Men have another reason to catch some Z’s. According to a new study, getting a good night’s sleep may help protect men against prostate cancer. A Harvard study has linked high levels of the hormone melatonin, which the body produces during nighttime sleep, with a 75% reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer. The study also found that melatonin levels dropped when sleep was disrupted. Prostate cancer joins a lengthening list of diseases linked to sleep length and quality, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and coronary artery disease.
There’s no magic number, but the National Sleep Foundation says the average adult needs from 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Most U.S. adults say they get about 7.5 hours of sleep a night, but a 2006 study found that adults aren’t getting as much sleep as they think they are. A University of Chicago study found that white men actually slept only 6.1 hours; black men, 5.1 hours. At the time, study author Diane Lauderdale, an associate professor of health studies at the University of Chicago, told Science Daily:
“People don’t think they get enough sleep, and they get less sleep than they think. As we learn more and more about the importance of sleep for health, we find evidence that people seem to be sleeping less and less.”
Average sleep times have declined steadily since the early 1900s when most people averaged 9 hours of sleep. The rise of sedentary white collar jobs that don’t require physical labor is thought to have had some impact on the drop in sleep duration. But even more culpable is the increase in nighttime leisure options that began with the introduction of the television and has exploded during the current digital age.
Perhaps the new findings will encourage men to unplug and go to sleep.
Cancer risk increases with age, but why that is true and whether we can change that is the complex question we have been discussing in our previous two posts. For a long time, the relationship between cancer and age was assumed to be a simple matter of living long enough for mutations to accumulate and trigger cancer development. Now, new cancer research from the University of Colorado Cancer Center shows that tissue changes that occur with aging, not accumulated mutations, allow the development of age-related cancer.
Colorado researchers found that by the time we reach our teens and stop growing, our bodies have already accumulated most of the mutations we will ever have, refuting the argument that mutations increase with age. They also found many mutations in healthy tissue, refuting the argument that more mutations cause cancer. Further, they argue that if mutations were the key cause of age-related cancer, our immune system should have developed better protections against mutations; but it hasn’t.
As our “tissue landscape” begins to deteriorate with age, those changes erode our ability to fight off cancer, as well as other diseases. The Colorado team didn’t take their findings further, but what if our bodies could “rejuvenate” aging cells and return them to the disease-fighting strength of our youth? Issels’ more than 60 years of experience with cancer treatments including integrative immunotherapy has shown us that boosting the body’s immune system has tremendous power to fight cancer. Perhaps taking steps to “supercharge” our immune system as we age could have similar benefits for preventing cancer.
When George Johnson, author of The Cancer Chronicles suggested in the New York Times that cancer is inevitable (see our previous post), he echoed a common belief: that as we age our bodies accumulate an increasing number of potentially cancerous mutations that will eventually catch up to us if we live long enough. In other words, if you don’t die of something else, cancer will get you in the end.
That’s a depressingly defeatist attitude that the cancer specialists at Issels cancer treatment centers reject. In more than 60 years of experience treating cancer with integrative immunotherapy, our staff and our patients have found many reasons to be hopeful about the eventual development of a cancer cure. Advanced immunotherapy and targeted cancer therapies have produced some remarkable results in our ongoing battle against cancer.
Cancer mortality rates in the U.S. have been declining slowly but steadily since the War Against Cancer was launched. According to the American Cancer Society’s most recent annual report, the average American’s risk of dying from cancer has decreased 20% over the past two decades. But the fact remains that cancer risk increases with age.
A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center has found that, contrary to current thinking, cancer risk is not increased by years of accumulated mutations, but by tissue changes that occur as we age. As lead researcher James DeGregori, Ph.D., explained to Medical News Today:
“If you look at Mick Jagger in 1960 compared to Mick Jagger today, it’s obvious that his tissue landscape has changed. And it’s this change, not the accumulation of cancer-causing mutations, that drive cancer rates higher as we grow older.”
More on this startling discovery and what it means next time.
That cancer risk increases with age is a statistical truth. But does this mean that cancer is inevitable, as George Johnson recently suggested in the New York Times? In an article that has generated a fair amount of debate, the author of The Cancer Chronicles implies that cancer might be a necessary part of a larger plan.
“The rhetoric about the war on cancer implies that with enough money and determination, science might reduce cancer mortality as dramatically as it has with other leading killers – one more notch in medicine’s belt. But what, then, would we die from?”
Like many others, Johnson seems to believe that the simple act of living longer gives cancer cells more time to develop. The very nature of cell replication opens the door to cancer in what Johnson calls “the result of a basic evolutionary compromise.”
“As the body lives and grows, its cells are constantly dividing, copying their DNA. … They in turn pass it to their own progeny: copies of copies of copies. Along the way, errors inevitably occur.”
When the body fails to repair these genetic “glitches,” cancer cells can develop. “As people age their cells amass more potentially cancerous mutations,” Johnson says. “Given a long enough life, cancer will eventually kill you.”
Johnson does recognize that progress against cancer is being made. “New immune system therapies that bolster the body’s own defenses have shown … promise,” he notes, also mentioning the potential of targeted genetic therapy and nano robots to advance the cancer fight to the next level. But at the end, even if we can extend our lives into a second century, Johnson believes, “waiting at the end will be cancer.”
A new study shows that women who have been treated for precancerous cells on the cervix may be at greater risk of developing vaginal or cervical cancer and may also be more likely to die should there develop either one of those cancers. Researchers recommended that women continue preventative screenings (PAP smears) into their later years.
The Swedish study found that cancer risk among women diagnosed with CIN3 cells increased with age, rising noticeably after age 60 and again after age 75. By age 75, the risk of developing cervical or vaginal cancer increased to more than 1 in 1,000. Cancer risk also increased among women who had been treated for abnormal cervical cells later in life. For example, the study found that the risk of developing cervical or vaginal cancer was five times greater among women who were treated for precancerous cells when they were in their 60s than it was for women treated in their 30s. Cancer fatalities also increased with age.
As explained on the British Medical Journal website and reported in The Guardian: “Women previously diagnosed with and treated for CIN3 were at substantially increased risk of developing and dying from cervical or vaginal cancer when they reached 60. The risk accelerated with further aging.”
Researchers recommended that women diagnosed with precancerous cells on their cervix when they were young continue to follow-up with their physician as they age. In a separate study, British researchers found that continuing regular PAP smears between age 50 and 64 may reduce cervical cancer risk into a woman’s 80s.
“Where a cervical cancer is found through screening it is usually at a very early stage where treatment has a greater chance of success,” Julietta Patnick of Britain’s National Health Service said.
Over the past 20 years, the rate of cancer death in the U.S. has dropped a gratifying 20%, with the exception of thyroid cancer. Bucking the general trend, thyroid cancer deaths have increased slightly over the last two decades with the number of new thyroid cancer diagnoses climbing steadily, particularly among women.
Thyroid cancer accounts for only 3.6% of all new cancer diagnoses in the U.S. and just 0.3% of cancer deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute. Considered a highly treatable form of cancer, thyroid cancer has a 97.7% five-year survival rate. Even so, that thyroid cancer cases have doubled during a period when other cancer diagnoses have declined has researchers puzzled – and concerned. While better diagnostic tools and early detection certainly account for a portion of the increase, many cancer researchers believe that something else may be behind thyroid cancer’s increasing incidence and mortality. As the New York Times explained, of particular concern is the fact that thyroid cancer mortality among men, who are 3 times less likely than women to develop the disease, increased an alarming 2.4% between 1992 and 2000, the greatest increase of any type of cancer.
An additional issue is overtreatment of so called “small tumors,” tiny thyroid tumors that are unlikely to cause a problem during the patient’s lifetime. Questioning the need for surgical removal, the typical treatment for thyroid tumors, in such cases, Dr. Bryan McIver of the Mayo Clinic told the Times, “Even though the evidence does not support that it is beneficial, there is an increasing trend in the U.S., and probably worldwide, to treat all thyroid cancers in the most aggressive way.”