Monday, September 21, 2009

HRT ‘increases risk of dying from lung cancer’

This is just another epidemiological correlation of unknown causation or implication. That it is a statistical freak is suggested by the fact that taking HRT did NOT increase the number who got lung cancer

Lung cancer is likely to be fatal in women who undergo HRT, according to new statistics. Women who take controversial hormone replacement therapy drugs to combat symptoms of the menopause could be more likely to die if they develop lung cancer. An eight-year study of 16,600 women found the disease was 71 per cent more likely to be fatal in women taking HRT compared with those taking a placebo pill. This was the case even though there was not a significant increase in the number of women taking HRT who developed lung cancer.

About 20 per cent of women take HRT drugs, which boost levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone and help combat hot flushes, insomnia and palpitations. However, there are already fears over their safety. Previous studies have linked the pills with some increase in the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, strokes and heart problems.

Leading cancer specialists said the latest study was ‘plausible’ because oestrogen could increase blood flow to tumours, so preventing cancer treatments from working as effectively.

The authors of the US study, which is being published in British medical journal The Lancet, said: ‘Findings should be incorporated into risk/benefit discussions with women considering combined hormone therapy, especially those with a high risk of lung cancer... such as current smokers or long-term past smokers.’

The risk of dying from lung cancer was greatest for women taking HRT aged 60 to 79. There was no increased mortality risk for women aged 50 to 59.

Dr Apar Kishor Ganti, of the University of Nebraska, said: ‘These results seriously question whether hormone-replacement therapy has any role in medicine today.’

But UK cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora said: ‘It’s not conclusive. Women still need HRT and they like it because it makes them look and feel better. There isn’t currently an alternative, so they shouldn’t stop taking it and doctors shouldn’t stop giving it out.’


SF Mayor wants to charge stores that sell sodas

Calling soda the new tobacco, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will introduce legislation this fall that would charge a fee to retailers that sell sugary beverages. Newsom would need voter approval to tax individual cans of soda and sugary juice, but only needs approval from the Board of Supervisors to levy a fee on retailers. His legislation would charge grocery stores like Safeway and big-box stores, but would not affect restaurants that serve sodas.

Newsom wouldn't say how much the stores would have to pay or how the city would spend the fees. When he first floated the idea in 2007, he said the money would go to his Shape Up San Francisco exercise program and for media campaigns to discourage soda drinking.

The mayor said the city attorney's office has warned him the city would probably be sued over the matter, but he said it is worth the risk to try to curb a leading cause of obesity and diabetes. "We know we'll be sued," he said. "But I really believe this is important to do."

Newsom said he was particularly motivated to move forward with the legislation by Thursday's release of a UCLA study showing a link between soda and obesity in California. Researchers found that adults who drink at least one soft drink a day are 27 percent more likely to be obese than those who don't - and that soda consumption is fueling the state's $41 billion annual obesity problem. The study also found that 41 percent of children and 62 percent of teens drink at least one soda daily.

"Soda is cheap, sweet and irresistibly marketed to teens," said Susan Babey, the study's lead author. "Not enough teens know about the health and dietary risks of drinking huge quantities of what is essentially liquid sugar." San Francisco would be the first city in the country to levy a fee on soda if, as expected, it is approved by the board. A handful of states, including Arkansas and Missouri, tax sodas, and California has considered the idea in the past. A soda tax has also come up in the national debate about health care reform as one way to help pay to insure more people.

The American Beverage Association has consistently fought attempts to implement soda taxes, and on Thursday released a statement combatting UCLA's study. It read in part, "If our goal is to address obesity, then educating consumers about the importance of balancing calories consumed from all foods and beverages with the calories expended through physical activity is what matters - not demonizing any one particular food."

In San Francisco, a soda tax would be just the most recent example of a long line of legislation intended to improve residents' health - a pattern some residents have complained smacks of a nanny state. In recent years, city officials have banned the sale of cigarettes in pharmacies, added a fee to packs of cigarettes, required chain restaurants to display calories and fat content on menus, and created a program to recognize restaurants that don't serve trans fats.

Jim Lazarus, vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said the group opposes the soda tax. "Does this mean there's a fee on candy bars, on ice cream, on potato chips?" he asked. "Where do you draw the line?" He added that a small fee - likely to be passed on from the retailer to the consumer - wouldn't be enough to dramatically change people's habits, leading him to believe it's meant to be just another revenue source for the city.

Mitch Katz, director of the city's Department of Public Health, said a study conducted over the past nine months shows a clear link between soda consumption and an increased burden on the public health system. He did not have a total dollar figure. He said he considers a soda fee an incremental step, and that other sugary foods could someday have a surcharge as well. "It makes sense for the government to help people to make the right choices, and it makes sense to use dollars from charges on sweetened beverages on health programs," he said.


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