Cancer Watch - February 2004

Originally published in February 2004 icon, CANCER WATCH

Cancer Watch eye

Formaldehyde link to leukaemia

In the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2003,95) researchers reported that factory workers exposed to formaldehyde have a higher risk of death from leukaemia and particularly myeloid leukaemia. The study, conducted by Michael Hauptmann of NCI Bethesda, followed 25619 workers involved with formaldehyde itself, plastics, photographic film and plywood.

Meanwhile David Coggon from Southampton University, UK linked formaldehyde with higher lung Cancer rates.

(Ed: Formaldehyde is denoted by over 40 names in a whole host of toiletry and cosmetic products. We have advised readers previously to seek out a non-toxic supplier of such products).

Ginger may prevent cancer!

Ann Bode and her team at The University of Minnesota have produced evidence that ginger may prevent cancer. After feeding mice with ginger (yes really!) three times per week for two weeks, they were then injected with cancer cells. The ones on ginger developed fewer tumours than those on the placebo. And the tumours grew more slowly.

(Ed ~ Fresh ginger with lemon and honey is a very refreshing start to the day when used as an infusion).

Breast conserving surgery risks

Researchers report (Ann Oncol 2003;14) that young women who choose lumpectomy as a treatment for breast cancer have a higher risk of recurrence than those choosing full mastectomy. Whilst the risk was five times less in the first five years after the initial operation, it rose to 12 times more after five years in women who had only a lumpectomy.

There was no difference in metastasis levels, or in survival rates.

Early diagnosis vital in Breast Cancer

The USA has 5-year survival rates of 89 per cent whilst Europe has 79 per cent (and the UK is below this). The question is, "why?" Michael Coleman of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed 4478 women with breast cancer in Europe against 13,182 such women in the USA.

He concluded that 41 per cent of women were identified as early stage" in the USA, but only 29 per cent in Europe, and that early treatment improves survival rates. In Europe we are especially bad at examining the over 65s where 43 per cent were early stage in the USA but only 25 per cent were so in Europe.

He called on Europe’s Health Ministers to provide more money for early diagnosis.

(Ed: What women really want -certainly from talking to them up and down Britain recently - is a safe yet effective testing system. The fact is that the average UK lady simply doesn’t trust mammography and truly fears an annual dose of radiation).

King’s Fund Think Tank criticises Pharmaceutical companies in cancer?

Anthony Harrison in Getting the Right Medicines? is absolutely clear. ’Research to protect and promote health is attracting far fewer resources than research to find new, profitable drugs".

The important report from the King’s Fund Think Tank is very critical of pharmaceutical companies and the current system of research in the UK. For example:

Many treatments and therapies go untested because it is not in the interests of the drugs industry to fund the clinical research. Drugs companies are not made to test their drugs against known alternative risks - e.g. aspirin and colon cancer.

The report further stated that the Government had allowed drug companies to put financial gain before the health of consumers. It called for a task force to be created to consider how to "compel companies to do trials in the interest of the wider community" and stated that the amount of public money for clinical trials should be increased.

(Ed; At icon we are very concerned that proper research into natural products to fight brain tumours, or clinical studies on the ability of selenium and soya isoflavones to improve radiotherapy success rates are just not finding funding. We note that Professor Julian Peto of Oxford University and Cancer Research, in his speech to the cancer carers’ association, was adamant that too much drug related research was swamping doctors and preventing them exploring their own cancer beating ideas - many of which did not draw reliable funding.

We call on the Government to change the system. We believe that pharmaceutical companies should not fund clinical trials directly Instead a levy should be drawn from all of them into a central fund administered by a new division of the (VHS. This unit could then examine research proposals from doctors, professors and scientists and allocate funds accordingly Money would then be available for non-drug or causal research. The link between pharmaceutical company charity and researchers would then be broken and along with it would go the concerns that research results may be rewritten or biased. The funding must be separated from the researchers, who should not have to feel that if they report bad results they may lose a source of future income. A major reappraisal and step change in the system is essential and long overdue.)

X-rays of the head may cause harm

Children who have x-rays on their heads, for example a CT scan after a shock to the head, can suffer intellectual impairment, a Swedish research report claims.

A team from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm working with teams from Harvard and Athens followed more than 3000 children who had had radiation treatment, Children who had the highest doses of radiation were only half as likely to achieve a place in high school as the norm, and scored less well on IQ tests.

The researchers concluded that Computed Tomography Scans and their use on the brain needed to be reviewed.

(Ed: In 50 years time we will look back on the widespread uses of x-rays with horror).

US vaccine for pancreatic cancer

Although no one seems to know what causes pancreatic cancer, maybe a cure is coming for some sufferers. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer are hard to diagnose until it is well advanced. Smokers are two to three times more likely to develop it, and the disease is very fast acting.

Now doctors at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York have managed to keep three out of ten patients alive in a pilot study. Doctors took proteins from the cancer itself after surgery and modified them through "heat shock". These were then re-injected in order to boost the immune system response. Doctors feel it will five years before such a vaccine-programme, which is tailor-made, could be widely available.

Dr. Philippa Darbre - parabens, anti-perspirant chemical in breast cancer tissue

Regular Icon readers will not have been shocked by last month’s deodorant stories on TV news bulletins and in newspapers. We have highlighted the danger of some deodorants for a long time, and listed parabens as one of the 15 chemical baddies to evict from your bathrooms (Toxic Toiletries, May 2003). Now scientists have new evidence on the dangers of the chemical preservative and have urged women to cut down or stop using deodorants after parabens were found in breast cancer tumours.

Dr. Philippa Darbre, a breast cancer specialist at the University of Reading, reported that her team analysed samples of breast tumours from 20 women. They found parabens in all but two of the samples in a form that suggested they had probably been absorbed through the skin. Thk is the first study to confirm that they can be absorbed in human tissue. Dr. Darbre now plans to test non-cancerous human breast tissue for traces of parabens to see whether the levels found in tumours were significantly higher.

"I used anti-perspirants myself until eight years ago, but never use them now and wonder why I did," she said. "Some women may never have any problems, but women with genetic histories of breast cancer may be extra sensitive to these chemicals."

As many men have only really started using deodorants regularly in the last 20-30 years, could this be one reason why more men are being diagnosed with breast cancer?

Dr. Richard Sullivan from Cancer Research UK said, "No causal relationship has been found between underarm cosmetics containing parabens. Should any notional risk exist it would be insignificant compared to other avoidable environmental risks such as obesity."

Predictably, the cosmetic manufacturers (the UK market is worth 400 million) said there was no proof and called for further research.

Why wait? Change to a safer deodorant now. While you’re checking, look for one without aluminium as well, as that has been linked to Alzheimer’s.

Call Icon on 07280 815166 for more product information.

Cancer Watch - March-April 2004
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