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Another recent study found an association with pesticide exposure (both herbicides and insecticides) and leukemia risk in infants and children. The study found that exposure prenatally or during childhood to pesticides increases the risk for leukemia. (Keep in mind that cancer in childhood is rare, but it does occur.)

Researchers at the School of Medicine (in Greece) did a review and analysis of 52 studies and found that preconception exposure to pesticides by either the father and mother can increase the risk, also childhood exposure. But the biggest risk was a mother's exposure during pregnancy, and this was linked to both infant and childhood leukemia. (Yes,  the developing baby is also exposed when the mother is exposed during pregnancy)

What to do? If thinking about conceiving a child, already pregnant, or have children - try to eliminate as much exposure to pesticides as possible. Many of us have chronic exposures to low levels of pesticides - whether in our homes, yards, workplaces, and food. So this is important.

This means avoiding pesticide treatments or flea collars in pet dogs, not routinely applying pesticides in residences or outdoors, which includes outdoor weed + feed  or mosquito treatments (toxic pesticides!). Eat organic as much as possible. Use least toxic integrated Pest Management (IPM) if need to deal with a pest problem. (Beyond Pesticides is a good resource site for pesticide information, organic approaches, and IPM)

From Beyond Pesticides (they frequently write about pesticide studies): In Utero and Childhood Pesticide Exposure Increases Childhouse  Cancer Risk

A study published in Environmental Pollution finds the risk of acute childhood leukemia (AL) increases with prenatal and newborn exposure to pesticides (i.e., insecticides and herbicides). The study results support the hypothesis that chronic environmental pesticide exposure increases childhood leukemia risk up to two times. Maternal exposure has a stronger association with leukemia than childhood exposure. Insecticides and herbicides are of particular significance in increasing leukemia risk, especially for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. ...continue reading "Pesticide Exposure and Increased Leukemia Risk In Children"

Antibiotics can be life-saving, but there are also unintended consequences. One of them is that they disrupt and alter the gut microbiome (the microbial community of the millions of microbes living in the intestines). A large study found that use of antibiotics is linked to a higher risk of colon cancer 5 to 10 years later.

The researchers thought this was due to the antibiotics having negative effects on the gut microbiome. Antibiotics reduce numbers of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, while allowing bacteria linked to colorectal cancer to increase.

Researchers at Unea Univ. in Sweden compared 40,545 colon cancer cases to 202,720 controls (no cancer), and found that as antibiotic use increased, colon cancer increased in those persons during the next 10 years. It is unknown what happens after 10 years, because that is when the study ended. Interestingly, in women - increased use of antibiotics was linked to a lower incidence of rectal cancer.

The researchers analyzed the results with respect to different classes  of antibiotics, and found the strongest association with the use of quinolones, sulfonamides, and trimethoprims. These antibiotics have an effect on bacterial diversity - specifically allowing anaerobic Fusobacteria and Bacteroidetes species to live and become more abundant. Other studies also support the view that Fusobacteria (e.g., Fusobacterium nucleatum) and Bacteroidetes species contribute to colorectal cancer development.

What to do? To increase beneficial species in the gut and lower levels of inflammation in the body, studies support eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fish - which also results in a high fiber intake (e.g., Mediterranean diet). Also, to quickly improve the diversity of microbes in the gut (a sign of health!) and to lower inflammation in the body, increase your intake of fermented foods.

Fermented foods include: yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, cheese, kefir, fermented vegetables, kimchi, natto, miso, sauerkraut, traditional pickles, traditional sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar, and kombucha. To quickly improve the gut microbiome, try to eat six 1/2 cup servings each day for a few months.

From Science Daily: Antibiotics linked to increased risk of colon cancer

There is a clear link between taking antibiotics and an increased risk of developing colon cancer within the next five to ten years. This has been confirmed by researchers at Umeå University, Sweden, after a study of 40,000 cancer cases. The impact of antibiotics on the intestinal microbiome is thought to lie behind the increased risk of cancer.  ...continue reading "Antibiotics and Colon Cancer"

Recently there have been studies with conflicting results about the health benefits or harms from coffee consumption. Overall, it seems like moderate intake is OK and beneficial for adults, but too much may cause harm. And avoid caffeinated coffee if pregnant. Yesterday I posted about several recent studies finding health benefits from daily coffee consumption.

Coffee has anti-inflammatory effects, and contains more than a thousand chemical compounds. Over the years many studies found health benefits with regular and decaffeinated coffee, especially when a filter is used in the brewing process (e.g. drip coffee). But when the coffee is made by methods that don't filter the coffee (e.g. French press) the results may show harm, especially if large quantities are consumed daily.

The following are two recent studies finding that coffee consumption is associated with health benefits, and two studies finding potential harm from coffee consumption of over 6 cups a day. Note that whether the coffee is filtered or not may make a difference in results (the last 2 studies).

From (Jan. 11, 2021) Science Daily: Higher coffee intake may be linked to lower prostate cancer risk ...continue reading "Coffee Can Have Health Benefits, But Perhaps Harmful In Large Amounts"

Credit: NSF

Once again it is summer – the weather is hot, flowers are blooming, and pesticide application signs appear on lawns throughout the United States.

Americans love their lawns, and there seems to be a national obsession for one that looks like a lush weed-free carpet. Lawns can be thought of as the largest crop in the country, since they cover more area than any irrigated crop, even more than corn.

This has led to Americans applying nearly 80 million pounds of lawn care pesticides each year. One of the most common weed-killers is 2,4-D, a chemical used in Agent Orange, and linked to several types of cancers. It is found in many weed and feed products.

There are different types of pesticides. Harmless sounding “weed-killers” are actually herbicides, and “bug-killers” and “bug sprays” are insecticides. The purpose of pesticides is to kill or repel whatever is viewed as a pest, whether insects or weeds. Lawn care pesticides are considered to be “cosmetic” or non-essential use pesticides – meaning they are only used for aesthetic purposes.

There is a dark side to pesticides

Unfortunately, pesticides have effects beyond whatever was targeted. We may not see or smell pesticides after they have dried, whether applied to our lawns, gardens, crops, or homes, but they are still there and getting into our bodies.

We can breathe them in, absorb them through our skin and eyes, and ingest them in food, water, and dust. When children and pets are walking or rolling around on the grass after a pesticide application, they are absorbing those chemicals into their bodies. As far back as the early 1990s, studies showed that pesticides such as 2,4-D get into people and pets walking on treated lawns, especially on the first day they are sprayed (applied).

Pesticides are found in our air, water, soil, “drift” from neighboring properties and farms, and even in rain and fog. We track pesticides into our homes from the outside, where they linger in house dust and carpets. Scary, isn’t it?

Every year more evidence accumulates that pesticide exposures have harmful effects on humans, pets, wildlife, birds, bees, and other beneficial insects. Even on microbes in the soil, as well as microbes in the human gut microbiome!

Exposure to pesticides can be acute – a big amount at once, such as when a toddler walks over a recently treated lawn and winds up severely ill and possibly hospitalized. Yes, that actually happened to a child in my town. Or exposure to pesticides can be continuous and at low levels (chronic exposure).

Did you know that over 90% of all Americans, including pregnant women, have pesticide residues in their bodies? Pesticides can be measured in our blood and urine, breast milk, and even meconium (an infant's first feces). Studies show that while we are being exposed less to some now banned pesticides, other pesticide levels, such as glyphosate (which is used in Roundup), are rapidly increasing in human bodies.

The bad news is that we don’t really know what all the chronic low-level pesticide mixtures that we are exposed to are doing to us. Studies are finding health problems such as cancers, endocrine (hormone) disruption, reproductive problems, effects on mental development and behavior, and even effects on semen quality. Being exposed to pesticides at certain times of development can have the biggest effects, especially during pregnancy when the fetus is developing and during childhood.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in December 2012 warning of the dangers of pesticide exposure (including in the home) to children and during pregnancy. They stated that this includes common pesticides considered by many as “safe”, such as pyrethroids.

Our pets are at risk too. Dogs exposed to lawn pesticides develop the same cancers as humans. Researchers consider them early warning systems for human health because cancers take only a few years to show up in dogs, but many years in humans. ...continue reading "Are Lawn and Garden Pesticides Harming Us?"

Eating mushrooms has always been considered part of a healthy diet. A group of researchers, after reviewing many studies, concluded that eating mushrooms frequently is associated with a lower risk of cancer, especially breast cancer. Thus consuming mushrooms may be protective against cancer.

The Penn State College of Medicine researchers reviewed 17 studies (from 1966 to Oct 2020), all of them observational, so it doesn't prove that mushrooms are protective, but it looks promising... They think the beneficial effect is from the ergothioneine in mushrooms, an antioxidant and cellular protector, and found in a variety of mushrooms.

In 2020 the same group also published similar/almost the same review of 17 studies from 1966 to 2019. At the time they stated that the mushroom-cancer association was only observed in studies from non-western regions. Perhaps mushrooms were a bigger part of the diet in those cultures? They also said when looking at the dose and response, can see that  a "10/gram per day increase in mushroom intake was associated with a 17% lower risk of cancer", especially breast cancer.

From Medical Xpress: Higher mushroom consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer

Next time you make a salad, you might want to consider adding mushrooms to it. That's because higher mushroom consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer, according to a new Penn State study, published on March 16 in Advances in Nutrition.  ...continue reading "Eating Mushrooms Associated With A Lower Risk of Cancer"

The possibility of a vaccine for helping the body fight cancer just got one step closer. A vaccine that targets a specific type of usually incurable brain cancer called "diffuse glioma" has had very good results in a trial of the vaccine. This is great news for a brain cancer that, even with treatment, keeps spreading throughout the brain, and only has a general 5-year survival rate of 48.9%.

The most important findings of the vaccine trial: the 3 year survival rate after being fully vaccinated was 84%, and in this group of 30 patients - 63% did not have any progression in tumor growth. And 82% of one subgroup of patients whose immune system showed a specific response to the vaccines had no tumor progression within the 3 year study period. This is amazing news for a cancer that typically has such a bleak prognosis.

brain cancer, diffuse glioma
Diffuse glioma in the brain. Credit: NCI

In a follow-up to this trial the researchers are combining the vaccine with checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy (which give the immune system a boost), and which they think (are hoping) may produce even better results. Think of it this way - these treatments have the potential for you (your body's immune system) to effectively fight a cancer. The future is looking bright!

From Medical Xpress: First-ever vaccine for malignant brain tumors reported safe, effective in early trial

Tumor vaccines can help the body fight cancer. Mutations in the tumor genome often lead to protein changes that are typical of cancer. A vaccine can alert the patient's immune system to these mutated proteins. For the first time, physicians and cancer researchers from Heidelberg and Mannheim have now carried out a clinical trial to test a mutation-specific vaccine against malignant brain tumors. The vaccine proved to be safe and triggered the desired immune response in the tumor tissue, as the team now reports in the journal Nature.  ...continue reading "Encouraging Results For A Vaccine Targeting Brain Tumors"

Another study has been published finding that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables (5 servings a day) is associated with a longer life.

Researchers from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health looked at the data from several large studies. They found that about 5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables was associated with the lowest mortality (death from any cause), and from deaths that can be attributed to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Specifically 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits.

Eating fruits and vegetables above that level (5 servings per day) didn't seem to make a difference. Another finding: eating starchy vegetables (corn, peas, potatoes) and fruit juices were not associated with a lower risk of mortality.

However, keep in mind that the results were based on answers to Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQ), where people answered questions about foods that they ate in the past year. Can you remember how frequently (daily, weekly, or monthly) you ate specific foods? Would you admit, in writing, that you eat lots of junk food or foods that you know are not so good for you?

As you can imagine, there is debate over how valid and reliable these questionnaires are. For example: Is It Time to Abandon the Food Frequency Questionnaire? in 2005, in 2015, and in 2018. FFQs are used because they are the cheapest option.

Some criticisms of FFQs: People don't accurately remember, and they may lie (they want to look better) by underreporting or overreporting foods. Also, the lists are premade - so if the foods you eat aren't on the lists, then it's not counted. Frequent omissions: onions, cucumbers, celery, quinoa, garlic, herbs.

Food dishes that contain many ingredients (such as many Asian dishes) can not be dealt with in FFQs that look at individual foods only. Canned foods are considered equivalent to fresh vegetables and fruits - yet they are not in many ways. No mention of organic vs non-organic foods (studies find nutritional differences, and a cancer link). Eh...

While filling out a sample online FFQ (from the National Cancer Institute) I realized that if I were part of a study - I would definitely answer so that my eating habits look better (!!), plus after answering for a while there was an urge to just get it over with (it took too long). Mutter to myself: "that sounds good, eh, who can remember..". Also, there was no way I would have admitted to any junk food binges.

From Science Daily:The right '5-a-day' mix is 2 fruit and 3 vegetable servings for longer life

Studies representing nearly 2 million adults worldwide show that eating about five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, in which 2 are fruits and 3 are vegetables, is likely the optimal amount for a longer life, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association's flagship journal Circulation.  ...continue reading "Eat At Least 5 Servings A Day of Fruits and Vegetables"

Many people don't realize that the plastic toys our children play with may contain harmful chemicals. Children get exposed to these chemicals by touching the toy (absorption through the skin), or ingesting chemicals (e.g. when a baby mouths the toy, or child ingests dust from the toy), but also from breathing in chemicals leaching out of all the plastic toys in the room into the air. This has been known a long time, yet here we are...

An international team of researchers looked at 419 chemicals and found 126 chemicals of concern (chemicals known to be harmful) in plastic toys - chemicals that they felt should no longer be used in children's toys. Many are endocrine disruptors, while others are linked to cancer. In this group were 31 plasticizer chemicals (including phthalates and BPA [bisphenol]), 18 flame retardants, and 8 fragrances. These chemicals can be measured in the urine. [Note: they did not look at some chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc.]

The researchers conclude: "Nowadays, existing regulations mainly prioritize a small set of chemicals, and regulators struggle to keep up with the thousands of new chemicals entering the market every year." They stress that we need to avoid "regrettable substitution" (substituting a dangerous chemical with another equally dangerous related chemical - such as replacing BPA with BPS). We need to identify safer substances that can be used in toys.

The more plastic toys in a room, the more exposure. They are outgassing all the time - even if you can't smell it. Soft plastic toys emit (outgas) the most chemicals. Children are especially vulnerable to these chemicals. Currently there is no international agreement over which chemicals to ban or regulate, and not enough chemicals are regulated or banned in toys and children's products.

There is no way right now to know which plastic toys contain dangerous chemicals and which don't. Toy manufacturers do not tell us what chemicals are in the toys. So... yes, we absolutely need (global) regulations to totally ban the use of certain chemicals in plastic toys, especially because so many toys are produced in countries with weak environmental regulations. We need to use safer chemical alternatives in plastic toys.

Bottom line: Try to have fewer plastic toys, especially soft plastic toys. Try to ventilate rooms frequently (every day) by opening windows, even if only for a short while.

From Science Daily: Potentially harmful chemicals found in plastic toys

It has long been known that several chemicals used in plastic toys in different parts of the world can be harmful to human health. However, it is difficult for parents to figure out how to avoid plastic toys containing chemicals that may cause possible health risks to their children.   ...continue reading "Plastic Toys May Contain Harmful Chemicals"

In the future, giving specific microbes or entire microbial communities may be part of some cancer treatments! This is because the composition of a person's gut microbiome (the community of bacteria, fungi, and viruses) influences whether a person responds to immunotherapy drugs. This means that the mixture and variety of microbial species living in your intestines may determine whether you respond to cancer immunotherapy drugs. Wow!

One recent study found benefits from fecal microbial transplants (FMT) - that is, transplanting the stool (which contains an entire microbial community of bacteria, fungi, viruses) from a donor who had responded well to immunotherapy drugs to a person with advanced melanoma who had not responded to immunotherapy drugs. In total, 15 persons received stool transplants, and 6 of them had changes to the gut microbiome (becoming more like the donor's gut microbiome) so that the immunotherapy drug now worked against melanoma.

Now studies are needed to identify which specific microbes are the ones that were critical for overcoming a tumor's resistance to immunotherapy drugs.

This is very exciting research because the best treatments for advanced melanoma (metastatic melanoma) are immunotherapy drugs, but it only works for a minority of patients at this point. Microbial manipulation (in this case with fecal transplants) could be a game changer!

Excerpts from Science Daily: Fecal microbiota transplants help patients with advanced melanoma respond to immunotherapy

For patients with cancers that do not respond to immunotherapy drugs, adjusting the composition of microorganisms in the intestines -- known as the gut microbiome -- through the use of stool, or fecal, transplants may help some of these individuals respond to the immunotherapy drugs, a new study suggests. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Cancer Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, conducted the study in collaboration with investigators from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh.  ...continue reading "Microbes and Advanced Melanoma Treatment"

Thankfully this rarely occurs, but so horrifying that it does. A study found that occasionally babies can contract cancer from their mothers during childbirth.

The Japanese study described the (rare) transmission of cervical cancer to two babies during birth, when the babies must have inhaled tumor cells as they were being born. Both later developed lung cancers, which were exact genetic matches to their mothers' cancers.

This is how rare it is: Approximately one in 1000 live births involves a mother who has cancer, but transmission of the cancer is estimated to only occur to one infant for every 500,000 mothers with cancer. 1 in 500,000. Most other cases have involved leukemia, lymphoma, and melanoma cancer cells crossing the placenta during pregnancy (transplacental transmission).

From Medical Xpress: Women may transmit cancer to infants in childbirth, reports suggest

In extremely rare instances, newborns can contract cancer from their pregnant moms during delivery, a new case report suggests.  ...continue reading "Rare Cases of Babies Contracting Cancer From the Mother During Birth"