Fast food blamed for bowel cancer rise

People under 50 are experiencing an alarming rise in bowel cancer, and a diet of too much meat and fast food may be to blame, cancer experts in the United States say.

Bowel cancer incidence rates have remained stable or decreased in older people for more than a decade in the US, largely due to screening tests such as colonoscopies, which are recommended for people over 50.

However the study, published by the American Cancer Society yesterday, found incidence rates of colorectal cancer in those aged 20 to 49 increased 1.5 per cent a year in men and 1.6 per cent a year in women between 1992 and 2005.

The biggest rise was seen in those under 30, where rates rose by 5.2 per cent a year in men and 5.6 per cent a year in women. In sharp contrast, rates for the over-50s are now dropping 2.8 per cent a year in men and 2.2 per cent a year in women.

The researchers said rising levels of obesity, and changes in diet towards more fast food, red and processed meat, and less milk over the past three decades might have contributed to the increase in colorectal cancer among young adults observed in the study.

Last week a study by The George Institute at the University of Sydney found people who had two or more alcoholic drinks a day or more than seven drinks a week had a 60 per cent greater risk of developing colorectal cancer compared with teetotallers.

Professor Graham Newstead, chairman of the Colorectal Foundation, said the lack of awareness among Australians about bowel cancer was shocking.

Bowel cancer is the most common cancer in Australia to affect both men and women, with about 13,000 diagnoses and 4000 deaths annually. Historically, the risk has increased with age.

Swine flu closes Brisbane childcare centre

A Brisbane childcare centre has been shut after a child tested positive to swine flu, with cases of the virus in Queensland rising to 53 last night.

Five new cases were recorded yesterday, including Queensland origin player Ben Hannant, who is in isolation on the Gold Coast.

A 10-year-old girl linked to Ferny Hills State School in Brisbane, which has been closed by the outbreak, has been listed as a probable case.

The others new cases include a 45-year-old Moreton Bay woman, a 24-year-old Cairns man and a 25-year-old Gold Coast man.

The Hamilton Road Early Education Centre at West Chermside will shut for a week.

Queensland Health is contacting parents after one child at the centre tested positive.

Children who had close contact with the child will be given anti-viral medication.

More than 2,000 passengers who disembarked the cruise ship Dawn Princess in Brisbane on the weekend were screened but none required testing.

Cairns schools

Meanwhile, six students in far north Queensland who contracted swine flu are expected to return to school today when two Cairns Catholic colleges reopen.

St Mary's and St Monica's colleges have been closed for a week.

Dr Bill Sultmann from Catholic Education in Cairns says he is delighted the schools can reopen on schedule.

"We're conscious that it was very disruptive, particularly at this time of the year, and certainly difficult for families to make adjustments," he said.

"But it was a decision I think taken on a variety of reasons - associated with the school, the community, general health, and advice, so we hope it's been for the good.

"Dr [Jeannette] Young, [Queensland Health's] chief medical officer, was taking a fairly conservative view, which we thought was prudent and I think it's proved effective.

"Within Cairns, there's been a restricted number of cases.

"We expect that not to explode - we hope it won't explode."

Cairns State High School will stay closed until Thursday after a second student contracted the virus.


Warwick State High School in Queensland's south-east is expected to reopen today after a swine flu scare.

The school was closed last Thursday as a precaution after a student - whose sibling tested positive to swine flu - showed symptoms of having the illness.

Parents were told late on Wednesday night about the closure.

Queensland Health authorities also opened a clinic at the nearby Old Oaks nursing home treating 124 people for flu-like symptoms before closing on Sunday.

No students from Warwick State High School contracted the virus.

So far there are only two swine flu cases in southern Queensland - one in Warwick and the other in Toowoomba.

Pandemic: swine flu goes global

For the first time in four decades the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a global flu pandemic.

One of the factors affecting its decision was the big increase in the number of swine flu cases in Australia.

There are now nearly 30,000 cases of swine flu worldwide and 141 people have died from the virus.

In the past week the number of cases in Australia has tripled to over 1,300.

Hong Kong is the latest to fall victim to the swine flu; 12 students at one school contracted the virus and now authorities have shut down every primary school for two weeks - 500,000 students have been told to stay at home.

It is a sign of just how worried some countries are about the spread of the swine flu.

The H1N1 virus started in Mexico in April and it has slowly spread to 74 countries.

But it has been the sharp rise in cases due to the Southern Hemisphere winter, particularly in Australia and in Chile, that triggered the emergency meeting of the WHO in Geneva over night.

WHO chief Margaret Chan emerged with some sobering news.

"The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic. Countries where outbreaks appear to have peaked should prepare for a second wave of infection," she said.

"We are all in this together and we will all get through this together."

The pandemic alert has been raised to phase 6 - the highest level.

It is the first flu pandemic in 40 years. The last, the Hong Kong flu in 1968, killed about 1 million people worldwide.

This time the WHO does not expect to see a sudden and dramatic jump in the number of severe and fatal infections.

"The phase 6 doesn't mean anything concerning severity," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said.

"It is concerning geographic spread so we have to differentiate between the two.

"Pandemic means global but it doesn't have any connotation of severity or mildness."

The director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, Thomas Frieden, says the WHO declaration is no surprise.

"It is expected based on the data. WHO waited until they were certain that they had documentation that in multiple continents there was person to person sustained transmission," he said.

"The declaration of a pandemic does not suggest that there has been any change in the behaviour of the virus, only that it is spreading in more parts of the world."

The WHO says the virus is not targeting older people, but rather the young under the age of 25 are predominantly falling ill with the disease.

Dr Mike Skinner is a virologist at the Imperial College London and he says older people appear to be immune.

"But what does seem to be protected are people over 60. It looks as though they have experienced a related virus back in the 50s or before and so this is why we are not seeing so many people over 60 being affected," he said.

Pharmaceutical companies have told the WHO that a vaccine will be available in a few months but that will not be until the end of the Australian winter.

Future Babies Through Frozen Eggs

The first frozen oocyte pregnancy in India has been reported from the Chennai-based GG hospital Fertility Research Centre. The Field of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in India has truly come of age!

A 28-year-old woman with a bad obstetric history was selected for the special treatment. According to her doctors, a normal pregnancy, for her, was impossible. To help her savor the joys of motherhood, it was decided that a frozen donor egg would be employed and…. the rest is history.

The lady is in her first trimester of pregnancy; the success of the programme can be conclusively analyzed only after the delivery. Fetal screening tests are to be carried out, yet so far the going has been good.

'The GG Hospital takes credit for being the first hospital in south India to produce a test-tube baby. Now we are proud to announce that the first pregnancy from a frozen oocyte in India has been achieved at our fertility research centre,' Dr. Priya Selvaraj, programme coordinator, told reporters in Chennai.

The following were the steps involved in the historic pregnancy -

• Eggs were harvested from a suitable donor
• They were frozen using cryoprotectants and were then plunged into liquid nitrogen at temperatures lower than –196o degrees
• Frozen Oocytes were thawed using oocyte –specific media
• The viable oocyte(s) were then fertilized using the sperm(s) of the recipient’s husband
• The resulting embryo was implanted into the recipient’s uterus, after a cycle of hormonal preparation.

Several pregnancies resulting from frozen sperms and embryos have been reported from labs across India and from across the world. But pregnancies from frozen oocytes are far and few.

According to an infertility specialist with Extend Fertility, Jane Frederick, M.D, cryopreservation of oocytes is a lot more challenging because it is mostly made up of water. During freezing, dehydration takes place. This in turn results in crystallization, a process that can decrease oocyte viability on a far greater scale than in frozen sperms and embryos.

Cryopreservation of oocytes is God -sent for the following group of women -

• Those who suffer from ovarian dysfunction, due to certain diseases like cancer
• Those who have pelvic diseases.
• Those with premature ovarian failure
• Those who want to postpone childbirth

A woman is as old as her egg! Egg quality is at a premium when a woman is 27 years old and begins to declines steadily. By age 42, her chances have plummeted to an all -time low and there is very little chance for her to fall pregnant. There fore it would be practical to collect egg from a woman when she is still young and freeze it for use at a much later date. Records say that the eggs can be stored for as long as 15 years.

In the west, ethical and legal complications are often integrated to ART. Couples who are entering ‘splitsville’ may face problem regarding custody of an embryo, as both the sperm and the egg are involved. But in the case of frozen eggs, only the woman is involved.

Although oocyte cryopreservation is futuristic, it would be wise for aspiring moms to remember that using fresh eggs would yield far greater results. Accountability is not a virtue that ART centres in India are credited with. Besides, the impact of the manipulation at the cellular and nuclear level is shrouded, and a lot of work is still underway. Until proven beyond doubt, it would be better to ‘Wait and watch’.

Frozen Facts

• First baby through oocyte cryopreservation was born in Australia, in 1986, under the supervision of Dr. Christopher Chen
• Since then, only a few hundred pregnancies have been reported the world over.
• The Indian achievement came two decades later
• Pregnancy from frozen eggs is 1.4-1.8 %.
• Successful pregnancy using 'freshly harvested' egg is 43 %
• At the G G Hospital, Chennai, of the 76 frozen oocytes, only 11 embryos were formed.
• Out of this eleven, two resulted in pregnancies. One is presently continuing, while the other was just a ‘bio- chemical’ pregnancy
• If an egg is collected and frozen from a woman, aged 32, it would remain at that age when it is implanted into her while she is in her 40s
• Cost of the procedure may sum up to a few lakhs

Bra Size and Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Linked with Bra Size

Breast cancer is a leading cancer among women accounting for one-third of all cancers. Increasingly, age group affected by breast cancer is becoming younger. Forty-eight per cent of incidences are in between 25-50 years of age.

Researchers with a commercial DNA company have linked a larger breast size with seven genetic factors that raise the risk for developing breast cancer.

A study of 16,000 women found genetic mutations associated with breast size were also linked to the disease.

Dr Nicholas Eriksson of the California-based genetics firm 23andMe said it was the first substantial link between breast size and cancer,Breast Cancer Linked with Breast Size but added much more research was needed before it could be considered concrete.

He said: ‘Our results identify genetic variants that have an effect on both breast cancer and natural variation in breast size.

‘While the precise relationships between breast size, density, obesity and breast cancer remain difficult to untangle, understanding the biology . . . may aid in the development of novel screening tools.’

He said one of the three mutations regulates the activity of the female sex hormone oestrogen, which can trigger the growth of both breasts and tumours.

While research has linked breast density – the amount of non-fat tissue – to an increased risk of cancer, there has been little evidence of a link with breast size before.
Another is located in a region of a woman’s genome that often shows abnormalities in those with certain types of breast cancer.

The link was seen regardless of the women’s age, pregnancy and breastfeeding history and genetic ancestry, according to the study published in the journal BMC Medical Genetics.
Little is known about the biology of breast size, which scientists believe is only half hereditary, but high oestrogen levels are known to be a risk factor for breast cancer.

There are many different forms of breast cancer, which scientists believe could be treated as ten different illnesses. Weight, alcohol consumption and a strong family history are all risk factors.

A 2006 study by the Harvard School of Public Health on 90,000 pre-menopausal subjects found larger breast size in slim young women gave them a higher risk of breast cancer in later life.
Those with a body mass index of 25 or less and a bra size of D or larger had a significantly higher risk of breast cancer than those of the same weight with a cup size A or smaller, they found.

However, the study’s lead author, Karin Michels, said the findings did not mean those with small breasts could assume they were safe and urged all women to go for breast cancer screening.

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