The Benefits of Olive Oil, Canola and Nuts
The type of fat found in olive and canola oils can cut in half a woman's risk for breast cancer, while the type of fat found in seafood and other kinds of vegetable oils can increase the risk by 69 percent, according to an article in the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine.
Alicja Wolk, Ph.D. and other researchers from Sweden studied the fat content of diets for more than 60,000 women between the ages of 40 and 76 who underwent mammography from 1987 to 1990.
Fat, which provides the body with the most concentrated form of energy, comes in three main types - saturated (found primarily in meat and dairy products), monounsaturated (found in canola, nut and olive oils) and polyunsaturated (found in seafood, soybean, corn, safflower and sunflower oils.)
The researchers found that monounsaturated fat reduced the risk of breast cancer by 45 percent, while polyunsaturated fat increased the risk by 69 percent. Saturated fat was found to have no association with the risk of breast cancer.
"Recently, four case-control studies from Spain, Greece and Italy indicated that consumption of olive oil, the main source of monounsaturated fat in the Mediterranean diet, was associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer," they wrote.
However, the Swedish researchers found that the benefit lies with monounsaturated fats as a category, rather than specifically with olive oil.
While caffeine's role as a carcinogen is widely debated, a new study published in the journal Cancer Letters suggests that caffeine may act as an "advocate" to cancer cells, extending their lives and allowing them to spread throughout the body.
A Brigham Young University researcher found that while caffeine doesn't fit the classic model of a carcinogen, (one that damages healthy cells), in some circumstances it may protect cancer cells from death.
"Cancer is a disease where cell division has gone out of control. In some cases, the cell does not know how to die," said Kim O'Neill of BYU's Cancer Research Center. "We have found that caffeine may inhibit the apoptotic mechanism - the cell's own defensive mechanism - and keep damaged cells alive when they should die."
O'Neill said the study is interesting basic science but that it does not provide enough information to determine whether consuming caffeine poses any health risk.
"This is just a small piece of work indicating that, under certain conditions, caffeine may suppress apoptosis or the induction of apoptosis in vitro," he said.
"However, the relevance of that may not be known for several years."
According to physicians at Johns Hopkins the more important effect of caffiene in breast diseases may be its influence on increasing tenderness and lumpiness associated with benign processes such as fibrocystic disease. This increase can serve as a deterent for women to do self-breast exams or get regular breast screening
Walking a couple of miles each day may do more than keep your heart healthy. It may also ward off cancer, according to a study of retirees published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Reviewing 12 years of data from the Honolulu Heart Program, Amy Hakim and colleagues at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that 13.4 percent of the 707 men who walked less than a mile per day died of cancer versus 5.3 percent who walked at least two miles daily.
Doctors already have plenty of evidence that exercise is beneficial. But those studies have not been conclusive because it is difficult to know whether walking reduces the death rate, or whether nonwalkers die younger because they are hobbled by disease that makes them unable or unwilling to walk.
Hakim and her colleagues tried to get around the problem by using data on retired men who were nonsmokers and who were physically capable of walking a few miles. In a further attempt to weed out men who might have a hidden illness, they excluded men who died in the first year of the study.
After adjusting for various risk factors, they found that the risk of death from cancer among the men who walked the least was 2.4 times greater than for those who walked the most.
For women with breast cancer concerns, this study was done in men but may still be valid. Exercise is important to controlling weight which we know is an issue for breast cancer risk and a common problem for breast cancer survivors. Dr. Dooley of the Johns Hopkins Breast Center encourages all breast cancer survivors to regularly exercise -- to prevent weight gain and hopefully lessen any future breast cancer risk.
Adding soy protein to the diet may be a safe and effective way to combat hot flashes in postmenopausal women, according to an Italian study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Dr. Paola Albertazzi and colleagues at the University of Bologna found that women taking soy had a 45 percent reduction in the number of daily hot flashes they experienced, compared with a 30 percent reduction achieved in placebo-treated women. Similar findings from uncontrolled trials have been reported previously.
Soy was also well tolerated by most of the women in the study, they added.
The researchers noted that Japanese women, who consume roughly 200 milligrams per day of phytoestrogens found in soy and other products, have significantly lower rates of hot flashes, estrogen-dependent breast cancer and osteoporosis than women in the western world.
Breast cancer survivors who regularly work up a light to moderate sweat
on an exercise bike, stair climber or in any other aerobic activity, not
only get into better physical condition but also feel significantly less
depressed and anxious.
Researchers Victor Katch and Michelle Segar of the University of Michigan studied the effect of exercise on depression and anxiety levels among breast cancer survivors.
Their study was reported in Oncology Nursing Forum.
"Depression and anxiety are not uncommon after breast cancer surgery," Katch said, "and can linger for years." Research suggests that 20 percent to 40 percent of breast cancer survivors are depressed one year following surgery.
One study of eight-year survivors found that 64 percent were still anxious and 45 percent felt depressed because of their breast cancer.
"Women in our study said they felt stronger, physically better, more able to handle stress and more in control of their lives while they were exercising," Segar added.
All of the women took standard psychological tests for depression and anxiety at the beginning and end of a 10-week exercise program.
The researchers found that depression scores decreased 44 percent for the exercisers
Furthermore, depression and anxiety levels for women who began the exercise program within two years of their surgeries improved significantly more than did those who began two or more years after surgery.
Basking briefly in the sun every day may be an important way to prevent breast cancer, researchers say. But they also warn against overdoing it.
New studies indicate that vitamin D, a nutrient made by the skin during exposure to sunlight, can lower the risk of breast cancer by 30 to 40 percent and perhaps even more.
"We know now that a little bit of sun is beneficial, but it is not good to stay out there four or five hours," says epidemiologist Esther John of the North California Cancer Center.
Sunlight lowers risk, says John, because the skin uses ultraviolet rays from the sun to make vitamin D. This nutrient has been closely linked to protection against breast cancer in other studies, she says.
The study was part of a national research project that has been following the health of about 8,000 women since 1970. The research monitors the development of cancer and other health events, and compares the effects of such factors as diet and exercise on women who get disease and those who don't.
John says the study confirmed earlier findings that women who live in
the southern tier of states tend to get significantly less breast cancer
than those who live in the North.
Nearly half of all cancer patients turn to some kind of alternative medicine in an effort to cure their disease, a new study conducted in Norway suggests.
Women are more likely than men to try alternative medicine, as are patients younger than age 75, according to the report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Past studies have found that anywhere from 10 to 60 percent of cancer patients use alternative therapies. The usage rates tend to be higher in countries such as Switzerland, Germany and England where use of such therapies is often more accepted.