Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Fast Facts about Cancer

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Fast Facts about Cancer

Article excerpt

The immune system and inflammation have been implicated in the pathogenesis of cancer. A research team led by Karen L. Margolis, M.D., of the HealthPartners Research Foundation in Minneapolis, wanted to know whether the white blood cell (WBC) count was associated with cancer in postmenopausal women.

The team analyzed the medical records from 143,748 postmenopausal women 50 to 79 years of age and who were enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative and who did not have cancer at the baseline evaluation. They found an association of the WBC count with four types of cancer: breast, colorectal, endometrial, and lung cancers. The investigators concluded that postmenopausal women with higher WBC counts had a higher risk of these invasive cancers as well as a higher risk of breast, lung, and overall cancer mortality rates.

(Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007; 167:1837-1844.)

Obese women are less likely than their thinner peers to be screened for breast and cervical cancers. With the increasing prevalence of obesity and its impact on cancer, it is important to determine whether obesity is a barrier to screening, so that cancer can be detected early or prevented in women who are at increased risk because of their body size. In a review of 32 studies, obesity was consistently linked to lower rates of screening for breast and cervical cancer among white women.

According to Sarah S. Cohen, M.S., from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, few studies have examined why obese women were less likely to undergo screening. Some research has shown that obese women often worried about embarrassment in the examination room, negative reactions from health care providers, and lectures about their weight. Heavy women often complained that the gowns, examination tables, and equipment in the doctor's office were too small for them. Some women were more likely to say their doctor had advised them to get a Pap test. Unlike the case with breast and ovarian cancer screening, the Cohen team found no consistent evidence that obesity lowered the odds of colon cancer screening.

(Source: Cancer, 2008;112:1892-1904.)

Researchers from Harvard Medical School studied more than 10,000 premenopausal and 21,000 postmenopausal women 45 years of age or older who were free of cancer and cardiovascular disease as part of the Women's Health Study. During an average of 10 years of follow-up, nearly one-third of all women had a confirmed diagnosis of invasive breast cancer; 38 percent of the premenopausal women had developed breast cancer, compared with 28 percent of the postmenopausal women. Higher intakes of calcium and vitamin D were moderately associated with a lower risk of breast cancer before menopause. Among premenopausal women, an inverse relation with both nutrients was present for patients with large or poorly differentiated breast tumors.

By contrast, intakes of both nutrients were not inversely associated with breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women. The researchers implied that higher intakes of calcium and vitamin D might be associated with a lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer. This protection in premenopausal women might be more prominent for more aggressive breast tumors.

(Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007; 167:1050-1059.)

Vitamin D resulting from exposure to solar ultraviolet B (UVB) light can have a beneficial role in many cancers, including lung, kidney, breast, and colon cancers. Global studies found a protective relationship between sufficient vitamin D status and a lower risk of cancer. …

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