The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund released a report this week offering recommendations for cancer prevention. At the top of the list was maintaining a healthy weight. From the L.A. Times:

“The recommendation reflects what science is telling us today: Even small amounts of excess body fat, especially if carried at the waist, increase risk,” said W. Philip T. James, chairman of the London-based International Obesity Task Force and one of the 21 members on an international panel that prepared the report.

Increased body fat, particularly in the abdominal area, affects levels of hormones and growth factors, which can influence the development of cancer cells. In addition, the report says, obesity is characterized by “a low-grade chronic inflammatory state” in the body that can promote cancer.

In their first report a decade ago, the groups linked excess weight only to cancer of the endometrium, or uterine lining. Today’s report, which took five years to prepare, reviewed more than 7,000 studies published worldwide. It said it found a convincing connection between excess fat and cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, endometrium and kidney, along with breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

In addition to recommending daily physical activity of at least 30 minutes and limiting the intake of fast and processed foods low in fiber and high in fat, the report also encourages eating more fruits and vegetables and limiting red meat consumption to 18 ounces a week.

USA Today looks at the new HPV test for cervical cancer screening that could replace the Pap test.

A Canadian study published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the Pap test picked up only 55% of “high-grade” precancerous
cells; the HPV test picked up 96%. In other words, says Eduardo Franco, the McGill University scientist who was the report’s senior author, women screened with the Pap test alone might as well toss a coin to
figure out whether they’re on their way to developing cervical cancer.

Still, it will take some time before a full switch-over is made:

For now, the most obvious roadblock is the fact that only one HPV test, made by Digene, is sold in the USA, and it is approved for use only when a Pap test is inconclusive or as a “co-test” with a Pap. It is not approved as a stand-alone primary screening test, but it can be
performed on the same specimen collected for a “liquid-based” Pap test such as ThinPrep.

But the explanation for the Pap test’s continued reign is more
complicated than that. On top of the regulatory issues are doctor and
patient attitudes, malpractice concerns and aggressive marketing of Pap
tests, researchers say.

The USA Today article also includes a sidebar on cervical cancer screening based on information from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society.

“Women who survive cervical cancer are at increased risk for developing other cancers decades later, according to a report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The increased cancer risk is primarily seen in women who were treated with radiation therapy and involves organs that lie near the cervix,” reports Reuters. The report will appear in the Nov. 7 issue of the NCI journal.

Also from Reuters: “Australian coal miners are being taught to explore their wives and understand menopause in order to have a healthy sex life, which in turn will make them happy, productive workers.”

I can’t explain what “explore their wives” means, but the Reuters story goes on to note that the mining company north of Sydney hosts regular health briefings known as “Toolbox Talks.”

Since the miners are mainly in their late 40s to 50s, menopause may be affecting their wives or other family members, said the company spokesman, adding, “The health briefings provide them with information on how to help and assist their loved ones who may be going through this or approaching this period of their life.”

Cool Million: The Atlanta Journal Constitution interviews Lesley Hatfield, founder of Night Sweatz, a company that designs pajamas, loungewear and underwear with a moisture management material. Three years after launching, Night Sweatz is available in 300 stores expects to do $1 million in sales this year. The pajamas were featured in the June issue of Oprah’s magazine, O.

“Wyeth, the largest maker of hormone-replacement medicines used during menopause, won dismissal of a lawsuit in Minnesota linking its Premarin and Prempro drugs to breast cancer,” reports Bloomberg News (via NYT). The judge in the case granted Wyeth’s motion for dismissal, ruling that a woman who blamed the drugs for her breast cancer failed to offer any “scientifically valid evidence.”

As previously mentioned, two weeks earlier a jury in Nevada awarded $134.5 million to three women who contended the drugs caused their breast cancer. Wyeth faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the country in state and federal courts.

Lucinda Marshall surveyed nine women’s magazines and found that
while all the October issues featured breast cancer stories tied to
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, only two acknowledged that October was also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“And, what’s worse, of the coverage dedicated to breast cancer, much of it was offensive, superficial, misleading, or flat-out wrong,” writes Marshall at AlterNet. She continues:

What to take away from all this? The bottom line, literally, is that we shrink away from black eyes. Breasts, on the other hand, are highly marketable commodities, as these magazines’ advertising and helpful hints about pink products attest. Glamour even uses breast cancer awareness as an opportunity for a little full frontal nudity, featuring young, pretty and oh-so-white survivors with their best come hither looks. This emphasis on youth and whiteness is a true disservice to older women who are far more likely to get this disease and black women who are more likely to die from it.

Plus: Nicole Sotelo, author of “Women Healing from Abuse: Meditations for Finding Peace,” writes at Women’s eNews about the increased risk for domestic violence among military families and the connection between war and violence against women.


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