Articles Posted in Cancer

Collinslab-150x150Mukamal-144x150The National Institutes of Health, perhaps the world’s leading medical research institution, has moved fast to try to fix self-inflicted damage to its reputation caused by a controversial $100-million study on alcohol and its harms.

NIH Director Francis Collins halted the study, and an advisory group backed his action, lambasting researchers for soliciting funding and counsel from the alcohol industry for a work that purported to answer key and fundamental questions about booze but from its outset leaned toward seeing benefit in moderate drinking.

The New York Times deserves credit for digging into the dubious  actions by researchers supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an arm of NIH.

ecigopposticker-300x300San Francisco voters, upholding their elected leaders’ enlightened lawmaking, bashed Big Tobacco and its interests, providing a potent primary election message to public health officials nationwide to curb the growing menace to young people posed by e-cigarettes and vaping.

By a 2-to-1 margin, Bay Area residents supported their Board of Supervisors’ tough ban — which may be the most stringent in the nation — on sales of flavored tobacco products, including vaping liquids packaged as candies and juice boxes, and menthol cigarettes.

Specialized liquids, peddled in flavors like bubble gum, chicken and waffles, and unicorn milk, are key to the youth craze for vaping, in which teens use small devices about the size of a computer flash drive to get a nicotine-fueled boost. They can, with standard hits from liquids in devices like the trendy Juul, regularly consume as much nicotine as is found in a pack of cigarettes.

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Breast cancer patients may get a welcome respite from one of the disease’s dreaded aspects — its aggressive and costly treatments. New research suggests that thousands of women with early-stage breast cancer who now are told to get chemotherapy don’t need it, while a larger, significant number of patients can benefit by halving the time they’re told to take an expensive drug with harsh side-effects, especially for the heart.

Although this information should be taken in a positive light, patients should consult with their doctors about appropriate treatment for their individual case.

The prospective shifts in breast cancer treatment, based on new findings, may add to rumblings and criticisms about over-treatment and whether doctors have taken too lightly the toll — physically, mentally, and financially — that this and other forms of cancer inflict on patients.

salty-200x300If you’ve got a shaker of salt, you may want to empty it on recent news coverage of the American Cancer Society’s announcement about its new guidelines on the age to start colorectal screening. That’s because the organization’s advisory and more than a few health journalists show a shaky grasp of basic disease statistical math.

Cancer specialists, correctly, are concerned because they say they are seeing the disease in younger people, with more colon and rectum cancers detected in patients in their 20s and even in their teens. They’re unsure what’s causing this. But just how many diagnosed cases have there been — and do the numbers mean there’s enough hard science to support a new recommendation that patients get colorectal screening five years earlier than they do now, at age 45 instead of 50?

As Kevin Lomangino, managing editor of Healthnewsreview.org, a health news watchdog site, points out, too many reporters became too accepting of experts’ fuzzy math when describing a screening change that could result in patient harms. The society, and specialists contacted by many reporters, spoke often of “doubled risks,” or impressive seeming percentage increases in colorectal cancer diagnoses — but without providing actual numbers of cases.

smoky-300x225It may not come as much more than a duh factor to  nonsmokers with roomies with a heavy cigarette habit, but medical scientists are expressing growing concern about risks posed by “third hand” smoke, residual films left on all manner of environments and surfaces by burning tobacco, close and far.

Multiple media outlets reported on the growing evidence on this potential harm, notably as detailed in a study published in the journal Science Advances. The research, conducted almost by chance, “shows how tobacco smoke from outdoor air can seep into a nonsmoking classroom and coat its surfaces, and how those hazardous chemicals often become airborne again and circulate throughout buildings via central air-conditioning systems,” the Washington Post said.

The newspaper reported that indoor and outdoor air experts at Drexel University in Philadelphia had teamed up and happened to sample surfaces from an empty classroom near their testing lab. They were intrigued to find chemical traces they could not explain, and which they first thought might be tied to coffee spills. But sleuthing led them to determine the residues were from nicotine and tobacco smoke, which only could have been carried into the space by air conditioning or supposed fresh air breezes.

hitrun-300x248As traffic snarls grow and public transit headaches multiply, commuters in the nation’s capital and elsewhere may be deciding to be healthier and to hoof it or pedal their way to work. But other folks aren’t making alternative means of transportation safer or better for pedestrians or bike riders.

Hit-and-run crash deaths are soaring across the country with walkers and bicyclists victimized in almost 70 percent of the street wrecks, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported. The foundation said its study has shown that:  “More than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads … These resulted in 2,049 deaths in 2016 – the highest number on record and a 60 percent increase since 2009.”

Motorists clearly need to take greater caution and exercise more patience in sharing streets  with those on foot and bikes, foundation officials noted, adding that the need to do so has skyrocketed as more Americans choose for health and other reasons to get around in time-tried ways that also can improve individual wellness.

eddie-300x169The Food and Drug Administration has cracked down on illegal sales of vaping devices to minors,  taking aim at the suddenly trendy, pricey, and small Juul e-cigarette. But this aggressive regulatory move itself added to criticism of the agency for its failure to clamp down on a key way kids get dosed with nicotine, a highly addictive substance the FDA hopes to slash from tobacco cigarettes.

April, the agency announced, not only has brought showers but also nationwide, month-long undercover raids and citations by enforcement agents for retailers accused of flouting FDA regulations that bar e-cigarette sales to Americans younger than 21.

The FDA also told Juul’s maker that it must produce a raft of documents and explain how and why its product exploded in popularity, dominating in market share and raising questions about how much nicotine users can get from the vaping device — typically as much as a pack of tobacco cigarettes.

mdanderson-300x168With cancer care raining down more than $200 billion in billings on providers, giant hospitals and specialty treatment centers are resorting to unacceptable marketing and advertising hype, including pitches that “sell out” the credibility of science and a pillar of medical practice, commentators say.

Credit’s due to journalist Steve Salerno and the Wall Street Journal for a recent Op-Ed that’s worth a read as it makes the case outlined in the piece’s headline: “In war on cancer, truth becomes a casualty.”

Salerno blasts MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and others for waging costly, nationwide ad campaigns targeted at desperately sick patients. He faults these well-known institutions for relying on pure emotion and not fact to sell themselves. He says they resort to tugging at heart strings with “tear-jerker” patient testimonials, or by using pitch people with no other credibility than their celebrity.

roulette-300x188Although Americans may love to wager on ponies, lotteries, and even church bingo games, they’re getting restive and confused about playing the odds with their health — and doctors need to step up their game a lot to help patients better cope with medical uncertainties.

Dhruv Khullar, a physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a researcher at the Weill Cornell Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, has written an excellent piece for the New York Times’ evidence-driven “Upshot” column, detailing a modern, thorny part of doctor-patient relationships:

Medicine’s decades-long march toward patient autonomy means patients are often now asked to make the hard decisions — to weigh trade-offs, to grapple with how their values suggest one path over another. This is particularly true when medical science doesn’t offer a clear answer: Doctors encourage patients to decide where evidence is weak, while making strong recommendations when evidence is robust. But should we be doing the opposite? Research suggests that physicians’ recommendations powerfully influence how patients weigh their choices, and that while almost all patients want to know their options, most want their doctor to make the final decision. The greater the uncertainty, the more support they want — but the less likely they are to receive it.

juul-300x197Big Tobacco, Big Sugar, and technology may be targeting the well-being of young people faster than regulators can prevent them from heading back to the future in a bad way:  Teens getting hooked on nicotine, while tots take in excess calories with super sweet breakfast cereals.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times each have big take-outs, reporting on the “explosive” and “epidemic” trend, mostly by more affluent teens, of vaping with so-called e-cigarettes,  notably a hot new device called the Juul.

It’s about the size of a computer flash drive, and it uses fruity-flavored liquids to deliver a jolt of nicotine — more than what users might get by puffing a pack of old-fashioned cigarettes.

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