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Old August 12th, 2002, 19:08
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July 2002


Wednesday, July 31, 2002

International Agency for Cancer Research Lists Involuntary Smoking as a Carcinogen of Concern
VOL.: 83 (2002)

5. Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation

5.1 Exposure data

Involuntary (or passive) smoking is exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, which is a mixture of exhaled mainstream smoke and sidestream smoke released from the smouldering cigarette or other smoking device (cigar, pipe, bidi, etc.) and diluted with ambient air. Involuntary smoking involves inhaling carcinogens, as well as other toxic components, that are present in secondhand tobacco smoke. Secondhand tobacco smoke is sometimes referred to as "environmental" tobacco smoke. Carcinogens that occur in secondhand tobacco smoke include benzene, 1,3-butadiene, benzo[a]pyrene, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone and many others.

Secondhand tobacco smoke consists of a gas phase and a particulate phase; it changes during its dilution and distribution in the environment and upon ageing. The concentrations of respirable particles may be elevated substantially in enclosed spaces containing secondhand tobacco smoke. The composition of tobacco smoke inhaled involuntarily is variable quantitatively and depends on the smoking patterns of the smokers who are producing the smoke as well as the composition and design of the cigarettes or other smoking devices. The secondhand tobacco smoke produced by smoking cigarettes has been most intensively studied.

Secondhand tobacco smoke contains nicotine as well as carcinogens and toxins. Nicotine concentrations in the air in homes of smokers and in workplaces where smoking is permitted typically range on average from 2 to 10 m g/m3.

5.2 Human carcinogenicity data

Lung cancer

Involuntary smoking involves exposure to the same numerous carcinogens and toxic substances that are present in tobacco smoke produced by active
smoking, which is the principal cause of lung cancer. As noted in the 1986 IARC Monograph on Tobacco Smoking, this implies that there will be some risk of lung cancer from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

More than 50 studies of involuntary smoking and lung cancer risk in never smokers, especially spouses of smokers, have been published during the last 25 years. These studies have been carried out in many countries. Most showed an increased risk, especially for persons with higher exposures. To evaluate the information collectively, in particular from those studies with a limited number of cases, meta-analyses have been conducted in which the relative risk estimates from the individual studies are pooled together. These meta-analyses show that there is a statistically significant and consistent association between lung cancer risk in spouses of smokers and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke from the spouse who smokes. The excess risk is on the order of 20% for women and 30% for men and remains after controlling for some potential sources of bias and confounding. The excess risk increases with increasing exposure. Furthermore, other published meta-analyses of lung cancer in never smokers exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke at the workplace have found a statistically significant increased risk of 16 to 19 per cent. This evidence is sufficient to conclude that involuntary smoking is a cause of lung cancer in never smokers. The magnitudes of the observed risks are reasonably consistent with predictions based on studies of active smoking in many populations.

Breast cancer

The collective evidence on breast cancer risk associated with involuntary exposure of never smokers to tobacco smoke is inconsistent. Although four of the 10 case-control studies found statistically significant increased risks, prospective cohort studies as a whole and, particularly, the two large cohort studies in the USA of nurses and of volunteers in the Cancer Prevention Study II provided no support for
a causal relation between involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke and breast cancer in never smokers. The lack of a positive dose-response also argues against a causal interpretation of these findings. Finally, the lack of an association of breast cancer with active smoking weighs heavily against the possibility that involuntary smoking increases the risk for breast cancer, as no data are available to establish that different mechanisms of carcinogenic action operate at the different dose levels of active and of involuntary smoking.

Childhood cancer

Overall, the findings from studies of childhood cancer and exposure to parental smoking are inconsistent and are likely to be affected by bias. There is a suggestion of a modest association between exposure to maternal tobacco smoke during pregnancy and childhood cancer for all cancer sites combined; however, this is in contrast with the null findings for individual sites. Studies on paternal tobacco smoking suggest a small increased risk for lymphomas, but bias and confounding cannot be ruled out.

Other cancer sites

Data are conflicting and sparse for associations between involuntary smoking and cancers of the nasopharynx, nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, cervix, gastrointestinal tract and cancers at all sites combined. It is unlikely that any effects are produced in passive smokers that are not produced to a greater extent in active smokers or that types of effects that are not seen in active smokers will be seen in passive smokers.

5.3 Animal carcinogenicity data

Secondhand tobacco smoke for carcinogenicity studies in animals is produced by machines that simulate human active smoking patterns and combine mainstream and sidestream smoke in various proportions. Such mixtures have been tested for carcinogenicity by inhalation studies in rodents. The experimental model systems for exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke do not fully simulate human exposures, and the tumours that develop in animals are not
completely representative of human cancer. Nevertheless, the animal data provide valuable insights regarding the carcinogenic potential of secondhand tobacco smoke.

A mixture of 89% sidestream smoke and 11% mainstream smoke has been tested for carcinogenic activity in mouse strains that are highly susceptible to lung tumours (strains A/J and Swiss). In strain A/J mice, this mixture consistently produces a significant, modest increase in lung tumour incidence and lung tumour multiplicity when the mice are exposed for 5 months followed by a 4-month recovery period. These lung tumours are predominantly adenomas. Continuous exposure of strain A/J mice to the above mixture of mainstream and sidestream tobacco smoke for 9 months with no recovery period did not increase the incidence of lung tumours. In Swiss strain mice, the same mixture induced lung tumours by both protocols, i.e. when the animals were exposed for 5 months followed by a 4-month recovery period and when they were exposed continuously for 9 months with no recovery period. In addition, exposure of Swiss mice to the tobacco smoke mixture for a shorter period was sufficient to induce lung tumours.

Condensates of sidestream and of mainstream cigarette smoke have been tested for carcinogenicity. Both kinds of condensates produced a spectrum of benign and malignant skin tumours in mice following topical application, and the sidestream condensate exhibited higher carcinogenic activity. Sidestream smoke condensate was shown to produce a dose-dependent increase in lung tumours in rats following implantation into the lungs.

Increased relative risks for lung and sinonasal cancer have been reported in companion animals (dogs) exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke in homes.

5.4 Other relevant data

Involuntary smoking has been associated with a number of non-neoplastic diseases and adverse effects in never smokers, including both children and adults. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that exposure to secon
dhand tobacco smoke is causally associated with coronary heart disease. From the available meta-analyses, it has been estimated that involuntary smoking increases the risk of an acute coronary heart disease event by 25-35%. Adverse effects of involuntary smoking on the respiratory system have also been detected. In adults, the strongest evidence for a causal relation exists for chronic respiratory symptoms. Some effects on lung function have been detected, but their medical relevance is uncertain.

Data on the hormonal and metabolic effects of involuntary smoking are sparse. However, female involuntary smokers do not appear to weigh less than women who are not exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke, a pattern that contrasts with the findings for active smoking. No consistent association of maternal exposure to secondhand smoke with fertility or fecundity has been identified. There is no clear association of passive smoking with age at menopause.

Maternal cigarette smoking has repeatedly been associated with adverse effects on fetal growth; full-term infants born to women who smoke weigh about 200 g less than those born to non-smokers. A smaller adverse effect has been attributed to maternal passive smoking.

Cotinine, and its parent compound nicotine, are highly specific for exposure to secondhand smoke. Because of its favourable biological half-life and the sensitivity of techniques for quantifying it, cotinine is currently the most suitable biomarker for assessing recent exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke uptake and metabolism in adults, children and newborns.

Several studies in humans have shown that concentrations of adducts of carcinogens to biological macromolecules, including haemoglobin adducts of aromatic amines and albumin adducts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are higher in adult involuntary smokers and in the children of smoking mothers than in individuals not exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke. Protein adduct concentrations in fetal cord blood correlat
e with those in maternal blood but are lower. Fewer studies have investigated DNA adduct levels in white blood cells of exposed and unexposed non-smokers, and most studies have not shown clear differences.

In studies of urinary biomarkers, metabolites of the tobacco-specific carcinogen, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone, have been found to be consistently elevated in involuntary smokers. Levels of these metabolites are 1-5% as great as those found in smokers. The data demonstrating uptake of 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone, a lung carcinogen in rodents, by non-smokers are supportive of a causal link between exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and development of lung cancer.

The exposure of experimental animals, primarily rodents, to secondhand tobacco smoke has several biological effects that include (i) increases or decreases in the activity of phase I enzymes involved in carcinogen metabolism; (ii) increased expression of nitric oxide synthase, xanthine oxidase and various protein kinases; (iii) the formation of smoke-related DNA adducts in several tissues; and (iv) the presence of urinary biomarkers of exposure to tobacco smoke.

In adult experimental animals, sidestream tobacco smoke has been found to produce changes that are similar to those observed with exposure of humans to secondhand tobacco smoke. These include inflammatory changes in the airways and accelerated formation of arteriosclerotic plaques. Although the changes are often comparatively minor and require exposure to rather elevated concentrations of sidestream smoke, they support the results of human epidemiological studies. During pre- and postnatal exposure, sidestream smoke produces intrauterine growth retardation, changes the pattern of metabolic enzymes in the developing lung, and gives rise to hyperplasia of the pulmonary neuroendocrine cell population. In addition, it adversely affects pulmonary compliance and airway responsiveness to pharmacological challenges.

In
humans, involuntary smoking is associated with increased concentrations of mutagens in urine. Some studies have shown a correlation of urinary mutagenicity with concentrations of urinary cotinine. Increased levels of sister chromatid exchanges have not been observed in involuntary smokers; however, there is some indication of elevated levels in exposed children. Lung tumours from nonsmokers exposed to tobacco smoke contain TP53 and KRAS mutations which are similar to those found in tumours from smokers. The genotoxicity of sidestream smoke, 'environmental' tobacco smoke, sidestream smoke condensate or a mixture of sidestream and mainstream smoke condensates has been demonstrated in experimental systems in vitro and in vivo.

5.5 Evaluation

There is sufficient evidence that involuntary smoking (exposure to secondhand or 'environmental' tobacco smoke) causes lung cancer in humans.

There is limited evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of mixtures of mainstream and sidestream tobacco smoke.

There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of sidestream smoke condensates.

In addition, the Working Group noted that there are published reports on possible carcinogenic effects of secondhand tobacco smoke in household pet dogs.

Overall evaluation

Involuntary smoking (exposure to secondhand or 'environmental' tobacco smoke) is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).

[ article ]  


Sunday, July 28, 2002

States Right to Prescribe Weed in Dispute
Monday, July 29, 2002. Newsmax.com wires - Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, all believe in the medicinal benefits of marijuana and stand behind new controversial legislation that would make it legal to prescribe to patients in pain. But Drug Enforcement Agency Director Asa Hutchinson disputes the usefulness of medical marijuana and reaffirmed it as an important target of the war on drugs.

The States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act would allow states that pass medical marijuana laws to be free from threat of federal prosecution, moves marijuana from a Class I to a Class II substance, and makes it available by prescription according to state law.

California, a key battleground in the weed war, is one of nine states that have passed laws allowing doctors to prescribe pot to alleviate pain. Proponents say the controlled substance has an ameliorative effect on intractable pain caused by such illnesses as cancer, AIDS and glaucoma.

But the feds have not bought it and have cranked up raids on California facilities that provide marijuana to the terminally ill.

According to a recent Fox News report, medical marijuana backer Lyn Nofziger, public affairs deputy for former President Reagan, said that his own daughter tried a series of remedies to offset the side effects of chemotherapy required to treat her cancer. Smoking marijuana helped her to regain her appetite, allowing her to gain much-needed weight, he explained.

Though she died, she lived her last days in less pain, said Nofziger. "Based on this, I've become an advocate of medical marijuana. It is truly compassionate. I sincerely hope the administration can get behind this bill."

But even Frank admits at this point there is not exactly a groundswell of support. "Many elected officials are hesitan
t to support any proposals that might be viewed as weakening our drug laws, but I believe this is a commonsense idea that will give some people who are suffering a measure of relief."

But optimistic for the long run, Frank said that although the bill presently has only Democratic co-sponsors, he thinks members from the other party will come around on the principle of the proposal.

Going beyond the bill's commonsense humanitarian virtues, Frank said, "This bill does offer a challenge to conservatives, who often profess their support for states' rights."

But it may just be a tough row to hoe.

"What has [Frank] been smoking?" asked Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, when questioned about the bill.

Reprinted with permission from NewsMax.com   


Friday, July 19, 2002

Broccoli Sprouts Hypothesized to Help Prevent Gastric Cancer
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have found that sulforaphane may provide protection against gastric cancer by killing H. Pylori and through a detoxification process. Broccoli sprouts countain a precursor for sulforaphane. The researchers state that a daily serving of broccoli sprouts could result in the level of sulforaphane they used in their in-vitro study. [ article ]  


Breastfeeding Associated With a Decreased Risk of Breast Cancer
This study of nearly 150 000 women found that women who didn't breastfeed or did so only for a very short time were more likely to get breast cancer compared with a similar group of women who did breastfeed. This study controlled for several different factors including number of births, age, and ethnic origin. The authors conclude that increased breastfeeding would significant decrease the rate of breast cancer, especially in countries where breastfeeding rates are low (developed countries). [ article ]  


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Long Term Hormone Replacement Therapy Linked to Increased Risk of Ovarian Cancer
This study of 44 241 postmenopausal women found that estrogen-only replacement therapy was associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer, especially in those taking estrogen for 10 or more years. Women taking the combination of estrogen and progestin did not show an increased risk, but the researchers recommended more research into this combination. article ]  


Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Prostate Cancer Overdiagnosed With PSA Test
The prostate specific antigen screening test for prostate cancer causes an overdiagnosis rate of 29% in white men and 44% in black men according to a new report. Comment: we still do not have a definitive answer on how to screen for prostate cancer. Both the rectal exam and PSA testing are problematic, and not universally recommended. [ article ]  


Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Feds Halt Major Study of Hormone Replacement
NewsMax.Com Wires. Wednesday, July 10, 2002. WASHINGTON – The U.S. government announced Tuesday it has halted a large study examining the effects of estrogen and progestin in healthy, menopausal women because the hormones appear to increase the risk of breast cancer as well as heart disease, blood clots and stroke.
"Women in the estrogen plus progestin study are being instructed to stop taking their hormone pills immediately, and the staff at each Women's Health Initiative clinical center are scheduling counseling sessions with each patient," co-principal investigator Garnet Anderson, statistician at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Center in Seattle, said at a news conference.

The study is scheduled to appear in the July 17 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, but the researchers deemed the matter so important they decided to reveal their findings earlier.

"Like most women with a uterus who take hormone therapy, the women who had not had a hysterectomy before joining this Women's Health Initiative trial were given estrogen in combination with progestin," said principal investigator Marcia Stefanick, associate professor of medicine at Stanford University Medical School. "About 6 million women in the United States take it."

The purpose of the study, which was scheduled to run until 2005, was to determine whether estrogen plus progestin could prevent heart disease and hip fractures in women between ages 50 and 79 with an intact uterus.

But a review of preliminary data in May found a 26 percent increase in breast cancer in women receiving the hormones compared with women receiving a placebo. In addition, instead of a heart benefit there was a 29 percent increase in heart attacks and a 22 percent increase in total cardiovascular disease among women receiving the hormones.

"A 26 percent increase i
n breast cancer risk is too high a price to pay, even if there were a heart benefit," said Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which was conducting the trial as part of the Women's Health Initiative.

Lenfant recommended women already taking the hormones should discuss the possibility of continuing on the medication with their doctors. It might be reasonable to continue if the hormones are relieving menopausal symptoms because the benefits seem to outweigh the risks in such short-term use.

Dr. Jacques Rossouw, the WHI director, noted that "the increased risk of breast cancer for each woman in the study who was taking the estrogen plus progestin therapy was actually very small." It was less than one-tenth of 1 percent, he said, and "if you apply that increased risk to an entire population and over several years, the number of women affected increases dramatically," and becomes an important public health concern.

"This is also the first study to show an increase in strokes for healthy women taking estrogen plus progestin therapy," Rossouw said.

Whether estrogen use alone causes the same kind of risks is uncertain, and that possibility is being examined in a separate study. NHLBI, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., has sent letters to the more than 16,600 women participating in the trial advising them to stop taking the combination of hormones.

"The real story here is that, upon hearing about the termination of this trial, scared women are going to make quick decisions with potentially bad consequences," Dr. Wulf Utian, reproductive endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio told United Press International.

"This morning, when the local paper broke the story, frightened women started calling the clinic at a rate of eight to 10 per hour asking what they should do," Utian said. "The fact is that we don't know if they really have anything substantial to fear from this dual hormone th
erapy. The researchers got caught by their own overly strict guidelines for risk evaluations. What we could have learned from a few more years of this study is lost."

Despite cautions from researchers that the increased risks from hormone replacement therapy are quite small, the news of the trial's cessation caused Wall Street investors to push shares of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, of Collegeville, Pa., down more than 22 percent to a two-year low. The company manufactures Prempro, an estrogen pill approved in January 1998 and taken by millions of women to treat symptoms of menopause.

"While the study provides important information, it did not evaluate the benefits of combination [hormone replacement therapy] in the treatment of menopausal symptoms," the company said in a statement.

"As stated in the NIH news release, for women taking combination [hormone replacement therapy] for the short-term treatment of symptoms, the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks."

Reprinted with permission from NewsMax.Com. Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

[ article ]  


Another Reason to Drink Red Wine
This in-vitro study found that compounds in red wine inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells. The authors speculate that this may be the reason that prostate cancer rates in Mediterranean countries tends to be lower as compared with other European countries. The Mediterranean diet tends to be higher in these types of phenols. [ article ]  


** HORMONE REPLACEMENT TRIAL HALTED DUE TO SEVERE COMPLICATIONS **
A major trial of hormone replacement therapy was halted early due to the significant increase of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke, and blood clots in the women taking hormone replacement therapy consisting of a estrogen/progestin combination. Comment: the lead researchers state that women should probably take these medications for no more than 5 years. This news is a huge change from previous thinking and recommendations. Less than a year ago I attended a lecture (sponsored of course by the makers of Premarin) that greatly praised the benefits of hormone replacement therapy. The speaker stated that the hormones greatly decreased the overall death rates primarily by decreasing the risk of a heart attack. This latest research to be published in JAMA strongly suggest that the rush to promote hormone replacement therapy may have been due to poor science and premature conclusions. [ article ]  


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Monday, July 08, 2002

Dietary Soy May Decrease Breast Cancer Risk
This analysis of 406 women found that soy protein intake was inversely associated with the development of high-risk breast tissue (a strong risk factor for breast cancer). [ article ]  
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