Saturday, June 14, 2008

Peking duck is 'better for your heart than statins'

Hard to tell if this was double blind. Colour me skeptical. The Abstract is here. Note also that this is a study of people who had already had attacks. The results may not generalize to others

The ingredient used to colour Peking duck can cut the risk of dying from heart disease by a third and cancer by two-thirds, scientists say. Researchers looking at red yeast rice said the benefits of the Chinese food colouring even seemed to outstrip those of statins - the much vaunted cholesterol-lowering drugs. Describing the effects as ' profound', they said extract of the fermented rice could play an important part in improving heart health.

Taking the supplements also nearly halves the risk of a second heart attack and reduces the odds of cardiac surgery, they found. The rice is fermented with the red yeast Monascus purpureus. It has been used in China for thousands of years as a food preservative, colourant and seasoning, and herbal medicine.

For the study, scientists tracked heart attack survivors at more than 60 hospitals in China. They focused mainly on heart disease, but cancer deaths were also recorded. Each day, patients took capsules of a partially purified extract of the red yeast rice preparation Xuezhikang - XZK - or an inactive dummy supplement. Researchers compared the progress of the groups over five years. To their surprise, they found taking the supplements cut the odds of death from heart problems and cancer. Those taking part experienced few side-effects from the supplements, the American Journal Of Cardiology reports.

Researcher Dr David Capuzzi, of Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, said the effects could not be explained by the 'statin' content of the extract alone. 'My hope is that XZK becomes an important therapeutic agent to treat cardiovascular disorders and in the prevention of disease whether someone has had a heart attack or not,' he added.

The researchers do not yet know how the extract works. And they cautioned against self-medication, saying supplements available at health food stores were an unknown quantity.


Breast cancer victims have normal lifespan - if it is detected early enough

Women whose breast cancers are detected early live as long as those who never developed the disease, a new audit has shown. The findings will come as a huge boost to the more than 60 per cent of women whose cancers are detected when small and before they have spread to the lymph nodes. The new audit, by the Association of Breast Surgery and the NHS Breast Screening Programme, traced the outcomes for women with breast cancer diagnosed in 1990-91 and 2000-01.

Women in the first group whose prognosis at the time of detection was classified as "excellent" showed the same life expectancy as women of the same age who had never had cancer. This was also true for the second group of women whose prognosis was "good". The two categories include 61 per cent of cancers detected through screening.

The audit also showed that survival rates are also improving for women with more aggressive types of breast cancer. Overall, 15-year survival stands at 86 per cent for women with a screen-detected invasive breast cancer in England, Wales and Northern Ire-land. But not all breast cancers are screen-detected. About two thirds are found in other ways, either because they appear during the intervals between screenings and produce symptoms, or because they occur in women who fall outside the age groups routinely screened. Screening is to be extended to include women aged between 47 and 73 by 2012. This means that an extra 400,000 women a year will be screened and an increased proportion of cancers detected.

Martin Lee, president of the Association of Breast Surgery, said: "It is vital that women are aware of the excellent survival now achieved for breast cancers diagnosed through screening and they should be confident in the quality of the service they receive. I would encourage all women who are invited to be screened to attend. Any woman who has previously ignored an invitation to breast screening should contact her local unit."

Professor Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Breast Screening Programme, said that this year marked the twentieth anniversary of the introduction of breast screening in England. "Huge strides have been made over the past two decades and more women than ever before are surviving breast cancer, many of whom have benefited from early detection through routine breast screening," she said.

Gill Lawrence, director of the West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit, which coordinates the audit, said that over the past 12 years it had mapped improvements in the quality of the screening programme. "The data clearly demonstrate significant improvements in the quality of the service women receive, from the reduction in the number of women requiring surgery to obtain a definitive diagnosis of breast cancer, to an increase in the proportion of cancers that are diagnosed through screening" she said.


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