develop lung cancer more often than men, even when they smoke the same number of cigarettes. The sex hormone estrogen may be the reason.

University of Pittsburgh researcher Jill Siegfried, Ph.D., found that women exposed to less estrogen throughout life, such as those who experience early menopause, have less than average risk for the disease. Women who take hormonal drugs have higher risk. It is believed that estrogen strengthens the effects of carcinogens, such as those in environmental pollutants and tobacco smoke and speeds lung cell growth, which may drive cancer.

All women smokers should make quitting a top health priority and minimize estrogen excess by avoiding hormonal therapies and eating a healthy, vegan diet.

The Lancet Oncology, August 2001.

Alcohol May Trigger Colon Cancer Gene Mutation

University of Utah researchers have found an association between longtime alcohol use and a genetic defect linked to colon cancer. Individuals in the study who drank an average of 7.5 ounces of wine, 35 ounces of beer, or 3.75 ounces of hard liquor per week over 20 years were 60 percent more likely to develop a colon tumor with the defect, called microsatellite instability, than to develop a tumor without it. Smoking added even greater risks.

The findings suggest that alcohol may damage DNA and, most importantly, that lifestyle factors can trigger genetic changes once thought to be simply determined at birth.

Slattery ML, Anderson K, Curtin K, Ma KN, Schaffer D, Samowitz W. Dietary intake and microsatellite instability in colon tumors. Int J Cancer. 2001;93:601-607.

Endometrial Cancer Deaths Rise Sharply

Endometrial cancer, which occurs in the lining of the uterus, is the most common malignancy of the female reproductive system. While the number of new cases diagnosed yearly has risen 10 percent since 1987, the number of women who die from the disease has increased 128 percent over the same period.

Experts say the puzzling statistics may be partly explained by the fact that there are two types of endometrial cancer. Type I is related to estrogen levels, which can be elevated in people who are overweight or are on hormone therapy or fatty diets, and is responsive to treatment. Type II is biologically different and more difficult to treat, which may be reflected in the statistical findings. Karl Podratz, M.D., of the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, urge women with abnormal peri-menopausal or post-menopausal bleeding to visit a gynecologist.

EPIC Study Confirms Diet's Protective Effects

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study is the largest examination of the diet-cancer link ever undertaken, with more than 500,000 subjects in ten European countries. Findings include:

  • Greater levels of vitamin C were associated with lower rates of heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
  • Greater fruit and vegetable intake was associated with lower rates of colon and digestive tract cancers (and possibly stomach and lung cancers).
  • Alcohol and tobacco use was associated with upper digestive tract cancer.
  • Preserved meats (bacon, cured ham, salami, corned beef, and pastrami) were clearly linked with colon cancer.

EPIC researchers, presenting at the European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer in Lyon, France, also found cancer chemicals in beef to be as dangerous as those in tobacco smoke. In the laboratory, they found the greatest concentrations of N-Nitroso compounds—many of which are cancer causing—in the volunteers who consumed the most red meat. Some concentrations were equal to those found in tobacco smoke.

The High Price of Dry Cleaning

Although they were met with opposition by more than 400 Los Angeles-area dry cleaners, city officials are trying to phase out their use of perchloroethylene or "perc" because it is a likely human carcinogen and is linked to chronic kidney, liver, and gastrointestinal problems. City dry cleaners say new equipment has allowed them to reduce their use of perc by 90 percent. A few dozen operations have already begun using alternatives such as petroleum-based solvents, liquid carbon dioxide, or computer-controlled "wet cleaning," however, these methods can be expensive and create toxic by-products of their own.


Winter 2002 (Volume XI, Number 1)
Winter 2002
Volume XI
Number 1

Good Medicine

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