Want To Stay Young? Start Moving.

women walking exercise

A new study finds that exercise among older adults helps ward off depressiondementia and other health problems, such as heart diseasecancer and diabetes. Exercise increased the odds of healthy aging as much as sevenfold, the researchers found. And apparently it’s never too late to start: Even adults who don’t begin exercising until they’re older could increase their odds of healthy aging threefold, the researchers said.

“In a growing elderly population, it is important to encourage healthy aging. Physical activity is effective in maintaining health in old age,” said lead researcher Mark Hamer, from the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, in England.

For the study, Hamer and his colleagues collected data on nearly 3,500 people with an average age of 64 who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.

As part of the study, the participants reported their level of physical activity every two years between 2002-’03 and 2010-’11. The researchers categorized the participants by how much exercise they did each week. There were those who were inactive, those who did moderate exercise and those who exercised vigorously.

People who partook in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week were three to four times more likely to be healthy agers, compared with those who remained inactive, the researchers found. Moreover, people who were active at the start of the study were seven times more likely to be healthy agers than people who were inactive and remained so, the researchers found.

My Take: Want to stay healthy? Get moving. 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: The report was published online Nov. 25 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Heart-healthy Lifestyle Reduces Cancer RIsk by Half

exercise man running fitness

Adherence to the seven ideal health metrics…is associated not only with lower cardiovascular disease incidence and total mortality but also with lower cancer incidences.

Here they are:

1. Be physically active

2. Keep a at weight

3. Maintain healthy cholesterol levels

4. Keep blood pressure low

5. Eat healthy

6. Regulate blood sugar levels

7. Don’t smoke.

Researchers looked at over 13,000 participants in the ongoing Atherosclerotic Risk in Communities study, which was launched in 4 US communities in 1987. Those who accomplished 6 or 7 of the above goals reduced their risk of cancer by 51% compared to those who met none of the goals. If you meet 4 goals, you risk goes down by a third, and 1-2 goals drops risk by about a fifth. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

Reference: Rasmussen-Torvik LJ. Circulation 2013;doi:10.1161/circulationaha.112.001183.

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 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Did You Know? Exercise and Cancer Risk…

women walking exercise

Lack of activity destroys the condition of every human being, while movement an methodical physical activity save it and preserve it.

-Plato (427-347 BC)

Regular exercise is associated with a reduction in your chances of getting cancer. This observation is based on over 70 studies that have been conducted throughout the world. For example, physical activity may lead to a 25% risk reduction in breast cancer incidence (at lease when comparing the most physically active women with the least active). A meta-analysis (or study of studies) demonstrated a reduction in the risk of getting kidney cancer. And numerous studies have shown exercise to drop your chances of getting other cancers, including lung, uterus (endometrial), colon, and prostate cancer.

Lynch BM et al. Recent Results Cancer Res. 2011;186:13-42.

Behrens G et al. Br J Cancer 2013;108:798-811.

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 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Does Cardiovascular Fitness Lower Cancer RIsk?

exercise man running fitnessYes, it appears that cardiovascular fitness (at least among middle-aged men, according to a recent study) does reduce the risk of getting (or dying from) cancer. A 20 year prospective study called the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study looked at the association of baseline fitness levels – calculated during a specialized preventative checkup visit – and the risk for prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer. The analysis included 17.049 men with an average age of 50 years.

Results: At a median follow-up of 20 years, and after adjusting for smoking history, body mass index, and other factors, the most fit men had a 68% lower risk for lung cancer, and a 38% risk for colorectal cancer compared to the least fit. The risk of dying was higher for the least fit, too. Men who were not obese but still had a low fitness level were still at an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

My take: We have long known of the link between physical fitness and hcardiovascular disease. Now we have one of the first studies exploring fitness as a marker for future cancer risk and outcomes. Fitness is one more measurement to assessing cancer risk. This study reminds us to exercise. I ask my patients to aim for a minimum of 150 minutes weekly of a brisk walk, or its equivalent. Some do 30 minutes, 5 times per week, while others get it all done in a day or two. Going forward, we need to look at other cancers and among women. In summary, you may be able to reduce your cancer risk with relatively small lifestyle changes.

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 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you. 

Nuts: Can They Lower the Risk of Diabetes?

English: a walnut and a walnut core

First of all, I should state what may be obvious: There is an epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the USA and in the world. Fortunately, lifestyle and diet are key drivers of the phenomenon, so there is hope that we can change the incidence of the disease. Research suggests that the type of fat eaten may play a role. Higher intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs – don’t say it like Sam Jackson) and lower consumption of saturated fat and trans fat lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Recent study: A prospective study done as part of the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS)and the NHS II looked at walnuts and other nuts. The goal? To better understand the nut-diabetes reduction link. They also tracked body mass index.

The results: Tree nut and peanut consumption are linked to lower rates of the development of diabetes, but not when adjusted for body mass index. On the other hand, walnuts appear to be independently associated with a lower rate of development of type 2 diabetes, even when adjusted for body mass index. More than 2 servings per week reduced risk by about a third!

My take: We probably should eat nuts, especially walnuts. In moderation, of course. Watch out for the caloric density of the nuts, and remember to aim for a health body mass index of 20-25. But… maybe the consumers of walnuts in the study also ate more health foods. There was no subgroup analysis to remove confounding variables like that. Still, I personally eat half a dozen walnuts 2 to 3 times per week.

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.

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

Hot flashes: Risk Factors

Mature woman white smiling

Over the next several issues, I’ll turn to hot flashes: What are the risk factors, what is the pathophysiology, and management. Today, we begin with factors associated with hot flashes for patients with or without cancer.

Risk Factors: Both men and women can get hot flashes due to hormonal changes that occur during the natural aging process, although hot flashes are more common among midlife women. Age, race, ethnicity, educational level (equivocal), smoking, genetics, and body mass index can play roles. Some of  my patients see exacerbations with alcohol, exposure to heat, stress, spicy foods, and caffeine.

Race: Some studies point to African Americans having a greater risk for hot flashes (in addition to greater severity) as compared to other races. Here are the results from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation for combined hot flash and night sweat prevalence: Japanese 18%; Chinese-Americans 21%; whites 31%; Latinas 21%, and blacks 46%.

Smoking: The few studies that address the issue suggest a link between smoking and hot flashes. Smoking can alter estrogen metabolism in at least 4 ways.

Heart: Women who have hot flashes for 6 days or more over 2 weeks (especially those who are overweight or obese) have a higher cardiovascular risk. The role of weight and body mass index is less clear.

Genes: Research into the link between genetics (estrogen metabolism and receptor genes) and hot flashes appears promising. For example, women with a change (polymorphism) in a gene spot called CYP1B1 are at a 1/3 greater risk of reporting more severe and persistent hot flashes.

Cancer-related risk factors: These are predominantly related to the rapidity of hormone withdrawal. Among women, this is most commonly a drop in internal estrogen levels; with men, it is a drop in testosterone. For women, this may be linked to stopping hormone replacement therapy (HRT) when hormone-dependent breast cancer is diagnosed, the start of anti-estrogen therapies for treatment, chemotherapy-induced disruption of ovarian function, or damage to the ovaries (for example removal or radiation). Younger women are less likely than midlife women to have menopause induced by chemotherapy. In men, hot flashes are most commonly associated with anti-testosterone treatments for prostate cancer.

Certain cancers can be due to secretion of hormones by the cancer itself. Examples include some carcinoid tumors, medullary thyroid cancer, pancreas cancer, and kidney cancer.

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter. In my next blog, I’ll look at the physiology of hot flashes: Why do they occur?

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.

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

Breast Cancer: Surgery Delays Longer Than 6 Weeks Decrease Survival in Young Women

signs of a breast tumour
Signs of a breast tumour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A study looked back at just under 9,000 women diagnosed between 1997 and 2006 and included in the California Cancer Registry, part of the US National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. Time to delay was defined as the number of weeks between breast cancer diagnosis (by biopsy) and treatment aimed at cure (lumpectomy or mastectomy, for example). The group examined was composed of women under 40.

Key Findings: The 5-year survival among women treated surgically that had a treatment delay time more than 6 weeks was 80%, compared with 90% for dose with a delay time less than 2 weeks.

Looking by race, African-Americans and Latinas were more likely to have delays (15%) compared to non-Hispanic whites. As well, delays were more common among the uninsured (18%) compared to those with private insurance (9.5%). Not surprisingly then, women with low socioeconomic status were more likely to be delayed (17.5% versus 8%).

My take: Previous studies have had mixed results. Many of those studies did not focus solely on the younger population, a higher-risk group in general. It is important for us to avoid delays before and after a breast cancer diagnosis to maximize survival odds for young women. 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. Thanks!

Smith EC, et al: JAMA Surg. April 24, 2013 (early release online).