Breast cancer mortality rate – it dropped 40 percent in 30 years

breast cancer mortality

There is an ongoing trope that somehow that cancer incidence and cancer mortality has increased substantially over the past few years. Yet, despite that fact that the myth has been shown to be false, it persists, especially around the pseudoscience complementary and alternative medicine world. And now, we have more good news about cancer – the breast cancer mortality rate has dropped by 40% over the past 30 years.

I’m not sure why a lot of people think that cancer is more prevalent today. Maybe it is because of social media, we hear about it more. Maybe it is because of better diagnostic techniques, we think that the cancer situation is worse. Maybe it is that there is an over reliance on anecdotes about cancer. Finally, maybe it is people who think our bodies are being assaulted by cancer causing GMOs (not cancer causing), vaccines (which prevent cancer), or gluten (not cancer causing).

Of course, the pseudoscientific pushing alternative medicine world wants to convince you that science based medicine is incapable of treating cancers and only push highly profitable poisons from Big Pharma pushed into cancer patients. Unfortunately for that narrative, the statistically significant drop in the breast cancer mortality rate says that oncologists are doing a good job with a deadly cancer. Continue reading “Breast cancer mortality rate – it dropped 40 percent in 30 years”

Breast cancer risk – lifestyle choices

breast cancer risk

The myths about cancer risk are both sad and dangerous. Too many times, I read about supplements or diets that stop “cancer” as if it’s one disease (it is not) that a handful of blueberries will destroy. Like almost every cancer, reducing breast cancer risk really boils down to a handful of lifestyle choices.

In 2015, there will be 232,000 new breast cancer cases in the USA (pdf). Worldwide in 2012, it was estimated that there were over 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer. There is evidence that the rate of breast cancer is increasing, but that may be a result of better diagnostic tools that give earlier diagnoses (and this is a discussion left for another day).

Breast cancer has become a part of our culture, partially because the disease moved from a disease that was only mentioned in whispers to one that has some of the highest awareness for cancers.

Using a review article, by Max Dieterich et al.  about breast cancer risk and lifestyle influence as a template, I thought it would be prudent to list out some of the major influencers on breast cancer risk. And no, smoking weed has no known influence on the risk of breast cancer.

Continue reading “Breast cancer risk – lifestyle choices”

Vitamin D review – another overrated supplement?

Vitamin D review

Junk medical claims about vitamins are shouted from the rooftops of the internet, over and over. I can barely keep up with it. The claims about vitamin D seem to be trendy now.  That means it’s time for vitamin D review –  is it worth it, or is it a waste of your money?

Now, I don’t think vitamin D is worthless. It is an important micronutrient for human health, and if there’s a chronic deficiency, supplementation is necessary.

Proponents of megadoses of vitamins, called megavitamin therapy or orthomolecular medicine (pseudoscientific terms to sound like they are based on real science), seems to work on the unscientific belief that if a little helps, a whole boatload will help a lot more. Most of these ideas have been debunked and are considered quackery and fads.

I wanted to take a look at vitamin D, from it’s actual benefits to health to the possible dangers from supplementation.

Continue reading “Vitamin D review – another overrated supplement?”

More evidence Vitamin D supplementation does not reduce breast cancer risk

vitamin-DPotential causes for cancer are numerous. InfectionsRadon gasCigarette smokingSun exposure. Obesity. With over 200 types of cancer, each with a different pathophysiology, there may be an equal (and probably greater) number of causes.

Although some cancers can be easily prevented, such as never smoking, which reduces your risk of lung cancer, one of the most prevalent cancers in the USA, by over 85%. Or getting the HPV vaccine (Gardasil or Silgard) which blocks HPV infections that are associated with several types of cancer, including cervical, anal, and penile cancers. Unfortunately, the sheer complexity and number of types of cancer means that there is probably not going to be any simple panacea to preventing (or even curing) cancer. In fact, some hereditary cancers, such as those individuals who carry genes that are implicated in breast and ovarian cancers, may not be preventable at all. 

Other than eliminating direct risks, are there things that can be done to actually prevent “cancer”? Once again, with over 200 types of cancer, this may be an impossibility, but the three most popular cancer prevention ideas are diet, vitamins and other types of nutritional supplements. Vitamins and other supplements are a $61 billion industry in the US. They generate these sales with minimal regulation, minimal quality control over the quality and dosage, and no requirement to actually provide evidence that the supplements do what is claimed by the supplement industry, aka Big Herbal. The FDA only gets involved with the industry if there’s some dangerous side effect, or when the claims of the industry are so outrageous that the FDA has no choice but to get involved.

Not too astonishingly, there just hasn’t been much evidence that cancer can prevented with supplements. Prostate cancer and fish oil? May actually increase risk, but generally no effect. Prostate cancer and soy? Nothing there either. Folic acid and cancer? May actually increase risk.  Continue reading “More evidence Vitamin D supplementation does not reduce breast cancer risk”

Cancer Treatment Centers of America advertising

cancerYou’ve probably seen their commercials spread over all of the major TV networks. Beautiful scenes. Well-kept hospitals which often to appear to be near empty. And an anecdote or two or three from presumably real patients who describe their experience at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), a private, for-profit operator of cancer treatment hospitals and outpatient clinics which provide both conventional and alternative medical treatments. Included in their treatment plans are chiropractic and naturopathy, neither of which have any evidence whatsoever in providing any healthcare benefit to patients, let alone those suffering from cancer.

Reuters recently published an in-depth report on the validity of the claims that are made by CTCA in its advertising. Here are some of the ones specifically mentioned:

Vitamin D reduces breast cancer risk–is there anything to it?

vitamin-DOne of my favorite topics to debunk is the use of supplements to prevent (or worse yet, cure) cancer. As I have discussed in the past, supplements are, with just a couple of exceptions, worthless in preventing cancer

Potential causes for cancer are numerous. InfectionsRadon gasCigarette smokingSun exposure. Obesity. With over 200 types of cancer, each with a different pathophysiology, there may be an equal (and probably greater) number of causes for “cancer.” Although many causes of cancer can be easily avoided, such as stopping smoking, testing your house for radon, getting an HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus infections, and wearing sunblock to reduce the risk of melanomas, the sheer complexity and number of types of cancer means that there is probably not going to be any simple panacea to preventing (or even curing) cancer. 

But because cancer is so frightening, and treating it is risky, debilitating and, in some cases, fruitless, we look for the easy solution, the easy prevention with a pill. But the evidence science has found indicates that this doesn’t really work. Of course, according to 2012 cancer statistics, 577,000 people died of various cancers in 2012, and about 160,000 died directly as a result of smoking (or second hand smoking). So, you can easily drop your risk dying of cancer by more than 25% just by quitting smoking. Otherwise, it’s just not that simple. Continue reading “Vitamin D reduces breast cancer risk–is there anything to it?”

Anti-evolution bills put healthcare at risk

My Turn: The Darwin connection | Concord Monitor.

While researching some points for my article on intelligent design, I stumbled onto a poignant and pointed article written by Leslie Brunetta, a New Hampshire science author  who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She wrote the interesting (and very readable) book entitled, “Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating.”

Her thesis is that these anti-evolution bills in various state legislatures are a danger to her health, and by inference, the health of all Americans.

Essentially, she states that in the 1960’s, breast cancer was basically a death sentence, whereas today, the 5 year survivability for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is over 80%.  Partially, the rate has risen because of better and earlier diagnosis, but mainly it is a result of highly effective treatments.

What does evolution have to do with this?  Plenty.  At even the most basic level, the discovery of DNA, which is essential to understanding any of the 200 different cancers, was driven by the need to uncover the basis of genetics and heritability of genes.  Would we have discovered the DNA molecule if we weren’t driven by the desire to understand the foundation of evolution?  Probably not.

Furthermore, Ms. Brunetta posits that everything from understanding the differences between cancer and normal genes to family history all depends upon a scientific foundation of evolution.  She states that now we have genetic tests (arising from our knowledge of evolution) that can help determine which treatments are best for certain types of breast cancer, allowing some patients to forego chemotherapy.

What if we didn’t understand evolution?  We wouldn’t understand that viruses evolve quickly in a population, so we have to adjust vaccination antigens.  We wouldn’t understand how bacteria evolve in response to antibiotics.  We wouldn’t understand the range of genetic diseases that afflict individuals.  I could write for hours on everything in medicine (and just medicine) that depends on an appreciation, and acceptance, of the theory of evolution.  I wonder what the creationists would say if we were to refuse them all procedures and techniques that use evolution (well, I know what the answer would be, that a supernatural being guided the research or something similar).  Of course, the Hippocratic Oath would prevent physicians from implementing this policy.

I’ve contended that the anti-science (anti-evolution) push on the right wing is bad for the security and economy of the country.  Let me add in healthcare to the consequences of this desire to push religious teaching in public schools.

Addendum:  Ms Brunetta points out something about Charles Darwin that is always forgotten but is critical.  He theorized evolution and natural selection with no knowledge of genetics and DNA (the cause of genetic drift).  Amazing leap of intuition on his part.