Category: Press Release

Which Professions Do Americans Trust Most? (The Answer May Surprise You)

At a time when our faith in institutions—from banks to Congress to the media—is at nearly its lowest point in three decades, professionals in the most respected fields share what it is about them that earns people’s trust.

Trust is a rare commodity these days, which is all the more reason to celebrate it. Forty years ago, Gallup began asking Americans which professions they consider to be the most honest and ethical. Health-care workers dominated the 2016 list—nurses have been number one for the past 15 years—but the top eight (listed here in order) include some surprises. To get a sense of why these professions have retained the public’s confidence, we asked individuals in these top-rated fields what they do to establish trust with the people they serve. Maybe the rest of us can learn from their examples. Meet the heroes of the Trusted League, these are the most trusted brands in America.

Nurses

Rich Bluni

Rich Bluni

Age: 49

Orlando, Florida

I became a nurse because of my dad. He was diagnosed with cancer, and I just saw with my own eyes the people who made the most difference: They comforted him, caught mistakes, and helped ease his pain. I wanted to be a part of that.

Trust in nursing is almost on a spiritual level. The people we care for are the most frightened and most vulnerable. They trust that you will give everything you have and that you will be there for them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

A parent of a child I was taking care of on and off for several months came up to me when I was clocking in one day. She said she had requested that I take care of her son that night. I said of course, and I looked at her and could tell something was wrong. When I asked her, she told me he was going to die that night and she wanted me to be present for them.

That night, she held his right hand and I held his left. She insisted I stay until he left. She told me he loved me. It was such a sacred moment, that this mother thought of me not only as a caregiver and a nurse but also as someone she trusted so much that she wanted me to be there with her and her son when he took his last breath. I don’t think you could feel more trusted than that. Meet 13 more unsung heroes who will restore your faith in our country.

Pharmacists

Sally Rafie

Sally Rafie

Age: 34

San Diego, California

Where else can you walk down the street and get health advice for free? No other health-care professionals are in a position to do that. We make ourselves available to people—both to our patients and to those who are not patients—and we do it right in their own community.

Every decision I make is about putting patients and their families first. For instance, as part of my training I had to work at a clinic that was held in a church that didn’t want us to discuss birth control because it was contrary to the church’s teachings. I chose not to take part because I was unable to fully give my professional opinion to the patients. (My professor arranged an assignment in a different location.) As professionals, we have so much pride in our knowledge and expertise on prescriptions, immunizations, and complicated health and medical information. Still, our patients don’t always need to hear that. Sometimes they just need a shoulder to cry on. I try to keep in mind that it’s not about me or proving I am knowledgeable but about meeting their needs. That’s true whether you’re helping a patient, a friend, a client, or a family member. This is how you can use body language to build trust.

Medical doctors

Jack Jacoub

Jack Jacoub

Age: 44

Fountain Valley, California

When I became a doctor, I wanted to make a difference. The people I most respected and was most impressed with were the oncologists in my program. The conditions I work with have scary and concerning issues. I try to introduce myself in a pleasant way. I sit down; I don’t stand. I make good eye contact with the patient and his or her family. I like to learn more about them before I get to the issue of why they are seeing me. Communication skills are key, as well as showing empathy, under­standing, and availability.

A week or so ago, a nurse that I’ve known for many years was diagnosed with breast cancer. She could have gone anywhere; she could have chosen not to be treated close to home with people she knew. She chose to come see me and is now in treatment. For a physician, the single most rewarding thing is when someone you work with—someone whom you’ve worked with for years and who has seen your body of work—chooses you. Here is how you can build trust with your co-workers.

Engineers

Chrissy Keane

Chrissy Keane

Age: 41

Crofton, Maryland

I don’t know that being an engineer means you are automatically trustworthy. However, I do think that most engineers like to follow rules and be organized. They tell you what they think, whether you want to hear it or not. Those are important elements in building trust.

I focus on electrical and civil engineering, generally overseeing water mains and building renovations. I deal with a lot of property owners, and it takes genuine concern and understanding to allow them to trust that I am not trying to inconvenience them or destroy any of their property. I first make sure that I take care in my work and that I have explanations and backup to validate it. But the biggest thing is follow-through, meaning if I say I will do something, I need to do it. I think you have to want to be trusted, to want to do a good job, and I think you have to genuinely care about your work. That is innate. But I do think you can learn how to get people to trust you. I think you can learn to be organized better, learn from experience that you need to be ­honest—even if it is not what your boss or client wants to hear.

Dentists

Joseph M. Vargas

Joseph M. Vargas

Age: 37

Baltimore, Maryland

I grew up in a household with healthcare providers (both of my parents were physicians), so I always knew I was going to be in some form of community service in the health fields. I want to help people through my work, and trust is the basis of my relationship with patients. They put their well-being in my hands, and I try to describe exactly what I am doing. For those who want an explanation as I work, I provide that. Some people want to know; some people don’t. I tell them they are in control. My goal is to keep them as comfortable as possible. I try to tailor my treatment to their specific needs. There is no better compliment than when patients recommend you to their friends and family—or when they send thank-you notes.

Police officers

G. M. Cox

G. M. Cox

Age: 64

Fort Worth, Texas

From my perspective as a police officer, trust means that I have the best interests of the people I serve in my heart and in my actions and that I’m going to treat everyone the same way. Some people mistrust police. I can understand that to some degree. I worked with several cops who had a different attitude—they saw their authority rather than their personality as their power base. But mostly they are good people. Trust can be taught, but you gotta want to learn it.

To me, being a public servant is a two-way street. I always want to go up to people and talk to them in a professional manner—be personable, empathetic, don’t talk down to them. It might be the only time that a person has been spoken to with respect. You have to establish and maintain that trust. Be equal. Transparent. Communicate fairly and honestly. Most of what we do is service. It’s not crook catching. Your job as a peace officer is to be neutral. Listen.

College teachers

Rebecca Bratten Weiss

Age: 43

Hopedale, Ohio

In my years of teaching, I have had so many students confide deeply personal matters that they had shared with no one else. This always feels like an honor, and it’s something with which I have to be cautious, because when a young person is depressed or traumatized, his or her sense of identity can be fragile.

So trust means something that goes beyond professional ethics. It has to do with how we relate to ­others. One has to work diligently to develop a moral code, an ethical character. The ideals of honor, magnanimity, and justice, which were valued by the ancients, have relevance today. If I behave unjustly toward someone, I am not trustworthy, even if I try to adorn myself in a disguise of trustworthiness.?I keep in mind that my students are the entire reason I am here. If I think they’re just wasting my time or forget that my responsibility is to their flourishing as individuals, I am not doing my job.

My advice: Do no harm. If more people took this simple mantra to heart, we might have a human community with greater bonds of trust.

Clergy

Rabbi Norman Patz

Rabbi Norman Patz

Age: 79

North Caldwell, New Jersey

In a professional sense, when people talk to me in confidence, no one finds out about it unless I get permission. That’s the very first thing I start with. On the broader end, trust is the basis of every civilized society. If we can’t trust the government or the people we deal with to carry through on their promises, then society is undermined from within. It is hollowed out. Trust explicitly includes dependability and predictability—­people come to rely on that, and on you.

Relationships that are built on trust have as their components honesty, tact, timing, and being as open, honest, and transparent as possible without unloading your own griefs and aggravations. Rabbis have an annual convention, and we save the complaining for those times!

You learn how to trust. You learn whom to not share with or collaborate with. An elderly man in my congregation was dying. I called his daughter. I’d done her wedding, and I’d named her baby when he was born. I knew the man’s doctors had recommended hospice. She said she would never have hospice for her father, that she would keep him alive no matter what. So I said, Listen. You have to balance and make a call between your personal feelings and your father’s physical condition. There’s going to be a time when you have to let him go. How are you going to let him go? She listened because of the many years built on trust.

cofee

Coffee Is Great, but That Alone Is Not Going to Extend Your Life

If you’re like most people, you probably reach for a cup of coffee (or several) every day. Maybe you even smugly share articles about the benefits of coffee while sipping out of your favorite “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” mug. If so, you’re probably thrilled about two new studies recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that suggest coffee may help you live longer. But…it’s a little more complicated than that, of course.

First, let’s dig into what these studies found out about your coffee habit.

One study examined more than 520,000 people in 10 European countries and found that people in the highest coffee-consumption group also had the lowest rate of mortality. When they dove a little deeper, the researchers also found that there was a statistically significant link between drinking coffee and a lowered risk of dying from heart disease or stroke in women. Both male and female coffee drinkers also had a decreased risk of dying from a digestive disease.

The other study looked at more than 185,000 African Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese-Americans, Latinos, and Caucasians, and found that, in most cases, drinking coffee was linked to a longer life (Hawaiians were the only outliers). Specifically, people who drank two to four cups a day had an 18 percent lower risk of death compared with people who did not drink coffee. They also had a lower risk of death from heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease.

Of course, correlation does not equal causation. Meaning, we can’t say that drinking coffee causes people to live longer—just that it’s associated with living longer.

In the European study, researchers point out that reverse causality could have come into play, meaning that it’s possible that people who live longer just happen to prefer coffee, versus coffee actually causing them to live longer. They also point out that the coffee-drinking habits of study participants were only taken once. So, it’s possible people could have just happened to have gone through a coffee-heavy phase during the study, only to change their habits later. In the second study, researchers say it’s possible that there were confounding variables (i.e. other factors that can impact the results) that they didn’t catch. For instance, maybe coffee drinkers are also more likely to exercise, which could also affect your mortality risk.

It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t the first time science has linked coffee with good health. A Harvard University study published in 2015 analyzed the coffee consumption of more than 208,000 people over 30 years, as well as their cause of death and discovered that people who drank one to five cups of decaf or regular coffee a day had a lower risk of mortality than those who didn’t. Those coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, neurological diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and suicide. A meta-analysis of 36 studies published in the journal Circulation in 2014 also found that people who drink three to five cups of coffee a day were at the lowest risk of developing heart disease. Still, we’re not able to say that coffee is what’s really causing people to live longer.

“The question that really remains is why? ”Anton Bilchik, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery and chief of gastrointestinal research at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. The researchers offer some explanations that drinking coffee may improve liver function and reduce inflammation, and Dr. Bilchik says these are important factors when it comes to reducing your risk of developing cancer as well as heart disease. “There is a large area of research right now regarding heart disease and cancer, and how they relate to inflammation—it’s certainly possible that drinking coffee may reduce inflammation that takes place in the body and it may be protective,” he says. However, this link hasn’t been proven yet.

So you can’t just rely on your three-cups-a-day to extend your life. But, sure, you might be able to count that as one of your daily habits that are associated with living a long and healthy life.

There are several factors that go into reducing your overall disease risk, including eating well, avoiding smoking, and exercising regularly, Jack Jacoub, M.D., an internist, medical oncologist and medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SELF. “People reduce their mortality rate by doing various things—this could be one of them,” he says. “There has already been a pretty clear message that there might be some positive effects from drinking coffee. These very large studies provide even more supportive evidence.”

That said, drinking coffee has a few known side effects that are also important to factor in. Having too much caffeine, which is found in regular coffee and even decaf to some extent, can increase a person’s heart rate and possibly cause irregular heart activity that could be dangerous to those who already have heart problems, Morton Tavel, M.D., a clinical professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, tells SELF. It can also cause hyperactivity, headaches, and agitation, Dr. Bilchik points out, as well as exacerbate acid reflux in people with digestive issues. The caffeine in coffee can also make some people feel lightheaded and dizzy, and drinking a lot of coffee could dehydrate you, Dr. Jacoub says. “But if you don’t have those issues, I think the data continues to build on itself that it’s good to drink coffee,” he says.

Ultimately, Dr. Bilchik says that drinking coffee in moderation is safe and even seems to have a beneficial effect. But, if it’s not your thing, that’s OK, too—it’s not the end-all, be-all to longevity.

Risk of Breast Cancer

15 Ways You Can Decrease Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer affects us all

The numbers are staggering. One in 8 (12.4 percent) U.S. women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation estimates that approximately 255,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. this year alone, and more than 40,000 lives will be lost to this disease. These are numbers we feel every day, as most people, regardless of who they are or where they live, are impacted by breast cancer in some way, whether it be a family member, friend, or colleague who has or knows someone who has this disease. While there’s much left out of a woman’s control when it comes to getting breast cancer, especially considering most cases appear randomly and do not always run in families, there are several important steps that can reduce this risk substantially. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, doctors share the steps you can take every day, week, month and year to put your best foot forward towards lowering your risk. Find out the breast cancer symptoms you might ignore.

First things first: Know your family history

It’s standard procedure nowadays for nearly every type of doctor you see to inquire about your family history, as genetics have been proven to be a key contributor to an individual’s cancer risk—and it’s especially important when it comes to breast cancer. “Some women (and men) have an especially high risk of developing breast cancer related to inherited predisposition, history of radiation treatments to the chest wall during adolescence or early adulthood, or because of ‘overactive’ breast tissue that is sometimes detected on breast biopsies,” explains Lisa Newman MD, MPH, a member of Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board and director of the Breast Oncology Program for the Henry Ford Cancer Institute. Red flags that she says suggest possible inherited predisposition include having multiple relatives with breast or ovarian cancer, male relative(s) with breast cancer and relatives that were diagnosed with breast cancer at young ages. “Patients who are found to have an increased risk of breast cancer should then discuss risk-reducing options (such as medication or surgery) or more aggressive breast cancer screening options (such as mammograms starting at younger ages or a special breast imaging test called an MRI),” adds Dr. Newman. Find out six simple changes you can make to lower your breast cancer risk.

Perform self breast exams monthly

While the American Cancer Society recently revised its guidelines on self breast exams, noting that there’s not enough research to support their clear benefits, experts agree that they’re still important—and there’s absolutely no downside. “Knowing what your baseline ‘lumps’ are so you’ll be able to immediately recognize when something feels new or different is key,” says Phoebe Harvey, MD, chief of hematology/oncology for Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Portland, Oregon. “Women who have naturally lumpy breasts often say they find it hard to know what’s ‘normal.'” Her best advice is to pay attention to lumps that feel unlike the rest of your breast tissue, for example, that are harder or just seem out of place. These should be checked out by your provider. “There can also be visual clues as well, like a change in the size or shape of your breast, or dimpling of the skin,” she adds. And if you do find a lump, don’t freak out. Here are seven things that lump could be beside breast cancer.

Schedule yearly mammograms

Women who have an average risk of breast cancer should begin having annual mammograms, basic x-rays of the breast, according to the American Cancer Society. However, there’s been a great deal of controversy in recent years with regard to the age and frequency. Experts recommend discussing your risk factors with your doctor to determine if a mammography before the age of 40 is right for you. “Although getting screened for breast cancer does not reduce your risk, it can help identify the proper screening methods you should be using based on your risk factors and can help to identify cancer early when it is easiest to treat,” explains Jane Kakkis, MD, medical director of breast surgery at MemorialCare Breast Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. If you are old enough to have a screening mammogram, Dr. Kakkis recommend also asking your doctor whether or not you have dense breast tissue. “If you have dense breast tissue, then your risk of breast cancer is increased and, depending on other risk factors that you might have, your doctor may recommend supplementing your mammogram screening with ultrasound or MRI.” Find out how dense breasts affect your breast cancer risk.

Maintain a normal body weight

Among the laundry list of reasons why a healthy BMI (body mass index) is beneficial is that it has been known to significantly reduce your risk of cancer, as well as several other diseases including heart disease and diabetes. “One reason for this is that body fat produces estrogen, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer,” explains Dennis Holmes, MD, breast cancer surgeon and researcher and interim director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. This is even more important as we get older, as Dr. Newman notes that women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a 30 to 60 percent higher breast cancer risk compared to those who are lean. Aim for a BMI that is between 18.5 to 24.9, as anything above is considered overweight and anything above 30 is considered obese. Find out how else BMI may affect your health.

Exercise several times a week

According to Marc Hurlbert, Ph.D, breast cancer specialist and chief mission officer for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, physical activity may be the most potent lifestyle factor in reducing the risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause. “It not only helps in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, but exercise also reduces the levels of metabolic hormones including insulin and leptin, and it reduces levels of estrogen, all of which promote tumor growth,” he says. “Exercise may be most beneficial in overweight women who may have high levels of insulin and estrogen.” The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, activity each week, preferably spread throughout the week. Find out 15 breast cancer myths you can safely ignore.

Watch your diet

When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, diet goes hand-in-hand with exercise. “Changes to your body as you age, and especially after menopause, make it necessary to change lifestyle and eating habits to maintain a healthy weight,” Dr. Kakkis explains. She recommends the Mediterranean diet, which incorporates a lot of fresh vegetables, healthy sources of fats, lean protein sources, and whole grains. “All of these, especially when coupled together, benefit your cardiovascular system and lead to a substantial amount of health benefits.” She does note, however, that even with a healthy diet, portion sizes should be appropriate, with the largest food group in each meal being vegetables. Also, do your best to eliminate preservative-laden foods, especially nitrates, as well as hormone and pesticide additives. “Soy concentrated products should be avoided by high-risk persons or breast cancer survivors, (soy supplements, soy milk, etc.) and natural food sources of soy, such as tofu should be limited to three small servings per day,” she says. “Using proper oils for deep frying is important, as oils that are heated past their optimal temperature develop chemicals known to cause cancer to enter the food.” Peanut oil is an example of an oil that can be used for deep frying. Find out more easy ways to make your diet more Mediterranean.

Cut down on the cocktails

While it’s not exactly clear why, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests as little as one alcoholic beverage a day is enough to increase an individual’s risk of breast cancer. “Among other things, alcohol is thought to raise estrogen levels and can also contribute to weight gain,” explains Dr. Harvey. This can be a tough pill to swallow for those who enjoy a nightly cocktail or glass of wine, but Dr. Harvey urges that the correlation is strong enough. She advises people to strongly consider reducing their intake, especially since alcohol is a known risk factor for a number of other cancer types as well. Are you drinking too much? Find out here.

Quit smoking, stat

“Recent studies show that smoking, especially heavy smoking, may increase the risk of certain breast cancers,” says Dr. Hurlbert. “The effect may be stronger when a woman starts smoking before her first child.” Second-hand smoke plays a role in increasing a person’s risk too. “In animal studies, chemicals from first or second-hand smoke caused breast tumors and was found in the milk of nursing rodents,” he says. Bottom line: Smoking is terrible for your health and may be a catalyst for increasing your breast cancer risk. Quitting is your only option to reduce this risk. Here are the 23 best ways to quit smoking.

Take aspirin or ibuprofen regularly

Seriously! Research has found that women who take two or more tablets of aspirin or ibuprofen each week for at least five years have a 20 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer. “Taking these medications for more than 10 years lowers the risk even further,” notes Dr. Holmes. “Either mediation is capable of reducing chronic inflammation within the body, which can predispose some women to develop cancer.” While the ideal dose and frequency of use of aspirin or ibuprofen have not been determined, Dr. Holmes recommends women to consider taking a low dose of aspirin (81 mg) or ibuprofen (200 mg) twice a week if they’re not already doing so for other reasons.

Have children earlier in life (if possible)

While the reasons aren’t totally clear, research suggests that women who conceive children earlier in life have a lower risk of breast cancer. The Nurses’ Health Study, for one, shows that women who give birth in their 20s compared to those who give birth in their 30s or later, have a reduced risk of breast cancer. “It is believed that the hormonal and other cellular effects of pregnancy influence the breast tissue positively and is protective against cancerous transformation,” explains Jack Jacoub, MD, medical oncologist and medical director of MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. Additionally, women who have multiple children see a decreased risk. One reason for this, notes Dr. Jacoub, is that pregnancy limits the periods of “incessant ovulation” over a woman’s lifetime. “This is when ovaries are functional and producing high levels of sex hormones, namely estrogen.”

Breastfeed your baby

While this isn’t always easy, or feasible, for all women, research shows that women who breastfeed, when compared to those who don’t, have a modestly decreased risk of breast cancer. “The effect is greatest in women who breastfeed for one and a half to two years,” notes Dr. Hurlbert. “Breastfeeding delays the return of menses after childbirth and this lowers the lifetime exposure to estrogen.” He also notes that total exposure to estrogen over a lifetime can increase the risk of breast cancer after menopause. “That’s one reason why having children is also protective, as a woman’s estrogen levels drop during pregnancy.”

Limit oral contraceptive use

“Following on the discussion about exposure to estrogen, oral contraceptives increase this exposure,” says Dr. Hurlbert. In other words, women who use oral contraceptive have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer compared to those that don’t. “The risk decreases over time after stopping contraceptive use and women who have not taken contraceptives for more than ten years are no longer at increased risk from contraceptive use.” He recommends that women discuss their use of hormone-based contraception with their doctors to determine what is best for their particular health concerns and situation.

Quit menopausal hormone use

The practice of using menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) to relieve symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances, has been used for more than a century, but recently it’s been linked to an increase in breast cancer risk. “The combination of estrogen plus progestin for several years increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer and can make mammograms more difficult to interpret,” explains Dr. Newman. “You can reverse some of this risk by discontinuing these hormones.” She recommends talking with your doctor about safe alternatives to control menopausal symptoms. Try these natural remedies for menopause symptoms.

Preventative surgery

Although all women are at risk of developing breast cancer, some women are at particularly high risk because of personal health factors and family history. These “high risk” women, many of which are carriers of the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genetic mutations, should consider taking preventative action, which often involves surgery, to dramatically reduce their risk of breast cancer. “If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, genetic testing is highly recommended so you can better understand your options,” says Nikita Shah, MD, breast cancer specialist at the Breast Care Center at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, especially before age 40, ask your doctor about getting tested for the BRCA gene. In some cases, your doctor may recommend you go ahead with a preventative surgery, such as removal of the breasts, ovaries, and Fallopian tubes, to reduce your risk of getting cancer.

Understand how your community and identity can affect your risk

Research suggests that those with certain ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds may be at a predisposition to be diagnosed with breast cancer, for example, Ashkenazi Jewish families have a significantly higher risk of carrying mutations or abnormalities, Dr. Newman notes. “We also know that breast cancer mortality and death rates are significantly higher among African American compared to white American women.” She explains that this disparity is related to socioeconomic disadvantages and healthcare access barriers that are more prevalent in the African American community, but it has also been shown that a biologically more aggressive pattern of breast cancer (triple negative breast cancer) is twice as common among African American compared to White American women. Breast health awareness and early detection or screening programs, as well as research, are essential to address and eliminate these disparities, so use what is available to you and use it wisely. Find out 12 things your mom’s health may reveal about yours.

After Refusing to Vaccinate Her Son

A Mother Is Going to Jail After Refusing to Vaccinate Her Son

Michigan mom Rebecca Bredow has been ordered to spend seven days in jail after refusing to vaccinate her son. Bredow was sentenced on Wednesday nearly a year after a judge ordered her to have her 9-year-old vaccinated, the Associated Press reports.

Michigan allows parents to waive vaccination requirements for their children based on religious or personal beliefs. Before parents are allowed to fill out this waiver, parents or guardians of children who go to public or private school in Michigan are required to take an educational session to learn about the diseases that vaccines can prevent, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Bredow says she did just that, and that she won’t vaccinate her son due to religious reasons.

But her ex-husband, James Horne, who shares custody of their son, wants to have their child vaccinated. Bredow says that she and Horne originally agreed to delay their son’s vaccines for three months after he was born in 2008 and two years later they agreed to stop all further vaccinations.

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However, it appears Horne changed his mind. And, as part of the ongoing custody battle, the Washington Post reports that Bredow’s attorney signed a court order last November saying that her son had to be vaccinated (which means she had to get it done). But after almost a year, she has continued to refuse. “I’m a passionate mother who cares deeply about my children, their health and their well-being. … If my child was forced to be vaccinated, I couldn’t bring myself to do it,” she said during her hearing, per the AP.

“I understand you love your children. But what I don’t think you understand is that your son has two parents, and dad gets a say,” Judge Karen McDonald told Bredow in court, per the AP. The judge awarded Horne temporary custody of their son and ordered him to be vaccinated.

It’s important to note that Bredow is going to jail because she violated a November 2016 court order to vaccinate her son—not specifically because of her vaccination beliefs, Cason D. Schmidt, J.D., a research assistant professor at Texas A&M University, tells SELF. “Contempt of court is a punishment for violating a court’s order and is essential for preserving the authority of the justice system,” he explains. “Courts would be powerless if everyone could ignore decisions with impunity.”

Still, her vaccination beliefs are tightly wrapped up in the case. And the story showcases just how intense things can get when people decide not to vaccinate their children for nonmedical reasons.

Research overwhelmingly finds that vaccines are safe and crucial for children’s health, but many states still allow for some exemptions.

Vaccination laws are decided at the state level, and all 50 states require children to receive certain vaccinations before they go to public school, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, there are some exceptions, which are broken into medical and nonmedical reasons. Medical reasons exempt children with certain severe allergies, those who have cancer, and those who have a blood disorder, per the CDC. (It’s worth noting that, because these individuals cannot get vaccinated, they depend on the herd immunity which happens when the majority of people around them are vaccinated). On the other hand, nonmedical exemptions include personal beliefs, religious reasons, or philosophical reasons for avoiding vaccines.

Michigan law is a little vague when it comes to nonmedical exemptions, stating that parents and guardians can opt out of immunization requirements for religious convictions or having an “obstruction” or “objection” to vaccination. “It doesn’t say what the nature of that [obstruction or objection] has to be, but it can’t be ‘because I’m not able to get off from work to vaccinate my child,'” says Denise Chrysler, director of Michigan’s The Network for Public Health Law. “There has to be an objection to the vaccine.” Parents are also asked to check off which specific vaccinations they’re opposed to when they fill out the waiver, she says.

Few states (California, Mississippi, and West Virginia) don’t allow for any nonmedical exemptions. The majority of states let parents cite religious exemptions, per the Pew Research Center, while 20 states allow parents to use a waiver for religious and personal reasons.

California used to allow parents to cite religious or personal beliefs but that changed in 2015 with the passage of SB 277, which came on the heels of a measles outbreak that was traced back to Disneyland.

“There was much [legislative] movement following the 2014–2015 measles outbreak,” Leila Barraza, J.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, tells SELF. “As more outbreaks keep happening, this may be a trend we see in the future—a trend of more states making it more difficult for parents to seek exemptions from vaccine requirements.”

Despite the amount of states currently allowing vaccination exemptions, the American Medical Association strongly urges parents to vaccinate their children.

“We know that vaccinations are safe and effective. We know their benefits far outweigh any risks. And we know that as physicians, we must encourage our patients to listen to the science and facts behind this issue,” former AMA president Robert M. Wah, M.D., said in a statement on the organization’s website in 2015.

Although California no longer allows for nonmedical exemptions to vaccines, Danelle Fisher, M.D., chairwoman of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF that she “absolutely” was asked about it in the past. “When there is not a true medical reason to postpone or delay vaccines, I’ve never felt comfortable refusing on the behalf of the child,” she says, adding that some parents ultimately decided to leave her practice because of it. Even now, she says she’s had a few patients whose parents have asked her to sign a medical exemption form when it wasn’t necessary (she said no). “The vast majority that ask for it really don’t have a good medical exemption,” Dr. Fisher says.

“I see people who want a vaccination exemption a lot,” nurse-practitioner Kara Schrader, an assistant professor of health programs at Michigan State University, tells SELF. “But education of the parents does seem to make a difference.”

Vaccination is a mutual decision between parents and practitioners, she says, adding, “I’m not going to kick someone out of my practice because they’re not vaccinating.” So, if a patient says they don’t want to vaccinate their child, Schrader says she’ll ask them why and talk to them about the importance of vaccination and the science behind it. She also hands them pamphlets from the CDC and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

In her 12 years of practice, Schrader says she’s only had two parents who have still declined to vaccinate their infants after learning the facts.

Drinking Alcohol Might Make Your Cells Age Faster

Drinking Alcohol Might Make Your Cells Age Faster

While experts generally agree that drinking alcohol in moderation is OK, having too much alcohol has been linked to a slew of serious health problems like liver disease, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. Now, there’s a new concern to add to the list: Drinking can age you on a cellular level.

That’s the takeaway from a new study from Kobe University that was presented at the 40th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism. For the study, researchers analyzed the drinking history, alcohol habits, and DNA of 255 people, about half of whom sought alcoholism treatment services at a hospital in Japan.

After analyzing each person’s data, the researchers determined that the more alcohol people drank, the more their cells appeared to age. Alcoholic patients specifically had shortened telomeres, the protein caps on the ends of human chromosomes that are markers of aging and overall health. Every time a cell replicates, a little amount of telomere is lost. As a result, they get shorter over time, but certain things like alcohol abuse can also speed up this aging process. And, by having shortened telomere lengths, alcoholic participants were at a greater risk of developing age-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and dementia.

“Telomere shortening has been well described as a manifestation of the aging process,” Jack Jacoub, MD, an internist, medical oncologist, and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty. “There’s no dispute about that.” However, he says, the alcohol link is new.

Health expert Jennifer Wider, MD, tells Yahoo Beauty that the news is concerning given that it places people who drink heavily at risk for age-related diseases. In those individuals who are already at a higher risk for diseases like cancer and stroke “this could have dire consequences,” she says.

Naturally, you’re probably wondering what this means if you’re not an alcoholic but still drink on occasion. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that, if you drink, you drink in moderation, which is defined by having up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. (For the record, a “drink” is a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol.) Anything above that is generally considered heavy drinking.

Jacoub says it’s possible that any amount of alcohol can speed up cell aging, but the quantity you drink and how long you drink matters. Meaning, if you’ve been a heavy drinker for years, you’re probably putting yourself at a higher risk of age-related diseases than someone who only drinks occasionally and has maintained that habit for a long time. “Moderation is definitely key,” Jacoub says.

Wider points out that the study was small and focused on alcoholics, and that more studies are needed before any definitive conclusions can be drawn. “The effects for moderate drinkers are likely less significant,” she says.

Marijuana

Cancer Patients Warned About Using Marijuana

The death of a California man who was being treated for cancer is being blamed on a rare fungal infection.

According to a CBS report, the man may have been exposed to the fungus while using contaminated medical marijuana.

Following his death, researchers tested 20 medical marijuana samples from dispensaries around Northern California.

A study from the University of California, Davis, found that most were contaminated with unsafe bacteria and fungi.

Many of them can cause serious lung infections.

Fungi included cryptococcus, mucor, and aspergillus.

Bacteria included E. coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, and Acinetobacter baumannii.

The findings are published in Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

Researchers caution people with cancer

The U.C. Davis researchers warn that smoking, vaping, or inhaling aerosolized marijuana could be dangerous to some people with serious ailments.

People with leukemia, lymphoma, AIDS, or others undergoing immune suppressing therapies are at particular risk.

They also advise against using marijuana in baked goods. At least for now.

They theorize that cooking would destroy the bacteria and fungi, but they have not seen experimental evidence of this.

“Patients with impaired immune systems are routinely advised to avoid exposure to plants and certain raw foods because of the risk of infection from soil-dwelling organisms,” Dr. George Thompson III, said in a press release.

Thompson is an associate professor of clinical medicine at U.C. Davis in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. He was also a lead author of the study.

“But at the same time, they are increasingly turning to medical marijuana to help them with symptom control,” he continued. “Because microorganisms known to cause serious infections in immunocompromised patients were found to be common on marijuana, we strongly advise patients to avoid it.”

According to the study’s authors, marijuana from legal dispensaries isn’t necessarily safe. That’s because there’s no federal regulation for quality.

Also, doctors may not link an infection to medical marijuana.

How marijuana helps people with cancer

“Medical marijuana seems to be potentially helpful for many cancer problems,” said medical oncologist Dr. Jack F. Jacoub.

In an interview with Healthline, Jacoub said medical marijuana can help with numbness and tingling (neuropathy), nausea, and loss of appetite.

“It can also help with chronic pain syndromes related to the disease or treatment,” continued Jacoub, who is director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Southern California.

Jacoub said these are tough symptoms to control. And he’s seen better-than-expected results.

“Other prescription medications have a role. Without a doubt. But you have to work with the side effects. Some patients really respond to medical marijuana,” he said.

Medical marijuana can be delivered in many ways, including smoking, inhaling, eating, and even in oil. Marijuana also has some side effects, including the “high.”

“I’m quite convinced we’re only beginning to understand its use in cancer patients,” said Jacoub. “Some people come back after trying many things and medical marijuana is the one thing that helped. There’s definitely a group of people that benefit. You’d have to be shortsighted not to see that.”

What cancer patients need to know

Not all cancers are alike.

Jacoub explained that in general, cancer develops due to a preexisting degree of immune system incompetence. Some cancers are tightly associated with a compromised immune system. These include leukemias and lymphomas.

In addition, some chemotherapy drugs will further suppress the immune system.

“Patients are notified of this. Infection can be severe and life-threatening. They’re told what to avoid and what to report to their physician,” said Jacoub.

They’re advised not to eat fresh fruits and vegetables without cooking or steaming. Some can’t even have fresh plants in their rooms.

These people should be very careful.

“Please discuss this with a physician experienced in dealing with compromised immune systems,” Jacoub suggested. “They will understand the nuances and can advise you. Don’t take it upon yourself.”

If you have cancer and want to try medical marijuana, Jacoub has a few other suggestions.

First, decide what symptoms you need help with that you’re not getting help with now.

Second, visit a dispensary that has an abundance of experience dealing with your condition. Ask about the potential side effects of various products.

“The route probably most concerning for infection like the one reported is smoking,” said Jacoub. “Warning signs of infection are a nagging cough and phlegm. Some people have chest pain. But the biggest one is fever.”

Regulations vary from state to state and aren’t always clear.

“There should be tighter regulations. Without them, it’s still a risk, even when you buy from a dispensary. But it’s probably safer than buying on the street. Hopefully, that part of the market will ultimately disappear,” said Jacoub.

There’s limited data on medical marijuana use.

“We don’t have large clinical trials. But there have been some really interesting outcomes in patients who report improvements in symptoms,” he said.

Making informed decisions

“Cannabis is an agricultural product and it is unreasonable to expect that it would be free of bacteria and fungus that are found routinely in soil,” said cannabis therapeutics expert Dr. Jordan Tishler of Inhale MD in Massachusetts.

In an email to Healthline, Tishler explained that it’s not well understood if any of those pathogens routinely survive smoking, vaporizing, or cooking.

“Best evidence to date suggests that temperatures around 350 degrees Fahrenheit and higher will kill these agents. What isn’t clear is whether smoking and vaporizing achieve these temperatures in a thorough enough manner to kill whatever’s in there. What we need, and do not yet have, is testing of the smoke/vapor output to viable organisms,” said Tishler.

Tishler makes the point that marijuana use by people with cancer is not new. It’s been going on for decades, if not longer. Even so, it’s rare that an illness is traced back to medical marijuana.

“It could be countered that we haven’t been looking for such. But if it were enough of a hazard, I would suspect we would have noticed,” he said.

Tishler said there’s no doubt we need more research. But he believes there’s adequate data to make informed decisions.

“The key is to have a detailed and thorough discussion of the risks and benefits of cannabis therapy with a caring, educated cannabis specialist in conjunction with the rest of your medical team,” he advised.

Infants-with-Cancer

Experimental Treatment Provides Hope for Infants with Cancer

An experimental treatment has saved the lives of two infants with difficult to treat leukemia.

The two children, 11 and 16 months old, each experienced complete cancer remission within 28 days of receiving treatment.

Diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), both infants had exhausted all other treatment options.

ALL is an aggressive type of cancer that begins in immature white blood cells called lymphocytes. Without treatment, ALL can be fatal within months.

According to the American Cancer Society, children with B-cell ALL who are between the ages of 1 and 9 have better cure rates. Infants under 1 year old tend to have a poorer outlook.

The two infants given the experimental treatment have both been cancer-free for more than a year.

The research was published in Science Translational Medicine.

How T cell treatment works

When other methods such as chemotherapy don’t work, there’s a newer leukemia treatment that involves using a patient’s own T cells.

The T cells are removed and manipulated with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that instruct them to attack ALL cells. Then they’re returned to the patient’s blood.

However, most infants during their first year haven’t developed enough healthy T cells.

Dr. Waseem Qasim, professor of cell and gene therapy at Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, University College in London, and his colleagues, wanted to find a solution to this problem.

Unable to get enough T cells from the infants, they decided to use donor blood.

Through gene editing, they created functional T cells that could evade immune system attacks in unmatched recipients.

The T cells were then infused into the infants’ blood.

Two months after the procedure, one infant developed mild graft-versus-host disease in the skin. It cleared up following a bone marrow transplant and steroid treatment. The other infant had no complications.

It’s the first time doctors have ever treated cancer with altered T cells from a donor.

The doctors showed it’s possible to create universal, or “off-the-shelf,” therapies from altered donor T cells.

The experiment could lead to big advances in hard to treat ALL.

The promise of off-the-shelf T cells

With no need to match patients with donors, patients could be treated more quickly and more efficiently.

“Engineered T cells are the most important story in difficult to treat leukemias and lymphomas,” said medical oncologist Dr. Jack Jacoub in an interview with Healthline.

“A lot of progress has been made in this type of treatment. It’s an area that has excellent promise and definitely needs to be considered,” said Jacoub, the director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in California.

“This type of lymphoblastic leukemia is a very bad disease,” he added. “There’s often little to be lost. This is the case with these two infants. They were provided therapy on a compassionate basis. All other therapies failed, so there was nothing to lose. They would have succumbed to this illness.”

“The paper’s authors suggest there are limitations in getting lymphocytes in young patients. They have a less mature immune system. They don’t have enough T cells, and that’s a problem,” said Jacoub.

“The authors are implying we don’t need to go to the patient or have a donor. We don’t need either route,” he explained.

Next steps for researchers

“In these two infants, they’ve showed they can do it,” said Jacoub. “It’s only two [patients] and they tried it because there was nothing else. But it’s not even a phase I trial structure.”

Jacoub notes that the paper was published in a small journal that may not be widely received throughout the field of hematology. He’s fairly certain, however, that this paper is on the radar of scientists involved in the field.

Also worthy of note is the small sample size.

“We don’t know how the next patients will do. This is just an observation, but an exciting one that must be expanded,” he said.

Jacoub suggests the need for more collaboration with larger institutions with research infrastructure, more of these types of patients, and the expertise to manage this disease.

“Whether it will go to phase I trial is a big leap. It will have to involve more than one institution. Right now, it’s just an observation of two patients. We won’t be rushing out to try to do this now, but this is how things start,” he said.

Jacoub sees a lot of potential in this type of treatment. But there’s a long way to go.

“The U.K. trial would have to be reproducible in the United States to see if this is feasible. With more scientific scrutiny and oversight — if we can reproduce it — it could be enormous. Barriers would be overcome,” he said. “They’re taking available technology a few extra steps. The technology is there. If it really was a true effect and can be reproduced in different settings and countries, it could lead to widely available therapeutic options. If this observation could be accurately reproduced, we’ll probably know in the next year or two. That’s how fast this field moves.”

Jacoub said this is exciting news for patients and their families.

“It’s not widely available or the current standard of care. But families of these patients are usually medically savvy,” he said.

He’s all for families bringing it up with their physicians.

“It’s OK if their doctor hasn’t seen this published report. Copies of this journal may not go everywhere. Usually these things happen in collaboration. Emails to scientists and institutions start discussions. So they should definitely bring it up.”

Surgery-for-Cervical-Cancer

Two Days After Surgery for Cervical Cancer, Erin Andrews was Back at Work

Erin Andrews made a startling revelation in a new Sports Illustrated profile: She quietly battled cervical cancer last year, shortly after her nude video lawsuit took place — for which she was awarded $55 million after she was secretly taped in her hotel room.

The Fox NFL reporter says she had a routine checkup in June that included tests that led to her diagnosis. Andrews, 38, was in a meeting at the New York Giants’ team facility when she got a call from her doctor, telling her she had cervical cancer. Andrews’ doctor said she would need surgery soon.

Andrews didn’t tell her coworkers about her diagnosis. Instead, she reported on a game and then flew home to L.A. Her surgery was scheduled for Oct. 11 and before she was taken into the operating room, Andrews told her oncologist, “I’m not watching any football games at home. This is [Fox’s] Super Bowl year, and I’m not missing the Super Bowl.”

Two days after her surgery, she took a red-eye flight from L.A. to Green Bay, where she filmed a feature with the Green Bay Packers’ Jordy Nelson. She then went on to cover more games. “Should I have been standing for a full game five days after surgery? Let’s just say the doctor didn’t recommend that,” Andrews says.

“But…sports were my escape. I needed to be with my crew.”

Andrews eventually revealed her diagnosis to her colleagues after her boss noticed that she wasn’t herself. It was then she says she realized her cancer wasn’t a weakness. “After the trial everyone kept telling me, ‘You’re so strong, for going through all of this, for holding down a job in football, for being the only woman on the crew,’ ” Andrews says. “Finally I got to the point where I believed it too. ‘Hey, I have cancer, but dammit, I am strong, and I can do this.’ ”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11,955 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013 (the most recent year for which numbers are available), and 4,217 women died from the disease. The main cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection, the CDC states, and it’s often detected by an abnormal Pap test.

Hye Sook Chon, M.D., a gynecological oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center, tells Yahoo Beauty that recovery time varies for cervical cancer surgery, depending on what stage a woman’s cancer is in, and what type of surgery she had.

Jack Jacoub, M.D., a medical oncologist at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty that surgical options typically range from conization, a form of biopsy in which abnormal tissue is removed from the cervix to a hysterectomy, in which all or parts of a woman’s uterus are removed.

Jacoub points out that it’s natural—and even helpful—for people to want to get back to normal as soon as possible. “When people are given a diagnosis of cancer, there’s a bit of a loss of control—you’ve given your body to your physicians and healthcare team,” he says. “It can be a very stressful period.”

That’s why he says striving to have a sense of normalcy after cancer surgery is an important part of the recovery process. “If someone has the ability to set goals and do them through motivation and energy, whether that’s exercising sooner or going back to work sooner, it can help recovery,” Jacoub says. In fact, he says not being engaged in regular life can lead to a slower recovery.

Chon says many of her patients want to know how soon they can resume their normal life after surgery, and she says it varies. If a person was active before surgery, they’re likely to get back to normal sooner than someone who was more inactive. “If it’s possible, it’s very important for patients to resume their normal activities,” she says.

However, recovery timeframes vary for everyone and even Andrews’ father points out that she wasn’t acting like herself again for several weeks. If a patient is active again too soon after surgery, she’s at a higher risk of bleeding and can be in more pain than if she rested more, Jacoub says: “That’s why we typically recommend that people take it slowly after surgery.” However, it’s best to consult your doctor if you’re not sure.

Surprising-Signs-Of-Lung-Cancer

8 Surprising Signs Of Lung Cancer You Should Know

Chest pain is the most obvious sign of lung cancer, but there are plenty of other signals you should know about—even if you’ve never smoked. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of both men and women in the US, and up to 20% of people who die from it have never smoked at all.

Why might a nonsmoker get lung cancer? Exposure to radon (an odorless gas found in homes) is often to blame, explains Robert McKenna, Jr., MD, a thoracic surgeon at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. Other possible culprits include air pollution, secondhand smoke, and environmental hazards like asbestos. (Here are 10 of the most painful conditions.)

Whether you smoke regularly or have never lit up in your life, keep an eye out for the following symptoms. Although there are plenty of less nefarious reasons why these issues might crop up, play it safe and discuss them with your doctor.

A lingering cough

“The majority of people with lung cancer have a cough, occasionally with blood,” says McKenna. Bringing up thick, rust-colored mucus can also be an early sign. But even if you have a dry cough, if it’s lingered for over a month, it’s worth getting checked out.

Chronic infections

Most of the time, viruses are to blame for lung infections like chronic bronchitis. But if you’re repeatedly getting sick and every illness seems to go straight to your chest, it could be a sign of cancer.

Weight loss

Dropping pounds without a change in your diet or workout? “As with any cancer,” notes McKenna, “a more advanced tumor may make proteins that tell your body to lose weight.” That’s why you may also notice a drop in your appetite. (If you’re gaining weight and not sure why, it could be one of these weird reasons.)

Bone pain

If lung cancer has spread to other organs in your body, you may feel an ache deep down in your bones or joints, says Jack Jacoub, MD, a medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA. The back and hips are common sore spots. (Though this may also be a sign of vitamin D deficiency.)

Swelling in your neck and face

If a lung tumor begins pressing against your superior vena cava (the large vein that carries blood from your head and arms to your heart), you may notice swelling in your neck and face, says Jacoub. Your arms and upper chest can also be affected. (Try this simple 12-day liver detox from Rodale and lose up to 13 pounds!)

Overwhelming fatigue

“This is different than feeling tired,” Jacoub notes. “It’s feeling so worn out that you can’t wait to climb into bed,” and getting lots of rest doesn’t help. As many as 80% of people with cancer note “excessive tiredness” as a symptom. (Here are 7 reasons you’re tired all the time.)

Muscle weakness

Lung cancer affects your muscles as well as your organs. One of the first areas to be impacted: your hips. “You might find it hard to even get out of a chair,” says Jacoub. Weakness in the shoulders, arms, and legs is also typical.

High calcium levels

Certain lung cancers make hormone-like substances that upset the balance of minerals in your body. In some instances, says McKenna, excess calcium gets released into the bloodstream. While you may not realize your levels are through the roof until your doctor orders a lab test, you should notice the symptoms that go along with high calcium: frequent urination, excessive thirst, constipation, nausea, belly pain, and dizziness.

diabetes-drug

Inexpensive Diabetes Drug May Be New Weapon in War on Cancer

Researchers are a step closer to figuring out how metformin may help prevent cancer.

Metformin is generally used to treat type 2 diabetes. The drug helps the body use insulin more effectively.

It also helps lower glucose production in the liver. And it’s relatively inexpensive.

Observational studies have suggested that people who take it may have a lower risk of certain types of cancer.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, wanted to know why. The answer could lead to better prevention and more effective cancer treatment.

Details of their research are published in the journal eLife.

What the research says

All cells possess cell polarity. It’s what allows them to perform specific tasks.

Polarity lets epithelial cells form protective walls in cavities and organs. The walls protect against toxins, pathogens, and inflammatory triggers.

Any crack in the wall can open the door to cancer.

The research team identified the mechanism that helps keep the wall strong.

Researchers already knew about something called the stress-polarity pathway.

As stated in the researchers’ press release, it’s “a specialized pathway mobilized only during periods of stress. It is orchestrated by a protein kinase called AMPK that protects cellular polarity when epithelial cells are under energetic stress and an activator of AMPK called LBK1.”

LBK1 is a tumor suppressor. LBK1 mutations are associated with loss of cell polarity and cancer.

The mystery was in how the LKB1-AMPK pathway preserves cell polarity during stress.

The new research found that the stress-polarity pathway relies on a protein called GIV/Girdin. Metformin affects this protein.

“In summary, by identifying GIV/Girdin as a key layer within the stress-polarity pathway we’ve peeled another layer of the proverbial onion,” Dr. Pradipta Ghosh, the study’s senior author, said in the press release.

Ghosh explained that the research provided new insights into the epithelium-protecting and tumor-suppressive actions of metformin.

Cancer fighting properties

Dr. Timothy Byun is a medical oncologist with the Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment at St. Joseph Hospital in Southern California.

He told Healthline that metformin has several mechanisms that may contribute to its anticancer property.

Byun said multiple epidemiologic studies show an association between metformin use and reduced cancer incidence and mortality.

“It’s also well-known that individuals with diabetes or metabolic syndromes have increased insulin production or insulin-resistance state. Hyperinsulin state is associated with increased risk of certain cancers,” said Byun.

He explained that metformin has insulin-lowering activity. This may slow cancer in hyperinsulinemic patients.

It also suppresses production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP transports energy within cells.

By suppressing it, cancer cells have less energy available. This makes it harder for cancer cells to spread or survive.

“Population studies suggest cancer incidence reduction of 14 to 40 percent. And mortality reduction. The main sites appear to be in breast, colon, liver, pancreas, endometrium, and lung,” said Byun.

The cancer-nutrition connection

“It’s exciting, if you think about it,” said medical oncologist Dr. Jack Jacoub in an interview with Healthline.

“There’s an increasingly loud voice about how important nutrition might be in cancer. In fact, it could become one of the tools we use to treat it,” explained Jacoub, director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in California.

“There’s been some skepticism in the field,” he added. “This is part of a new area of looking at prevention and treatment related to glucose and insulin. Also, cholesterol, triglycerides, and other pathways that affect cancer cells.”

Jacoub said nutrition, weight control, and level of activity all matter. All affect development, progression, and response to therapy.

“Metformin is part of a growing story. It would be irresponsible to say metformin is the standard of care at this point. It’s early in the research. But if you’re already on it for diabetes, there may be a lot of benefits to you beyond controlling sugar,” advised Jacoub.

Next steps

Will metformin eventually help prevent or treat cancer?

It’s too soon to say.

“Researchers have been looking at metformin for several years,” said Jacoub. “There are unique features in terms of risk factors of specific cancers. Maybe a drug like metformin could impact cancer cells of that group. There are ongoing trials involving women with a history of breast cancer to learn if it could reduce the risk of recurrence. It’s a well-established concept in breast cancer. There’s a very large trial going on specifically asking that question.”

Byun suggested that phase III studies may be able to determine if metformin is effective in prevention or decreasing recurrence. Or if it could make chemotherapy or radiation therapy more effective.

There’s no immediate role for metformin in treating cancer, according to Byun. He would like to see positive phase III study data before changing his pattern of practice.

“There is a phase III study in France looking at hepatocellular cancer risk in patients with viral hepatitis C cirrhosis. [Cirrhotic patients are at high risk of developing liver cancer due to underlying liver damage.] This study randomizes patients on metformin vs. placebo for three years,” he said. “Another phase III study is in prostate cancer [and patients with] localized disease who are undergoing active surveillance, rather than definitive surgery or radiation therapy. It is looking at time to disease progression.”

“These efforts are underway. But it will take some time for us to know,” said Byun.