Friday, November 23, 2018

Should users worry about disease link to phones?

After tests with rats, 2 U.S. agencies clash over whether cellphone use can cause cancer

Two federal agencies are at odds about cellphone radiation.

According to a recent Associated Press story by Lauren Neergaard and Seth Borenstein, "one says it causes cancer in rats. The other says there's no reason for people to worry."
Dr. Jeffrey Shuren
The article says the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees cellphone safety, has challenged an earlier ruling by the National Toxicology Program that linked the devices to heart and brain cancer, saying the findings didn't apply to humans.

Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, its chief of radiological health, represented the FDA position.

Dr. Otis Brawley
His statement was supported by Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

"The incidence of brain tumors in human beings has been flat for the last 40 years. That is the most important scientific fact," Brawley was quoted as saying.

AP's story notes that "in a $30 million study, scientists put rats and mice into special chambers and bombarded them with radio frequency waves, like those emitted by older 2G and 3G phones, for nine hours a day for up to two years, most of their natural lives."

The levels the rodents experience, the piece continues, "were far higher than people are typically exposed to."

In February, the toxicology program concluded there was "some evidence of a link," after finding "a small increase in an unusual type of heart tumor in male rats, but not in mice or female rats."

The agency's recent update changed its terminology to "clear evidence" of heart tumor increase — and it added "some evidence" of brain cancer.

More information on cancer research 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.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Memorial Sloan Kettering forced to shift focus

Are conflict of interest chances sullying the reputation of a prestigious cancer center?

The famed Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center apparently is in turmoil, at least as far as raising money is concerned.

And possibly as far as its reputation is concerned.

According to a recent story by Katie Thomas and Charles Ornstein in The New York Times, the facility — which the piece refers to as "one of the nation's most prestigious cancer centers" — "has abruptly changed the focus of an annual fund-raising campaign amid a widening crisis that has already led to the resignation of its chief medical officer and a sweeping re-examination of its policies."

A brochure on the center's website indicated that the campaign, "initially titled 'Harnessing Big Data,' was to have focused on the cancer center's research into the use of artificial intelligence in cancer  treatment."

The shift in focus followed an earlier Times article, written in conjunction with ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism organization — just as the latest story was. That piece dealt with an exclusive deal the center made with an AI start-up "to use digital images of 25 million tissue slides analyzed over decades."

But the company, Paige.AI, "was founded by three hospital insiders and also involved investors who were Memorial Sloan Kettering board members."

According to the Times story by Thomas and Ornstein, pathologists at the hospital, whose main campus is in New York City, "complained that their work was being commercialized for private gain and that patients were not being informed that images of their tissue slides were being shared with an outside company." 

Although the hospital and its officials claimed they didn't do anything wrong, they did acknowledge "that they could have communicated better," the Times piece contended.

Kenneh Manotti
After the first article, Kenneth Manotti, the center's senior vice president and chief development officer, sent an email "to board members of the Society of MSK, the hospital's fund-raising effort, and an affiliated committee [that said the effort] would be postponed 'under the current circumstances, as we navigate through the issues at hand.'"
The society normally raised between $800,000 and $1 million annually for the hospital.

In September, Dr. José Baselga, the hospital's chief medical officer, quit under fire after the Times and ProPublica "revealed that he had failed to disclose his extensive industry ties in dozens of medical journal articles in recent years."

The hospital, the latest article says, "has announced a task force to study its conflict-of-interest policies."

In an email from Dr. Craig B. Thompson, the hospital's chief executive, and Dr. Lisa DeAngelis, acting physician-in-chief, low staff morale was acknowledged. 

Other stories about fund-raising efforts 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, November 7, 2018

Split cancer ruling befuddles the public

Top California court says three companies don't need to put warning labels on cereals 

The California Supreme Court has let three breakfast-cereal giants off the hook.

Last week's ruling that denied a review of an appellate decision means the corporations needn't put warning labels on boxes of their whole-grain cereals to the effect that an ingredient — acrylamide — might cause cancer.

The ruling came despite the chemical having been identified by federal and state agencies as a potential cause of the disease.

It left the public unsure what's real — or dangerous.
Bob Egelko

According to a story by Bob Egelko in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, General Mills' Cheerios, Post's Grape-Nut Flakes and Kellogg's All Bran will not have to carry the red flags under the state's Proposition 65, a 1986 ballot measure requiring "businesses to notify the public when their products contain ingredients that have been shown to cause cancer or birth defects." 

At the same time as it left that ruling intact, the court's decision removed it as a legal precedent — which was a relief to attorney Joseph Mann, who'd argued on behalf of the Center for Environmental Health, the Center for Food Safety and other groups that the courts should limit the scope of the ruling.

The Chronicle story goes on to report that Mann, who earlier had said "the opinion is just dead wrong," maintains that making a cookie product with whole grains "doesn't mean [manufacturers] can jack it up with sugar and call it a health food, and say states can't regulate that."

The ruling, not incidentally, didn't mandate that warning labels should be required "for other food products that contain both healthy ingredients and possible carcinogens," Egelko writes.

Researchers way back in 2002 had detected the presence of acrylamide "as a byproduct of baking, roasting or frying carbohydrate-rich foods such as potato chips and French fries, both of which now carry Prop. 65 warning labels," the story says.

In response to the suit seeking the same labels for the cereals, "the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles [in a 3-0 ruling in July] agreed with federal health officials who said that such warnings would cause more harm than good," the Chronicle story continues.


Because, the story quotes the court, "requiring warnings on all foods containing acrylamide at levels that pose any risk of cancer 'would cause many otherwise healthful foods [such as peanut butter, rye and whole wheat bread, sunflower seeds and prune juice] to appear to consumers to be unhealthful.'"

More information on ingredients that may cause 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.