Cancer Watch - November-December 2004

Originally published in November-December 2004 icon

Cancer Watch eye

Colon cancer link to white bread?

Scientists in Oxford who followed 11,000 men and women for 17 years have shown that those who ate more than 15 slices of white bread per week had twice the risk of colorectal cancer.

Whilst this may be in some way due to refined carbohydrate (Ed: malted brown bread could be just as damaging), the findings may occur because people who eat lots of white bread have poorer diets anyway.

The scientists also found that there was no link to meat consumption, even though vegetarians were less likely to develop the disease.

Carcinogens in supermarket salmon

The UK Governments Veterinary Medicines Directorate have found traces of malachite green in salmon at Morrisons stores. The chemical, originally a dye for cotton, was historically used as a fungus and parasite irradicator.

The dye was banned from fish farms in June 2002 after US scientists showed the dye caused genetic mutations.

The EU recently threatened the UK with a ban on exported salmon because of chemical residues in farmed fish.

Ready washed salads, and chlorine

Fears that ready-to-eat packs of salad are potential health hazards, have arisen after the finding that the washing solution normally contains chlorine at over 25 times the level found in swimming pools! This aim is to kill bacteria.

Stanford Professor dubs PSA test almost useless

Professor Thomas Stamey of Stanford University Medical School has publicly stated what a number of experts have felt privately for years.

Whilst UK experts have been suggesting that as many as two thirds of men with high PSA readings merely had an enlarged, non-malignant prostate, Professor Stamey goes further. "The PSA era is over; it indicates nothing more than the size of the prostate".

Critics add that even after a high PSA reading and a biopsy which indicates cancer, there is still no real indication whether the cancer is fast or slow-growing. By far the majority are slow-growing and, only recently, the Royal Marsden confirmed that in at least 50 per cent of cases carefully monitored observation (active surveillance) was far preferable to surgery.

Prostate cancer may be managed by injection

After tests on animals, a team of scientists from Imperial College, London are hoping to move on to human trials, in three to five years for an anti-prostate cancer injection.

The injection, which is seen more as a holding operation than a cure, is a form of gene therapy which seeks to block the production of male hormones.

The genes are delivered by a virus which has been rendered harmless.

For many years high testosterone was thought to be the cause of prostate cancer, but last year studies in Australia and Singapore, previously reported in icon, suggested that both testosterone and the female hormone oestrogen were required. In August 2003 the M D Anderson Cancer Center showed that in fact it was the oestrogen that turned the safe testosterone into a highly active and dangerous hormone DHT.

Highest risk of breast cancer for tall girls

Researchers in Denmark who studied 117,000 women and published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine, have concluded that girls who put on a growth spurt between the ages of 8 and 14, subsequently have the highest risk of breast cancers. And they are blaming diet and particularly milk.

Recent finds have confirmed that milk consumption does increase the circulating levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) and is associated with higher stature.

The research concluded that the speed of growth between those ages have the greatest influence on the risk of breast cancer in adult life. Girls who were tallest by the age of 14, apparently had the highest risk.

Researchers stated that One would want to be born light, to grow slowly but steadily into a stubby, short child and to maintain ones fat mass until one reached menopause, at which point one would want to shed the pounds immediately.

Blood tests to predict ovarian cancer?

The Research Institute in Tampa, Florida has shown the presence of Lysophosphatidic Acid (LPA) in higher levels in women developing ovarian cancer. They have high hopes for a predictive test, since 90 per cent of women catching the disease in its earlier stages are successfully cured.

Broccoli and Brussels fight breast cancer

Doctor Keith Singletary and his team have shown that sulforaphane (SUL) found in brussel sprouts and broccoli can inhibit the development of breast cancer cells. Claiming it works in a similar way to breast cancer drugs, Dr Singletary is suggesting that somehow SUL triggers the release of certain enzymes that stop the cancer development very quickly.

CT scans in cancer fears

New evidence of a "substantial cancer risk" from CT scans is reported in the Lancet Oncology in October.

At Columbia University researchers have calculated that the radiation produced from an annual scan, risks a one in fifty chance of death. "The risks of full body CT scans are reasonably well quantified", confirms David Brenner.

Twenty per cent of mammogram readings are false positive

Reports from Norway over 20 years of screening show that 20 per cent of women will be recalled after false positive readings. These findings are "acceptable" say the authors of the research. (Ed: And what do our female readers think?).

Pyruvate Kinase can indicate colorectal cancer

New research from Germany seems to confirm what our own Doctor Julian Kenyon has been saying for some time: namely, that Pyruvate Kinase levels may be a good indicator of cancer activity.

Researchers for Giessen University Hospital found that patients with bowel cancer had significantly higher levels and are suggesting it as a screening marker.

SV40 virus debates continues

Recently we reported on fears of some sort of link between Simian Virus 40 and some cancers. Now researchers from the National Cancer Institute in the USA are saying that whilst SV40 did indeed contaminate vaccines in the 1950s and 60s in the USA, no link has been found with cancers in humans.

However, already Regis Vilchez from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston is saying their research was flawed. (Ed: apparently it didnt ape a real life situation).

Fruit and vegetable extract aids drug success

The British Journal of Cancer reports that Canadian scientists have found that using fumaric acid, an extract from natural foods, helped activate an enzyme which enhanced the activity of mitomycin C, a drug that is active against solid tumours in the bowel and bladder, but has side effects in higher doses.

The combined effect of drug and food extract allows much greater effect at lower doses.

"Drastic changes" ahead in US health body.

The Ethics Committee of The National Institute of Health in the USA has decided to make drastic changes to the way it operates following approaches and complaints by Congress. Apparently they are not too happy that an investigation revealed that over $2.5 million of pharmaceutical company money had been kept (and not-declared) as consulting fees by the NIH officials and scientists who oversee clinical drug trials and were more than a little worried about conflict of interest.

Tamoxifen ruled out for cancer prevention

A team of researchers at the University of North Carolina have concluded that tamoxifen should not be used in cases of prevention for breast cancer because the side effects for most women are too severe. (Archives of Internal Medicine). Some evidence of prevention was however found at the 6 to 8.3 per cent level, but side effects were felt to be relevant to 90 per cent of women.

Genetic test to help brain tumour drug

Temozolomide seems to have some effect with only a few glioblastomas patients. Now Dr Monika Hegi of the University Hospital Lausanne found that genetic testing may be able to point to who may or may not benefit. "Glioblastomas are a dreadful disease, without a cure", she said, adding that genetic testing may allow the drug to help some people live a little longer.

Vitamin pills do not stop cancer

The Lancet has covered a recent study by Dr Goran Bjelakovic in Copenhagen, Denmark. In this study 14 pieces of research were reviewed in conjunction with gastrointestinal cancers (including bowel, stomach and liver). Researchers looked at the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamins A, C and E and selenium.

No benefit for the vitamins was found, although there seemed merit in taking selenium.

Dr Richard Sullivan of Cancer Research cautioned people on the results because many people in the studies were smokers who have a higher risk of death from cancer anyway. (Bjelakovic had gone as far as saying that the combination of beta-carotene with vitamin A actually increased mortality by 30 per cent; and beta-carotene with vitamin E increased it by 10 per cent). (Ed: We side with Cancer Research UK on this one. Firstly, the research incorporated a disproportionate number of smokers and we know there is some negative effect of beta-carotene with smokers.

Secondly, the group finds no benefit in these antioxidants, although in our review of each of the separate vitamins we gave readers details of research studies showing benefits.

Thirdly, this research conflicts totally with the research in icon July/August 2004 from the USA where regular takers of multivitamins had a 35 per cent decrease in these types of cancer.

Probably the issue is "which vitamins?" Vitamin D, for example, is known to be beneficial for these cancers.

The Swedish group also recommended eating 5 lots of fruit and vegetables per day, yet nowhere in their research is that a conclusion. Worse, work in the Boston Nurses Study found the only vegetable of merit was garlic.

Medical professionals and patients should treat this study with extreme caution, especially as some of the press coverage has made rather inaccurate and sweeping statements.)

Cancer Watch - November-December 2004
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