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Excellent way to lower breast cancer risk. From Science Daily:

Postmenopausal breast cancer risk decreases rapidly after starting regular physical activity

Postmenopausal women who in the past four years had undertaken regular physical activity equivalent to at least four hours of walking per week had a lower risk for invasive breast cancer compared with women who exercised less during those four years, according to new data.

"Twelve MET-h [metabolic equivalent task-hours] per week corresponds to walking four hours per week or cycling or engaging in other sports two hours per week and it is consistent with the World Cancer Research Fund recommendations of walking at least 30 minutes daily," said Agnès Fournier, PhD, a researcher in the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France. "So, our study shows that it is not necessary to engage in vigorous or very frequent activities; even walking 30 minutes per day is beneficial."

Postmenopausal women who in the previous four years had undertaken 12 or more MET-h of physical activity each week had a 10 percent decreased risk of invasive breast cancer compared with women who were less active. Women who undertook this level of physical activity between five and nine years earlier but were less active in the four years prior to the final data collection did not have a decreased risk for invasive breast cancer

"We found that recreational physical activity, even of modest intensity, seemed to have a rapid impact on breast cancer risk. However, the decreased breast cancer risk we found associated with physical activity was attenuated when activity stopped. As a result, postmenopausal women who exercise should be encouraged to continue and those who do not exercise should consider starting because their risk of breast cancer may decrease rapidly."

Fournier and colleagues analyzed data obtained from biennial questionnaires completed by 59,308 postmenopausal women who were enrolled in E3N, the French component of the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. The mean duration of follow-up was 8.5 years, during which time, 2,155 of the women were diagnosed with a first primary invasive breast cancer.

I have seen a lot of excitement about this research, especially whether several day fasting would be beneficial for other diseases (e.g., Crohn's disease) or even for middle-aged or older people who just want to boost their immune system. From Science Daily:

Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system

In the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system, a study shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage -- a major side effect of chemotherapy -- but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.

In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial, long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles then "flipped a regenerative switch": changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems, the research showed.

The study has major implications for healthier aging, in which immune system decline contributes to increased susceptibility to disease as we age. By outlining how prolonged fasting cycles -- periods of no food for two to four days at a time over the course of six months -- kill older and damaged immune cells and generate new ones, the research also has implications for chemotherapy tolerance and for those with a wide range of immune system deficiencies, including autoimmunity disorders.

"When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged," Longo said. "What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?"

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose, fat and ketones, but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells. Longo likens the effect to lightening a plane of excess cargo.

During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells. In particular, prolonged fasting reduced the enzyme PKA, an effect previously discovered by the Longo team to extend longevity in simple organisms and which has been linked in other research to the regulation of stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency -- that is, the potential for one cell to develop into many different cell types. Prolonged fasting also lowered levels of IGF-1, a growth-factor hormone that Longo and others have linked to aging, tumor progression and cancer risk.

"PKA is the key gene that needs to shut down in order for these stem cells to switch into regenerative mode. It gives the 'okay' for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," explained Longo, noting the potential of clinical applications that mimic the effects of prolonged fasting to rejuvenate the immune system. "And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting. Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."

Prolonged fasting also protected against toxicity in a pilot clinical trial in which a small group of patients fasted for a 72-hour period prior to chemotherapy, extending Longo's influential past research: "While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy," said co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital. 

"We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system," said Longo, whose lab is in the process of conducting further research on controlled dietary interventions and stem cell regeneration in both animal and clinical studies.

Very interesting. Gives people a way to eat red meat, but not increase their colorectal cancer risk (by also eating resistant starch, e.g., potato salad or beans). From Science Daily:

Eating resistant starch may help reduce red meat-related colorectal cancer risk

Consumption of a type of starch that acts like fiber may help reduce colorectal cancer risk associated with a high red meat diet, according to a study. "Red meat and resistant starch have opposite effects on the colorectal cancer-promoting miRNAs, the miR-17-92 cluster," said one researcher. "This finding supports consumption of resistant starch as a means of reducing the risk associated with a high red meat diet.

Unlike most starches, resistant starch escapes digestion in the stomach and small intestine, and passes through to the colon (large bowel) where it has similar properties to fiber, Humphreys explained. Resistant starch is readily fermented by gut microbes to produce beneficial molecules called short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, she added.

"Good examples of natural sources of resistant starch include bananas that are still slightly green, cooked and cooled potatoes [such as potato salad], whole grains, beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Scientists have also been working to modify grains such as maize so they contain higher levels of resistant starch," said Humphreys.

After eating 300 g of lean red meat per day for four weeks, study participants had a 30 percent increase in the levels of certain genetic molecules called miR-17-92 in their rectal tissue, and an associated increase in cell proliferation. Consuming 40 g of butyrated resistant starch per day along with red meat for four weeks brought miR-17-92 levels down to baseline levels.

The study involved 23 healthy volunteers, 17 male and six female, ages 50 to 75. Participants either ate the red meat diet or the red meat plus butyrated resistant starch diet for four weeks, and after a four-week washout period switched to the other diet for another four weeks.

Great reason to enjoy spicy food. From Science Daily:

Chili peppers for a healthy gut: Spicy chemical may inhibit gut tumors

Researchers report that dietary capsaicin – the active ingredient in chili peppers – produces chronic activation of a receptor on cells lining the intestines of mice, triggering a reaction that ultimately reduces the risk of colorectal tumors.

...the current study suggests one potential remedy might be spicy capsaicin, which acts as an irritant in mammals, generating a burning sensation in contact with tissue. Capsaicin is already broadly used as an analgesic in topical ointments, where its properties as an irritant overwhelm nerves, rendering them unable to report pain for extended periods of time. It's also the active ingredient in pepper spray.

The researchers fed capsaicin to mice genetically prone to developing multiple tumors in the gastrointestinal tract. The treatment resulted in a reduced tumor burden and extended the lifespans of the mice by more than 30 percent. The treatment was even more effective when combined with celecoxib, a COX-2 non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug already approved for treating some forms of arthritis and pain.

This research review suggests that 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables has the best health benefits. They surprisingly did not find that fruit/vegetable consumption was protective against cancer. But the authors point out that other studies of cancer and fruit/vegetable consumption have also been inconsistent, and this might be partly explained if certain fruits and vegetables only have effects on certain cancers. From Medical Daily:

An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away? Actually It's 5 Apples, And They Keep Death Away

A review of the eating habits of more than 800,000 people seems to discredit the old maxim about "an apple a day." In fact, five servings of fruit and vegetables offers the best health benefits, particularly against heart disease, and reduces your chances of dying for any reason.

After calculating the odds, researchers write in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that "the risk of all-cause mortality was decreased by 5 percent for each additional serving a day of fruit and vegetables." But, contrary to other reports, they found the benefits drop off after five servings, at which point, they wrote, "we observed a threshold." Previous studies have said seven fruit and vegetable servings is the optimum number.

Other studies have also made the case for fruits and vegetables as a ward against cancer. This one, led by Professor Frank B. Hu in the Harvard School of Public Health, saw no evidence for that. They did, however, find a "significant inverse association" between a fruit and veggie diet and death by heart disease. "The results support current recommendations to increase consumption to promote health and overall longevity," Hu and his colleagues wrote.

Of course, the authors admit, the studies they looked at may have been corrupted by participants lying or guessing on their diet questionnaires. But one thing this study has going for it is the massive sample size. They looked at 16 papers involving 833,234 people and 56,423 deaths. Most of those deaths — as is the case in the general population — were caused by cardiovascular disease and cancer. The people who lived longest adhered to what's called the Mediterranean diet, which favors carrots and tomatoes to steak and bacon.

This is Part 2 on how lifestyle influences aging. Many recent research reports tell of a link between our lifestyle and how we'll age - whether we'll be active and healthy well into our 80s or in terrible shape and dying young. Mind you, these are not "definites" because nothing can give you a guarantee, but they are ways we can improve our odds in living the long and healthy life that we want. From February 2014 Medscape:

Cancers Caused by Lifestyle Behaviors: Experts Urge Action

In launching the World Cancer Report 2014 earlier this week, the editors emphasized the need for prevention and highlighted lifestyle behaviors that lead to cancer, including smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, overweight/obesity, and lack of exerciseThe report, issued by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR), contains contributions from more than 250 scientists worldwide, many of them leading experts in their fields. 

In the United States, 1 in 3 cancer deaths is related to obesity, poor nutrition, or physical inactivity, and the problem will only increase as more countries and regions adopt the diet and lifestyles of more economically developed economies."

Tobacco, both smoked and smokeless, remains the world's leading cause of cancer morbidity and mortality, the report notes. The IACR and also the US Surgeon General have concluded that the relationship with smoking is causal for cancers of the nasal and oral cavities, hypopharynx, larynx, trachea, esophagus, lung, bronchus, bone marrow (leukemia), stomach, kidney, pancreas, ureter, uterus, bladder, and cervix. The IACR expands this list to also include paranasal sinuses, liver, colon, rectum, and ovary (mucinous), but says it is unclear if there is a link with breast cancer.

Still under-recognized, and not acted on, is the association between drinking alcohol and cancer. The agency says cancers caused by drinking alcoholic beverages include those of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectum, and female breast.

Excess body fat increases the risk for cancers of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, endometrium, and kidney, as well as postmenopausal breast cancer. The evidence for obesity increasing the risk for these cancers is "convincing," the agency comments, and there is a dose–response relationship, so being overweight is less risky than being obese.

Regular physical activity reduces the risk for multiple cancers by contributing to weight control, and also reduces the risk for colorectal and breast cancer by additional mechanisms. The general consensus among researchers is that exercise should be of moderate intensity and average at least an hour each day.

High consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, is associated with a risk for colorectal cancer. "A diet high in fruit and vegetables and whole grains does not appear to be as strongly protective against cancer as initially believed," the report notes. "However, this dietary pattern is still advisable because of the benefits for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and some possible reductions in cancer incidence."

From Science Daily:

Watching too much TV may increase risk of early death: Three hours a day linked to premature death from any cause

Adults who watch TV three hours or more a day may double their risk of premature death from any cause. Researchers suggest adults should consider getting regular exercise, avoiding long sedentary periods and reducing TV viewing to one to two hours a day.

Results of a large study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. From Science Daily:

Large waist linked to poor health, even among those in healthy body mass index ranges

Having a big belly has consequences beyond trouble squeezing into your pants. It’s detrimental to your health, even if you have a healthy body mass index (BMI), a new international collaborative study has found. Men and women with large waist circumferences were more likely to die younger, and were more likely to die from illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems, and cancer after accounting for body mass index, smoking, alcohol use and physical activity.

Some good news for those who have to sit for long periods every day at work - being physically fit may help. From Science Daily:

Physical fitness associated with less pronounced effect of sedentary behavior

Physical fitness may buffer some of the adverse health effects of too much sitting, according to a new study. Sedentary behavior has been linked to an increase risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and premature death. But previous studies of the association have not taken into account the protective impact of fitness, a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality.

Overall, this is further evidence that eating natural, real foods  (in moderation) and avoiding supplements is best for health. Don't want to feed any cancers. From Science Daily:

How antioxidants can accelerate cancers, and why they don't protect against them

For decades, health-conscious people around the globe have taken antioxidant supplements and eaten foods rich in antioxidants, figuring this was one of the paths to good health and a long life.Yet clinical trials of antioxidant supplements have repeatedly dashed the hopes of consumers who take them hoping to reduce their cancer risk. Virtually all such trials have failed to show any protective effect against cancer. In fact, in several trials antioxidant supplementation has been linked with increased rates of certain cancers. In one trial, smokers taking extra beta carotene had higher, not lower, rates of lung cancer.

Two cancer researchers have proposed why antioxidant supplements might not be working to reduce cancer development, and why they may actually do more harm than good. Their insights are based on recent advances in the understanding of the system in our cells that establishes a natural balance between oxidizing and anti-oxidizing compounds. These compounds are involved in so-called redox (reduction and oxidation) reactions essential to cellular chemistry.

Drs. Tuveson and Chandel propose that taking antioxidant pills or eating vast quantities of foods rich in antioxidants may be failing to show a beneficial effect against cancer because they do not act at the critical site in cells where tumor-promoting ROS (reactive oxygen species) are produced -- at cellular energy factories called mitochondria. Rather, supplements and dietary antioxidants tend to accumulate at scattered distant sites in the cell, "leaving tumor-promoting ROS relatively unperturbed," the researchers say.

Quantities of both ROS and natural antioxidants are higher in cancer cells -- the paradoxically higher levels of antioxidants being a natural defense by cancer cells to keep their higher levels of oxidants in check, so growth can continue. In fact, say Tuveson and Chandel, therapies that raise the levels of oxidants in cells may be beneficial, whereas those that act as antioxidants may further stimulate the cancer cells. Interestingly, radiation therapy kills cancer cells by dramatically raising levels of oxidants. The same is true of chemotherapeutic drugs -- they kill tumor cells via oxidation.

The worrisome results are adding up for BPA and BPS. From Environmental Health News:

Miscarriage risk rises with BPA exposure, study finds

Women exposed to high levels of bisphenol A early in their pregnancy had an 83 percent greater risk of miscarriage than women with the lowest levels, according to new research. The scientists said their new study adds to evidence that low levels of the ubiquitous chemical, used to make polycarbonate plastic and found in some food cans and paper receipts, may affect human reproduction. The study involved 115 pregnant women who had visited a Stanford University fertility clinic within about four weeks of fertilization. The more BPA detected in the women’s blood, the higher their risk of miscarriage, according to the researchers.

“Couples suffering from infertility or recurrent miscarriages would be best advised to reduce BPA exposure because it has the potential to adversely affect fetal development,” wrote the scientists, led by Dr. Ruth Lathi, a Stanford University associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology. 

In 2005, a smaller study in Japan found that 45 women who had three or more first-trimester miscarriages had three times more BPA in their blood than 32 women with no history of pregnancy problems. 

From Science Daily:

BPA increases risk of cancer in human prostate tissue, study shows

Fetal exposure to a commonly used plasticizer found in products such as water bottles, soup can liners and paper receipts, can increase the risk for prostate cancer later in life, according to a study. Exposure of the fetus to BPA in utero is of particular concern, because the chemical, which mimics the hormone estrogen, has been linked to several kinds of cancer, including prostate cancer, in rodent models. The new findings show that human prostate tissue is also susceptible.

"Our research provides the first direct evidence that exposure to BPA during development, at the levels we see in our day-to-day lives, increases the risk for prostate cancer in human prostate tissue," Prins said

This study was done in rats, but thought to also apply to humans. From Science Daily:

Common BPA substitute, BPS, disrupts heart rhythms in females

Bisphenol S (BPS), a common substitute for bisphenol A (BPA) in consumer products, may have similar toxic effects on the heart as previously reported for BPA, a new study finds.

There is implied safety in BPA-free products. The thing is, the BPA analogs -- and BPS is one of them -- have not been tested for safety in humans." "Our findings call into question the safety of BPA-free products containing BPS," he said. "BPS and other BPA analogs need to be evaluated before further use by humans."

Daily sitting for hours on end is no damn good. From Medical Daily:

Too Much Sitting And Watching TV Increases Your Risk Of Certain Cancers: Why Sitting Is The New Smoking

Or the nice scientific write-up of the same study. Bottom line: to lower the risk of cancer, sit less and move more. From Science Daily:

Sedentary behavior increases risk of certain cancers

Physical inactivity has been linked with diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, but it can also increase the risk of certain cancers, according to a study published June 16 in the JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

To assess the relationship between TV viewing time, recreational sitting time, occupational sitting time, and total sitting time with the risk of various cancers, Daniela Schmid, Ph.D., M.Sc., and Michael F. Leitzmann, M.D., Dr.P.H., of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Regensburg, Germany, conducted a meta-analysis of 43 observational studies, including over 4 million individuals and 68,936 cancer cases

When the highest levels of sedentary behavior were compared to the lowest, the researchers found a statistically significantly higher risk for three types of cancer -- colon, endometrial, and lung. Moreover, the risk increased with each 2-hour increase in sitting time, 8% for colon cancer, 10% for endometrial cancer, and 6% for lung cancer, although the last was borderline statistically significant. The effect also seemed to be independent of physical activity, suggesting that large amounts of time spent sitting can still be detrimental to those who are otherwise physically active. TV viewing time showed the strongest relationship with colon and endometrial cancer, possibly, the authors write, because TV watching is often associated with drinking sweetened beverages, and eating junk foods.

The researchers write "That sedentariness has a detrimental impact on cancer even among physically active persons implies that limiting the time spent sedentary may play an important role in preventing cancer…."

An interesting link. The thinking is that the number of moles (cutaneous nevi) are linked to higher levels of sex hormones. From Medical Xpress:

Moles linked to risk for breast cancer

Cutaneous nevi, commonly known as moles, may be a novel predictor of breast cancer, according to two studies published in this week's PLOS Medicine. Jiali Han and colleagues from Indiana University and Harvard University, United States, and Marina Kvaskoff and colleagues from INSERM, France, report that women with a greater number of nevi are more likely to develop breast cancer.

The researchers reached these conclusions by using data from two large prospective cohorts– the Nurses' Health Study in the United States, including 74,523 female nurses followed for 24 years, and the E3N Teachers' Study Cohort in France, including 89,902 women followed for 18 years. 

In the Nurses' Health Study, Han and colleagues asked study participants to report the number of nevi >3mm on their left arm at the initial assessment. They observed that women with 15 or more nevi were 35% more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women who reported no nevi, corresponding to an absolute risk of developing breast cancer of 8.48% in women with no nevi and 11.4% for women with 15 or more nevi. In a subgroup of women, they observed that postmenopausal women with six or more nevi had higher blood levels of estrogen and testosterone than women with no nevi, and that the association between nevi and breast cancer risk disappeared after adjustment for hormone levels.

In the E3N Study, including mostly teachers, Kvaskoff and colleagues asked study participants to report whether they had no, a few, many, or very many moles. They observed that women with "very many" nevi had a 13% higher breast cancer risk than women reporting no nevi, although the association was no longer significant after adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors, especially benign breast disease or family history of breast cancer, which were themselves associated with nevi number.

These studies do not suggest that nevi cause breast cancer, but raise the possibility that nevi are affected by levels of sex hormones, which may be involved in the development of breast cancer. The findings do suggest that the number of nevi could be used as a marker of breast cancer risk, but it is unclear whether or how this information would improve risk estimation based on established risk factors. The accuracy of the findings is limited by the use of self-reported data on nevus numbers. Moreover, these findings may not apply to non-white women given that these studies involved mostly white participants.