October 6, 2011
USA Today Your Life
A drug that millions of pregnant women took decades ago to prevent miscarriage and complications has put their daughters at higher risk for breast cancer and other health problems that are showing up now, a new federal study finds.
Many of these daughters, now over 40, may not even know of their risk if their mothers never realized or told them they had used the drug, a synthetic estrogen called DES.
The new study suggests that infertility is twice as common and that breast cancer risk is nearly doubled in these daughters.
Debbie Wingard is one of them. The 59-year-old San Diego woman adopted two boys after being unable to conceive and has had breast cancer twice — when she was 39 and 49.
“There’s no knowing what’s going to happen as we age. There’s always the fear there’s going to be another cancer or another outcome,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I feel it’s behind me.”
The sons of DES users also face health risks — testicular problems and cysts — but these are less well studied and don’t seem to be as common. Even less is known about the third generation — “DES grandchildren.”
Some research suggests these girls start menstruating late and have irregular periods, possible signs of fertility issues down the road.
In the United States alone, more than 2 million women and 2 million men are thought to have been exposed to DES while in the womb and may now want to talk with their doctors about when they should be screened for health problems.
“We don’t want to cause a panic of everyone rushing out thinking they’re going to get cervical or breast cancer. They just need to have that conversation with their physician,” said Dr. Sharmila Makhija, women’s health chief at the University of Louisville.
The average woman has about a 1 in 50 chance of developing breast cancer by age 55; for DES daughters it’s 1 in 25, the study found. Risks for other health problems vary.
DES, or diethylstilbestrol, was widely used in the United States, Europe and elsewhere from the 1940s through the 1960s to prevent miscarriage, premature birth, bleeding and other problems. Many companies made and sold it as pills, creams and other forms.
Studies later showed it didn’t work. The government told doctors to stop using it in pregnancy in 1971, after DES daughters in their late teens and 20s were found to be at higher risk of a rare form of vaginal cancer. Further research has tied DES to infertility and various pregnancy problems.
“They’ve been identified one at a time. Nobody’s been able to get the whole picture,” said Dr. Robert Hoover, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute. The new study, which he led, “takes the woman and looks at everything that can happen as a result of this drug,” and adds evidence for some previously suspected risks like breast cancer, he said.
Results are in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
The study started in 1992 and involved about 4,600 DES daughters and a comparison group of 1,900 similar women whose mothers had not used DES. Their health was tracked over time through surveys and medical records. Their average age at the last followup was 48.
In the study, researchers found these rates of health problems in DES daughters compared to non-exposed women:
—Breast cancer, 3.9 percent versus 2.2 percent.
—Cervical pre-cancer, 6.9 percent versus 3.4 percent.
—Infertility, 33.3 percent versus 15.5 percent.
—Early menopause, 5.1 percent versus 1.7 percent
These complications were seen among women who were able to become pregnant:
—Preterm delivery, 53.3 percent versus 17.8 percent.
—Miscarriage, 50.3 percent versus 38.6 percent.
—Tubal pregnancy, 14.6 percent versus 2.9 percent.
—Stillbirth, 8.9 percent versus 2.6 percent.
—Preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), 26.4 percent versus 13.7 percent.
The claim of added breast cancer risk is being tested by 53 women in a lawsuit against DES makers under way now in Boston. One of them is Jackie White, 48, who lives in Centerburg, Ohio, north of Columbus. She said she had a misshaped uterus and reproductive problems, and found a lump last year that turned out to be breast cancer. Tests showed 20 tumors in one breast, two pre-cancers in the other and spread to her lymph nodes.
“I ate a low-fat diet. I exercise faithfully so I was not overweight. I had none of the normal risk factors,” she said.
When and how often to screen women for breast cancer is the subject of much debate. A government task force recommends that women at average risk of breast cancer get mammograms every other year starting at age 50, and talk to their doctors about screening before then. Many medical groups urge starting at age 40.
DES exposure needs to be considered with the whole picture of a woman’s risk, said Dr. G. Wright Bates, director of reproductive medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“In some cases, frequent Pap smears and early mammography or breast MRI may be warranted for women with DES exposure,” he said.
Others are focused on possible risks to the next generation.
Sally Keely, who was part of the federal study, and her husband are both offspring of women who took DES during pregnancy. Keely, 49, of Kalama, Wash., had miscarriages and a tubal pregnancy and required fertility treatments to have a daughter, now 9.
“I would like to push for more funding on the third generation exposed so I would know best how to advise my daughter,” she said.
Fran Howell, executive director of DES Action USA, an advocacy group based in Jupiter, Fla., adopted a daughter, now 20, after being unable to conceive.
“So many of the DES daughters worry about problems with their children,” she said. “The DES ends with me.”
July 18th, 2011
By: Jonathan Benson
A study recently published in the journal Nature Genetics explains that nucleoside analog reverse-transcriptase inhibitors, or NRTIs, which are drugs used primarily in Africa and other developing regions of the world to treat HIV and AIDS, are responsible for causing heart disease, dementia, premature aging, and other age-related illnesses.
Originally introduced in the late 1980s, many NRTIs have since been replaced in developed countries by newer, and much more expensive, antiretroviral drug cocktails that may be just as damaging. But the older NRTIs are still being used on the poor with HIV and AIDS, and their devastating side effects are only just now beginning to be realized.
“It takes time for these side effects to become apparent, so there is a question mark about the future and whether or not the newer drugs will cause this problem,” said Patrick Chinnery, lead author of the study from the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Newcastle University, to Reuters in a telephone interview. “They are probably less likely to, but we don’t know because we haven’t had time to see.”
Scientists observed that the chemical compounds in NRTIs damage DNA in patients’ mitochondria, which are the power producers for cells. When these important structural elements become harmed or destroyed, they are unable to produce energy for cells, which can lead to a host of health problems and eventually death.
“The DNA in our mitochondria gets copied throughout our lifetimes and, as we age, naturally accumulates errors,” added Chinnery. “We believe these HIV drugs accelerate the rate at which these errors build up. So over the space of, say, ten years, a person’s mitochondrial DNA may have accumulated the same amount of errors as a person who has naturally aged 20 or 30 years.”
The findings illustrate the general fact that the unknown, long-term dangers associated with all types of drugs have not been properly identified. Because NRTIs and most other drugs have never been tested for long-term side effects, it is highly likely that a great majority of them will eventually be identified as damaging in much the same way as NRTIs.
July 11, 2011
By Deirdre Imus
Let’s face it…we love our cell phones. Whether we use them for business or just to keep in touch with family and friends, for most of us, they have become indispensable. Nonetheless, there are new warnings about the health risks associated with cell phone use that consumers need to be aware of.
In May, after a thorough review of the existing research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and acknowledged that the radiation emitted from cell phones may increase an individual’s risk of brain cancer. Prior to this announcement, the WHO had maintained the position that no adverse health problems had been confirmed.
In one of the largest international studies undertaken, scientists found the rate of brain glioma (a type of tumor) doubled in individuals who used a cell phone for 10 years or more.
March 14th, 2011
Guatemalans subjected to U.S. syphilis experiments in the 1940s are suing federal health officials to compensate them for health problems they have suffered.
The lawsuit comes after revelations that U.S. scientists studying the effects of penicillin in the 1940s deliberately infected about 700 Guatemalan prisoners, mental patients, soldiers and orphans. None was informed or gave consent.
Attorneys representing the Guatemalans asked the Obama administration to set up an out-of-court claims process similar to those established in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the 9/11 terror attacks. But they say they got no response by a Friday deadline and so filed the suit Monday morning.
The Guatemalan experiments were hidden for decades, until a medical historian uncovered the records in 2009.
December 21st, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Lost worker productivity due to obesity-related health problems costs U.S. businesses $73 billion per year, according to a study conducted by researchers from Duke University and the National University of Singapore, and published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The study was funded by Allergan, Inc., maker of the Lap-Band surgical weight loss device.
Researchers combined data from a 2006 survey of nationwide medical spending and the 2008 U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey. The latter survey not only included information on absenteeism, but also on “presenteeism” — decreased performance while at work. The researchers excluded all underweight and pregnant individuals from the data so as not to skew the analysis.
They found that after controlling for ethnicity, education level, income, insurance status, marital status and smoking, overall employer costs increased with an employee’s body mass index (a measure of obesity). In particular, presenteeism costs doubled when obesity increased from mild to moderate, then doubled again as it increased to extreme obesity.
Obesity is a major contributor to some of the country’s top chronic health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer.
The total obesity-related costs were equivalent to hiring 1.8 million new workers at the average national salary of $42,000 per year. Only 18 percent of these costs came from missed workdays; 41 percent came from increased health payments, and the other 41 percent came from decreased productivity at work.
The researchers suggested that employers seeking to reduce this massive cost burden might do well to invest more in health-improvement programs for their employees.
“Now that we’ve uncovered this sort of hidden cost, I think that it ups the ante for [employers] to think harder about what sort of interventions they want to implement,” researcher Eric Finkelstein said.
December 8th, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
Airports have become a minefield of health hazards, and an investigation into airport safety has revealed that radiation emitted from various scanning machines is sometimes much higher than intended, putting workers and passengers at serious risk. And while the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) insists that the machines are safe, the agency refuses to release the actual safety inspection reports to back its claim.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted an investigation back in 2003 and 2004 exposing several X-ray machines that were in violation of federal radiation standards. Policy states that the TSA is in charge of inspecting its own machines, but the agency has allegedly neglected this responsibility for years, while continuing to install increasingly more X-ray machines like the new full-body scanners that emit even higher amounts of dangerous radiation.
Reporters from USA Today recently petitioned the TSA to release inspection reports for the 4,080 X-ray machines used across the country, as well as the 221 full-body scanners. But the TSA refused to release them while still insisting that they all passed inspection, even though the previous investigation had revealed that the agency has a track record of failing to identify faulty machines.
Some TSA workers have filed complaints about poor maintenance and monitoring of X-ray machines, citing high cancer rates among agency employees that regularly work near the machines. One employee requested that a hazard assessment be conducted, which the TSA denied because it said that at least three employees had to jointly make such a request for it to happen.
The TSA’s blatant lack of transparency in verifying the safety of its machines points to the fact that something is amiss. Officials admit that some radiation is emitted from the machines, but that regular levels are below maximum thresholds. Even so, radiology experts say that perpetual exposure to even low-dose radiation from airport X-ray machines can lead to cancer and other health problems.
October 18th, 2010
Health officials in B.C. are expanding the annual free flu vaccine program to include two new groups this year, as they prepare to start offering the new vaccine on Monday.
Provincial Health officer Dr. Perry Kendall says the vaccine will once again be free for people at high risk of complications from the flu, such as seniors, children and those with certain health problems.
And for the first time this year the morbidly obese — people with a body mass index above 40 — and aboriginal people on and off reserve will also get the vaccine for free, said Kendall.
“Aboriginal people were in some parts of Canada at higher risk for H1N1, and we held discussions with our First Nations health council and they felt it would be appropriate to offer influenza vaccine to all aboriginal people, so we have made that decision to do that in British Columbia as well,” said Kendall.
Last year’s flu season was unusual because of the H1N1 pandemic, and that has made it difficult to prediction how serious the virus will be this year, but this year’s vaccine protects against three strains, said Kendall.
“It contains an antigen against the pandemic H1N1. It contains antigen against the H3n2 and against a B influenza,” he said.
October 15th, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
Frequent use of swimming pools, especially indoor ones, can lead to long-term health problems, say three new studies published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. According to the reports, chemical disinfection byproducts that form in pools — and in the air surrounding them — can potentially cause both lung damage, asthma and cancer.
In the first study, samples of blood, urine and exhaled air from otherwise healthy individuals who swam in an indoor pool for 40 minutes revealed a significant increase in bio-markers of toxicity. Such toxicity occurs as a result of chlorine and other pool chemicals reacting with organic matter that is either introduced into the water through sweat and skin, or that is present in the water naturally.
Exposure to disinfection byproducts increased the four bio-markers of toxicity sevenfold, indicating they are a serious threat to health.
The second study found that a 40-minute swim in the pool can also cause short-term cell damage in the lungs. Perpetual cell damage from prolonged exposure can lead to serious respiratory illness.
The third study revealed that both chlorinated and brominated pools are loaded with dangerous disinfection byproducts. Samples of water from both sources revealed more than 100 toxic byproducts, many of which have never been identified in either swimming pool or drinking water.
Research continues to show that long-term exposure to the countless disinfection byproducts present in both swimming pool water increases users’ risk of developing asthma and bladder cancer. Many are calling for sweeping changes to be made in the way water is disinfected in order to reduce the threat to human health.
Until then, concerned individuals can choose to swim in ultra-violet (UV) disinfected pools and spas. The UV treatment kills dangerous pathogens and pollutants without creating toxic byproducts. Minimal, if any, chemicals are required to keep UV-treated pools optimally purified.
August 10 ,2010
By: Mike Adams
Do you ever wonder things like “Who is actually gullible enough to think that Vitaminwater is healthy?” Although that question may seem demeaning or even arrogant, it turns out that the Coca-Cola company (which owns the Vitaminwater brand) is essentially asking that exact question.
How so? In response to a recent lawsuit against Coca-Cola filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Coke’s attorneys replied in court briefings that, “…no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”
Except, of course, millions of consumers were misled into believing precisely that. This illusion was helped in no small part by Coca-Cola’s advertising of Vitaminwater, which blatantly positions it as a health-enhancing beverage. Even the name itself implies that the product is made solely out of vitamins and water.
But of course it isn’t.
“Sugarwater” might be a better name
If Vitaminwater were accurately named, it would actually be called Sugarwater. Its first two ingredients are, not surprisingly, sugar and water (the sugar coming in the form of crystalline fructose, a processed sweetener that has been linked to health problems) (http://www.naturalnews.com/029371_f…).
In addition to the sugar and water, Vitaminwater contains a smattering of synthetic vitamin chemicals that any informed health consumer probably wouldn’t want to ingest. So in reality, Vitaminwater is really sugar water with the addition of synthetic chemicals that happen to be called “vitamins” (but which are not the natural, plant-based nutrients your body would greatly prefer).
So what we have now with Vitaminwater is a beverage that’s positioned and marketed as a health-enhancing beverage, yet its own corporate lawyers dismiss any notion that the beverage is “healthy.” How, then, can Coca-Cola get away with advertising Vitaminwater as a healthy beverage?
Simple: Because corporations use advertisements to lie to consumers. And virtually no one in the history of corporate advertising has mastered the art of deception better than Coca-Cola — a company whose products have contributed to untold numbers of diabetes victims while being positioned as cool, hip drinks that make you feel energized or inspired.
Coca-Cola isn’t really in the business of selling beverages, you see. It’s in the business of selling the illusion of happiness in a bottle or a can. Buy their products, say the advertisements, and you too can feel happiness (or freedom, or sexiness or whatever). But what Coca-Cola delivers isn’t really happiness at all: Many of Coke’s products deliver the liquid sugars, artificial chemical sweeteners and bone-dissolving acids (like phosphoric acid) that promote disease and suffering. And no reasonable person would equate degenerative disease with happiness.
Misleading name, misleading labels
Speaking of disease, how much sugar is actually in Vitaminwater? A lot more than you might think: While the label claims only 13 grams of sugar per serving, one bottle of vitamin water is actually 2.5 servings, meaning that you’re chugging down 32 grams of liquid sugars with every bottle.
That’s just one of the many “deceptive and unsubstantiated claims” pointed out by CSPI in its lawsuit against Coca-Cola. It is this lawsuit that resulted in Coke’s lawyers making the incredible statement that no reasonable person could possibly conclude Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.
Lawyers, by the way, can argue absolutely anything — even if it makes no sense. And they can do it with a straight face, too. If you’re looking for a professional liar, hire a lawyer. Coca-Cola seems to already have its share working at their headquarters in Atlanta.
Using its lawyers, Coca-Cola tried to argue its way out of this CSPI lawsuit, but that effort was rejected by the courts. “A federal judge has denied Coca-Cola’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit over what the CSPI says are deceptive and unsubstantiated claims on the company’s “vitaminwater” line of soft drinks,” touts an article on the CSPI website (http://www.cspinet.org/new/20100723…)
That same announcement goes on to quote Judge John Gleeson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, who says “The names of the drinks, along with other statements on the label have the potential to reinforce a consumer’s mistaken belief that the product is comprised of only vitamins and water.”
CSPI’s litigation director Steve Gardner adds, “For too long, Coca-Cola has been exploiting Americans’ desire to eat and drink more healthfully by deceiving them into thinking that vitaminwater can actually prevent disease. In fact, vitaminwater is no more than non-carbonated soda, providing unnecessary added sugar and contributing to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. We look forward to representing all Americans whom Coke has deceived.”
Who really drinks Vitaminwater?
Reading all this, you might wonder who drinks Vitaminwater in the first place. I’ve never even tried the beverage myself because I read ingredients labels and I don’t drink liquid sugars.
But most consumers don’t read labels. Even if they attempted to, most consumers are simply unable to decode what food labels really mean. People simply believe whatever is most prominently displayed on the front of the package, which in this case are the two words “vitamin” and “water.”
On top of that, mainstream consumers are disturbingly gullible. If a product is positioned as being healthy, that’s what people believe it’s for, even if it makes no sense whatsoever. After all, why do so many people believe Slim-Fast will make them lose weight even though it’s made mostly from processed refined sugar?
Slim-Fast, by the way, never technically claims it’s a weight loss product. It dances around that claim with all sorts of other gray-area language that implies it is a weight loss product without making any direct claims. If pushed in the courts, its manufacturer would no doubt pull the same thing Coca-Cola just did and proclaim that no reasonable person could conclude that Slim-Fast is a weight loss product.
You see, big food companies are masters at making implied claims about their products that, upon closer inspection, are blatantly false. There are all sorts of false claims found on the labels of popular food products: A chocolate milk product made with sugar claims it “builds strong bones!” A liquid meal substitute sold in cans and made mostly with sugars and milk proteins claims to provide “balanced nutrition!” A product for diabetics claims to be “sugar free” but neglects to mention it’s sweetened with a chemical that may actually promote diabetes.
August 5, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) recently conducted a study revealing that cancer cells have a particular liking for refined fructose. In tests, pancreatic cancer cells quickly fed on refined fructose and used it to divide and proliferate rapidly within the body.
“These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation,” explained Dr. Anthony Heaney of UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center, one of the authors of the study.
Published in the journal Cancer Research, the findings also reveal that not all sugars are the same, a widely held belief in mainstream medicine. Tumor cells love both glucose sugar and fructose sugar, but fructose directly causes cancer cells to reproduce and spread in a way that glucose does not.
“Importantly, fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different,” wrote the team in the study paper.
So the study solidifies the fact that there is a major difference between high fructose corn syrup, a highly-refined sugar commonly used in processed American foods and beverages, and refined sugar cane. Both can lead to health problems, but high fructose corn syrup is worse in terms of cancer growth.
“I think this paper has a lot of public health implications. Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of high fructose corn syrup in our diets,” said Dr. Heaney in a statement.
It is already known that the pancreas has to work much harder to metabolize fructose than it does glucose and other sugars, so it makes sense that fructose consumption is implicated more seriously in contributing to pancreatic cancer growth.