Vitamin D and the landscape for the ideal study design to measure cancer preventive effects

pill-316601_960_720With growing global prosperity, it seems paradoxical that many people worldwide should have a vitamin deficiency. And yet, vitamin D deficiency is a growing public health problem in many countries. Suboptimal vitamin D levels, defined as below 50nmol/L, have been found in as many as 60% of people in European countries [1] and 42% in the US [2]. Vitamin D deficiency has also been a growing concern in some Middle Eastern and Asian countries due to cultural or religious beliefs [3]. Across ages, races, and locations, there is evidence that the prevalence of low vitamin D is increasing globally [4, 5].

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Sugary drinks and the pathway towards cancer

cup-of-coffeeMessages from the media on sugary drinks are conflicting.  On one hand, the notion of a seasonal pumpkin-flavored latte evokes sentiments of childhood traditions. On the other, news reports of a rising obesity epidemic, ridden by the life altering and debilitating effects of chronic diseases cast a threatening shadow over our comfort drinks.

In recognition of World Obesity Day on October 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) engaged governments worldwide to adopt a tax on sugary beverages, which includes soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices. The WHO argued that lowering sugary beverage consumption also lowers refined sugar consumption, which can curb chronic disease onset in populations and relieve avoidable government health service expenditures.

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Can higher nut consumption lower your cancer risk?

Nuts_MariyaChorna

Do you sometimes snack on a handful of nuts – say a few times per week? Unless you are a vegetarian, chances are that it’s not that much; half a handful every now and then is the estimate. That’s a pity, because by now you have probably heard that eating more nuts may protect your heart.
The American Heart Association recommends that a heart-healthy eating pattern should include 4 to 5 portions (~30 g, 1 handful) of nuts and seeds per week.

What about cancer prevention?  Read more ›

On the risk of death

ToBeOrNotToBe_diegoperez74Risk of death is a strange concept, and risk factors for death — characteristics that may elevate or diminish risk — are even stranger. After all, we’re all going to die. It’s only a matter of time. And time is the crucial element here. None of us will avoid death, but most of us would like to evade it for as long as possible. At the very least it would be preferable to not die before the age of 70 years. This is the goal of the World Health Organisation’s 25 by 25 Framework, which aims to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes, by 25% before the year 2025.

Is 25 by 25 achievable, or is it just a catchy slogan?

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Guide the immune system to fight cancer

CancerCells by dream designs (ID-100279675)While the primary interest in EPICentre is on cancer research related to prevention and early detection, we do have a keen interest in progress related to novel cancer treatments, and in the last few years there have been important developments in immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a relatively new form of treatment to ‘wake up’ a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. The challenge is that cancers are often made up of differentiated cells, characterized by a heavy load of genetic mutations. Cancer cells can look and behave very differently, even within a tumour. So far, immunotherapy treatments have been powerful-but-blunt weapons, in the sense that they have not been very specific to relevant tumour cells, even resulting in potentially serious side effects.

Lately, immunotherapy has received growing attention from cancer research professionals and worldwide media. A powerful element of immunotherapy is that engaging the immune system against cancer might have long-lasting benefits, if the immune system can ‘remember’ the cancer and stop recurrence. In this blog item, we take a closer look at recent evidence produced by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the Francis Crick Institute (FCI) who joined forces to carry out a Cancer Research UK funded study to develop a way to identify unique markers within a tumour to help the immune system to better target cancer cells.(1) How does it work?  Read more ›