January 11, 2012
By Lindsey Tanner
“No one is telling you that smoking a fat blunt is good for you, but research is clearly showing that marijuana isn’t nearly as bad as some people make you believe. Nobody can overdose from pot – it’s virtually impossible. Yet, go ahead of drink a bottle of whiskey and tell me how you feel. There is a chance you’ll be dead – and that’s legal?” –KTRN
Smoking a joint once a week or a bit more apparently doesn’t harm the lungs, suggests a 20-year study that bolsters evidence that marijuana doesn’t do the kind of damage tobacco does.
The results, from one of the largest and longest studies on the health effects of marijuana, are hazier for heavy users – those who smoke two or more joints daily for several years. The data suggest that using marijuana that often might cause a decline in lung function, but there weren’t enough heavy users among the 5,000 young adults in the study to draw firm conclusions.
Still, the authors recommended “caution and moderation when marijuana use is considered.”
Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law although some states allow its use for medical purposes.
The study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham was released Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The findings echo results in some smaller studies that showed while marijuana contains some of the same toxic chemicals as tobacco, it does not carry the same risks for lung disease.
It’s not clear why that is so, but it’s possible that the main active ingredient in marijuana, a chemical known as THC, makes the difference. THC causes the “high” that users feel. It also helps fight inflammation and may counteract the effects of more irritating chemicals in the drug, said Dr. Donald Tashkin, a marijuana researcher and an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Tashkin was not involved in the new study.
Study co-author Dr. Stefan Kertesz said there are other aspects of marijuana that may help explain the results.
Unlike cigarette smokers, marijuana users tend to breathe in deeply when they inhale a joint, which some researchers think might strengthen lung tissue. But the common lung function tests used in the study require the same kind of deep breathing that marijuana smokers are used to, so their good test results might partly reflect lots of practice, said Kertesz, a drug abuse researcher and preventive medicine specialist at the Alabama university.
September 12, 2011
By: Fiona Macrae
Scientists have turned a chemical found in crocuses into a ‘smart bomb’ that targets cancerous tumours.
Crucially, healthy tissue is unharmed, reducing the odds of debilitating side effects.
Pretty: And crocuses could provide a cure which works against all cancers
And unlike other side effect-free drugs, it is able to kill off more than one type of the disease, including breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancer.
Potentially, all solid tumours could be vulnerable to drugs developed this way, meaning it could be used against all but blood cancers.
In some tests of the drug, half of tumours vanished completely after a single injection, the British Science Festival will hear this week.
The drug, based on colchicine, an extract from the autumn crocus, is at an early stage of development, and has so far been tested only on mice.
But the University of Bradford researchers are optimistic about its potential in humans.
Professor Laurence Patterson said: ‘What we have designed is effectively a “smart bomb” that can be triggered directly at any solid tumour without appearing to harm healthy tissue.
‘If all goes well, we would hope to see these drugs used as part of a combination of therapies to treat and manage cancer.’
Colchicine has long been known to have anti-cancer properties but has been considered too toxic for use in the human body. To get round this, the researchers attached a chemical ‘tail’ to it, deactivating it until it reaches the cancer.
Once there, the tail is cut off by an enzyme called MMP, which is found in tumours.
Removing the tail activates the drug, which then attacks and breaks down the blood vessels supplying the tumours with oxygen and nourishment.
Cancers use the blood supply to spread around the body and it is hoped that the treatment, called ICT2588, will also combat this.
The first tests on humans could start in as little as 18 months. If successful, the drug could be on the market in six to seven years.
Henry Scowcroft, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This is exciting but very early work that hasn’t yet been tested in cancer patients.’
Professor Paul Workman, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said the results so far were promising.
He added: ‘If confirmed in more extensive laboratory studies, drugs based on this approach could be very useful as part of combination treatments.’
October 6th, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Family members of a woman who died after receiving the lungs of a 30-year smoker have filed a complaint with the British transplant office.
Twenty-eight-year-old Lyndsey Scott received the transplant to replace her own failing lungs in January 2009. In July 2009, she died of pneumonia. Upon applying for medical notes on the transplant operation, her family was shocked to learn that the lungs used had previously belonged to a person who had smoked for 30 years.
“I can honestly say [Lyndsey] would have been horrified to have known those lungs were from a smoker and quite definitely she would have refused that operation,” her father Allan Scott said.
Chris Rudge, national clinical director of transplantation in the United Kingdom, said he was not familiar with the specific details of the case, but noted that lungs from a smoker may still be appropriate for transplant.
“It is nothing to do with the history of the donor, it is whether the organ is working or not, whether it is going to produce a successful transplant or not, and, in this particular case, smoking isn’t the issue,” he said.
“Lungs from a smoker can be working perfectly normally and be perfectly suitable for transplantation; lungs from a non-smoker can not be working and not be suitable for transplantation,” Rudge said. “Surgeons have to make decisions — about four out of every five lungs that become available for transplantation are not used because they are not working well enough.”
It is important for people receiving transplants to understand that the organs they are receiving will not be “brand new,” he said. At the same time, he said surgeons and patients should discuss the risks associated with any particular organ.
Joyce Robbins of Patient Concern said that Scott should have been told the history of the lungs.
“Most patients would say that they should be informed of any pertinent fact,” she said. “If the family are saying that she would have refused a transplant had she known, then that is an important issue.”
June 4, 2010
By David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) Young children who swim in chlorinated pools may suffer an increased risk of lung infections and even lifelong asthma and respiratory allergies, according to a study conducted by researchers from Catholic University Louvain in Brussels, Belgium, and published in the European Respiratory Journal.
“This suggests that chlorinated pool attendance can increase the risk of asthma and respiratory allergies by making the airways more sensitive not only to allergens but also to infectious agents,” senior researcher Alfred Bernard said.
Researchers conducted health tests on 430 Belgian kindergarteners and had their parents fill out questionnaires about their health history and swimming habits. They found that while 36 percent of children who had been exposed to chlorinated pools before the age of two had a history of the lung infection known as bronchiolitis, compared with only 24 percent of children who had not been exposed.
May 27, 2010
By David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) Drinking at least a cup of green tea a day may significantly decrease a person’s risk of lung cancer, according to a study conducted by researchers from Shan Medical University in Taiwan.
Cancer rates are significantly lower in Asia than in other parts of the world, and high consumption of green tea has been suggested as one of the potential explanations. Laboratory studies have suggested that the polyphenols in green tea can halt the growth of cancer cells, but the results of human studies have been mixed.
May 10, 2010
by David Gutierrez
Men who drink coffee regularly may reduce their risk of the most dangerous form of prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School and presented at a Houston conference of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Prostate cancer kills more than 27,000 men in the United States each year, making it the second deadliest cancer in men, surpassed only by lung cancer. Roughly 200,000 new cases are diagnosed in the country each year.
“Few studies have looked prospectively at this association, and none have looked at coffee and specific prostate cancer outcomes,” said lead researcher Kathryn Wilson. “We specifically looked at different types of prostate cancer, such as advanced vs. localized cancer or high-grade vs. low-grade cancers.”
Researchers studied 50,000 men between 1986 and 2006, recording their coffee consumption once every four years. They found that the rate of advanced prostate cancer was 60 percent lower in those who drank six or more cups of coffee per day than in those who never consumed the beverage. Those who drank between four and five cups per day lowered their risk by 25 percent, while those who drank one to three cups lowered it by 20 percent.
The same risk reduction was seen regardless of whether the men drank caffeinated or non-caffeinated coffee.
No relationship was seen between coffee consumption and the risk of developing prostate cancer, only the risk of developing cancer that eventually progressed into an advanced stage. This might explain why prior studies have found no connection between coffee drinking and prostate cancer risk.
The researchers are unsure exactly how coffee affects cancer risk, although it may have something to do with levels of the sugar-regulating hormone insulin. High insulin levels have previously been correlated with prostate cancer risk, and coffee has been shown to increase the body’s use of the hormone.
Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world. It is consumed by 54 percent of U.S. adults.
February 1, 2010
By Steven Reinberg
People with asthma who have low levels of vitamin D fare worse than those with high levels of the “sunshine” vitamin, a new study finds.
Researchers found that asthmatics with high vitamin D levels have better lung function and respond better to treatment than asthmatics with low vitamin D levels do.
“Our findings suggest that low vitamin D levels are associated with worse asthma,” said lead researcher Dr. E. Rand Sutherland, from the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver.
In addition, vitamin D levels predict how well “somebody is going to respond to steroidal asthma medications,” he said. “It may be that vitamin D is acting as a modifier of the immune system or a modifier of steroid response in ways that are relevant to people with asthma.”
The report is published in the Jan. 28 online edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
For the study, Sutherland’s team took the vitamin D levels of 54 asthmatics and assessed lung function, airway hyper-responsiveness, which is the prevalence of airway constriction, and response to steroid treatment.
People with low levels of vitamin D in their blood did worse on the tests that evaluated lung function and airway hyper-responsiveness, the researchers found.
In those with vitamin levels below 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), airway hyper-responsiveness almost doubled, compared to those with more D in their blood.
Low vitamin D levels were also associated with a worse response to steroid therapy and increased production of the pro-inflammatory cytokine, TNF-alpha. This raises the possibility that low vitamin D levels are tied to increased inflammation of the airways.
The heaviest participants had the lowest levels of vitamin D, the study noted. Asthma is associated with obesity, and this (lack of vitamin D) may be a factor linking the two conditions, Sutherland said.
“There is a potential that restoring normal vitamin D levels in people with asthma may help improve their asthma,” Sutherland said.
But whether vitamin D supplements will help asthmatics isn’t known, he added.
Current recommendations for vitamin D supplements for adults is 400 IU to 600 IU, depending on age, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
“There is likely little harm in adhering to those guidelines,” Sutherland said.
The Institute of Medicine is currently evaluating these levels and expects to announce new guidelines in May.
Sunlight, fatty fish and fish oils are also sources of vitamin D.
Dr. Michael F. Holick, director of the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine, called this “a very nice study that confirms previous observations that vitamin D enhances lung function.”
“It is also known that glucocorticoids [steroids] increase the destruction of vitamin D, thus making patients with asthma at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, which in turn decreases lung function and makes their disease worse,” he said.
Holick thinks most people, asthmatic or not, get too little D and should take supplements.
“It’s pretty clear that you need a minimum of 1,400 and up to 2,000 IU a day, and if you are obese, you probably need at least one and a half to two times as much, because the fat sequesters the vitamin D,” Holick said. “We now recognize that you can take up to 10,000 IUs a day and not worry about any untoward toxicity.”
December 8, 2009
The group, called GoodGuide, said tests carried out on three hamsters had found dangerously high levels of antimony in the fur and also in the nose of one called ‘Mr Squiggles’.
However the manufacturers insisted there was no risk and that the £9.99 interactive hamsters met safety standards in the UK and the US.
Dara O’Rourke, a professor of environmental science at California University and head of the website-based GoodGuide, said the tests had found antimony at levels of 93 and 106 parts per million, above the 60 parts per million allowed under US regulations.
“The biggest danger is from a toddler or young child putting the toy in their mouth. If too much of the chemical is ingested, it could lead to cancer or other health problems,” he said.
Antimony can also cause lung and heart problems.
Jon Diver, managing director for UK distributor Character Options, said the toys were completely safe.
“The pets are tested in independent accredited laboratories during the manufacture and again before shipment through our own internal diligence programme; their safety has always been ratified,” he said.
The US-based toy maker Cepia LLC also said there was no risk.
December 4, 2009
By Amanda Gardner
Add colorectal cancer to the list of malignancies caused by smoking, with a new study strengthening the link between the two.
And other studies are providing more bad news for people who haven’t managed to quit: Two papers published in the December issue of Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a themed issue on tobacco, strengthen the case for the dangers of secondhand smoke for people exposed to fumes as children and as adults.
Inhaling those secondhand fumes may raise a woman’s odds for breast cancer or a child’s lifetime risk for lung malignancies, the studies found.
All of the findings, while grim, could be useful in the war against smoking, experts say.
“With the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration], we’re hoping this will be a significant tool to controlling tobacco, although it could get bogged down in so many different ways,” said Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of the Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior editor of the journal in which these papers appeared. “The FDA is going to have to make a lot of tough decisions about how to regulate tobacco, and the more science they have will help them.”
Is this latest round of revelations going to change current screening recommendations? Probably not, at least not yet, Shields added.
One study found that long-term smokers have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, a finding that factored into the recent decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to assert that there is “sufficient” evidence to link the two, up from its previous “limited” evidence.
“It took a long time to figure this out because the relationship [between smoking and colorectal cancer] is not as strong [as for some other cancers],” said Dr. Michael Thun, senior author of the study and vice president emeritus of epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society. “The question was, is the association we’re seeing really caused by smoking?”
The researchers managed to adjust for other colorectal cancer risk factors, such as not getting screened, obesity, physical activity and eating a lot of red or processed meats. The issue is tricky because people who smoke are already more likely to engage in these types of behavior.
“When they took all of those other things out, smoking was still a small, elevated risk,” said Dr. Michael John Hall, director of the gastrointestinal risk assessment program at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
“We already know that smoking is bad. That doesn’t change. A positive thing that comes out of this is that if you can stop smoking earlier, you eliminate your risk later on, but the more you smoke, the risk is higher.”
This large prospective study, which followed almost 200,000 people over 13 years, found that current smokers had a 27 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer and former smokers a 23 percent increased risk compared with people who had never smoked.
People who had smoked for at least half a century had the highest risk — 38 percent higher than never smokers — of developing colorectal cancer
The good news is that people who tossed their cigarettes before the age of 40 or who had not smoked for 31 or more years had no increased risk.
Two other studies focused on the risk of secondhand smoke, or passive smoking. In one, children exposed to secondhand smoke had a higher risk of developing lung cancer as adults, researchers from institutions including the U.S. National Cancer Institute found. In another, California researchers found that adult non-smoking women who had spent long periods of time in smoking environments upped their odds of developing postmenopausal breast cancer.
The breast cancer findings were seen mostly in postmenopausal women, with a 17 percent higher risk for those who had had low exposure, a 19 percent increased risk for those with medium exposure and a 26 percent increased risk for those who had high long-term exposure over their lifetime.
Adult exposure, such as spending time in smoking lounges where others were smoking, carried the most risk, with childhood exposure appearing negligible.
November 23, 2009
By Graeme Baldwin
Particles from car brakes harm lung cells
Real-life particles released by car brake pads can harm lung cells in vitro. Researchers writing in BioMed Central’s open access journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology found that heavy braking, as in an emergency stop, caused the most damage, but normal breaking and even close proximity to a disengaged brake resulted in potentially dangerous cellular stress.
Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser and Peter Gehr from the University of Bern, Switzerland, and Michael Riediker from the Institute for Work and Health, Lausanne, Switzerland, worked with a team of researchers to study the effects of brake particles on cultured lung cells placed in a chamber close to the axle of a car. They said, “Brake wear contributes up to 20% of total traffic emissions, but the health effects of brake particles remain largely unstudied. We’ve found that the metals in brake wear particles can damage junctions between cells by a mechanism involving oxidative stress”.
The teams’ analysis revealed that brake wear particles contain considerable amounts of iron, copper and organic carbon. Exposure to these pollutants caused increased signs of oxidative stress and inflammation in the cells, and hard braking caused most exposure. Interestingly, some exposure still occurred even when the brakes were not being applied, presumably due to residual brake particles coming off the turning axle and the braking system.
A direct comparison to other (model) particles known to cause these stress effects in vitro was not done, so comparative statements cannot yet be made. The researchers hope that future studies will be able to determine exactly which components are involved in each cell-stress pathway. According to Rothen-Rutishauser and Riediker, “Just as for exhaust particles, efforts to diminish brake particle emissions will lead to an improved ambient air quality and so could provide better protection of human health”.