Monday, August 09, 2010

Western lifestyle 'to blame for soaring breast cancer rates'

So Brits should live like East Africans? I sincerely hope not. Again the conclusions below are naive speculation and very much what one expects from the sensationalist WCRF. There are known to be racial differences between blacks and whites other than the obvious ones. Blacks get more heart disease, for instance and are helped by the heart medication Bidil which does nothing for whites. So the observed differences could just as well be genetic as anything else. Note the role of genetics in the report immediately following the one below.

It is also not clear that the WCRF controlled for age. Westerners live longer and age is a major factor in cancer onset. See also the rubric below. To be even minimally persuasive, comparisons would have to be made between populations with similar lifespans, a similar level of diagnostic services and similar reporting systems. That's way too hard for the WCRF

Britian's high number of breast cancer cases is being fuelled by the Western lifestyle that encourages women to over-eat, drink too much and exercise too little, say new figures [Figures don't SAY anything. They need interpretation] They show the breast cancer rate in this country is more than four times higher than in eastern Africa, which has the lowest in the world.

Other parts of the world also have far fewer cases of breast cancer, with rates only half as high in South America and two-thirds lower in parts of Asia.

But this means the disease is not ‘inevitable’ for British women, who can cut the risk by taking action to prevent it, claims the World Cancer Research Fund.

The charity analysed the latest international cancer statistics which show 87.9 women per 100,000 in the UK were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. The figure puts Britain in ninth place among high-income countries. This compares with just 19.3 women per 100,000 in eastern Africa, which includes Kenya and Tanzania, at the bottom of low-income nations.

The highest rates of breast cancer in the world are in Belgium, which had 109.4 cases per 100,000 women in 2008. In second place is France with 99.7 cases, according to data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Experts say some of the disparity between wealthy and poor countries comes from better record-keeping and diagnosis.

But WCRF warns that lifestyle is an important reason for the difference between high-income nations such as Britain and low-income countries.

Around 45,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed a year in the UK. Scientists estimate four out of every ten breast cancer cases in this country, more than 18,000 cases a year, could be prevented through women maintaining a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol and being more physically active.

Breast-feeding babies is also an important factor in helping cut the chance of developing the disease, which kills around 12,000 women annually in Britain. Women in eastern Africa drink much less alcohol than women in the UK and obesity levels are much lower, while breast-feeding rates are much higher.

Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science for WCRF, said: ‘The fact that breast cancer rates in eastern Africa are so much lower than in the UK is a stark reminder that every year in this country, thousands of women are diagnosed with cancer that could have been prevented.

‘That such a large difference in breast cancer rates exists is a real concern. Also, it is not just eastern Africa that has significantly lower breast cancer rates. ‘The rate here is double that of South America, for example, and three times that of eastern Asia.

‘The fact that rates of breast cancer are much lower in other parts of the world highlights the fact that breast cancer is not inevitable. ‘This means we need to do more to get across the message that just by making simple changes to lifestyle, such as drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight, women can reduce their risk.’

Women who are heavily overweight run a higher risk of developing the disease, probably through changes in sex hormone levels triggered by weight gain.

The charity also recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and, if alcohol is drunk at all, it is limited to one drink a day.

Studies show drinking just one large glass of wine a day increases the chances of developing breast cancer by a fifth, possibly by raising levels of the sex hormone oestrogen. [And some studies show that moderate drinking reduces your risk of heart disease!]

However, the biggest risk factor is increasing age, with four out of five breast cancers diagnosed in the UK occurring in women aged over 50.

Dr Thompson said a healthy lifestyle did not just decrease the chances of getting breast cancer, but was also linked to other forms of the disease such as bowel cancer. ‘Scientists estimate that about a third of the most common cancers in the UK could be prevented just through eating healthily, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight,’ she added.

Dr Caitlin Palframan, policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘It is difficult directly to compare these two populations side by side as it is likely that many breast cancer cases in eastern Africa are not diagnosed or recorded.

‘Breast cancer is thought to be due to a combination of lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors and many of these may differ between the UK and other populations. ‘Although some risk factors cannot be changed, women can reduce their risk by drinking less alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly.'


New hope for meningitis vaccine

DOCTORS discovered a possible breakthrough in finding a vaccine for the deadliest strain of meningitis. Sky News said research teams in London and Singapore have identified certain human genes behind the infection, which could lead to vital clues on how best to treat it.

Currently there is no vaccine for the Group B strain which each year claims thousands of lives around the world.

Scientists scoured the genetic codes of more than 6000 people for clues as to why certain individuals are more vulnerable to attacks by meningococcal meningitis than others. They found evidence that genetics plays a key role in the way the body responds to the infection.

Most people can carry the bacteria in their throat without ever succumbing to the disease. But occasionally, the infection strikes with devastating force, leading to death in up to 10 per cent of cases. Around 1500 cases of bacterial meningitis are recorded in the UK each year. Most victims are children under five and teenagers.

Although people can be immunised against some types of meningococcal bacteria, scientists have been unable to develop a vaccine against the Group B strain.

Consultant pediatrician Dr Simon Nadel, of Imperial College, London, told Sky News, "This is a significant breakthrough because for the first time we've identified genes that are important in determining how susceptible we are to infection with this bacteria.” "And it could mean that the proteins we've identified could be used to develop a vaccine to protect us against all the different types of meningitis bacteria."


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