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One Alcoholic Drink per Day Associated with Increased Cancer Risk

The authors reviewed 222 articles, following 92,000 light drinkers and 60,000 non-drinkers, and showed that taking up to one alcoholic drink a day is associated with increased risk for cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus and breast (Annals of Oncology, Feb 2013; 24(2):301-308). In 2007, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that drinking alcohol is associated with cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and female breast.

Thirty-seven percent of North American adults take up to two drinks a day. Many have the mistaken belief that it is safe for women to take up to one drink per day and for men to take up to two drinks per day. An additional 28 percent of North Americans drink more than that. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 2/3rds of a shot glass of alcohol.

Taking one to two drinks a day has been associated with reduced risk for heart attacks. However, drinking alcohol regularly is associated with high blood pressure, heart failure, sudden death and stroke.

What is the Link between Alcohol and Cancer?
We don't know how alcohol might cause cancer. Alcohol is broken down only by your liver which converts it to acetaldehyde, a substance that can damage cells' genetic material called DNA to stop apoptosis, which can cause cancer. More on apoptosis

Why Do So Many People Think That Alcohol Is Healthful?
For many years the wine, beer and alcoholic beverage industries have promoted studies showing that alcohol is healthful. However, researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia reviewed 54 studies and found that only seven of those studies corrected their non-drinking population for people who had been told to stop drinking for health reasons (Addiction Research and Theory, April 2006).

When researchers perform an epidemiological study to see if alcohol prevents disease, they compare people who drink with those who do not drink. However, many people do not drink because their doctors have told them they have liver, heart or kidney disease, high blood pressure, alcoholism, stomach ulcers, or other major health problems. The Canadian researchers re-analyzed 47 studies that associated wine or other alcohol with a longer life and decreased risk for heart attacks. When the studies were corrected to remove the people who had been ordered to stop drinking for health reasons, they found no difference in death rate between moderate drinkers and those who do not drink at all. Always be skeptical of studies that say alcohol prolongs life.

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Lifestyle Changes Cut Prostate Cancer Risk

Researchers followed 46,000 men for 25 years to show that those who adopted at least five healthful lifestyle factors had a 39 percent lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer than those who adopted one or none (presented at the European Cancer Congress in Amsterdam, September 30, 2013). Those with the three dietary factors: eating tomatoes and fatty fish and avoiding red meat, had a 27 percent lower risk of lethal prostate cancer than those who adopted none of the these factors.

The six habits include:
• eating tomatoes regularly
• eating fatty fish
• exercising regularly
• avoiding red meat
• avoiding smoking
• avoiding overweight (Body Mass Index less than 30)

Previous studies have shown a correlation between fatal prostate cancer and obesity, excess body fat, excess abdominal fat, and low intake of fatty fish, vegetables, and whole grains (Nutr Hosp, 2010;25(3):422-427).

Searching for the Causes of Prostate Cancer
After years of failing to show an association between various infections and prostate cancer, many doctors now feel that the North American lifestyle that causes inflammation, metabolic syndrome and high blood sugar levels may cause prostate cancer. Virtually all North American men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough, while fewer than four percent of rural Chinese men suffer that disease. Most North Americans eat too much of the wrong foods and exercise too little.

Your immunity is supposed to be good for you. It helps prevent germs from attacking and killing you. However, when your immunity stays active and no germ is around to kill, it attacks you. The chemicals that are supposed to dissolve the coats of bacteria dissolve the outer membranes of your own cells. The cells that are supposed to attack and kill bacteria and viruses damage your own genetic mechanisms. The antibodies that are supposed to attach to and destroy invading organisms attach to your own cells and damage them. When your immunity attacks your own DNA, you can develop cancers, heart attacks and diabetes, leading to a premature death.

Smoking causes cancers throughout your body. It is associated with increased risk for bladder and prostate cancer most likely through the free radicals and hydrocarbons produced by smoking.

Nobody knows why tomatoes are associated with reduced prostate cancer risk. The most common explanation is that cooked tomatoes are one of the best sources of lycopene, an antioxidant that can block free radicals that turn on your immunity. Lycopene is also found in apricots, guava, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit.

Red Meat
Nobody really knows why red meat is associated with prostate cancer. Possible mechanisms include:
• Red meat blocks insulin receptors to raise blood sugar levels.
• Red meat is full of carnitine, a chemical that can be converted by bacteria in your intestines to TMAO (tri methyl amine oxide), a chemical that damages cell membranes and is associated with increased risk for heart attacks.
• Red meat contains a molecule called Neu5Gc that is not found in humans and may turn on a person's immunity to cause inflammation.

Fatty Fish
Nobody really knows why fatty fish is associated with reduced prostate cancer risk. Fatty fish are rich on omega-3 fatty acids that your body uses to make prostaglandins that turn down your immunity.

Obesity and Abdominal Obesity
Full fat cells turn on your immunity to cause inflammation; being overweight is associated with increased risk for prostate cancer.

Being diabetic or pre-diabetic (metabolic syndrome) turns on your immunity. Pre-diabetics usually have very high blood levels of insulin that causes fat to be deposited in the belly. Having a big belly and narrow hips is a sign of diabetes and inflammation that increases risk for prostate cancer. Lack of Exercise
A high rise in blood sugar turns on your immunity. Resting muscles pull no sugar out of your bloodstream. However contracting muscles are incredibly sensitive to insulin and can remove sugar from your bloodstream without even needing insulin.

Sugar-Added Foods and Drinks
When sugar-added foods and drinks, bakery products and other foods made from refined grains cause a high rise in blood sugar, they turn on your immunity to cause inflammation. Men who eat the most sweet and starchy foods are 64 per cent more likely to develop advanced prostate cancer (Nutr Hosp, 2010;25(3):422-427).

Eat a diet rich in nuts, vegetable, whole grains, seeds, fruits and fish and limited in red meat and high-fat dairy products. Restrict animal fats, all fried foods, and refined carbohydrates. Try to exercise every day and avoid overweight. Do not smoke.

PSA Tests for Prostate Cancer May Do More Harm than Good

A study presented at the European Cancer Conference (Abstract 1481, Sept 30, 2013) found that the Prostate-Specific Antigen test (PSA), used to detect prostate cancer, may cause considerable suffering. For every 1,000 men who get a PSA test, one death is prevented, but the unnecessary surgery causes 12 cases of impotence and three cases of incontinence. In May 2013, the American Urological Association dropped its recommendation that all men over the age of 40 get PSA tests. However, PSA tests can increase the diagnosis of prostate cancer. High-risk groups, such as men with a family history of aggressive disease, can benefit from regular PSA testing.

The lead author, Dr. Boniol, stated that PSA testing has not reduced the death rate from prostate cancer. In the 1980s, before PSA testing, the diagnosis of prostate cancer in France was five percent, and the death rate from that disease was two percent. After PSA testing became routine, the rate of prostate cancer diagnosis has risen to 14 percent, while the death rate is still two percent. Seventy percent of autopsies on men show evidence of prostate cancer that never caused any problems while they were alive.

Today, for every 2000 men followed over a lifetime, 232 will have prostate biopsies and 120 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Yet only one of the 2000 men will die of prostate cancer.

To Prevent One Death from Prostate Cancer
The authors estimate that, of 1000 men, there will be 116 biopsies and 60 cases of prostate cancer. To prevent one cancer death among 1000 men, doctors would have to perform an additional 154 biopsies. Nine of these would require hospitalization for severe adverse events; another 0.2 deaths would result from biopsy complications. Among the 116 biopsied men, there would be 12 additional cases of impotence, two of urinary incontinence, and one of fecal incontinence. Thirty-five will have prostate cancers that are of such low risk that they would never have any symptoms of prostate cancer in their lifetimes.

This week's medical history:
Michael E. DeBakey, Father of Modern Heart Surgery

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries

Recipe of the Week:

Golden Autumn Soup

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

October 6th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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