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Colorectal cancer screening offers chance to prevent the second deadliest cancer

November 18, 2013

By Andy Koopmans

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that between 2002 and 2010, the number of Americans getting tested for colorectal cancer rose from 54 to 66 percent. However, the report also noted that 23 million people who fall into the recommended screening age range of 50 to 75 have not been screened, and state-by-state data taken from a 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey indicated that testing compliance varies widely by location.

Colorectal cancer is the No. 2 cancer killer of men and women together and one of two cancers that can be prevented through early detection of precancerous changes.

Colorectal cancer is the No. 2 cancer killer of men and women together and one of two cancers that can be prevented through early detection of precancerous changes.

Dr. Polly Newcomb, who heads Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Cancer Prevention Program, said that those who aren’t getting tested are unnecessarily putting themselves at risk for one of the deadliest cancers. “Colon cancer is the No. 2 cancer killer of men and women together,” she said, “and, along with cervical cancer, it’s one of only two cancers that can be prevented through early detection of precancerous changes rather than behavior modification, so testing is important.”

The American Cancer Society recommends screening for men and women 50 and over who are at average risk for colorectal disease. People with a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and other risk factors should be screened earlier and more frequently. Read more…

‘Choosing Wisely’ initiative joins with medical specialty societies to improve care, reduce harms, and costs of overtesting and overtreating

October 31, 2013

By Andy Koopmans

As U.S. policymakers increasingly focus on ways to provide higher-quality, affordable health care, waste and overuse of health care resources have become a concern. According to the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, physicians and hospitals perform far too many duplicative or unnecessary procedures and tests that fail to improve health or quality of life and can actually be harmful as well as costly.

In response, the ABIM Foundation in December 2011 announced its Choosing Wisely® campaign, which encourages national medical-specialty organizations to provide specific, evidence-based recommendations to help guide individualized treatment decision-making.

The National Physicians Alliance piloted the campaign in conjunction with Consumer Reports and nine leading medical-specialty societies to identify the top five commonly used tests and procedures whose necessity should be scrutinized.

The resulting lists of “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question” were intended to spark discussion among health care providers and patients about the need—or lack thereof—for many frequently ordered tests or treatments. The goal was to reduce negative patient experiences and medical costs, and provide recommendations that can significantly impact patient care, safety and quality. Read more…

Australia becomes second country to ban tanning beds to stem skin cancer risk

October 22, 2013

By Andy Koopmans

Australia is serious about cracking down on skin cancer

Photo courtesy of Beax via Wiki Commons

Australia is serious about cracking down on skin cancer and to prove it the government has banned the use of tanning beds, as reported in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.

The use of tanning beds has been clearly linked to increased incidence of the disease, and Australia has one of the highest skin-cancer rates in the world, accounting for more than 80 percent of all the newly-diagnosed cancers there. In the WSJ article, David Davis, health minister for the Australian state of Victoria, cites a study estimating that 1 in 6 melanomas in young Australians 18 to 29 years old could be prevented if tanning salons were closed down.

Before the ban, Australia already regulated the use of tanning beds, as do several countries in the European Union as well as Canada, New Zealand and the United States. With the ban in place, Australia becomes the second country, after with Brazil, to ban all use of the devices completely.

Tanning beds are popular in the United States, especially among young Caucasian women. A recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that the use of them was on the rise among non-Hispanic white women aged 18 to 34 years old despite the well-publicized risks. The study also showed that indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, by 59 to 79 percent while use before the age of 25 increases non-melanoma skin cancer risk 40 to 102 percent, with a nearly 2 percent increase with each additional tanning session per year. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S. and melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,600 cases in 2013. Read more…

Fighting HIV on its own turf

October 21, 2013
Fred Hutch's HVTN lab opens in Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa

by Justin Matlick

The HIV Vaccine Trials Network – based at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center – is launching trials of the most promising HIV vaccines ever developed, and they’re doing it in South Africa, where the virus infects more people than in any other country. There, more than five million people – or roughly 10 percent of the population – suffer from HIV, and nearly two million children have been orphaned by the disease, according to Statistics South Africa and UNAIDS.

The South Africa trials are the latest chapter in a vaccine push that started in 1999, when Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Larry Corey launched the HVTN. Since then, the network has conducted more than 50 clinical trials.

Fred Hutch’s HIV Vaccine Trials Network is opening a lab in Cape Town as we continue our quest to find a vaccine and end the march of AIDS. Staff photographer Robert Hood and writer Deborah Bach will be on the scene in South Africa. Follow our stories, including a detailed version of this story, and photographs at www.Fredhutch.org/SouthAfrica and on Twitter at #HutchHIV.

Read more about Fred Hutch’s efforts in South Africa:

Walking more may help lower the risk of breast cancer, study finds

October 21, 2013

Walking more may help women lower their risk of developing breast cancer.

Women who walked at least seven hours a week had 15 percent less risk of developing breast cancer than those who walked less than three hours a week.
[Photo courtesy of Women's Heart Organization]

By Andy Koopmans

Walking more may help women lower their risk of developing breast cancer – even if they don’t engage in more vigorous exercise, a new study suggests.

Women who walked at least seven hours a week – typically an hour a day – had 15 percent less risk of developing breast cancer than those who walked less than three hours a week, according to a large study published this month in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The study drew on health and medical records of more than 73,600 women aged 50 to 73 from the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study II who enrolled in the study in the early 1990s. Follow-up was conducted via questionnaires every two years for nearly two decades, with participants reporting on their exercise and leisure time habits.

Researchers examined total recreational physical activity, walking, and leisure-time sitting, as well as BMI, adult weight gain and postmenopausal hormone use and estrogen receptor status. Of the study participants, 47 percent reported walking was their only recreational activity.

Nearly 5,000 of the women developed breast cancer over the duration of the study.

The new finding adds to a growing body of research indicating that exercise can lower the risk of breast cancer. “Physical activity has consistently been associated with lowered risk of postmenopausal breast cancer,” said Dr. Anne McTiernan, director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Prevention Center and a member of its Public Health Sciences Division. Read more…

Study finds yoga improves menopause symptoms of insomnia but not hot flashes

October 10, 2013

By Andy Koopmans

Regular yoga may provide some relief from insomnia as a symptom of menopause, but didn’t have an effect on reducing hot flashes, according to a recent paper in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.

The study’s authors included Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Drs. Andrea LaCroix, Katherine Guthrie and Garnet Anderson. Drs. LaCroix and Guthrie are co-principal investigators of the FHCRC-based Data Coordinating Center for the MsFLASH (Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health) Network.

Yoga nidra or "yoga sleep" is a meditation process associated with improvement of the menopausal symptom of insomnia.

Yoga nidra or “yoga sleep” is a meditation process associated with improvement of the menopausal symptom of insomnia.

The researchers conducted a randomized 12-week trial of 249 women between the ages 40 and 62 in  Seattle, Oakland and Indianapolis. Participants  self-reported at least two hot flashes or night sweats a day for a period of three weeks prior to the study. Many also reported other common secondary menopausal symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety, sleep disturbance and depression.

About 100 women were randomly assigned to a regimen of yoga – two 90-minute yoga classes a week and 20-minutes at home on the days they didn’t attend class. The others in the study were instructed to maintain their usual activity as a control and asked not to do yoga. Because the trial also included an aerobic exercise arm, none of the women in the trial were doing large amounts of exercise or yoga prior to enrolling. All of the women in the trial were also randomized to fish oil capsules or placebo capsules. At intervals before and during the study, participants were asked to keep a diary tracking the frequency and severity of their hot flashes and night sweats as well as their quality and amount of sleep. Read more…

New website launched to feature Solid Tumor Translational Research

October 9, 2013
Visit Fred Hutch's Solid Tumor Translational Research web site at www.nwsttr.org

Visit Fred Hutch’s Solid Tumor Translational Research web site at http://www.nwsttr.org

By Susan Edmonds

A new Solid Tumor Translational Research (STTR) website marks a major milestone of collaboration and coordination between Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  Its unique organizational structure is multidisciplinary and organ site based, bringing clinicians and researchers together to focus on specific cancer types.

The website showcases the strengths of our programs and features faculty providing patient care and solid tumor cancer research.  It has information and features that will be useful to both internal and external researchers, prospective patients and the general public.

Spearheaded by Desert Horse-Grant, director of strategic planning and operations for solid tumor translational research, the website will support Dr.  Eric Holland’s vision to enhance world-class translational research programs for brain and other solid-tumor cancers across our institutions.

“Our job is to foster the collaborations that already exist and make them faster, more transparent and more likely to result in affecting the standard of care.” said Dr. Eric Holland, director of the Human Biology division and Solid Tumor Translational Research.

Visit our new website at http://nwsttr.org.

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