Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cheap blood pressure drug 'slashes breast cancer risk'

This is a fairly convincing study but one still has to ask WHY were some women using beta blockers while most were not? Was it that most were middle class and hence more vigilant about their health?

A drug used to treat high blood pressure costing less than 5p a day could cut the risk of women dying from breast cancer. Researchers found the beta blocker propranolol, a drug developed 40 years ago, cut the chances of dying by up to 81 per cent.

Women using it in the year before falling ill were 76 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with advanced cancer than those not using it. The breakthrough could lead to the drug being investigated for both the treatment of breast cancer and prevention of recurrence.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, support the results from a smaller study last year by scientists from Nottingham University. That showed a 71 per cent reduction in breast cancer deaths among women already using beta blockers for high blood pressure.

Propranolol was developed in the 1960s to treat high blood pressure, angina, heart failure, anxiety and even migraine. There is growing evidence that the effect of beta blockers on stress hormones could also have major benefits in cancer.

Laboratory studies suggest the drugs prevent stress hormones reaching their target which, in cancer cells, prevents the hormones from stimulating and activating them.

The latest study at Trinity College, Dublin, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in the U.S., looked at more than 5,000 women in Ireland diagnosed with breast cancer between 2001 and 2006.

Altogether 70 women were taking propranolol for conditions such as high blood pressure before their diagnosis and 525 were on another type of beta blocker, atenolol.

When they compared survival rates with another 4,738 breast cancer patients who had not been taking the drugs, they found propranolol users were 81 per cent less likely to have died from their condition after five years than non-users.

Mortality rates among women on atenolol were similar to those not taking blood pressure medication. Researchers believe this may be because propranolol acts on two types of receptors on the surface of cells but atenolol only acts on one.

The researchers said: 'The results suggest that the use of propranolol is associated with less advanced disease at diagnosis and lower breast cancer-specific mortality.'

They said women using propranolol in the year before a breast cancer diagnosis were significantly less likely to have an advanced tumour that had spread to other parts the body.

They added that the 'most notable result' was the finding that propranolol users had a significantly lower risk of dying of breast cancer.

The team acknowledged the number of propranolol patients in the study was low and said: 'We cannot exclude the possibility that the results were due to chance.'

It is estimated that two million Britons take beta blockers, which are prescription-only drugs. However, in recent years newer drugs such as ACE inhibitors have been used to control high blood pressure.

Although beta blockers are long-established and cheap because they are available as generics, they can have side-effects such as dizziness, sleeping problems and may raise the risk of type two diabetes.

Doctors would be unlikely to prescribe them for treatment of breast cancer but the hope is that new drugs could exploit the newly discovered anti-cancer mechanism.

Experts at the University of California Los Angeles said future breast cancer treatment trials should collect data on beta blocker use because it could be a 'critical target' for future treatment and prevention of recurrence.

Cancer Research UK stressed bigger trials were needed before beta blockers could be considered as an anti-cancer treatment.

Around 48,000 women in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.


Olive oil could lower stroke risk

Some reasonable reservations about the implications below and again we also have to assk WHO were the big olive-oil users. Were they more affluent people? The rich have better health and live longer anyway

Consuming olive oil could almost halve the risk of stroke in older people, scientists have found. Researchers at the University of Bordeaux looked at the medical records of almost 8000 people aged 65 and over living in three French cities.

All participants had no history of stroke, and were monitored for five years, according to the paper published in US medical journal, Neurology, this week.

Olive oil use was categorised into "no use", "moderate use" - which meant it was used in cooking or as dressing with bread - and "intensive use" - which meant it was used in every way.

Researchers recorded 148 strokes, and, examined diet, exercise, body mass index and other stroke risk factors of all participants.

They found those who regularly used olive oil for both cooking and as a dressing lower their risk of stroke by 41 per cent, compared to those who never used the product.

Australian dietitian, Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, said this is the first time the effect of oil on stroke had been reported.

While the size and length of the study gives it strength, Professor Itsiopoulos, head of dietetics at La Trobe University, admitted the finding were limited. "It is difficult to attribute the outcomes just to olive oil because it's very difficult to measure accurately what the olive oil intake of a person is," she told AAP.

In an editorial that ran alongside the report, Professor Nikolaos Scarmeas, from Columbia University, says it is hard to say what elements of olive oil are proactive in stroke prevention. He admitted the effect of olive oil could be indirect because it's used to make healthy foods taste better.


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