Fighting Cancer & Natural Alternatives

Caffeine: Health perks and pitfalls

Focused on Health – February 2015

by Markham Heid

Caffeine is everywhere. You sip it in your morning coffee, slurp it from your afternoon tea and nibble it when you eat a bit of chocolate after dinner.

You already know caffeine can help you stay alert and awake.

But apart from perking you up, some caffeine sources have been linked to major health benefits, including:

So, do you need a daily dose of caffeine for your health’s sake?

 More research is needed

While some research has linked caffeine sources to some big benefits, our experts say the jury is still out.

“There’s some evidence that coffee or tea may be beneficial for weight management and lowering your disease risk, but whether that’s because of caffeine is not clear,” says Wenli Liu, M.D., associate professor in Internal Medicine at MD Anderson.

It’s possible, says Liu, that the antioxidants and other compounds in coffee and tea could explain the drinks’ health benefits.

The takeaway: Most studies linking coffee or tea to major health benefits aren’t conclusive and caffeine’s role is uncertain.

 Caffeine can cause problems

“We know for certain that caffeine in high amounts can cause heart palpitations and arrhythmias,” Liu says. It also can worsen stomach ulcers.

Plus, if you drink caffeine in the form of soda or energy drinks, you could take in too many sugar calories, which could lead to weight gain. And being overweight or obese increases your risk for cancer and other diseases.

 Don’t add caffeine to your diet for a health boost

Liu doesn’t recommend drinking caffeinated beverages just to boost your health.

“If you already drink coffee and haven’t had any issues, then no problem,” she says. “But I wouldn’t tell someone to add coffee to their diet.”

Ditto for caffeine pills. “I only recommend supplements when someone is deficient in a necessary vitamin or nutrient, and that’s never the case with caffeine,” Liu says.

 Watch your caffeine intake

Already drink coffee or tea? Don’t overdo it, says Sally Scroggs, dietitian and clinical program manager in MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center.

“How much someone can safely consume depends on the person,” Scroggs says. “If you’re not jittery and your heart isn’t racing, you probably don’t have to worry.”

On the other hand, a speedy heart rate or trouble sleeping may be red flags, Scroggs says. “You can certainly overdo it,” she adds.

 Caffeine isn’t magic

In short: caffeine may provide a number of health benefits, but more research is needed to know for sure.

And if you drink coffee or tea regularly without any side effects, there’s probably no reason to stop, Scroggs says.

“But caffeine is not magic,” she warns. So for now, don’t treat caffeine as a health food.

MD Anderson Cancer CenterBottom of Form

 

 Yoga and Breast Cancer

        Research shows yoga can lessen the severity of symptoms, improve quality of life at a physical, psychological, and spiritual level, and improve biological parameters. Yoga is a quintessential mind-body practice combining movement, controlled breathing and breathing exercises, and meditation. The focus on the breath in all aspects of yoga helps to reduce stress, leading to a healthy balance between mind and body.
        Yoga can help reduce our ‘flight-or-fight’ response that is common in the face of stressful situations and instead activate a state of relaxation and calm that can help relieve feelings of anxiety and distress. This can lead to improvements in overall health, as chronic stress is harmful to all aspects of our lives, including biological functioning, and has been found to speed the aging process. Other health benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, increased balance, improved mood, and reductions in fatigue, sleep disturbances, and inflammation. In October 2014, the Society of Integrative Oncology published guidelines to inform doctors and patients about the safety and effectiveness of complementary therapies specifically for women with breast cancer. Around 80 different therapies were analyzed. They rated yoga as having “A” level evidence, the top level, supporting its use for women with breast cancer.
      In fact, a study conducted by the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson found yoga helped improve aspects of quality of life and lead to better regulation of cortisol (a stress hormone linked to poor survival among breast cancer patients) in women with breast cancer undergoing radiotherapy through six months later.
• Improved sleep outcomes
• Decreased side effects of treatment
• Improved physical functioning aspects of quality of life
• Increase in finding meaning from the illness experience as patients transition from active treatment to cancer survivorship.
     There are many different types of yoga and there is no evidence that one style is more beneficial than another. Taking into consideration safety and your level of physical conditioning, it is important to find an instructor, class and type of yoga that best matches your individual needs.
For more information see MD Anderson Cancer Center

PROTON   THERAPY: 

A Better Way to Destroy Tumors and Spare Normal Tissue

Oren Cahlon and Nancy LeeOren Cahlon and Nancy Lee lead MSK’s efforts using proton therapy to treat a variety of cancers.

Traditionally, particle accelerators have been used to conduct elaborate physics experiments by propelling charged particles at very high speeds. In addition, some medical centers, including Memorial Sloan Kettering, employ these massive machines to produce molecules for PET imaging. But these giant devices have another important use: creating cancer-fighting energy in the form of a proton beam to kill or shrink tumors while minimizing harm to healthy tissue.

Proton therapy, a highly sophisticated form of radiation, is currently available at only 14 locations in the United States. In the fall of 2013, MSK physicians began using proton therapy at a facility in Somerset, New Jersey, to treat a variety of cancers under the leadership of Oren Cahlon, MSK’s Director of Proton Therapy, and radiation oncologist Nancy Y. Lee, Vice Chair for Experimental Therapeutics. Dr. Lee also serves as the medical director and president of the New York Proton Center (NYPC), an affiliation of three New York City hospitals, including MSK.

Here, Dr. Lee explains how proton therapy delivers its dose so precisely and why it represents a leap forward in patient care.

How does proton therapy work, and how does it complement more conventional radiation therapies?

Traditional radiation uses beams of x-rays, which are waves of high-energy light. MSK has always been at the forefront of developing ways to optimize this treatment. In fact, over the last 15 years MSK radiation oncologists, including myself, have been leaders in showing the benefits of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a technique that targets tumors with multiple beams at different angles and intensities that now is widely used.

With proton therapy, all energy has been released when it reaches the tumor site.

-Nancy Lee, MSK radiation oncologist

Proton therapy, by contrast, targets a tumor with charged particles, called protons. While proton therapy kills cancer cells through a process similar to that used in x-ray radiation — by damaging their DNA — the unique physical properties of protons allow them to deliver the dose at a specific depth in the body. With proton therapy, all energy has been released when it reaches the tumor site, so there is no dose beyond that point. This lowers the impact to normal tissues surrounding the tumor and reduces the risk of treatment-related side effects. There also are hints that proton therapy may work on recurrent tumors that are resistant to conventional radiotherapy, although this has not been confirmed.

Are you a candidate for proton therapy?

Contact an MSK physician for a consultation.

  • For pediatric cancers, contact Suzanne Wolden: 212-639-5148
  • For head and neck cancerscontact Nancy Lee: 212-639-3341
  • For all other cancers, contact Oren Cahlon: 212-639-5219

What types of tumors can be treated with proton therapy?

Proton therapy is most useful for localized cancers that have not spread from the original site. We have used it most often for head and neck tumors and for pediatric cancers. Head and neck tumors are surrounded by many critical structures, such as the brain stem, spinal cord, optic structures, tongue, and esophagus, so it’s essential to confine the particles to the cancerous tissue. Proton therapy is also beneficial for pediatric cancers because developing tissues in children are incredibly sensitive to radiation.

Other cancers also lie near important organs or tissue. When treating breast cancer, you obviously don’t want to damage the heart, and in some patients, proton therapy can reduce unwanted exposure to that area.

In fact, proton therapy might be useful for any disease site and is increasingly being considered as an option for all cancer types. In addition to the cancers I already mentioned, our doctors are using it to treat select spinal tumors, soft tissue sarcoma, prostate cancer, andlung cancer.

Have you already seen a reduction in side effects in patients receiving this therapy?

In our patients with salivary cancer in particular, there has already been a noticeable benefit. Almost all of these patients used to lose their sense of taste and have soreness on the inside of their cheek following conventional treatment, but it does not seem to happen with proton therapy. More broadly, we are conducting a study that compares side effects of proton therapy with IMRT in patients with head and neck cancer, and our preliminary findings indicate those treated with proton therapy have a better quality of life.

Read full article at: Memorial Sloan Kettering

Praise for the new HPV vaccine

DECEMBER 11, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of a new vaccine that targets five additional strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) fortifies a proven cancer-prevention weapon, according to Ron DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The FDA greenlighted use of Gardasil 9 for the prevention of certain cancers caused by nine HPV strains – five more than its predecessor, Gardasil. The FDA said Gardasil 9 has the potential to prevent the vast majority of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers.

Read more about MD Anderson doctors' work to stop HPV-related diseases by increasing awareness and accessibility to the "cancer prevention vaccine."

“This is an incredible step forward in our fight to end cancer,” said DePinho. “Up to 80 percent of the world will be infected with HPV at some point, according to estimates. MD Anderson hopes the vaccine approval will change the conversation about HPV vaccination from sex to saving lives.”

Source:  MD Anderson

7 foods that lower women’s cancer risk

Focused on Health – July 2014

 mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/issues/2014-july/foodsforwomen.html

by Markham Heid

Looking for that one magical food that will keep you cancer-free? Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. But certain foods can help reduce your chances of developing cancer – especially when eaten as part of a healthy diet.foods

Katie Bispeck, research dietitian in Behavioral Science at MD Anderson, shares her list of foods that women should include in their diet to lower their cancer risks. “But that doesn’t mean you should eat these foods and nothing else,” Bispeck says.

She recommends a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes (like beans or lentils) to give your body the range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs to stay healthy. Eating a variety of healthy foods also helps prevent weight gain and can lower body fat.

Excess body weight increases the amount of hormones in your body,” Bispeck explains. “And when those extra hormones go unused, they can promote cancer cell growth, increasing a women’s risk of breast and endometrial cancers.”

Below Bispeck shares seven foods you should include in a healthy diet.

1. Coffeecoffee

Kick-start your morning with a cup of coffee. Some research suggests women who drink several cups of black coffee every day are 25% less likely to develop a common type of uterine cancer, as well as other forms of the disease.

“Coffee contains compounds that change the way a woman’s body uses certain hormones, like estrogen and insulin. This change may explain the drink’s anti-cancer benefits,” Bispeck says.

But be warned: It’s not clear if a cup of decaf offers the same benefits. “And, adding sugar or cream takes away coffee’s cancer-fighting ability,” Bispeck says. Plus, sugar and cream can add unwanted calories.

2. Lentils

Lentils are dried beans rich in dietary fiber and fiber may reduce your chances of colorectal cancer. “Fiber helps your gut produce chemicals that stop tumor cells from forming,” Bispeck says.

Fiber also keeps you full longer, helping you maintain a healthy weight. And, it can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Other great fiber sources include beans, whole-wheat pasta, barley and brown rice.

3. Garlic

Garlic is loaded with manganese, vitamins B6 and C, and selenium. Someresearch suggests these nutrients can fend off the cancer cell growth in your intestines. The pungent vegetable, great as a seasoning, also may help lower your risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.

4. Leafy greens

Dark green leafy vegetables, like kale, spinach and broccoli, are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They’re bursting with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that reduce your risks of many different types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. Eating lots of leafy greens also can help you maintain a lean body weight and reduce your chances for heart disease and diabetes.

5. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a natural chemical found in plants. This chemical is a powerful antioxidant that may lower breast, lung and stomachcancer risks. Other fruits with lycopene-fighting powers include watermelon, pink grapefruit and most fruits with red-colored flesh.

6. Grapesgrapes

Grapes are sweet and juicy berries thatcontain a ton of the antioxidant resveratrol, which may block the formation of breast,liver, stomach and lymphatic system cancers. A grape’s skin has the most resveratrol, so leave the skin intact. Red and purple grapes have more resveratrol than green grapes.

7. Onions

Onions contain an antioxidant called quercetin. “It may help fight cancer by lowering inflammation in your body,” Bispeck says. Some studies show yellow onions and shallots may be particularly good at protecting you from liver and coloncancers.

Eat a healthy variety

“Including these seven foods to your diet is a great way to help protect your body from cancer,” Bispeck says. But don’t stop there.

A healthy diet also includes:

Following these guidelines gives you the best chance to prevent cancer.

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Are Electronic Cigarettes Safer to Use than Conventional Cigarettes?

13 comments   By Andrea Peirce, BA, Writer/Editor  |  Monday, October 28, 2013

Pictured: Electronic Cigarette

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered vaporizers that deliver nicotine and other additives in an aerosol format. An LED light at the tip simulates burning tobacco.

 

Update: On April 24, 2014,  the US Food and Drug Administration proposed new rules that would expand its regulatory authority to include electronic cigarettes. As reported in The New York Times, the regulations would ban the sale of e-cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco to Americans under 18, and would require that people buying them show photo identification to prove their age. Below is a post that addresses the FDA’s concerns on the safety of e-cigarettes, featuring assistant director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Tobacco Cessation Program, Jack E. Burkhalter

Many smokers around the world are choosing electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes) in the belief that they are less damaging to their health. Millions of Americans have joined the trend since the tobacco-free devices were introduced domestically in 2007, with sales estimated to reach $1 billion this year.

Although they differ in shape and size, e-cigarettes basically all function in the same way. The user inhales through a mouthpiece, triggering a sensor that turns on a battery-powered heater. This action vaporizes liquid nicotine and activates a light at the tip.

The heater also vaporizes substances such as propylene glycol and glycerol to produce theatrical smoke similar to the white puff produced when exhaling tobacco cigarettes. Flavorings such as mint, chocolate, and bubblegum are often added.

Among the new users are many young people. The number that have tried e-cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which estimates that a total of 1.78 million middle and high school children have experimented with the devices.

As the assistant director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Tobacco Cessation ProgramJack E. Burkhalter hears questions and concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes every day.

Many Unknowns

Dr. Burkhalter says he often hears smokers claim e-cigarettes must be healthier than conventional cigarettes because they do not contain tobacco. But e-cigarettes do contain a liquid form of nicotine, a highly addictive tobacco component that may cause changes in the developing brains of young people. And the consequences of long-term nicotine use in adults have not even been fully studied, Dr. Burkhalter explains.

“Another problem is that we have no way of knowing what’s in a given product,” Dr. Burkhalter says, as manufacturers and types of e-cigarettes vary widely. “There is no one product — so it is impossible to determine whether any given e-cigarette is in fact safer than a conventional one, or safer than another brand of e-cigarette.”

Most electronic cigarettes sold in the United States are imported from China, which does not regulate or standardize the products. Domestic e-cigarettes are not government regulated, either. As a result, users are left in the dark regarding how much nicotine or other substances they are inhaling.

What those other substances might be is yet to be determined. While more research on the topic is needed, some studies indicate that e-cigarettes may contain a variety of chemicals, from suspected carcinogens to heavy metals and airway irritants.

Nor has much research been done to determine the health impact of inhaling e-cigarette vapors into the lungs.

“So while they may seem to be safer compared to tobacco cigarettes because they don’t contain tobacco and tobacco smoke, we can’t really quantify if that is the case,” Dr. Burkhalter says. “Overall, I hope for the best—but fear the worst.”

Source: Sloan Kettering

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At least 50% of Cancer can be Prevented through Lifestyle changes

 Modern oncology treatment often focuses on destroying cancer cells and targeting abnormal gene function – an essential aspect of therapy. But what if the focus of treatment extended beyond this, and, in addition, focused on modifying behaviors known to be associated with cancer?

It is becoming more evident that truly effective cancer care should simultaneously foster lifestyle changes that will improve biological processes and alter the tumor-microenvironment. The American Cancer Society, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that at least fifty percent of cancer can be prevented through appropriate lifestyle changes such as eliminating smoking, maintaining a proper diet and healthy weight, minimizing alcohol consumption, and exercising regularly. These same lifestyle factors can also influence outcomes for a number of cancers including breast, colorectal, and endometrial cancer to name a few.  click here for the rest of the story from MD Anderson Cancer Center.

According to my study and personal experience, diet and lifestyle changes beneficial to me include:

  • Daily supplementation of vitamin D. Studies show that vitamin D helps prevent certain cancers, including breast, ovarian, prostate and colorectal. Read more;
  • Increased fiber in my diet. Fiber moves excess estrogen out of your body. Studies have shown that women on a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen. Lower levels of estrogen mean less estrogen stimulation of breast tissue, for example, which reduces the risk of breast cancer.
  • Decreased consumption of high glycemic foods, such as white breads and pastas and desserts and sweets which cause blood sugar to spike then drop. Studies show that not only do high glycemic foods boost risk for leading to type 2 diabetes and obesity, but can also lead to colon cancer.
  • Drinking more water. Water is the basis of all life and that includes your body. Your muscles that move your body are 75% water; blood that transports nutrients is 82% water; your lungs that provide your oxygen are 90% water; your brain that is the control center of your body is 76% water; even your bones are 25% water.  Our health is truly dependent on the quality and quantity of the water we drink.
  • Exercising 30 minutes every day. Exercise can reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, some cancers, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, and obesity. Studies also show that exercise can promote psychological well-being and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercise can be as simple as taking a walk.

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Six Tips for Finding a Qualified Oncology Massage Therapist

by Sat Siri Sumler, LMT, NCTMB, RYT, Massage Therapist | Integrative Medicine Program, MD Anderson Cancer Center

1. Consult Your Oncologist

2. Find an Oncology Massage Therapist

3. Ask About Their Training

4. Ask About Their Oncology Massage Experience

5. Do They Specialize in a Particular Massage Modality?

6. How will They Modify Massage for You?

click here for full story @ MD Anderson

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