Is Cancer One of the Effects of Alcohol Usage? Find out!

We all know that alcohol can be dangerous, but did you know that cancer can be one of the effects of alcohol usage? A new study found more information confirming the link between alcohol consumption and cancer risk. While this new study is not the first to link alcohol to cancer, it provides a new understanding for just how that link works. Which makes it all the more important.

New Findings

How was this study different from those earlier ones? It looked into how alcohol caused this risk (LiveScience). Thanks to new research published in the journal Nature and part-funded by Cancer Research UK, we know more about one way cancer is caused (Cancer Research UK).

Earlier studies found that there is strong evidence that alcohol exposure causes cancer at seven specific sites in the body. There are likely other parts of the body that are affected by alcohol exposure, but these seven had the highest risk of cancer:

  • A part of the throat called the oropharynx.
  • The larynx.
  • The esophagus.
  • The liver.
  • The colon.
  • The rectum.
  • The female breast.

There is also continually growing evidence that this strong link between increased cancer risk as effects of alcohol usage can occur in other parts of the body, including the prostate, pancreas, and skin. (LiveScience)

The Importance of Stem Cells

The experiment focused on effects of alcohol usage on stem cells, which are the cells that supply the many different specialized cells that our bodies are made of. These cells are crucial for replenishing cells lost throughout your lifespan, and once they are damaged, they can spread that damage further (LifeScience).

While this post talks about effects of alcohol increasing the risk of cancer, there’s a little more to it than that. As the research from this experiment highlights, it isn’t alcohol that causes damage to DNA in stem cells, but one of the chemicals that alcohol gets broken down into (Cancer Research UK).

“When the body processes alcohol, it converts it into a highly reactive toxin called acetaldehyde, which damages DNA,” explained lead study author Dr. KJ Patel, a tenured principal investigator at MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England (LifeScience). When that toxin isn’t broken down further it builds up in the cells. That build-up can then cause damage to DNA and, especially in stem cells, that can cause cancer (Cancer Research UK).

There are two ways that a cell can cope with exposure to excessive amounts of acetaldehyde:

  1. The enzyme ALDH2 can clear away the acetaldehyde. But if more alcohol is consumed than the ALDH2 can deal with, then the excess acetaldehyde can damage the DNA, so…
  2. An enzyme called FANCD2 must then come in to repair some of the DNA damage (BioNews).
The Experiment

In this study, researchers looked specifically at blood stem cells. The team simulated heavy drinking by giving mice doses of alcohol that would be equivalent to an adult human drinking one bottle of whiskey in a short period of time. Some of the mice were genetically engineered to lack the two enzymes described above. There were three groups of mice: a group that had all the enzymes still in place, a group that had the enzyme ALDH2 removed, and a group that didn’t have either enzymes.

Patel explained that after removing just the first level of protection (the ALDH2), which is just the enzyme that detoxifies the acetaldehyde, one big dose of alcohol is enough to initiate four times more DNA damage than in normal mice.

“That level of damage is not very dissimilar to having spent a short period of time in front of Fukushima,” Patel said. (LiveScience).

The Real World Effects

While the mice in the experiment were genetically engineered to lack one or both of these levels of protection, it’s not uncommon for people to be born without either one or both of these enzymes. The lack of the first level (ALDH2) is a condition that is especially common in Asia, and effects about 5 million people.

Problems with the second layer of protection (the DNA repair mechanism) are also quite common. DNA repair mechanisms are deficient in women who carry either the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation, which is known to predispose women to breast cancer. Problems with DNA repair also occur in children with the disease Fanconi’s anemia (LiveScience).

As we mentioned before, the scientists in this study focused specifically on DNA damage in blood stem cells. Previous research has shown that alcohol affects blood cells. Many people with alcoholism become anemic, meaning that they don’t have enough red blood cells.

One professor who wasn’t involved in the study, Malcolm Alison (a professor of stem-cell biology at Queen Mary University in London) said that it is believed that most cancers do in fact arise from stem cells.

“Most of our organs and tissues have stem cells, immortal cells that replenish cells lost through the likes of old age throughout our lives, and the hematopoietic system (or, the system for blood cell generation in the body) is no exception,” Alison said in a statement (LiveScience).

Does This Include Red Wine?

Some other studies have suggested that red wine may help reduce your chances of getting heart disease and cancer. Other research, including this study, has shown that drinking even small amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of cancer.

Where did this idea come from? The ancient Egyptians and Greeks considered wine to be “good for health” and often used it as a form of medicine. Still, research today shows that that believe doesn’t actually hold true. Instead they’ve found that the skin and seeds of grapes may have healthy properties (mainly the antioxidant resveratrol). This natural chemical found in grapes protects your cells from damage that could lead to cancer.

Because it’s made from grapes, red wine is full of resveratrol. Still, it’s hard to determine if the benefits of this antioxidant outweigh the risks of alcohol exposure.

Even though some studies do suggest that a glass of wine may lower your risk of heart disease, it’s not confirmed that a glass of red wine will lower your risk for cancer. Your safest bet is to just not pour that glass (MD Anderson Cancer Center).

How You Can Use This New Information

We should all be trying our best to limit our alcohol consumption this year, as alcohol has been proven to be bad for your health in other ways (for example, causing liver damage and pancreatitis).

The American Cancer Society advises that drinking occasionally isn’t likely to increase your risk of cancer. It’s only routinely having more than one or two drinks a day that could raise your cancer risk. Keep that in mind and try to build healthier habits in 2018 (The American Cancer Society).

Still, if you have a family history of one of the cancers listed above, you should be extra careful about your alcohol consumption.

Sources: effects of alcohol

effects of alcohol

9 Ways You Can Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk

According to the latest statistics, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Luckily with new advancements in treatment, the mortality associated with breast cancer has decreased. Still the disease claims over 40,000 lives a year in the US alone, so knowing how to reduce your risk of breast cancer is an important asset.

What Causes Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is the result of DNA mutations, which is characterized by a solid tumor that originates in the tissue of the breast. There are a few different factors that can cause this DNA mutation. The majority of them are acquired later in life. The most common age of diagnosis is 65. Age is the main risk factor for breast cancer simply because the longer you live, the more opportunity there is for the DNA in your breast to develop a mutation.

Sometimes these DNA mutations are inherited at birth, like the BRCA1 or BCRA2 gene. If your family has a history of breast cancer, it is important to go through screening and genetic treatment early, as sometimes preventative treatment is recommended. (NY Daily News)

Your breast cancer risk is also tied to certain other health issues, which is where our 9 ways to reduce your risk come in. Some recent studies have found that there are in fact some changes you can make and habits you can work on to reduce your odds of getting breast cancer:

  1. Be mindful of your weight. Becoming overweight or obese (especially after menopause or later in life) increases breast cancer risk. This is because after menopause, most of your estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue increases your chance of getting breast cancer by raising estrogen levels. Women who are overweight also tend to have higher levels of insulin, which is another hormone. Higher insulin levels have also been linked to other cancers.
  2. Exercise regularly. A few different studies have found that exercising regularly can improve your chances of avoiding breast cancer. One particular study from the Women’s Health Initiative found that as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week reduced a woman’s risk by 18%. The American Cancer Society recommends that you don’t try to cram this into one long workout, but instead spread it out over the course of the week.
  3. Limit time spent sitting. A study from the American Cancer Society showed that women who spent more than 6 hours a day sitting when not working had a 10% greater risk for invasive breast cancer compared with women who sat less than 3 hours a day.
  4. Limit your drinking. Research has shown that women who have 2 to 3 alcoholic drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk compared to women who don’t drink at all. Women who have one drink a day have a very small increase in risk as well. Excessive drinking has been found to increase your risk of other cancer types as well. (American Cancer Society)
  5. Don’t smoke. It’s no surprise that smoking is bad for your health. However, accumulating evidence suggests that there’s actually a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women.
  6. Breastfeed. According to the Mayo Clinic, breast-feeding may play a role in breast cancer prevention. They suggest that the longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effect. (Mayo Clinic)
  7. Avoid or limit hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy (or HRT) was used in the past to help control some symptoms of menopause like night sweats and hot flashes. Researchers now know that postmenopausal women who take the combination of estrogen and progestin may be more likely to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer risk appears to return to normal within five years after stopping this treatment. (American Cancer Society).
So instead, talk to your doctor about other options to control your menopause symptoms. If you do decide that HRT is the right choice for you, it’s best to use the lowest dose you can for the shortest possible time.
  1. Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. While environmental pollution can be difficult to protect yourself against, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to radiation. Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation that may be linked with developing breast cancer. Reduce your exposure by having a conversation with your doctor to make sure every test is absolutely necessary before they’re done.
  2. Receive annual mammograms starting at age 40. Since most of the time breast cancer does not cause symptoms until the disease is quite advanced, it is important to detect it long before symptoms appear. For most women, starting at age 40 is early enough, but higher risk patients (like women with a mother or sister who had cancer at an early age) may need to start getting mammograms much earlier. (NY Daily News)

Hopefully knowing and practicing these tips will put your mind at ease from worrying about breast cancer. For more information, be sure to look to the sources provided below.


Spotting Leukemia Early

Spotting leukemia early on can be key in a patient’s fight against it. Diagnosing cancer early can have a significant impact on your chances of survival, response to treatment, and even your quality of life during treatment. (News Medical)

Unfortunately, in many cases spotting leukemia early can be difficult. People in the early stages of leukemia often show no obvious symptoms. So how can you tell early on if you or a loved one has leukemia? Read on for our tips on how to spot leukemia early.

What Is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. It’s the result of the DNA of a single cell in the bone marrow becoming damaged (which is also known as a mutation).

Unlike other cancers, it doesn’t produce a tumor but instead causes overproduction of abnormal white blood cells. Since white blood cells are meant to fight infection, abnormal leukemia cells aren’t up to that crucial task.

Hundreds of billions of new blood cells are produced in your bone marrow each day, which provides your body with a constant supply of fresh, healthy blood cells. In large numbers, leukemia cells begin to interfere with the production of other blood cells (Cleveland Clinic).

How Common Is Leukemia?

Even though it’s often considered a disease of children, leukemia affects far more adults. The frequency of certain types of leukemia actually increases with age (Cleveland Clinic). With nearly 30,000 cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, it truly is important to learn what the warning signs are and catch leukemia early.

Symptoms and How to Catch It:

As we mentioned earlier, many patients with leukemia don’t exhibit any symptoms early on. Particularly in patients with chronic leukemia types, there can be no symptoms at first or just a slow development of symptoms over a long period of time.

In acute leukemia types, patients often very suddenly develop symptoms within a matter of days. It is very common for leukemia diagnoses to be made as an emergency.

Spotting Leukemia based on the following symptoms:
  • Anemia is caused by having a lower than necessary count of red blood cells, which slows down the delivery of oxygen to the body’s organs and muscles. It can cause a pale complexion and lack of energy in patients.
  • Bleeding can occur in a patient’s gums or nose, or in stool or urine.
  • Bruises may develop from very minor bumps.
  • Small spots of discoloration called petechiae may form under the skin.
  • Patients may be more susceptible to infections like a sore throat or bronchial pneumonia. A headache, or low-grade fever, mouth sores, or skin rash may accompany these infections. (Cleveland Clinic)
  • Coughing and trouble breathing can occur when certain types of leukemia cause swelling in structures in the chest, like lymph nodes or the thymus (a small organ in front of the trachea, the breathing tube that leads to the lungs). These enlarged structures can then press on the trachea, causing coughing or even trouble breathing. In some cases where the white blood cell count is unusually high, the leukemia cells can build up in the small blood vessels in the lungs, which can also cause trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of the face and arms can also be the result of an enlarged thymus. It can press on the SVC (the superior vena cava, a large vein that carries blood from the head and arms back to the heart). When this happens, it is called SVC Syndrome, which can be life-threatening, so it should be treated immediately. It can cause swelling in the face, neck, arms, and upper chest (sometimes with a bluish-red skin color). It can also cause headaches, dizziness, and a change in consciousness if it affects the brain. (American Cancer Society)
  • Swollen lymph nodes can also be a sign of spotting leukemia. Lymph nodes are small, bean-sized structures that contain clusters lymphocytes. Swollen nodes may be seen or felt as lumps under the skin in areas of the body like the sides of the neck, underarm areas, above the collarbone, or in the groin. Lymph nodes inside the chest or abdomen can also swell, but these can only be seen on imaging tests.
  • Headache, seizures, and vomiting can occur sometimes in children when the leukemia has already spread to the brain and spinal cord by the time it is diagnosed. Once it has reached the brain and spinal cord, leukemia symptoms can also include trouble concentrating, weakness, problems with balance, and blurred vision. (American Cancer Society)
  • A fever that lasts for more than 1 to 2 weeks can also be a warning sign of leukemia.
  • General loss of well-being may also occur in patients with undiagnosed leukemia. Patients may have loss of appetite and weight and a feeling of weakness or fatigue all the time. This sign can be especially hard to spot, since the symptoms are the same symptoms of just living a busy life.
Why Are People Delaying Diagnoses?

You may be surprised to learn that in most cases (83% of them, according to a recent survey) patients with these symptoms don’t expect them to be the warning signs for cancer. That 83% of patients reported that they wrote the symptoms off as part of getting older or just the consequences of a busy lifestyle.

A few of the symptoms above are more likely to be caused by something other than leukemia, so it can be easy to dismiss them. Especially if they develop slowly over time, which they sometime do. (American Cancer Society).

One teen in Pennsylvania went a full month playing varsity soccer with undiagnosed leukemia. Schyler Herman was a goalie, so she typically had lots of collisions with the ball and other players, but her parents noticed that she was getting unusually deep bruises from the hits.

She was in a game that went into double overtime one night when another player accidentally kicked her in the calf. A deep hematoma formed, and her parents took her to the emergency room the next day where the X-rays came back negative for a fracture, but Schyler still felt pain.

She went in for more blood work and once the results were in, the doctors suggested she see an oncologist, because they believed she had leukemia. Her blood levels were actually so critical that Schyler was rushed to the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia for immediate treatment. Schyler couldn’t believe it — she’d been having headaches for the past month and was always fatigued, but she attributed that to the consequences of being an athlete. (Pocono Record)

Even with the symptoms present, it can seem crazy to jump to the conclusion that it’s leukemia that you have. Still, in many cases it is.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Obviously you can’t assume that every headache and cough will lead to spotting leukemia. Still, there is one major step you can take in protecting yourself:

Often when patients go to their doctor with these symptoms, they either decline to take a blood test or their doctor doesn’t even offer it. Generally a blood test is enough to indicate the diagnosis, but often patients will go weeks (and in some cases even months) without getting a blood test. Instead they’re given antibiotics for the infections or pain killers to relieve the pain, but since they aren’t given a blood test, they’re just putting bandaids on the symptoms without finding the cause. (News Medical)

Which is why if you notice any of these symptoms, you should request a blood test to confirm that the cause isn’t a larger problem, like leukemia.


Spotting Leukemia


It’s no secret that breastfeeding is beneficial to an infant’s health. The benefits of breastfeeding for babies are very well-documented:
  • It provides the perfect balance of nutrients that your baby needs to survive and thrive.
  • Breast milk contains hormones and antibodies than natural strengthen your infant’s developing immune system.
  • Less of a likelihood that your child will later experience gastrointestinal issues, type 2 diabetes, childhood obesity, respiratory and ear infections, and some childhood cancers.[Schanler, 2016]

The protective effect of breast milk is even shown to last after a child stops breastfeeding, contributing to a number of short and long-term pediatric health benefits.

Read More…

Can IMRT be the cure for a cancer that was thought to be incurable?

There is new hope for some patients with prostate cancer, thanks to a joint study by the Institute of Cancer Research in London and the UK’s leading cancer hospital, the Royal Marsden. The study found that a treatment option called IMRT could cure thousands of men whose disease was before thought to be incurable.

For patients with prostate cancer, the following treatment options are usually advised (depending on how far the cancer has spread and how aggressive it is):
– Hormonal treatment
– Surgery
– Radiotherapy
– A combination of the above treatments

When a patient’s cancer spreads too far (meaning it spreads to the lymph nodes near the pelvis) doctors typically advise against radiation therapy, since radiation in that area can cause damage to the bowel, which could then prove to be fatal. (Telegraph)

So What is IMRT?

IMRT stands for Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy. It’s a highly targeted form of radiation therapy that the Royal Marsden’s study claims can successfully eliminate cancer without causing fatal damage to surrounding organs.

For the treatment, your doctor uses a computer to plan the exact dose of radiation that will be aimed at the cancer. The computer then uses information about the size, shape, and location of the tumor to determine how much radiation is needed to kill the cancer cells.

The treatment uses the high amounts of radiation that are necessary to completely kill prostate cancer cells while still protecting the healthy cells that surround them. (UCLA) So IMRT can potentially be a safe option for patients whose cancer has spread to the pelvis.

Some newer radiation machines also have imaging scanners built into them to allow the doctor to take pictures of the prostate and make minor adjustments in aiming just before giving the radiation. This is called “image guided radiation therapy” or IGRT. It can help deliver radiation even more precisely, which could result in fewer side effects from the radiation. (American Cancer Society)

If you are considering going through IMRT, be sure to ask your physician about whether or not these additional options can be available to you.

Potential Side Effects of IMRT

Short term side effects of radiation can include:
– Skin damage (like a severe sunburn)
– Temporary diarrhea
– Rectal pain

Some possible long-term side effects can include:
– Painful or frequent urination
– Loose bowels
– Impotence

These problems could develop six months or more after the treatment ends and may be permanent. (Genomic Health) Again, be sure to consult your physician about the likelihood of these side effects and if there are options to help prevent them.

About the Study:

In the study mentioned above by the Institute of Cancer Research in London and the Royal Marsden, 447 men were treated with IMRT and monitored for five years. When the trail began in 2000, many of the patients were considered incurable.

The object of the study was to look at the long term effects of IMRT treatment as well as whether or not it could be used to treat those patients who were considered incurable before.

Study leader David Dearnaley, a professor of uro-oncology at the ICR and consultant clinical oncologist at the Royal Marsden said, “Our trial was one of the first of this revolutionary radiotherapy technique, which was pioneered by colleagues here at the ICR and The Royal Marsden.”

71% of the patients were alive and completely cancer free at the end of the five years. Just between eight and 16% of the patients in the trial suffered from issues with their bladder or bowel.

Ultimately, the trial found that IMRT can in fact be safely given to cancer cells that have spread to the pelvis to help stop the disease from spreading further.

Dearnaley calls the technique a “game-changer” for men with prostate cancer and says, “The work done here has already been carried forward into later-stage phase II and phase III trials. I’m excited to see this treatment become available to every man with prostate cancer who could benefit from it.”

The changes in use of IMRT have caused a “complete revolution” in the way it is delivered, with doses now delivered in only two minutes.

Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the ICR says, “Radiotherapy is often seen as perhaps old-fashioned and crude compared with other cancer treatments — but nothing could be further from the truth.” With new advances in IMRT and the findings from this study, radiotherapy is now considered a highly precise and sophisticated treatment.

“It’s great to see this long-term evidence of the degree to which precision radiotherapy has transformed outcomes for men with prostate cancer,” Workman says.

How Big of An Impact Does This Study Have?

Prostate cancer affects tens of thousands of men in the U.S. each year, and those rates are rising. In 2017 there were about 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer and about 26,730 deaths from the disease.

Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t die from it. When the disease is caught early, treatment is often successful. More than 2.9 million men in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives are still alive today.

Still, about 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. And often, the cancer is not caught early enough.

Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer and colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 man in 39 will die of prostate cancer. (American Cancer Society)

In Conclusion:

Still, even with the new findings from this study it is important to consider your options and decide whether or not IMRT is the right treatment for you.

Dr. Matthew Hobbs, Deputy Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said that the findings were promising, but also called for larger randomized trials to confirm definitive answers about the benefits of IMRT and its suitability for different cases. (Telegraph)

IMRT still may not be for every patient, but this new study does provide hope for a number of men who were once considered incurable.



Virtual Navigational Services for Cancer Patients in the United States

September 2017
Media Contact: Alexia Chalita, Marketing Director, North America
Virtual Navigational Services for Cancer Patients in the United States

A virtual service that allows cancer patients to get fast second opinions and receive navigational services from board-certified oncologists through the comfort of their own home.  

Oxnard, CA. Cancer patients who need a second opinion, help finding a clinical trial, assistance choosing an optimal treatment plan, or need to have questions answered fast have a new readily available service. Oncologic Advisors has a wide-variety of services to help cancer patients, ranging from just diagnosed patients to a stage 4 cancer patient.  

Oncologic Advisors has a staff of board-certified oncologists ready to service second opinions, connect patients to clinical trials within the United States, provide patients with research to help them make educated decisions based on their treatment course, and answer any time-sensitive questions patients may have. Oncologic Advisors is designed to be time-effective and objective. What sets Oncologic Advisors apart is that they are not linked to any cancer center, making treatment decisions solely based on the patient’s best interest, and considering all treatment options within the country. Oncologic Advisor’s group of independent, board-certified oncologists understand that time is of the essence for cancer patients and have quick turn-around rates for second opinions and navigational services.

“Through my years of practice as a radiation oncologist, I’ve noticed the lack of guidance cancer patients have access to,” says Robert Lum, CEO and Founder of Oncologic Advisors. “When I created Oncologic Advisors, it was my priority to give cancer patients and their families ease of mind. Cancer patients and their families are already so overwhelmed with the everyday difficulties the disease brings that they often choose the first treatment option that is offered to them, without fully researching or understanding. In addition, when patients try to research clinical trials or other cancer treatments, there is so much information and controversy on the web that they are often misinformed or get discouraged. Since I know personally how much work and stress accompanies having a cancer diagnosis, we created Oncologic Advisors to help ease the mind of cancer patients so they can focus on getting better.”

Cancer patients looking to receive services from the board-certified oncologists at Oncologic Advisors, should request a consultation via the website: Our Oncologic Liaison will contact patients within a couple of hours and evaluate the patient’s case. From there, the Oncologic liaison will connect patients with one of our board-certified oncologists, who will then review a patient’s case and personally connect with them.

About Oncologic Advisors

Headquartered in Southern California, Oncologic Advisors works virtually to serve cancer patients across the United States and internationally. Oncologic Advisors offers navigational services to cancer patients: second opinions, connections to clinical trials, answering questions, and helping patients make important treatment decisions. Patients and their families feel more at ease by having an Oncologic Advisor holding their hand and answering their questions along the cancer journey. More at

A Mother Breastfeeding: A Surprising Way to Reduce Your Risk for Cancer

A mother breastfeeding her child supplies optimum nutrition for babies, boosts childhood immunity, and strengthens the bond between parent and child. But did you know that a mother breastfeeding also offers surprising health benefits for mothers? Indeed, some studies even suggest that a mother breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women who choose to have children.


The benefits that a mother breastfeeding provides for babies are very well-documented. In addition to providing the perfect balance of nutrients that your baby needs to survive and thrive, breast milk contains hormones and antibodies that naturally strengthen an infant’s developing immune system. The protective effect of breast milk is shown to last even after a child stops breastfeeding, and contributes to a number of short and long-term pediatric health benefits. Breastfed babies experience a reduced incidence of gastrointestinal issues, respiratory infections, ear infections, type 2 diabetes, childhood obesity, and some childhood cancers (UpToDate [1]).

But while much attention is devoted to the health of newborn children, the health of their mothers is more often ignored. Indeed, the U.S. boasts one of the most embarrassing postpartum maternal mortality rates in the developed world: 15-30 maternal deaths for 100,000 live births 2015 and rising, a trend that runs contrary to the declining rates observed in Europe, Australia, and Canada (The Lancet).

If we are to create a culture that values maternal health, we must promote and foster practices that contribute positively to it. A Mother breastfeeding is one of those practices, providing a number of short and long-term benefits that begin at birth and continue for the duration of a mother’s life.


Shortly after birth, the act of a mother breastfeeding stimulates the production of oxytocin: a hormone produced by the mother’s pituitary gland that prevents hemorrhaging and promotes uterine healing. Together with prolactin (another neuropeptide associated with breastfeeding), oxytocin may also have a positive impact on the mental health of new mothers by reducing maternal stress levels and promoting parent-child bonding. (UpToDate [2].)

Mothers who nurse may also have a slight edge in losing “baby weight” after pregnancy, thanks to the metabolic boost that breastfeeding appears to provide. And because breastfeeding helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, nursing mothers are demonstrated to have a lower risk for developing diabetes and heart disease than their formula-feeding counterparts (La Leche League International).


Studies estimate a 4.3 percent drop in a woman’s relative risk of developing breast cancer for every 12 months she nurses (UpToDate [3]). The benefit continues to accrue over multiple pregnancies and appears to have a positive impact on ovarian cancer, as well: one study found that women who breastfeed multiple children for a combined 31 months or more could see a 91% reduction in their risk for ovarian cancer versus women who breastfeed for less than 10 months (MD Anderson Cancer Center).

Doctors surmise a variety of factors may contribute to this phenomenon.

We know that nursing stimulates the production of certain beneficial hormones and neuropeptides in a mother’s body. These hormones also postpone the return of ovulation and menstruation after she gives birth, thus reducing the likelihood of an immediate, consecutive pregnancy. This natural “spacing” mechanism allows a mother more time to heal between pregnancies while encouraging her to devote more time and attention to each of her newborn children (La Leche League International). A delay in ovulation may also reduce a woman’s exposure to estrogen, which can reduce her overall risk for developing breast and ovarian cancers (MD Anderson Cancer Center). Oral contraceptives that delay ovulation are associated with similar anti-cancer benefits.

Breastfeeding also contributes to cell shedding and turnover within the breast tissue, which may help remove damaged cells before they can develop into cancer (MD Anderson Cancer Center).


Mothers who nurse for at least 6 months see the greatest health benefits for both themselves and their children, but a number of social and societal factors may deter some women from breastfeeding. Limited parental leave from work, lack of access to private nursing facilities in public spaces, and a lack of support from friends and family may influence a woman’s decision to stop breastfeeding early or avoid it altogether.

If a friend or a loved one is breastfeeding, support her decision in any way you can. Let her know that you think breastfeeding is important, and that she is always welcome to nurse her child in your home. If you are a boss or employer, create company policies that promote a woman’s ability to breastfeed in the workplace and make sure that nursing mothers in your organization have a private space to nurse if they choose to do so. You may also give books or classes about breastfeeding as a gift to expectant parents (AICR).


A culture that promotes breastfeeding is one that values the health of women. Breastfeeding promotes postpartum healing, supports mental health, and may even grant nursing mothers longterm protection against some forms of cancer. In choosing breast over bottle, new mothers make a lasting investment in their own health and the health of their families. After all: a healthy, happy mom is one of the best gifts your child can receive.

About the Author:

Dr. Robert Lum, Founder and Head Oncologist at Oncologic Advisors, has over twenty years of radiation oncology experience. He graduated, with honors, magna cum laude with a degree in molecular biology from University of California, Berkeley, attended Case Western Reserve University medical school, and completed his residency at University of California, Irvine and City of Hope in Los Angeles in Radiation Oncology. He has been President of the Christian Medical and Dental Society (Ventura County), President of the Ventura County Medical Society, District Representative to the California Medical Association, and on the Professional Advisors Board of Directors for Cancer Support Community of the San Fernando Valley, Ventura, and Santa Barbara in California. Over the years, he has advised many patients throughout the treatment of their cancer. Treating the whole person, not just the disease, is the philosophy Dr. Lum has embraced over his years of practice.


UpToDate – Infant benefits of breastfeeding. Richard J. Schanler, MD. Topic Last Updated: 09 December 2016.

The Lancet – Global, regional, and national levels of maternal mortality, 1990-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. GBD 2015 Maternal Mortality Collaborators. Vol. 338. 08 October 2016.

UpToDate [2] – Maternal and economic benefits of breastfeeding. Richard J Schanler, MD. Topic Last Updated: 07 December 2016.

La Leche League International – A Well-Kept Secret: Breastfeeding’s Benefits to Mothers. From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 4, p. 124-127. Alicia Dermer, MD, IBCLC. July – August 2001.

UpToDate [3] – Factors that modify breast cancer risk in women. Wendy Y Chen, MD, MPH. Topic Last Updated: 02 August 2017.

MD Anderson Cancer Center – Breastfeeding Lowers Your Breast Cancer Risk. Brittany Cordeiro. October 2014.

AICR American Institute for Cancer Research – Experts: Breastfeeding Protects Moms from Breast Cancer. Mya Nelson. 10 May 2012.


Cure for Lung Cancer, Prevention, and Risks

Whats the best approach to finding a cure for lung cancer that works for you? Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death worldwide, accounting for approximately 1.69 million deaths annually (WHO). In the U.S. alone, it accounts for approximately 225,000 new diagnoses and causes 160,000 deaths every year. While these statistics are frightening, there’s plenty of reason to have hope for a cure for lung cancer: new treatments and a general reduction in the popularity of smoking mean that lung cancer mortality rates have begun to decline in recent years (UpToDate [1]). Here we’ll discuss the most common types of lung cancer and their treatments, along with some common-sense measures you can take to reduce your personal lung cancer risk.


Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs or airways. Most lung cancers fall into two main categories: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) or non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). These categories refer to the specific type of cell within the lungs in which the cancer originates. Identifying the type of cancer a patient has is a critical first step to a cure for lung cancer. (UpToDate [1]).

In an advanced state, lung cancer may metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body. You may also hear your doctor refer to lung cancer as “bronchogenic carcinoma” (UpToDate [1]).


You may be wondering if it’s possible to prevent lung cancer; for many people, the answer is yes. While some cases may be influenced by genetic factors or other pre-existing health conditions (such as HIV or pulmonary fibrosis), most lung cancers are caused by smoking, environmental toxins, and other external lifestyle factors (UpToDate [1]).

Smoking isn’t the only cause of lung cancer, but it is by far the leading one. An estimated 90 percent of all lung cancers are presumed to be caused by smoking, and smoking one pack a day over the course of 40 years increases your risk of developing lung cancer by 20 percent over someone who has never smoked. In short, your lung cancer risk increases the more frequently you smoke and the longer you smoke. The most effective way to reduce your personal lung cancer risk is to avoid smoking (UpToDate [1]).

Cigars, pipes, and menthol or “light” cigarettes are not safe alternatives to smoking traditional cigarettes, and smoking these products also puts you at risk for lung cancer. Secondhand smoke also presents a significant risk, and accounts for over 7,000 lung cancer deaths amongst nonsmokers every year (American Cancer Society [1]).

The good news is that you can radically reduce your chances of developing lung cancer by quitting smoking, even if you’ve been a smoker for many years. The longer you abstain, the greater the benefit; some studies indicate that former smokers saw an 80-90 percent reduction in their risk after remaining smoke-free for 15 years or more (UpToDate [2]). The American Cancer Society offers a wealth of resources if you or someone you love is trying to quit; call at 1-800-227-2345 for more information (American Cancer Society [2]).

Exposure to asbestos, radon, and diesel exhaust at home or work may also increase your chances of developing lung cancer. If you have to work around hazardous agents, be sure to carefully observe all recommended safety protocols in order to minimize your risk.


As with most cancers, an early diagnosis will improve the prognosis for lung cancer patients. Unfortunately, many lung cancer cases go undetected until they are quite advanced, which makes them more difficult to treat. Many people don’t experience symptoms in the early stages of the disease, or may write them off as symptoms of other, more benign illnesses. For example, a habitual smoker may experience a persistent cough and presume it to be a natural side-effect of smoking (American Cancer Society [1]).

Chest pain, a cough, hemoptysis (coughing up blood), dyspnea (shortness of breath), and hoarseness in the voice may signal lung cancer. If you experience any of these symptoms, don’t ignore them and see your doctor right away (UpToDate [1]).


Like every person, every case of cancer is unique. Along with an individual’s medical and family history, doctors will consider the size, location, and molecular properties of a tumor in order to devise a personalized treatment strategy for each patient. Surgery, chemotherapy, targeted radiation therapy, and targeted pharmaceuticals (like bevacizumab) may all be employed to treat lung cancer. (UpToDate [3]).

Immunotherapy – a type of therapy that utilizes the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells – may also be used to treat some forms of lung cancer. When you are healthy, your immune system is able to detect and avoid normal cells in the body while identifying and attacking those that are invasive. Unlike diseases caused by viruses and other pathogens, cancer is caused when normal cells that belong to the body grow out of control. Therefore, cancer cells are often able to multiply unchecked because your body doesn’t recognize them as intruders.

A newer class of drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors may be used to “turn on” the body’s natural immune response to cancer cells. These drugs activate a chemical signal (or checkpoint) on immune cells that directs them to attack malignancies and prevent them from growing. Nivolumab (Opdivo), pembrolizumab (Keytruda), and atezolizumab (Tecentriq) are all targeted immunotherapy drugs that may be used as a cure for lung cancer (American Cancer Society [3]).

If you or a loved one is fighting lung cancer, you may wish to ask your doctor about immunotherapy as a possible cure for lung cancer strategy. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion if you’re struggling to understand your options; a consultation from a reputable source (like OncoLogic Advisors) may help to guide you.


Lung cancer is one of the deadliest and most common forms of cancer, but it is also preventable. While there is still no surefire cure for lung cancer, an early diagnosis can improve a patient’s chances of survival. Promising new therapies (like targeted immunotherapy) continue to offer new hope and more options for treatment, and are helping more lung cancer patients to live longer, healthier lives.


WHO (World Health Organization) Media Centre – Cancer Fact Sheet. Februrary 2017.

UpToDate [1] – Overview of the risk factors, pathology, and clinical manifestations of lung cancer. David E. Midthun, MD. Topic Last Updated: 3 February 2017

American Cancer Society [1] – Lung Cancer Detection and Early Prevention.

UpToDate [2] – Cigarette smoking and other possible risk factors for lung cancer. David M. Manino, MD. Topic Last Updated: May 31, 2017

American Cancer Society [2] – How to Quit Smoking or Smokeless Tobacco.

UpToDate [3] – Overview of the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Rogerio C Lilenbaum, MD, FACP. Topic Last Updated: June 2, 2017.

American Cancer Society [3] – Immunotherapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.

cure for lung cancer

The Battle Against Glioblastoma Brain Cancer

On July 19, 2017, U.S. Senator John McCain announced that he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer: a malignant and aggressive type of brain cancer, which his doctors discovered during a routine screening (Reuters). You may have heard of this type of cancer before: it claimed the lives of Senator Ted Kennedy and Beau Biden (son of Former Vice President Joe Biden). But if this term is news to you, you probably have a number of questions: what is glioblastoma? How is it different from other brain cancers, and how do you treat it? Here, we’ll cover the basics of the disease, and discuss chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, and other experimental therapies that may be available if you or a loved one is battling this often-lethal form of cancer.


All brain tumors are not alike. Doctors categorize different types of tumors according to the part of the body (and type of cells) in which they originate. For example, some tumors begin in glial cells – kind of cell within the human nervous system. Doctors refer to this very broad category of tumors as gliomas.

Since there are also several different kinds of glial cells (all of which perform different tasks within the nervous system), doctors may then further classify different tumors according to these sub-types of cells. For example, astrocytes are a sub-type of glial cell; tumors that begin in astrocytes are called astrocytomas.

With a biopsy (that is, by removing a sample of cells to analyze under a microscope), doctors are able to classify different types of astrocytomas into even smaller groups. These groups are determined by what the cells in the tumor look like, and how quickly they spread. “High-grade” or “Grade IV” astrocytomas – the fastest growing group – are called glioblastomas. Your doctor also may refer to glioblastoma as “glioblastoma multiforme” or “GBM.” (American Cancer Society).

So, all glioblastomas are astrocytomas, but not all astrocytomas are glioblastomas. (If this is confusing, think of another example – like breeds of cats. All Bengal cats are cats, but not all cats are Bengals).

Around two-thirds of astrocytomas are glioblastomas. Glioblastomas are the most common type of malignant brain tumors in American adults (American Cancer Society).


Symptoms of glioblastoma brain cancer may vary depending on the size of the tumor and where it is within the brain. Patients may experience headaches, seizures, memory loss, motor weakness, or loss of other cognitive functions (UpToDate [1])

Unfortunately, the prognosis is often poor for many people with glioblastoma brain cancer. The disease often recurs (comes back) even with aggressive treatment, and the median survival for most patients is around 14.6 months. Around 30% of patients live as long as two years, and (according to one study) around 10% may survive five years or more (American Brain Tumor Association).

Younger patients and children tend to fare better than older patients (as is the case with many cancers), though around half of glioblastoma diagnoses occur in patients who are 65 years and older. A variety of factors make treatment more challenging for older patients: they’re more likely to suffer from pre-existing illnesses than young people, for example (some, like Senator McCain, may already be cancer survivors). They tend to take more medications and may be more susceptible to side-effects, which can limit their options for treatment. “Social and economic vulnerability” (access to affordable healthcare) is often another limiting factor in the quality of care that many patients are able to receive (UpToDate [2]).

Along with a patient’s age and overall health, the size, placement, and genetic makeup of the tumor will influence the approach to treatment. There is no “one way” to treat brain cancer: most glioblastoma patients undergo a combination of treatments after their initial diagnoses, including resection (removal of some or most of the tumor with traditional surgery), chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and pharmaceutical therapies (typically temozolomide or bevacizumab) (UpToDate [2]).


While radiation therapy does not necessarily provide a replacement for first-line treatment with traditional surgery, it’s often accepted as the “single most effective” adjuvent (or, concurrent) therapy for this type of cancer (Cureus).

Radiation therapy is not the same as chemotherapy. In chemotherapy, the patient takes a medication that targets cancerous cells; this medication may be administered orally, intravenously (though an IV), by injection, or topically (on the skin). In radiation therapy – sometimes called “radiotherapy” – radioactive particles like X-rays or protons are aimed at (or placed near) malignant cells for the purpose of killing them. By directing the radiation precisely to the affected area, doctors hope to target cancerous cells while minimizing damage to healthy ones. This kind of precision cancer therapy is especially valuable when treating sensitive areas of the body, such as the brain and spinal cord. Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be used to treat glioblastoma.

A type of radiotherapy called “stereotactic radiosurgery” (or “SRS”) is often used to treat patients with recurrent or advanced glioblastoma. Some types of SRS employ a particle accelerator. Others employ a smaller robotic device which fires a thin beam of particles at the affected area (you may have also heard this technology referred to as the “gamma knife” or “cyber knife”). Unlike traditional surgery, radiosurgery is non-invasive (it doesn’t involve an incision) and is painless (NIH/MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopecia).

More clinical trials are required in order to understand exactly how radiotherapy and radiosurgery may best benefit patients with glioblastoma brain cancer. Some doctors champion the approach as our best known option for prolonging survival; others argue that radiotherapy alone is simply not enough to defeat the invasive (and intricate) nature of glioblastoma, and advocate the pursuit of new experimental therapies to combat the disease (UpToDate [3]).


If you’re wondering if experimental therapies are available for glioblastoma, the answer is yes. In fact, clinical trials often present the best treatment option for patients with very aggressive and recurrent glioblastomas (UpToDate [3]).

Because glioblastoma brain cancer is so deadly – and because so many cases recur and progress after initial treatment – the need to develop personalized strategies and new, innovative therapies is immense (UpToDate [3]). Researchers are currently exploring a number of treatments including immune checkpoint inhibitors, genetically-engineered cellular therapies (like CART-T cell therapy, which utilizes a patient’s own modified immune cells to fight the disease), even vaccine-like viruses that attack malignant cells (Washington Post).

Many of these experimental therapies do not provide a replacement for surgical resection and radiation therapy, but doctors are hopeful that these new treatments will offer a greater range of options in creating a personalized, multi-faceted treatment plan for every patient and bolster progression-free survival in more cases.

Navigating the healthcare system is a frustrating and cumbersome task for many patients. Finding a clinical trial can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to gain access or even learn about your options without the appropriate referral. If you or a loved one are struggling to find the right doctor or treatment, a referral service (like OncoLogic advisers) can help.


We still have much to learn about glioblastoma brain cancer and how to treat it, but doctors haven’t given up hope. Researchers continue to dedicate their lives and careers to the discovery of new and innovative ways to treat this devastating and deadly disease. If you or a loved one is battling glioblastoma, remember: the fight is always on.


Reuters – “U.S. Senator John McCain diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer.” Patricia Zengerle, July 19, 2017.

American Cancer Society – “Types of Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults.” Last Revised: January 21, 2016.

UpToDate [1] – “Clinical manifestations and initial surgical approach to patients with high-grade gliomas.” Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH, William T Curry, JR, MD.

American Brain Tumor Association – “Glioblastoma (GBM).”

UpToDate [2] – “Management of glioblastoma in older adults.” Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH and Helen A Shih, MD. Topic Last Updated: May 10, 2017.

Cureus – Stereotactic Radiosurgery for Glioblastoma. Kristin J. Redmond and Minesh Mehta. Published Online: December 17, 2015.

NIH/MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia – “Stereotactic radiosurgery – CyberKnife.” Yi-Bin Chen, MD; Internal Review and update by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial Update: March 3, 2017.

UpToDate [3] – “Management of recurrent high-grade gliomas.” Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH, Helen A Shih, MD, Bob S Carter, MD, PhD. Topic Last Updated: May 26, 2017

The Washington Post – “These experimental treatments target brain cancer like John McCain’s.”  Laurie McGinley, July 26, 2017


Colon Cancer in Teenagers and Young Adults: An Alarming Trend

Colon and rectal cancer – sometimes called colorectal cancer, or “CRC” – is the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in American women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in American men. Stronger screening measures leading to early diagnoses have led to a recent decline in U.S. colorectal cancer deaths overall, particularly in patients over 50 (UpToDate [1]). But a new study by researchers at the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute has illuminated a surprising new trend: while CRC rates in older Americans continue to drop, the incidence of rectal and colon cancer in teenagers and young adults appears to be on the rise (Journal of the National Cancer Institute).

Doctors aren’t certain what’s causing the uptick in colorectal cancer in teenagers and young adults, but most agree that the need for further research is clearly indicated to find out more. Until then, teenagers and young adults can certainly benefit from a greater understanding of the disease and what measures they may take to prevent it.


As the name suggests, colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that originates in a person’s colon or rectum. Most colorectal cancers start as polyps (or growths); not all polyps are cancerous, but some may later develop into cancer (American Cancer Society [1]). Modern preventative screening measures (such as colonoscopies) enable doctors to detect and remove more of these growths before they become malignant, thusly reducing the incidence of colorectal cancer overall. And for patients who have already developed CRC, an early diagnosis through screening often means an improved prognosis and greater chance of survival (STAT).

As described by the ACS/NCI study, incidence and mortality rates of both colon and rectal cancer have declined significantly for older American adults (those born circa 1950 or before), due in large part to these preventative screening measures. And since older adults have historically comprised the majority of CRC cases, they’ve had a huge impact on driving the statistics: between 2003 and 2012 alone, overall incidence of colorectal cancer has decreased in the U.S. by about 3% per year (Journal of the National Cancer Institute).

Unlike their elders, however – and contrary to the overall downward trend – younger adults have seen a curiously accelerating incidence of CRC. The study found that individuals born between 1950 and 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer, quadruple the risk of rectal cancer, and a similar risk profile to individuals born circa 1890 (Journal of the National Cancer Institute).


Younger people are less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer. As a result, cancers and precancerous polyps are less likely to be detected early, leading to a increased incidence of full-blown (and more advanced) CRC when it occurs in younger patients.

Even with the results of the ACS/NCI study, the recommended age to begin preventative screening measures has remained unchanged: 50 years of age for adults of average risk. Study coauthors Drs. Philip Rosenberg and William Anderson state they hope their findings will pave the way for further research, along with a potential reassessment of the recommended screening age. Until then, they hope to promote awareness of colorectal cancer in young people amongst doctors and patients alike, and encourage the public to follow through with the most current screening guidelines for detecting the disease (NIH: National Cancer Institute).

Talk to your doctor about colorectal cancer screening and prevention, even if you think you’re too young to get it. Dont hesitate to get checked out if you notice any unusual symptoms: abdominal pain, bloating, rectal bleeding, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or a change in bowel habits may be signs of colon or rectal cancer (UpToDate [1]). Your doctor can better help you to assess your personal risk and establish a prevention and screening strategy that’s appropriate for you.

Even though rates are rising, colon cancer in teenagers and young adults is still relatively rare: of around 135,000 new CRC diagnoses that are made each year, less than 15,000 cases are in people under the age of 50 (STAT). Many doctors still arent accustomed to diagnosing and treating colon cancer in teenagers and young adults, so dont be afraid to ask questions if you experience any suspicious symptoms.

And remember, it’s ok to get a second opinion, especially if you suspect you have been misdiagnosed. If you don’t know where to turn, help is available; a reputable medical referral service (like OncoLogic Advisors) can help match you with a new doctor and explore your options for treatment.


A person’s age and a family history of colorectal cancer are still considered to to be the the leading risk factors for developing the disease. As such, doctors typically recommend more stringent screening measures for patients over the age of 50, as well as for individuals of any age who have a genetic predisposition for CRC. People with a history of inflammatory bowel disease (like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s) may also be at increased risk (UpToDate [2]).

Overall, the American Cancer Society advocates a common-sense approach to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer (and colon cancer in teenagers & young adults): get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet rich in fiber and whole grains, drink moderately, and don’t smoke. Some doctors hypothesize that obesity might contribute to CRC, and recommend watching your weight as a sound measure to decrease your personal risk for colon cancer and bolster your overall health (American Cancer Society [2]).


We still have much to learn about the recent rise in rectal and colon cancer in teenagers and young adults. Until we know more, patients of every age should get to know the risks and symptoms associated with the disease and pursue common-sense measures in the service of a healthier lifestyle. Above all, see your doctor right away (and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion) if you suspect something is wrong.

Remember: early detection saves lives.


UpToDate [1] – Clinical presentation, diagnosis, and staging of colorectal cancer. Finlay A Macrae, MD, Johanna Bendell, MD. Topic last updated: 26 June 2017

Journal of the National Cancer Institute – Colorectal Cancer Incidence Patterns in the United States, 1974-2013. Rebecca L. Siegel, Stacey A. Fedewa, William F. Anderson, Kimberly D. Miller, Jiemin Ma, Philip S. Rosenberg, Ahmedin Jemal. 28 February 2017.

American Cancer Society [1] – What is Colorectal Cancer?

STAT – Colorectal cancer mystery: Rising rates among millenials, Gen X

NIH: National Cancer Institute. Colorectal Cancer Incidence Rising in Young Adults: An Interview with Drs. Philip Rosenberg and William Anderson. NCI Staff. 23 March 2017.

UpToDate [2] – Screening for colorectal cancer: Strategies in patients at average risk. Chyke Doubeni, MD, FRCS, MPH. Topic last updated: 18 May 2017.

American Cancer Society [2] – Study Finds Sharp Rise in Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Rates in Young Adults. Stacy Simon. 28 February 2017.  colon cancer in teenagers