Monday, January 07, 2008

A pesky bowel cancer gene

Pilgrims who sailed from England to America around 1630 appear to be the ancestors of hundreds of people that are today at risk for a hereditary form of colon cancer, according to genetic detectives. The married couple introduced to America a "founder mutation" - a DNA fault that has been traced back to a common ancestor - which may contribute to a significant percentage of colon cancer cases today in the United States.

Researchers from Huntsman Cancer Institute at The University of Utah publish the evidence in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. based on a study of two large families, one in Utah and one in New York, that both carry a specific genetic mutation responsible for increased risk of colorectal cancer. The two families share common ancestors-a couple who came to America from England in the 1630s, about the time of the Pilgrims. "The fact that this mutation can be traced so far back in time suggests that it could be carried by many more families in the United States than is currently known," says Dr Deborah Neklason, leader of the study. Indeed, the report shows 13 additional American families with the identical genetic change who are likely to be related. "In fact, this founder mutation might be related to many colon cancer cases in the United States."

There was also report of the mutation in a German registry and, given this individual had a sibling with the same condition in America, once again they seem to be part of this American family. "So, at this point, we hypothesize that all individuals with this mutation link back to this American founder," says Dr Neklason.

The mutation causes a condition called attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis. Without proper medical care, people with the mutation have a greater than 2 in 3 risk of colon cancer by age 80, compared to about 1 in 24 for the general population. Yet the cancer can be prevented with proper screening and care.

Dr Ian Tomlinson, Molecular and Population Genetics Laboratory, London Research Institute, Cancer Research UK has not observed this specific mutation in English patients today, suggesting that the couple that immigrated to America around 1630 were indeed the founders of the genetic change and that, if any British relatives had the mutation it may have helped to extinguish that line. The results "are very interesting," he commented.


Hospitals serving junk food

This attack is crazy. People are not in hospital long-term. The important thing for hospital food is for it to be appetizing -- so that patients will eat it and keep their strength up

ARTERY-clogging junk food [Pure ignorance speaking there. Careful research has found NO EFFECT of dietary fat intake on cardiovascular disease] is widely available at hospitals across the state and Queensland Health has no plans to ban it. Despite implementing some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the country, Queensland Health says it will not follow the lead of Western Australia, which last week moved to rid its hospitals of all unhealthy foods.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, admitted serving up food with a low nutritional value at health-care facilities was sending the public the "wrong message". "It is about everything in moderation," Dr Young said. "The problem is we need to provide more alternatives (to calorie-dense, less nutritional foods)."

Under the WA initiative, all unhealthy food and drinks must be removed from hospital and clinic cafeterias and vending machines by January 1 next year. But there are no rules on what food can be sold at Queensland hospitals and some serve up exactly the kinds of food they warn their patients to avoid. Prince Charles Hospital, for example, is one of the top specialist coronary-care facilities in the country - but just 100m from the doors to the cardiac-care unit are artery-clogging snack foods sitting under heat lamps waiting to be eaten, The Sunday Mail discovered last week. Hot chips, burgers, chicken, pizza, various fried snacks and hot dogs were just a few items on the menu at the hospital's Breeze Cafe. A plated meal bought from there featuring a hamburger and fried chips carried hundreds of calories and levels of dangerous saturated fats far in excess of the recommended daily intake.

Ironically, the cafe raises money for medical research, including coronary care. It was a similar story at food outlets and vending machines at other Brisbane hospitals, including the Mater, Princess Alexandra, Prince Charles and the Royal Brisbane and Women's. While all had a healthy option on their menus, the fare on offer is dominated by fried foods and sugary snacks.

Dr Linda Selvey, population health senior director for Queensland Health, said the department would monitor the WA initiative, but would leave the Queensland public to make their own food choices. "Queensland Health has, at this stage, chosen to use a colour-code system as we believe that when Queenslanders are given access to healthy foods, they have shown they can make the correct choices," she said. Under the Queensland plan, all private, commercially-run food outlets in facilities operated by Queensland Health will be required to comply with the department's Better Choice strategy.

Greg Johnson of Diabetes Australia is surprised more is not being done to reduce the availability of unhealthy foods, particularly as it had been proven that obesity is a main factor in Type 2 diabetes. He said 60 per cent of adults and 30 per cent of children and adolescents in Australia were overweight or obese. "We're not a lucky country of healthy athletes," he said.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correlation coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic conditions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his analysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.

"What we should be doing is monitoring children from birth so we can detect any deviations from the norm at an early stage and action can be taken". Who said that? Joe Stalin? Adolf Hitler? Orwell's "Big Brother"? The Spanish Inquisition? Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde? None of those. It was Dr Colin Waine, chairman of Britain's National Obesity Forum. What a fine fellow!


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