Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Drinking coffee lowers risk of most common skin cancer

Proper caution about making inferences from this data is expressed below. It should be stressed that minimal sun exposure is the best way to avoid BCCs

A cup of coffee a day can help keep skin cancer at bay, according to a new study.  Researchers found increasing the number of cups of caffeinated coffee you drink could lower your risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma.

Doctor Jiali Han, associate professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in the United States, said: 'Our data indicate that the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.

'I would not recommend increasing your coffee intake based on these data alone.

'However, our results add basal cell carcinoma to a list of conditions for which risk is decreased with increasing coffee consumption. This list includes conditions with serious negative health consequences such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's disease.'

Even though basal cell carcinoma is slow-growing, it causes considerable illness and places a burden on health care systems.   There are an estimated 80,000 new cases in the UK every year.

Dr Han said: 'Given the large number of newly diagnosed cases, daily dietary changes having any protective effect may have an impact on public health.'

Dr Han and his colleagues analysed data from the Nurses' Health Study, a large and long-running study to aid in the investigation of factors influencing women's health, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a study of men.

Of the 112,897 participants included in the analyses, 22,786 developed basal cell carcinoma during the more than 20 years of the two studies. An inverse association was observed between all coffee consumption and risk of basal cell carcinoma.

Similarly, an inverse association was seen between intake of caffeine from all dietary sources - coffee, tea, cola and chocolate - and risk of basal cell carcinoma.

However, consumption of decaffeinated coffee was not associated with a decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma.

Dr Han said: 'These results really suggest that it is the caffeine in coffee that is responsible for the decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma associated with increasing coffee consumption.  'This would be consistent with published mouse data, which indicate caffeine can block skin tumour formation.

'However, more studies in different population cohorts and additional mechanistic studies will be needed before we can say this definitively.'

In contrast to the findings for basal cell carcinoma, neither coffee consumption nor caffeine intake were inversely associated with the two other forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most deadly form of the disease.

Only 1,953 cases of squamous cell carcinoma and 741 cases of melanoma were recorded among the 112,897 participants included in Han's analyses.

Dr Han added: 'It is possible that these numbers are insufficient for any association with coffee consumption to be seen.

'As the study participants are followed for a longer time, the number of cases of these conditions is likely to increase. We may be in a position in 10 years' time to better address this issue.'

The findings were published in the journal Cancer Research.


Hot needle that spares men from impotence by destroying cancer cells

Sounds hopeful

Doctors are using a hot needle to ‘cook’ prostate cancer.  The device, which is placed against the diseased prostate gland, uses high temperatures to destroy cancer cells, but leaves the healthy surrounding tissue untouched.

Surgeons say that the fine needle, which is no more than 2mm across, allows them to destroy only the part of the prostate that is diseased, and reduces the risk of side-effects such as impotence and incontinence.

They are now trialling the technique, which has been used previously to treat breast and kidney tumours, on 60 men with early-stage prostate cancer.

This is the most common male cancer, accounting for one in four of all tumours diagnosed in men.

In the UK, there are more than 40,000 cases a year and 10,000 deaths.

There are a number of different treatments, depending upon whether the cancer is contained within the gland, or has spread just outside the prostate or to other parts of the body.

For localised cancers, treatments include watchful waiting (also known as ‘active surveillance’), where doctors closely monitor the development of a tumour, or removal of the gland in a procedure called a radical prostatectomy.

While treatments can be highly effective, there is a risk of  side-effects due to nerves being damaged during the procedure.   Because of this, there is increasing interest in so-called focused therapies that use high-energy waves to destroy the cancer.

One technique that is increasingly used is high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), which uses soundwaves to destroy the cancer.

Another technique is radio-frequency ablation, which uses a type of electric current that generates heat at the end of a needle-like electrode.  This is placed into the tumour and destroys the tissue around the tip of the device.

Scientists believe that this technique can be used to treat more people than high-intensity focused ultrasound.

Professor Raj Persad, urological surgeon at the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Bristol Urological Institute, explains this is because the energy used in high-intensity focused ultrasound is weaker than that used in radio-frequency ablation.

This means ultrasound cannot treat large prostates (because the beam will not penetrate deep enough); it also can’t be used on men who have prostate stones — hard calcium deposits common in older men.

This is because the beam will be blocked — ‘even worse it can be reflected back towards the rectum, causing potential harm to the tissue,’ says Professor Persad.

Radio-frequency ablation does not have these complications, and is now being used in a trial at the Lee Moffitt Cancer Centre and Research Institute in the U.S.

Doctors will perform the procedure on 60 men with early-stage prostate cancer that has not spread outside the gland.

Under general anaesthetic the needle will be inserted through the perineum (the area between the scrotum and the bottom) and doctors will use imaging such as CT scans or MRI to guide the needle into place.

During the hour-long operation the device delivers a blast of electricity at a power of around 20 watts (an electric shaver uses around 50 watts of power).

After six months, the doctors will evaluate the patients’ side-effects, including incontinence, bowel function and impotence.

Commenting on the research, Professor Persad says: ‘This is an interesting trial, and is part of the sea-change in the philosophy of prostate cancer treatment.

‘It represents an attempt to treat only the portion of the  gland involved with cancer and avoid unnecessary damage to surrounding structures, which is a risk with “whole gland treatment” such as radical prostatectomy or radical radiotherapy.’

But he cautions neither approach can be used for advanced disease. ‘Not all tumours can be treated in this way — extremely aggressive or high-risk prostate tumours are not suitable for this technique.’


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