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Breast Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

Breast Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

Breast cancer develops as a result of mutated breast cells. In approximately 10% of these cases, the mutations are acquired through genetic predispositions, while most cases of breast cancer are influenced by a combination of environmental, lifestyle or hormonal risk factors. In many of these cases the exact cause of the cell mutation will never fully be known.

Risk Factors Versus Causes

The direct causes of breast cancer are not well understood as it is a very complex disease, however we do know that common risk factors often play important roles in the development of different types of cancer. Having one or more risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop breast cancer, nor does being a carrier of certain genes, however risk factors do put you at greater risk of eventually developing the disease.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Some of the known risk factors that may contribute to the development of breast cancer include:

  • Inheriting certain genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Having a close relative with breast cancer
  • Aging. While some women develop breast cancer at a young age, generally your risk increases as you get older.
  • Being female
  • Ethnicity. Research illustrates that African-American women are at a slightly higher risk of getting breast cancer than Caucasian women.
  • Being exposed to radiation
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking alcohol regularly
  • Undergoing hormone therapy
  • Having already had breast cancer
  • Early menstruation or late menopause – It is thought that estrogen exposure has something to do with breast cancer development.
  • Never becoming pregnant or having children late in life
  • Smoking increases the risk of most types of cancer, including breast cancer as there are over 70 known carcinogens in cigarette smoke.

The Bottom Line

These are not the only risk factors, for example, research suggests that women with chronic nutritional deficiencies, exposure to toxins or who suffer chronic inflammation may be at greater risk for developing breast cancer as well. While certain risk factors such as age, ethnicity and genetics are unchangeable, others such as weight or lifestyle choices like drinking and smoking are modifiable. Therefor, it is important to make all the healthy lifestyle choices you can if you wish to put yourself in a lower risk category for breast cancer development.

That concludes our look at the risk factors that can help contribute to breast cancer, keep an eye out for future posts on the topic. Thanks for visiting DocChat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cervical Cancer Fast Facts

Cervical cancer is the second leading cancer that strikes women worldwide. Let’s look at some of the key facts and statistics about cervical cancer:

  • The cervix is the lower, narrowing part of a woman’s uterus. Some cervical cancers are a result of a tumor that forms there gradually.
  • Approximately 12,000 American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually.
  • Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by a the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) which is extremely prevalent in the United States.
  • Cervical cancer can be largely prevented with regular pap smears, screening and vaccination and also has a high treatment cure rate.
  • Women who have had many sexual partners, have HIV, use birth control for many years, or who have given birth multiple times are at greater risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Smoking also greatly increases a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer, among many other types of cancer.
  • Fetal exposure to the medication diethylstilbestrol (DES) that was prescribed between 1938 and 1971 has been linked to later development of cervical cancer as well.
  • Some cervical cancers are asymptomatic (they do not produce any obvious symptoms), which means it can be slowly growing in a person who isn’t getting the proper screenings to catch it
  • In some cases symptoms such as spotting (bleeding between cycles), vaginal discharge, spotting after menopause, pelvic pain during sex or at random times may indicate cervical cancer.
  • Precancerous cells detected during a pap smear can be successfully eradicated with cauterization, laser surgery or cryosurgery.
  • Undetected and untreated cervical cancer will cause approximately 4120 deaths this year.
  • If the cancer is detected early, the 5-year survival rate is encouraging at 92%.
  • It can take up to 15 years for damaged cells to replicate to the point of cancer formation.
  • Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer for women worldwide (after breast cancer).
  • There are many treatments available for precancerous cells and cervical cancer, the treatment will depend on the person and her individual case and overall health.

As this cancer can grow silently for years, the bottom line to preventing more cases of (and deaths by) cervical cancer is to get screened regularly. If you have any questions about cervical cancer or any other health-related matter, our experienced board certified physicians are standing by 24/7/365 to assist you. Thanks for visiting DocChat!

Dioxin – An Ever-Present Carcinogen

Dioxin is a toxic chemical, often a by-product of industrial processes such as waste incineration. Dioxin is a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) that also disrupts hormones. It is plentiful and largely unavoidable in our modern world, though there are ways to cut down on overexposure.

How Are We Exposed to Dioxin?

Dioxin is a major environmental pollutant which falls under the persistent organic pollutant (POP) umbrella. Dioxin chemicals don’t break down or go away, so dioxin-based pollutants keep building up on the planet and accumulating in animal tissue, making dioxin a part of our food chain. Because of this, humans predominantly take in dioxin through environmental exposure as well as through eating animal products such as meat and cheese. Some people are exposed to more dioxin than others, for example, those who work in waste management or certain industrial industries.

What Health Issues Are Linked to Dioxin?

Dioxin is a known carcinogen that has been directly linked to various forms of cancer, but the damage doesn’t stop there. It has been connected with a higher risk of developing many issues such as: type 2 diabetes, fertility problems in both genders, birth defects, neurodevelopmental issues for children, immunosuppression, skin disorders, lung, heart and other organ problems.

How Can We Cut Down in Dioxin Exposure?

Pollutants like dioxin are so omnipresent in our world that they are impossible to completely avoid, however, there are measures we can take to strengthen our natural immunity and cut down on dioxin overexposure such as:

  • Reduce the amount of animal products you ingest
  • Stock up on fresh produce
  • Drink lots of filtered water
  • Exercise regularly to help strengthen your body and immunity
  • If you work an industrial job where you are routinely exposed to more chemicals or toxins, wear protective gear to work such as a chemical filtering mask

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Can Alcohol Trigger a Latent Breast Cancer Gene?


It is common knowledge that drinking alcohol raises your risk of developing certain conditions such as cardiovascular disease, but can it also contribute directly to breast cancer? The answer is yes. According to multiple studies gathered by the American Cancer Society, as well as a particularly illuminating study conducted by a team of cancer biologists and researchers from the University of Houston, regular alcohol consumption is directly linked to escalating risk of breast cancer development in women.

How Does Drinking Alcohol Raise Breast Cancer Risk?

Alcohol can raise the risk of breast cancer in several ways:

  1. By increasing estrogen levels in the body which can contribute to hormone receptor positive cancer development.
  2. By damaging cells – alcohol is known to mutate healthy cells into harmful ones that make any part of the body more vulnerable to cancer, including breast tissue.
  3. By activating a latent cancer gene and decreasing the effectiveness of cancer medications: According to University of Houston cancer biologist Chin-Yo Lin, “Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of estrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug Tamoxifen on blocking estrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF.”

How Many Drinks Increase This Risk?

Even consuming 1 alcoholic beverage daily increases a woman’s breast cancer risk. According to the Breast Cancer Organization those who regularly consume 3-5 drinks have a 15% higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who don’t drink at all, with the risk rising by 10% with each additional drink consumed on a daily basis.

What About Cocktail Hour?

We aren’t saying women should never drink – we simply hope to make people aware of this research-established link between breast cancer and regular alcohol consumption. If you are a moderate drinker who is concerned about your breast cancer risk, there are ways you can curb your alcohol intake but still enjoy socializing. You can enjoy your favorite drinks ‘virgin style’ or opt for a couple social drinks a week instead of a couple daily indulgences. The Cancer Organization suggests limiting alcohol consumption to no more than 1 daily drink for women.

Other Lifestyle Factors To Watch

Aside from watching alcohol intake, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to help decrease your breast cancer risk. While making these changes doesn’t guarantee you won’t develop cancer, behaviors that may help you beat the odds include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Keeping your weight in check
  • Practicing caution when it comes to birth control or hormone therapy
  • Limiting toxin exposure

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Add These Antioxidant-Rich Foods To Your Plate!

Antioxidants are substances that work to inhibit the oxidation process by neutralizing free radicals, chemicals that overpopulate and damage healthy cells and DNA. Antioxidants also undergo many other beneficial processes in the body including: protecting DNA against toxic metals, protecting the kidneys, producing energy for cells, aiding the immune system, heart and brain, as well as stimulating gene production. These goodies have countless important jobs to keep on top of within the body.

Do Antioxidants Help Fight Cancer?

This one is tricky to definitively answer. Because of their oxidation-restricting abilities, many people believe antioxidants directly fight cancer. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, studies show mixed results on whether or not antioxidants can stop cancer. While there have been promising studies that suggest antioxidants may help prevent, or positively influence certain types of cancer at certain stages, more empirical evidence is needed before antioxidant supplements are recommended to cancer patients.

Other Conditions Antioxidants May Help Prevent

While more research is needed to unequivocally correlate antioxidants with disease prevention, various studies suggest antioxidants can help reduce your risk of developing such conditions as:

  • Eye diseases (like macular degeneration)
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart disease
  • Senility (specifically Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Skin aging

Different Types of Antioxidants

There are many varieties of antioxidants, but the science gets a little tricky when looking into the chemical makeups, subcategories, forms and duties of all these different types. Some of the more common types of helpful antioxidants we should strive to consume include: anthocyanins, lutein, beta carotene, manganese, selenium, vitamins E and C, resveratrol, zinc and flavonoids.

Dietary Sources of Antioxidants

It would benefit everyone to increase intake of antioxidant-rich foods, as they have many proven health benefits and are integral to a healthy body. Some key sources of antioxidants are:

  • Green veggies such as spinach and broccoli
  • Orange foods like oranges and carrots are high in beta carotene
  • Spices such as garlic, parsley, thyme and oregano
  • Berries (especially blueberries and cranberries, these are very rich sources of antioxidants)
  • Fruit such as grapes, tomatoes and watermelon
  • Teas such as matcha and green tea (coffee also contains antioxidants)
  • Seeds and nuts (especially brazil nuts)
  • Many types of seafood contain zinc and manganese
  • Whole grains contain selenium and zinc
  • Lentils such as soybeans, split peas and lentils are rich in antioxidants

Thus concludes today’s look at antioxidants, but we will examine the topic further in future posts. Thanks for visiting DocChat! We hope you’ll swing by again soon.

 

 

FAQ – Free Radicals And Your Health


We are constantly hearing the terms “free radicals” and “antioxidants” nowadays, from the television, medical professionals or in articles – but what does it all mean, and more importantly, how can these terms influence your health? Hopefully by the end of this article, we will have answered these questions and more.

What Are “Free Radicals”, Really?

Free radicals are actually normal parts of chemical processes in the body whereby molecules in a cell split apart, creating incomplete and unstable chemicals called ‘free radicals’. These free radicals then try to bond with electrons in other cell molecules, effectively pulling them apart as well which creates more and more free radicals. This process is known as oxidation. The problem lies when free radicals overpopulate in the body, causing a chain reaction of too many imbalanced cell molecules.

Why Are They Harmful?

Free radicals have been gaining attention in recent years because medical research has proven that our environment and lifestyles are causing a disproportionate amount of free radical activity in our bodies. These free radical surpluses react with oxygen and can actually damage or even destroy cells, irreparably altering DNA. This directly contributes to the development of numerous serious diseases and conditions. Oxygen plus free radical overpopulation in tandem with the body’s inability to detoxify these effects quick enough is known as oxidative stress.

What Types of Things Cause Oxidative Stress?

Some of the things that cause oxidative stress which can lead to the development of diseases include:

  • Unmanaged chronic stress
  • Sedentary lifestyles or excess exercising
  • Processed and junk foods
  • Not consuming enough produce
  • Smoking, drinking or recreational drugs
  • Too many prescription medications
  • Pollution, synthetic scents and chemical exposure
  • Sleep deficiencies
  • Sun damage or other radiation exposure

What Health Problems Can Develop As a Result?

One of the more serious and widespread health problems that results from a free radical surplus is cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, if there are too many free radicals loose in the body, they can cause irreparable damage to cells, membranes and even DNA. Once these damaged cells replicate, they change the makeup of all reproduced cells to follow, resulting in cancer. Other serious health problems that can result from free radicals run amok include: atherosclerosis, asthma, dementia, inflammatory diseases, diabetes and eye diseases.

Can Your Doctor Determine Your Level of Free Radicals?

No, unfortunately there is no laboratory blood test to measure the number of free radicals in your body, however, if you are concerned about cancer there are medical tests that will indicate whether your blood cell counts are within a healthy range.

How do Antioxidants Come Into Play?

Antioxidants are nutrients that work to slow oxidation, thus limiting the damage caused to cells by excess free radicals. So, antioxidants essentially help neutralize free radicals. They are found in many fruits as well as other healthy foods. Keep an eye out for our post on anti-oxidant rich foods to find out more.

How Else Can You Neutralize a Surplus of Free Radicals?

Other lifestyle steps you can take to prevent oxidative stress including:

  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumtion
  • Exercise routinely
  • Eat healthy (consuming mostly produce)
  • Get better sleep
  • Manage your stress
  • Limit toxin exposure (wear a mask when working with harmful substances)
  • Try to limit exposure to pollutants (check the air quality index)

Keep an eye out for a post on antioxidant rich foods soon! Thanks for visiting DocChat! Feel free to sign up today if you have any health-related questions for our board certified physicians!

 

 

Medical Mythbusters #2 – Skin Cancer Edition


We recently started a Medical Mythbuster feature (check out Mythbusters #1 if you didn’t catch it), so here is our second edition on skin cancer myths and facts. Check out these common skin cancer beliefs and try to guess from the title if they are true or false before reading further. Let’s see how many you get right!

Skin cancer is caused solely by UV damage from the sun or an alternative light source.

 

MYTH. Less frequently, skin cancer also develops on areas of the body that have not been exposed to harmful ultraviolet rays. These spots of cancer may be explained by environmental hazards, radiation and genetic predispositions, skin complexion, an abundance of problematic moles or a combination thereof.

Only fair skinned people develop skin cancer.

 

MYTH. While skin cancer afflicts people with very fair skin much more frequently (approximately 40-50% of very fair-skinned people will have at least one cancer spot in their lifetime), it can still strike people of all skin types. Unfortunately, when people with darker skin get skin cancer, the symptoms are not as evident until the disease has progressed, so it is important for everyone to periodically check their skin for changes no matter that skin type they have.

Only one type of UV ray is dangerous.

 

MYTH. UVA rays infiltrate the dermis (deeper layer of the skin) leading to signs of aging and wrinkles over time as well as immune system problems (which can help indirectly contribute to illnesses like cancer), while UVB rays are responsible for burning the epidermis which can lead more directly to skin cancer.

You can get skin cancer in the winter.


FACT. Believe it or not, you are not immune to the sun’s nasty consequences just because it there is ice and snow around. The sun can shine just as brightly in the winter as in the summer. Because people let their guard down and don’t don sunscreen while outside in the winter, it can sneakily lead to the development of skin cancer. It is important to wear sunscreen on exposed skin year-round while spending time outside (especially important for those who snowboard or do outdoor activities frequently). Similarly, overcast days can be just as dangerous as sunny days. People take less precautions, but the clouds do not protect you from the sun’s hidden wrath. So wear sunscreen all the time – better safe than very, very sorry!

You can get skin cancer on your lips too.

 

FACT. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “The lips are a not uncommon, but often overlooked site for nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSC), including the two most common skin cancers, basal and squamous cell carcinoma (BCC and SCC). Most frequently occurring in fair-skinned males over the age of 50, cancer of the lip comprises approximately 0.6 percent of all cancers in the US.” So be sure to protect your lips as well (you can buy various types of invisible SPF lip balm).

Skin Cancer is rare.

 

MYTH. It is the most common form of cancer in the United States. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime, the vast majority of these cases will have been caused by UV light overexposure.

Base tans are actually dangerous, not beneficial.

 

FACT. Base tans are definitely more dangerous than people give them credit for. Most people think they are doing themselves a service by pre-tanning before vacationing, however any color from the sun is actually doing varying degrees of damage and may be setting the stage for future issues such as skin cancer. Especially if you are doing so in a tanning bed. They have proven to be just as dangerous as the sun, if not more so.

Well that concludes our Medical Mythbusters #2 – Skin Cancer feature! How did you do? Thanks for visiting DocChat! If you have any questions or concerns about skin cancer or sun damage, don’t hesitate to sign up to speak to one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians via video chat today!

 

 

Testicular Cancer Awareness

Testicular cancer can affect males of any age, but most commonly strikes those between 15 and 34. The American Cancer Society projects 8,720 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2016, resulting in approximately 380 cancer or surgery related deaths. However, most cases of testicular cancer are curable. The key to a positive outcome is early detection and treatment. The survival rate for testicular cancer is very high as many cases are caught and treated before the cancer spreads to surrounding areas.

Types Of Testicular Cancer

There are different types of testicular cancer based on the type of malignant cells. The most common type is germ cell testicular cancer. Approximately 95% of testicular cancer sufferers develop this type. The two main subtypes of germ cell testicular cancer are seminomas and non-seminomas, both of which respond well to chemotherapy.

Symptoms of Testicular Cancer

  • A bump or bulge in either testicle
  • Testicular enlargement or swelling
  • Low back pain
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • Groin pain

Risk Factors

Testicular cancer is a relatively uncommon affliction, affecting an estimated 1 in 263 men so having these risk factors does not mean you will likely develop the condition, some men have several of these and never get TC, while others don’t have any risk factors and still get the disease. Some of the risk factors for testicular cancer include:

  • Family history of testicular cancer
  • Ethnicity: white males are more likely to get the disease
  • Cryptorchidism, an undescended testicle, puts men at higher risk
  • HIV: males who have the HIV virus or AIDS are at increased risk
  • Age: testicular cancer mainly affects young to middle aged men

Prevention

As with most diseases, there are no sure-fire ways to prevent testicular cancer but there are some measures you can take that may help decrease your odds. The Canadian Cancer Society suggests reducing long term exposure to pesticides as they have been loosely linked to testicular cancer, “More research into the role of pesticide exposure in testicular cancer is needed. However, you should try to avoid or reduce long-term exposure and follow safety rules when working with chemicals such as pesticides.” Avoiding or quitting smoking may help lower your risk as well. Lastly, as men who still have an undescended testicle are at much higher risk of contracting testicular cancer, they should get an orchiopexy (surgical removal of an undescended testicle) to greatly decrease their odds of developing TC.

Detection

The foremost defensive measure all males should take against testicular cancer is to perform a routine self-examination which will help you detect any differences in the area that may be problematic. If you perform this examination weekly, you will certainly catch anything at the onset. If you detect any anomalies when performing a self-exam, be sure to contact your primary care physician right away. Often testicular symptoms can be attributed to less threatening conditions, but your doctor will perform the necessary tests to determine if cancer is present. Early detection almost always ensures a positive and treatable outcome.

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5 Diseases Caused by Obesity

 

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It’s easy to know which foods are bad and which are good, but it doesn’t make it any easier to make good decisions when you’re feeling peckish.

More than mere appearance, obesity is seriously bad for your health.

According to medical sciences, you are considered obese if your weight is twenty percent more than the weight considered as standard for your height, calculated by your BMI. While BMI isn’t perfect (some people are muscular and therefore weigh more while others are extremely tall), the correlation between obesity and serious diseases is extremely high.

Here are 5 diseases that are caused by obesity:

Stroke and Heart Disease

If you have extra weight, you will be more prone to high cholesterol as well as high blood pressure. These conditions are some of the leading factors that can cause stroke or heart disease, but all are not doomed. Medical experts suggest that if you lose some proportion of your weight then you can also decrease the likelihood of stroke or heart disease. Just five to ten percent of weight shedding should be enough for you to lower your chances of contracting the diseases.

Diabetes (Type 2)

It is commonly observed that individuals that have type 2 diabetes are either obese or overweight. So, if you want to cut down your chances of having diabetes, you can do so by shedding weight. You must practice consuming a balanced and healthy diet, exercising, and getting the right amount of sleep. Even if you have diabetes, you should attempt to lose weight and to be physically more active since this will allow you to better manage your body’s blood sugar proportions. Moreover, if you are active, your body might demand lesser levels of diabetes medication.

Cancer

Several types of cancer such as of the kidney, esophagus, and colon are associated with obesity. Recent studies have also found out that obesity is associated with cancer of the pancreas and gallbladder. The treatment of cancer is a very lengthy and costly process that is often very painful for the patient, not to mention that cancer can have grave consequences. So wouldn’t it be better if you try to avoid the disease altogether?

Gallstones

Gallstones as well as gallbladder disease are more likely to afflict an overweight person rather than a normal or underweight individual. But beware, as medical science tells us that weight loss (especially rapid loss of large proportions of weight) can also lead to the acquisition of gallstones.

So, if you are obese, it is important that you shed fat in a slow and timely manner. For instance, lose just one pound in seven or eight days at most. This will surely allow you to avoid having gallstones.

Osteoarthritis

This is a joint condition that frequently affects the back, hip or knee area of the body. If you are obese, your body will naturally carry extra weight which will put pressure upon the aforementioned joints. This negatively affects the cartilage that usually safeguards them.

By losing weight, you will put less stress on your lower back, hips and knees, thereby reducing your chances of attaining osteoarthritis.

Losing Weight Is Hard

There’s no doubt about that, but small steps taken each day can lead to results. It’s important to remember that the benefits of losing weight go far beyond appearance. Immediately after eating healthier meals, the following will happen:

  1. you’ll feel more energetic
  2. you’ll sleep better
  3. you’ll have better cognitive function
  4. you’ll start to recall facts and items that you previously couldn’t remember
  5. your mood will improve
  6. you’ll become more productive
  7. your appetite will decrease

Just remember that every positive action taken towards a healthy diet is a victory. You can’t expect it all to happen at once. You will build the habits you need in time once your brain recognizes the association between the healthy action and the positive effect.

Be well and #thrive!

Important Facts to Know About Breast Cancer

Abstract pink breast cancer awareness ribbon hope background

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the United States. Approximately 230,000 women are diagnosed with this disease each year, and about 2300 men. There are six types of breast cancer, but not all are fatal and for that reason, not treated the same way.

There are many things women should know about breast cancer, its diagnosis and treatment.

You need to know….

Breast cancer has become the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for young women ages 15-34. Still, finding a lump in your breast does not necessarily indicate that you have breast cancer. Blocked milk ducts, cysts or warts are common occurrences.

The best way to know if it could be cancer is to take a piece of paper and draw two circles to represent your breasts. Position your nipples accordingly against the paper and then draw the lump where you have observed it. Be exact about the size of the lump. Now, keep the paper in a safe place. After a week, follow the same drawing procedure. If it has shrunk or completely disappeared, then you don’t need to worry about it. If it is the same, larger or swollen, then you should visit a doctor.

You should know…

That not all breast cancers are life-threatening. About 1 in 4 types of breast cancer are not.

You must know…

Not to believe all the stories you hear online. Online stories can make your situation seem more frightening. Remember that treatment for one person won’t be the same for the other, even if two patients have the same type of cancer. What might have worked for or happened to the person online or a colleague may not work for or happen to you. While it’s good to hear that you’re not the only one experiencing this, it’s also good to follow what your oncologist says.

You need to know…

Dealing with such diseases requires support. Join a support group or visit a therapist. Research has shown that talking your heart out with someone helps you live longer. In conditions like this, it also increases survival rates. Meet someone often who is in remission, even if their experience was different, it is helpful to connect with someone who has a much better idea of what you’re going through. This will keep you get yourself motivated and help you fight the cancer.