Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Carcinogenic chemical in java? Lawsuit may tell

Longstanding suit against possible cancer perils in coffee may be resolved by year's end

Will coffee labels in California soon warn about cancer risks?

Perhaps — at least if Long Beach attorney Raphael Metzger has his way.
Raphael Metzger

Metzger, according to a recent story by Hoa Quách on the Patch website, has "sued restaurants, stating that the warning is needed as coffee contains acrylamide, a carcinogen."

A judge finally is expected to rule before the end of the year on the lawsuit he filed way back in 2010 — against companies such as Starbucks and 7-Eleven, based on Proposition 65, a 1986 law that requires items containing the chemical to have warning labels.

That suit, not incidentally, followed another by the attorney and his Metzger Law Group, one that he filed against fast-food companies in 2002 "contending that french fries also contained the hazardous ingredient," the story notes.

The current suit, on behalf of the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, offers an alternative request to the java labels — have the manufacturers "reduce the acrylamide content of their coffee products to safe levels."

But the National Coffee Association offers this defense: "There is no evidence that coffee causes cancer."

On its website, it says coffee "is a complex beverage (both compositionally and culturally) — and it's much, much more than just one of its elements. Pretending otherwise does not serve public interest in any way."

Meanwhile, CNN writer Jen Christenen has reported that at least 13 of the defendants have settled and agreed to give a warning, most recently 7-Eleven.

Private mediation with some of the remaining retailers, she contends, has been slated.

At a bench trial last fall, Christenen writes, "the coffee companies argued that the level of acrylamide in coffee should be considered safe under the law and that the health benefits of coffee essentially outweigh the risk."

Her story quotes Metzger on a personal level: "I'm addicted to coffee, I confess, and I would like to be able to have mine without acrylamide."

Christenen also points out that "in addition to coffee, acrylamide can be found in potatoes and baked good like crackers, bread and cookies, breakfast cereal, canned black olives and prune juice, although its presence is not always labeled."

A Bloomberg article indicates that the lawyer's initial complaint "grew to include about 90 coffee producers, distributors and retailers, from mom-and-pop roasters to multinationals such as Nestle."

That piece also stated his complaint had "alleged that a 12-ounce cup of coffee contains about 10 times more acrylamide than the state's 'no significant risk level.'"

Metzger's nine-attorney law group, according to its website, was founded in 1987 and "is a boutique firm whose practice is concentrated on the litigation of toxic tort and environmental exposure cases in the state of California."

A multitude of products has previously been linked to the disease. To check out many of these, pick up a copy of "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Half of cancer deaths may be preventable

Even small lifestyle changes can sharply cut your cancer risk, NY Times columnist claims

Dr. Aaron E. Carroll
Evidence, writes a medical columnist in The New York Times, "has increasingly accumulated that cancer may be preventable."

Especially if potential patients stop drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco, alter their diets, exercise and lose weight.

In a recent Aaron E. Carroll-bylined column under the rubric of The New Health Care received recently from The New York Times' online service, it's stated that "simple changes to people's behaviors have the potential to make sure many cancers never occur."

And they have "a side benefit of preventing health problems in many other areas, too," Dr. Carroll maintains.

The website headline indicates that "quite a bit is in your control" regarding the prevention of cancer, and the column, originally printed in 2016, cites a study published in Nature to the effect that "there is a lot we can do" to reduce our risk of cancer by changing our behavior.

That study contradicts research published in Science magazine in 2015 that many apparently took to mean that "cancer is much more because of 'bad luck' than because of other factors that people could control."

Carroll's piece contends that "many studies have shown that environmental risk factors and exposures contribute greatly to many cancers. Diet is related to colorectal cancer. Alcohol and tobacco are related to esophageal cancer. HPV is related to cervical cancer, and hepatitis C is related to liver cancer. And you'd have to be living under a rock not to know that smoking causes lung cancer and that too much sun can lead to skin cancer."

But, the professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine notes, "using sophisticated modeling techniques, the researchers argued that less than 30 percent of the lifetime risk of getting many common cancers was because of intrinsic risk factors, or the 'bad luck.' The rest were things you can change."

According to the study, "about 82 percent of women and 78 percent of men who got lung cancer might have prevented it through healthy behaviors. About 29 percent of women and 20 percent of meant might have prevented colon and rectal cancer. About 30 percent of both might have prevented pancreatic cancer."

Over all, it said, "about 25 percent of cancer in women and 33 percent in men was potentially preventable. Close to half of all cancer deaths might be prevented as well."

More information about how to cut down the risk of diseases can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Experiment could lead to blocking metastasis

Blood test that finds 8 cancers before they spread is showing progress, scientists ascertain

A new study shows an experimental test may provide information that might stop eight cancers from metastasizing.

In an attempt "to try to find cancer before it spreads, when chances of cure are best," many groups are working on "liquid biopsy tests that look for DNA and other things that tumors shed into blood," the Associated Press says.

Findings of the study by Johns Hopkins University scientists, reported recently in the journal Science, indicate that the non-invasive tests were able to locate some 70 percent of the common types of cancer in 1,005 patients. 

"The rates varied depending on the type," the AP dispatch by Marilynn Marchione says, "lower for breast tumors but high for ovarian, liver and pancreatic ones."

The CancerSEEK test, which "detects mutations in 16 genes tied to the cancer and measures eight proteins that often are elevated when cancer is present," the story continues, also honed in on colon, lung, stomach and esophageal cancers. 

Researchers did not include prostate cancer because the PSA blood test already is widely used — though its value for screening has been questioned. 

The eight cancers currently have no screening tests for people at average risk. 
Nickolas Papadopoulos
According to Nickolas Papadopoulos, Ph.D. professor of oncology and pathology at Hopkins and one of the study's leaders, "We're very, very excited and see this as a first step."

However, he cautions, "we don't want people calling up" and asking for it.

That's because the new test "is nowhere near ready for use yet," the AP notes — "it needs to be validated in a larger study already underway in a general population, rather than cancer patients, to see if it truly works and helps save lives."

The Los Angeles Times also quoted Papadopoulos, to the effect that "the goal is to look for as many cancer types as possible in one test, and to identify cancer as early as possible. We know from the data that when you find cancer early, it is easier to kill it by surgery or chemotherapy."

Researchers say the test could cost around $500 based on current materials and methods. 

More information on research and clinical trials can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Has Julia Louis-Dreyfus' disease disappeared?

'Veep' star celebrates end of breast cancer chemo by posting humorous video of two sons

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as TV's "Veep"
Emmy-award winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus celebrated the end of her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer by posting a hopeful, humorous video tribute created by her grown sons.

This week's oft out-of-focus Instagram post featured Henry, a 25-year-old singer-songwriter, and Charlie, 20, a college basketball player at Northwestern University — who the former star of "Seinfeld" calls "my beauty boys" — and drew more than half a million viewers and more than 5,000 comments within about 24 hours.

Louis-Dreyfus posted the light-hearted video in the same timeframe as her 57th birthday.

The tribute to her was titled "Mom's last day!!! BEAT IT!!!" and was a lip-synched version of Michael Jackson's song.

The former star of "Seinfeld" was diagnosed in September the day after she'd won an Emmy for "Veep," and has since "been sharing her journey and support from loved ones and fans on social media," according to the Associated Press.

Louis-Dreyfus has won a record-setting Emmy for the HBO series five years in a row for her role as Selina Meyer.

About the boys, her offspring with her since-1987 husband, comedian-actor Brad Hall, she noted in a caption, "Pretty swell, right? Ain't they sweet?"

After her second round of chemo in October, she'd shared a photo of herself with an over-the-top drawn-on mustache, and before starting her third round, a story in the Sydney Morning Herald validates, she "posted a skit her 'Veep' co-stars, Matt Walsh and Sam Richardson, filmed to help her get 'psyched,' featuring motivational quotes from a range of problematic historical figures like Joseph Stalin and Harvey Weinstein."

Has her breast cancer disappeared? No announcement about that has been forthcoming yet.

But a discussion of the myriad forms that loving reactions can take may be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Deaths from lung, breast, prostate cancer dip

United States cancer mortality rates have dropped 26% since 1991, new report indicates

The good news: U.S. cancer death rates have continued to fall.

The bad news: While the incidence has dropped for some cancers, it has risen for others.

Those conclusions, according to a story by Judy George on the MedPage Today website yesterday, are based on a statistical report from the American Cancer Society.

Cancer mortality in the U.S. fell 1.7% from 2015 to 2015 — a decline that "continued a long-running trend, with a 26% drop since 1991," George's piece indicates. 
Rebecca Siegel
Her story notes that "the reduction was fueled largely by fewer deaths from lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer," and cites information from Rebecca Siegel of the ACS and colleagues in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 

"Steady reductions in smoking, plus better detection and treatment, accounted for a significant part of the decline," the MedPage Today article adds.

Dr. Otis W. Brawley
The article also quotes Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the ACS, from a statement: "A decline in consumption of cigarettes is credited with being the most important factor in the drop in cancer death rates."

Over the past decade of available data, the story continues, "the overall cancer incidence in men fell by about 2% per year, with the pace accelerating in recent years."

But in women, "declines in lung and colorectal cancers were offset by increasing or stable rates for breast, uterine corpus and thyroid cancers and for melanoma."

Liver cancer incidence has also continued to rise in women.

Siegel's piece also says that researchers have predicted "1,735,350 new cancer cases and 609,640 cancer deaths in the United States in 2018."

More information about mortality rates can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Light treatments may help multiple diseases

AARP magazine holds out new hope for photodynamic therapy treatments of skin cancer

New light-therapy treatments may be helpful for skin cancer patients.
Michael R. Hamblin

At least that's a conclusion drawn by writer Christina Ianzito in a recent issue of the AARP Bulletin.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT), a combination of light with special drugs called photo-sensitizing agents, is an effective treatment that "often eliminates the need for surgery," her magazine story indicates.

How does it work?

"The agent is applied to the cancerous region, or to a sun-damaged area that is precancerous, on the skin or through a vein," the story says. "Once the cells absorb the agent, light is applied, causing the drug to react with oxygen. This forms a chemical that kills the cells."
Dr. Jami Lyn Miller
The AARP article quotes Michael R. Hamblin, principal investigator at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, as saying the chemical "will kill anything. It's like the strongest beam of X-rays that you can imagine."

Dr. Jami Lyn Miller, dermatologist at Vanderbilt Health in Nashville, also is quoted as believing that "because it finds cells that are rapidly dividing, PDT may catch cancer that surgery doesn't."

Light therapy, the article indicates, may be used as well to treat depression, Alzheimer's Disease and certain infections.

Details about research into life-threatening ailments can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Is Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder perilous?

4,800 file suits contending baby powder caused their ovarian cancer, N.Y. Times reports

Consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson is being sued by thousands of women in the United States over its baby powder.

According to a recent story by Tiffany Hsu in The New York Times, the women, at least 4,800 strong, claim that "talcum particles in the popular products caused their ovarian cancer."

The plaintiffs "are taking the company to court one at a time," the story says, rather than work together to file a class action that can be tough to win. 

In addition to seeking restitution, they "are asking that Johnson & Johnson add a warning to its baby powder label or replace the product entirely with a similar one formulated with cornstarch."

Only seven cases have been decided so far. Of those, six verdicts favored those who sued.

Johnson & Johnson — which is also facing suits regarding Xarelto alleging that the drug caused uncontrollable bleeding, and its pelvic mesh for women, which supposedly caused "urinary dysfunction, loss of sexual function, constipation and other complications" — is appealing those verdicts.

Pretrial procedures "in nearly 900 talc cases have been consolidated into what is known as a multidistrict litigation, or MDL," according to the Times. "MDLs tend to reduce costs and time. Only one set of expert witnesses needs to be called."
Nora Freeman Engstrom
Hsu's story quotes Stanford Law School prof Nora Freeman Engstrom to the effect that no global settlement can be reached "until both sides have a really clear sense of the strengths and weaknesses and value of these claims. And the only way to test that is on the battlefield, which is trial."

The plaintiffs in the newest suits cite studies from 1977 on and claim "that talc in baby powder can be absorbed by the reproductive system and cause inflammation in the ovaries when applied for feminine hygiene purposes."

Experts don't necessarily support the plaintiffs' claims, however.

Hsu's story also quotes the National Cancer Institute website, for example, that "the weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer."

Information on other studies about apparent heightened risks can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Birth control pill risks needn't alarm, docs say

Report eyes potential offset to breast cancer dangers from contraceptives with hormones

Although women using modern-day hormonal contraceptives may be increasing their risk of breast cancer somewhat, the pill's protective qualities may offset that danger.

That conclusion, according to a recent story by Roni Caryn Rabin in The New York Times, comes from many doctors who prescribe contraceptives and claim "there's no cause for alarm — and no one should throw away her pills and risk an unwanted pregnancy."

Rabin's piece followed by only a few days her own story about a Danish study indicating that heightened risks — though small — still exist despite the lower estrogen content of newer pills and IUDs.

She'd initially cited a British study of more than 46,000 women "who were recruited in 1968, during the early days of the pill, and followed for up to 44 years," but has now walked back her position and quoted another study to the effect that "despite increases in breast and cervical cancers among those who used the pill, the effect on overall cancer rates was neutral because other cancers were reduced."  

Other studies, Rabin maintained, "have reached the same conclusion."
David J. Hunter
David J. Hunter, epidemiology and medicine prof at the University of Oxford in Britain, is quoted in her newer Times story as indicating contraceptive use might prevent more cancers "in aggregate, over a woman's lifetime" than it causes.

Hunter's comments were made in a commentary published in The New England Journal of Medicine. 

First among Rabin's suggestions for what women are to do with the new information is "to speak with your health care [provider, think] about your priorities and preferences, the stage of life you're in, your family plans and medical history, and find a doctor who will take time to listen to your concerns."

She then quotes Dr. Christine Dehlendorf, director of the program in women-centered contraception in the department of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, as saying, "We have to trust women to know what their preferences are, and what their abilities are to use certain methods, and to choose the methods that are the best choice for them."

More information on studies detailing risks of the disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.