Thursday, December 30, 2010

Monday's health links - on Thursday

Sorry for the delay.
  1. Researchers find that most cases of breast cancer happen to those who do NOT have a family history of the disease. I thought we knew this. The article, published by Reuters, also states that, "studies have shown that more than 70 percent of primary care doctors ask women about their family histories, while less than half collect information on other known risk factors such as whether a woman's period began before age 12 - which raises risk - or whether she has given birth, which lowers risk." The researchers used  Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool  to go back in time and predict the odds that the women would develop invasive breast cancer over the subsequent five years. This tool uses age of first menstruation, current age, ethnicity, reproductive history, prior breast biopsies and family history to establish a score on a scale of zero to eight to represent a woman's five-year risk. They found that nearly all the women in their study with a family history of breast cancer (about one in ten) also fit into the high-risk category according to the tool. But, more than half of the women without a family history also fit into this category. I am heartened by the remarks of one of the researchers, Dr. Lawrence Wickerham of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP). He points to the Risk Assessment Tool as one of the methods that doctors should be using beyond asking about family history. "Such efforts can help better identify women at increased risk and can better focus screening and prevention strategies for them."
  2. The Canadian government unveils our new cigarette packaging. Have you seen our smokes? They are covered in warnings and horrifying pictures of what cancer does to your body. Now, images are going to get even bigger. After previously covering half the pack's surface panel, images and text highlighting the dangers of cigarette smoke will take up three-quarters of the surface. Some of those images will feature Barb Tarbox, a fierce anti-smoking crusader who unfortunately succumbed to lung and brain cancers in 2003. She may also soon be featured on packages in the United States. This is a remarkable legacy for a remarkable person. We should thank her family for continuing her fight. Let's hope her work helps prevent more people from picking up this terrible habit. Although this initial story about response is more than a little depressing. We need to start taking more personal responsibility for our choices. Do you hear me immortal young hipsters?
  3. Same topic. Lung cancer is the most deadly form of cancer; every year it kills more Americans than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. And, for the most part, it's easily prevented. And this may be the reason why lung cancer gets less research dollars than the other major cancers. And still the tobacco companies pump them out and provide advertising support to rock concerts and sporting events. And we carry on like it's OK. It's not.
  4. Making resolutions? The American Cancer Society would like you to look after yourself in 2011 by making your health your priority.
  5. More evidence that a plant-based diet can be a life-saver - women who eat more olive oil and leafy vegetables are less likely to develop heart disease. This study comes from Italy, a place where they know a lot about the Mediterranean diet.

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