Battling cancer with exercise, nutrition and mental health – LA Times

Battling cancer with exercise, nutrition and mental health - LA Times

The healing power of exercise

Before Gabriela Dow’s cancer diagnosis, her schedule, which involved juggling professional commitments with motherhood, left little time for working out. But when her oncologist recommended that she exercise during treatment, she started walking. “I learned early on that moving made me feel so much better, especially before the tiredness really set in,” says Dow.

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Not only does exercise make people feel better, fitness is correlated with mortality, says Dr. Arash Asher, director of Cancer Survivorship and Rehabilitation at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “There have been oodles of studies that show exercise is good for breast cancer patients. It reduces fatigue, it’s good for the bones and it decreases anxiety. But there also seems to be a much lower recurrence rate for people who get moderate amounts of exercise per week.”

Research shows that exercise also reduces recurrence rates of other types of cancer, including colorectal, prostate and ovarian cancers. The protective benefit may be manifold: physical activity reduces inflammatory chemicals, body fat and insulin sensitivity, all of which may fuel cancer progression and recurrence.

The caveat, says Asher, is that while moderate exercise is beneficial, intense exercise may actually suppress immunity in the short term. “The answer is that it needs to be tailored for each person.”



Quality-of-life care may help cancer patients live longer, feel better



Cancer rehab may also include “prehabilitation”: targeted exercises designed to optimize a treatment’s outcome that patients can do before the treatment begins. For example, preoperative lung cancer patients may do breathing exercises, such as blowing up balloons, prostrate cancer patients may do pelvic floor exercises and neck cancer patients may do swallowing exercises.

via Battling cancer with exercise, nutrition and mental health – LA Times.


Obesity and cancer are linked, ASCO says –

“It’s not enough to say there’s an association between obesity and cancer. We need to know why,” Hudis says. “With the why, we can do something about it.”

Scientists are exploring several hypotheses on how excess fat increases a person’s risk for cancer. The answer may be slightly different for each type of cancer, but the encompassing explanation seems to be that obesity triggers changes in how the body operates, which can cause harmful cell growth and cell division.

Many of these changes may be linked to inflammation. In general, inflammation occurs when your body is reacting to something out of the norm — say a virus or a splinter in your foot. Obesity seems to cause chronic inflammation, which in turn may promote cancer development.

Take for example, Hudis says, hormone-sensitive breast cancers. Chemicals in the body meant to regulate inflammation also increase production of the hormone estrogen. And studies have shown excess estrogen can cause breast cancer tumors.

via Obesity and cancer are linked, ASCO says –

How antioxidants can accelerate cancers, and why they don’t protect against them — ScienceDaily

For decades, health-conscious people around the globe have taken antioxidant supplements and eaten foods rich in antioxidants, figuring this was one of the paths to good health and a long life.

Yet clinical trials of antioxidant supplements have repeatedly dashed the hopes of consumers who take them hoping to reduce their cancer risk. Virtually all such trials have failed to show any protective effect against cancer. In fact, in several trials antioxidant supplementation has been linked with increased rates of certain cancers. In one trial, smokers taking extra beta carotene had higher, not lower, rates of lung cancer.

In a brief paper appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine, David Tuveson, M.D. Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Professor and Director of Research for the Lustgarten Foundation, and Navdeep S. Chandel, Ph.D., of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, propose why antioxidant supplements might not be working to reduce cancer development, and why they may actually do more harm than good.

Their insights are based on recent advances in the understanding of the system in our cells that establishes a natural balance between oxidizing and anti-oxidizing compounds. These compounds are involved in so-called redox (reduction and oxidation) reactions essential to cellular chemistry.via How antioxidants can accelerate cancers, and why they don’t protect against them — ScienceDaily.

How Aspirin Might Stem Cancer –

How Aspirin Might Stem Cancer

How Aspirin Might Stem Cancer -


=The use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs significantly reduces the risk for cancer, but no one has been able to explain why. Now researchers have found that these drugs slow the accumulation of a type of DNA change called somatic genome abnormalities, or S.G.A.’s, that lead to uncontrolled cell growth.

The scientists studied 13 people with Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which cells in the esophagus become damaged, usually by acid reflux. Sometimes the cells become precancerous, and rarely the problem leads to esophageal cancer.

The researchers tracked S.G.A.’s with periodic biopsies over an average of almost 12 years. Over all, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs was associated with a 90 percent reduction in the rate of mutations.

“We used techniques used to measure mutation rate in viruses like H.I.V. to measure it in humans,” said the senior author, Carlo C. Maley, director of the Center for Evolution and Cancer at the University of California, San Francisco. “We measured whole pieces of chromosomes that are getting deleted or copied.” Apparently aspirin slows that rate of mutation.

The study, published last month in the journal PLoS Genetics, is very small, Dr. Maley said, and has yet to be reproduced in a larger population. But since most cancers take decades to develop, he added, “if you could just slow it down, you could slow it enough to have people die of something else.”

via How Aspirin Might Stem Cancer –

Obesity, cancer and bacteria in the gut: Scientists explore link –

Obesity, cancer and bacteria in the gut: Scientists explore link

By Eryn Brown

June 26, 2013, 12:21 p.m.

It’s well known that obesity is linked to diabetes, heart troubles and other health woes, but studies have also linked carrying too much weight to an increased risk of some kinds of cancer, including esophageal, colorectal, pancreatic and other cancers.

Now researchers may have figured out why being overweight is linked to a person’s chances of developing liver cancer: obesity seems to cause key changes in microbes that live in the gut, stimulating bacteria there to secrete chemicals that damage DNA and lead to the development of tumors.

MORE ON MICROBES: Bacteria at the roller derby

Writing Wednesday in the journal Nature, a team of scientists led by Eiji Hara of the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research in Tokyo described how they induced cancers (click here for report, subscription required for full text) in mice by treating newborn pups with a carcinogen known to produce various types of tumors.

Then they fed half of the mice a normal diet and half a high-fat diet.  All of the mice on the high-fat diet developed liver cancer; the mice on the normal diet did not.  Separately, the team also gave the carcinogen to mice that were genetically obese who were not fed the high-fat diet.  Those animals, too, developed malignancies — indicating that the obesity, and not the diet itself, was causing the cancers.

The team used a bioluminscent signal to track a chemical in the mice that promotes cellular shutdown as tissues age, finding that mice with the liver cancers had more of the chemical. The senescent cells had something to do with the cancers — and certain bacteria found in the obese mice, the team found in further experiments, secreted a bile acid known as deoxycholic acid (DCA) that damaged DNA and created the senescent state.

Treating the mice with antibiotics to wipe out the DCA-producing microbes reduced liver cancers.

“It is clear that the increased levels of DCA produced by gut bacteria play key roles in the promotion of obesity-related” liver cancer, the authors wrote.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Harvard researchers Suzanne Devkota and Peter J. Turnbaugh wrote that the Japanese scientists’ work presented “a plausible link” between DCA and liver cancer.

“Microbial bile-acid metabolism may provide an under-appreciated mechanism by which our decisions at the dinner table can translate to disastrous consequences for our health,” they wrote.

The study is just the latest in a wave of work detailing how the microbes that live in each of us affect our health, for better and for worse.  To learn more about the microbiome, check out recent stories in the Los Angeles Times on the fungi that live on our feet, the microbes that live on our dogs, and scientists who are studying gut bacteria.

via Obesity, cancer and bacteria in the gut: Scientists explore link –

For Better Nutrition, Take a Walk on the Wild Side – ABC News

Parsley is a super food disguised as a garnish. (Getty Images)

By LIZ NEPORENT (@lizzyfit)

June 5, 2013

Virtually everyone agrees that Americans should eat more fruits and vegetables, but Jo Robinson, food activist and author of the new book “Eating on the Wild Side,” wants consumers to know that not all fruits and vegetables are created equal.

Many wild plants left a bitter, sour or astringent taste in the mouths of our ancestors, Robinson explained, so when people began farming instead of foraging about 10,000 years ago, we bred our favorite fruits and veggies to be sweet and tasty.

While they are certainly more delicious, Robinson said that most domestic plants had far fewer phytonutrients — the healthful compounds that studies find can help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer — than the wild varieties of edible plants.

“Phytonutrients have antioxidant properties that curb the inflammation at the root of many diseases,” Robinson said. “Some wild plants contain 20 or 30 phytonutrients for a really strong, health-enhancing effect.”

It’s not as if Robinson is advocating an outrageously expensive or restrictive diet. Nor is she suggesting anyone stride into the forest and start ripping up plants by the roots to toss into a salad. Instead, she recommends that consumers get educated about which foods are high in phytonutrients so they can add them into their diets.

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Some of the best sources of phytonutrients are surprising.

“Even though we’ve been taught that bright, colorful foods are the healthiest, this isn’t always the case,” Robinson said.

Peaches with white flesh, for example, have five times the phytochemicals of peaches with yellow flesh. Green Granny Smith apples are a far richer source of phytochemicals than red apples.

She also said many of the most phytochemical-rich plants are hiding in plain sight at the supermarket.

Scallions, for instance, contain five times more phytonutrients than many common onions if you use both the bulbs and green tendrils. And fresh herbs, long valued for their intense flavors and aroma, have escaped the flavor makeover given to other plant foods, and remain excellent sources of phytonutrients. Both are plentiful and inexpensive.

“They can be chopped up and added to a salad, soup or casserole,” Robinson said.

Changing the color of various staples can also provide an instant extra dose of phytonutrients. According to Robinson, purple potatoes native to Peru have 28 times more of the cancer-fighting phytonutrient anthocyanin than common russet potatoes. Likewise, blue, red and purple corn meals have more of the substance than the plain white versions.

Robinson said that wild dandelions, which most of us consider nothing more than a lawn nuisance, have seven times more phytonutrients than the “superfood” spinach. If you prefer not to pluck them directly from your lawn, they can now be found in many supermarkets.

Then there are artichoke hearts. According to Robinson, the canned variety — spiny, pale and watery — have more antioxidants than just about any food in the supermarket.

There are also some simple tricks consumers can use to ensure they eat food at the peak of its nutritional value, according to Robinson. Buying cherries and grapes with green rather than brown or black stems, checking the freshness dates on bagged lettuce and leaving watermelons and tomatoes on the counter rather than in the refrigerator, are just a few.

via For Better Nutrition, Take a Walk on the Wild Side – ABC News.

13 Reasons Tea Is (Healthy and) Awesome: | Healthland |

Put down those saucer cups and get chugging — tea is officially awesome for your health. But before loading up on Red Zinger, make sure that your “tea” is actually tea. Real tea is derived from a particular plant (Camellia sinensis) and includes only four varieties: green, black, white, and oolong. Anything else (like herbal “tea”) is an infusion of a different plant and isn’t technically tea.

But what real tea lacks in variety, it makes up for with some serious health benefits. Researchers attribute tea’s health properties to polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) and phytochemicals. Though most studies have focused on the better-known green and black teas, white and oolong also bring benefits to the table. Read on to find out why coffee’s little cousin rocks your health.

Tea can boost exercise endurance. Scientists have found that the catechins (antioxidants) in green tea extract increase the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel, which accounts for improved muscle endurance.

Drinking tea could help reduce the risk of heart attack. Tea might also help protect against cardiovascular and degenerative diseases.

The antioxidants in tea might help protect against a boatload of cancers, including breast, colon, colorectal, skin, lung, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, ovarian, prostate and oral cancers. But don’t rely solely on tea to keep a healthy body — tea is not a miracle cure, after all. While more studies than not suggest that tea has cancer-fighting benefits, the current research is mixed.

Tea helps fight free radicals. Tea is high in oxygen radical absorbance capacity (“ORAC” to its friends), which is a fancy way of saying that it helps destroy free radicals (which can damage DNA) in the body. … Continue reading

7 Crazy Things Pesticides Are Doing to Your Body | Rodale News

This seemed kinda scary to read. I hope we learn more on this in grad school…

BY LEAH ZERBE Share on facebook_like Share on google_plusone

Pesticides aren’t just on the food, the chemicals are inside food, too.

Pesticides are designed to kill, although the mode of action they use to put the stranglehold on pests varies. Whether it’s nerve gas–like neurological disruption, the unbalancing of key hormones, or the stunting of a plant’s ability to absorb life-sustaining trace minerals from the soil, none of the chemical interventions seems all that appetizing, especially considering that chemical residues routinely wind up on and even inside of the food we eat everyday. Pesticides are also blamed for diminishing mineral levels in foods.

Agrochemical supporters tend to fall back on a “the dose makes the poison” theory, meaning tiny exposures aren’t really that harmful. Increasingly, though, independent scientists are debunking that belief, even proving that incredibly tiny doses could set a person up for health problems that might not crop up until decades down the line. Luckily, eating organic, less processed foods can cut back on your pesticide exposure.

Here are 7 health problems associated with pesticide-based agrochemicals.


Scientists have been noticing a link between pesticides and diabetes for years. The latest evidence comes out of the Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting, where Robert Sargis, MD, PhD, released the results of a study that suggest tolyfluanid, a fungicide used on farm crops, creates insulin resistance in fat cells. A 2011 study published in Diabetes Care found that overweight people with higher levels of organochlorine pesticides in their bodies also faced a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Prevent it: To save money on organic fare raised without pesticides, cook with organic dried beans. In the home, avoid using chemical air fresheners and artificially scented products—these things are also blamed for inducing type 2 diabetes.

Read more: 11 Surprising Diabetes Triggers


More than 260 studies link pesticides to various cancers, including lymphoma, leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma, and brain, breast, prostate, bone, bladder, thyroid, colon, liver, and lung cancers, among others.

Prevent it: The President’s Cancer Panel suggests eating organic and avoiding plastic to lower your risk of environmentally triggered cancers.

Autism & Other Developmental Diseases

How do you get autism? The world’s leading autism researchers believe the condition develops from a mix of genes and the pollutants encountered in the mother’s womb and early in life. Many insecticides effectively kill bugs by throwing off normal neurological functioning. That same thing appears to be happening in some children. A 2010 Harvard study found that children with organophosphate pesticide breakdown materials in their urine were far more likely to live with ADHD than kids without the trace pesticide residues.

Prevent it: Switching to an organic diet rapidly eliminates pesticide residues in the body.


Some agrochemical pesticides act as hormone disruptors, meaning they act like a fake version of a naturally occurring hormone in your body, they block important hormone communication pathways in the body, or they interfere with your body’s ability to regulate the healthy release of hormones. More than 50 pesticides are classified as hormone disruptors, and some of them promote metabolic syndrome and obesity as they accumulate in your cells, according to 2012 study appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Parkinson’s Disease

More than 60 studies show a connection between pesticides and the neurological disease Parkinson’s, a condition characterized by uncontrolled trembling. The association is strongest for weed- and bug-killing chemical exposures over a long period of time, meaning it’s important to keep these toxic compounds out of your household routine.

Prevent it: Don’t turn to chemical interventions to kill bugs in your home or garden. Instead, use natural pest control measures.


Pesticides spell trouble in the baby-making department, thanks to their bad habit of not staying put. For instance, atrazine, a common chemical weed killer used heavily in the Midwest, on Southern sugar cane farms, and on golf courses, has been detected in tap water. Doctors and scientists point to published evidence tying atrazine to increased miscarriage and infertility rates. Other pesticides cause a plunge in male testosterone levels. A 2006 study found chlorpyrifos, a chemical used in nonorganic apple and sweet pepper farming, and carbaryl, a go-to pesticide in strawberry fields and peach orchards, caused abnormally low testosterone levels.

Prevent it: Avoid the worst summer fruit, the kinds most likely to be laced with toxic pesticides. Instead, choose organic grapes, strawberries, and imported plums.

Birth Defects

Babies conceived during the spring and summer months—a time of year when pesticide use is in full swing—face the highest risk of birth defects. During these months, higher pesticide levels turn up in surface waters, increasing a mother’s risk of exposure. Spina bifida, cleft lip, clubfoot, and Down syndrome rates are higher when moms become pregnant during high season for pesticides.

Prevent it: To protect yourself, use a water filter that is certified by NSF International to meet American National Standards Institute Standard 53 for VOC (volatile organic compound) reduction. This will significantly reduce levels of atrazine and other pesticides in your tap water.

via 7 Crazy Things Pesticides Are Doing to Your Body | Rodale News.

Free radicals and antioxidants – those terms everyone throws around…

So what are they?

Your body uses oxygen for numerous metabolic reactions, as well as part of your immune system. (Our bodies use them to attack bacteria and viruses. ) Sometimes when oxygen interacts with different compounds it can become a free radical.

A free radical is a molecule that has one or more unpaired electrons. So what? A molecule wants to have all of it’s orbitals filled – usually each atom in a molecule likes to have 8 electrons or it shares electrons with another atom in the molecule so it’s balanced. So if a molecule has only 7 electrons, it’s going to pull from somewhere else – from another molecule or atom that has a less strong hold on its electrons. Now the first one is stabilized, but the second one is out an electron or two and becomes a free radical. 

An antioxidant is a molecule that give up an electron but then reconfigures to a way that it’s still balanced and doesn’t become a free radical itself.

Free radicals attack fats in our cell membranes and damage our cell functioning. They can also alter DNA, RNA and proteins and increase inflammation. All of this has a big domino effect on the body.

Your body naturally defends against oxidants/free radicals by making enzymes out of the minerals selenium, copper, manganese and zinc. It also uses vitamins like E, beta-cartone and vitamin C. All of these are found in diets high in fruits and veggies.