Alcohol, Folic Acid, and Breast Cancer Risk





 

A new study shows that both regular alcohol intake and decreased folic acid intake significantly increase breast cancer risk.


 

 

 

ALCOHOL, FOLIC ACID, AND BREAST CANCER RISK

As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, alcohol is an underappreciated risk factor for multiple types of cancer, including breast cancer.  (As little as one alcoholic drink per day has been shown to increase breast cancer risk in women.)  The mechanism, or mechanisms, whereby alcohol increases breast cancer risk is not well understood, although some have conjectured that increased levels of estrogen, which accompany regular alcohol intake, may be one such mechanism.

The vitamin folic acid (sometimes referred to as Vitamin B9) has multiple functions, including DNA synthesis and DNA repair.  Folate deficiency can occur for a variety of reasons, including frequent or excess alcohol intake.  Because of alcohol’s ability to decrease folic acid absorption and increase folic acid excretion, some experts have also proposed that regular alcohol intake may increase breast cancer risk by depleting the body’s stores of folic acid.

Now, a new public health study, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, adds important new information about the impact of both alcohol and folic acid on breast cancer risk.

In this Japanese case-control study, 1,754 women with breast cancer and 3,508 age-matched patients without breast cancer were evaluated.  Alcohol and folic acid intake was assessed for all of the women who participated in this clinical study; and other known breast cancer risk factors were identified and adjusted for.

As has been shown in multiple other studies, increasing levels of alcohol intake were associated with an increasing risk of breast cancer.  Compared with non-drinkers, women who consumed 23 grams or more of alcohol per day experienced a 39 percent increase in the risk of developing breast cancer.  (A single standard alcoholic beverage contains about 14 grams of alcohol.)

In this study, an increased dietary intake of folic acid was associated with a decreased risk of developing breast cancer.  When compared to women with the lowest intake of folic acid, women who took the highest amount of folic acid in their diet experienced a 21 percent decrease in the risk of developing breast cancer.

In view of the known effects of alcohol on folic acid absorption and excretion, the authors of this study also sought to determine whether or not folic acid intake affected the risk of breast cancer associated with alcohol consumption.  Based upon the findings of this study, it does, in fact, appear that folic acid has some potential beneficial impact on breast cancer risk associated with alcohol intake.  Among women with very low folic acid intake, the consumption of at least 23 grams of alcohol per day was associated with a whopping 58 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer.  At the same time, higher levels of folate intake seemed to significantly reduce any apparent increase in breast cancer risk associated with regular alcohol consumption.

Based upon the findings of this important public health study, the average daily consumption of more than one-and-a-half servings of alcohol per day was associated with a significant increase in breast cancer risk.  Additionally, this study found that low dietary levels of folic acid also significantly increased breast cancer risk.  Moreover, the combination of daily alcohol consumption and low folic acid intake was associated with more than twice the risk of developing breast cancer than regular alcohol consumption or low folic acid intake alone, while higher levels of folic acid intake appeared to be protective against breast cancer associated with regular alcohol consumption.  Therefore, the findings of this study suggest that breast cancer risk can be significantly decreased by decreasing one’s alcohol intake, combined with a diet that contains adequate amounts of folic acid.

 

Get your copy of A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

 

 

Links to Other Breaking Health News (New Feature)

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods

 


A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1



At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, 2,017,594 pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.



 



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Soy Foods, Pumpkin Seeds and Sunflower Seeds Reduce Breast Cancer Risk






 

A new study links the consumption of soy foods, pumpkins seeds, and sunflower seeds with a decreased risk of breast cancer.


 

 

SOY FOODS, PUMPKIN SEEDS AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS REDUCE BREAST CANCER RISK

As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, phytoestrogens are substances found in plant-based foods that have weak estrogen-like effects in the body.  As estrogen is a known risk factor for breast cancer, there has been understandable concern that phytoestrogens, if consumed regularly, may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer over time.  While the data supporting this hypothesis has been both weak and contradictory thus far, some of the strongest available data regarding phytoestrogen intake and breast cancer risk has, counterintuitively, linked certain phytoestrogen-rich foods, and especially soy foods like tofu, with a decreased lifetime risk of breast cancer, particularly when consumed before and during the onset of puberty, as I discuss in my book.

Now, a newly published German study further suggests that the regular consumption of at least some phytoestrogen-rich foods may significantly decrease breast cancer risk, particularly later in life, after menopause.  In this public health study, 2,884 postmenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,509 age-matched “controls” without breast cancer underwent detailed assessments of their dietary habits.  In addition to using a scientifically validated food-frequency questionnaire, additional specific questions regarding the consumption of phytoestrogen-rich foods were asked of all of the 8,393 women who participated in this case-control clinical study.  Importantly, the volunteers’ individual risk factors for breast cancer were assessed and accounted for when the study’s researchers analyzed their data.  This public health study appears in the current issue of the journal Nutrition and Cancer.

Among all foods known to contain phytoestrogens, three foods were found to be significantly associated with a lower risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women.  Specifically, the regular consumption of soy foods was linked to a 17 percent reduction in breast cancer risk, while the routine intake of sunflower and pumpkin seeds was associated with a 34 percent reduction in breast cancer risk.  At the same time, the consumption of flaxseed, which contains very high levels of phytoestrogens, did not appear to be linked with a decrease in breast cancer risk in this study.

The results of this study add further evidence that at least some forms of phytoestrogens may actually decrease the risk of breast cancer, even though they are able to weakly stimulate the same hormonal receptors that estrogen normally stimulates.  While this finding may at first seem contradictory, recent research has shown that these plant-derived nutritional substances actually have rather complex effects on estrogen receptors within breast cells and other hormone-sensitive cells.  In fact, in many cases, phytoestrogens may actually block the effects of estrogen on estrogen receptors within breast cells, thus acting more like medications that are regularly used to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence in patients with estrogen-sensitive tumors, including tamoxifen and raloxifene.

I will end my review of this new public health study by reminding readers that studies such as this one rely upon relatively weak research methods, and the findings of these types of public health studies are less compelling, in general, than “gold standard” prospective, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical research studies.  Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of cancer prevention research data published to date has been derived from relatively less powerful public health studies like this particular study.  However, given the enormous expense and resources necessary to perform large prospective, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical studies, and the extended period of time that is required to arrive at meaningful observations within such studies, we are left primarily with questionnaire-based public health studies such as this one in an effort to better understand potential links between diet and cancer risk.  For a much more detailed evidence-based discussion of the impact of diet and other lifestyle factors on cancer risk, purchase your copy of A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race from your favorite bookstore (available in both print and e-book formats).


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.

 

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 






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Obesity, Diet, Exercise, Estrogen, Testosterone and Breast Cancer Risk






 

New research confirms suspected links between obesity, estrogen and testosterone levels, and exercise on breast cancer risk.


 

 

OBESITY, DIET, EXERCISE, ESTROGEN, TESTOSTERONE AND BREAST CANCER RISK

Last week, I discussed new research linking even relatively modest levels of regular physical activity with a reduced risk of developing breast cancer (Even Modest Levels of Physical Activity Decrease Breast Cancer Risk).  This week, I will present a newly published clinical research study that may help to explain the well known links between obesity, weight loss, and breast cancer risk.  This new research study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

There is ample evidence that obesity is, by itself, a risk factor for breast cancer, and that the loss of excess weight can reduce obesity-associated breast cancer risk.  Similarly, a woman’s lifetime level of exposure to the female sex hormone estrogen (as well as to testosterone) has also been linked to breast cancer risk.

After menopause, the ovaries no longer produce estrogen.  However, fat cells continue to produce estrogen (and to metabolize testosterone into estrogen), and the link between obesity and breast cancer has, therefore, been presumed to be due to increased estrogen production from fat cells in the bodies of overweight and obese women.  Based upon the findings of this new clinical study, the presumed biological mechanism whereby loss of excess weight reduces breast cancer risk appears to have been confirmed.

In this prospective, randomized, controlled clinical study, obese, sedentary postmenopausal women (ages 50 to 75 years) were randomized into one of four different groups.  The first group was placed on a reduced calorie diet.  The second group engaged in a supervised moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise program.  The third group underwent both dieting and a supervised exercise program.  Finally, the fourth group of women served as a “control” group, and these women did not engage in either dieting or exercise.  Blood levels of estrogen and testosterone were measured in all of these women at the beginning and end of this 12-month study.

Compared with the women in the “control” group, estrogen levels decreased by 16 percent with dieting alone, by 5 percent with exercise alone, and by more than 20 percent when dieting was combined with moderate-to-vigorous exercise.  Similarly, testosterone levels declined by 10 percent with dieting alone, and by almost 16 percent when dieting was combined with exercise.  Moreover, greater levels of weight loss were associated with greater decreases in estrogen and testosterone levels.

The findings of this innovative clinical research study lend considerable weight to the longstanding theory that obesity increases breast cancer risk by raising estrogen and testosterone levels in postmenopausal women, while the loss of excess weight decreases breast cancer risk due to reductions in obesity-related elevated levels of estrogen and testosterone.  While there are, doubtless, other biological mechanisms involved, this clinical study adds considerable weight to the data that I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, linking diet, obesity and exercise (along with other modifiable lifestyle factors) to breast cancer risk.

As our society becomes progressively more obese and sedentary, the incidence of cancer and other serious obesity-related diseases is expected to continue to climb.  If you are significantly overweight, or if you lead a “couch potato” lifestyle, then please meet with your doctor and a personal trainer, and get started on a sensible diet program (as I describe in my book) and exercise program.




At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity



 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author



 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 






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New Government (USPSTF) Warning on Hormone Replacement Therapy Risks






 

A new report by a U.S. Government task force (USPSTF) recommends against the use of hormone replacement therapy due to serious health risks.



 

NEW GOVERNMENT (USPSTF) WARNING ON HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY RISKS

As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, there is now solid evidence that the most commonly used form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing breast cancer, and that risk continues to rise with the duration of HRT use.

Like many cancer experts, I have taken issue with some of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) recent revisions of longstanding cancer screening recommendations, including, particularly, their 2009 recommendation that annual screening mammograms be started later in life than most experts have recommended (and continue to recommend), and performed less frequently among middle-aged women than most experts have also recommended.  More recently, in 2011, the USPSTF’s blanket recommendation that routine PSA screening for prostate cancer be largely abandoned has not been warmly embraced by me, nor by many other cancer prevention experts, given that we still cannot determine, in advance, which men with prostate cancer will be helped by treatment for this disease and which men will not benefit (and, hence, may actually even be harmed) by being treated because they have an indolent form of prostate cancer that poses no threat to their lives (Does PSA Testing for Prostate Cancer Save Lives?).

Now, the USPSTF is weighing in on another controversial cancer-related issue: hormone replacement therapy. Prior to 2002, more than half of all American women took some form of HRT to treat the common symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and irritability.  As I discuss in my forthcoming book on the tragic history of HRT, The Manufactured Myths of Menopause and Hormone Replacement Therapy: A Legacy of Suffering and Death, the intentionally deceptive multi-decade marketing of HRT drugs as a panacea for the both the real and imagined consequences of menopause, and the skillful (if duplicitous) portrayal of menopause as a pathological disease that renders its “victims” something less than feminine, was only recently revealed to be a collection of gross distortions (to put it mildly) on the part of the dominant manufacturer of HRT medications.  Thanks to the landmark findings of the enormous Women’s Health Initiative study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002, we now know that long-term HRT use is clearly associated with an increased risk of multiple and serious health problems, including an increased risk of breast cancer.

The USPSTF is now about to weigh-in on the issue of HRT, in a paper that is to be released in the June 4th issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.  Unlike their other recent controversial pronouncements, however, I actually find the USPSTF’s new recommendations against the routine use of HRT to be very close to my own recommendations, and so I am including their review of the existing clinical research data on HRT in this column.

After comprehensively reviewing the data from 9 different prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded clinical studies (including the massive Women’s Health Initiative study), the USPSTF study group determined that both estrogen-progesterone (combination) HRT and estrogen-only HRT significantly increased the risk of stroke, potentially fatal blood clots (venous thromboembolic disease), gallstones, and urinary incontinence.  Estrogen-progesterone (combination) HRT was also, once again, shown to be associated with a significantly increased risk of breast cancer, as well as a probable increase in the risk of dementia.  (On the other hand, estrogen-only HRT, which can only be taken by women who have previously undergone hysterectomy, appears to actually decrease the risk of developing breast cancer, while both types of HRT also appear to reduce the risk of osteoporosis-associated bone fractures.)

Based upon the increasingly large amount of available clinical research data, HRT, of any type, cannot currently be recommended for routine long-term use, given the multiple and significant health risks associated with both estrogen-only and estrogen-progesterone forms of HRT.  After decades of intentionally misleading advertising by the manufacturer of the two most frequently prescribed forms of HRT, and the manufacturer’s intentional co-opting of numerous women’s physicians over the years, the true risks associated with the long-term use of HRT have now become abundantly clear.  I will have much more to say about this cautionary tale when The Manufactured Myths of Menopause and Hormone Replacement Therapy: A Legacy of Suffering and Death is published in early 2013….


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 







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Green Tea Reduces Cholesterol, Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels





 

New research finds that green tea may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.



 

GREEN TEA REDUCES CHOLESTEROL, BLOOD SUGAR AND INSULIN LEVELS

As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, the evidence for green tea as a cancer prevention agent is quite mixed, with most (but not all) studies showing little impact on cancer risk or cancer-associated death rates.  Some research studies, however, have suggested that green tea may affect levels of the female sex hormone estrogen in ways that could potentially reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.  However, most of the research in this area has not been in the form of prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical research, which is considered the “gold standard” method of conducting clinical research.

A newly published prospective, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluated 103 postmenopausal women, and their response to green tea supplements.  This study appears in the current issue of the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

In this study, the women volunteers were randomly divided into three groups.  One group received 400 milligrams (mg) of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) per day, for two months.  (EGCG is considered the most active ingredient in green tea.)  The second group of women received 800 mg of EGCG per day, also for two months.  The third group, which served as this study’s control group, received placebo (sugar) capsules that appeared identical to the EGCG capsules.  Neither the female volunteers nor the study nurses who dispensed the capsules to these study volunteers knew which group each woman had been randomized into.

Repeated measurements of urine levels of EGCG were performed, and blood levels of estrogen, testosterone (the primary male sex hormone), cholesterol, glucose (blood sugar), insulin, and growth factors were tested on all of the 103 study volunteers throughout the course of this study.

The results of this innovative study revealed that green tea supplements had no apparent effect on the levels of estrogen and testosterone in the blood of these postmenopausal research volunteers, which suggests that any potential breast cancer prevention effects associated with EGCG are probably unrelated to sex hormone levels.  However, while EGCG had no apparent impact on sex hormone levels, LDL-cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol”) levels significantly decreased among the women who were secretly randomized to receive EGCG supplements.  Additionally, blood levels of glucose and insulin, which are linked to diabetes risk, also significantly declined in the two groups of women who received EGCG supplements.  (Diabetes, itself, is a powerful risk factor for developing cancer.)

While green tea supplementation had no discernible effect on the levels of male and female sex hormones in the blood of the postmenopausal women participating in this study, EGCG supplementation was observed to significantly reduce LDL-cholesterol, glucose, and insulin levels in these women.  Therefore, while the impact of green tea on breast cancer risk remains unclear at this time, the results of this clinical research study suggest a potential clinical role for green tea in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are, like cancer, two of the great killers of modern humans.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.



Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 









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Clonidine and the Antidepressant Effexor Both Reduce Hot Flashes

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The blood pressure medication clonidine and the antidepressant venlafaxine (Effexor) both reduce hot flashes caused by breast cancer treatment and by menopause.




CLONIDINE AND THE ANTIDEPRESSANT EFFEXOR BOTH REDUCE HOT FLASHES

 

The modern management of breast cancer often includes “hormonal therapy,” in which medications that block the effects of estrogen, or decrease the amount of estrogen manufactured by the body, are used to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.  Despite significantly lowering the risk of breast cancer recurrence in patients with estrogen-sensitive breast tumors, recent clinical research studies have shown that fewer than one-half of all breast cancer patients actually go on to complete the recommended 5-year course of hormonal therapy.  (This very poor level of compliance with a medical therapy proven to lower recurrence and death rates associated with breast cancer is particularly an issue among younger women.)

While there are several reasons why more than half of all breast cancer patients do not complete their recommended course of hormonal therapy, one of the major causes, and especially among younger patients, is that these medications are commonly associated with significant side effects, including the same hot flashes that frequently accompany menopause.

Numerous treatment interventions have been tried in an effort prevent hot flashes associated with breast cancer therapy (as well as hot flashes in postmenopausal women without breast cancer), but very few of these therapies have been shown to have any clinically significant benefit. However, several previous clinical studies have suggested that certain types of antidepressant medications, as well as the blood pressure medication clonidine, may reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes. Unfortunately, much of the research in this area has been of rather low quality, and so the findings of these lower level studies have not radically changed the way that most physicians have managed their patients’ hot flashes. Now, a newly published prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded clinical research study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, strongly suggests that venlafaxine (also known by its trade name, Effexor®), a medication that is part of the new “serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors” (SNRIs) class of antidepressants, and clonidine may both be effective in decreasing the severity and frequency of hot flashes in women with a history of breast cancer.

In this study, 102 women with a history of both breast cancer and severe hot flashes were secretly and randomly assigned to take either venlafaxine (75 mg per day), clonidine (0.1 mg per day), or an identical-appearing placebo (sugar) pill. Following 12 weeks of observation, 80 patients remained in this clinical study. At the end of this 12-week clinical study, both clonidine and venlafaxine were found to significantly decrease the severity and frequency of hot flashes, when compared to placebo pills. Although both medications were clinically effective in reducing hot flashes, and although venlafaxine resulted in a more rapid reduction in hot flashes than clonidine, clonidine was associated with a greater overall improvement in hot flashes, when compared to venlafaxine, after 12 weeks of treatment. (Venlafaxine was also associated with a greater incidence of nausea, constipation, and appetite loss, compared to clonidine.)

The findings of this study add to those of prior studies that have shown a 15 to 25% reduction in the severity and frequency of hot flashes with antidepressants such as venlafaxine, and with clonidine. Moreover, prior studies have shown that these two medications reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes in women with a history of breast cancer as well as in postmenopausal women without a prior history of breast cancer.

One important limitation of this study is its small size, and its high patient drop-out rate, which resulted in small numbers of patient volunteers in each of the three “arms” of this prospective, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled study.  However, the findings of this small clinical research study, nonetheless, are still consistent with those of previously published studies; and taken together, these studies suggest that venlafaxine (and other modern antidepressant medications) and clonidine may be effective in reducing the severity and frequency of hot flashes in both breast cancer patients who are undergoing hormonal therapy for their cancer and in postmenopausal women with menopause-associated hot flashes.


 

For a comprehensive guide to living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.  For the price of a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, you can purchase this landmark new book, in both paperback and e-book formats, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million,Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit this premier global health information website every month. (More than 1.2 million health-conscious people visited Weekly Health Update in 2010!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 



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Soy (Isoflavones), Osteoporosis, and the Symptoms of Menopause


Welcome to Weekly Health Update


A new placebo-controlled, double-blinded research study showed no benefit from soy supplements in reducing osteoporosis or the symptoms of menopause.



SOY (ISOFLAVONES), OSTEOPOROSIS, AND THE SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE

As I discuss in detail in my recent book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, combination hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the symptoms of menopause have been clearly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.  (This important topic is also the subject of my next book, which will be published in 2012.)  Since the preliminary findings of the landmark Women’s Health Initiative study were released in 2002, proving the link between HRT and breast cancer, many women and their physicians have been searching for safer alternatives to HRT in an effort to relieve the symptoms of menopause, and to reduce the risk of thinning of the bones (osteoporosis).

There have been several public health research studies that have suggested a role for soy foods in the prevention of both osteoporosis (“thin bones”) and menopausal symptoms. Indeed, the findings of these studies make scientific sense, as soy isoflavones, which are present in many soy food products (and especially in tofu), act as a weak form of estrogen. (It is the loss of estrogen production in the ovaries, after menopause, that leads to both osteoporosis and the unpleasant symptoms of menopause in postmenopausal women.) However, as with the vast majority of disease prevention research in general, the available research data linking soy isoflavones to improvements in bone density and menopausal symptoms has been in the form of survey-based studies, and other relatively unreliable types of research studies. Now, a newly published prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, doubled-blinded clinical research study takes a closer (and more accurate) look at the impact of soy isoflavone supplements on osteoporosis and menopausal symptoms. This clinical research study appears in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In this study, 122 postmenopausal women were randomized to receive a daily soy isoflavone supplement pill (200 mg), while 126 postmenopausal women were randomized to receive a placebo (sugar) pill that was identical in appearance to the soy isoflavone pills. Neither the research study volunteers nor the research staff knew which patient volunteers received the soy isoflavone tablets and which volunteers received the placebo pills until the research study was completed. These patient volunteers were all followed for an average of 2 years. Bone density measurements were performed at the beginning of the study, and then again 2 years later. Common menopausal symptoms were also tracked throughout the duration of this study.

After 2 years of observation, there was no significant difference in bone density measurements between the two groups of women who participated in this clinical research study (in both groups of women, there was an average bone density loss of about 2 percent over the 2-year period of this study). Moreover, the women in the soy isoflavone group actually reported ahigher incidence of hot flashes and constipation than the women in the placebo group.

In this well-controlled prospective, randomized, doubled-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical research study, a daily supplement of 200 mg of soy isoflavones neither improved postmenopausal bone density loss nor improved the most troublesome symptoms of menopause.  (Whether or not higher doses of soy isoflavones, or natural soy foods instead of soy isoflavone supplements, might have shown some beneficial effect on bone density loss or menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women cannot be answered by this study.)  Therefore, this study convincingly shows that even relatively large daily doses of purified soy isoflavones have no beneficial effect on either bone density loss or menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women.  Based upon the results of this study, if you are currently taking soy isoflavone supplements in an effort to reduce your risk of osteoporosis, or the symptoms of menopause, this high-level clinical research study indicates that you are probably wasting your time and money on such supplements.  (However, as I discuss in A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, soy foods may actually reduce a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, particularly if consumed during early adolescence and early adulthood, and soy products may also decrease a man’s lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer.)

 

For a comprehensive guide to living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.  For the price of a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, you can purchase this landmark new book, in both paperback and e-book formats, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million,Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity



Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author



For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam



I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit this premier global health information website every month. (More than 1.2 million health-conscious people visited Weekly Health Update in 2010!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.





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Obesity, Alcohol, Smoking and Breast Cancer Risk

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”




OBESITY, ALCOHOL, SMOKING AND BREAST CANCER RISK

As I discuss in detail in my recent book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, there are several important lifestyle and dietary factors that have been linked to cancer risk by numerous high-level research studies. Moreover, breast cancer risk, as well as the risk of several other hormone-responsive cancers in particular, appears to be especially associated with potentially modifiable lifestyle and dietary factors, including obesity, alcohol intake, smoking, lack of physical activity, high-fat diets (and diets rich in animal-based foods, specifically), as well as other modifiable risk factors.

While certain lifestyle and dietary risk factors linked to breast cancer risk have been confirmed by numerous research studies, the underlying mechanisms whereby these risk factors increase breast cancer risk has not been entirely clear. Now, a comprehensive new review of 13 prospective breast cancer public health studies sheds important light on the important topic of breast cancer prevention, and provides much-needed insight into how our own personal habits may directly increase our risk of developing breast cancer. The findings of this new cancer prevention study are scheduled to appear in the next issue of theBritish Journal of Cancer.

Of the 13 prospective clinical research studies that were analyzed in this report, 7 were performed in the United States, 1 was performed as part of a multinational European study, and 1 each was performed in Australia, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Altogether, 6,291 women were evaluated in these 13 prospective public health studies.

As has been shown in many previous studies, this report confirmed that women with high levels of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone in their blood are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop breast cancer when compared with women who have low circulating levels of these hormones.

Among postmenopausal women, who make up the great majority of all new breast cancer cases, the single most significant risk factor for having elevated levels of estrogen in the blood was obesity, in this study. Although obesity has long been known to be a risk factor both for developing breast cancer and for experiencing a recurrence of a prior breast cancer, it has not been entirely clear how excess body weight actually causes breast cancer risk to increase. (Aromatase, an enzyme that is manufactured by fat cells, is known to increase the production of estrogen in overweight and obese women and men, and has long been suspected to contribute to breast cancer risk in obese women.) Perhaps the most important finding of this new report, therefore, is to confirm the long-suspected linkage between excess weight and elevated levels of estrogen in the blood. Increased estrogen levels, in turn, are known to increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

The findings of this report also indicate that, second only to obesity, regular alcohol intake and smoking were the next most significant lifestyle-related factors associated with an increased circulating level of estrogen and other sex hormones. (Both alcohol and smoking have previously, and consistently, been linked to breast cancer risk. Indeed, as I discuss in A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, women who consume 2 or more alcoholic beverages per day have been shown, by multiple studies, to experience a significant increase in breast cancer risk, as well as an increased risk of several other cancers.)

While some breast cancer risk factors (such as gender, age, and family history) cannot be changed, this new report, and the research studies which it analyzes, confirms that women can significantly reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by making evidence-based changes in their lifestyle and diet. When it comes to cancer, an ounce of cancer prevention really is worth a ton of cancer treatment or cancer cure.



For a comprehensive guide to living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.  For the price of a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, you can purchase this landmark new book, in both paperback and e-book formats, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million,Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity



Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author



For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam



I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit this premier global health information website every month. (More than 1.2 million health-conscious people visited Weekly Health Update in 2010!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.





Bookmark and Share



 

 

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