Can vitamins increase risk of cancer ?

Yes

Vitamins are absolutely essential nutrients and vitamin deficiency causes various illness.

But a high dose of vitamin, far too much than needed by the body, is also bad.

Everything in moderation is good. Even an abundance of a good thing is bad.

It is similar to food. Lack of food would cause starvation and even death in the extreme. But too much of food causes obesity and other health problems. Same principle applies to vitamins.

A Cochrane review looked at the ability of vitamins to prevent lung cancer. The review concluded that there is “no beneficial effect of supplements for the prevention of lung cancer and lung cancer mortality in healthy people”

Worryingly, the review also found that the following:

Vitamin A supplements increase lung cancer incidence and mortality in smokers or persons exposed to asbestos”.

Vitamin C increases lung cancer incidence in women.

Vitamin E increases the risk of haemorrhagic strokes.

So if you are having a healthy balanced diet, be careful with vitamin supplements.

Drugs for preventing lung cancer in healthy people
Marcela Cortés-Jofré et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020.
Free PMC article

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.

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.

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.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe in cancer patients having immunotherapy?

Yes, Pfizer vaccine is safe.

A recent study published in the esteemed Lancet Oncology Journal shows that the vaccine is well tolerated in patients having immunotherapy.

Unlike cancer chemotherapy, immunotherapy works differently. It works by releasing the in-built brakes holding down the immune system thereby boosting the body’s immune system against cancer.

There has been some theoretical concerns whether this might lead to COVID vaccine causing more side effects.

Reassuringly, the Vaccine side effects were NO different from those seen in people not having immunotherapy. The Vaccine also did NOT increase the immunotherapy side effects.

Immunotherapy is increasingly used widely in treatment of cancer are often better tolerated than chemotherapy.

So the study is good news for tens of thousands of patients on immunotherapy and any cancer patient who has hesitated before, should seriously consider having the vaccine now

COVID infection could be very nasty in cancer patients and all evidence points to the benefits of vaccine far outweighing any risks from the Vaccine.

References

Short-term safety of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in patients with cancer treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors
The Lancet Oncology. Published: April 1, 2021
Barliz Waissengrin et al. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(21)00155-8

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 previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a 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.

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.