Friday, February 24, 2017

7 Weight Loss Tips for Hypothyroidism

Start with these seven strategies to jump-start weight loss with hypothyroidism:

1. Consider going gluten-free.Tina Beaudoin, ND, president of the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Doctors and medical director of HealthStrong Integrative Medicine in Manchester, New Hampshire says going gluten-free can help people with hypothyroidism lose weight. Gluten is high in goitrogens, which interfere with iodine uptake and suppress thyroid function, she says. The association between gluten intolerance and thyroid disorders has long been noted, but she says she also see results in her practice when people with hypothyroidism cut gluten from their diets. “When people with hypothyroidism cut out gluten and add integrative support, their antibodies steadily decrease in the majority of cases,” she says.

2. Cut out simple carbs and sugars. Dr. Austin recommends a moderate- to low-carbohydrate diet that focuses on complex carbohydrates (think starchy vegetables and legumes) and avoiding simple sugars (pass on the candy and soda). According to Harvard Medical School, eating complex carbohydrates and avoiding simple carbs can help reduce the production of cytokines, which are tiny proteins that can influence inflammation in the body. But Austin stresses the importance of eating enough calories because "low calories can cause a stress response and result in decreased T3 production.”

3. Eat more anti-inflammatory foods. Anti-inflammatory foods can help ease joint aches and pains and depression, all of which can result from hypothyroidism, Austin says. And anti-inflammatory foods can help soothe the immune system, which is often in “overdrive” in people with hypothyroidism, Dr. Beaudoin says. “An anti-inflammatory diet can help calm the immune system and excessive inflammation,” she says. Leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, fatty fish, nuts, fruit, and olive oil are all good foods to battle inflammation.

4. Stick to small, frequent meals. Hypothyroidism slows digestive function, Beaudoin says. “Eating smaller, more frequent meals with balanced macronutrients — quality proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats — supports balanced blood sugar and helps avoid the highs and lows of oversized, highly processed meals," she says.

5. Keep a food diary. Your daily caloric intake can quickly skyrocket unless you log everything you eat and drink, Corsino says. It can also help ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet. “Keeping a food journal is important for someone with hypothyroidism to track their macronutrient intake,” Austin says. “A diet high in healthy fats, moderate proteins, and moderate- to low-carbohydrates is best for thyroid function.”

6. Keep your body moving. Exercise is an important complement to a healthy diet in order to help burn calories, Dr. Corsino says. But consider the individual case, Austin says. “If a person is terribly fatigued, exercise can further suppress hypothyroidism," she says. "If a person has properly managed their hypothyroid and has the energy, exercise is encouraged.”

7. Take thyroid medication as directed.Thyroid hormone should be taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning with plenty of water, Corsino says. Don’t take it with any other medications and wait at least 30 to 60 minutes before eating breakfast. If your thyroid levels still aren’t where they should be when you take your medication properly, it could be affecting your ability to lose weight. Talk with your doctor about treatment adjustments that might be right for you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Chemo Brain is Real!

Breast cancer survivors report substantially more cognitive difficulties as much as 6 months after chemotherapy compared with age-matched controls, according to new research. The result, from a study of 581 breast cancer patients recruited from community practices across the United States, adds to evidence from other studies which show that cognitive difficulties after chemotherapy, colloquially known as chemofog or chemo brain, are a real problem for breast cancer survivors, the authors write. 

"One of the main goals of our study, which was the largest prospective, longitudinal study in the community to date, was to help us understand more about the cognitive complaints that patients often report during their cancer treatments and to better understand the trajectory of those cognitive problems," lead author Michelle C. Janelsins, PhD, from the James P. Wilmot Cancer Institute, University of Rochester Medical Center, New York, told Medscape Medical News. "We found that a significant percentage of our breast cancer patients, 45.2%, reported that they had clinically meaningful changes in their cognitive function from before treatment to after treatment, compared with only 10% of healthy controls," Dr Janelsins said. "That's a lot of people who are complaining of problems. And after 6 months, although there was some rebound, still 36.5% of breast cancer patients were complaining of problems with cognitive function, compared with 13.6% in the control group," she added.

The study was published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. For the study, 581 patients with breast cancer and 364 age-matched noncancer controls completed the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy — Cognitive Function (FACT-Cog) before and after chemotherapy, and again 6 months after the course of chemotherapy had ended. Controls were family members, friends of patients, or unrelated, and obtained from the National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) research database, Dr Janelsins explained.

"The FACT-Cog is a validated measure of patient-reported outcomes that was developed specifically to assess cognitive challenges identified by patients with cancer," she noted. The mean age of study participants was 53 years, and 48% of breast cancer patients received anthracycline-based chemotherapy regimens. Before any chemotherapy, FACT-Cog scores were lower in patients with breast cancer compared with controls (P < .001). Older age (P = .009), black race (P = 0.34), lower reading ability, higher anxiety, and higher depressive symptoms (all P < .001) were predictive of lower FACT-Cog scores at baseline. Education, however, was not predictive (P = .809). Significantly greater cognitive complaints, as shown by declines in the FACT-Cog score as well as four subscales (perceived cognitive impairment [PCI], perceived cognitive abilities [PCA], and impact on quality of life [QOL]), were reported by breast cancer patients compared with controls before, immediately after, and 6 months after chemotherapy (P < .001) at all time points.

This study has several strengths, Patricia A. Ganz, MD, professor of medicine and public health at UCLA Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Los Angeles, California, told Medscape Medical News. In addition to its large sample size and control group, the use of self-reported perceptions of cognitive decline could also be considered a strength, commented Dr Ganz, who coauthored an accompanying editorial. "This is a large trial, where they also did neuropsychological testing, although those results were not reported in this paper," Dr Ganz said. "The issue is, how much does self-reported difficulty with cognition relate to test-associated changes? The tests, by and large, that are used in these settings are pretty crude in the sense that they are designed to pick up big changes, whereas these patients may have much more subtle changes, and as a result, self-report may actually be more sensitive at detecting these changes," she said.

"For instance, the neuropsychologist will tell you that you have to have more than a one or two standard deviation difference to say somebody is impaired, but I think what patients are really aware of is that they can perceive a difference. It's just not big enough in magnitude to be detected on these tests," Dr Ganz said. "The other thing that we find is that the norms for a lot of these tests are based on the general population who have an IQ of 100, whereas at least in the breast cancer patients we have tested, some have IQs of 110, 120, so they are brighter and may still appear in the normal range, but they are not perceiving their mental functioning as being normal," she said. Both Dr Janelsins and Dr Ganz agree that the findings from this and other studies should reassure breast cancer survivors who experience symptoms of cognitive impairment after chemotherapy that what they are experiencing is, indeed, real.

"This is one of the largest studies to be conducted to date in a nationwide setting and is really validating concerns that patients have — that this is a real problem and it needs respect. Patients should be aware this is a possible side effect of cancer treatment, and if they are having any concerns about their cognition they should bring them up with their provider and not just brush them off as an aging effect. These are real problems," Dr Janelsins emphasized. The study results reinforce the perception that something is going on with these women, Dr Ganz agreed.

"Women will come in and say 'I can't think straight,' or 'It's really hard for me to concentrate,' or 'I'm having trouble finding words. I used to be able to start to work at my computer and I'd know what I was doing, but now I forget within a few minutes why I am sitting there,'" she said. "Those are the kinds of things patients who have had cancer treatments often complain of. Many patients are able to go back to work, but continued to be troubled by these problems, but others are unable to. I remember one patient who was legal counsel for a big corporation. She just couldn't go back to work," Dr Ganz said.

Monday, February 20, 2017

New study suggests strategies for keeping off pounds

You've succeeded in losing weight. Now, what can you do to keep the pounds off? Most people seem to struggle with long-term weight loss. By some estimates, only about 20% of overweight individuals are successful in keeping off at least 10% of their initial body weight for a year or longer. A new study, however, suggests that using specific strategies -- such as weighing yourself regularly and planning for situations in which you might backslide -- could modestly slow the rate of weight regain in obese adults who have lost weight. In the study, employing such strategies in a maintenance program increased the proportion of adults who stayed at or lowered their weight, after initial weight loss, by 13.9 percentage points, said Corrine Voils, research career scientist at William S. Middleton Veterans Memorial Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin and lead author of the study.

However, more research is needed to determine which specific strategies offered the most benefit and which may have not had much of an impact. The study, which involved mostly men of various races and involved self-reports, was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday. "We went into this study unsure what to expect," said Voils, who is also a professor of surgery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "We knew that maintaining weight loss is hard and that previous maintenance studies have tended to focus on middle-aged white females. We were unsure if a mainly telephone-based program would work in a population that is primarily men and of mixed race," she said. "We were happy to see that our strategies reduced the rate of weight regain." More than one-third of American adults are considered to be obese, meaning their body mass index is 30 or higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity has been linked to numerous health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer.

'Obesity is now recognized as a chronic disease'

The new study involved 222 obese patients, of whom only 34 were women. All of the patients had lost at least 8.8 pounds in a 16-week weight loss program. They were randomly assigned to participate in either an intervention group that provided weight maintenance strategies for an additional 42 weeks or a group that received usual medical care, with no emphasis on weight maintenance. Those in the intervention group participated in three in-person group meetings and eight individual telephone calls, in which they were given a maintenance calorie budget and strategies on how to exercise, get support from their family and friends, and monitor their weight.

The phone calls also involved the patients reflecting on how their lives have improved as a result of weight loss, making a plan for situations when they might feel tempted to go back to old habits, and specifying how frequently they weigh themselves and revisit weight loss efforts if they have gained weight. All participants, in both groups, were scheduled for assessment appointments at the beginning of the study and then after 14, 26, 42 and 56 weeks. After 56 weeks, Voils said, 58.6% of patients in the intervention group either regained some weight or saw no change in weight, while 72.5% of patients in the other group regained or saw no change, a difference of 13.9 percentage points. The average weight regain in the intervention group was only about 1.6 pounds, compared with about 5.2 pounds in the other group, the researchers found.

"Although this may not seem like a lot of weight, given the low program costs and the high benefit of carrying less weight over the longer term, this is an important finding that adds to our understanding about how best to help patients with obesity," said Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, associate professor at the Penn State College of Medicine, who was not involved in the new study. "Obesity is now recognized as a chronic disease. However, we still don't treat it this way in the clinical setting. Clinically, we typically help patients engage in weight loss efforts, stand back and watch as they regain, and then try to re-engage them in additional weight loss efforts," she said. "We wouldn't treat someone's high blood pressure with a medication for only a year and then scratch our heads as to why their blood pressure is high again two years later. For obesity to be treated as a chronic disease, new approaches to management are critical." Yet, the new study had some limitations.

What might help weight control the most?

It remains unclear in the study whether regular weighing, planning for high-risk situations or obtaining outside support was most effective in weight loss management, Voils said. "Our study design did not allow us to say which component of our intervention was most effective," Voils said. "There is evidence that self-weighing and relapse prevention help people maintain weight loss. Our intervention incorporates those skills and adds having patients reflect on the benefits they experienced with weight loss and talking with a support person about what they can do to support weight maintenance efforts," she said.

 Though it remains difficult to establish which part of the intervention had the most impact on patients, having constant interaction with a supportive coach probably played a significant role in weight maintenance, said Dr. Samuel Grief, associate professor of clinical family medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, who was not involved in the study. "Group dynamics tend to be more helpful, or a team-based approach using care coordination," Grief said. "That would be my answer. Because strategies like food journaling or diaries or writing out what activities you do every day or emotions that you're feeling, all that is relevant, but there's not a lot of science behind those causing weight loss or mitigation of weight regain.

Otherwise, everybody would do it," he said. "Also, it would have been helpful to gauge their self-efficacy." Studies suggest that having self-efficacy, or believing that you will be successful in losing weight, has been linked to greater success in weight management, Grief said. Additionally, the researchers were unable to assess longer-term weight maintenance and relied on self-reports about dietary intake and physical activity. "Our population was primarily middle-aged men who were white or African-American, and results may not generalize to other populations," Voils said.

Tips for keeping the weight off

The National Weight Control Registry, which has tracked more than 10,000 individuals who have maintained significant weight losses, offers some recommendations on how to maintain weight control. Rena Wing, a professor at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School, and James Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, established the registry in 1994. "To maintain weight loss, there must be continued adherence to a low-calorie diet and high physical activity," Wing said.

She said the registry suggests that the following strategies may help someone who is trying to maintain their weight loss:

  • Maintain high levels of physical activity, in which the recommended goal is 250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking. 
  • Monitor your weight by weighing yourself frequently. 
  • Monitor and keep track of your diet and activity. 
  • Take immediate action in the face of small weight regains.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Will I Go Bald? Genetic Study Shows Complex Answer

Researchers searching for the genetic roots of hair loss say they've found more than 280 different genes are involved. And they've come up with a formula that can predict a man's risk of losing his hair, although it's too soon to say there could be a blood test to forecast whether and when a man would start losing his hair. It turns out that hair loss is very complicated genetically, the British team reports in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Genetics.

"In this large genome-wide association study study of male pattern baldness, we identified 287 independent genetic signals that were linked to differences in the trait," Riccardo Marioni and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh wrote. "The results of this study might help identify those at greatest risk of hair loss, and also potential genetic targets for intervention." The team studied the DNA from more than 52,000 mostly middle-aged men taking part in a gigantic British genetic experiment called BioBank. "We identified hundreds of new genetic signals," said Saskia Hagenaars, a student who worked on the study.

Although hair loss runs strongly in families, men cannot always look at their fathers and predict their own fates, hair-wise. Some can blame their mothers, the researchers found. The trawl though all of the mens' genes found 40 linked with baldness on the X chromosome. The rest were scattered across the genome. "It was interesting to find that many of the genetic signals for male pattern baldness came from the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mothers," Hagenaars said in a statement. Of the men in the study, 16,700 had no hair loss.

Another 12,000 had slight hair loss; 14,000 had moderate hair loss and 9,800 had severe hair loss. "We identified hundreds of new genetic signals," said Saskia Hagenaars, a student who worked on the study. Although hair loss runs strongly in families, men cannot always look at their fathers and predict their own fates, hair-wise. Some can blame their mothers, the researchers found. The trawl though all of the mens' genes found 40 linked with baldness on the X chromosome. The rest were scattered across the genome. "It was interesting to find that many of the genetic signals for male pattern baldness came from the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mothers," Hagenaars said in a statement. Of the men in the study, 16,700 had no hair loss. Another 12,000 had slight hair loss; 14,000 had moderate hair loss and 9,800 had severe hair loss.

However, it's possible to predict whether a man will lose hair with pretty good certainty. Most are fated to at least have their hair thin out. "Male pattern baldness affects around 80 percent of men by the age of 80 years," the researchers wrote. "We are still a long way from making an accurate prediction for an individual's hair loss pattern," Marioni said in a statement. "However, these results take us one step closer. The findings pave the way for an improved understanding of the genetic causes of hair loss."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cooling Cap May Limit Chemo Hair Loss In Women With Breast Cancer

It's no surprise that most women with breast cancer consider hair loss one of the most traumatic aspects of chemotherapy. That has led to a big market for cooling caps, which are purported to limit hair loss. But cooling caps haven't been extensively studied in the U.S., and womens' experiences with the caps have been hit or miss. And just one cooling cap, the DigniCap, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Two studies released Tuesday show that at least half the women who used either the DigniCap or another scalp cooling system, the Paxman, lost less than 50 percent of their hair. "These findings appear to represent a major step forward in improving the quality of life of individuals with cancer," says Dr. Dawn Hershman, who studies the effects of cancer treatments at the Columbia University School of Medicine in New York. She wrote an editorial accompanying the studies in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

But Hershman cautions that more study is needed to determine whether there is psychological benefit in using the caps to prevent hair loss. And the cost and who will pay for the treatment are also issues, she says. The average cost is $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the number of chemotherapy cycles. In the DigniCap study, 67 of 106 women (66.3 percent) lost less than half their hair after four rounds of taxane chemotherapy. The women had either stage I or II breast cancer. In contrast, all of the 16 women who did not use the cap lost all of their hair during chemotherapy. The DigniCap system uses a double cap fitted to the scalp 30 minutes before an infusion, which keeps the scalp at 37 degrees Fahrenheit, plus or minus 2 degrees, during the session.

The system was approved by the FDA in 2015 and is available at infusion centers in 17 states. The other study found similar results using the Paxman system. It was led by oncologist Julie Nangia of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Half of the 95 women (50.5 percent) using the Paxman system lost less than half their hair after four rounds of anthracycline and taxane chemotherapy, including five women who had no significant hair loss, as judged by independent observers from photographs. Among the 47 who did not use the cooling system, all lost all of their hair. The Paxman study was stopped earlier than planned, after four cycles of chemotherapy, because findings showed the cooling cap was highly effective at preventing hair loss. That cooling system is not yet available commercially in the U.S. and is under review at the FDA. "It's nice now to have two good studies focusing on the quality of life to make the cancer journey easier for women," Nangia tells NPR. There were no serious side effects related to either cooler.

A few people reported headaches, and some stopped using the device because they got too cold. Nangia says most patients described the device as "reasonably comfortable." The studies were funded and designed, in part, by their respective manufacturers, with varying levels of company input to the university investigators. In both cases, the researchers were free to publish results they deemed appropriate. Researchers don't know exactly how the cooling caps work. One theory is that cooling constricts the blood vessels in the scalp, slowing the circulation and thereby reducing the amount of toxins to which hair follicles are exposed. Or it may be that cold slows the growth of hair follicles, making them less susceptible to damage from chemotherapy, which targets rapidly dividing cells.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, says it could be that "by slowing down those cells whatever mechanism it may be — either starving their blood flow or slowing them down straightforwardly — the net effect is beneficial, causing hair not to fall out." While chilling the scalp may seem to carry few risks, Lichtenfeld says there is a theoretical risk that inhibiting the effect of chemotherapy in the scalp could allow metastases to take hold there. "These techniques are relatively new," he says, and "breast cancer is a disease that can take a long time before it comes back and if one is to be 100 percent certain then you need a long period of time to answer the question." So far, cancer recurrence on the scalp has not been seen in the U.S. studies, but authors of both JAMA papers say longer follow-up is needed to be sure that this is not a risk.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Winter hair fall: Is seasonal hair loss a myth or fact?

Hair fall is a natural phenomenon where old hair falls off, giving space for the new hair to grow. But in the cooler months, we notice that there are too many strands on our hairbrush and too little on our scalp.

While winter is great for bonfire parties, hot beverages and fried food, it is not exactly a party for your scalp. There seems to be a spike in the amount of hair we lose during these months, apart from the constant itchiness and flakiness. Is winter to be blamed for our ordeal? To find out, we spoke to trichologist Dr Priya Mohod to understand why we lose so much hair during the winter months.

Is it true that you have more hair loss during winter? “It is definitely not a myth. Hair fall does happen a lot in the winter months,” states the doctor. Being mammals, we undergo hair fall during the onset of winter [1].However, certain other seasonal changes in winter also contribute towards hair loss. What happens to your scalp during winters? Winter months are particularly rough on the scalp. Dryness and flakiness tend to make the hair roots weak, which causes the hair to fall off according to Dr Mohod. Winter is also the time when fungal infections thrive, giving rise to a host of scalp problems. The doctor adds, “These microbes can cause dandruff which leads to more hair fall.” Does seasonal hair fall affect women more than men? According to the doctor, no gender is immune from the seasonal problem. “When it comes to hair fall, the season affects both men and women in a similar manner. So both experience hair fall during the winters,” says the doctor.

How to reduce hair fall during winters?

• Hygiene is an important factor: Wash your hair more often to keep your scalp clean. The doctor advises against using store bought shampoos. “They have higher levels of sulphate. Opt for a medicated one instead,” says Dr Mohod.

• Avoid stepping out with oil in your hair: The doctor adds, “If you step out with oily hair, dust, pollution and dirt may stick to it, which can worsen the condition.” Oil should be kept on the scalp only for 10-15 minutes or overnight before washing it off thoroughly.

• Cover your hair: Draping a shawl or a dupatta around your hair will keep it safe from direct sunlight and other irritants that may affect the scalp. These small tips can help your hair tide over the harsh winter months effectively.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

UCSF study: “Dense breasts” exceed all other breast cancer risk factors

A new UC San Francisco-led study shows that women with “dense breasts” are at increased risk for breast cancer, compared with women with a family history of the disease, their own history of benign lesions, and a first full-term pregnancy over age 30. The findings were published Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology. Led by Natalie Engmann, a Ph.D. candidate in the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Dr. Karla Kerlikowske, the researchers believe their work is the first large-scale study to measure the development of breast cancer according to the degree of breast density.

About 40 percent of women in the U.S. over age 40 have dense breast tissue, which makes it harder to identify cancer cells on a mammogram. As a result, 27 states including California have passed laws requiring health facilities to notify women when they have dense breasts. Proponents of the law say women can then decide if they want to take further action and undergo other imaging techniques, such as an ultrasound or MRI.

But critics say the laws cause women increased anxiety and cost because there is no consensus if the routine supplemental screening is worthwhile. The UCSF-led study evaluated the risk factors of more than 200,000 women ages 40 to 74. About 18,000 of the participants had different stages of breast cancer, while the rest did not. The researchers found that breast density was the most prevalent risk factor for the disease, and that 39.3 percent of breast cancers in pre-menopausal women and 26.2 percent in post-menopausal women might have been prevented if all women with higher breast density had been shifted to a lower density category.

The researchers also found that women with a high body mass index have lower breast density, though Engmann said age is also a strong determinant of breast density. Dense breasts are more common in younger women, said Engmann, and most women experience a sharp decline during menopause that continues in the post-menopausal period. However, she noted that post-menopausal estrogen and progestin therapy can reverse the decline of breast density with age. Tamoxifen, an estrogen hormone blocker, is the only treatment known to substantially reduce breast density, and thus the risk of breast cancer. But because the drug can have serious side effects, it is usually only recommended for women at high risk of breast cancer, with guidance from their physician. “Our study highlights the need for new interventions to reduce breast density for women at average risk,” Engmann said.

At the Fremont-based Cancer Prevention Institute of California, cancer epidemiologist Dr. Ingrid Oakley-Girvan was intrigued by the UCSF findings. “The exicting part about this article is that is really provides more evidence that there may be additional approaches we could use to reduce breast cancer,” she said. For example, along with some of her colleagues, Oakley-Girvan recently submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Defense to evaluate a nutritional soup product that may reduce inflammation in the breast in women with early breast disease. “Perhaps we should also consider expanding that work to women with dense breasts,” Oakley-Girvan said.

At UCSF, Engmann said that even though one link between dense breasts and breast cancer suggests that carrying extra pounds may protect women against the disease, since overweight and obese women are more likely to have fatty breasts, the study reinforced previous research that has determined a link between high body mass index and increased breast cancer risk in post-menopausal women. The researchers said that almost 23 percent of breast cancers in this group could have been averted if obese and overweight women attained a body mass index of less than 25, the equivalent of 155 lbs for a woman of 5 feet 6 inches.

By comparsion, the study found that factors commonly associated with breast cancer risk — a history of benign breast biopsy, a first-degree family history of breast cancer, and deferring childbirth until after 30 — each accounted for less than 10 percent of cases in the population. The study, which included three other co-authors, was supported by a National Cancer Institute-funded program.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cancer burger? Fast food wrappers contain carcinogenic chemicals, study says

The next time you get a craving for a greasy burger from the drive-thru, you may want to reconsider. A new study has found that fast food packaging contains cancer-causing chemicals – showing that the risk of quick meals goes beyond trans fats and calories. It's no secret that fast food contains a huge amount of oils, but in an effort to repel those oils, the packaging is actually posing a huge risk to consumers, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

In an effort to determine whether the wrappers contained harmful chemicals, the researchers gathered 400 take-out packaging samples from fast food restaurants across the US. They then analyzed them for fluorinated chemicals, a family of chemicals which has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems, changes in hormone functioning in adults, and adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children. Forty-six percent of food contact papers and 20 percent of paperboard were found to contain the harmful chemicals. But the problem wasn't just contained to the wrappers.

The chemicals were found to migrate from the packaging to the food itself. "Food contact material is a direct route of exposure to these chemicals for us, it’s as if you were drinking them in your drinking water,” Tom Brunton of the Green Science Policy Institute, which was involved in the study, told CBS Bay Area. Study co-author Graham Peaslee, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame, said he was "very surprised to find these chemicals in food contact materials from so many of the samples we tested," according to a Green Science Policy Institute press release.

He went on to note that the chemicals are "persistent and some bioaccumulate in the body," and stressed that "safer non-fluorinated alternatives" are available. Co-author Dr. Arlene Blum of UC Berkeley and the Green Science Policy Institute also stressed that "we can stop using fluorinated chemicals where they are not necessary, such as in food packaging, and all be healthier." And although fluorinated chemicals are also found in everyday products including water-repellent outdoor gear, stain-resistant clothing and furniture, and non-stick pans, Brunton was quick to point out that they are likely the most harmful in the fast food context. "You're likely not going to get the same exposure from those're not eating your rain jacket...," Brunton said. The Green Science Policy Institute noted, however, that many major retailers have eliminated high-fluorinated chemicals from their products, and encouraged the fast food industry to do the same.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Cancer rates set to increase six times faster in women than men

Cancer rates will increase nearly six times faster in women than in men over the next 20 years, with obesity partly to blame, experts predict. As several of the obesity-related cancer types only affect women, the growing number of people of both sexes who are severely overweight is likely to have a greater effect on incidence of the disease among women, according to the analysis by Cancer Research UK. Cases of ovarian, cervical and oral cancers are predicted to rise the most. Rates will rise by around 0.5% for men and 3% for women, meaning an estimated 4.5 million women and 4.8 million men will be diagnosed with cancer by 2035.

That equates to projected UK cancer rates increasing by approximately 0.5% for men and 3% for women. The figures were released on the same day as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) announced that it was recommending that the breast cancer drug palbociclib should not be routinely funded on the NHS in England. Charities decried the decision by the drugs watchdog, stressing the importance of developing and supporting more treatments to help women to survive, but they also urged women to change their lifestyles to minimise their risk. Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Sir Harpal Kumar said: “These new figures reveal the huge challenge we continue to face, both in the UK and worldwide.

Research is at the heart of finding ways to reduce cancer’s burden and ensure more people survive, particularly for hard-to-treat cancers where the outlook for patients is still bleak. We need to keep working hard to reduce the devastating impact cancer can have on so many families. “The latest figures show that more than 8 million people die from cancer each year across the world. More people die from cancer than Aids, malaria and tuberculosis put together.

With more investment into research, we hope to make big improvements over the next 20 years in diagnosing the disease earlier and improving and developing treatments so that by 2034, three in four people will survive their disease.” Smoking is another factor behind the projected growth of cancer cases among women, which will mean the gap between the number of women and men with the disease narrows. Widespread smoking among women happened later than men and lighting up continues to have a big effect on the number of cancer cases diagnosed each year, says Cancer Research UK. Sarah Toule, head of health information at the World Cancer Research Fund, said lack of exercise and alcohol consumption were also driving the predicted increase in the UK cancer rate for women.

“It is concerning that rates are predicted to rise so sharply in women, especially as so many cancer cases could be prevented,” she said. “For example, about two in five breast cancer cases in the UK could be prevented if women maintained a healthy weight, were more physically active and didn’t drink alcohol – that’s around 20,000 fewer cases a year. Other cancers that could be reduced by women having a healthier lifestyle include womb and ovary.” Professor Kevin Fenton, the director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “The top things we can all do to prevent and reduce the risk of cancer are quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and attending cancer screening when invited.”

In draft guidance explaining its reasoning for its advice on palbociclib, which is made by Pfizer, the drug watchdog said that a full course of treatment costs £79,560. Although Nice found that the drug stalled the growth of the cancer for an extra 10 months on average “it was still not enough to make palbociclib cost effective at its current price”. The watchdog estimates that around 5,500 people in England – out of 45,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer each year – would be eligible for treatment with palbociclib. Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “This is the clearest illustration to date that the drug appraisal system is totally unfit for purpose in assessing first-in-class breast cancer medicines. “Palbociclib could benefit a large proportion of metastatic breast cancer patients and may even be the closest thing these women would have to a cure in their lifetime.” She urged Pfizer to reconsider its decision not to offer the NHS a discount on the list price and said the pharmaceutical giant must work with Nice to ensure the drug can be made widely available to women as soon as possible.

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), with its partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, led a major clinical trial of palbociclib. Dr Nicholas Turner, team leader in Molecular Oncology at ICR and consultant medical oncologist at The Royal Marsden, said: “Palbociclib is one of the most important advances in treating the most common type of breast cancer in 20 years. “If the manufacturer, Nice, and NHS England can find a way of making this treatment available for patients, they will substantially improve the lives of patients with breast cancer.” In December, Nice turned down another breast cancer drug, Kadcyla, made by Roche Pharmaceuticals, on financial grounds, triggering an outcry from patients’ groups who say it prolongs the lives of people who are seriously ill with the disease. At present there are an estimated 7.4 million men and 6.7 million women being diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year. The disease is the leading cause of death globally, accounting for an estimated 8.2m deaths in 2012 and approximately 15% of all deaths.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Cancer Chemotherapy and Hair Loss: Why It Matters

Anna Crollman's reverse hair timeline says it all: Her short, stylish, frosted haircut 10 months after chemotherapy, her bald-as-an-egg scalp during chemotherapy and her thick, flowing brown locks before she began treatment for breast cancer. In the hair-journey images on her My Cancer Chic blog, intended to help young women braving breast cancer and beyond, Crollman, now 29, exudes a sense of confidence. But through all the hardships of diagnosis, chemotherapy, mastectomy, breast reconstruction and more, Crollman says losing her hair was among the most traumatic.

Distressing Side Effect

With some types of chemotherapy, an unfortunate side effect is that hair follicles are killed along with the target cancer cells.  Hair loss may occur only on the head or include eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair as well. Certain drugs used to treat breast cancer intravenously, such as Taxotere and Adriamycin, are more likely to cause hair loss or thinning. Some chemotherapy regimens used for later-stage breast cancer or other types of cancer don't cause hair loss, says Dr. Kathryn Ruddy, an oncologist, researcher and associate professor of oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

However, she says, "the standard therapy regimens we give for early-stage breast cancer – meaning we think we can cure the disease with the chemotherapy – those unfortunately almost do universally cause hair loss." Ruddy tells her patients it usually takes about six months after the last dose of standard chemotherapy for the hair to grow back and for most people to feel comfortable without a wig. "Thankfully, most patients regain a full head of hair," she says. Hair usually grows back curlier, at least initially, and sometimes the color is different. While hair looks thinner while growing back, she says, most people end up with as much thickness as they had before.  Chemo-related balding tends to bother women more than men. For some patients, Ruddy says, hair loss "can be the most troubling and difficult side effect of chemotherapy."

Beating Chemo to the Punch

Crollman, a graduate program coordinator with the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, was diagnosed in July 2015. She was well-informed about chemotherapy side effects, including the impending hair loss. "As women, we use hair to define who we are," Crollman says. "And feeling like that part of your identity is going to be stripped away makes you feel very vulnerable and almost naked. To feel like you don't have that to hide behind. So I was very scared about that aspect of the chemotherapy." She decided to shave her head. "Cancer takes so much from you in terms of choices that you have, opportunities lost," she says. "Your body is going to be changing and you have to go through these treatments. Shaving my head was a way for me to regain some control of the situation and for me to choose when it was going to happen." Crollman and her husband hosted a head-shaving party at a local hair salon, which they had to themselves for the occasion.

They served wine and cheese to family and friends. First, Crollman shaved her husband's head. Next, a professional stylist gave Crollman a buzz cut. As prepared as she felt, she says it still felt traumatic. "Lots of tears," she recalls. The other shoe dropped when chemotherapy left its mark, Crollman says: "Then when it starts to fall out, you realize: OK, now I'm officially bald." "Most cancer centers recognize that this is a major psychological issue and we need to do as much as we can to support patients," Ruddy says. Nurses and other team members do a lot to educate patients on resources for hair loss. One step is writing a prescription for a wig, which is usually covered by insurance. The Mayo Clinic has an onsite wig shop. Even if patients chose not to get a wig there, Ruddy says, it's helpful to stop in because the staff is so knowledgeable about hair loss and hair coverings. Ask what your cancer center can do for you. Caps that cool the scalp during chemotherapy may help some women preserve their hair. An industry-funded study, reported in December at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, found among women with breast cancer who underwent four cycles of chemotherapy, those who used the scalp-cooling apparatus while receiving chemo were more likely to retain at least some of their hair.

But the close-fitting caps can cause headaches and are costly at more than $1,000 throughout treatment. Results vary with the caps, partially depending on the individual chemotherapy regime, Ruddy says, and it's unclear whether they're effective enough to make the discomfort worthwhile. "It's not that comfortable to wear basically an ice cap during chemotherapy, and it does extend the amount of time someone needs to get the infusion," she says.

Coping in Style

Doctors at the N.C. Cancer Hospital in Chapel Hill, where Crollman was treated, referred her to the in-hospital boutique to view the selection of wigs, scarves, wraps and hats. Crollman found that she preferred not having a wig in the same style or color as her pretreatment hair. When she first tried matching that look, she says, "It was horrible. It felt like a fraud." Instead, a shorter, lighter-colored wig felt much more comfortable, she says – like creating a new persona instead of trying to re-create what she'd lost. Individuality and sense of style don't disappear with a woman's hair.

Many women use head scarves, some homemade, although Crollman preferred not to. "Some women I know wear the head scarf and look beautiful and rock it and feel really confident that way, so more power to them," she says. About halfway through her treatment, Crollman decided to shed her wig and break out bald. "It was itchy," she says. "I was tired of wearing it. And I had spent the weekend at home sick, laying around. Something in me just switched, and I said, 'I'm just going to wear the bald head.'" Wigless, she went to work, where colleagues were supportive as ever. From that point on, she never wore a wig or scarf again. Crollman wants to help other young women as they continue to work, socialize and simply care about their appearance in the midst of cancer treatment. In addition to blogging, she serves as a Living Beyond Breast Cancer Young Advocate. She's still receiving some treatment, and while she has good days and bad days, she says, "Mentally, I'm in a really good place now."