Moderation is key when it comes to alcoholAccording to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), among all types of cancer, head and neck cancers are the most common with an expected 10,000 deaths out of 50,000 cases in this year alone. Less common cancers of the oesophagus and throat are unusual but considered deadlier with 16,000 deaths out of 17,000 cases.
A recent study, published in Journal of Clinical Oncology, associated an increased risk of developing these types of cancers with drinking alcohol due to the direct contact of the substance with these organs.
"The alcohol itself is broken down into a product itself called acetaldehyde, and this is directly toxic to the areas in the head and neck as well as to the oesophagus," said University Hospital’s Dr. Roy Buchinsky.
Apart from the direct contact, another factor to be considered, is the amount of alcohol intake.
One drink a day for women and two for men in one occasion are considered moderate drinking, while four or more drinks for women and five or more for men in one occasion are considered as heavy drinking.
Light drinking is associated with a 13% increase in developing head and neck cancers and 4% for breast cancers, while heavy drinking is associated with a 500% and 61% risk, respectively.
As for studies that suggest alcohol – such as red wine – can lower the risk of heart disease, further analysis showed that the non-drinkers studies often had other health problems, making drinkers appear healthier.
Perhaps, moderation is key.
“The more you drink, the higher the risk,” said Dr. Clifford A. Hudis, the chief executive of ASCO. “It’s a pretty linear dose-response.”
Quality of life vs. reduced recurrence of breast cancerBreast cancer is the second biggest cancer killer of American women, after lung cancer. According to ASCO, it is diagnosed in up to 200,000 women and a few men, with 40,000 deaths every year.
Recently, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that breast cancer can return after 20 years from the time it is diagnosed – even after a standard five-year endocrine therapy.
Data from 88 clinical trials, involving nearly 63,000 women with oestrogen-receptor (ER) positive breast cancer – one of the most common types – showed that this was particularly true for those whose cancer had spread to the lymph nodes upon diagnosis.
The risk of breast cancer recurrence after 20 years, was as high as 52% in patients who had up to nine lymph nodes involvement, 31% with at least three lymph nodes involvement and 22% in women who had no lymph nodes involvement.
“This research shows that stopping hormone treatment at five years leaves women with an ongoing risk of breast cancer coming back in the distant future.” said Professor Arnie Purushotham, Cancer Research UK’s senior clinical adviser.
This sparked the discussion on whether there is a need to prolong the five-year hormonal treatment to ten years, or maybe more.
However, side effects of Tamoxifen and Aromatasin – the drugs used for the therapy – include hot flushes, vaginal dryness and joint pain which have been known to be intolerable. The patient’s quality of life will be affected with the prolonged use of the drugs.
While the researchers say that the data can be used by patients and their healthcare providers to consider the continuation of the anti-oestrogen therapy after five years, they highlighted that treatments have improved in the past 20 years. This meant that recurrence rates will be somewhat lower for women who are diagnosed more recently.
Soy, carbohydrates, fat: Men need to be mindful of their dietProstate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men in the United States, according to the International Journal of Cancer. In this year alone, it is possible that 26,000 men will die from the disease out of around 160,000 estimated number of new cases.
Soy beans and soy products that are rich in isoflavones include tofu, tempeh, miso, kudzu root and American groundnuts (potato beans) are thought to be generally beneficial. However, isoflavones – plant-derived phytoestrogens with similar effects as the female hormone oestrogen – have vastly different effects in women and men.
A new study conducted by Dr Jianjun Zhang and colleagues of Indiana University in Indianapolis found that soy products increases the risk of advanced prostate cancer, but not non-advanced prostate cancer.
Advanced prostate cancer means the cancer has spread outside of the prostate to lymph nodes, bones or other organs with the five-year survival rate of only 29%.
The team looked at 2,598 prostate cancer cases among men over a median follow-up period of 11.5 years – with 287 being advanced prostate cancer.
“Our study offers novel evidence that dietary intake of isoflavones has different effects on advanced and non-advanced prostate cancer. This observation is important for understanding the aetiology and prevention of prostate cancer but needs to be confirmed in more epidemiologic studies among populations with diverse dietary habits." said senior author Dr Zhang, adding that further studies are warranted.
Previous studies have also associated diet with an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer. In 2016, a study linked the regular intake of processed carbohydrates to an 88% increased risk of prostate cancer, while another research associated a high-fat diet with the cancer. MIMS
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