Obesity Raises Odds for Many Common Cancers

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

Being obese or overweight can increase the odds of developing several types of cancers, new research from the United Kingdom reveals.

But shedding the excess pounds can lower the risk, researchers say.

Reducing obesity cuts the risk for endometrial cancer by 44% and uterine cancer by 39%, and could also prevent 18% of kidney cancers and 17% of stomach and liver cancers, according to the study.

“It all depends on keeping the weight off,” said lead researcher Carlos Celis-Morales of the BHF Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He noted that many people lose weight only to regain it back — and then some.

“What we need is kind of a long-term healthy weight and people that achieve that will reduce the risk,” Celis-Morales said. “That is why it’s so important that people improve the quality of their lifestyle in order to keep a healthy body weight.”

He cautioned, however, that this study can’t prove that excess weight causes cancer or that losing weight prevents it, only that there seems to be a strong connection between excess weight and cancer risk.

For the study, Celis-Morales and his colleagues drew on data from the U.K. Biobank on more than 400,000 men and women who were cancer-free.

The investigators wanted to know the risk of developing and dying from 24 cancers based on six markers of obesity: body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio, waist-to-height ratio, waist and hip circumferences and body mass index (BMI), an estimate of body fat based on height and weight.

No matter which way it was measured, obesity increased the odds of developing 10 of the most common cancers, the study found. A larger waist and hips, BMI or percentage of body fat all provided similar cancer risk.

Celis-Morales said BMI is an adequate way to gauge weight-related cancer risk, and there’s no benefit in turning to more complex or costly measures such as waist size or body fat percentage.

For example, a BMI score of 24.9 is considered normal, and every addition of about 4 for men and 5 for women above 25 was linked a 3% higher risk of cancer overall.

It also increased the risk of cancers of the stomach (35%), gallbladder (33%), liver (27%), kidney (26%), pancreas (12%), colon (10%), and bladder (9%).

That same amount of excess weight was also associated with a sharply higher odds of two cancers affecting women — 73% for endometrial cancer and 68% for uterine cancer. It also was linked to an 8% increase for postmenopausal breast cancer.

Lauren Teras, scientific director for epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society, reviewed the findings.

“Some of the ways in which obesity is thought to impact cancer includes elevated levels of sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, also insulin-related growth factors and leptin and adiponectin, which are proteins given off by fat tissue,” she said.

Despite strong evidence that excess weight boosts risk for many cancers, less is known about whether losing weight can successfully reverse it, Teras said.

“This is likely because losing weight in adulthood is relatively uncommon, making it difficult to study,” she said. “However, several studies of patients undergoing major weight-loss surgeries have found lower risk of several types of cancer in these patients.”

Maintaining a normal weight, eating a balanced diet and being physically active are beneficial for many aspects of health, Teras said.

“My advice is to find a plan that works for you and stick with it until it becomes a habit,” she suggested. “To increase your physical activity, do what sounds fun to you. Eat a diet that is customized to your preferences, but includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit portion sizes.”

Then find an accountability partner to keep you on track. “We’re all more likely to succeed when we have support,” Teras said.

The findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine.

Source: HealthDay

COVID Vaccines Might Not Protect Certain Cancer Patients

People with cancers of the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes are at an increased risk of not making protective coronavirus antibodies after COVID-19 vaccination, a new study warns.

The risk is particularly high for those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The researchers urged these patients and those who interact with them to get vaccinated but to keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“As we see more national guidance allowing for unmasked gatherings among vaccinated people, clinicians should counsel their immunocompromised patients about the possibility that COVID-19 vaccines may not fully protect them against SARS-CoV-2,” said senior author Dr. Ghady Haidar, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) transplant infectious diseases physician.

“Our results show that the odds of the vaccine producing an antibody response in people with hematologic malignancies are the equivalent of a coin flip,” he said in a university news release.

Haidar added that a negative antibody test does not necessarily mean the patient isn’t protected from COVID-19.

Patients with blood cancers have more than a 30% risk of dying if they get COVID-19 and so they should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, the researchers added.

These patients were excluded from COVID-19 vaccine trials, so there’s no data on the vaccines’ effectiveness in this vulnerable population.

For the study, 67 patients with hematologic malignancies who had been vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines had their blood tested three weeks after the second shot.

The researchers found that more than 46% of the patients had not made antibodies against the virus.

Moreover, only 3 of the 13 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia made measurable antibodies, even though 70% weren’t having any cancer therapy.

“This lack of response was strikingly low,” said researcher Dr. Mounzer Agha, a hematologist at UPMC’s Hillman Cancer Center. “We’re still working to determine why people with hematologic malignancies — particularly those with CLL — have a lower antibody response and if this low response also extends to patients with solid tumors.”

No link between cancer therapy and antibody levels was found that could affect antibody response to the vaccine. But it’s known that older patients are less likely to produce antibodies than younger patients, researchers said.

“It’s critically important for these patients to be aware of their continued risk and to seek prompt medical attention if they have COVID-19 symptoms, even after vaccination,” Agha added in the release. “They may benefit from outpatient treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, before the illness becomes severe.”

The findings, which haven’t yet been peer-reviewed, were published online on the preprint server medRxiv.

Source: HealthDay

Drug Used in Cancer Patients Might Help Treat Alzheimer’s

A drug with a 30-year track record as an effective tool for fighting cancer may significantly improve memory and thinking in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.

Sargramostim (brand name: Leukine) has long been used after cancer treatment to coax a patient’s bone marrow to make more disease-fighting white blood cells. It uses a protein called GM-CSF that has been linked to a significantly lower risk of Alzheimer’s among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA patients typically have higher-than-normal levels of GM-CSF in their blood.

Working with 40 Alzheimer’s patients, researchers have now concluded that a three-week regimen of sargramostim can actually reverse telltale brain damage associated with the disease, and markedly improve memory and thinking ability.

“This discovery of the safety and [effectiveness] of GM-CSF in Alzheimer’s disease has the potential to be a breakthrough, which will be proved when a larger, longer trial is done to show that the benefits we saw are stronger and long lasting,” said study lead author Huntington Potter. He’s the director of the University of Colorado Alzheimer’s and Cognition Center in Aurora.

The new findings come on the heels of another potential Alzheimer’s breakthrough, in the form of an experimental drug called donanemab.

As reported March 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine, a monthly shot of donanemab for about 18 months effectively eliminated buildup of amyloid-beta plaques in the brains roughly 70% of Alzheimer’s patients studied.

For the new study, 20 patients were treated with sargramostim five days a week for three weeks. Twenty other patients received placebo shots. The trial was double-blind, meaning neither the investigators nor participants knew which treatment they were getting.

At the end of the trial, those in the sargramostim group scored nearly 2 points higher on a standard 30-point test of thinking skills.

Their production of disease-fighting immune cells also shot up. And preexisting nervous system damage — including levels of amyloid plaque and Alzheimer’s-related tangles in the brain — all reversed, in what researchers described as a “partial normalization” process.

The study showed the benefits induced by GM-CSF were found to last as much as 45 days after treatment ended, Potter noted. The drug was also found to be safe and well-tolerated.

Researchers have approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer’s Association to carry out a longer, larger trial of GM-CSF to verify their findings.

Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association, called the research into use of anti-inflammatory drugs in dementia treatment “intriguing.”

“The Alzheimer’s Association is actively investing in clinical trials to explore their potential use for dementia treatment,” she said.

At the same time, Snyder cautioned that this line of research is still “very preliminary” and work must continue in larger, more diverse populations.

“Alzheimer’s is complex, and successful treatment will most likely address the disease in multiple ways with medication and behavior interventions, like combination therapies similar to heart disease and cancer,” she said. “We must accelerate the pursuit of a wide variety of Alzheimer’s treatments with the idea that they will likely be used in combination to be most effective.”

Snyder said the association is funding and collaborating with scientists around the world to make this happen.

Potter’s team reported its findings in the online edition of the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions.

Source: HealthDay

Study: No Link Found Between Blood Pressure Meds and Cancer

Blood pressure drugs don’t increase the risk of cancer, according to the largest study to examine the issue.

A possible link between blood pressure drugs and cancer has been the subject of debate for decades, but evidence has been inconsistent and conflicting.

For this study, researchers analyzed data from 31 clinical trials of blood pressure drugs that involved 260,000 people. Investigators of all the trials provided information on which participants developed cancer. Much of this information hasn’t been published before, so the new study is the most detailed to date.

It looked at five blood pressure drugs separately: angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), beta blockers, calcium channel blockers (CCBs), and diuretics.

The researchers estimated the effect of each drug class on the risk of developing any type of cancer, of dying from cancer, and of developing breast, colon, lung, prostate and skin cancers.

The study found no evidence that any of the drug classes increased cancer risk. That was true regardless of participants’ age, gender, body size, smoking status and previous use of blood pressure medication, according to findings presented recently at an online meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.

Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

There was no indication that cancer risk rose with longer use of blood pressure drugs.

“Our results should reassure the public about the safety of antihypertensive drugs with respect to cancer, which is of paramount importance given their proven benefit for protecting against heart attacks and strokes,” said study author Emma Copland, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford in the U.K.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Study: No Link Between Permanent Hair Dyes and Cancer

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . . . .

Millions of people color their own hair, even though some of the chemicals in permanent hair dyes are considered possible carcinogens.

So, is home hair coloring safe?

According to a new study, the answer is a qualified yes.

After tracking cancer risk among more than 117,000 U.S. women for 36 years, the investigators found that personal use of permanent hair dyes was not associated with any increase in the risk of developing bladder, brain, colon, kidney, lung, blood or immune system cancer. Nor were these dyes linked to an uptick in most skin or breast cancers.

“We observed no positive association between personal permanent hair dye use and risk of most cancers or cancer-related mortality,” said study lead author Dr. Yin Zhang, a research fellow in medicine with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston.

But permanent dye use was linked to a slightly increased risk for basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer), ovarian cancer and some forms of breast cancer.

In addition, an increased risk for Hodgkin lymphoma was observed, but only among women whose hair was naturally dark. The research team said it remained unclear as to why, but speculated that it could be that darker dyes have higher concentrations of problematic chemicals.

The findings were published online Sept. 2 in the BMJ.

The study team noted that somewhere between 50% and 80% of American and European women aged 40 and up color their hair. One in 10 men do the same.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), hair dyes are regulated as cosmetics by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the FDA places much of the safety burden on manufacturers.

Permanent dyes account for roughly 80% of all dyes used in the United States and Europe, the study noted, and an even higher percentage in Asia.

Why? Because “if you use permanent hair dyes, the color changes will last until the hair is replaced by new growth, which will be much longer than that of semi-permanent dyes, [which] last for five to 10 washings, or temporary dyes, [which last] one to two washings,” Zhang said.

The problem? Permanent hair dyes are “the most aggressive” type on the market, said Zhang, and the kind “that has posed the greatest potential concern about cancer risk.”

According to the ACS, the concern centers on the ingredients in hair dyes, such as aromatic amines, phenols and hydrogen peroxide.

Prior investigations have turned up signs of trouble, with some (though not all ingredients) finding a link between dye use and blood cancers and breast cancer.

Still, the ACS points out that research looking into any association between such dyes and cancer risk have had mixed results. And studying hair dyes can be a moving target, as different dyes contain different ingredients, and the composition of those ingredients may change over time.

For example, ACS experts noted that studies conducted in the 1970s found that some types of aromatic amines appeared to cause cancer in animal studies. As a result, some dye manufacturers have dropped amines from their dye recipes.

The latest study focused on U.S. women who were enrolled in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study. All were cancer-free at the study’s start, and all reported if they had ever used a permanent hair dye.

Zhang’s team concluded that using the dye did not appear to significantly raise the risk for most cancers. But investigators stressed that they did not definitively establish that such dyes do or do not raise cancer risk, given that their work was purely observational.

“Current evidence regarding the carcinogenic potential of personal use of permanent hair dyes are not conclusive,” Zhang said, adding that “further investigations are needed.”

So, what should women do?

The ACS says, “There is no specific medical advice for current or former hair dye users.”

But Zhang suggested that consumers carefully follow directions — such as “using gloves, keeping track of time, [and] rinsing the scalp thoroughly with water after use” — to reduce any potential risk.

Source: HealthDay