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Health Bulletin

Published:Wednesday | July 3, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Non-smoking women at greater risk for lung cancer

Women who have never smoked are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer as men who have never smoked, noted researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, United States, who suspect that hormones may play a role.

The researchers noted that one in five women who contract lung cancer this year will be 'never smokers' - those who have taken a drag on fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lives. 60 per cent of never-smokers with lung cancer are women. And never-smokers' cancer can strike as young as 20 years old.

Additionally, in a study of more than 100,000 women, Dr Christina Baik, a thoracic oncologist and staff scientist, found that the more children a never-smoking woman had, the less likely she was to get lung cancer. "It's possible that pregnancy may change a woman's lung cells, making them resistant to cancer," said Baik.

Second-hand smoke contributes to more than 3,000 lung-cancer deaths among non-smokers every year, according to the US National Cancer Institute. 3,000 more non-smokers with lung cancer die annually after being exposed to radon - this odourless, invisible radioactive gas comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and seeps into homes through cracks and holes in the foundation. Pollution is another potential culprit. University of Ottawa researchers recently found that people who have never smoked, but who live in areas with high air-pollution levels, are roughly 20 per cent more likely to die from lung cancer than people who live in areas with cleaner air.

Sensitivity to harmful particles in the air may be a trait that runs in your family. When you breathe in carcinogens, they are absorbed into the bloodstream, and it's your liver that's in charge of clearing them out. The latest research suggests that some people may have livers that are sluggish, allowing carcinogens to linger in the bloodstream and do their damage. Others may have the type of overactive livers that break down non-harmful molecules and turn them into carcinogens. These molecules are then sent back into the blood to circulate throughout the body. If lung cells absorb them, that is where the cancer will grow.

Chicken in teen diet mayward off colon cancer

Eating chicken during the teenage years may reduce the risk of a precancerous condition that may develop into colon cancer, a new study has revealed.

In a study of nearly 20,000 women, those who ate more chicken as teenagers had lower risks of developing colorectal adenomas, which are benign tumours that may progress into colon cancer.

The researchers didn't find a direct relationship between red meat intake and adenomas, but the results showed that replacing one serving per day of red meat with one serving of poultry or fish may reduce the risks of rectal and advanced adenomas by about 40 per cent.

"Among different cancers, colorectal cancer is the most influenced by diet," said study researcher Dr Katharina Nimptsch.

"Compared to something like smoking, diet is not a large cancer risk factor, but it does have an impact."

Previous research has found that a diet high in red and processed meat may increase risks of colon cancer. Other risk factors for developing colon cancer include heavy alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, as well as diabetes and a diet rich in fat. However, previous studies have investigated diet during adulthood, rather than focusing on what people eat earlier in life, and their future cancer risk.

"Colorectal carcinogenesis is a long process that can take several decades, and the initial steps of carcinogenesis may occur at young ages," the researchers wrote in their study, published last month in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Sleepless nights can affect a man's health

According to a new study published in the journal, Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, men who had trouble sleeping at nights were twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as those who slept well. This association was even stronger in cases of advanced prostate cancer, and the risk increased relative to the severity of the sleep disorder.

The study, which took place at the University of Iceland, followed more than 2,100 older men, among whom 8.7 per cent and 5.7 per cent reported 'severe' or 'very severe' sleep problems, respectively. None of the participants had prostate cancer at the start of the study, but 6.4 per cent developed the disease within five years. Troubled sleepers, including those with problems falling asleep or staying asleep, were far more likely to develop prostate cancer.

Lead researcher, Lara Sigurdardottir, PhD, expects that, "If our results are confirmed in future studies, sleep may become a potential target for intervention to reduce the risk of prostate cancer."

Lack of sleep has been linked to other forms of cancer, as well. Sigurdardottir notes that, "Most observational studies to date on circadian disruption and cancer have investigated the association between shift work and cancer risk. Among men, there are indications for increased risk of some cancers among night shift workers, such as prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma."

Breastfed children may be more successful - study

Children who are breastfed may be more likely to reach a higher social class than their parents, a new study revealed.

The study, published last month in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, found that while breastfeeding increased the chance of moving upward socially by 24 per cent, it also reduced the chance of sliding downward by 20 per cent. The results suggest that breastfeeding improved children's neurological development, resulting in better cognitive abilities, which in turn helped them with their upward move in the society.

The researchers looked at about 34,000 people in the United Kingdom, either born in 1958 or in 1970, and compared their social class at the age 33 or 34 with that of their fathers when they were children. Among the study participants, those who had been breastfed were more likely to have moved up the social hierarchy in adulthood, which the researchers defined as having a job of higher social status than their fathers.

Breastfed children in the study also had fewer signs of emotional stress, which could have contributed to their success later in the life.

Previous studies have suggested that nutrients in breast milk improve cognitive development. Similarly, skin-to-skin contact between mother and child has been linked to enhanced mother-child bonding and reduced stress.