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.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Contraceptive pills, IUDs endanger women

Modern birth control methods hike breast cancer risk just like older ones, study finds

Newer birth control methods that release hormones can raise women's risk for breast cancer — just as the older ones did.

That's the conclusion of a new study recently reported by Ronnie Caryn Rabin in The New York Times.

The findings, based on following nearly 1.8 million Danish women of childbearing age for more than a decade, corroborates conventional wisdom that birth control pills and IUDs can be problematic despite the added risk being small.

The Times piece indicates the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, "upends widely held assumptions about modern contraceptives for younger generations of women," many of whom have believed that the newer contraceptives "are much safer than those taken by their mothers or grandmothers, which had higher doses of estrogen."

According to Rabin's story, "the research also suggests that the hormone progestin — widely used in today's birth control methods — may be raising breast cancer risk."
Dr. Marisa Weiss
The Times piece quotes Dr. Marisa Weiss, an oncologist who founded the website but who was not involved in the study, as believing the research is important "because we had no idea how the modern day pills compared to the old-fashioned pills in terms of breast cancer risk, and we didn't know anything about IUDs. Gynecologists just assumed that a lower dose of hormone meant a lower risk of cancer. But the same elevated risk is there."

The findings show "a significant public health concern," she says — even though, according to the Times, the study failed to "take into account factors like physical activity, breast feeding and alcohol consumption, which may also influence breast cancer risk."

Officials at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists plan to evaluate the new findings but, the Times says, still emphasized that hormonal contraceptives are for many women "among the most safe, effective and accessible options available."

Weiss, however, suggested in Rabin's story that, because risk increases with age, "older women may want to consider switching to a hormone-free birth control method, like a diaphragm, an IUD that does not release hormones, or condoms. 'It's not like you don't have a choice,' she said. 'Why not pursue another option?'"

Rabin also quoted Lina Steinrud Mørch, Ph.D., the study's lead author and a senior researcher at the University of Copenhagen, to the effect that the findings — which also showed "the risk increased the longer women used contraceptives, suggesting the relationship is causal" — presented "a very clear picture…very convincing."

According to Mørch, "among those who used hormones for five years, an increased breast cancer risk persisted even after they discontinued use."

And women who stayed on hormones 10 years or more experienced a jump in risk of 38 percent.

Since researchers originally had expected to find "a smaller increase in risk because today we have lower doses of estrogen in the hormone contraceptives," says Mørch, "it was surprising that we found [the] association."

The study concluded that although "hormone users over all experienced a 20 percent increase in the relative risk of breast cancer compared to nonusers…the additional risk would result in comparatively few additional cases of breast cancer." 

More information on risk factors for the disease 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.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cancer docs tie booze directly to higher risks

Oncologist group calls attention to links between alcohol and seven different cancers

Risks of drinking alcohol are being emphasized for the first time by an organization that represents many of the nation's top cancer doctors.

According to a recent story by Ronnie Caryn Rabin in The New York Times, the American Society of Clinical Oncology "cites evidence that even light drinking can slightly raise a woman's risk of breast cancer and increase a common type of esophageal cancer."

Heavy drinkers, moreover, "face much higher risks of mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the voice box, liver cancer and, to a lesser extent, colorectal cancers," Rabin's story indicates.

The society's statement — the first in which ASCO has taken a stand — was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Risks of alcohol as a possible cancer cause have previously been cited by other medical groups, however.

Dr. Noelle LoConte
Rabin's piece quotes Dr. Noelle LoConte, lead author of the statement and an associate prof at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as saying, "If you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less. And if you don't drink, don't start…It's different than tobacco where we say, 'Never smoke. Don't start.' This is a little more subtle."

The New York Times' story notes that several studies have shown overall drinking — including heavy and problem imbibing — to be on the rise in the United States, affecting "all segments of society, including women, older adults, racial and ethnic minorities and the poor."

As a way of ameliorating the situation, ASCO has called "for new public health initiatives to curb alcohol use, from taxes to restrictions on ads targeting minors."

The oncology group, according to the Times piece, "concluded that 5.5 percent of all new cancers and 5.8 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide could be attributed to alcohol.

ASCO also stated a report by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund that contended "for women, just one alcoholic drink a day can increase breast cancer risk."

The report, Rabin's story says, "analyzed 119 studies, including data on 12 million women and over a quarter of a million breast cancer cases," finding there was strong evidence "that alcohol consumption increases the risk of both pre- and postmenopausal cancer, and that drinking a small glass of wine or beer every day — about 10 grams of alcohol — increases premenopausal breast cancer risk by 5 percent and postmenopausal risk by 9 percent."

Dr. Clifford A. Hudis, chief exec at ASCO, states unequivocally, "The more you drink, the higher the risk. It's a pretty linear dose-response."

The risk for heavy drinkers, who are defined as having eight or more drinks weekly for women, 15 or more for men, "are multiples higher," according to the Times.

More information on various causes of cancer, and the risk factors involved, 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.