Tag Archives: cancer

Beware of blue light at night – Harvard

Sleep, like walking, is one of the critical elements of good health very commonly not appreciated by the man on the street. I have a Page – How important is a good night’s sleep with a ton of information on it.

Here is some valuable info from the Harvard Health Letter on getting a good night’s sleep.

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Until the advent of artificial lighting, the sun was the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in (relative) darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are illuminated, and we take our easy access to all those lumens pretty much for granted.

But we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. (My emphasis)

But not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.

Daily rhythms influenced by light

Everyone has slightly different circadian rhythms, but the average length is 24 and one-quarter hours. The circadian rhythm of people who stay up late is slightly longer, while the rhythms of earlier birds fall short of 24 hours. Dr. Charles Czeisler of Harvard Medical School showed, in 1981, that daylight keeps a person’s internal clock aligned with the environment.

The health risks of nighttime light

Study after study has linked working the night shift and exposure to light at night to several types of cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It’s not exactly clear why nighttime light exposure seems to be so bad for us. But we do know that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, and there’s some experimental evidence (it’s very preliminary) that lower melatonin levels might explain the association with cancer.

A Harvard study shed a little bit of light on the possible connection to diabetes and possibly obesity. The researchers put 10 people on a schedule that gradually shifted the timing of their circadian rhythms. Their blood sugar levels increased, throwing them into a prediabetic state, and levels of leptin, a hormone that leaves people feeling full after a meal, went down.

Even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep, says Lockley, and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

The power of the blues

While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).

In another study of blue light, researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles. The fact that the levels of the hormone were about the same in the two groups strengthens the hypothesis that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin. It also suggests that shift workers and night owls could perhaps protect themselves if they wore eyewear that blocks blue light. Inexpensive sunglasses with orange-tinted lenses block blue light, but they also block other colors, so they’re not suitable for use indoors at night. Glasses that block out only blue light can cost up to $80.

Less-blue light

If blue light does have adverse health effects, then environmental concerns, and the quest for energy-efficient lighting, could be at odds with personal health. Those curlicue compact fluorescent lightbulbs and LED lights are much more energy-efficient than the old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs we grew up with. But they also tend to produce more blue light.

The physics of fluorescent lights can’t be changed, but coatings inside the bulbs can be so they produce a warmer, less blue light. LED lights are more efficient than fluorescent lights, but they also produce a fair amount of light in the blue spectrum. Richard Hansler, a light researcher at John Carroll University in Cleveland, notes that ordinary incandescent lights also produce some blue light, although less than most fluorescent lightbulbs.

What you can do

  • Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
  • Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
  • If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
  • Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.When I work on my computer late at night, I always wear a pair of blue blocker sunglasses. You can buy them on Amazon for under $20. I have no problems getting to sleep.

    Tony

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Filed under good night's sleep, harvard health letter, Harvard Medical School, sleep, sleep deprivation

When screening for disease, risk is as important to consider as benefits – study

Physicians and patients like to believe that early detection of cancer extends life, and quality of life. If a cancer is present, you want to know early, right? Maybe not.

An analysis of cancer screenings by a University of Virginia statistician and a researcher at the National Cancer Institute indicates that early diagnosis of a cancer does not necessarily result in a longer life than without an early diagnosis. And screenings – such as mammograms for breast cancer and prostate-specific antigen tests for prostate cancer – come with built-in risks, such as results mistakenly indicating the presence of cancer (false positives), as well as missed diagnoses (false negatives). Patients may undergo harsh treatments that diminish quality of life while not necessarily extending it.

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Yet the benefits of early diagnosis through screening often are touted over the risks.

“It is difficult to estimate the effect of over-diagnosis, but the risk of over-diagnosis is a factor that should be considered,” said Karen Kafadar, a UVA statistics professor and co-author of a study being presented Sunday at a session of the 2017 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “How many diagnosed cases would never have materialized in a person’s lifetime, and gone successfully untreated? Treatments sometimes can cause harm, and can shorten life or reduce quality of life.”

Kafadar is not advocating against screening, but her findings show that frequent screening comes with its own risks. As a metric for evaluation, reduction in mortality is considered the standard. So if a disease results in 10 deaths per 100,000 people in a year, and screening reduces the deaths to six per 100,000 people, then there seems to be an impressive 40 percent reduction in mortality.

However, a more meaningful metric, Kafadar said, may be: “How much longer can a person whose case was screen-detected be expected to live, versus a case that was diagnosed only after clinical symptoms appeared?” This issue becomes harder to discern – how long a patient survives after a diagnosis versus how long the patient might have lived anyway. Some cancer cases might never become apparent during a person’s lifetime without screening, but with screening might be treated unnecessarily, such as for a possibly non-aggressive cancer. And some aggressive forms of disease may shorten life even when caught early through screening.

Kafadar and her collaborator, National Cancer Institute statistician Philip Prorok, gathered long-term data from several study sources, including health insurance plans and the National Cancer Institute’s recently completed long-term randomized control trial on prostate, lung, colorectal and ovarian cancer, to consider several factors affecting the value of screening – over-diagnosis, lead time on a diagnosis and other statistical distortions – to look at not just how many people die, but also life extension.

“People die anyway of various causes,” Kafadar said, “but most individuals likely are more interested in, ‘How much longer will I live?’ Unfortunately, screening tests are not always accurate, but we like to believe they are.”

Because the paper considers together the factors that affect statistical understanding of the effectiveness of screening, rather than looking at each of these factors in isolation as previous studies have done, it offers a new statistical methodology for teasing out the relative effects of cancer screening’s benefits and risks.

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Gluten-free diet may increase risk of arsenic, mercury exposure

I’m sure you have encountered friends and acquaintances who are going ‘gluten-free.’ I have observed, I don’t think imagined, a certain smugness about the announcement. Like they have elevated themselves above the masses. Well, It turns out maybe not.

People who eat a gluten-free diet may be at risk for increased exposure to arsenic and mercury – toxic metals that can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological effects, according to a report in the journal Epidemiology.

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Gluten-free diets have become popular in the U.S., although less than 1 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease – an out-of-control immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

A gluten-free diet is recommended for people with celiac disease, but others often say they prefer eating gluten-free because it reduces inflammation – a claim that has not been scientifically proven. In 2015, one-quarter of Americans reported eating gluten-free, a 67 percent increase from 2013.

Gluten-free products often contain rice flour as a substitute for wheat. Rice is known to bioaccumulate certain toxic metals, including arsenic and mercury from fertilizers, soil, or water, but little is known about the health effects of diets high in rice content. (my emphasis)

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Guys – Get that check up

I started writing this blog for guys nearly seven years ago. The idea was that women did a great job of keeping track of their health; men, not so much. Over the course of writing it, I have found that more than half of my readers are women who are paying attention to their  health, so the focus shifted from guys to simply good health and living past 100. But, according to this little infographic, guys still don’t do a very good job. With 34% of men over age 20 overweight or obese, guys need to wake up.

I hope this little Men’s Health 101 from Texas A&M University Health Science Center gives you a wake up call.

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Tony

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Study shows Vitamin E and Selenium don’t cut colon cancer risk

As one of the former big proponents of Vitamin E, I was disappointed to learn that it does not have all of the healthy impacts I had heard. I just ran across this information that came out a few days ago.

Eight years ago, results from a landmark cancer prevention trial run by SWOG, a National Cancer Institute supported organization, showed that a daily dose of vitamin E and selenium did not prevent prostate cancer. In fact, the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) showed that vitamin E supplementation increased the risk of prostate cancer in healthy men.

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Nuts and avocados are natural sources of Vitamin E

Now, a SWOG review of ancillary SELECT results definitively shows that these two antioxidants also don’t prevent colorectal adenomas – polyps that are the premalignant precursors to most colorectal cancers. Results are published in Cancer Prevention Research.

“The message to the public is this: Vitamin E and selenium will not prevent colorectal adenomas, which are surrogates for colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Peter Lance, lead author of the journal article and deputy director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. “We have no evidence that these supplements work to prevent cancer.”

Despite the billions spent in the United States each year on vitamin supplements, there is scant evidence they prevent cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, which funds SWOG through its National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), results from nine randomized trials did not provide evidence that antioxidant supplements are beneficial in primary cancer prevention. An in-depth review conducted for the United States Preventive Services Task Force likewise found no clear evidence of benefit. Continue reading

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Chemical Exposure Linked to Lower Vitamin D Levels – Study

Vitamin D has been called the rock star of vitamins. For an idea about all the good things our bodies get from vitamin D, check out these posts: How good is Vitamin D for you? Infographic, Vitamin D and your body – Harvard.

Exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may reduce levels of vitamin D in the bloodstream, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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The study is the first to find an association between EDC exposure and vitamin D levels in a large group of U.S. adults. EDCs are chemicals or mixtures of chemicals that can cause adverse health effects by interfering with hormones in the body. The Society’s Scientific Statement on EDCs examined more than 1,300 studies that found links between chemical exposure and health problems, including infertility, obesity, diabetes, neurological problems and hormone-related cancers. Continue reading

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What happens when a smoker quits?

This is the yang post to yesterday’s yin which was all about the negative effects that smoking has on your body. Today the focus is on the positive. Look at all the good things that happen when a smoker quits. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving.

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Tony

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Music eases some cancer patients’ symptoms

I first encountered the idea of music therapy in 1977 when I was living in London. I heard a music therapist interviewed on the radio. Remember, this was 1977, before the internet. I was on a one year posting and had no TV or phone. As a music lover seemingly since birth, the idea of using music to treat people blew my mind. I actually looked up the man and visited him in his home outside of London. We had some great conversations and he pointed me to some books for further reading on the subject.

While I still listen to music religiously, I hadn’t thought much about music therapy  until I ran across this study from Drexel University.

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A systematic review published by the Cochrane Library found that there is significant evidence that music interventions help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, pain and fatigue in cancer patients, while also boosting their quality of life. Continue reading

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Alcohol Causes 7 Kinds of Cancer, Study Concludes

I thought it only fair to send this as my previous post mentioned alcohol (in small amounts) as a treat.

alcohol

Tony

Our Better Health

Alcohol researcher Jennie Connor says the link is a causal one and that no alcohol is considered safe and risk does go up as you drink.

Alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer. Tough words to swallow, but those are the conclusions of researchers from New Zealand, who say they found that no matter how much you drink, alcohol will increase your risk of cancer.

“There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others,” the authors write in the latest issue of the journal Addiction.

Those seven cancer sites are:

  • liver
  • colon
  • rectum
  • female breast
  • larynx, (the throat organ commonly called the voice box)
  • orolarynx (the middle part of the pharynx) behind the mouth
  • esophagus (commonly the “food pipe”)

The researchers from the University of Otago reviewed previous studies and meta-analyses, analyzing all the major studies done over the…

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Chronic diseases and us – Infographic

I ran across this infographic in my meanderings and thought it had a lot of interesting if depressing information, like the increase in diabetes in the last few decades. On the positive side, “Many chronic diseases have a root in lifestyle decisions, from obesity to smoking. And, many of these conditions can be treated or even prevented by changing behavior.”

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Tony

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How does obesity cause disease in organs distant from those where fat accumulates?

With two-thirds of us overweight and one third outright obese, I have written about the dangers of obesity since the blog began.

Now comes the European Society of Genetics with news of increased risks from obesity.

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Barcelona, Spain: Obesity is on the rise throughout the world, and in some developed countries two-thirds of the adult population is either overweight or obese. This brings with it an increased risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and osteoarthritis. Many of these conditions do not appear to affect the parts of the body where the excess fat accumulates, but rather to involve body systems that are remote from the fat accumulation. Now an international group of scientists has taken an important step towards understanding the links between obesity and the related, yet physically distant, diseases it causes, the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics heard yesterday.

Ms Taru Tukiainen, D.Sc., a postdoctoral researcher working at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), Helsinki, Finland and colleagues from the UK and US, set out to study the relationship between body mass index (BMI), a common-used way of measuring obesity, and gene expression in 44 different tissue types, including some that are rarely accessible in large sample sizes, for example the brain and internal organs. “Most tissue sampling is invasive, but we were able to use the GTEx* dataset of tissues from autopsy donors, and therefore sample a far wider range than is usually possible,” Ms Tukiainen explains. “This is the first time that such changes in human tissue function in response to alterations in BMI have been explored among so many body systems simultaneously.”

The researchers found simultaneous changes in response to obesity in almost all the tissues studied. “These results show that obesity really is a systemic condition, and particularly a condition of systemic inflammation. Interestingly, though, the changes in tissue function appeared to be only partially shared between different types of tissues; some tissues clearly act in pairs with one half of the pair compensating for – or enhancing – the dysfunction of the other. For instance, adipose tissue and adrenal glands, which are both organs secreting hormones essential to metabolism, often react to changes in BMI in completely opposite ways, including a decrease in metabolic activity in the former and an increase in the latter,” Ms Tukiainen will say.

Although lifestyle changes are the most effective way to combat obesity, they can be hard work and difficult to maintain. Therefore the biological processes identified by the researchers may help the treatment of obesity by identifying potential drug targets, and particularly tissue-specific targets, they say. The results may also help to distinguish groups of individual who are at higher risk of developing complications, and lead toward personalized care.

“Our research highlights the burden of overweight and obesity on the digestive system. Although this is unsurprising, given the role of digestive system tissues in food processing, we found alarming links between BMI-related changes in different parts of the digestive tract and genes implicated in some diseases, for example Crohn’s disease.

“An association between two variables does not necessarily imply there is a causal link and, from the gene expression results alone, we cannot tell which is driving which. Do changes in BMI or changes in gene expression come first? We can, however, address the potential causes by using genetic variants known to be associated with BMI in combination with our data on gene expression,” says Ms Tukiainen.

Large-scale genome-wide association studies have already identified nearly 100 genetic variants that influence BMI. Analyses by the group that interpret this information further have shown that many of these gene expression changes, particularly in adipose tissue, appear to be caused by increased BMI.
“I believe that our work adds to the weight of evidence, and provides hypotheses for other researchers to follow up in the hope of being able to translate the results into ways of preventing and treating the very serious complications of obesity,” Ms Tukiainen will conclude.

*GTEx is a dataset consisting of thousands of tissue samples in which the RNA from each sample has been sequenced to measure gene expression. Because it is not a dataset collected specifically for obesity research, the donors are representative of the population as a whole, and the obesity epidemic is clearly reflected in that only 31% of GTEx donors are or normal weight; the remainder are either overweight or obese.

If you want to know more about obesity, check out these posts:

How does obesity affect you?

The public is largely ignorant about obesity risks

What are some obesity statistics?

Exercise can help to battle the obesity gene

Heart attack patients getting younger more obese

Eat less; move more; live longer are words to live by.

Tony

 

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The war on sugar

Really interesting post on the impact of sugar, especially fructose on our bodies.

To read more on the soft drink aspect, please check out my Page – What’s Wrong With Soft Drinks?

Tony

Focus on food safety

The sweetness of ice cream can be overwhelming. The sweetness of ice-cream can be overwhelming.

The sweet tooth seems to require a treat now and then. But why are most food manufacturers overdoing the sweetness thingy. You have an ice-cream treat and although it initially tastes nice, after half is consumed you feel the sugar molecules crawling in your mouth with the sugar taste lingering for several hours. The same with a blueberry cheesecake. The sweetness is just overwhelming.

I could go on and on. I am not after sugar replacements, I just want the sweetness to be toned down.

Trend to reduce sugar intake

Actually, reducing sugar intake has become a key concern amongst many consumers. In a recent 2,500-strong European consumer survey, a quarter of those asked preferred low sugar food products, findings that seem to confirm the continuing shift in consumer efforts to reduce sugar intake. They also found that more than 60% of those surveyed…

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Benefits of Maca!

Must admit Maca is new to me, but it sounds interesting. Please feel free to share your experiences with it.

Tony

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Maca, a root that belongs to the radish family, is seen to have many great benefits and people are not aware. Maca can also come in powder form. Like everything else, consuming too much can begin to lack benefits and turn against you. Maca’s benefits can be consumed in smoothies, salads, drinks, cooked foods, and juices.

Let’s get into the benefits now, that some research suggests it may offer:

Vitamins: rich in vitamin B vitamins, C, and E; providing calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids.

Sexual function: serves as a boost to your libido and increases endurance. At the same time it balances your hormones and increases fertility. Although limited evidence stands that it improves sexual function.

Women’s health and mood: relieves menstrual issues and menopause, alleviating cramps, body pain, hot flashes, anxiety, mood swings, and depression.

Energy: Athletes may take maca for peak performance, increasing energy levels and stamina. This does however…

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Nutrition and Healthy Aging for Men

Here’s a closer look at five of the most common health conditions that affect men as they age, and how better nutrition and lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce their risk.

Excellent information in this. I must admit to being highly satisfied to see the increased emphasis on exercise.

Please check out my Page on Important Facts About Your Braind (and Exercise Benefits).

Tony

Cooking with Kathy Man

Judith C. Thalheimer, a dietitian wrote . . . . .

As men get older, their risk of developing chronic diseases increases. Adopting healthier lifestyle habits can decrease that risk and help ensure a higher quality of life for years to come.

“Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods can help men promote their overall health and reduce their risk of chronic diseases,” says Ximena Jimenez, MS, RDN, LD, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy). By sharing that wisdom with male clients in a way that empowers them to take control of their health through lifestyle choices, nutrition professionals can have a major impact on their lives.

Here’s a closer look at five of the most common health conditions that affect men as they age, and how better nutrition and lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce their risk.

1. Heart Disease

The statistics…

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The Sugar Addiction Cycle – Infographic

As a person who has had a problem with sugar consumption, I could appreciate this.

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Tony

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8 Reasons to Eat More Mushrooms

“Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health,” says leading mushroom research, Paul Stamets, who has written six books about mushrooms.

Our Better Health

Diana Herrington   February 10, 2015

If you’re looking for a new food to boost your health and shake up your boring meal routine, mushrooms might be it. With over 100 thousand species of mushroom-forming fungi and huge health benefits, the mushroom is a little-known superstar. We often sprinkle mushrooms on our salads or add them to our casseroles. Next time add a few more handfuls of this ingredient–or, better yet, make it the main entree! Including a little more mushroom to your favorite meal is a tasty and rewarding move.

There are:

  • 140,000 species of mushroom-forming fungi.
  • Close to 100 types of mushrooms being studied for their health benefits.
  • A small number found to be very beneficial for boosting your immune system.

“Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique…

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