Tag Archive for CancerPrevention

Alcohol and breast cancer: What’s the risk?

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For many women who enjoy a glass of wine, research showing that relatively small amounts of alcohol can raise their risk of breast cancer are disconcerting, to say the least. And confusing, too.

How much drinking is OK? Isn’t a glass of red wine a day good for your heart — and couldn’t that be more important?

In the past five or 10 years, knowledge about alcohol and breast cancer has been changing as studies produce new results and are publicized, sometimes over-dramatically, in the media. At the same time, there’s growing evidence that moderate drinking can be healthy for the heart.
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Tips to protect your skin in winter

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Sunscreen shouldn’t be packed away just because it’s winter. Your skin can be exposed to harmful rays all year long. So before you hit the slopes, build a snowman, or head off to a tropical beach, take time to protect yourself, say skin cancer specialists at Dana-Farber.

According to the American Cancer Society, snow, ice, and water can all reflect the ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn, which in turn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Some experts say winter sports enthusiasts face just as much risk of getting sunburn as summer sunbathers. Read more

Obesity and cancer: What’s the link?

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There are a lot of good reasons not to gain too much weight, but you might not be aware of this one: Growing evidence links obesity to a higher risk of developing cancer, and being overweight may worsen a cancer patient’s outlook.

Although more and more studies are finding this connection, scientists haven’t uncovered the biological mechanisms by which excess pounds make normal cells more likely to turn cancerous. But they are pursuing a large number of leads, some of which may uncover new ways of fighting cancer – including losing weight.

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HPV linked to head and neck cancer

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Traditionally, patients with oral cancers tended to be older individuals with a long history of smoking and heavy alcohol use. In the past decade, however, that picture has changed dramatically.

Today, infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer in the U.S. and Western Europe. Oropharyngeal cancers affect the back of the throat (i.e. the tonsils and base of the tongue). HPV is the same virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer in women.

Patients with HPV-related head and neck cancers are often relatively young, not heavy drinkers or smokers, and come from all segments of society.

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The benefits of vitamin D

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Activated by sunlight and present in some foods and supplements, vitamin D has been associated with healthy bones and reducing the risk of diabetes and cancer.

But a new study says that the recommended dose of vitamin D needed to reap these health benefits remains unclear. To help shed some light on the topic, we talked to Dana-Farber’s Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, who has been studying the connection between cancer and vitamin D use, as well as other lifestyle factors.

What is the connection between cancer and vitamin D?

There is a large amount of scientific and observational data that links higher blood levels of vitamin D with a decreased risk of developing cancer, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer. It has also been found to improve cancer survival.

How do I know if I’m getting enough vitamin D?

Physicians can use a blood test, called a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, to measure how much of the nutrient is in the body. While many consider a vitamin D level of around 30 ng/ml or higher sufficient, we’ve found that the protective effects come from 35-40 ng/ml.

What is the recommended vitamin D dose for an adult?

The Institute of Medicine recommends between 600 – 800 IU. We don’t know what the optimal doses of vitamin D are for cancer prevention and treatment, although we suspect that they’re much higher than this recommendation. It is important to ask your doctor about how much vitamin D is best for you.

Is it better to get vitamin D from a pill or other sources?

Supplements are the best way to take vitamin D. Diet accounts for only 20 percent of vitamin D. A glass of fortified milk, for example, only contains 100 IU of vitamin D and isn’t enough to raise your blood levels. And while spending 10 minutes in the sun without sunblock provides 20,000 IU of vitamin D, there are other health risks to consider, like skin cancer.

Learn more about cancer and vitamin D deficiency.

Are there any vitamin D and cancer clinical trials?

We hope to begin enrolling metastatic colorectal cancer patients in early 2012 for a clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of high doses of vitamin D in combination with chemotherapy. We will be comparing the differences between a standard dose of 400 IU of vitamin D3 with chemotherapy, versus a higher dose of 8,000 IU of vitamin D3 for two weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 4,000 IU vitamin D3 with chemotherapy.

 

Breast cancer specialist discusses treatment advances

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Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, a Dana-Farber breast cancer specialist, discusses some of the important studies presented at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The five-day meeting includes more than 1,000 scientific presentations, seminars, and posters, with a focus on emerging treatments in hard-to-treat populations, patients with metastatic breast cancer, and breast cancer prevention and risk.

Around 8,000 breast cancer experts from 90 countries are attending the symposium to learn about the latest developments in breast cancer care and research.