Archives for February 2014

Vitamin C: Finally for Real?

Vitamin C:  Finally for Real?

A few hundred years ago, medicine would adopt any new treatment that seemed like a good idea-no testing required.  Unfortunately, the treatments weren’t always (or often) effective or safe. Worse still, once doctors got set in their ways it took generations to convince them that bleeding and blistering patients did more harm than good.

In the last century, medicine began requiring solid evidence before adopting new treatments. And though no system is perfect, modern treatments are much safer and more effective as a result of this more deliberate process. But it does mean that new treatments take a long time to develop. And sometimes doctors are unfairly criticized as being closed-minded grumps rather than healthy skeptics.

Doctors have long been skeptical about the possible benefits of vitamin supplements. A great many people accept vitamin supplements as a cure-all, despite a lack of clear evidence to support this. Vitamin C supplementation, for instance, hasn’t been endorsed as a treatment for anything except severe  deficiency.  But that may be about to change.

Last week, the University of Kansas Medical Center reported on a study of 27 ovarian cancer patients who received IV vitamin C in addition to standard chemotherapy.  The trial suggested a boosted cancer-killing effect with the combination. Also, patients seemed to have fewer side effects than usual. The article appears in the February 5th edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The study gives fascinating background on the lab experiments showing direct cancer-killing effects of vitamin C. It also references the previous failed vitamin C trials, and suggests that the failure may have stemmed from oral (rather than IV) dosing. It’s also interesting that the direct cancer-killing effect seems the result of direct oxidative damage, rather than the antioxidant effect most popular proponents of vitamin C endorse.

Keep in mind: this small study demonstrates the need for more testing. It isn’t yet time to start giving IV vitamin C along with standard chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. But I for one am intrigued, and will be anxiously following further developments.

Here is the press release  and the scientific abstract.

First in a series: Contributing Factors – Colorectal Cancer

First in a series: Contributing Factors – Colorectal Cancer

Over the last fifteen years, the number of new cases of colorectal cancer has gone down by 2 to 3 percent per year. There are a number of factors that still result in over 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer being diagnosed each year.  The following is an overview of these factors.

The incidence of colon cancer appears to increase with age although more recently,  a growing number of new cases have been diagnosed between the ages of 40 to 44.

The risk for colon cancer is higher in men and in patients of African-American descent.

There are genetic conditions associated with a very high risk of colon cancer, often at a young age, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and its variants; MUTYH-associated polyposis and Lynch syndrome.

Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) carries an increased risk of colorectal cancer; particularly if there are ongoing inflammatory changes in the bowel wall over an extended period of time.

Evidence exists that adult survivors of childhood cancer who received abdominal radiation are at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer.

Acromegaly, a condition which is caused by excess growth hormone in  the body, carries an increased risk as well.

Kidney transplant patients appear to have a significantly increased risk of colon cancer.

Patients with prostate cancer who had been on androgen-blocking therapy have increased colorectal cancer risk which appears to increase with longer duration of the therapy.

Diabetes mellitus results in a higher risk of colorectal cancer; even in studies which controlled for smoking, obesity and physical activity.

Obesity itself is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer – more in men than in women – and the risk appears to increase the higher the body mass index(BMI).

There appears to be a slightly increased risk of cancer of the right side of the colon in patients who had undergone a cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder).

The risk of colorectal cancer increases with alcohol consumption in a number of studies, even when evaluating  light drinkers.

Cigarette smoking, which is a risk factor for a number of cancers – most notably cancer of the lung, is also associated with an increased risk of colorectal  cancer.

Long-term consumption of  red and processed meats appears to increase the risk of colorectal cancer, particularly in the left side of colon and in the rectum.

This concludes my brief review. There are many elements that contribute to a colorectal cancer diagnosis.  There are also a number of preventive measures which I will look at in my next blog entry.