Sunday, February 08, 2009

The on-again off-again HRT scare

Difficult to take these changes of mind seriously. Somehow there is no mention of long-term BENEFITS from HRT -- like fewer fractures, which can be extremely disabling. The point not mentioned below is that the apparent increases of cancer are off a very low base so the risk of women getting cancer while taking HRT is still very low. All medications have side-effects. If medications have no side-effects they don't have any main effects either. But we accept some risk in return for the benefits we also get

Women who stop taking combined hormone replacement therapy experience a rapid decline in the risk of breast cancer, a study into the menopause treatment has found. Researchers from Stanford University in California say the findings strengthen the hotly debated link between HRT and breast cancer, particularly in women who stay on the treatment for more than five years.

The results of the study, which involved more than 57,000 US women, mirrors the decline in breast cancer rates in Australian women over 50 since 2002. In that year, research showed women taking estrogen and progestin together had higher rates of breast cancer and heart disease. The study led to a sharp drop in HRT prescriptions in Australia, the US and Britain. Karen Canfell, an epidemiologist at the Cancer Council NSW, said breast cancer rates in Australia fell by 7 per cent from 2001 to 2003. "The good news is that this new study adds to the large body of evidence that when women stop taking HRT their risk of breast cancer quickly goes back to normal," Dr Canfell said.

The findings, published in the New England Journal Of Medicine, show that women who stay on the therapy for at least five years double their risk of developing cancer for every year that they are on the treatment. But stopping therapy quickly negated that risk, suggesting that hormone withdrawal led to a regression of preclinical cancers, researchers said.

Twelve months after participants in the women's health initiative trial stopped HRT treatment, breast cancer cases fell by 28 per cent. The percentage of patients who went for mammogram tests during that time remained stable, meaning that the fall in the number of cases was not because they were being missed by doctors, the researchers said.

Last year an international panel of experts said that using HRT was safe for most women going through menopause. Although combined forms of HRT may slightly increase the chances of breast cancer, the effect is dwarfed by other risk factors, such as obesity, diet and alcohol, the review from the First Global Summit on Menopause-Related Issues said.

Associate Professor Emily Banks, of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, said the large drop in HRT use meant about 600 fewer Australian women developed breast cancer every year. Dr Helen Zorbas, the chief executive of the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, said combined HRT should only be used as a short-term option for the control of severe menopausal symptoms. She said doctors should weigh up the risks before they prescribe HRT, used to ease the often debilitating symptoms of the menopause, which can include hot flushes, nausea and insomnia.


Is 'Green' Food Playing Catch-Me-If-You-Can?

Yesterday, a reader's letter in a Florida newspaper began: "With unemployment, food scares and demands on food banks all up, the time is now for an organic revolution." We've heard plenty of (bogus) claims that organic foods are healthier and better for the environment. But solving unemployment, perfecting our food safety system, and addressing food shortages? Sounds too good to be true… and it is.

It's hard to blame so many shoppers for turning their backs on organic foods in tougher economic times. As last month's California fertilizer scandal revealed, organic consumers can't even can't even be sure that what they're paying for is actually organic. Today in Toronto's National Post, an interview with author and former food inspector Mischa Popoff brought this home again.
"Any organic food comes to the market based completely on a self-regulating, honour-based audit trail," said Popoff. "My question is, how do you know anyone is organic? Even if they are doing the damn paperwork and paying the fee, there's no way of knowing. "

Popoff also highlighted a particular authenticity problem that we've mentioned in the past: Much of the food on our grocery shelves labeled "organic" is imported from China, where few if any organic regulations are enforced with any rigorous guarantees:
"The biggest issue is, if you look at China, only Chinese inspectors inspect the farms. You will never see a North American inspector get over there. Then you really have to wonder what's going on." In addition to more testing, Popoff also suggests that organic farms should introduce surprise inspections. But until those changes are made, the former food inspector calls the organic food industry "a big scam" and doesn't believe it's necessary to buy organic food.

Popoff isn't the first to point out that organic food is "a big scam," but his frank advice to consumers is a very promising sign. As more organic food inspectors join other experts, thrifty shoppers, and even some environmentalists in rejecting organic hype, the only "revolution" happening in this movement is one of transparency.


1 comment:

Mischa Popoff said...

Anyone who's tired of listening to government bureaucrats and food activists tell us what's best for us should read my book: "Is it Organic? The inside story of the organic industry"
Click here for more info:

Mischa Popoff, B.A. (Hons.) U. of S. and IOIA Advanced Organic Inspector