Does Drinking Coffee reduce the risk of getting prostate cancer ?

Yes

A study in the BMJ open journal reports that “Higher coffee consumption was significantly associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer”

The authors further report that “the risk of prostate cancer was reduced by nearly 1% for each extra one cup of coffee per day”

But a word of caution!

Almost every week there are newspaper reports of studies exploring associations between “various food/drink” with “various cancers/diseases” and some of them conflicting and confusing.

So conclusions of most individual studies relating to food and drink need to be taken with a dose of healthy scepticism.

Telegraph: Advanced prostate cancer sufferers less likely to die if they are heavy coffee drinkers, study finds
A single cup can reduce the chances of contracting the disease by as much as one per cent, researchers claim.

Chen X, Zhao Y, Tao Z, et al. Coffee consumption and risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ Open 2021;11:e038902. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-038902

Jacobsen BK , Bjelke E , Kvåle G , et al . Coffee drinking, mortality, and cancer incidence: results from a Norwegian prospective study. J Natl Cancer Inst 1986;76:823–31.pmid:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3457969

Nomura A , Heilbrun LK , Stemmermann GN . Prospective study of coffee consumption and the risk of cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1986;76:587–90.doi:10.1093/jnci/76.4.587 pmid:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3457196

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Galleri cancer test: an exciting new test for cancer

Galleri test is a new type of blood test for cancer. The test promises to revolutionise cancer diagnosis.

Trials have started in UK to see how well the test works in real world.

Within a few years, we should be able to see early results.

Just because a cancer can be diagnosed early, it does not automatically mean that it will make patients live longer.

Let’s say, a person is diagnosed with a serious cancer at age of 60 yrs and dies of cancer at age of 65 yrs.

Any test that detects the cancer early ( before the age of 60) should make this person live longer than 65 years.

If the test , for example, detects the cancer at the age of 55 instead of 60, but the person still dies of cancer at 65, then it is a worthless test.

Hopefully, the trial will thoroughly analyse the outcome to see whether the test is of overall benefit.

References

Galleri™ Test

NHS launches world first trial for new cancer test. 13 September 2021

BBC news. Galleri cancer test: What is it and who can get it? 13 Sept 2021

Disclaimer: Please note – This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog are NOT, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice. The blog is NOT previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed, in any way, by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog likely represents some of the author’s personal views held at the time of drafting the blog and MAY CHANGE overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light.

COVID vaccination of 12-15 year olds: benefits vs risks

Should young teenagers have the COVID vaccine?

At present, this is a difficult question to give a straightforward answer.

For most of “middle to old age” people, the benefits of COVID vaccines are far greater than potential side effects from vaccines.

On the other hand, in case of 12-15 year olds, the benefits are marginally better than risks and individual circumstances need to be taken into account.

UK’s vaccine advisory body is called JCVI. ( Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation ).

JCVI on Friday declined to recommend universal vaccination of all 12-15 year olds. This is because the chances of children becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 is very small. This needs to be balanced against a tiny risk of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart in young people due to the vaccines. It is a matter of weighing up disease versus vaccine.

But, this does not mean COVID vaccines are not being given to 12-15 year olds.

USA, France, Italy, Israel and Ireland are offering vaccines to this group.

In U.K., vulnerable children with heart and lung problems, blood disorders, diabetes and various other diseases are eligible for the COVID vaccine. Children living with extremely vulnerable adults are also eligible.

Parents with healthy 12-15 year olds have a difficult choice to make in the coming weeks.

References

BMJ news. Covid-19: JCVI opts not to recommend universal vaccination of 12-15 year olds
BMJ 2021; 374 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n2180 (Published 03 September 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2180

BBC news. Covid: What do parents think about vaccinating children?
By Jennifer Meierhans & Kris Bramwell
BBC News

BBC news. Scientists not backing Covid jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds
By Philippa Roxby and Nick Triggle
BBC News

BBC news. Why vaccinating all teens is a difficult decision
By Philippa Roxby
Health reporter

Gov.U.K. Guidance
Coronavirus (COVID-19): antibody testing

Updated 22 August 2021

NHS. Antibody testing to check if you’ve had coronavirus (COVID-19)

Disclaimer: Please note – This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog are NOT, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice. The blog is NOT previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed, in any way, by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog likely represents some of the author’s personal views held at the time of drafting the blog and MAY CHANGE overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light.

Health problems in middle age

A recent British study reports that nearly a third of middle-aged adults have at least two Health issues.

This is very a depressing statistic.

Lot of people seem to suffering from high blood pressure, mental ill-health and back problems.

It’s important that people take time to look after themselves even if work and life in general is stressful.

It is also important to note that COVID affects people with underlying health issues much more badly.

On the other hand, middle aged people who have health issues should not despair. They are not an exception and think of themselves as very unlucky.

They can see that lots of other people are also suffering. They should get on with their lives and make it better.

This may sound a bit odd at first glance. But some people do find it reassuring to know that lots of other people are also suffering with same health issues.

For example, Some of prostate cancers patients are relieved when they learn that hundreds of thousands of people are out there, living for many years, after a cancer diagnosis. They are not alone.

Cancer Research U.K. website says this: “An estimated 280,500 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1991 and 2010 were alive in the UK at the end of 2010”

References

BBC news. Chronic health issues for third in late 40s – study

BMJ. Features of 20 133 UK patients in hospital with covid-19 using the ISARIC WHO Clinical Characterisation Protocol: prospective observational cohort study
BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1985 (Published 22 May 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1985

Cancer Research U.K. Prostate cancer incidence statistics ( prevalence)

Macmillan Cancer Support and National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service. Cancer Prevalence UK Data Tables(link is external). London: NCRAS; 2015.

Prostate Cancer U.K.: Support Groups.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s personal views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is NOT previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are NOT, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

A new blood test for cancer

Cancer cells can float in a person’s blood. But finding them, in the past, used to be like “looking for a needle in a haystack”.

But new smart technology promises to detect these cancer cells easily and much early before a person develops symptoms. Detection of cancer cells at an early stage may be helpful for some patients.

A recently published study in the journal “Annals of Oncology” reports exciting results.

A Californian company called Grail has developed a blood test which seems to have a high degree of accuracy for detection of multiple cancers.

Times newspaper reports that “The NHS will begin a pilot scheme of the test with 140,000 people this year. If that is successful it will be used for millions of patients by 2025”

A word of caution though.

Just because something could be diagnosed early does not always mean that it is a good thing.

The most important thing is whether the early diagnosis can lead to better cure rates and a better quality of life.

If a test detects a cancer early but has no meaningful effect on quantity or quality of life, then it is not a good thing.

For example. Up to 80% of men have prostate cancer which can now be detected by a simple blood test called PSA. There is a good reason why we are NOT using the simple PSA test in every 80 year old.

Most 80 year old men die WITH prostate cancer rather than DUE to prostate cancer.

So why diagnose a cancer that is not causing symptoms if it is not going to make person live longer !

REFERENCES

Times. New blood test, created by Californian company Grail, detects cancers among over-50s. Kat Lay, Health Editor. Friday June 25 2021, 12.01am, The Times.

Clinical validation of a targeted methylation-based multi-cancer early detection test using an independent validation set. E A Klein et al. Ann Oncol. 2021.

Guardian. Blood test that finds 50 types of cancer is accurate enough to be rolled out.
Diagnostic tool being piloted by NHS England shows ‘impressive results’ in spotting tumours in early stages
Blood tests’ development could help the NHS further.
Nadeem Badshah and agency
Fri 25 Jun 2021 06.00 BST

Daily Mail. NHS trials ‘holy grail’ blood test that can spot 50 kinds of cancer: Ground-breaking check that can accurately detect two thirds of deadly cancers early in healthy people could save thousands of lives a year. By Victoria Allen Science Correspondent For The Daily Mail
00:00, 25 Jun 2021 , updated 10:04, 25 Jun 2021

NHS. Should I have a PSA test?

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Is drinking alcohol within guideline amount safe ?

No !

It would be a shock for many to hear that “No amount of alcohol is absolutely safe”.

A team at Imperial College London analysed MRI scans of heart, brain and liver of people who drink alcohol. They found that higher alcohol consumption was related to smaller brain, weaker heart and fatty liver.

They reported that “there is no ‘safe threshold’ below which there were no toxic effects of alcohol.

Previously other studies have also reported that there is no safe limit for alcohol!

In 2018, a Lancet study reported that the risk of death and risk of cancers increased substantially with increasing levels of alcohol consumption; and there was no safe limit below which there was no risk.

The message is “Avoid alcohol”

If you can’t, then atleast drink as little as possible.

References:

Alcohol consumption in the general population is associated with structural changes in multiple organ systems. Evangelos Evangelou, Hideaki Suzuki, Wenjia Bai, Raha Pazoki, He Gao, Paul M Matthews MD, PhD, Paul Elliott. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.65325

Does Drinking Within Low-Risk Guidelines Prevent Harm? Implications for High-Income Countries Using the International Model of Alcohol Harms and Policies
Adam Sherk et al. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2020 May

Lancet. GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators
Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.
Lancet. 2018; (published online Aug 23.)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Selenium can be harmful for Skin cancer patients

Nutritional supplements are often tried to prevent cancer. But well- designed rigorously conducted clinical trials have NOT shown any benefit in prevention of many cancers.

Selenium was suggested as a preventative supplement for skin cancer.

A clinical trial compared Selenium against placebo in United States. The results were disappointing.

Selenium supplementation was found to be ineffective at preventing Skin cancers.

To make matters worse, Selenium was found to Harmful and increased the the risk of getting some skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma.

Selenium Supplementation and Secondary Prevention of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer in a Randomized Trial. Anna J. Duffield-Lillico, Elizabeth H. Slate, Mary E. Reid, Bruce W. Turnbull, Patricia A. Wilkins, Gerald F. Combs, Jr., H. Kim Park, Earl G. Gross, Gloria F. Graham, M. Suzanne Stratton… Show moreJNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 95, Issue 19, 1 October 2003, Pages 1477–1481, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djg061

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Vitamin D reduces risk of advanced cancer in normal-weight individuals.

“An ounce of prevention better than a pound of cure” is certainly true when it comes to cancer prevention.

Vitamin D, the “sunshine” vitamin has been proven to reduce risk of advanced cancers an large American study.

The study presented at the ASCO ( American Society of Clinical Oncology) virtual scientific symposium in 2020,

“The VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL) was a high quality study. The study randomly assigned patients to Vitamin D3 supplements and/or omega-3 fatty acid supplements and/or both or placebo in 25,871 men and women.

The study found that “vitamin D supplementation decreased risk of developing advanced cancers by 17% compared with placebo ”

“Omega-3 supplementation did not reduce the incidence of advanced cancer.”

Reference:

Vitamin D Reduces Incidence of Advanced Cancers in Normal-Weight Individuals. ASCO Annual Meeting 2020.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Anything potentially good from this COVID-19 pandemic?

It might seem foolish to ask the question “Anything good from this COVID-19 pandemic?” when so many people across the world has been so badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

There is some truth in the proverb that “every dark cloud has a silver lining” and no matter how bad the current pandemic is now, human spirit and endeavour would get something positive out of it.

One possible good thing that has come out of the pandemic is the “mRNA technology”.

Of the three vaccines so far, two of them the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are based on RNA technology.

The successful use of RNA technology for Coronavirus Vaccines would hopefully enable the versatile RNA technology to be further developed and successfully used a cancer treatment in near future.

Further clinical trials in cancer patients would be done to provide proof of their potential.

References:

Bloomberg. Technology & Ideas. mRNA Vaccines Could Vanquish Covid Today, Cancer Tomorrow.
The best news about the mRNA shots from BioNTech and Moderna is that the same technique could also defeat many other diseases.

MSKCC. In a Twist, Scientists Find Cancer Drivers Hiding in RNA, Not DNA.

Jerusalem Post Health & Science. Israeli scientists use mRNA COVID-19 vaccine technology to fight cancer. By MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN NOVEMBER 24, 2020 20:08

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Is the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccine safe for use in patients having chemotherapy and immunotherapy?

Yes, the available indirect evidence indicates that the anticipated benefits overweigh the potential risks.

Cancer patients, particularly those on chemotherapy have compromised immune systems and hence more vulnerable to COVID-19 Coronavirus complications.

The guidelines indicate that anticipated benefits of vaccine are greater than unknown risks from the Coronavirus vaccines.

The Vaccine trials deliberately included lot of healthy people. Very few people with cancer, particularly cancer patients on active treatment, were included in the COVID-19 trials. So there is not much direct evidence regarding efficacy and safety of Vaccines in cancer patients. But indirect evidence significantly favours Coronavirus vaccination in cancer patients.

Flu vaccines are regularly used in cancer patients without any major side effects specific to cancer patients. No increase in incidence or severity of drug side effects were seen in immunotherapy patients having flu vaccines.

On balance, Vaccination is most likely to be of utmost benefit for most advanced cancer patients on active treatment.

References:

ESMO STATEMENTS FOR VACCINATION AGAINST COVID-19 IN PATIENTS WITH CANCER.

Guidance: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a
Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination information
for public health professionals. (UK),

Cochrane: Influenza (flu) vaccination for preventing influenza in adults with cancer

Safety of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Cancer Patients Receiving Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
Curtis R Chong et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2020.

ESMO: CANCER PATIENT MANAGEMENT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

Kuderer NM Choueiri TK Shah DP et al.
Clinical impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer (CCC19): a cohort study. Lancet. 2020; 395: 1907-1918

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.
The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is it worth stopping smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer ?

Yes.

It is not too late to stop smoking even after a diagnosis of lung cancer.

A Study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting earlier this year reports that ” No matter when smokers quit, their chance of survival increases following a lung cancer diagnosis”.

References

Quitting Smoking at Any Point, Even Close to a Lung Cancer Diagnosis, Improves Chances of Survival. Virtual scientific program of the 2020 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. 

https://www.asco.org/about-asco/press-center/news-releases/quitting-smoking-any-point-even-close-lung-cancer-diagnosis

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Cancer treatment delays during the pandemic

The Staff at National Health Service in UK are doing an admirable job during the pandemic. In the particular, the frontline staff (“patient-facing”) are showing great courage in face of great difficulties and are primarily driven by altruism.

But the pressures of pandemic means many routine scans and hospital clinic appointments have been cancelled particularly during the first wave. There is a great worry about delayed diagnosis of cancer and delayed treatment of cancer.

A paper in BMJ reports that cancer patients survival can be significantly compromised.

But, as with everything else in life, things are not always what they look like at first impression. Even things that are logical and common sense at first glance do not turn out to be simple and clear.

Firstly, delays and cancellations of scans paradoxically could have psychologically benefited some cancer patients . This might seem counterintuitive or even an outrageous statement.

But there are some cancers which are being over diagnosed. A Cancer diagnosis does not always mean a death sentence. Some cancers do not cause problems for a long time or never in the life time of a person. These cancers do not need to be diagnosed promptly. Not being diagnosed with these cancers prevents the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis. This “over diagnosis” would be expectedly less during pandemic.

Secondly, treatment delays could be caused by a cancer that is advanced and the need for time consuming additional investigations and procedures. Sometimes delays are caused by patients needing to see many medical specialists for the treatment. So it’s the aggressive cancer and the complex patient care that would cause the delay and is responsible for poor outcome rather than the delay by itself.

Read the BMJ article and make your views known.

Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4087 (Published 04 November 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4087

Overdiagnosis in Cancer
H. Gilbert Welch, William C. Black
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 102, Issue 9, 5 May 2010, Pages 605–613, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djq099

Disparities in head and neck cancer: assessing delay in treatment initiation
Urjeet A Patel et al. Laryngoscope. 2012 Aug.

Khorana AA, Tullio K, Elson P, Pennell NA, Grobmyer SR, Kalady MF, et al. (2019) . Time to initial cancer treatment in the United States and association with survival over time: An observational study. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0215108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215108

Does intensive follow benefit Bowel cancer patients?

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The old adage “prevention is better than cure” is mostly true with regards to cancer if you can do it.

If you can’t prevent it , at least catch it early, has been the prime motive behind screening tests for breast, cervical, bowel, lung and prostate cancers. (“early is better”). Cancers that are detected at an early stage can offer a better chance of curative treatment.

So one might logically expect that intensive monitoring and early diagnosis of a cancer relapse or a secondary cancer after initial treatment can be immensely helpful.

But the evidence for intensive hospital follow-up visits and investigations is weak for most cancers except for some cancers such as Testicular Cancers which are highly curable.

Intensive monitoring after bowel cancer treatment can detect treatable cancers. To confirm the benefit of early detection of relapse by intensive monitoring , a trial was conducted comparing intensive follow up versus routine follow up ( in France and Belgium).

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that the intensive follow with scans can detect cancer recurrences which can be treated by further surgery. But unfortunately the intensive follow up did NOT lead to longer life expectancy.

The results might be counterintuitive but after an average follow up more than six years, this trial demonstrates that intensive follow is NOT always best. Scans might be done for psychological reassurance but they could end up causing significant anxiety.

When there are resource constraints (e.g low economic countries) , one has to be careful about frequents routine scans for those without symptoms.

During COVID-19, even in rich countries such as UK where there might be huge waiting lists, one has to consider prioritising scans for those who need most.

References

1. ESMO Daily reporter: INTENSIVE FOLLOW-UP INCREASES FREQUENCY OF CURATIVE INTENT SECONDARY SURGERY IN COLORECTAL CANCER.

2. DRE is useless for follow up of prostate cancer patients. https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/03/dre-useless-follow-prostate-cancer-patients

3. Cancer patients follow up and a new role for GPs. https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/03/cancer-patients-follow-and-new-role-gps

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Hope and incurable Cancer: does hope torment or does it help to cope?

A diagnosis of incurable and advanced cancer is often a massive shock to everyone.

Should we ask them to face reality , accept death and extinguish all hope.

Or should we be offering hope of living a bit longer with treatments while being honest with prognosis.

Hope can be tormenting to some.

Hope can be comforting to some.

What are you views?

Contribute your views at online rapid response @BMJ journal

Don’t torment me with hope. BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3016 (Published 09 September 2020)Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3016

In defence of Hope: https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3016/rr-3

Can Hair dyes cause cancer?

Yes, there is a possible increased risk of some types of skin and breast cancer as well as ovarian cancer.

Permanent hair dyes are widely used. A recent study published in BMJ suggests that use of Hair dyes might be risky.

This large study from United States enrolled 117 200 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. The women reported on personal use of permanent hair dyes, and were followed for 36 years. So overall it is a high quality observational study.

Read the full paper and Caveats at the BMJ website.

References

Personal use of permanent hair dyes and cancer risk and mortality in US women: prospective cohort study

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2942 (Published 02 September 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2942

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is weight loss a sign of cancer?

If you have been dieting and exercising to shed excess weight, then you can celebrate your success in achieving your goal.

But some poorly lose weight unintentionally . This type of weight loss that occurs without intention might be of concern in some people.

A recent article in BMJ advocates screening for cancer in some patients if they have weight loss and other symptoms in their chest and abdomen.

Male smokers over the age of 50 are one of the high risk groups !

Don’t ignore weight loss !

References

Prioritising primary care patients with unexpected weight loss for cancer investigation: diagnostic accuracy study

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2651 (Published 13 August 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2651

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Can a Protein rich diet lead to a longer life ?

Yes, a protein rich diet can lead a longer life and reduce risk deaths due to heart diseases.

Before you rush to relish your burger or steak , please note the evidence for beneficial effect is very much in favour of plant proteins than animal proteins.

So Befriend your Beans !

And Love your Lentils !

Reference

Dietary intake of total, animal, and plant proteins and risk of all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2412 (Published 22 July 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2412

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Does alcohol increase of breast cancer?

Yes, Alcohol does substantially increase the risk of Breast cancer.

Very few people seem to be aware of the risks.

Previously it was thought that heavy drinking is responsible for harmful cancer effects.

But studies from U.K and U.S.A have subsequently shown that even light to moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer.

A very large study involving more than 1,250,000 middle-aged women in the United Kingdom ( enrolled in the Million Women Study) showed that “Low to moderate alcohol consumption” in women increases the risk of breast cancer and certain other cancers.

In a study involving more than 88,000 women from United States, also showed that light to moderate drinking increases the risk of breast cancer.

So keep counting the alcohol units during the festive time.

References

1. U.K. Study: Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women.

2. U.S.A study. Light to moderate intake of alcohol, drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: results from two prospective US cohort studies. BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h4238 (Published 18 August 2015). Cite this as: BMJ.2015;351:h4238

3. Telegraph. Drinking alcohol raises risk of cancer by snapping DNA, scientists find.

4. Telegraph U.K. Just one in five women at risk of breast cancer know alcohol increases the danger.

Crowdfunding expensive stem cell therapies

Crowd fund metaphor

If you have come across a desperate request to crowdfund an expensive stem cell therapy, read this well researched BBC article before you contribute.

Hope is a powerful driver particularly when someone is facing immense difficulties in life. Human beings have a natural inclination to fight against all odds and it seems to be inbuilt in our DNA and psyche.

But not all promising treatments do help desperate people searching for a cure.

Reference.

BBC news. The unwarranted hype of stem cell therapies. By Jules Montague. 21 August 2019

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

Dietary advice: take it with a pinch of salt

Official dietary advice as well as various “Diets” promoted by various celebrities tend to be very prescriptive. They often give the impression that the evidence behind everything they promote is very clear cut.

But truth is far more murkier ( I might say more “mish mash “).

A new study analysis of old data comes to a different conclusion about “red meat”. This is in fact not surprising as the evidence for various Dietary guidelines and “Diets” are not usually robust and watertight and involves lot of assumptions.

What is the take home message:

Eat “everything you like” in moderation and try to make it as balanced as possible with substitutes for things you avoid !!

Avoid processed food as much as possible and eat fresh.

Don’t be surprised if the next two studies on this topic reach three different conclusions.

References

1. BBC news. Is red meat back on the menu?

2. New York Times. Eat Less Red Meat, Scientists Said. Now Some Believe That Was Bad Advice.

3. The original study article from Annals of Internal Medicine. Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium.

4. Daily Mail. You DON’T need to cut out red meat: Scientists say official advice on eating less beef, pork and lamb is based on bad evidence and having it four times a week poses ‘NO cancer risk’ 

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

What’s in a name?

awareness cancer design pink Photo by Miguel on Pexels.com

The word cancer is a dreaded one. Not without a good reason. Cancer is the number one killer. Even when someone has a good outcome, the cancer journey is torture. Emotional turmoil is immeasurably horrendous.

But many people would be surprised to hear that there exists a category of low risk cancers. “Low-risk Cancers are cancers which usually don’t kill; These Cancers are found either incidentally on scans performed for some other reasons or found as part of routine cancer screening.”

Because they are not deadly, Should the patients diagnosed with low-risk cancers be spared the dreaded label of cancer?

Should low-risk cancers be labelled something else and the word cancer used only for the “serious” high-risk cancers ?

Personally, I do not agree with renaming of the low risk cancers..Others disagree

Joint the debate at the BMJ.

Submit your views through rapid response

Reference: 
Should we rename low risk cancers? BMJ

several assorted color tags Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Can Turmeric control cancer ?

Turmeric powder

 

Turmeric is an orange coloured spice widely used in Indian dishes.

Turmeric has been used in Indian traditional medicine (Siddha and Ayurveda).

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and anti-Cancer properties when tested in laboratories.

Remember – a potential to be beneficial (based on lab studies) is not the same as being proven to work in humans. Lot of substances which are promising in the laboratory eventually turn out to be useless in humans.

If you search PUBMED database- which is an online database of scientific papers- you will find hundreds of papers pertaining to medicinal use of turmeric and its key ingredients such as curcumin. But unfortunately among the many hundreds of published papers, there are very few human trials which have explored turmeric as a anti-cancer treatment.

Inspite of the positive anectodal reports on various internet sites, the available scientific evidence for use of turmeric as an anti-cancer treatment is very spare. ( references below).

Hence it is not worthwhile using turmeric as a cancer treatment.

If you do like Indian dishes, use turmeric as a spice in your normal diet.

But do stay away from the supplements which are sold with health claims.

 

ginger and turmeric powder

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

References

The EssentialMedicinal Chemistry of Curcumin.Nelson KM, Dahlin JL, Bisson J, Graham J, Pauli GF, Walters MA. J Med Chem. 2017 Mar 9;60(5):1620-1637.

Phase I clinical trial of oralcurcumin: biomarkers of systemic activity and compliance.Sharma RA, Euden SA, Platton SL, Cooke DN, Shafayat A, Hewitt HR, Marczylo TH, Morgan B, Hemingway D, Plummer SM, Pirmohamed M, Gescher AJ, Steward WP. Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Oct 15;10(20):6847-54.

A Placebo-Controlled Double-Blinded Randomized Pilot Study of Combination Phytotherapy in Biochemically Recurrent Prostate Cancer.van Die MD, Williams SG, Emery J, Bone KM, Taylor JM, Lusk E, Pirotta MV. Prostate. 2017 May;77(7):765-775.

Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Treatment of Intestinal Adenomas in Patients With Familial Adenomatous Polyposis.Cruz-Correa M, Hylind LM, Marrero JH, Zahurak ML, Murray-Stewart T, Casero RA Jr, Montgomery EA, Iacobuzio-Donahue C, Brosens LA, Offerhaus GJ, Umar A, Rodriguez LM, Giardiello FM. Gastroenterology. 2018 Sep;155(3):668-673.

Effect on prostatic specific antigen by a short time treatment with a Curcuma extract: A real life experience and implications for prostate biopsy.Fabiani A, Morosetti C, Filosa A, Principi E, Lepri L, Maurelli V, Fioretti F, Servi L. Arch Ital Urol Androl. 2018 Jun 30;90(2):107-111.

Pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic study of oral Curcuma extract in patients with colorectal cancer.Sharma RA, McLelland HR, Hill KA, Ireson CR, Euden SA, Manson MM, Pirmohamed M, Marnett LJ, Gescher AJ, Steward WP. Clin Cancer Res. 2001 Jul;7(7):1894.

Consumption of the putative chemopreventive agent curcumin by cancer patients: assessment of curcumin levels in the colorectum and their pharmacodynamic consequences.Garcea G, Berry DP, Jones DJ, Singh R, Dennison AR, Farmer PB, Sharma RA, Steward WP, Gescher AJ. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Jan;14(1):120-5.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial evaluating the effect of a polyphenol-rich whole food supplement on PSA progression in men with prostate cancer–the U.K. NCRN Pomi-T study.Thomas R, Williams M, Sharma H, Chaudry A, Bellamy P. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2014 Jun;17(2):180-6

Consumption of the putative chemopreventive agent curcumin by cancer patients: assessment of curcumin levels in the colorectum and their pharmacodynamic consequences.Garcea G, Berry DP, Jones DJ, Singh R, Dennison AR, Farmer PB, Sharma RA, Steward WP, Gescher AJ. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Jan;14(1):120-5.

A phase I/II study of gemcitabine-based chemotherapy plus curcumin for patients with gemcitabine-resistant pancreatic cancer.Kanai M, Yoshimura K, Asada M, Imaizumi A, Suzuki C, Matsumoto S, Nishimura T, Mori Y, Masui T, Kawaguchi Y, Yanagihara K, Yazumi S, Chiba T, Guha S, Aggarwal BB. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2011 Jul;68(1):157.

Phytosome complex of curcumin as complementary therapy of advanced pancreatic cancer improves safety and efficacy of gemcitabine: Results of a prospective phase II trial.Pastorelli D, Fabricio ASC, Giovanis P, D’Ippolito S, Fiduccia P, Soldà C, Buda A, Sperti C, Bardini R, Da Dalt G, Rainato G, Gion M, Ursini F. Pharmacol Res. 2018 Jun;132:72-79.

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, smoldering multiple myeloma, and curcumin: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over 4g study and an open-label 8g extension study.Golombick T, Diamond TH, Manoharan A, Ramakrishna R. Am J Hematol. 2012 May;87(5):455-60.

 

Image credit: Simon A. Eugster. Turmeric (Curcuma longa):fresh rhizome and powder.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

How to communicate that the disease is mild even though symptoms are disabling?

women s white long sleeved top

Beth McHugh makes a strong argument for doctors “not to explicitly discuss disease severity scale”.

But

(1) A valid informed consent would then become difficult

(2) Not discussing severity, is not a practical option for patients with certain illness.

My BMJ eLetter on this topic…

Risk categorisation will continue to be the norm in future as genomic data leads to personalised medicine.

England’s 100 000 Genomes Project

Can alcohol cause cancer?

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Can alcohol cause cancer?

Yes,  worldwide, 1 in 20 cancers are attributed to alcohol .

How much drinking causes cancer?

“Even modest use of alcohol may increase cancer risk, but the greatest risks are observed with heavy, long-term use”

“The more that a person drinks, and the longer the period of time, the greater their risk of development of cancer, especially head and neck cancers”

Are light drinkers at risk ?

Risk of cancer is present at  even at low levels of consumption.  Hence, the World Cancer Research Fund/AICR makes the following recommendation: “If alcoholic drinks are consumed, limit consumption to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.” They also recommend that, “for cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.”

Is wine less risky than spirits?

No,  the risk is present “regardless of the specific type of alcoholic beverage (ie, beer, wine, or spirits/liquor)”

Which cancers can arise due to alcohol?

Alcohol is causally associated with Mouth, Throat, Gullet, Liver, Breast and Bowel cancers.

Links:

  1. Alcohol and Cancer: A Statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. http://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/JCO.2017.76.1155
  2. Alcohol is a direct cause of seven ​​forms of cancer, finds study . https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/22/alcohol-direct-cause-seven-forms-of-cancer-study

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