Monthly Archives: August 2007

Great American Eat Right Challenge: Have Some Fun!

Weight, weight, weight.  Sometimes, that seems to be what everyone is talking about these days when it comes to our health.


We are getting fatter.  We will be getting sicker.  Some of the gains we have made in lifespan are at risk if we don’t do something about our increasing waists, and do it soon.


But did you know that overweight and obesity are tied to an increased risk of several different types of cancers, such as breast cancer in post-menopausal women, as well as cancers of the colon, endometrium (uterus), esophagus, and kidney?


So what can you do about it?


On Thursday, August 16th the American Cancer Society is launching its Great American Eat Right Challenge, to help you learn more about what you should be doing to get your diet—and your weight—under control, and reduce your risk not only of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, but your risk of cancer as well.


Most of us know that smoking is bad for us, and one of the main reasons for that is that tobacco products increase the risk of cancer as well as other life-threatening diseases.  But most … Continue reading →

Erythropoietin (ESAs): The Story Continues

Erythropoietin has made the headlines once again.


You may recall a blog I wrote several months ago about this drug, and the controversy that erupted after clinical trial results came to light indicating that the drug—intended to boost red blood cell counts and avoid blood transfusions–may in fact be more harmful than previously thought.


In the meantime, there has been a lot of action surrounding what are now called “erythropoiesis stimulating agents” or ESAs, which are used primarily in patients with cancer and kidney failure patients on dialysis.


The latest event in this ongoing saga came last week, when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule intended to control the use of ESAs in the Medicare population.


To understand what has happened, one has to start in the early 1990’s when the drug was first approved to raise the red blood cell counts of patients with cancer, and reduce the need for transfusions.


This was indeed a breakthrough in cancer treatment.  Doctors were very concerned about the potential adverse effects of transfusions (they still are), especially in light of HIV infection, and the possibility that the blood supply was … Continue reading →

Should MRIs Be Used To Screen For Breast Cancer?

An article released today by the British medical journal The Lancet suggests that MRI is more effective than mammograms in detecting early, non-invasive breast cancer lesions. (I could not find a link to this article when I posted this blog.)


The implications of the article and an accompanying editorial are that we could do a much better job of finding breast cancer earlier in its course, and save more lives from breast cancer than is currently possible by relying on screening mammography alone.


This is clearly going to be a controversial issue, given our reliance on mammography as the best available breast cancer screening tool for women at average risk.


For women at a high lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, the American Cancer Society in March released a guideline suggesting that these women should have breast cancer screening with MRI in addition to regular mammograms.   However, the Society did not find MRI to be useful in women at average risk and recommended against its use in that circumstance.


The situation is further complicated by the fact that the number of centers nationwide who have the equipment and expertise to accurately read and … Continue reading →