Archives for June 2014

Loving Summer During Cancer Treatment

Loving Summer During Cancer Treatment

After a long and cold winter, summer has finally arrived. As much as we look forward to this season, summer also brings with it challenging health and lifestyle issues for those with cancer, especially those undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

Nearly all chemotherapy agents can cause skin to be more sensitive to the sun resulting in skin reactions and possible sunburns. For those taking medications that cause a rash, the sun can intensify the skin response and worsen the rash. Skin that is now or has recently been exposed to radiation treatmentis especially sensitive to the sun’s rays.

Particular chemotherapy drugs that may lead to more intense skin reactions and possible sunburns include:

  • 5FU (5 Flourouracil)
  • Methotrexate
  • Dacarbazine
  • Mitmomycin
  • Vinblastine
  • Tamoxifen
  • Biologics (for example Cetuximab, Tarceva)

Many antibiotics also cause the skin to be more sensitive, which can lead to skin reactions or rash after sun exposure. Some of these include:

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Levaquin
  • Tetracycline
  • Doxycycline
  • Bactrim (TMP-SMX)

Other medicines that oncology patients may be taking that can lead to sun sensitivity:

  • Lasix (Furosemide)
  • Hydrochlorothiazide
  • Benadryl
  • Aleve and Feldene
  • Cardiac medications-ask your doctor
  • Compazine (prochlorperazine)

What can you do help prevent skin sensitivity reactions from the sun?

  • Limit sun exposure during the hours of 10am and 4pm. During these hours, the sun is most intense.
  • Be sure to cover areas of skin that are undergoing radiation or have been recently radiated with either a complete sun block (for example, zinc oxide) or clothing.
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (both UVA and UVB protection). Reapply after 2 hours and after swimming.
  • Don’t forget your lips! Use a lip balm with SPF 15 minimum.
  • Protect your head and ears, especially if you have hair loss. Wear a wide-brimmed hat. Your scalp is very sensitive and will burn easily.
  • Keep surgical scars well covered. The sun may darken the skin at the scar.
  • Wear protective clothing. Light colors reflect the light. There are now many SPF clothing options available.
  • Be mindful of dehydration. Drink before you become thirsty and at least 8 glasses of water per day, more with exposure to heat and sweating.

Undergoing treatment for cancer during summer does not limit you to a life indoors—by following these simple precautions, you can still enjoy the summer months ahead.

Preventing Colorectal Cancer – Second in the Colon Cancer Series

Preventing Colorectal Cancer – Second in the Colon Cancer Series

The focus of the second blog in the colon cancer series has a focus on preventive aspects of colorectal cancer. A third blog looking at pharmacalogical prevention of colon cancer will follow later this year.

       Physical activity:  Regular physical activity through either work or leisure appears to reduce the risk of colon cancer by almost a third when comparing the least physically active to the most active individuals. 

       Fruits, vegetables,red meat and animal fat: There are a number of studies which have  shown a mild protective effect of fruit and vegetable consumption. Excessive consumption of fruits and vegetables does not seem to better than what is offered in a balanced diet (an apple a day seems to be adequate). A diet low in red meat and animal fat also appears to have protective benefit independent of fruit and vegetable consumption. However, it has to be pointed out that there was one large study which did not show a clear benefit of fruit and vegetable consumption regarding the risk of colorectal cancer.

       Dietary fiber: There is some controversy regarding the benefits of dietary fiber and colon cancer risk. However in a recent large review of 25 studies it was concluded that high intake of dietary fiber, in particular cereal fiber and whole grains, was associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

       Folic acid and folate: It is not clear if there is a role for folate (which is food-derived) or synthetic folic acid used in food supplements in the prevention of colon cancer. There was one large study suggesting a reduced colon cancer risk for individuals taking 800 mcg of folate or more per day. However, other studies did not confirm any benefit of folic acid with one study even raising the question of increased colon cancer risk with folic acid supplementation.  

–        Vitamin B6: There is a modest association between higher Vitamin B6 intake and decreased colorectal cancer risk.

–        Calcium: There are several large studies which suggest that high calcium intake either through supplements or dietary intake reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Calcium supplementation may be effective in reducing the risk of colorectal adenomas which are benign growths which later can turn into cancer. Calcium supplementation is recommended by the American Society of Gastroenterology to prevent colon adenomas.

–       Vitamin  D: A number of studies have shown  an association between low Vitamin D blood levels and increased colorectal cancer risk. However the data regarding the benefits of Vitamin D supplementation in preventing colorectal cancer have been conflicting and there are important studies ongoing trying to answer this question.  

–      Magnesium: Based on a large study from Scandanavia with more than 60,000 participants, there appears to be a signal that higher magnesium intake is associated with a reduced risk of colon and rectal cancer.

 With summer upon us, let’s celebrate with lots of physical activity and don’t forget that apple a day!