Monday, April 29, 2013

Two cups of coffee a day HALVES the risk of breast cancer returning by boosting the effect of medication (?)

The research description below is very poor and the decription here is not much better, so it is hard to make anything of the report, but it appears to be a correlational study of some sort and hence no basis for causal inferences.  Why some Swedes do NOT drink coffee would need to be established. I understand that Swedes in general are very heavy coffee drinkers

Combined with the anti-cancer drug tamoxifen, coffee could halve the rate of recurrence of breast cancer, scientists have discovered.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden believe that coffee actually boosts the effect of the drug.

They looked at 600 breast cancer patients from southern Sweden over a five year period.  About 300 of them took tamoxifen - a drug commonly prescribed after breast cancer surgery.

Many breast cancers rely on the female sex hormone oestrogen to grow.

Hormone-positive breast cancer cells have proteins which oestrogen attaches too.  When it comes into contact with these proteins it fits into them and stimulates the cancer cells to divide so that the tumour grows.  Tamoxifen works by fitting into the oestrogen receptors and blocking the hormone from reaching the cancer cells.

This means the tumour either grows more slowly or stops growing altogether.

Maria Simonsson, a doctoral student in Oncology at Lund University said: ‘Patients who took the pill, along with two or more cups of coffee daily, reported less than half the rate of cancer recurrence, compared with their non-coffee drinking, tamoxifen-taking counterparts.

‘How coffee interacts with the treatment, however, isn't immediately known.  ‘One theory we are working with is that coffee “activates” tamoxifen and makes it more efficient.’

The Lund University researchers have previously linked coffee consumption to a decreased risk of developing certain types of breast cancer.

Caffeine has also been shown to hamper the growth of cancer cells. The latest observational study involving coffee's role in cancer prevention and treatment underlines the need for more research, according to the team.

Helena Jernstrom, Associate Professor of Experimental Oncology at Lund University added: ‘We would like to know more about how lifestyle can interact with breast cancer treatment.’

This is not the first study to link coffee consumption with improved cancer prognosis.  Scientists at Harvard Medical School have found that women who drink three or more cups of coffee a day have a 20 per cent lower risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer compared to those who had less than one cup per month.

They also found that men who drank the same amount saw a nine per cent lower risk of the skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma.


Could GUT bacteria be responsible for thousands of heart attacks each year?

Interesting but with no obvious applications.  Taking antibiotics all the time would just develop resistance

Gut bacteria may be responsible for thousands of heart attacks - particularly in people who have no obvious risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol.

Scientists have discovered that certain gut flora turn a nutrient found in egg yolks, liver, beef, pork, pork and wheatgerm into the compound Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).  TMAO makes blood cholesterol build up on artery walls, causing hardening of the arteries.

If this buildup breaks away and blocks an artery, it usually results in a stroke or heart attack.

The new study built on a 2011 research on lab mice.

Carried out by the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, scientists asked 40 healthy adults to eat two hard-boiled eggs, which are rich in a fatty substance called lecithin.

After eating the eggs, the blood levels of TMAO became raised.

But if participants took antibiotics - which kill bacteria in the gut - before eating the eggs, their TMAO levels were suppressed, the researchers found.

'This showed that intestinal bacteria are essential for forming TMAO,' Dr. Stanley Hazen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Reuters.

Next, to see whether TMAO predicts cardiovascular events, the researchers measured its levels in 4,007 heart patients.

After taking age and a past heart attacks into account, they found that high levels of TMAO were predictive of heart attack, stroke and death over the three years that the patients were followed.

Participants who had a heart attack, stroke or died during the study had higher than average TMAO levels than those who didn't.

In fact, those who possessed the highest TMAO levels had more than twice the risk of a heart attack or stroke compared to people in the bottom quartile.

And even people with high TMAO levels and no cardiovascular risk factors were 1.8 times more likely to experience a cardiovascular event than those with low levels.

The findings suggest TMAO could serve as a marker for predicting heart disease although more studies are required to confirm the link, said the paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

If the findings are confirmed, it is hoped that researchers will be able to develop a drug that blocks the production of TMAO.

Earlier this month, the same researchers published a study that found a link between consumption of a chemical called carnitine, which is found in red meat, and a risk of heart disease.

Carnitine is also converted by bacteria to TMAO.

The study joins a growing list of findings that link microbes in the gut, nose and genital tract, and on the skin to health and disease.

Research has shown that certain species of gut bacteria protect against asthma while others affect the risk of obesity.

Last week scientists reported that circumcision alters bacteria in the penis, and that this helps protect men from sexually transmitted disease.


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