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Notable News: December 2019

While 2019 is nearing its end, there are all kinds of new beginnings in cancer research. Scientists are finding new and exciting discoveries that could lead to fine-tuned cancer treatments specific to each person, each type of cancer, and each response the body has to treatment. Using tropical flowers, mitochondria, and an off switch for cells, researchers keep finding new paths to treatment for even the most difficult and deadly cancers. Of course, that doesn’t mean we need to forget about prevention; there continues to be new information about how our lifestyles could affect our cancer risk, right down to our hair color.

A trip to the hair salon might mean an increased cancer risk, reports ecowatch.com. A study by the National Institutes of Health shows that permanent hair dyes and chemical hair straighteners might put women at an increased risk for cancer. The study found that women who used permanent hair color were nine percent more likely to get breast cancer. Black women, though less likely to use hair dye, had the most notable risk. They showed a 45 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer. Women who used hair straighteners had an 18 percent higher risk of breast cancer. Frequency of use posed a problem, too. Hair products can contain more than 5,000 chemicals, including formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. This study’s findings aren’t enough to draw a definitive link between the hair products and breast cancer, and no warnings have been issued about using hair products, but the findings do indicate that more research needs to be done to determine whether or not there is a connection. Read more about this study here.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just switch off a cell to prevent tumors from growing and spreading? It might be possible, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers have discovered what could be a new cancer immunotherapy treatment for patients who haven’t responded to other types of immunotherapy. The study, done on mice, shows that many tumors display the molecule MR1, which keeps the body from fighting the cancer cells. Researchers found that when they gave the mice an antibody that blocked the MR1 cell, cancer fighting cells could come in to slow cancer growth and prevent it from spreading. With this new information, doctors would be able to screen patients to see if they have the MR1 cell, and determine if they would respond to the potential new immunotherapy. Researchers now want to apply what they’ve learned to human tumors. You can learn more about the findings here.

Another treatment-related discovery is that there might be an alarm at the molecular level that serves as an alert when cancers have become resistant to treatment, reports sciencedaily.com. Mitochondria, which are present in most cells, can sense DNA stress which can indicate when cancer cells have developed resistance to chemotherapy, researchers found. The findings could lead to new cancer treatments that would prevent chemotherapy resistance, making it more effective. See the details about this discovery here.

Also from sciencedaily.com, we’ve learned that a tropical flower might hold the answer to treating pancreatic cancer. The plant, Uvaria Grandiflora, grows in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, and its flower contains a chemical that researchers have used as a model to create three new molecules which they hope could treat pancreatic cancer. All three of the molecules have shown that they kill pancreatic cancer cells in a Petri dish, and while the potential drug trials are more than five years away, these molecules could become new drugs for treating pancreatic cancer that would be more effective and less toxic than current treatments. You can find more information here.

As you say goodbye to 2019, we hope you will continue to say hello to Patient Empowerment Network. We will continue to provide you the latest in cancer research news as we continue in our mission to empower patients, family members, and caregivers in innovative ways. We’re particularly proud of our digital sherpa™ program, which you can learn more about at voice.ons.org. Learn how the sherpas are used to enhance the experience of patients and nurses as told by Regina White, RN, MS, OCN at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. Check it out here.

Happy, Healthy, New Year to all!

6 Effective Ways to Prevent Degenerative Diseases

Your health is influenced by viruses and bacteria, your genes and your environment – which are not all within your control. But lifestyle factors also play an important role in developing and preventing illness. Have a look at some simple steps you can take to significantly improve your health and prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other age-related disease.

1. Reach and Keep A Health Weight

Reaching a desirable body weight is a huge first step in improving your health and resistance to preventable degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, periodontal gum disease, macular degeneration, and other age-related maladies.

You can find many charts online that calculate your body mass index (BMI) based on your height and weight. To fall in a healthful range, your BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.9. Reducing your body weight decreases the stress on your cardiovascular system and also lowers your risk to heart disease, since fatty tissues contain high levels of reactive oxygen species called free radicals. These free radicals age your cardiovascular system, cause deposits of plaque in your arteries, and damage your DNA, resulting in several types of cancer.

Therefore, having a lower body mass and less fatty tissue reduces the number of free radicals in your body, which in turn reduces the aging of your body and improves your protection against these degenerative diseases.

2. Begin a Regular Exercise Program

After consulting your physician or healthcare provider, you should start a regular exercise program. You don’t need to run a marathon or workout 8 hours in the gym every day. Just a sensible exercise program that includes aerobic exercise (which stimulates the cardiovascular system) and anaerobic (muscle-strengthening) exercise. And remember, you don’t need to do it all at once. Most health experts recommend 30 minutes of vigorous exercises three times a week. Your exercise program could include walking, hiking, running, aerobics, playing vigorous sports such as tennis and golf, and workouts in the gym. By exercising, you will burn calories that otherwise would be accumulated as body weight and reduce your BMI. Aerobic exercises also have the added benefit of suppressing your appetite.

3. Improve Your Diet

All of you know what happens to apples once they are sliced – they turn brown due to oxidation from free radicals. A common way to prevent this oxidation process is to pour lemon juice onto the slices, thereby keeping the apple slices looking fresh. Lemon juice contains vitamin C, an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and prevents damage to the apple slices. Similarly, this is the exactly what happens in the human body: free radicals are generated, causing aging of our bodies and age-related diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

As you probably guessed, our bodies also produced protective antioxidants that minimize damage from free radicals. How many antioxidants do our bodies produce ? Well, the levels depend on many factors: our genetics, our diet, stress levels, and such factors as sun exposure, radiation, exercise, and others. As it turns out, our diet is hugely influential on levels of these valuable antioxidants. And generally speaking, our Western fast-paced lifestyle with fast food diets increases our risk of getting cancer, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and other age-related diseases. Our bodies simply were not designed to eat the mass quantities of fried, fatty, and sugary foods we now consume. However, there is an answer to preventing the scary degenerative diseases. We need to replace these unhealthy fatty and sugary foods with raw food such as fresh fruits and vegetables since these are all foods contain high levels of natural antioxidants.

4. Have Your Body Antioxidant Level Scanned

Until about 8 years ago, it was almost impossible to know the actual state of our immune system and how well we were preventing degenerative diseases. Prior to that time it was possible to submit a blood or tissue sample to be subjected to an expensive and time-consuming laboratory analysis called HPLC to determine body antioxidant levels. However, due to cost factors and the fact that almost no one wanted to submit a painful and invasive blood and tissue samples to determine their antioxidants scores, very few people had much of an idea of how healthy they actually were.

All of this changed with the development and release of a small, portable machine that painlessly and inexpensively scans the palm of the hand to arrive at a skin antioxidant score. Also, this skin antioxidant score has been proven through hundreds of independent studies to prove a measure of overall body antioxidant scores. So wha this means is that for the first time we can now determine our body antioxidant scores non-invasively to see how well we are resisting aging processes and protecting ourselves against cancers and cardiovascular disease. But even more importantly, we can now quantitatively measure the changes we make in our lives such as reduce stress, improve diet, exercise, and environmental factors. This is certainly groundbreaking in that we can take steps to prevent these types of diseases. The antioxidants found in green tea make it one of the healthiest beverages which produce powerful effects in your body. The beneficial effects of it include improved brain function, loss of excess fat, reduced risk of cancer, and many other unbelievable benefits.

5. Take Dietary Supplements

Science has allowed us to take plants and concentrate their naturally occurring antioxidants into pill form so that we can vastly increase our antioxidant levels. Most of you are aware of vitamin and mineral supplements that promise to raise our antioxidant levels, however, until the advent of skin antioxidant scanner, no one could effectively know how well the supplements actually raise antioxidant levels nor would the manufacturers guarantee that the supplements were effective. Now that we have the scanner, we can answer these questions quantitatively. Moreover, we can also design supplements that are proven to raise body antioxidant scores and result in disease protection along with a money-back guarantee that your scores will increase.

6. Take Genetic Expression Supplements

Some of you may be aware that the US government poured billions of dollars into the Human Genome Project that was completed in the year 2000. this project allowed for the sequencing of genes contained in our DNA. It is these genes that produce (express) in a pattern that make each one of us the unique and individual that we are. Accordingly, many companies have identified single or groups of genes that Express these proteins in the attempt to determine which genes are responsible for certain characteristics and life processes. then we can influence these genes to change their activity, and therefore, our characteristics. While we cannot change our genes, we can indeed change their expression. One advanced company has identified 52 genes and our mitochondrial DNA involved with cellular energy processes that are responsible for natural aging processes.

Reducing Your Risk of Cancer

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) estimates that approximately one-third of cases of the most common cancers in the U.S. could be prevented, which accounts for about 374,000 cases of cancer per year. Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer therefore reducing the burden and deaths from cancer each year. Since February is Cancer Prevention Month, we wanted to highlight some ways to reduce your risk and protect yourself from cancer.

1. Eat a healthy diet & Stay active

Eating a balanced plant-based diet filled with a variety of vegetables, fruits, soy, nuts, whole grains, and beans can help lower your risk for many types of cancer and will help you maintain a healthy weight.

Adults should get et at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each day (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week. While children and teens are recommended to get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day, with at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week.

2. Protect yourself from the sun

Sun exposure at any age can cause skin cancer. Be especially careful in the sun if you burn easily, spend a lot of time outdoors, or have any of the following physical features:

  • Numerous, irregular, or large moles
  • Freckles
  • Fair skin
  • Blond, red, or light brown hair

To block UV rays try covering-up, wearing sunscreen, wearing a hat, using UV-absorbent shades, and limiting you exposure time.

3. Get immunized

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent most cervical cancers and several other kinds of cancer, and the hepatitis B vaccine can help lower liver cancer risk.

4. Avoid risky behavior

Another effective cancer prevention tactic is to avoid risky behaviors that can lead to infections that, in turn, might increase the risk of cancer. Some behaviors to avoid:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Tanning beds
  • Tobacco use
  • Unsafe sex
  • Sharing needles

5. Get regular medical care and screenings

Along with regular check-ups with your physician to maintain an open health dialogue, cancer screenings should also be scheduled. These include the following:

  • Pap smear – Most women ages 21 to 65 should get Pap tests as part of routine health care. Even if you are not currently sexually active, you should still have a Pap test
  • Colonoscopy – Colon cancer screening should begin at age 50 for most people. If a colonoscopy doesn’t find adenomas or cancer and you don’t have risk factors, the next test should be in ten years.
  • Mammogram – Women should should get mammograms every year starting at age 40, for as long as a woman is in good health
  • Checking skin for irregular moles, etc.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/

http://www.mcancer.org/cancer-prevention

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/cancer-prevention/art-20044816

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3166/osha3166.html

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It creates a sense of awareness and provides a window of opportunity for you. Sometimes it is a matter of accountability and sometimes it is about breaking old patterns.

Gina

Gina Costa-Goldfarb

When my father was diagnosed with heart disease many years ago, we started eating and cooking differently. That didn’t change my dad’s ways and he ultimately died of heart disease at 62 years old. I remember he used to eat and drink things that weren’t good for him and joke about it with me and then say: “Don’t tell mommy.” That was his choice. I made a different choice long before his passing to eat healthier. If I did eat things that weren’t healthy, my body sent signals to me that these foods weren’t acceptable to me anymore.

When my mom was in treatment for ovarian cancer I found myself in Medical Libraries looking for clinical trials that would save her. When she passed it was a catalyst for me to look into prevention for my own health. I went for genetic testing at NYU Medical Center. While I don’t carry the gene for breast cancer, I have to be cautious because of the history of cancer in my family. I diligently pursued my annual gynecologist exams and additional ovary scans and blood work. Additionally, I followed up with my 6-12 month mammograms.

The result of my taking my own action on proactivity toward prevention was a diagnosis of stage 1 invasive lobular breast cancer. To take it a step further, I was originally advised by my breast surgeon to only have one breast removed. I followed my intuition and chose a double mastectomy and that resulted in even more prevention. When my surgery was completed, I was told that the other breast was pre-cancerous. If I hadn’t been my own best advocate, I would have found myself in the same shoes at another time.

Since I was diagnosed at an early stage my Oncotype couldn’t justify chemo treatment either way, but I remain on Tamoxifen therapy for probably another seven years.

I have also been discussing ovary obliteration with my oncologist and another specialist because of my lineage of cancer. In all likelihood, I will have my ovaries removed sometime this year.

When I finished treatment for breast cancer and had reconstruction surgeries, I thought to myself: “Now what? Hmmm, I have focused for a year and a half on my breasts, now it’s time to get back to the taking care of my other body parts and I got back on schedule with my dentist, gynecologist and internist all in the name of self-care and prevention as I lead my busy life balancing career, family, fun and connection with others. I knew that if I didn’t exercise extreme self-care, I would be much good to others.

About a week ago, I am finished up 4 and 5 of Moh’s surgeries to remove skin cancers from my body. In order practice prevention, we have to know our bodies, face fear and get checked out.

In some cases, I do know that even prevention is not a cure, because my mother was one who religiously (not in a hypochondria mode) went to all of her doctors’ appointments, pap smears, etc., and still she was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. The bottom line is prevention cannot hurt us like lacking in self-love will.

So….., what can YOU do to take an active part in your health? What does practicing prevention look like to you? It could be something as simple as changing your diet or scheduling doctor’s appointments that we hesitate to make because we are always caring for someone else. It could also be taking care of yourself in terms of mind and spirit and working on stress reduction? In what ways can you reduce stress and overload in your life?

This blog is being shared to create awareness and remove fear. Know your body! You are the only one who does. Practice prevention and self-care. Put yourself first so that you can be around to care for others. That is my message and my gift to you on this beautiful day!

If you need help in this area or any other area of your cancer experience, reach out to me gina@newbeginningswithgina.com or visit my website: www.newbeginningswithgina.com.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Xo Gina