86% of Teens Have These Toxic Chemicals in Their Bodies

Research published Monday in the journal BMJ Open revealed some frightening statistics about the incidence of Bisphenol A (BPA) among teenagers: 86 percent of 94 teenagers tracking their diet and submitting urine samples in a study showed evidence of BPA in their urine.

The culprit: plastic containers and bottles that seep potentially cancer-causing chemical through food and beverages. The teenage participants attempted to reduce their exposure to BPA by avoiding fruits and vegetables packaged in plastic containers, tinned food, and meals designed to be reheated in a microwave in packaging containing BPA, according to a press statement. Welpanyone whos had a long day and wants to just nuke some food in a microwave could be getting a dose of BPA to boot.

And while the teens were able to reduce their exposure to BPA, one author of the paper noted that its next to impossible to avoid BPA: Our students who followed the BPA-free diet reported that it would be difficult to follow it long term, because labelling of BPA products was inconsistent. They found it difficult to source and identify BPA-free foods.

Thats the crux of a problem highlighted BPA literature for the better part of a decade: Warnings about the health effects of cancer-causing chemicals that trickle into food and beverages from common plastic household products that then enter our systemsfrom babies sucking out of sippy cups to adults storing leftovers to heat up the next day. But its a problem neither public health nor the government has figured out yet.

Its not the first time that urine samples have shown that an overwhelming majority of people have BPA floating in their bodies. A 2003-04 survey conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 93 percent of 2,517 urine samples of people over the age of 6 had BPA in their system, primarily from food and beverage containers; for infants, breast milk was a primary source.

But wasnt BPA labeled a bad guy nearly a decade ago, when bespoke water bottles flashed the fact that they werent made of BPA and made slinging one around in public practically cool? Yes, but the history of BPA in our plastics runs deepand continues to plague Western plastics consumption.

Public health advocates began warning of BPAs dire effects several years ago, as bombshell study after study reported the chemical, which is used to harden polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, could seep into humans as they broke down. Used since the 1960s, the chemical is found in everything from plastic food storage containers to helmets to dental sealants to water bottlesproducts with high usage across all demographics, including children. BPA can seamlessly enter our bodies because its cloaked in a chemical disguise that makes it similar to estrogen. That means genes that respond to estrogen respond to BPA instead, disrupting the endocrine system and wreaking havoc in the regulation of hormones.

Getting even a minute trace of BPA into the bloodstream isnt pretty: Once in the bloodstream, it can lead to a host of serious health issues, including affecting the prostate gland of fetuses, increased risk of high blood pressure, and hyperactivity. BPA has been connected to other, more serious diseases as well, ranging from prostate cancer and heart disease to fundamental disruptions in the endocrine system and genetic expression, according to a database of BPA studies the NIEHS maintains.

Because of their dangerous side effects, children and pregnant women have been especially warned against using products that contain BPA. But health agencies have been slow to react to BPA outside warning Americans to be careful of exposing themselves to products. In fact, a 2008 report from the National Toxicology Program found minimal concern for females, infants, and children exposed to BPA in mammary glands (i.e., breast milk), and negligible concern for pregnant women and those who might be exposed to BPA in their workplace. Meanwhile, there was some concern about how BPA affected brain, behavior, and prostate gland development in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures.

What makes sense from a consumer frontavoiding products that explicitly say they are free of BPAisnt necessarily a safe strategy.

That leads to the latest study on BPA, which suggests that the effects are showing up in a majority of teens (who probably went through the first wave of BPA health warnings) and can lay latent until symptoms of more serious diseases show up later in life. On average, the participants in the studystudents in six southwest England aged between 17 and 19 years oldhad 1.22 ng/mL of BPA in their urine. The students were part of a public health initiative designed to see if tracking diet would help them identify sources of BPA, particularly around plastic food storage containers. The researchers not only found that 86 percent of the students showed signs of BPA in their urine, buttroublinglythat it was nearly impossible to avoid BPA in daily life due to poor labeling: We found no evidence in this self-administered intervention study that it was possible to moderate BPA exposure by diet in a real-world setting.

What's even more worrisome is the sheer prevalence of products that contain BPA in everyday life, despite regulations not only in the United States but across the world. As the studyfrom researchers at England's University of Exeterpoints out, the European Food Safety Authority has investigated the health effects of BPA. Similarly, the Food and Drug Administration has not outright banned the use of BPA but warned in the 2008 National Toxicology Report that it had some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures, along with a 108-page report that outlined the negative health effects of BPA.

Whats more, alternatives arent exactly a safe bet. The public outcry over BPA had the plastics industry scrambling to create alternate products that were BPA-free yet helped harden plastics the way BPA did, but some early research indicated that these BPA-replacements had the ability to induce estrogenic activity, including baby bottles and sippy cups, that stressed they were BPA-free and used resins like polysterene and Tritan instead.

So what makes sense from a consumer frontavoiding products that explicitly say they are free of BPAisnt necessarily a safe strategy, and its one that the researchers themselves ran into while working with the 94 teens, who reported that they had a hard time outright avoiding products that contained BPA.

We found no evidence in this self-administered intervention study that it was possible to moderate BPA exposure by diet in a real-world setting, the authors noted. Furthermore, our study participants indicated that they would be unlikely to sustain such a diet long term, due to the difficulty in identifying BPA-free foods.

The study has its limits: It focuses on fewer than 100 British teenagers in a specific region in England, and the students self-reported their own dietary restrictions.

But the study highlights two things. First, its nearly impossible to avoid BPA in our food packaging. Second, safe substitutes arent necessarily safe. Better labeling might help, but what will ultimately make for less dismal statistics are outright bans of BPA and better-tested substitutes of plastic hardenersor better yet, avoiding them altogether with equally effective, affordable, accessible optionsthat dont make BPA the unavoidable health threat it has become.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/86-of-teens-have-these-toxic-chemicals-in-their-bodies

Cancer Diagnosis from a Blood Draw? Liquid Biopsies Are Still a Dream

Nick Papadopoulos tracks down tumors for a living. Not with X-rays or CT scans, but with DNA. The oncologist and director of translational genetics at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center has spent decades uncovering the unique sets of mutations that define cancers—the kind of genetic signals that not only drive tumor formation and metastasis, but distinguish one cancer from another. And now, he’s working to develop a test that could sniff out those signals before a patient starts to get sick.

It’s the kind of test that Papadopoulos thinks could have saved his uncle’s life, had it been around a few years ago. “He had no symptoms until a cough showed up,” he says. But when it didn’t go away he went in for an X-ray, and there on the radiograph were the lesions. Dozens of them, filling his entire chest cavity. The doctors sequenced the tumors, and got him signed up for a clinical trial for a new, targeted drug. It worked for a few of them, shrinking them back to almost nothing. But the rest developed resistance.

“He was supposed to only live two months, and the drugs prolonged his life by a year. But that year wasn’t good.” says Papadopoulos. “I think it’s time to start thinking more about detecting cancers early and less about treating them when they are late.”

On Thursday, Papadopoulos’ research group at Hopkins revealed a novel blood test based on the combined analysis of DNA and proteins that correctly detected eight kinds of the most common cancers with a range of accuracies—from 98 percent for ovarian cancers to less than 40 percent for breast cancers. Published in Science, the test is just one among many so-called “liquid biopsies” in development; noninvasive tests that classify cancers by identifying the tiny bits of DNA that tumors shed into the bloodstream.

Most published studies, including this one, focus on measuring and monitoring advanced tumor stages. A few liquid biopsies have even been approved to help match tumors to targeted drugs. But the dream is to develop a simple blood test to actually diagnose solid tumors in healthy-looking people. The scarcity of circulating cancer biomarkers (both in quality and quantity; tumor DNA makes up less than 0.1 percent of blood) has held those aspirations back for decades. But now, sensitive assays and computational platforms are driving the discovery of biomarkers and better ways to measure them, luring a pack of well-financed startups into the field.

In 2016, for example, the world’s largest sequencing company, San Diego-based Illumina, spun out a new company called Grail. Its mission is described as “detecting cancer early, when it can be cured.” This ambitious aim is supported by $1.2 billion of venture capital Grail raised last year, which it intends to put toward financing massive, population-based clinical studies and optimizing its sensitive sequencing technologies.

Grail has yet to publish any actual data (its website does advertise a commentary published in Cell last year). And neither has its chief rival in the Valley, a machine learning startup called Freenome. That three-year old company snagged a $65 million Series A last March, led by Andreessen Horowitz. Freenome isn’t limiting itself to the genetic breadcrumbs left by tumor cells—it looks to capture other disease signatures in the blood, like how the immune system changes in response to tumor microenvironments.

Of course, Freenome has offered scant details on how exactly that kind of test would work. “You show your cards at the end, not while you’re playing poker,” says Andreessen partner Vijay Pande, who heads the investment firm’s biofunds. “Publications indicate that you’re not interested in building a company.” That said, he does expect Freenome to publish in a peer-reviewed journal ahead of its first foray into the market.

When that could be, though, is anyone’s guess. To evaluate any of these blood screens, thousands of patients will have to get tested—and then researchers will have to wait for some of them to actually get cancer. That’s the only way to determine not only their predictive power, but also whether they lead to improved patient outcomes. The noninvasive screening tests available today—mammography for breast cancer, a protein-measuring test for prostate cancer—are rife with their own issues. Incorrect diagnoses waste time and money on treatments and burden patients with unnecessary anxiety.

Liquid biopsy is likely to be beset by the same kinds of controversy, says Geoff Oxnard, a thoracic oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a professor at Harvard Medical School. He routinely uses a single-gene liquid biopsy developed at Dana Farber to figure out which drugs represent the best options for his lung cancer patients. But will early detection versions one day be part of routine doctor’s visits? “No. I think these tests will help us better understand the risks for patients who already have a history of cancer in their family or who’ve already had something show up on a scan,” he says. “But I don’t think we have the kind of data we need to support liquid biopsy as a panacea for diagnosing cancer. At the end of the day, it’s still just a shortcut.”

Still, Oxnard pointed out that Papadopoulos’s test represents an important step forward. One, it starts to identify where a tumor might be located. That’s been a big limitation of liquid biopsies; OK, you’ve found cancer, but what do you do next? Where do you look for the tumor? Most mutations don’t tell you anything about location. But by layering in measurements for 31 additional proteins to their machine learning model, the Hopkins team was able, on the first try, to correctly identify the tissue of origin around 80 percent of the time colorectal cancers, pancreatic, and ovarian cancers.

The other advance is cost. Papadopoulos estimates the test could be commercialized for around $500, and cancer-spotting approaches that rely on ultra-deep sequencing could stretch costs for existing screening tests, which only look for a single gene. “This is great for the field and provides promise that these analyses will become a reality in the clinic,” says Victor Velculescu, an oncologist and colleague of Papadopoulos’ at Johns Hopkins, who has also developed liquid biopsy technologies, though he was not involved in the Science study.

The two have developed a sort of friendly turf war as they’ve turned Baltimore into its own little liquid biopsy hub. Both researchers have recently spun off diagnostics companies to further develop their own early detection technology platforms. Earlier this month, Velculescu’s venture, Personal Genome Diagnostics, hauled in a $75 million Series B led by pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb. That brings its total financing to $99 million, putting it on par with some of its better-known counterparts in the Valley, adding some bicoastal intrigue to the race to the market. Whatever the outcome, it’s patients who will ultimately be the winners.

“If it can even catch 50 percent of cancers that right now we have no way of screening for, that’s still 50 percent of patients who can now be treated in Stage 1, when they still have a chance,” says Papadopoulos. “It doesn’t have to be perfect to still save a lot of lives.”

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/cancer-diagnosis-from-a-blood-draw-liquid-biopsies-are-still-a-dream/

Mitt Romney Treated for Prostate Cancer Last Year: AP

New York (AP) — The Republican presidential nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney, was treated for prostate cancer last year.

That's according to a Romney aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to discuss a sensitive health issue publicly.

The aide said Monday that Romney was diagnosed with "slow-growing prostate cancer" last year. The cancer was removed surgically and found not to have spread beyond the prostate, the aide said.

The news comes as the 70-year-old Romney weighs whether to run for a Utah Senate seat currently occupied by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. Hatch announced last week that he would not seek another term this fall.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-08/ap-source-romney-treated-for-prostate-cancer

    Tobacco mea culpa: companies to run ‘corrective’ ads in US on smoking’s harm

    Tobacco companies have delayed correcting false statements for eleven years since a federal court ordered them to do so

    Eleven years after a federal court found tobacco companies conspired to deceive the American public, the companies will air television and newspaper ads to correct lies they told over the course of the 20th century.

    The corrective statements to be aired beginning 26 November are part of a 2006 judgment against tobacco companies, which found companies such as RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris broke anti-racketeering laws, lied about how cigarettes harmed health and denied their efforts to market cigarettes to children.

    After the judgment, tobacco companies appealed over details of the statements for more than a decade, and delayed correcting false statements into a new media era.

    Four in 10 Americans now regularly get news online, where tobacco companies will not have to publish any corrective statements.

    The tobacco companies basic strategy for everything, whether its science or regulation or litigation, is delay, said Stan Glantz, an expert on tobacco company strategy at the University of California San Francisco. The school is also home to one of the worlds largest libraries of tobacco company documents, a cache collected from lawsuits like the one decided in federal court in 2006.

    They have used a lot of arguing about what in terms of the real world are trivial issues, to delay having to make these statements for 11 years but it is what the tobacco companies do, said Glantz.

    The problem is the technology has moved on, and the statements are not in social media because it didnt really exist back then. But better late than never.

    Tobacco companies were first ordered to make the statements by US district judge Gladys Kessler, who wrote in a 1,683-page opinion in 2006 that the companies caused, a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system.

    About 480,000 Americans still die each year from tobacco-related disease, and lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both American men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than die of breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

    In appealing against publication of corrective statements, tobacco companies argued against specific words in statements, fonts and even the phrase here is the truth.

    The ads will run in more than 50 newspapers across the country and on major broadcasting networks, including ABC, CBS and NBC. Companies will have to buy full-page ads in the first section of each Sunday newspaper, and a total of 260 television ads will be run for one year.

    To promote their products, tobacco companies still spend roughly $1m per hour in America, or $8.2bn per year, on advertisements in convenience stores, discounts, coupons, at adult entertainment venues and through wholesalers.

    Additionally, unlike in much of Europe, American cigarettes do not display graphic warnings on packs following appeals by tobacco companies and delays from the US Food and Drug Administration.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/nov/26/tobacco-mea-culpa-companies-to-run-corrective-statements-on-smoking

    Ancient Bacterial DNA Could Thwart a Devastating Disease

    Hepatitis B affects around 20,000 people per year, according to the CDC. Typically, hepatitis B virus causes severe inflammation of the liver. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle aches, jaundice, abdominal pain, fever, discolored urine, weight loss, and an inability to tolerate fatty foods.

    Normally, the virus comes and goesbut there are some cases in which the virus stays put and wreaks havoc in the body by causing long-term liver damage (cirrhosis) or liver cancer. In fact, the hepatitis B virus is the most common cause of liver cancer in the world.

    But the Food and Drug Administration licensed a product earlier this month that could reduce the rate of liver cancer in the U.S. with what might seem like a peculiar method: fighting the hepatitis B virus with a hepatitis B virus.

    Heres how it works. All of our cells contain DNA, consisting of various combinations of nucleotides called cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine. DNA provides a blueprint that instructs cells on how to reproduce themselves.

    Bacteria also contains DNA. Bacterial DNA, however, has certain patterns of nucleotides that arent found in human DNA. From the moment that we crawled out of ocean onto land, we have been able to recognize these unique bacterial DNA patternsa crude and early part of our immune system. Theres a reason for this primitive form of immunity: Once microbes breach the surface of our skin or intestines, where they live in large numbers, they can kill us. We need a defense system that is capable of recognizing these unique bacterial-specific molecular patterns and responding to themimmediately.

    Which brings us back to the new hepatitis B vaccine. Its identical to the two existing hepatitis B vaccineswhich have been available since the 1990sin that it contains 20 micrograms of a protein that is located on the surface of the virus. But unlike these other hepatitis B vaccines, the new vaccine also contains 3 milligrams of repeated linkages of cytosine and guaninea molecular pattern unique to bacterial DNA called CpG oligonucleotides. And its the first time it has been used in a vaccine. (The p just stands for the phosphodiester linkage that binds the cytosine and guanine.)

    The FDA licensed this novel hepatitis B vaccine for people greater than 18 years of age in certain high-risk groups like household contacts of someone who is infected, injection drug users, healthcare workers, or people with HIV, diabetes, or chronic lung or kidney diseases. The hope is that not only will liver cancer rates decrease, but that hepatitis B rates too will fall.

    Although the existing hepatitis B vaccines have been lifesavers, virtually eliminating the disease in children, some problems have remained, especially for adults. About 5 percent of adults dont respond to the vaccine. No matter how many doses are given, they are simply unable to make an adequate immune response. Second: some groups, including those most likely to benefit, dont always develop an effective response. This is where the CpG oligonucleotides come in.

    The CpG-containing hepatitis B vaccine has now been tested in about 14,000 adults. To figure out whether this novel vaccine strategy worked, researchers tested the quantity of hepatitis B virus-specific antibodies in serum (seroprotection). Two doses of the new hepatitis B vaccine were compared to three doses of one of the other hepatitis B vaccines. Seven months after the last dose, 95 percent of those who had received the vaccine containing the CpG motif developed protective antibodies as compared with 81.2 percent in the comparator group. The CpG vaccine also induced protective immunity more quickly and offered greater seroprotection in patients with type-2 diabetes (90 percent vs. 65.1 percent), people who were obese (94.7 percent vs. 75.4 percent), and people who smoked (95.3 percent vs. 78.8 percent).

    Further, the CpG-containing hepatitis B vaccine worked better in all age groups, including those who were 18 to 29 years old (100 percent vs. 93.9 percent), 30 to 39 years old (98.9 percent vs. 92 percent), 40 to 49 years old (97.2 percent vs. 84.2 percent), 50 to 59 years old (95.2 percent vs. 79.7 percent), and 60 to 70 years old (91.6 percent vs. 72.6 percent).

    Notably, the two vaccines were indistinguishable with regards to mild or severe reactionswith the exception of one weird observation. Using small numbers derived from the large database of 14,000 vaccine recipients, the new vaccine was found to cause a statistically significant increase in heart attacks, along with a statistically significant decrease in prostate cancer. Because both of these outcomes are biologically implausible, both can be viewed skeptically. The issue of heart attacks, however, will be followed up in post-licensure studies.

    Ironically, the best way to address the problems with the hepatitis B vaccineas well as with any strategy necessitating the induction of long-lasting, specific immunitymight be to solicit the help of a part of our immune system that is designed to respond to something entirely different. But that might be just what the doctor ordered.

    Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/ancient-bacterial-dna-could-thwart-a-devastating-disease

    World Health Organization: Processed Meats Cause Cancer

    Very sad news for bacon lovers.

    The World Health Organization announced Monday that cured and processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and ham cause cancer, adding the foods to a top-tier list of carcinogenic substances that includes alcohol, cigarettes, asbestos, and arsenic.

    Processed meats can be bundled with these threatening carcinogens because of their link with bowel cancer, according to a report from WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, though their inclusion doesn’t mean that bacon causes cancer at the same rate as, say, smoking. 

    “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” IARC epidemiologist Dr. Kurt Straif said in a statement.

    The agency estimates that a 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the risk for bowel cancer by 18 percent. That’s about three slices of cooked bacon. 

    The report also links red meat to cancer. It classifies beef, lamb and pork as “probable” carcinogens in a second-tier list that also includes glyphosate, the active ingredient in many weedkillers.

    The findings, which are based on more than 800 studies, are already receiving pushback from meat industry groups that argue meat is part of a balanced diet and that the cancer risk assessments needs to expand to include risk in the context of lifestyle and environment. 

    “We simply dont think the evidence support any causal link between any red meat and any type of cancer,” said Shalene McNeill, executive director of human nutrition at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

    Such lifestyle and environmental risks have been studied extensively, however, and the IARC noted this broader context was included in the study: 

    In making this evaluation, the Working Group took into consideration all the relevant data, including the substantial epidemiological data showing a positive association between consumption of red meat and colorectal cancer and the strong mechanistic evidence. Consumption of red meat was also positively associated with pancreatic and with prostate cancer.

    Both processed and red meats have been linked with cancer in the past. A 2013 study from researchers at the University of Zurich found that consuming processed meats increased the risk of dying from both heart disease and cancer. In 2012, a review published in British Journal of Cancer linked meats like bacon and sausage to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, a disease with particularly poor survival rates. It’s no secret that red meat is rife with bad cholesterol and fats that are tied to diabetes and heart disease. 

    Unfortunately, the average American consumes about 18 pounds of bacon each year. Our nation eats more red meat than most of the world, though consumption has begun to dip in the past couple of years. In 2014, chicken was more popular than beef for the first time in over 100 years, showing that the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendations for feeding on “leaner meats” may be making an impact on the national plate. 

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/10/26/world-health-organization-processed-meats-cause-cancer_n_8388732.html

    Processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes WHO

    UN health body says bacon, sausages and ham among most carcinogenic substances along with cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos and arsenic

    Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer, the World Health Organisation has said, placing cured and processed meats in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco.

    The report from the WHOs International Agency for Research on Cancer said there was enough evidence to rank processed meats as group 1 carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer.

    It places red meat in group 2A, as probably carcinogenic to humans. Eating red meat is also linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer, the IARC says.

    The IARCs experts concluded that each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

    For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed, said Dr Kurt Straif, head of the IARC monographs programme. In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.

    The decision from the IARC, after a year of deliberations by international scientists, will be welcomed by cancer researchers but it triggered an immediate and furious response from the industry, and the scientists it funds, who rejected any comparison between cigarettes and meat.

    Chart showing per capita meat consumption

    What we do know is that avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer, said Robert Pickard, a member of the Meat Advisory Panel and emeritus professor of neurobiology at Cardiff University. The top priorities for cancer prevention remain smoking cessation, maintenance of normal body weight and avoidance of high alcohol intakes..

    But the writing has been on the wall for ham, bacon and sausages for several years. The World Cancer Research Fund has long been advising people that processed meat is a cancer hazard. It advises eating products such as ham, bacon and salami as little as possible and having no more than 500g a week of red meat, including beef, pork and lamb.

    Prof Tim Key, Cancer Research UKs epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, said: Cancer Research UK supports IARCs decision that theres strong enough evidence to classify processed meat as a cause of cancer, and red meat as a probable cause of cancer.

    Weve known for some time about the probable link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, which is backed by substantial evidence.

    This decision doesnt mean you need to stop eating any red and processed meat. But if you eat lots of it you may want to think about cutting down. You could try having fish for your dinner rather than sausages, or choosing to have a bean salad for lunch over a BLT.

    The statement from the IARC, published as an article in the journal Lancet Oncology, substantially toughens the line, especially against processed meat. But while cancer scientists are concerned about the risks of eating too much meat, some nutritionists maintain that the extra risk is relatively small and that meat has other benefits.

    Dr Elizabeth Lund an independent consultant in nutritional and gastrointestinal health, and a former research leader at the Institute of Food Research, who acknowledges she did some work for the meat industry in 2010 said red meat was linked to about three extra cases of bowel cancer per 100,000 adults in developed countries.

    A much bigger risk factor is obesity and lack of exercise, she said. Overall, I feel that eating meat once a day combined with plenty of fruit, vegetables and cereal fibre, plus exercise and weight control, will allow for a low risk of colorectal cancer and a more balanced diet.

    Prof Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at the Institute of Food Research, also said the effect was small. It is certainly very inappropriate to suggest that any adverse effect of bacon and sausages on the risk of bowel cancer is comparable to the dangers of tobacco smoke, which is loaded with known chemical carcinogens and increases the risk of lung cancer in cigarette smokers by around twentyfold.

    The North American Meat Institute said defining red meat as a cancer hazard defied common sense.

    It was clear, sitting in the IARC meeting, that many of the panellists were aiming for a specific result despite old, weak, inconsistent, self-reported intake data, said Betsy Booren, the institutes vice-president of scientific affairs. They tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome.

    Red and processed meat are among 940 agents reviewed by the IARC and found to pose some level of theoretical hazard. Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by the IARC not to cause cancer.

    The IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but dont breathe air (class 1 carcinogen), sit near a sun-filled window (class 1), apply aloe vera (class 2B) if you get a sunburn, drink wine or coffee (class 1 and class 2B), or eat grilled food (class 2A). And if you are a hairdresser or do shift work (both class 2A), you should seek a new career.

    Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/oct/26/bacon-ham-sausages-processed-meats-cancer-risk-smoking-says-who

    Simple way to boost cancer survival rates: diet and exercise, studies say

    Studies of colon and breast cancer patients link healthy habits to better outcomes amid slew of research on lifestyle and cancer

    A healthy diet and exercise could reduce colon cancer patients chance of death and simply walking could improve survival rates for breast cancer survivors, studies presented at the worlds largest cancer conference have found.

    A study of nearly 1,000 colon cancer patients found that those who exercised regularly, ate more fruits and vegetables and avoided refined grains and meats had a 42% lower chance of death after seven years.

    Similarly, a study of more than 300 Australian breast cancer survivors who aimed to exercise for 180 minutes per week most by simply walking had far better rates of survival than those who were not part of an exercise program.

    The studies were presented amidst a slew of research on the impact of a healthy lifestyle on cancer, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

    Most of what we know about the importance of exercise post-cancer comes from studying women with breast cancer, said Sandra Hayes, an epidemiologist studying cancer and exercise at Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

    Studies conducted on the relationship between exercise and other types of cancer, she said, held up a general set of findings.

    Engaging in some activity [or] exercise is better than none, and doing more is generally better than less, Hayes said.

    Researchers acknowledged that studies on the effects of exercise and cancer recurrence remain epidemiological, and that causal links are yet to be established. Further, the mechanisms through which exercise may influence cancer survival remain unclear.

    In one study, researchers at the University of California San Francisco and colleagues aimed to test whether American Cancer Society (ACS) nutrition and exercise guidelines for cancer survivors could impact survival among colon cancer patients.

    In general, the guidelines recommend moderate exercise of 150 minutes per week, eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and keeping a healthy body weight. The ACS has detailed guidelines for nutritional and exercise standards for cancer survivors, addressing everything from exercise to eating recommendations forthose who have little appetite.

    Researchers found that even colon cancer survivors who drank moderately while following other guidelines had a 42% lower chance of dying than those that did not.

    I would recommend that patients build up to exercising for at least 150 minutes per week, said the senior author, Erin Van Blarigan, an epidemiologist at University of California San Francisco. Brisk walking is a great exercise for everyone. I would also recommend that patients aim to eat at least five servings of vegetables every day, not counting potatoes, and choose whole grains over refined grains.

    Van Blarigan said she was surprised by the strong correlation between healthy diet, exercise and lowered mortality.

    These recommendations can be applied within whatever diet type an individual prefers, she said. The key is finding foods that fit the recommendations that you enjoy, so you can continue this pattern of eating for the long term.

    In a smaller study, Hayes and colleagues in Australia randomly assigned more than 300 breast cancer survivors to groups that received exercise counseling or to a control group.

    All patients were six weeks out of surgery, and lived in both rural and urban settings. The exercise program lasted eight months. The goal was to exercise 180 minutes per week. Most of the participants, researchers said, chose simply to walk.

    After a median follow-up of roughly eight years, researchers found 5.3% of the women who had received exercise counseling had died, versus 11.5% of those who had not received counseling. Similarly, 12.1% of women in the group that received exercise counseling had a recurrence of cancer, versus 17.7% of those who did not.

    The researchers said an exercise program after treatment has clear potential to influence survival.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/04/breast-cancer-colon-survival-rates

    Painless cancer detection could become routine thanks to ‘liquid biopsies’

    Biopsies are seen as the best way of detecting the illness but they have traditionally often required invasive techniques

    Researchers are developing tests that could make cancer detection so painless that it becomes part of routine check-ups, experts said, as new developments in such liquid biopsy technology were presented at the worlds largest cancer conference in Chicago this weekend.

    Collecting tumor tissue through biopsies is considered the gold standard for diagnosing and treating cancer. However, necessary surgery is often invasive and sometimes unsuccessful.

    That has fueled interest in technology that uses blood samples to examine bits of DNA shed into the bloodstream by tumors. The hope, researchers say, is to save patients the pain of surgery, monitor tumor growth to tailor treatment, and ultimately to save lives.

    Its fair to say that if you could detect all cancers while they are still localized, you could diminish cancer deaths by 90%, said Dr Bert Vogelstein, a professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who co-authored a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

    But thats a theoretical figure. The available data suggests that its going to take quite a while, and there are a lot of obstacles to overcome.

    Like all cells, cancerous cells shed DNA as they die. Tests in development examine these bits of DNA in the bloodstream, finding mutations in already diagnosed cancers or, experts hope, diagnosing cancer early.

    Part of the challenge in developing such tests is scale. Pieces of DNA represent a tiny portion of a blood sample. Pieces of cancer DNA represent an even tinier sliver of all the DNA present in blood.

    Pieces of genetic material, called cell-free DNA, are found in blood plasma. But plasma contains cell-free DNA from all over the body not just cancer. In some cases, cell-free DNA from cancer represents just 0.1% of all cell-free DNA, new research has found. That makes the search a needle in a haystack.

    One of the studies presented at ASCO sequenced 100 times more data than ever before. Using such high-intensity sequencing, researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center scanned regions of the genome up to 60,000 times to look for 508 specific genes.

    Dr Pedram Razavi and his research team collected blood samples from 124 patients with metastatic breast, non-small cell lung or prostate cancer. Biopsies were collected to provide a baseline, and researchers also sequenced each patients white blood cells to rule out benign mutations.

    In 89% of the patients, researchers identified at least one gene mutation. The highest success rates were for breast cancer patients, in whom researchers were able to find 97% of gene mutations.

    Ravazi said simple tests to screen for cancer were a very long way from development, but the new research brought doctors one step closer. This is a promising first step in patients with metastatic DNA, he said, referring to advanced cancer patients.

    Another abstract presented at ASCO took the opposite approach. US and Australian researchers at Johns Hopkins and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne screened 119 pancreatic cancer patients for just one mutation found nearly all pancreatic cancers.

    Though only four patients had advanced cancer, researchers found cell-free DNA in all of them. In patients with stage two cancer, the largest group, researchers found cell-free DNA in 54.5% of 99 cases. Authors said tests showed promise for screening, and could help guide treatment.

    One of the researchers, Peter Gibbs, said he could envision that within five years, people would receive tests that search for about 20 cancer gene mutations.

    Its potentially very close by, said Gibbs. The potential impact on screening and prevention is huge.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/04/cancer-detection-liquid-biopsies

    Prostate cancer trial stuns researchers: ‘It’s a once in a career feeling’

    Study with powerful results finds that combining two existing therapies could extend the life of men with advanced, high-risk prostate cancer by 37%

    Combining two existing prostate cancer therapies could extend the life of men with advanced, high-risk prostate cancer by 37%, according to a study presented at the worlds largest cancer conference. The new findings could change how doctors first approach treatment of prostate cancer.

    These are the most powerful results Ive seen from a prostate cancer trial, said Nicholas James, the lead author of the abstract presented as the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Its a once in a career feeling. This is one of the biggest reductions in death Ive seen in any clinical trial for adult cancers.

    Researchers combined standard hormone therapy with a drug called abiraterone , which is typically used only for cancer patients whose disease has stopped responding to standard hormone therapy. The research was conducted as part of the Stampede trial, an ongoing randomized trial conducted in the UK and Switzerland.

    Abiraterone not only prolonged life, but also lowered the chance of relapse by 70% and reduced the chance of serious bone complications by 50%, James said. Based on the magnitude of clinical benefit, we believe the upfront care for patients newly diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer should change.

    The study looked at a group of 2,000 men. Patients who received both abiraterone and normal hormone therapy were significantly less likely to die, compared to patients who received only hormone therapy.

    Comparatively, 83% of men assigned abiraterone therapy survived versus 76% of men on standard hormone therapy. Researchers also found that patients who received both medications had slightly stronger side effects, especially cardiovascular and liver problems.

    One patient who participated in the trial, Alfred Samuels, 59, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in January 2012. It felt like my world fell apart overnight, Samuels said. The doctors explained that surgery wasnt an option for me because the cancer had spread beyond my prostate.

    As part of the trial, I started taking abiraterone four times a day and had a hormone injection every eight weeks, he said. During the first six months, tests showed that the treatment was working. Im still on the trial, which I find reassuring and, fortunately, my cancer is being managed well.

    More than 27,000 men in the US and 11,000 men in the UK die of prostate cancer each year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prostate Cancer UK. In the US, aside from skin cancer, it is the most common cancer in men.

    The potential benefits of giving some men abiraterone alongside hormone therapy are clearly impressive and we will be working with all relevant bodies to make sure this treatment becomes an option available for these men via the NHS, said Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jun/03/prostate-cancer-therapy-study-abiraterone