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Once again a study finds that pesticide exposure is linked to an adverse health effect - that pesticide exposure in the home during pregnancy and early childhood is linked to an elevated risk of brain tumor in the child. Other studies have also found that pesticides used in the home are associated with a higher risk of childhood cancers.

This is because pesticides do cross the placental barrier, as the study researchers point out: "There is evidence that pesticides cross the fetal-placental barrier since residues of some insecticides have been found in umbilical cord blood, neonatal hair, and meconium following maternal exposure during pregnancy." Also, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified "more than twenty pesticide chemical compounds as potential human carcinogens".

The following are examples (but there are more) of other studies finding pesticide and childhood cancer links: A meta-analysis published in 2015 in Pediatrics by researchers at Harvard University found that children exposed to indoor insecticides (also herbicides) have a higher risk of certain childhood cancers, specifically leukemia, lymphomas, and brain tumors. A 2013 study published in Cancer Causes and Control found that professional pest control applications in the home within a year of conception and during pregnancy was associated with a higher risk of childhood brain tumors. A review of studies published in 2010 found that pesticide exposure during pregnancy and childhood increased the risk of childhood leukemia.

The good news is that there are alternatives to exposing fetuses and children to toxic pesticides at home - by using alternative ways of dealing with pests, such as least toxic Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or organic methods. That means doing other things (such as sealing or caulking holes, putting out traps and baits, vacuuming), a focus on least toxic methods and on prevention (here and here), rather than routinely applying toxic pesticides. If needed, least toxic pesticides include boric acid and vinegar. Other sources of pesticide exposure for pregnant women and children are foods and exposure in settings outside the home - perhaps even a friend's yard. By the way, pesticide exposure for everyone is linked to a higher risk of health problems, not just pregnant women and children.

From Science Daily: Pesticide use during pregnancy linked to increased risk of childhood brain tumors

Previous epidemiological studies have suggested that exposure to pesticides during pregnancy may have a possible role in the development of childhood brain tumors. In a new International Journal of Cancer analysis, researchers found a link between maternal residential pesticide use -- particularly insecticides -- and the risk of childhood brain tumorsThe analysis included 437 malignant childhood brain tumor cases and 3102 controls from two French studies. Pesticide use was associated with a 1.4-times increased risk of childhood brain tumors.

The investigators noted that many pesticide compounds are classified as probable carcinogens, and there is evidence that some insecticides can pass through the feto-placental barrier. "Although such retrospective studies cannot identify specific chemicals used or quantify the exposure, our findings add another reason to advise mothers to limit their exposure to pesticides around the time of pregnancy," said Nicolas Vidart d'Egurbide Bagazgoïtia, lead author of the study. [Original study.]

 A number of recent studies looked at vitamin D and various diseases. All showed benefits of higher vitamin D levels in the blood: lower rates of cancer incidence, improved heart function in those with heart failure, lower rates of leukemia incidence, lower rates of breast cancer, and less aggressive breast and prostate cancer. However, one study found no benefits to vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and the child's asthma risk. Older studies found low levels of vitamin D linked to higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer, and also to thicker melanomas at diagnosis (the thinner the melanoma, the better the prognosis).

Everyone agrees that sunshine is an excellent source of vitamin D, but there is still disagreement over what are the best daily vitamin D supplement dosages, or even what are optimal levels of vitamin D in the blood (measured as serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D). In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that levels lower than 12 ng/ml represented a vitamin D deficiency and recommended a target of 20 ng/ml, which could be met in most healthy adults (ages 19 to 70) with 600 International Units of vitamin D each day. Since then most researchers have argued for higher blood serum levels: most agreeing that over 30 ng/ml is best, while some advocating 50 ng/ml or more. But even what's too high (and could cause problems) is debated. Many vitamin D supporters now advocate taking 800 to 1,000 IUs of vitamin D daily (some say up to 4000 IUs daily is OK). Remember to look for vitamin D3 supplements, not D2.

This study found that higher levels of vitamin D (measured as serum 25(OH)D) are better, with 25(OH)D concentrations of at least 40 ng/ml best to reduce cancer risk (all types of cancer). From Medical Xpress: Higher levels of vitamin D correspond to lower cancer risk, researchers say

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that higher levels of vitamin D - specifically serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D - are associated with a correspondingly reduced risk of cancer. The findings are published in the April 6, online issue of PLOS ONE.

Garland and his late brother, Frank, made the first connection between vitamin D deficiency and some cancers in 1980 when they noted populations at higher latitudes (with less available sunlight) were more likely to be deficient in vitamin D, which is produced by the body through exposure to sunshine, and experience higher rates of colon cancer. Subsequent studies by the Garlands and others found vitamin D links to other cancers, such as breast, lung and bladder.

The new PLOS ONE study sought to determine what blood level of vitamin D was required to effectively reduce cancer risk....The only accurate measure of vitamin D levels in a person is a blood test....Cancer incidence declined with increased 25(OH)D. Women with 25(OH)D concentrations of 40 ng/ml or greater had a 67 percent lower risk of cancer than women with levels of 20 ng/ml or less.

Garland does not identify a singular, optimum daily intake of vitamin D or the manner of intake, which may be sunlight exposure, diet and/or supplementation. He said the current study simply clarifies that reduced cancer risk becomes measurable at 40 ng/ml, with additional benefit at higher levels. "These findings support an inverse association between 25(OH)D and risk of cancer," he said, "and highlight the importance for cancer prevention of achieving a vitamin D blood serum concentration above 20 ng/ml, the concentration recommended by the IOM for bone health."

From Science Daily: Vitamin D improves heart function, study finds

A daily dose of vitamin D3 improves heart function in people with chronic heart failure, a five-year research project has found. The study involved more than 160 patients who were already being treated for their heart failure using proven treatments including beta-blockers, ACE-inhibitors and pacemakers.

Participants were asked to take vitamin D3 or a dummy (placebo) tablet for one year. Those patients who took vitamin D3 experienced an improvement in heart function which was not seen in those who took a placebo....In the 80 patients who took Vitamin D3, the heart's pumping function improved from 26% to 34%. In the others, who took placebo, there was no change in cardiac function.

Disappointing results. From Medscape: Vitamin D Disappoints: Prenatal Supplementation and Childhood Asthma

Two recent clinical trials examined maternal supplementation with vitamin D and postpregnancy offspring outcomes for asthma and wheezing....However, with respect to preventing asthma in offspring, there is no clear evidence for vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women.

From PLOS ONE: Vitamin D Deficiency at Melanoma Diagnosis Is Associated with Higher Breslow Thickness

Vitamin D deficiency at the time of melanoma diagnosis is associated with thicker tumours that are likely to have a poorer prognosis. Ensuring vitamin D levels of 50 nmol/L or higher in this population could potentially result in 18% of melanomas having Breslow thickness of <0.75 mm rather than ≥0.75 mm.

Reported in 2013. From Medical Express: Low vitamin D levels linked to high risk of premenopausal breast cancer

A prospective study led by researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has found that low serum vitamin D levels in the months preceding diagnosis may predict a high risk of premenopausal breast cancer. The study of blood levels of 1,200 healthy women found that women whose serum vitamin D level was low during the three-month period just before diagnosis had approximately three times the risk of breast cancer as women in the highest vitamin D group. 

A 2011 meta-analysis by Garland and colleagues estimated that a serum level of 50 ng/ml is associated with 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer. While there are some variations in absorption, those who consume 4000 IU per day of vitamin D from food or a supplement normally would reach a serum level of 50 ng/ml.

 The following research finds a link (it doesn't establish cause) - but these interesting associations with vitamin D keep popping up. The research looked at leukemia rates in 172 countries and found that living closer to the equator (and assumed to have higher levels of vitamin D due to sunlight exposure) is linked to lower levels of leukemia. By far the best source of vitamin D is sunshine (and not food). From Medical Xpress:

Researchers link higher risk of leukemia to low sunlight and vitamin D

Epidemiologists at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that persons residing at higher latitudes, with lower sunlight/ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure and greater prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, are at least two times at greater risk of developing leukemia than equatorial populations.

These results suggest that much of the burden of leukemia worldwide is due to the epidemic of vitamin D deficiency we are experiencing in winter in populations distant from the equator," said Cedric Garland, DrPH, adjunct professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health and member of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. "People who live in areas with low solar ultraviolet B exposure tend to have low levels of vitamin D metabolites in their blood," Garland said. "These low levels place them at high risk of certain cancers, including leukemia."

According to the American Cancer Society, 54,270 cases and 24,450 deaths from leukemia occur in the United States alone each year. There is no known way to prevent most types of leukemia, though some types may be prevented by avoiding high doses of ionizing radiation, exposure to the chemical benzene, smoking and certain types of chemotherapy.

The UC San Diego study analyzed age-adjusted incidence rates of leukemia in 172 countries from GLOBOCAN, an international agency for research on cancer that is part of the World Health Organization, comparing that information with cloud cover data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project. The study follows similar investigations by Garland and colleagues of other cancers, including breast, colon, pancreas, bladder and multiple myeloma. In each study, they found that reduced UVB radiation exposure and lower vitamin D levels were associated with higher risks of cancer.

Leukemia rates were highest in countries relatively closer to the poles, such as Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Ireland, Canada and the United States. They were lowest in countries closer to the equator, such as Bolivia, Samoa, Madagascar and Nigeria.

  Children exposed to insecticides (pesticides) at home have an increased risk of developing leukemia or lymphoma, a new review finds.The analysis, of 16 studies done since the 1990s, found that children exposed to indoor insecticides had an elevated risk of developing the blood cancers. There was also a weaker link between exposure to weed killers and the risk of leukemia. There is also evidence from studies linking pesticides with neurological consequences, such as lower IQ and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.Note: insecticides and weed-killers (herbicides) are both pesticides. The article also gives some non-chemical approaches to treating pests with non-chemical means. From CNN:

Report: Pesticide exposure linked to childhood cancer and lower IQ

Pesticide use in homes may increase the risk of children developing leukemia or lymphoma, a new report suggests. Researchers combined data from 16 earlier studies that had compared pesticide exposure between children who developed leukemia or lymphoma and those who did not. These studies estimated the level of insecticides and herbicides both inside the home and in the yard and outdoor residential space.

The researchers concluded that children who had been exposed to insecticides indoors were 47% more likely to have leukemia and 43% more likely to have lymphoma. Although leukemia and lymphoma are rare -- leukemia affects about five in 100,000 children in the United States -- they are among the common types of childhood cancers. "Childhood cancers are increasing year by year in this country....

This analysis "is confirming that pesticides may play a role, possibly a significant role, in the development of childhood leukemia and lymphoma," Lu said. However, he added that it is hard to say at this point if exposure to these chemicals is definitely a risk factor for these cancers.The association between pesticides and cancer risk is not necessarily limited to leukemia and lymphoma, either, Lu said. Pesticide exposure may also drive up the risk of other types of cancers, such as prostate and bladder, but they have not been studied as much, and are more difficult to research because they take longer to develop, he said. If childhood pesticide exposure helped trigger the onset of these other cancers, they might take many years, possibly into adulthood, to manifest.

The fact that the study found an association between only indoor use of insecticides and increased rates of cancer makes sense, Lu said, because there is less fresh air indoors to dilute the chemicals. And insecticides could be particularly damaging because they are sprayed around the home, whereas herbicides are usually used only around plants, he said. Children can be exposed to pesticides by breathing them in or eating them, Lu said. Chemical residues linger on surfaces where children play or spend time, and they may get them on their hands and put their hands in their mouths. In general, children younger than age 12 appear to be most vulnerable to the possible cancer-causing effects of pesticides.

Other research has suggested a link between parents who are exposed to high levels to pesticides at work, such as through farming, and increased rates of cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, both in these adults and their children.....In the case of how insecticides could be causing cancer, it may be that the same ingredients that kill insects could be causing genetic mutations in blood cells that lead to leukemia and lymphoma, Lu said.

In the meantime, parents can take precautions to reduce their exposure to pesticides. The most effective way is to prevent pests in the first place, by cleaning up old food, and repairing cracks and crevices through which insects can enter, Lu said.If the pests have already taken over, try non-chemical means first to wipe them out, such as using diatomaceous earth, a powder made from fossilized earth that dries out insect exoskeletons, Lu said. If parents feel they have to use chemicals, opt for bait strips rather than sprays that get everywhere, Lu said.

Some of the studies that Lu and his colleagues included in their analysis suggest that rates of cancer were highest among children who were exposed in the womb and among those whose parents were exposed before they were conceived. "Women who are pregnant or intend to become pregnant can avoid home insecticide application," said Roberts of the Medical University of South Carolina.

Although it is too soon to say unequivocally whether pesticide exposure increases the risk of childhood cancers, there is stronger evidence connecting these chemicals with neurological consequences, such as lower IQ and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Karr said.

Pesticide exposure has also been linked to headaches, nausea, skin irritation and other symptoms, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on children's exposure to pesticides, which Roberts and Karr wrote. A study to be published in the October issue of Pediatrics along with Lu's research raises the possibility that high doses of pesticide may even lead to sudden infant death. A post-mortem analysis by researchers in Italy of a 7-month-old girl who had died in her sleep revealed high levels of a pesticide called DBNP in the brain tissue. The girl may have inhaled the chemical after her father sprayed insecticide around the house to kill flies in the two weeks before her death. "This single incident would be reflective of acute toxicity. Pesticides play a role in acute and chronic health problems depending on the level of exposure," Lu said.

From Medical Xpress;  Home pesticide use tied to child cancer risk

Children exposed to insecticides at home may have a slightly increased risk of developing leukemia or lymphoma, a new review finds.The analysis, of 16 studies done since the 1990s, found that children exposed to indoor insecticides had an elevated risk of developing the blood cancers. There was also a weaker link between exposure to weed killers and the risk of leukemia....."Despite the questions, Lu said he thinks it's wise to act now, by limiting babies' and children's exposure to chemical pesticides—especially the indoor insect killers that this study linked to leukemia and lymphoma.

Overall, children who'd been exposed to any indoor insecticides were 43 percent to 47 percent more likely to have leukemia or lymphoma, the findings showed. Outdoor insecticides were not linked to the cancers.Kids exposed to weed killers, meanwhile, had a 26 percent higher risk of leukemia, the investigators found.

This recent scientific (and yes, technical) article discusses the tantalizing promise of treating cancer, especially melanoma, with infections and certain vaccines. Much discussion of how two vaccines that are already out there may prevent some cancers such as melanoma and leukemia (vaccination with Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) of newborns and vaccination with the yellow fever 17D vaccine of adults).This recent article is a further development on what was discussed in the last post (Injecting a person with a bacterial extract - called Coley's toxins or Coley toxins - to cause an infection, and so treat cancer). From BioMed Central:

The biography of the immune system and the control of cancer: from St Peregrine to contemporary vaccination strategies

In 1875 Campbell de Morgan, a surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital in London, reported that regressions and remissions of cancers sometimes occurred after post-operative infections, particularly the streptococcal infection erysipelas...

Campbell de Morgan’s observation that remissions sometimes occurred after post-operative streptococcal infections inspired some workers to undertake the risky procedure of deliberately inducing erysipelas in cancer patients. Subsequently, an American surgeon, William Coley, developed bacteria-free extracts of streptococci and other bacteria (“Coley toxins”) and reported their successful use in the therapy of cancers, especially sarcomas, between 1881 and 1936 . Unfortunately Coley, a mild mannered and unassuming gentleman, did not adhere to rigorous scientific protocols in his studies and he was marginalized by forceful personalities advocating radiotherapy. Notwithstanding, an analysis of his results with cancer deemed inoperable undertaken in 1994 revealed a remission rate of 64% and a five-year survival rate of 44%, results equal to or better than those with modern therapies [14]. 

It is also now appreciated that chronic inflammation is an essential element of cancers and it has indeed been termed ‘the other half of the tumour’ [37]. The normal healing process relies on inflammation, collagen production, angiogenesis and cell proliferation and, in a description of the similarities between tumour stroma formation and wound healing, tumours have been referred to as “wounds that do not heal” [38], 

The relationship between infection, and associated inflammation, and cancer is a complex and paradoxical one and there are several well described examples of cancer being the direct consequence of infection [41]. Around 2 million of the 12.7 million new cancer cases worldwide in 2008 (16.1%) were assumed to be related to infection, principally Helicobacter pylori, hepatitis viruses, and the human papilloma virus, with a higher proportion in developing countries (22.9%) than in developed ones (7.4%) [42]. The large majority of cases of cancer, especially those in the developed nations, are therefore not caused by infection – on the contrary, there is growing evidence that a history of certain infections and environmental exposure to certain populations of micro-organisms, as well as some types of vaccination, may induce patterns of immune reactivity that reduce the risk of at least some cancers

A study of an adult population in Italy demonstrated an association between a history of common childhood infectious diseases (measles, chickenpox, rubella, mumps and pertussis) and the risk of developing chronic lymphatic leukaemia (CLL), with a strong inverse relationship between the risk of CLL and the number of infections (p = 0.002) [47]. 

In the 1990s Kölmel and colleagues established a working group – Febrile Infections and Melanoma (FEBIM) – within the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC). Based on a pilot study [79] this group undertook a series of studies to establish the relationship between the risk for developing melanoma and a history of, initially, infectious diseases [80], and, subsequently, also of vaccinations [81,82].

In the first report of the FEBIM group a significant level of protection against melanoma in those with a history of certain severe infections (sepsis, Staph. aureus infection, pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis) with fever of over 38.5°C was demonstrated [80]. It should, however, be noted that these apparently melanoma-protective infectious diseases have become rare in the industrialized nations. 

It is claimed that, as a result of recent observational studies, measures for prevention of some malignancies such as melanoma and certain forms of leukaemia are already at hand: vaccination with Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) of new-borns and vaccination with the yellow fever 17D (YFV) vaccine of adults. While the evidence of their benefit for prevention of malignancies requires substantiation, the observations that vaccinations with BCG and/or vaccinia early in life improved the outcome of patients after surgical therapy of melanoma are of practical relevance as the survival advantage conferred by prior vaccination is greater than any contemporary adjuvant therapy.