Cancer Blog

Here's our collection of cancer-related stories. We sift through a variety of stories and share the issues that we think matter to cancer patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and survivors. Learn about current events in the cancer community, human interest stories, and promising technology and treatment advances. Tell us what you think in the Comments section at the bottom of each post.

Note: The information contained in this service is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in the service is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment of any illness, condition or disease.



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American Cancer Society's "New Year, Choose You" Sweepstakes

by: cancercompass

Rumor has it 80% to 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. And in order to lower those numbers, the American Cancer Society (ACS) started the New Year, Choose You initiative.

They are asking women to make their personal health a top priority in 2011 in order to reduce the risk of cancer development. And in doing so, the ACS has asked participants to share their health-related New Year's resolutions on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to enter the American Cancer Society’s New Year, Choose You Sweepstakes.

Participants enter for their chance to win a series of health-related prizes, including a celebrity fitness trip for two to Los Angeles with ExerciseTV, and gift cards from spas and Walgreens.

Will you be participating in the sweepstakes?

Please leave your thoughts about this initiative in the comments section below.



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Cervical Cancer Awareness Month Begins This Week

by: cancercompass

January 1st marks the beginning of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

The American Cancer Society estimates about 12,200 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will develop in 2010. Invasive cervical cancer is when cancer cells spread beyond the cervix. Non-invasive cervical cancer is cancer only within the cervix. Some researchers believe the non-invasive type of the disease is four times as common as the other.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the "Pap" test - which was introduced about 50 years ago - has decreased cervical cancer deaths by 75 percent. Furthermore, recent studies have found that over 90 percent of women who develop the disease have the human papilloma virus or HPV. Scientists believe that HPV may cause the growth of abnormal cells in the cervix and may play a role in cervical cancer development.

To learn more about the cancer featured in this post, please visit our cervical cancer information page.



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Tips to Avoid the Flu

by: cancercompass

News West Midlands is reporting that many hospitals are being forced to cancel cancer operations as they deal with escalating numbers of flu sufferers.

"NHS trusts have started to postpone major surgery since beds in intensive care units that are required for post-operative recovery are currently held for critically ill influenza victims," the article stated. "Experts are now worried that the UK is on course for a flu epidemic – the first for more than 10 years – following the number of instances more than doubling during the past week."

With co-workers and children coughing and sneezing, it's not easy to forget that it's flu season in the United States as well. Here are some tips for preventing the flu:

  • Get a flu shot.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. An article written by Jeanie Lerche Davis of WebMD recommends singing the Happy Birthday song twice while washing your hands to help keep track of time.
  • Use gel sanitizers. Sometime when you can't get to a sink to wash your hands with soap and water, just rubbing gel sanitizer on your hands is a viable second option.
  • Use a paper towel. Don't touch door knobs, coffee pots, elevator buttons and other public items with your skin. Instead, grab a paper towel to avoid transferring germs directly to your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay hydrated. Make sure you get eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
  • Exercise. According to the Office of Health Education, exercise can increase the body's natural virus-killing cells.
  • Get some fresh air. Germs circulate in crowded rooms. Step outside and enjoy a breath of fresh air.

Do you have any tips for avoiding the flu, or how to recover quickly? Please share them in the comments below.



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Study: Tanning Beds Still Draw a Crowd

by: cancercompass

According to a new study published in the Archives of Dermatology, with all the recent articles and studies regarding the negative effects of indoor tanning, there are still many who have gone to indoor tanning salons within the last year.

The study's results state that 18.1% of women and 6.3% of men reported using indoor tanning facilities in the last year. Of those tanners, the study claims that only 13.3% of women and 4.2% of men suggested that avoiding indoor tanning could reduce their risk of skin cancer.

According to The Los Angeles Times, one dermatologist claims that younger people are at higher risk because "most of the damage that leads to skin cancer happens before the age of 18."

What are your thoughts about indoor tanning?

To learn more about the cancer featured in this post, please visit our skin cancer information page.



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Cancer Causing Chemical Found in Drinking Water Across the Nation

by: cancercompass

The movie Erin Brockovich brought the issue to light - a harmful chemical called hexavalent chromium, found in drinking water, could cause stomach cancer. The movie was released almost 10 years ago, with Julia Roberts winning the Academy Award for best actress. But after a high level of exposure and more than a decade later, a new study released by the Environmental Working Group shows that hexavalent chromium is still a problem plaguing the nation.

According to the study, "laboratory tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG) have detected hexavalent chromium, the carcinogenic 'Erin Brockovich chemical,' in tap water from 31 of 35 American cities."

The Environmental Working Group goes on to say, "At least 74 million Americans in 42 states drink chromium-polluted tap water, much of it likely in the cancer-causing hexavalent form. Given the scope of exposure and the magnitude of the potential risk, EWG believes the EPA should move expeditiously to establish a legal limit for chromium-6 and require public water suppliers to test for it."

It's something that could lead more people to buy bottled water. But according to Boston's Daily Dose, this may not be the answer. They quoted Environmental Working Group spokesperson Leann Brown saying that bottled water makers, like public utility suppliers, also don't do testing for hexavalent chromium. So it's possible that the pricey bottle of spring water you order in Abe & Louie's has higher chromium levels than what comes out of the restaurant tap.

Instead, Brown recommends installing a reverse osmosis filter in your home taps.

What do you think of the new study? Will you be purchasing a reverse osmosis filter this Christmas?



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Holiday Drinking Could Increase Risk of Cancer

by: cancercompass

It's the holidays! For some that means a bit of overindulgence of cocktail weiners, meatballs, cheese and crackers, summer sausage, shrimp, cookies, pies, brownies, candy, peanut butter fudge, and of course, a libation or two.

But according to researchers at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, even a small increase in alcohol can increase a person's risk of developing cancer.

"Research shows that drinking even a small amount of alcohol increases your chances of developing cancer, including oral cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer," Clare McKindley, clinical dietitian in the Cancer Prevention Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said in a statement. "Researchers are still trying to learn more about how alcohol links to cancer, but convincing evidence does support the fact that heavy drinking damages cells and increases the risk for cancer development."

According to Businessweek, experts recommend sticking to one drink for women and two drinks for men. This equates to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor. They also recommend avoiding drinks that are high in calories, such as eggnog.

One final suggestion is to skip the alcohol all together. McKindley recommends a cocktail-like beverage of club soda and lime.

What do you think of the research? Do you believe in the old saying "everything in moderation", or will you be skipping the eggnog all together this year?



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Are Airport Scanners Safe?

by Dana Demas

This week, Matt Eaves, my friend and manager, guest blogs at CancerCompass:

There has been a lot in the news lately about airport scanners that look beneath travelers' clothes. The reports have been about the implementation and use of X-ray back-scatter scanners. They use low energy X-rays and most people, including the government, assert they are safe but a recent NPR article points out that others are not so sure.

A group of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco wrote a letter to John Holdren, president Obama's science adviser, asking for a more thorough look at the risks exposing all those airline passengers to X-rays. The San Francisco scientists believe the manufacturer of the machine might have miscalculated the dose that the X-ray scanners deliver to the skin. Doses of radiation are measured in microverts and the X-ray scanners deliver about 0.02 microverts each time a person is scanned. The 0.02 microverts is a very small dose, as we are exposed to radiation in everyday activity and from the environment. For example, taking a transcontinental flight would expose you to 20 microverts, yearly radiation from the environment is about 3000 microverts and a chest X-ray is about 100 microverts. So essentially, you would have to go through an airport scanner 5000 times to equal the dose of one chest X-ray.

For the average person, the scanners are safe and the risks are miniscule. However, recent research indicates about 5% of the population is especially sensitive to radiation. These people have gene mutations that make them less likely to repair X-ray damage to their DNA. BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer are two examples. Children may also be more vulnerable to radiation damage, because they have more dividing cells at any time. According to David Brenner, head of Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research, the most likely risk from airport scanners is a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, which is usually curable.

Maurine Fanguy of the TSA's Office of Security Technology says the new scanners have been found safe by the FDA, the U.S. Army Public Health Command and researchers at the Johns Hopkins University applied physics laboratory. Daniel Kassiday, a specialist at the FDA in radiation hazards, says the radiation put out by an airport scanner is far below what airline passengers get from cosmic rays at 30,000 feet. Kassiday also points out that you would have to go through the scanners 75 times to equal the dose you get from one flight between New York and L.A.

There is an alternative if you believe the airport scanners are not safe for you. Screening is optional and you can always opt for the enhanced pat-down.



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"DigniCap" May Prevent Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment

by: cancercompass

A new, small trial is underway for the DigniCap - a Swedish device that cools the scalp during chemotherapy treatments with the goal of preventing or lessening hair loss.

"The reduced blood flow gives a smaller amount of chemotherapy available for uptake in the cells and the decreased temperature results in less absorption and reduced effects of chemotherapy. These factors together reduce the risk of hair loss," according to the Dignitana website, the company that produces the DigniCap.

One participant of DigniCap’s trial is Heather Millar. She was interviewed in an article about her experience. She told MSNBC that although wearing the DigniCap can be an uncomfortable experience, she thinks "if women knew about this, there would be a total stampede.”

However, not everyone is convinced of administering DigniCap on patients.

"There is a concern that it prevents chemotherapy from reaching cancer cells that may be present in sanctuary sites in the brain," Marlon Garzo Saria, spokesperson for the Oncology Nursing Society, told MSNBC. "Until we can find clear evidence that this is not so, I would rather err on the side of caution and presume that the risk of cancer recurrence outweighs the benefit of preventing hair loss in patients receiving chemotherapy."

What do you think of the DigniCap? Would you use it? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.



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Controversial Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Gets More Attention

by: cancercompass

The 'I ♥ boobies' breast cancer awareness campaign is making headlines again as one Philadelphia-area middle school is in the hot seat as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing two students suspended from the Easton Area Middle School for wearing the bracelets with the controversial slogan.

The 'I ♥ boobies' bracelets are part of the Keep a Breast Foundation whose "mission is to help eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention, early detection and support," according to its website.

According to the Associated Press, the ACLU claims the "boobies" slogan does not equate to the obscene speech the U.S. Supreme Court permits schools to ban.

"I see no sexual message in the 'I love boobies' campaign," The Keep a Breast marketing manager, Kimmy McAtee, told the Associated Press. "Some people don't want to wear the term 'boobies' just as I wouldn't want to wear a Gap T-shirt. It's very much a personal preference. Some older people may not feel that it resonates with them."

Schools across the country have tried to ban students from wearing these bracelets, including South Dakota and Florida.

Would you allow your middle school student to wear these bracelets to school? Or do you think they are in poor taste?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.



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Study: Mood May Effect Breast Cancer Survival

by: cancercompass

A woman being told that she has breast cancer could darken her mood even if she had the sunniest of dispositions. However, quickly rebounding from that depressing state may be good for her long-term.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, women who decrease their depression symptoms within the first year of being diagnosed with breast cancer may live longer.

The study's lead researcher, Janine Giese-Davis, of the University of Calgary in Alberta, told Reuters that depression is linked to a number of physical changes to the body.

"When these physiological changes become chronic, we believe that they may deplete the resources of the body, making it more difficult for patients to recover," Giese-Davis stated in an e-mail to Reuters.

The study's conclusion states that more research is needed to confirm that decreasing depression symptoms after the first year does equate to longer survival.

To learn more about the cancer featured in this post, please visit our breast cancer information page.

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