Category Archives: Cancer

Would You Rather Die of Heart Disease or Cancer?

These cows may give you cancer

Carcinogenic cows?

The idea that heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases are caused by dietary saturated fats is losing credibility. I lost faith in that theory in 2009.

Instead, cardiovascular disease is now linked to high consumption of carbohydrates, particularly those carbs that are rapidly absorbed and turned into blood sugar.

Unfortunately, the diet that reduces risk of cardiovascular disease may increase your risk of cancer. Keep reading.

If you’re a nutrition science nerd, here’s a pertinent report from researchers at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic:

“The results of our study show that high-glycaemic carbohydrates or a high overall proportion of carbohydrates in the diet are the key ecological correlates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. These findings strikingly contradict the traditional ‘saturated fat hypothesis’, but in reality, they are compatible with the evidence accumulated from observational studies that points to both high glycaemic index and high glycaemic load (the amount of consumed carbohydrates × their glycaemic index) as important triggers of CVDs. The highest glycaemic indices (GI) out of all basic food sources can be found in potatoes and cereal products, which also have one of the highest food insulin indices (FII) that betray their ability to increase insulin levels.The role of the high glycaemic index/load can be explained by the hypothesis linking CVD risk to inflammation resulting from the excessive spikes of blood glucose (‘post-prandial hyperglycaemia’). Furthermore, multiple clinical trials have demonstrated that when compared with low-carbohydrate diets, a low-fat diet increases plasma triglyceride levels and decreases total cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol, which generally indicates a higher CVD risk. Simultaneously, LDL-cholesterol decreases as well and the number of dense, small LDL particles increases at the expense of less dense, large LDL particles, which also indicates increased CVD risk. These findings are mirrored even in the present study because cereals and carbohydrates in general emerge as the strongest correlates of low cholesterol levels.

In light of these findings, the negative correlation of refined sugar with CVD risk may seem surprising, but the mean daily consumption of refined sugar in Europe is quite low (~84 g/day), when compared with potato and cereal carbohydrates (~235 g/day), and makes up only ~20% of CA energy. Refined sugar is also positively tied to many animal products such as animal fat and total fat and animal protein, and negatively to % PC CARB energy and % CA energy. Therefore, a high consumption of refined sugar is accompanied by a high consumption of animal products and lower intakes of other carbohydrates. Furthermore, the glycaemic index of refined sugar (sucrose) is rather moderate (~65).”

Source: Food consumption and the actual statistics of cardiovascular diseases: an epidemiological comparison of 42 European countries | Grasgruber | Food & Nutrition Research

Elsewhere in this long article:

“Current rates of cancer incidence in Europe are namely the exact geographical opposite of CVDs. In sharp contrast to CVDs, cancer correlates with the consumption of animal food (particularly animal fat), alcohol, a high dietary protein quality, high cholesterol levels, high health expenditure, and above average height. These contrasting patterns mirror physiological mechanisms underlying physical growth and the development of cancer and CVDs. The best example of this health paradox is again that of French men, who have the lowest rates of CVD mortality in Europe, but the highest rates of cancer incidence. In other words, cancer and CVDs appear to express two extremes of a fundamental metabolic disbalance that is related to factors such as cholesterol and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor).”

I wish these researchers had looked at over death rates associated with various ways of eating. Perhaps that will be in a future paper.

I’d rather die of a heart attack than cancer.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Eating Fish Is Still Good For You

Dead whole fish aren't very appealing to many folks

Dead whole fish aren’t very appealing to many folks

Heart disease is still the #1 killer in the U.S., followed by cancer and chronic lower respiratory tract disease. “Heart disease” is a broad category; the primary killer is heart attacks.

Eating fish regularly seems to reduce your risk of heart attack. I favor the cold-water fatty fish like salmon, trout, herring, and sardines.

I quote the NYT:

“Numerous studies have found that people who eat fish on a regular basis are less likely to die of a heart attack than those who don’t eat it or eat it less than once a month, and a 2006 Harvard review concluded that eating one to two servings of fish rich in omega-3s every week cut the risk of dying of a heart attack by one-third.”

Source: Why Is Fish Good for You? Because It Replaces Meat? – The New York Times

PS: Accidents are the #4 cause of death, and suicide is #10.

PPS: Click for ideas on reducing your risk of cancer.

Night Shift Work Is Dangerous

Not very pertinent, but a cool picture

Not very pertinent, but a cool picture

Shift work can kill you.

I’ve seen studies associating night shift work with T diabetes in Japanese men, higher breast cancer rates, more metabolic syndrome, and higher heart disease risk in men.

Now we have evidence for higher diabetes rates in women who do shift work”

“Our results suggest that an extended period of rotating night shift work is associated with a modestly increased risk of type 2 diabetes in women, which appears to be partly mediated through body weight. Proper screening and intervention strategies in rotating night shift workers are needed for prevention of diabetes.”

Source: PLOS Medicine: Rotating Night Shift Work and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Two Prospective Cohort Studies in Women

Action Plan: P.D. Mangan has some ideas.

Also, reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes with the Mediterranean diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: If you get one of my books, stay safe and read it during the day.

Dr. Gorski on diet and exercise versus cancer: A science-based view 

You need to worry about cancer because you have a roughly four in 10 chance of coming down with invasive cancer. (Skin cancers like squamous cell and basal cell are quite common, but rarely invasive.)

Dr. David Gorski is a breast cancer surgeon. He’s looked at the scientific literature on the linkage between diet and exercises, and the risk of developing cancer.

Here’s his conclusion from his review at Science-Based Medicine:

“You can reduce your risk of cancer by staying active and exercising, eating a healthy diet with a lot of plant-based foods and minimizing intake of processed meats, limiting alcohol consumption (although I think the WCRF/AICR guidelines go a bit too far in saying that you shouldn’t drink at all if possible), and maintaining a healthy weight. (Of course, if you stay active and eat a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight will probably not be a problem.) Conceptually, it’s easy to do. In practice, as I’m discovering, it’s anything but easy.”

Source: Diet and exercise versus cancer: A science-based view « Science-Based Medicine

The Mediterranean diet seems to protect against cancer.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: One of the reasons I write diet books is that I want to keep you from getting cancer.

Being overweight or obese linked to increased risk of eight more cancers 

From MedicalNewsToday:

“A new study strengthens the link between obesity and cancer, after identifying a further eight cancers that are more likely to develop with excess weight, including stomach, pancreas, and liver cancers.

Researchers have associated excess weight with a further eight cancers.

But there is some good news; researchers say losing the excess weight and preventing further weight gain can help lower the risk of these cancers.”

*   *   *

“The researchers found sufficient evidence to suggest excess weight can increase the risk of eight cancers, in addition to the five already identified. These cancers include:

Gall bladder cancer
Liver cancer
Meningioma – a form of brain tumor
Multiple myeloma – a type of blood cancer
Ovarian cancer
Pancreatic cancer
Thyroid cancer”

Source: Being overweight, obese linked to increased risk of eight more cancers – Medical News Today

To prevent or cure overweight and obesity, get one of my books. They’re expensive, but you’re worth it.

Mediterranean and Paleo Diets May Reduce Incidence of Colon Polyps

Colon cancer is one of several cancer types reduced by the Mediterranean diet. The diet may do so by preventing colon adenomas (aka colon polyps), which are precursors to cancer. Click the link at bottom for the full scientific report. A snippet:

“Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States. Rapidly increasing incidence rates in previously low-incidence populations in urban China and Japan and among male Polynesians in Hawaii have coincided with the adoption of a more westernized lifestyle by those populations. These changing incidence rates, along with studies of immigrant populations, point to a strong influence of diet and other lifestyle factors on CRC risk.”

Source: Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores and Risk of Incident, Sporadic Colorectal Adenomas

Obesity-related cancer risk increased by overweight duration

MedicalNewsToday has all the details you need:

“The study found that being overweight for a longer duration as an adult significantly increased the incidence of all obesity-related cancers by 7 percent for every 10-year increase in overweight adulthood period. An increase in risk was also seen for postmenopausal breast cancer, by 5 percent, and endometrial cancer, by 17 percent.

After adjusting for the intensity of overweight – how overweight individuals were – these figures rose to 8 percent for postmenopausal breast cancer and 37 percent for endometrial cancer for every 10 years spent with BMI ten units above normal weight.

The findings highlight that the duration a woman spends overweight, and how overweight they are, play important roles in their risk of cancer, which emphasizes the importance of obesity prevention at all ages from early onset.

The authors write: “We found that longer durations of overweight and obesity were significantly associated with an increased incidence of obesity-related cancers, postmenopausal breast cancer, and colon, endometrial, and kidney cancer.”

Source: Obesity-related cancer risk increased by overweight duration – Medical News Today

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

Bix the Fanatic Cook Says Alcohol Causes Cancer

Beautiful woman smiling as she is wine tasting on a summer day.

“Even light drinking increases the risk for cancer. This was a big-deal study. It’s not getting the press attention it should because people don’t like it. Businesses don’t like it.”

If this was a big deal study, why was it published in a journal called Addiction? Few people read that.

Click the link for details.

Source: Alcohol Causes Cancer | Fanatic Cook

I don’t doubt that alcohol consumption is linked to some cases of cancer, probably causing them. The question is “how much alcohol and which cancers?” Up to this point, carcinogenesis had required heavy drinking. Except women with a family or personal history of breast cancer should be extra-cautious about drinking any alcohol, IIRC.

I wrote about alcohol and cancer in women in 2012. You’ll read at that post that alcohol consumption was linked to lower rates of three specific cancers.

I’m still not convinced that low to moderate alcohol consumption causes cancer in the general public.

I’ll keep my eyes and ears open on this important issue.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Mediterranean Diet Plus Olive Oil May Prevent Breast Cancer

From my pantry...

From my pantry…

A Mediterranean-style diet with supplemental extra-virgin olive oil seemed to reduce the incidence of breast cancer in a Spanish population. This is consistent with prior observational studies that link the Mediterranean diet with lower rates of breast and other cancers.

The study population involved 4,000 women who were followed for five years. Thirty-five new cases of breast cancer occurred in this PREDIMED study sub-analysis.

The comparison diets were a reduced-fat diet and Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts.

This is a relatively small study, so results may not be entirely reliable.

Action Plan

If you’re a woman hoping to avoid breast cancer, consider the Mediterranean diet and be sure to eat plenty of extra-virgin olive oil. A good way to do this is to use home-made vinaigrettes.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Even if you think Spaniards are jovial, you won’t find any in my books.

Reference: Mediterranean diet and invasive breast cancer risk among women at high cardiovascular risk in the PREDIMED trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.4838

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

Exercise Promotes Melanoma and Prostate Cancer

Needs a bit more hormetic stress

“Would you spot me, bro?”

I’ve always assumed that exercise reduces the risk of cancer, contributing to the well-established fact that folks who exercise live longer than others.

But a recent study found a positive association between exercise and two cancers: melanoma and prostate.

The good news is that exercise was linked to lower risk of 13 other cancers.

Here’s a quote for the New York Times Well blog:

The researchers found a reduced risk of breast, lung and colon cancers, which had been reported in earlier research. But they also found a lower risk of tumors in the liver, esophagus, kidney, stomach, endometrium, blood, bone marrow, head and neck, rectum and bladder.

And the reductions in risk for any of these 13 cancers rose steeply as people exercised more. When the researchers compared the top 10 percent of exercisers, meaning those who spent the most time each week engaging in moderate or vigorous workouts, to the 10 percent who were the least active, the exercisers were as much as 20 percent less likely to develop most of the cancers in the study.

I’m surprised the protective effect of exercise against cancer wasn’t stronger.

Action Plan

So how much physical activity does it take to prevent cancer? And what type of exercise? We await further studies for specific answers.

I’m hedging my bets with a combination of aerobic and strength training two or three times a week.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: If you think cancer’s bad, read one of my books. Wait, that didn’t come out right.