• Positive thoughts can help you survive cancer

    A positive outlook can be the most powerful ‘drug’ for surviving cancer. People who are anxious or distressed about their cancer diagnosis are up to four times more likely to die from the disease, new research has found. Although the cancer patients were given standard therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, their survival rates varied widely, and one key factor was their psychological response to the disease, say researchers from University College London.

    People who were distressed or anxious about having cancer were far less likely to survive across a range of different cancers. Leukaemia seems to be the one that is most affected by our mental outlook: people with negative thoughts were nearly four times more likely to die from the disease. Negative thoughts also influenced pancreatic cancer, with the death rate 2.76 times greater than in people with a neutral or more positive outlook, while those distressed by cancer of the oesophagus were 2.59 times more likely to die. Gloomy thoughts also made prostate cancer 2.42 times more deadly.

    Researchers discovered this extraordinary mind-body connection when they analysed data, that had never before been published, on 163,363 men and women. During the 14 years they were monitored, 4,353 had died from cancer. Psychological profiles, where their response to the diagnosis was recorded, were gathered, and matched against the cancers, and other influences, such as smoking and heavy alcohol drinking, that may have impacted on mortality.

    Conversely, a positive and optimistic outlook could help people survive cancer, the researchers suggest.

    Source: British Medical Journal, 2017; 356/10.1136/j108

  • Red wine stops breast cancer spreading

    Red wine stops breast cancer from spreading, researchers have discovered this week. The wine’s ‘magic’ ingredient, resveratrol, blocks the growth effects of estrogen, which, in turn, stops the cancer cells proliferating.

    The discovery, made by researchers from the University of Calabria in Italy, is [highlight]good news especially for women whose cancer is no longer responding to hormonal therapy[/highlight]. Red wine or resveratrol supplements could be a ‘pharmacological tool’ that can be added to the range of therapies for breast cancer, say the researchers.

    They made the discovery when they tested cancer cells in the laboratory. Those that were treated with resveratrol stopped growing. “Scientists haven’t finished distilling the secrets of good health that have been hidden in natural products such as red wine,” said Gerald Weissman in an accompanying editorial.

    Source: The FASEB Journal, 2011 Oct;25(10):3695-707;doi: 10.1096/fj.10-178871

  • Blood test detects and locates cancer before symptoms appear

    A blood test which not only detects cancer but identifies where it is in the body, has been developed by scientists. The breakthrough could allow doctors to [highlight]diagnose specific cancers much earlier, even before signs such as a lump, begin to show[/highlight]. It is simple enough to be included in routine annual health checks alongside other tests such as for high blood pressure or cholesterol.

    The test, called CancerLocator, has been developed by the University of California, and works by hunting for the DNA from tumours which circulates in the blood of cancer patients. The team discovered that tumours which arise in different parts of the body hold a distinctive ‘footprint’ which a computer can spot.

    “Non-invasive diagnosis of cancer is important, as it allows the early diagnosis of cancer, and the earlier the cancer is caught, the higher chance a patient has of beating the disease,” said Professor Jasmine Zhou, co-lead author from the University of California at Los Angeles. “We have developed a computer-driven test that can detect cancer, and also identify the type of cancer, from a single blood sample. “The technology is in its infancy and requires further validation, but the [highlight]potential benefits to patients are huge[/highlight].”

    Around 350,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Britain each year, but 90 per cent of people will survive most types for at least five years if it is spotted early. In contrast only five to 15 per cent of people survive five years if cancer is picked up late. To create the new test, the US team built a computer database containing specific molecular patterns which occur in tissue when tumours were present. Some markers of DNA damage show up no matter which cancer is present, while others are specific to the type of tissue they originated from, such as lung of liver. They also compiled a ‘molecular footprint’ for non-cancerous samples which can be used to give patients the all-clear.

    The test was checked ten times on blood samples from 29 liver cancer patients, 12 lung cancer patients and five breast cancer patients. It picked up eight out of 10 cancers, and gave a false positive on fewer than one in 100 occasions. Although the level of tumour DNA present in the blood is much lower during the early stages of these cancers, the program was still able to make a diagnosis demonstrating the potential of this method for the early detection of cancer, according to the researchers. Professor Zhou added: “In general, the higher the fraction of tumor DNAs in blood, the more accurate the program was at producing a diagnostic result.”

    The research was published in the journal Genome Biology.

    Source: Genome Biology 2017; 10.1186/s13059-017-1191-5

  • Hormonal contraceptives, mammography and hair dyes increase breast cancer risk

    In her recent doctoral dissertation, researcher Sanna Heikkinen from the University of Helsinki and Finnish Cancer Registry evaluates the contribution of the use of hormonal contraceptives and hair dyes to the spectrum of breast cancer risk factors. The analysis included self-reported survey data from 8000 breast cancer patients and 20,000 controls from Finland.

    According to the results, use of hormonal intrauterine device was associated with 52% increased risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women, when compared to women who had used copper intrauterine device. The use of other hormonal contraceptives was, by contrast, associated with 32% higher breast cancer risk among younger women under 50 when compared to women who did not use hormonal contraceptives. There was also a 23% observed increase in the risk of breast cancer among women who dyed their hair compared to those who didn’t.

    To confirm the roles of these factors, further research on the effects of hormonal contraceptives, most specifically hormonal intrauterine device, and hair dyes is needed with other populations and a prospective study design.

    “The biggest risk factor in breast cancer is high age, and known lifestyle-related risk factors include late age at first birth, small number of children, high alcohol consumption, and sedentary lifestyle,” Heikkinen stresses. Many of these factors have become significantly more common in Western countries, including Finland, during the last decades. In her research, Heikkinen also investigated the amount of opportunistic mammography, which was found to be very common. More than 60% of responders reported having had a mammography before the screening age of 50.

    Accumulating radiation burden
    “Women should be more extensively informed of the [highlight]harms of opportunistic mammography, such as accumulating radiation burden[/highlight] and the potential consequences of false positive or negative findings,” Heikkinen says.

    SourceUniversity of Helsinki, 8 march 2017

  • Fasting slows leukaemia in children

    The importance of fasting as a cancer therapy has been underlined once again this week with the discovery that it slows the growth of leukaemia in children.

    Fasting on alternate days inhibits the development and progress of cancer cells, and after seven weeks no cancerous cells could be detected in the bone marrow of laboratory mice. However, 68 per cent of cells were cancerous in the mice that weren’t put on the fast, and most died within 59 days, while the mice in the fasting group were still alive more than 120 days later, and had no symptoms of leukaemia. The mice weren’t given any drugs to treat the cancer.

    The mice ate normally one day and then ate little or nothing at all the following day. The [highlight]therapy seems to work well with the ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia) form of the cancer, which is the most common in children[/highlight], but not with AML (acute myeloid leukaemia), which more often afflicts adults. Around 90 per cent of cases of ALL in children are treatable, suggesting that 10 per cent aren’t, but the success rate is far lower when adults develop the cancer.

    Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center, who carried out the fasting experiments, say that it could be an effective approach, especially for adults with ALL.

    Source: Nature Medicine, 2017, doi:10.1038/nm.4252

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