Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Play golf, live longer?

I hope the Karolinska report was more nuanced than what appears below. Cause and effect seem badly entangled. Maybe fit and healthy people are more likely to play golf

GOLFERS are never short of an excuse to take a few swings but a new study has given them a legitimate reason - golf prolongs your life. According to research from Europe's leading medical research institute, playing golf can add five years to a person's life. A study of 300,000 golfers revealed that they were 40 per cent less likely to die at any given age than those who did not play.

The study, by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, revealed the best players, as measured by handicaps, were the healthiest of all. Despite the lack of physical activity involved in golf, golfers who play a single round of 18 holes usually walk more than 6km. Golfers have a lower death rate regardless of sex, age and social group, the study found.

The effect is greater for blue-collar workers than for those from white-collar backgrounds. Professor Anders Ahlbom, who led the study, said while not all golfers had a healthy lifestyle, it is believed playing the game has a significant impact on health. "Maintaining a low handicap involves playing a lot, so it supports the idea that it is largely the game that is good for the health," he said.


Bone-building drug Zometa seems to fight breast cancer spread in younger women

A drug to prevent bone loss during breast cancer treatment also substantially cut the risk that the cancer would return, results that left doctors excited about a possible new way to fight the disease. It is the first large study to affirm wider anti-cancer hopes for Zometa and other bone-building drugs called bisphosphonates. Zometa, made by Novartis AG, is used now for cancers that have already spread to the bone.

The new study involved 1,800 premenopausal women taking hormone treatments for early-stage breast cancer. Zometa cut by one-third the chances that cancer would recur - in their bones or anywhere else. "This is an important finding. It may well change practice," said Dr. Claudine Isaacs, director of the clinical breast cancer program at Georgetown University's Lombardi Cancer Center. About three-fourths of breast cancers occur in women after menopause. Zometa may help them, too, but it hasn't been tested yet in that age group. The study was led by Dr. Michael Gnant of the Medical University of Vienna and reported Saturday at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago.

If a second, ongoing study also finds a benefit, doctors predict that Zometa will quickly be tested against other cancers that tend to spread, or metastasize, to bones, such as prostate and kidney cancer. "Hugely important is whether this has to do with the fact that it just makes the bone hostile, somehow, to metastasis or if there is a more global anti-metastasis effect," said the oncology group's president, Dr. Nancy Davidson of Johns Hopkins University. "Either of those would be good and would teach us a lot about what to do next."

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. About 184,450 cases and 40,930 deaths from the disease are expected in the United States this year. Standard treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone-blocking drugs if the tumors are like those in the study - helped to grow by estrogen or progesterone. The hormone-blockers often weaken bones, so bisphosphonates like the osteoporosis pill Fosamax have become increasingly popular to treat this side effect. However, using them to treat the cancer itself is a very different approach. Lab studies hinted it would work, and Gnant's is the first to test it in a large group of breast cancer patients.

All had surgery to remove their tumors and were taking hormone-blocking drugs - goserelin plus either tamoxifen or anastrozole - treatments that made them menopausal. Half also were given infusions of Zometa once every six months. The women were treated for three years and studied for two more. By then, only 6 percent of those given Zometa had suffered a relapse or died, compared to 9 percent of the others. That translated to a 36 percent decline in risk. Sixteen women given Zometa died versus 26 of the others - a difference that could have occurred by chance alone but an encouraging trend that doctors hope will mean better survival as the groups are followed for a longer time.

There were no big differences in serious side effects, though minor ones like fever and bone and joint pain were more common among women given Zometa. Two percent of all study participants developed a rapid heartbeat, but only three were hospitalized - two on Zometa and one of the others.

The study was sponsored by Zometa's maker, Swiss-based Novartis, and British-based AstraZeneca PLC, which makes Arimidex, the brand name of anastrozole. Gnant consults for the companies and several other breast cancer drugmakers. With doctor fees for the infusion, a Zometa treatment can run more than $1,200. The other large study is testing it in 3,360 pre- and postmenopausal women with cancer that has spread but not extensively.

Experts stressed that the results so far are only in women who were made menopausal by hormone-blocking treatments - not women who develop breast cancer after natural menopause. For now, using Zometa to prevent breast cancer recurrence should be confined to those who develop breast cancer before menopause, said Dr. Eric Winer of Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston. "This is a treatment that doctors should talk to a patient about" because of these encouraging new results, Winer said.

In other news at the conference, women with advanced breast cancers who were given Avastin plus Taxotere were a little less likely to have their cancers progress than women given Taxotere alone. However, side effects including high blood pressure were more common for those taking both drugs. Taxotere treatment is more common in Europe and Asia; in the United States, doctors are more likely to use Taxol.

In the study of 736 women, 44 percent of those given just Taxotere had their tumors shrink versus 55 percent of those also given a lower dose of Avastin and 63 percent of those given a higher dose.

Avastin, marketed by California-based Genentech and Swiss-based Roche Holding AG, recently won federal approval for breast cancer - against the recommendations of outside advisers. The approval was based on measurements like those in this study - cancer progression, rather than overall survival. The new study was too short to show any differences in survival.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On golfing on John Ray's death-blog (adult-onset schizophrenia alert):

"The effect is greater for blue-collar workers than for those from white-collar backgrounds."

Stress hormones are very unhealthy for mammals, especially in Man, the ultimate social animal, where it is often the case that stress is due to RELATIVE SOCIAL STATUS deficiency. Suffering a hit in social status (the imagined amount of envy and attention you receive for how you live your life) causes stress hormones to skyrocket, which causes the immune and digestive system to shut down. Chronic stress is very bad. Cyclic stress can be good.

Golf is relatively lame for corporate workers since *anybody* in their social class has the time and money (and in some private clubs...invitations). But for a manual labor type of job, which is what I understand "blue collar" means in a near literal sense of wearing a janitorial or physical repair shop or assembly line job type of button-up shirt, golf is indeed a high status luxury.

A single high tech golf club can cost over a thousand US dollars and was likely designed via supercomputer. Unlike team sports, which, for our subconscious emulates a killing field of bayonets, golf subconsciously emulates aristocratic sports such as fox hunting or sport dueling in which only one or two people at a time are witnessed by many others, showing INDIVIDUAL instead of team skill. Martial arts matches serve the same function in the East (bones are not broken despite the skill to do so). Bullfighting comes to mind.

Western boxing also comes to mind as an exception that proves the rule, in that it really does cause physical trauma to the brain and requires very little white collar type of finely oiled guns or cold steely nerves.

It's funny how the article says they controlled for the undefined term "social group" but then in the next sentence mentions social group as a major effect.

Finally, golf feeds our subconscious the message that we are land owners in the extreme, so at night we dream that the golf course is part of our aristocratic estate.

The other fact is that 90%+ of golfers are men, and that their lovers usually spend "golf day" at luxury spas, literally treated like queens with the same age old "ground pearls mixed in lotion" body treatments.

Times change, but people don't. Golf and skin grooming salons (for the ladies) are just the latest incarnations of the age old fact that WASTING TIME is a high status pursuit. Besides status stories on your tongue, why would you want a dead fox inoculated with ass-licking dog spit?

John, you oft mention social class or socioeconomic factors and such things as being ignored, but just as often fail to make to link to your own field of conscious psychology to that of physiology, via the hormonal system. You also do not mention the very well-known (popular psychological cocktail party knowledge-base) of the upward vs. downward spiral effect, in this case, of golf, cause and effect are not static, but are more like a butterfly's effect on chaotic weather systems.

For that matter, you ignore to either confront (nor debunk as important) the simple idea of Free Will. I know that's asking a lot, for you are not a Jesus, Aristotle, or Nietzsche. But as a mature financially independent psychologist, YES YOU ARE, and a populist too. Snickering at idiot scientists who suffer from constipation and funding starvation if they fail to publish headline grabbing crap is and easy crap shoot.

Hey, that's the answer. Digestion. Good sports literally add gravitational oscillations to the otherwise sluggish organs below our collar, while turning off our stress hormones.

Alas, status (and thus stress) is relative to OTHERS, not absolute, so, since we have little time to evolve beyond the instincts of our ice age ancestors, as overall wealth or IQ increase, perversions of our formerly healthy instincts continue: punitive taxes, mass rallies, obsession with manufactured novelty, junk science, bad art, psychotic religion, great men dying in poverty, as tears upon tears fill oceans. Purple, green, ultraviolet oceans, which boil and freeze at the same time, as Man creates not God in his own image, but the Devil.

Some *very* bad things are going to happen. No century has ever escaped fate.

Back to golf. What if we suddenly *could* control the weather and engineers put that thermostat knob on the wall. The wars waged to own that wall would go on forever, for money (status) would be involved, and thus access to fun sexy women (odd that nobody ever questions this oddity in women to feel sexual revulsion towards average men). In a world gone to hell, what do you do? Philosophy being the theory of right living, what might it offer? A golf course.

Don't you see? They already came for our SUVs, cooked food, and pesticides. But when they try to outlaw pesticides for golf courses, two-cycle engine (cheap) lawn mowers, land-ownership of treeless, swampless acres, then "they" will be killed, not at first with outlawed guns in police state centers, but titanium surfaced, depleted uranium cored golf clubs that shoot projectile balls as far as a crossbow.

They ended fox hunting, by letter of law.

* * *

But when they come for golf, skulls will be smashed. The blue collar golfers who also happen to own millions of guns, who, unlike the white collar noosed ones, who will cause the revolution. This will coincide with robotic advances that start to threaten blue collars in favor of silver ones. Future History only comes to me in flashes, but somehow the Chinese/Islamic war comes out greatly in favor of the ones with almost twice the IQ of the other and has a tradition of ... I lost it ... the vision is gone. Damn. It was *so* clear, but so many things I saw did not register. A mind/body/computer thing. Nothing like neural implants, but something like a new type of computer which somehow relates to free will, or finally gives it to us, or takes it away at the same time. We do not design it. It evolves, then we with it, but then we are not we any more. For the first time ever, things *do* change, deep in the brain instead of just in society.

I remember now. Engineering overtakes science, exponentially. Things happen and objects are designed that are no longer, BY DEFINITION, understandable, because some infinities are bigger than others. Gödel and Darwin trump Einstein. Fifty fifty one twenty five. Five and dime and numbers speak, but they are shapes in dimensions known not, alive but not living (only seeds), but are eternal except that they have used *us* to somehow change our mutual experience of time. I know one thing. No religion or philosophy ever expected the way in which time changed. It was numbers all along. Entropy measurement (how many ways to achieve a macroscopic state) is dead wrong. Statistics was replaced by deterministic infinities.

Indeterminate theory was found when numbers blew up in settled equations. That which is engineerable (such as the human brain via natural selection) is BY DEFINITION not functionally understandable, for if it was, it would not function, in time, would not be what we currently call "alive" or even exist at all. If it was UNDERSTANDABLE it would lack Free Will. That the universe is made of numbers is no metaphor, but numbers must be at war with each other, each infinity growing bigger than the other, each moment, by one number, each, or several, and THAT creates time (!).

It takes three points to define space on a plane. But there is no such THING as a circle which never STOP (in time) settling down, only a few seconds until they are beyond the tiny size of atoms, mice and men, as the triangle sits and waits, forever, for the digits of "pi" to stop plucking and eating chickens, or playing golf.