Monday, May 09, 2011

Healthier lifestyle ‘could save 20,000 from breast cancer’ (?)

I knew as soon as I saw the headline that this would be another emission of bullsh*t from the WCRF. They are notorious for this stuff. It is just a fundraiser for them -- based on dubious epidemiological assumptions and selective attention to the evidence

Almost 20,000 breast cancer cases could be avoided every year in Britain if women drank less alcohol, improved their diets and exercised more, experts claim. The World Cancer Research Fund said about two in five cases would be prevented if people adopted healthier lifestyles.

Studies show being more physically active, reducing alcohol consumption and keeping to a healthy weight can minimise the risk of developing the disease.

More than one in five British women is classified as obese, and research has found those affected are almost 50 per cent more likely to die from breast cancer than women carrying less weight. [This is a straight-out deception. Some big studies show that fat women get LESS breast cancer. See also here and here] It is unclear exactly why larger women are more prone to the disease. Changes in sex-hormone levels triggered by weight gain may be behind oestrogen-dependent tumours, which form the majority of cases.

Drinking just one large glass of wine a day also increases the chance of developing breast cancer by a fifth, say experts. Again, the exact reason is unclear but it is thought alcohol raises levels of oestrogen in the body.

Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science at the WCRF, said: ‘We still have a long way to go to raise awareness about what women can do. ‘It is very worrying that in the UK there are tens of thousands of cases of breast cancer which could be prevented every year. People can do a lot to reduce their chances of developing cancer. ‘Overall, we estimate about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.’

The proportion of breast cancer cases believed to be avoidable is considerably higher.

The charity has produced a revised estimate of the number of avoidable breast cancers which is 2,000 cases higher than its 2009 figure, to reflect the rising number of cases. The most recent figures available show there were 47,600 new instances of breast cancer in the UK in 2008. The WCRF estimates about 42 per cent of these – roughly 20,000 – could have been prevented through healthier lifestyle choices.

The charity recommends women should attempt to be as lean as possible without becoming underweight, be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, and limit alcoholic drinks, if consumed at all, to one a day.

Dr Lisa Wilde, director of research at the Breast Cancer Campaign, agreed that ‘diet and lifestyle are significant breast cancer risk factors’. She said: ‘We would recommend that people who want to lower their risk of developing the disease reduce their alcohol consumption, take exercise whenever possible and maintain a healthy weight.

‘However, it is important to remember that there are many other breast cancer risk factors and we cannot control two of the biggest – age and family history of the disease. ‘Therefore, finding breast cancer early when most treatable gives the best possible chance of survival – so it is vital to be breast aware and report any changes to your GP.’


Intolerance to lactose: Why your aversion to dairy foods may be all in the mind

The mere thought of a latte or cappuccino brings some people out in a cold sweat and they like nothing more than to bore others with the virtues of soy milk. But researchers say lactose intolerance may be all in the mind.

Many people who claim to be intolerant to the milk sugar lactose are simply stressed, anxious or depressed. While their symptoms are real, the cause is in their mind, rather than in their coffee cup.

The discovery by Italian researchers has important implications for health, because many people who believe they are lactose intolerant cut out dairy products from their diet. This could leave them severely short of calcium, raising the odds of brittle bones and falls and fracture in old age.

The study is the latest to question whether many of the millions of people who claim to have food intolerances are actually fussy eaters. Previous research concluded that nine in ten Britons who believe they have a food allergy or intolerance are actually perfectly healthy.

Twenty per cent of men and women – some 10million British adults – claim to be unable to eat foods from milk to mustard, but fewer than 2 per cent actually have a problem.

It is thought many people decide they have an intolerance after hearing a celebrity’s experience of a certain food. Those who have talked of their problems with lactose include Rod Stewart’s ex-wife Rachel Hunter.

In the latest study, Guido Basilico, of the University of Milan, tested more than 100 people who had stomach pain, bloating and diarrhoea and believed they were lactose intolerant, to see if they really did have problems breaking down the sugar and absorbing it into their blood.

He also asked them about their mental and physical health, including whether they were depressed or anxious or suffered from general aches and pains.

This revealed their stomach troubles to have little to do digestion of lactose. But mental state did seem to be to blame, the Digestive Disease Week conference in the U.S. heard yesterday.

Dr Basilico said there was no doubt that some people’s genes make it difficult for them to digest lactose and this causes stomach problems when they drink large amounts of milk. But many of the people who claimed to suffer problems from a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate were perfectly capable of digesting lactose.

He believes that rather than being intolerant, their symptoms have a psychological basis. Just as stress can cause headaches, it can also cause tummy trouble.

Dr Basilico said people should not to be too quick to cut dairy products out of their diets and doctors should think twice about subjecting patients who claim to be lactose intolerant to lots of physical tests. He added: ‘Excluding dairy products should be discouraged and doctors should pay more attention to the psychological problems of their patients.’

The problem of imaginary food allergies and intolerance is not confined to adults, with researchers previously warning that new mothers are too quick to decide their children have food allergies or intolerances.

More than half of the babies studied by British experts had at least one food cut out of their diet by the age of one. Yet, tests showed the true rate of allergies and intolerances was lower than 4 per cent. The Portsmouth University researchers said the issue was being ‘blown out of all proportion’ by anxious mothers.


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