Antioxidants Help Combat Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Over 250,000 deaths worldwide are attributable to pancreatic cancer, a disease with the worst prognosis of anticancer with just 3% of people surviving beyond five years. Genetic predisposition, smoking, and type-2 diabetes are considered to be major risk factors, and new evidence suggests that diet may play a role in the disease incidence. Andrew R Hart, from the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom), and colleagues tracked the health of23,658 men and women, ages 40 to 70 years, enrolled in the Norfolk arm of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) Study. Each subject completed a food diary, for which researchers matched the entries to their respective nutrient values. In follow-up, 49 subjects developed pancreatic cancer within 10 years of entering the study, thank, with participants surviving six months after diagnosis. Nutrient intakes of those diagnosed with the disease of the 10 years of entering the study were compared to those of 4000 healthy counterparts. The data revealed that a weekly intake of selenium in the top quartile of consumption cut the risk of developing pancreatic cancer in half, as compared to those whose intake was in the bottom quartile. Further, those with the highest intakes of vitamin C and E were 67% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer, compared to those in the lowest intake category. Writing that: "The results support measuring antioxidants in studies investigating the aetiology of pancreatic cancer,” the study authors submit that: "If the association is causal, 1 in 12 cancers might be prevented by avoiding the lowest intakes.”

Paul J R Banim, Robert Luben, Alison McTaggart, Ailsa Welch, Nicholas Wareham, Kay-Tee Khaw, Andrew R Hart. “Dietary antioxidants and the aetiology of pancreatic cancer: a cohort study using data from food diaries and biomarkers.”  Gut, 23 July 2012.


Gold Nanoparticles as a Potential Prostate Cancer Therapy

Currently, prostate cancer treatment typically consists of injecting hundreds of radioactive 'seeds' into the prostate. However, that treatment is not effective when treating an aggressive form of prostate cancer.  University of Missouri (Missouria, USA) scientists have found an efficient alternative approach to target prostate tumors.   Kavita Katti and colleagues created radioactive gold nanoparticles and bound them to and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant compound found in tea leaves. This new treatment would require doses that are thousands of times smaller than chemotherapy;  the team only used one or two injections, and the nanoparticles were observed to more likely to stay very close to the tumor sites.  Submitting that: “This innovative nanotechnological approach serves as a basis for designing biocompatible target specific antineoplastic agents,” the study authors conclude that: “This novel intratumorally injectable …  nanotherapeutic agent may provide significant advances in oncology for use as an effective treatment for prostate and other solid tumors.”

Rajesh R. Kulkarni, Satish Kumar Nune, Stan W. Casteel, Charles Jeffrey Smith, Jatin Vimal, Kattesh V. Katti, et al.  “Laminin receptor specific therapeutic gold nanoparticles (198AuNP-EGCg) show efficacy in treating prostate cancer.”  PNAS, July 16, 2012.

Plastic Additive BPA "Is a Breast Carcinogen in Humans"

Results of a new study, this time in primates, have provided yet more evidence to suggest that the plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA) may play a role in the development of breast cancer in humans. The study was designed by Hunt and Tufts University School of Medicine researchers Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein, and Catherine VandeVoort from the University of California at Davis. The researchers compared the structure of the mammary gland in newborn rhesus macaques exposed to BPA to the mammary glands of macaques that had not been exposed to the chemical. In order to expose the baby macaques to BPA, their mothers were fed a fed a piece of fruit containing a small amount of BPA each day during the gestational period corresponding to the human third trimester of pregnancy. This resulted in blood levels of BPA comparable to the average US citizen. Results showed that the density of the mammary buds at birth was significantly increased in the BPA-exposed macaques. Furthermore, the overall development of the mammary gland was more advanced in the BPA-exposed macaques than it was in the unexposed animals. "This study buttresses previous findings showing that fetal exposure to low xenoestrogen levels causes developmental alterations that in turn increase the risk of mammary cancer later in life," concluded Soto. "Because BPA is chemically related to diethylstilbestrol, an estrogen that increased the risk of breast cancer in both rodents and women exposed in the womb, the sum of all these findings strongly suggests that BPA is a breast carcinogen in humans and human exposure to BPA should be curtailed." In March, the Food and Drug Administration refused to ban BPA, but said that it would continue to carry out research on its effects on health.

Andrew P Tharp, Maricel V Maffini, Patricia A Hunt, Catherine A VandeVoort, Carlos Sonnenschein, Ana M Soto. "Bisphenol A alters the development of the rhesus monkey mammary gland." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Published ahead of print May 7, 2012.

Oregano Compound Kills Prostate Cancer Cells

The common Italian herb oregano contains carvacrol, a compound for which previous studies have suggested anti-proliferative effects on various human cancer cell lines, such as breast cancer, hepatoma, leukemia, non-small cell lung cancer, and cervical cancer. Supriya A. Bavadekar, from Long Island University (New York, USA, and colleagues have observed that carvacrol induces cell death among prostate cancer cells (specifically, the human prostate cancer cell line, LNCaP). Study authors report that: "This is the first study that has identified the anti-proliferative effects of carvacrol in prostate cancer cells, and results suggest that the compound may be valuable as a potential therapeutic agent for prostate cancer.”

Bhushankumar Patel, Vichiksha R. Shah, Supriya A. Bavadekar.  “Anti-proliferative effects of carvacrol on human prostate cancer cell line, LNCaP.” FASEB J., March 29, 2012.

Farm Chemicals May Increase Cancer Risk

Dietary cadmium, a toxic metal widely dispersed in the environment and found in many farm fertilizers, may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, according to a study by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden).   Some scientists are concerned about cadmium because contamination of farmland mainly due to atmospheric deposition and use of fertilizers leads to higher uptake in plants. Agneta Akesson and colleagues observed 55,987 women for more than 12 years. They estimated the dietary cadmium exposure using a food frequency questionnaire. During the follow-up period, researchers observed 2,112 incidences of breast cancer including 1,626 estrogen receptor-positive and 290 estrogen receptor-negative cases. Cadmium consumption was divided into three groups with the highest levels of exposure compared with the lowest. Overall, a higher exposure to cadmium via diet was linked with a 21% increase in breast cancer. Among lean and normal weight women, the increased risk was 27%.  Both estrogen receptor-positive and negative tumors had the same risk increase at roughly 23%. The study authors conclude that: "Overall, these results suggest a role for dietary cadmium in postmenopausal breast cancer development.”

Bettina Julin, Alicja Wolk, Leif Bergkvist, Matteo Bottai, Agneta Akesson.  “Dietary Cadmium Exposure and Risk of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study.”  Cancer Res., March 15, 2012; 72:1459-1466.


Element Name: Radon

Symbol: Rn

Atomic Number: 86

Atomic Weight: 222 (this element has no stable isotopes; this is the mass number of the isotope with the longest half-life)

Element Category: Noble gas

General Description:
Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally as the decay product of uranium or thorium. Its most stable isotope, 222Rn, has a half-life of 3.8 days. Radon is one of the densest substances that remains a gas under normal conditions. It is also the only gas that is radioactive under normal conditions, and is considered a health hazard due to its radioactivity.

Effects on Human Body:
Radon is formed as part of the normal radioactive decay chain of uranium and thorium. As the radioactive gas of radon decays, it produces new radioactive elements called radon daughters or decay products. Radon daughters are solids and stick to surfaces such as dust particles in the air. If contaminated dust is inhaled, these particles can stick to the airways of the lung and increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

Parkin DM, Darby SC. Cancers in 2010 attributable to ionising radiation exposure in the UK. Br J Cancer. 2011 Dec 6;105 Suppl 2:S57-65.

Rage E, Vacquier B, Blanchardon E, Allodji RS, Marsh JW, Caër-Lorho S, Acker A, Laurier D. Risk of Lung Cancer Mortality in Relation to Lung Doses among French Uranium Miners: Follow-Up 1956-1999. Radiat Res. 2011 Dec 29.


Radon is responsible for the majority of the public exposure to ionizing radiation. It is often the single largest contributor to an individual's background radiation dose, and is the most variable from location to location. Radon gas from natural sources can accumulate in buildings, especially in confined areas such as attics and basements. It can also be found in some spring waters and hot springs.

Veloso B, Nogueira JR, Cardoso MF. Lung cancer and indoor radon exposure in the north of Portugal--an ecological study. Cancer Epidemiol. 2012 Feb;36(1):e26-32.

Al Zabadi H, Musmar S, Issa S, Dwaikat N, Saffarini G. Exposure assessment of radon in the drinking water supplies: A descriptive study in Palestine. BMC Res Notes. 2012 Jan 13;5(1):29.

Read More:
Radon Gas Kills 20,000 Americans Each Year Possible Link Between Radon and Skin Cancer

Genomic Instability Contributes to Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Telomeres are and caps on chromosomes, and their shortening with each cell division is thought to permit genomic instability. Researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Texas, USA) studied a strain of mice engineered to develop prostate cancer.  The researchers observed that the lab animals all went through a process where the telomeres failed and subsequently an enzyme was activated, that allows malignant cells to become lethal, with the disease entering the spine. Two groups of mice that avoided this cycle developed only precancerous lesions or localized prostate cancer.  A comparative analysis of genetic changes in the metastatic mouse tumors and those found in metastatic human prostate cancer identified the Smad4 gene as a driver in bone metastasis. Fourteen other genes were found to be associated with human prostate cancer prognosis. Observing that: “not only did telomerase reactivation bypass the cancer progression block that arises with telomere dysfunction, it also conferred a new property - bone metastasis - that was not seen in tumors that did not go through telomere dysfunction followed by telomerase reactivation," the study authors conclude that: "telomerase reactivation in tumor cells experiencing telomere dysfunction enables full malignant progression and provides a mechanism for acquisition of cancer-relevant genomic events endowing new tumor biological capabilities.”

Zhihu Ding, Chang-Jiun Wu, Mariela Jaskelioff, Elena Ivanova, Maria Kost-Alimova, Alexei Protopopov, et al. “Telomerase Reactivation following Telomere Dysfunction Yields Murine Prostate Tumors with Bone Metastases.” Cell, 16 February 2012.

Targeted Cancer Therapy via DNA Robots

Biotechnologists have been working to identify ways to locate diseased cells in the body and deliver targeted therapies to kill only the abnormal cells and leave healthy cells intact.  Shawn Douglas, from Harvard University (Massachusetts USA), and colleagues have constructed a robot by folding DNA strands and programming the device to open in the presence of leukemia and lymphoma cells in a laboratory dish, where they delivered immune system antibodies that caused the cells to self-destruct.  The technology employs a "zipper" construction of a special sequence of DNA, which releases its grip when it recognizes specific targets on the cell, thereby allowing the robot to deliver the therapeutic drug. Successfully implementing several different logical and gates and having demonstrated their efficacy in selective regulation of nanorobot function, the study authors submit that: "Our prototype could inspire new designs with different selectivities and biologically active payloads for cell-targeting tasks.”

Shawn M. Douglas, Ido Bachelet, George M. Church.  “A Logic-Gated Nanorobot for Targeted Transport of Molecular Payloads.” Science, 17 February 2012: 831-834.

Gold Nanoparticles As a Future Cancer Treatment

Scientists at the University of Southampton (United Kingdom) have developed smart nanomaterials, which can disrupt the blood supply to cancerous tumors. Antonios Kanaras and colleagues have showed that a small dose of gold nanoparticles can activate or inhibit genes that are involved in angiogenesis – a complex process responsible for the supply of oxygen and nutrients to most types of cancer. Further, the team was able to control the degree of damage to the endothelial cells – cells that line blood vessels and play a pivotal role in angiogenesis – using laser illumination. Endothelial cells construct the interior of blood vessels and play a pivotal role in angiogenesis. The researchers submit that: “Our results show that plasmon-mediated mild laser treatment, combined with specific targeting of cellular membranes, enables new routes for controlling cell permeability and gene regulation in endothelial cells.”

Dorota Bartczak, Otto L. Muskens, Timothy M. Millar, Tilman Sanchez-Elsner, Antonios G. Kanaras.  “Laser-Induced Damage and Recovery of Plasmonically Targeted Human Endothelial Cells.”  Nano Lett., 2011, 11 (3), pp 1358–1363

International Agency Formalizes Cellular Phone Classification as “Possibly Carcinogenic”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) affirmed its classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) emitted by cell phones and other devices as "possibly carcinogenic to humans," following the recommendations of a panel convened two months prior, to assess available information on RF-EMF and cancer. In that exposure to RF-EMF in the frequency range of 30 kHz to 300 GHz is almost unavoidable in a society that is increasingly dependent on electronic devices and equipment that generates RF-EMF, the IARC singled out cell phones for particular attention, based on substantial epidemiologic evidence suggesting a link between cell phone use and various types of brain tumors.

Robert Baan, Yann Grosse, Beatrice Lauby-Secretan, Fatiha El Ghissassi, Veronique Bouvard, Lamia Benbrahim-Tallaa, et al, and on behalf of the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group. “Carcinogenicity of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.”  The Lancet Oncology, Volume 12, Issue 7, July 2011, Pages 624-626

US Agency Adds Eight Substances to List of Carcinogens

In its “12th Report on Carcinogens,” The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expands the list of chemicals and biological agents that may put people at increased risk for cancer. As of June 2011, HHS considers the following substances as reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens:

• Formaldehyde: A colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is widely used to make resins for household items, such as composite wood products, paper product coatings, plastics, synthetic fibers, and textile finishes. Formaldehyde is also commonly used as a preservative in medical laboratories, mortuaries, and some consumer products, including some hair straightening products. First listed in the 2nd Report on Carcinogens, there is now sufficient evidence from studies in humans to show that individuals with higher measures of exposure to formaldehyde are at increased risk for certain types of rare cancers, including nasopharyngeal (the nasopharnyx is the upper part of the throat behind the nose), sinonasal, as well as a specific cancer of the white blood cells known as myeloid leukemia.

• Aristolochic acids: A family of acids that occur naturally in some plant species. Aristolochic acids have been shown to cause high rates of bladder or upper urinary tract cancer among individuals with kidney or renal disease who consumed botanical products containing aristolochic acids.

• Captafol:  A fungicide that had been used to control fungal diseases in fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants, and grasses, and as a seed treatment.  Captafol was found to induce cancer in experimental animal studies, which demonstrated that dietary exposure to captafol caused tumors at several different tissue sites in rats and mice.

• Cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder and hard metal form): Used to make cutting and grinding tools, dies, and wear-resistant products for a broad spectrum of industries, including oil and gas drilling, as well as mining. Evidence of lung cancer in workers involved in cobalt-tungsten carbide hard metal manufacturing.

• Certain inhalable glass wool fibers: Particularly, premium, special purpose fibers. These fibers that can enter the respiratory tract, are highly durable, and are biopersistent, meaning they remain in the lungs for long periods of time.

• o-Nitrotoluene: Used as an intermediate in the preparation of azo dyes and other dyes, including magenta and various sulfur dyes for cotton, wool, silk, leather, and paper. It is also used in preparing agricultural chemicals, rubber chemicals, pesticides, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and explosives.  Experimental animal studies showed tumor formation at many different tissue sites in rats and mice.

• Riddelliine:  A botanical agent, found in certain plants of the genus Senecio, a member of the daisy family; common names for Senecio plants are ragwort and groundsel. Found to cause cancer of the blood vessels in rats and mice, leukemia and liver cancer in rats, and lung tumors in mice.

• Styrene:  A synthetic chemical used worldwide in the manufacture of products such as rubber, plastic, insulation, fiberglass, pipes, automobile parts, food containers, and carpet backing. People may be exposed to styrene by breathing indoor air that has styrene vapors from building materials, tobacco smoke, and other products. Evidence of cancer from studies in humans shows lymphohematopoietic cancer and genetic damage in the white blood cells, or lymphocytes, of workers exposed to styrene.

Interested readers may access the “12th Report on Carcinogens” covering 240 substances, at:

12th Report on Carcinogens, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), June 10, 2011

Cellphone Usage May Increase Cancer Risk

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), comprised of 31 scientists from 14 countries, has found sufficient evidence to categorize the exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields – emitted by cellular phones – as potentially carcinogenic to humans. Their extensive review of peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety found some evidence of increase in glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, and acoustic neuroma brain cancer, among mobile phone users. As a result, WHO now considers mobile phone use to be of the same "carcinogenic hazard" as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform. The IARC Director commented that: "Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings, it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure.”

“IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans: Volume 102: Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part II: Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields.” The World Health Organization(WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),

Cancer Costs in US to Reach US $158 Bn in 2020

Medical expenditures for cancer in the year 2020 are projected to reach at least $158 billion (in 2010 dollars) -- an increase of 27% over 2010, according to a National Institutes of Health analysis. If newly developed tools for cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up continue to be more expensive, medical expenditures for cancer could reach as high as $207 billion, report the researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  In 2010, medical costs associated with cancer were projected to reach $127.6 billion, with the highest costs associated with breast cancer ($16.5 billion), followed by colorectal cancer ($14 billion), lymphoma ($12 billion), lung cancer ($12 billion) and prostate cancer ($12 billion). Based on growth and aging of the U.S. population, medical expenditures for cancer in the year 2020 are projected to reach at least $158 billion (in 2010 dollars) - an increase of 27% over 2010.  To project national cancer expenditures, the researchers combined cancer prevalence, which is the current number of people living with cancer, with average annual costs of care by age (less than 65 or 65 and older). According to their prevalence estimates, there were 13.8 million cancer survivors alive in 2010, 58% of whom were age 65 or older. If cancer incidence and survival rates remain stable, the number of cancer survivors in 2020 will increase by 31%, to about 18.1 million. Because of the aging of the US population, the researchers expect the largest increase in cancer survivors over the next 10 years to be among Americans age 65 and older. "The rising costs of cancer care illustrate how important it is for us to advance the science of cancer prevention and treatment to ensure that we're using the most effective approaches," remarked Robert Croyle, of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, NCI, who continued that: "This is especially important for elderly cancer patients with other complex health problems."

Mariotto AB, Yabroff KR, Shao Y, Feuer EJ, and Brown ML. Projections of the Cost of Cancer Care in the United States: 2010-2020. Jan 19, 2011, JNCI, Vol. 103, No. 2.

Trace Elements Associated with Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Higher levels of cadmium, arsenic, and lead in the body appear to be associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, according to results from a Spanish study.  Nuria Malats, from the Spanish National Cancer Center (Spain), and colleagues analyzed toenail clippings obtained from 118 patients with exocrine pancreatic cancer who were enrolled in the PANKRAS 2 Study, conducted in 1992-1995. For their control group, the team obtained toenail clippings from 399 participants in the Spanish Bladder Cancer/EPICURO Study of 1998-2001.  The toenail clippings, which had been stored at room temperature until analysis, had their trace elements quantified using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Samples also underwent acid digestion and gravimetric recording for assay purposes. A separate analysis was performed to assess median concentrations of trace elements between cases and controls. After confounding variables were excluded, the researchers found that exocrine pancreatic cancer risk was significantly increased among subjects whose concentrations of cadmium, arsenic, and lead were in the highest quartile. The researchers also found that levels of nickel and selenium were inversely associated with exocrine pancreatic cancer risk.  The study authors conclude that: “Novel associations are reported of lead, nickel and selenium toenail concentrations with pancreas cancer risk. Furthermore, the results confirm previous associations with cadmium and arsenic.”

Andre F S Amaral, Miquel Porta, Debra T Silverman, Roger L Milne, Manolis Kogevinas, Nathaniel Rothman, et al.  “Pancreatic cancer risk and levels of trace elements.”  Gut, 19 December 2011.

Testosterone and Prostate Cancer: A Conceptual Revolution - Abraham Morgentaler, MD.

2011 A4M conference.

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