Can That Sweet Drink Age You?

What You Need to Know: Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages may make certain cells in your body age faster, a new study suggests.

Background:  Researchers studied white blood cells in healthy adults, specifically looking at the ends of the study participants’ chromosomes, called telomeres. These telomeres are essential to cell division and naturally get shorter with the passage of time. When a telomere gets too short, its cell dies. Thus, scientists believe longer telomeres mean you’re healthier and younger, while shorter telomeres mean you’re less healthy and aging faster.

The Evidence: University of California, San Francisco researchers looked at data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included information on participants’ sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, as well as diet soda and fruit juice consumption. Controlling for obesity, they found that sugar-sweetened soda consumption was associated with shorter telomeres, but there was no link between telomere length and diet soda. Meanwhile, consumption of 100% fruit juice was associated with slightly longer telomeres. Exercise can also slow telomere shortening. Aim for 150 minutes per week; For example, 30 minutes of a brisk walk for five times per week.

About one in five adults in the study admitted to drinking a 20-ounce soda each day. This daily consumption could equal 4.6 years of extra aging, according to the study.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Published online ahead of print October 16, 2014: e1–e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302151)

Top 9 Foods for Happiness

What You Need to Know: Serotonin is brain chemical believed to promote calmness and happiness. There are some foods that can increase the production of serotonin and other minerals which may make you feel good.

1) Walnuts: A recent Spanish study found that those who ate a daily 1-ounce combo of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds had more of the feel-good substance serotonin than a nut-free group. Walnuts are good for your brain too. It can increase your memory power.

2) Asparagus: A low level of folate is linked to depression. Asparagus contains a high level of folic acid and tryptophan. Tryptophan can stimulate production of serotonin in the brain. So asparagus may a good choice to add in to your diet if you fell a bit down.

3) Fatty fish: Omega 3 fatty acids may help to fight depression. When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, no food source is better than fatty fish like mackerel, bluefish, wild salmon, and tuna.

4) Dark chocolate: Dark verity of chocolates can boost your mood by stimulating the production of serotonin. It also relaxes the blood vessels (good for your heart).

5) Cashew nuts: Cashews are an especially good source of zinc. Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc, it’s important to get some every day.

6) Berries: Blueberries have some of the highest levels of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin. All berries are rich in vitamin C, which may help combat stress.

7) Eggs: The yolks are high in choline, a key nutrient required to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (it helps with signaling between memory-supporting neurons). Eggs are rich in zinc which may boost your energy.

8) Whole grains: Focus on healthy, high-fiber carbohydrates found in whole grains  “Complex carbohydrates are wonderful foods to improve mood quickly,” says Debbie Mandel, a stress management expert and author of Addicted to Stress. “Whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta are all good choices. They help the body release serotonin.”

9) Bananas: The amino acid tryptophan helps your body make serotonin. Bananas may help with mild depression, as they bananas tryptophan. In addition, bananas provide vitamin B6.

Caveat: More than a bit sad? Please check in with a valued health provider. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: http://www.liveitstronger.com/2014/10/foods-to-fight-depression-and-for-happiness.html

What You Need to Know: The risk of developing cancer in a salivary gland might be higher in people with mutations in either of two genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer. Salivary gland cancer is rare, but this new study suggests it occurs 17 times more often in people with inherited mutations in genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Background: It is well known that women who inherit mutations in either of two genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2) have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer than women without the mutation; men with the mutations are at higher risk of breast cancer. The two mutated genes are also linked to prostate, pancreatic and other cancers.

What’s New? Researchers searched a large BRCA-gene-mutation database (maintained by the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center — James Clinical Cancer Genetics Program) for salivary gland cancers. Out of 5,754 people with mutations in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, the researchers identified three cases of salivary gland cancer (0.052 percent).

Notes co-author Theodoros Teknos, MD: “I would like physicians and dentists to realize that BRCA mutations carry risks for salivary gland cancer as well as breast cancer, and to remember that salivary glands include not only the paired parotid glands and submandibular glands but also innumerable minor salivary glands in the oral cavity,” Teknos says.

My Take: Salivary cancers are rare, but we have data suggesting that those with a BRCA gene mutation may be at higher risk of the disease. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Secondary reference: Tim K. Shen, Theodoros N. Teknos, Amanda E. Toland, Leigha Senter, Rebecca Nagy. Salivary Gland Cancer inBRCA-Positive Families. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamaoto.2014.1998;

Primary reference: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Potential link between breast cancer genes, salivary gland cancer.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 October 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141008131450.htm>.

Can African-American Women Reduce Their Breast Cancer Risk?

What You Need to Know: High levels of vigorous exercise or brisk walking may be associated with a reduction in incidence of breast cancer in African American women.

Background: Physical activity has been associated with reduced risk of breast cancer. However, evidence on the association in African Americans has been limited.

The Study: Using prospective data from the Black Women’s Health Study, researchers assessed vigorous exercise and walking in relation to incidence of invasive breast cancer overall (n=1,364), estrogen receptor–positive (ER+, n=688) cancer, and estrogen receptor–negative (ER–, n=405) cancer, based on 307,672 person years of follow–up of 44,708 African American women aged 30 or older at enrollment.

Results: This prospective study found that high levels of vigorous exercise or brisk walking may be associated with a reduction in incidence of breast cancer in African American women.

  • Vigorous exercise at baseline was inversely associated with overall breast cancer incidence (p trend=0.05): the IRR for ≥ 7 hour/week relative to < 1 hour/week was 0.74 (95% CI 0.57–0.96).
  • The association did not differ by ER status.
  • Brisk walking for ≥ 7 hours/week was associated with a reduction similar to that for vigorous exercise.
  • Vigorous exercise at age 30, age 21, or in high school was not associated with breast cancer incidence.
    Sitting for long periods at work or watching TV was not significantly associated with breast cancer incidence.

My Take: You can reduce your risk of breast cancer by about a quarter by simply walking briskly on a regular basis. Aim for an hour a day. Now, go do it! I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Rosenberg et al. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Aug 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Radiosurgery: Will it Replace Surgery?

What You Need to Know: Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) is an effective alternative to surgery for medically inoperable aptients with early lung cancer.

What is Radiosurgery? 

The Evidence: The Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG; USA) 0236 trial enrolled 59 patients with early (T1 and T2) peripheral lung cancer. Here are the results at 3 years:

  • Local tumor control: 97.6%
  • Overall survival 56%
  • Local tumor control, including for the entire lobe: 90.6%
  • Side effects: Grade 3 = 13%; Grade 4 = 3.6%; more patients died of other causes than they did from lung cancer
  • My Take: This provocative study suggests that highly selected patients with early lung cancer may now have an effective, non-invasive management tool. However, we do not have high-level evidence to have it replace surgery. For now, it offers great promise for patients deemed to infirm (medically inoperable) for surgery. Unfortunately only two prospective trials have been reported for operable patients – and remain unpublished.
  • Several randomized studies comparing surgery to stereotactic body radiation therapy (Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiation, or SABR) have close early due to poor accural, including ROSEL (lobectomy vs. SBRT), STARS (lobectomy vs. SBRT with cyberknife), and ACOSOG Z4099/RTOG 1021 (sublobar resection vs. SBRT). I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.
  • Patients with centrally located tumors may be treated effectively with SBRT, but are at higher risk fo side effects. In addition, larger tumors may not have the same high local control rates as do smaller ones.

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

PET Scan for Young Patients with Breast Cancer

What You Need to Know: While guidelines recommend FDG-PET/CT imaging only for women with stage III breast cancer, PET scan can also help physicians more accurately diagnose young breast cancer patients initially diagnosed with earlier stages of the disease.

Background: Assessing if and how far breast cancer has spread throughout the body is what we refer to as staging. Most women in the USA are diagnosed at earlier stages, meaning stage 1 or 2 of possible 4 stages. Current National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines consider systemic FDG-PET/CT staging for only stage III breast cancer patients. More recently it has been debated whether factors other than stage should be considered in this decision. One such factor is patient age, as young breast cancer patients often have more aggressive tumors.

The Study: Researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York City) evaluated for the first time the impact of FDG PET/CT staging specifically in a young patient cohort. The study suggests that breast cancer patients under the age of 40 may benefit from systemic staging with FDG PET/CT at earlier stages than NCCN guidelines suggest.

Details, details: The study included 134 patients with initial diagnoses of stage I to IIIC breast cancer; those with signs of distant metastases or with prior malignancy were excluded. Here are the findings:

  • PET/CT findings lead to upstaging to stage III or IV in 28 patients (21%).
  • Unsuspected extra-axillary regional nodes were found in 15/134 (11%) and distant metastases in 20/134 (15%), with 7/134 (5%) demonstrating both.
  • PET/CT revealed stage IV disease in 1/20 (5%) patients with initial clinical stage I, 2/44 (5%) stage IIA, 8 /47 (17%) stage IIB, 4/13 (31%) stage IIIA, 4/8 (50%) of IIIB, and 1/2 (50%) of stage IIIC patients. All 20 patients upstaged to stage IV were histologically confirmed.
  • Four synchronous thyroid and 1 rectal malignancies were identified.

“Future NCCN guidelines for initial staging of breast cancer patients may need to consider other factors in addition to clinical stage. This study provides further evidence that molecular imaging and nuclear medicine can help us make better cancer staging and treatment decisions,” said Gary Ulaner, MD, PhD, assistant professor at Memorial Sloan Kettering. “Of course, our findings should still be confirmed in a prospective trial,” he added. “Our next step will be to look at factors other than patient age to understand which breast cancer patients benefit most from FDG-PET/CT.”

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Society of Nuclear Medicine. “FDG-PET/CT shows promise for breast cancer patients younger than 40.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 October 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141001102727.htm>.