Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday's health links

Welcome to Autumn, friends! The beautiful rain, the crisp fall breeze, children back at school...that can only mean one thing...flu season. Go wash your hands!
  1. A new study for breast cancer treatment tests whether bumping up radiation can cut treatment time in half. That could have a big impact since it will mean treatment will cost less and be completed more quickly. Some of my US friends have asked whether radiation dosages are higher in Canada. Many of them have done around 7 weeks of treatment but I only did 5 1/2. And mine was considered a high risk case, so it's not likely I received less radiation than the average bear. USA Today.
  2. Promising new study examined combining two drugs (everolimus plus exemestane) to better treat ER-positive breast cancer. Examiner.
  3. And...targeted chemo used to better fight metastatic breast cancer. Medscape.
  4. Study into new prostate cancer drug is so successful they end the study early. Daily Mail.
  5. Eating blueberries may slow the growth of breast cancer cells. Promising news for triple-negative cancer. Sacramento Bee.
  6. Phytoestrogens, like those found in vegetables, bran, sesame seeds, barley and flaxseeds, linked to lowered risk of breast cancer and breast cancer death. But what the heck does that mean for us estrogen-positive chicks? To take us into account, the study leader expressed a desire to sample a much larger group of women. Until then, I will continue to eat lots of veggies, seeds and bran, but I will be limiting my intake of flax. Emax Health.
  7. Add legumes to your diet and support a Saskatchewan farmer! You non-Canadians who may not be so moved should also know that they are an excellent source of folate, the B vitamin touted as a weapon against colon cancer. Globe and Mail.
Have a great week!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

BPA, Methylparabens and Tamoxifen...oh my!

We're not in Kansas anymore.

A very troubling study was released last week. San Francisco researchers found that bisphenol A (BPA) and methylparaben, two chemicals found commonly in many consumer goods, are dangerous little buggers for breast cancer survivors. Not only are they believed to trigger some of these cancers, a new study shows that they also help cancer cells withstand the effects of Tamoxifen. In the study, the researchers took noncancerous breast cells from patients at a high risk for developing breast cancer, grew them in a lab and then exposed them to BPA and methylparaben.The formally normal breast cells began acting like cancer cells. Then, the researchers added Tamoxifen to the mix. What happened? One would hope that Tamoxifen would do what it is designed to do and slow down or stop the growth of these cells. Nope. Instead, these cells just kept growing.

The concern for estrogen-positive breast cancer patients like me? According to Dr. William Goodson, lead author of the study, "Since most breast cancers are driven by the hormone estrogen, the bulk of the drugs used to treat breast cancer are designed to knock down estrogen. BPA and methylparaben not only mimic estrogen's ability to drive cancer, but appear to be even better than the natural hormone in bypassing the ability of drugs to treat it."

Scary stuff. If this finding is true, many of us are in big trouble if we don't start eliminating these chemicals from our environment. And it would be naive to expect manufacturers to lead the way. Instead, consumers have to start taking a look at the potential dangers of products they use and finding safer alternatives.

There are a few basic steps you can take right now.
  1. Cut down on your use of canned goods that are not labelled BPA-free. Eden packages all of their beans in BPA-free cans but there are other manufacturers doing this as well. Look at the label. If you can't find BPA-free cans, switch to dry beans. Once you have mastered the technique of cooking them (long soak followed by a long-slow cook) you will be amazed you were ever intimidated by it. And, you'll save a lot of money! Seek out tomato sauces that are sold in glass jars. Look for frozen artichoke hearts or buy the marinated ones in glass. Buy fresh get the idea.
  2. Research the BPA content of plastic containers you use to store foods and beverages. I was happy to discover that Zip-Loc bags are BPA free! Excellent news since I use them almost exclusively to freeze whole and stewed fruits and vegetables, pesto, salmon and meat. Stop buying bottled water and invest in aluminum water bottles - the marketplace is full of them. My new rule of thumb - when in doubt about how to store something, use glass. I know of people who now take mason jars of soup coddled in knitted cozies or socks to work. Sweet.
  3. Look at the labels of all the creams, lotions and potions you lather and slather on you and your family and eliminate those that contain parabens. Environmental Working Group's site Skin Deep is a great database for researching the ingredient lists of many of the products found in our medicine cabinets, shower stalls, and cosmetic bags. Then seek out products that are paraben-free. This group of products has grown in leaps and bounds, and it is much easier to find simply formulated products today than even two years ago when I first started making the shift.
  4. Keep reading studies. We don't want to follow junk science, so learn to read with a critical eye. But when in doubt, practice caution. Until I read solid research that finds BPA and parabens don't interfere with Tamoxifen, I'll be treating them like something to be feared.
Be well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cutting down on your chemical exposure

In an effort to decrease my exposure to potential carcinogens and estrogen-mimicking chemicals,  I have completely overhauled my cosmetic and skincare routine. That means chucking out and passing along tried and true creams and cleansers, and searching out unknown, but potentially less hazardous, simpler products.

With the help of the Environmental Working Group's database, Skin Deep, and reviews on Amazon and Canadian online health and beauty store, I have sourced new products for both myself and my family.

Here's what I have started with:
  1. Green Beaver Jr. Boreal Berries Bubble Bath for the boys. Smells great, lots of bubbles and none of the crap found in the bubble bath I used to buy for them. All organic, biodegradable, gluten-free...ok, the last part makes me smile cause I only ever thought gluten was an issue in edible products. Clearly I was wrong! Did I mention Green Beaver is a Canadian company?
  2. Also from Green Beaver, Purifying Grapefruit and Soothing Aloe Facial Cleanser. Works a treat, didn't strip my skin and has a light, happy, citrusy scent that comes from the ingredients and not added fragrance.
  3. For hand and bath soap, for us and the kids, I went with Rocky Mountain Soap Company soaps. They are great - lots of lather, skin softening and great scents. Plus, all of them are rated zero risk at Skin Deep. I bought ours at their Victoria, BC store but they are also available, along with the rest of their great products, via their website.
  4. Jamieson ProVitamina E Moisture-Rich Nourishing Cream for an all-around moisturizer, day or night, that packs a ton of moisture. To make it a day cream, I'm mixing it with my regular sunscreen in my palm. Skin Deep rates this a moderate risk, due mostly to allergy and immunotoxicity concerns, but it is a low-risk for cancer and that's my main concern. I will alternate this cream with straight olive oil for my night-time moisturizing needs.
  5. For an all over lotion, I got Ella's Botanicals My Darling Clementine Hand & Body Lotion. Doesn't show up on Skin Deep, but I can see from its ingredient list that this one's a keeper. Just a few ingredients, mostly sunflower oil, and tangerine and sweet orange essential oils to give it a light, appealing scent. Not greasy, rubs in quickly and, 24 hours later, my skin is still soft.
  6. For conditioner, I picked Live Clean Argan Oil Restorative Conditioner that goes with the Live Clean Argan Oil Restorative Shampoo I have already been using. No ratings on Skin Deep, but argan oil shows up as zero risk. So far, so good. My hair feels clean and soft (but I'm still growing out this goofy post-chemo hair and I think what I really need now is a haircut!) and the products are not strongly-scented.
As I find new products, I'll let you know. For example, Olivier Soapery makes shampoos and soaps that show up as zero risk on Skin Deep, so I think that will be my next purchase once these ones run out.

If you are starting this process as well, take heart! There are lots of places to look for advice on picking new products. In addition to the sites I used here, I also belong to Crazy, Sexy and Safe Products at the Crazy Sexy Life website and my friends there have lots of great recommendations.

If you have any natural products that you love, let me know and I'll share them here!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New recipes to tempt you up on my recipe blog.

But before you go there, be sure to check out my guest post below.


Guest post on the value of support groups for those touched by cancer

Today, friends, I give you a guest posting from cancer patient advocate,  David Haas. If you have a moment, please check out his site. We can all use a little more education on how to take back some control over cancer and its impact on ourselves and those we love.  Thank you, David, for lending a hand at spreading the love.

Three Groups of People Who Need Cancer Support Groups
Cancer support groups are everywhere these days. The reasons that they have proliferated are obvious and are supported by research as well. Multiple studies have shown that patients who participate in support groups, especially groups that target their specific type of cancer such as mesothelioma, prostate cancer or breast cancer, have a greatly improved quality of life. Some studies have even suggested that a patient's regular participation in a support group can even increase his lifespan. However, people other than just the cancer patient himself can take part in a support community or online chat group.

Of course, the most obvious member of a cancer support group is the patient himself. Many patients are reluctant to take part in group counselling and need the support and encouragement of close family members and friends to be confident enough to participate. However, the National Cancer Institute states on its support and resource page that group counselling can greatly reduce the patient's stress. Patients have a variety of needs that only other patients can understand or that only a trained professional can understand.

Another group that often attends these support groups is the cancer survivor. This person can provide a great deal comfort and understanding for the current sufferer since he can understand exactly the type of treatments and stressors that the patient is undergoing. In addition, the survivor still needs emotional support as he undergoes continual testing and as he continues to deal with stress.

However, the group that is most often forgotten but that needs these cancer support groups as much as the patients themselves do is the patient's family members. These people also suffer a great deal of stress. The spouse may experience an increased workload and feel great concern for the future while children may feel frightened or neglected. Attending a support group can teach the family how to cope with the disease themselves.

Cancer is one of the most difficult diseases to deal with mentally, emotionally and physically. Every patient needs someone to let him know that he is not alone. Specialty doctors such as hematologists, oncologists or mesothelioma doctors can recommend area groups in which the patients and the patient's family members can become involved for physical and emotional support.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Back from summer vacation just in time for Monday's health links

Sorry for the very sporadic posting this summer. I took some well-needed time of with my kids but now, a la Arnie, I'm back!
  1. Fish oil supplements may block chemo drugs. Please talk to your oncologist about this if you are undergoing treatment. BBC News.
  2. Potential for new therapy targeting metastatic breast cancer announced at scientific symposium in Germany. Digital Journal.
  3. Flower power? The autumn crocus shows promise in the fight against cancer. BBC News.
  4. Nuts! Walnuts may reduce risk for breast cancer and I'm allergic to them. And it's not like I can just consume other sources of the nut's individual components - they think the real benefit is in the whole nut with all elements working together.  Sacramento Bee.
  5. W post-presidency. Already lauded for his work fighting AIDS, former president George W Bush pushes to expand screening and treatment of cervical and breast cancers in the developing world. Wall Street Journal.
  6. Learning more about CNETs, the under and misdiagnosed cancer being fought by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Toronto Sun.
  7. Finally, filmmaker Lea Pool brings her documentary "Pink Ribbons" to the Toronto Film Festival. I can't wait for it to get major release. CTV.