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The EPA has many serious problems, from protecting corporations and not consumers, to ignoring studies that find health problems with products or chemicals. Dr. Jennifer Liss Ohayon, a research scientist at Silent Spring Institute and Northeastern University, pointed out in a recent article that the EPA keeps approving pesticides linked to breast cancer.

These pesticides act as endocrine disruptors on the breast, with effects occurring at low doses. Many are commonly used (e.g., malathion, atrazine), which means women are exposed to in food, water, the workplace, and at home (yes - home, garden, and lawn chemicals!).

Why be concerned? Young women are experiencing earlier breast development, difficulty in breastfeeding, and increasing rates of breast cancer. Many studies link this in women (and in animals) with chemical exposures, especially endocrine disrupting chemicals (this is because they screw with hormones, and so have an effect on breast development and breast tissue).

But... the EPA is dismissing or ignoring relevant studies and pooh poohing the idea that chemicals can have harmful endocrine disrupting effects. Effects on the breast (mammary gland) are NOT required to be part of the EPA's chemical risk assessment (which determines whether a pesticide will be approved). The studies the EPA relies on are almost all financed by the manufacturers (hmmm...of course they'll say the pesticide is safe).

Note that the European Union bans many of the worrisome pesticides - they are not ignoring the science, and in doing so protect people.

From a piece by Dr Jennifer Liss Ohayon at Environmental Health News (EHN): Why is the EPA still exposing women to pesticides linked to breast cancer?

This fall marks the 60th anniversary of writer and scientist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring.” The book was seminal in that it sparked the modern environmental movement, a U.S. ban of DDT, and the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, despite decades passing since Carson first warned us about the dangers of pesticides, EPA continues to approve pesticides linked to breast cancer. ...continue reading "The EPA Is Still Approving Pesticides Linked To Breast Cancer"

Some dietary supplements can do serious harm, especially when taken in high doses. A recent study found cancer associated with high doses of the supplement nicotinamide riboside (NR), which is a form of vitamin B3.

Keep in mind that this study was done in vivo and in vitro (in a lab), and also in mice.. and not humans. But the results are concerning.

Swiss and Univ. of Missouri researchers found that high levels of NT could increase the risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer, and also for it to metastasize to the brain. Yikes.

By the way, while NR can be purchased as a supplement, it is normally not found in ordinary multi-vitamins that many take daily. Low levels of NR are found in fruit, vegetables, meat, and milk - it is necessary for health (it increases levels of cellular energy). It's the large amounts found in supplements that the researchers were concerned with and that can be problematic.

Stay tuned for further research...

From Science Daily: Popular dietary supplement increases breast cancer risk, brain metastasis, study suggests

While previous studies have linked commercial dietary supplements like nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, to benefits related to cardiovascular, metabolic and neurological health, new research from the University of Missouri has found NR could actually increase the risk of serious disease, such as development of breast cancer and brain metastasis. ...continue reading "A Dietary Supplement That Might Increase Cancer Risk"

Normal (left) vs cancerous breast (right), mammography image
Credit: National Cancer Institute

This is very preliminary, but everyone is excited over a breast cancer vaccine now being tested. The vaccine is meant to treat women who have breast cancer.

University of Washington researchers tested the vaccine for safety (it was very safe) and to see what was a good dose for women in a Phase 1 Clinical Trial. But the 66 women it was tested on (all who had metastatic breast cancer that had been treated) overall did much better than expected. Fabulous!

The next trial will soon start (Phase 2) with women at different stages of breast cancer. Stay tuned!

From Medical Xpress: Breast cancer vaccine safely generates anti-tumor immunity

An experimental vaccine against breast cancer safely generated a strong immune response to a key tumor protein, researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle report in a paper published by the journal JAMA Oncology. The findings suggest the vaccine may be able to treat different types of breast cancer.

"Because this was not a randomized clinical trial, the results should be considered preliminary, but the findings are promising enough that the vaccine will now be evaluated in a larger, randomized clinical trial," said lead author Dr. Mary "Nora" L. Disis, a UW professor of medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, and director of the Cancer Vaccine Institute. ...continue reading "Breast Cancer Vaccine Now Being Tested"

We all know that microbes (fungi, viruses, bacteria) live throughout our bodies - this is the human microbiome or microbiota. What is really interesting is that cancer tumors also have microbiomes (tumor microbiome), and these microbial communities are different than that found in healthy people (without tumors).

For a while it has been known that tumors (e.g., breast cancers) have different bacterial species than healthy tissue - the microbiome is different. Several recent studies find that tumors can also contain fungi, and cancers with certain fungal species have worse outcomes than those without the fungi. The mycobiome is the community of fungi that live in or on humans.

Also, the combination of fungal species are different depending on what kind of cancer that a person has. A group of scientists have put together a list (mycobiome atlas) of the distinctive fungi that are found with 35 different cancer tumors. This is exciting because in the future cancers could potentially be found by the microbial (fungi and bacteria) DNA they shed in the blood.

However, no one knows really why the fungi are in the tumors. For example, are they aiding the cancer development? Or is the cancer allowing the fungi to grow? Are the fungi interacting with the immune system? Or??

Several recent articles discuss this exciting new research.

From NY Times: A New Approach to Spotting Tumors: Look for Their Microbes

Look up an image of a tumor on Google, and you’ll probably end up with a brightly colored cluster of cancer cells on a drab background of healthy tissue. But for Lian Narunsky Haziza, a cancer biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, the picture looks very different. A tumor may also contain millions of microbes, representing dozens of species.

Scientists have long known that our bodies are home to microbes, but have tended to treat tumors as if they were sterile. In recent years, however, researchers have laid that notion to rest, demonstrating that tumors are rife with microbes. ...continue reading "Studies Find Fungi In Cancer Tumors"

We've all been warned over and over to avoid sunlight in order to avoid skin cancer, but... conflicting with that advice are studies linking higher sunlight exposure to lower levels of other cancers, health benefits (e.g. lower blood pressure), and early death (mortality). One such recent study found that higher sun exposure over the years is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer in women.

The Univ. of Buffalo and Univ. of Puerto Rico researchers conducted the study in Puerto Rico, where people live with high year round sun exposure. 635 women participated in the study.

From Medical Xpress: Study in Puerto Rico finds lower risk of breast cancer with more sun exposure

The sun is almost always shining during the day in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and that makes the findings of a new study on breast cancer and sun exposure particularly noteworthy.  ...continue reading "Study Finds Lower Risk of Breast Cancer With Higher Sunlight Exposure"

For years scientists have warned of breast cancer links to some pesticides, while the EPA and the chemical industry pooh-poohed these associations. Just a coincidence, not true, studies poorly done, and ignore or attack were their common responses. Seeing a mismatch between scientific evidence and what the EPA was saying led researchers at the respected Silent Spring Institute to examine EPA pesticide documents and studies.

The big question: was the EPA deliberately ignoring evidence that some pesticides can cause mammary tumors (the equivalent of breast cancer in humans)? In other words, was the EPA ignoring evidence of some pesticides being carcinogenic when they were determining how to classify a pesticide and its risk assessment?

Their finding: Yes, the EPA was ignoring evidence for a number of pesticides causing mammary tumors. And because of this some pesticides are not labeled as cancer-causing (carcinogenic) by the FDA. Another problem they (and others) found is that the EPA is ignoring evidence about endocrine disruptors, and evidence that some chemicals have a bigger effect at smaller doses than big doses. The old view: the dose makes the poison, but now we know that doesn’t apply to endocrine disruptors which may have a bigger effect at smaller doses.

The scientists identified 28 pesticides that produced mammary tumors in studies, but the EPA acknowledged tumors only in nine, and dismissed the rest. The scientists strongly suggested that the EPA reassess cancer risks for some commonly used pesticides, including malathion, triclopyr, atrazine, propylene oxide, and 3-iodo-2-propynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC).

Another concerning problem (and not addressed at all by the EPA) is that 10 pesticides had reported effects on the mammary gland (other than tumors). For five of these pesticides (atrazine, chlorpyrifos, malathion, methoxychlor, and parathion) exposure during pregnancy or early life altered mammary gland development. What does this mean long-term? Will there be effects on lactation (breast-feeding)? (Some research suggests yes).

From Medical Xpress: Dozens of pesticides linked with mammary gland tumors in animal studies

In an analysis of how regulators review pesticides for their potential to cause cancer, researchers at Silent Spring Institute identified more than two dozen registered pesticides that were linked with mammary gland tumors in animal studies. The new findings raise concerns about how the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves pesticides for use and the role of certain pesticides in the development of breast cancer.

Several years ago, a resident on Cape Cod in Massachusetts contacted researchers at Silent Spring looking for information on an herbicide called triclopyr. Utility companies were looking to spray the chemical below power lines on the Cape to control vegetation.  ...continue reading "EPA Needs to Look At Breast Cancer Risks From Pesticides"

Once again, a study found that the foods we eat are associated with our risk for breast cancer. Results from a long-running European study found that certain foods (alcohol, wine, beer) are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, while other foods (foods high in fiber, certain fruits such as apples and pears, and higher carbohydrate intake) are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

This study used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, which enrolled 272,098 women (between 1992 and 2000) from 10 European countries. Women filled out an extensive nutritional questionnaire (to assess intake of 92 foods and nutrients) at the beginning, and then they were followed for about 15 years.

It has long been known that higher alcohol intake raises breast cancer risk, especially risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, and this study supports that. Fruits (esp. apples and pears) were associated with a lower risk of breast cancer - and they were also a main source of fiber foods, as well as carbohydrates.

What was not discussed in the study was that along with having many nutrients and high amounts of fiber, produce also contains multitudes of microbes. A recent study found that one apple alone has millions of bacteria! When we eat fresh fruits and vegetables, we are introducing microbes into the gut, as well as feeding beneficial gut microbes (and ultimately lowering chronic inflammation).

Unfortunately they only asked the women about foods one time at the beginning of the study. The women could have changed their dietary patterns over the next 15 years, especially since so many new foods have become popular and widely available. Also, looking at the food list - there was no mention of olive oil, which researchers view as anti-inflammatory, and lowering the risk of breast cancer.

Study by A.K.Heath et al. (in Breast Cancer Research). Excerpts from Medscape: Nutrient-Wide Association Study of 92 Foods and Nutrients and Breast Cancer Risk

Six foods and nutrients were identified as associated with risk of breast cancer in the EPIC study (10,979 cases). Higher intake of alcohol overall was associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, as was beer/cider intake and wine intake, whereas higher intakes of fiber, apple/pear, and carbohydrates were associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.   ...continue reading "The Foods We Eat and Breast Cancer"

A very interesting, but very preliminary study just came out about breast cancer and walnuts. Could follow up research really show this to be true - that eating walnuts has an anti-breast cancer effect?? Animal studies find that multiple ingredients in walnuts (e.g.alpha linolenic acid, beta-sitosterol, a number of antioxidants such as ellagic acid) reduce the risk of cancer or slow its growth, or even increase tumor cell death. Researchers think this is true for human breast cancer also, and so a study was done looking at "gene expression" of breast cancer tumors. The question asked by the Marshall University (West Virginia) researchers was: Would eating 2 oz (14 halves) of walnuts daily for 2 to 3 weeks have an effect on the breast cancer tumors?

10 post-menopausal women had diagnostic breast cancer tumor biopsies done and then were randomly divided into 2 groups: 1) 5 of the women ate 2 oz of walnuts daily for the 2 to 3 weeks until breast cancer surgery, and 2) the other 5 avoided eating walnuts in the 2 to 3 weeks prior to breast cancer surgery. Otherwise the women ate their normal diets - a Western style diet.

The researchers noted that in the walnut eating group: "gene expression in the tumor was modified in ways expected to slow proliferation, reduce inflammation, reduce metastasis and to increase cancer cell death". The researchers also felt that consuming walnuts would decrease risk for cancer recurrence, and that there may be benefit from walnuts against many cancer types.

The researchers point out that another study published in 2016 (which was a review and analysis of 20 studies) concluded that "nut consumption, including peanuts, was associated with reduced risk of cancer and reduced all-cause mortality" (meaning death from any cause) - which agrees with the results of this study. In the 2016 study the beneficial health effect was for at least 28 grams (1 serving) of nuts per day. Bottom line: Enjoy consuming some nuts daily!

From Medical Xpress: Scientists tie walnuts to gene expressions related to breast cancer

New research from Marshall University links walnut consumption as a contributing factor that could suppress growth and survival of breast cancers.  ...continue reading "Walnuts Have An Effect On Breast Cancer Tumors"

Some good news for women and breast cancer. We are all exposed to endocrine disruptors  around us - such as in personal care items, some household items, some medical devices and medications, plastic raincoats, and vinyl flooring. Phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors, are used as plasticizers in many of these products. We can lower our exposure to phthalates, but can't totally eliminate it. So a big question is: Is exposure to phthalates linked to breast cancer?

Animal and laboratory studies suggest that a number of phthalates have carcinogenic effects (cancer causing), but several retrospective studies of women had mixed results regarding whether higher phthalate levels are associated with breast cancer or not. But now a large study (the Women's Health Initiative) that followed postmenopausal women for 2 decades has found that phthalate levels are not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

The 1257 women (average age 62 1/2 years at the start) in the study gave either 2 or 3 urine samples (once a year) during the first 2 or 3 years of the study, and the urine was analyzed for a number of phthalates. Then the women were followed for 19 years. The researchers found some "suggestive associations", but nothing significant. Whew... We can breathe sigh of relief.

However, there are some real problems with the study. While it does not look likely that phthalates have a large effect, smaller associations are possible, which the researchers discuss.

1) One big problem is that phthalates are rapidly metabolized and excreted from the body, so that the levels can vary tremendously from one point in time to another. (Half of phthalate metabolites are excreted in urine within 12 to 24 hours of exposure.) And the researchers did find that "phthalate biomarker concentrations exhibited high within-person variability over a 3 year period".  More urine samples should have been taken from the women - not just one a year for 2 or 3 years. This study did not look at who routinely got exposed to high levels of phthalates and who wasn't. Half of phthalate metabolites are excreted in urine within 12 to 24 hours of exposure. Just having a week with lots of fast food could raise phthalate levels (the chemicals leach in from the packaging). See why only one measurement a year is inadequate?

2) Another big problem is that most of the postmenopausal women - whether with breast cancer or not, were using hormone therapy - in the past or during the study. As the researchers point out: "Because phthalates are far less estrogenic than hormone therapy formulations, it is possible that hormone therapy use may mask any true effect of phthalate exposure on breast cancer risk." 3) And the last big issue to think about is that this study did not look at early life exposures to phthalates, such as during puberty when the breasts are developing. Other studies suggest that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals are important during critical periods of life, especially earlier in life (e.g. adolescence). Looking just at phthalate exposure of postmenopausal women may be too late.

According to studies and the CDCalmost everyone in the United States is exposed to phthalates in varying degrees, especially by eating and drinking food and liquid that has come in contact with containers and products containing the chemicals, and by inhaling indoor air that has phthalates in the dust. Adult women tend to have higher exposure to certain phthalates (it's measured in the urine) that are used in soaps, body washes, shampoos, cosmetics, and similar personal care products.  ...continue reading "Breast Cancer and Endocrine Disruptors"

A recently published study was good news for those who eat organic foods. The large French study (about 69,000 people) found a  significantly lower risk of getting cancer (25% lower) in people who ate a lot of organic food - when compared to people who rarely or never ate organic food.

The participants in the study were followed for an average of 4.6 years. Cancers with the greatest decreased risk were breast cancer (especially in postmenopausal women) and all lymphomas, especially non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The researchers summarized the findings as:  "In a population-based cohort study of 68 ,946 French adults, a significant reduction in the risk of cancer was observed among high consumers of organic food." and "...if the findings are confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer." This could be an easy way to cut cancer risk! (Other organic food benefits.)

Of course the pesticide and conventional agriculture industry went nuts attacking the study - this finding goes against their message that pesticides are fine and necessary, don't worry about pesticide residues in food, and that antibiotics and other medicines are safe when given routinely to animals.

Unfortunately, research finds that a number of pesticides used in conventional farming are considered carcinogenic (cancer causing), and pesticide residues are found in conventionally grown foods. Eating conventional foods every day results in chronic low-dose pesticide residue exposure. The researchers suspect the pesticide residues in foods is the reason for the higher cancer risk. [Note: those pesticides are not allowed to be used in organic farming.]

What foods did the researchers ask about? They asked people about the consumption of 16 types of labeled organic food products: fruits; vegetables; soy-based products; dairy products; meat and fish; eggs; grains and legumes; bread and cereals; flour; vegetable oils and condiments; ready-to-eat meals; coffee, tea, and herbal tea; wine; biscuits, chocolate, sugar, and marmalade; other foods; and dietary supplements. In other words, all the foods we eat daily.

But what I found really interesting was a review of the study by Dr. Charles Benbrook (Visiting Scholar in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, and a Visiting Professor at the Univ. of Newcastle in the UK). He correctly points out that the results are big news and a big deal.

Excerpts from Environmental Health News: Charles Benbrook: New study showing organic diets cut cancer risk is a big deal. Let’s treat it that way.      ...continue reading "Lower Cancer Risk By Eating Organic Food?"