Antibiotic overuse is a danger to public health, and especially dangerous for pregnant women

 The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is warning the public that antibiotic overuse has the potential to cripple the entire modern medical system.1

spilled pills

Despite public awareness campaigns about responsible use of antibiotics, antibiotics continue to be prescribed for colds, flu, sinusitis and bronchitis. Medical authorities continually warn doctors that antibiotics should NOT be prescribed for routine bronchitis and sinusitis. The scientific studies show that they do not improve outcome.  These are infections that, except in rare instances, are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Plus, these infections resolve by strengthening the immune system with excellent nutrition, not weakening it and creating more serious future infections that can develop as a result of antibiotic use

As inappropriate use of antibiotics continues, more and more resistant microbes will spread, and antibiotics will consequently become less effective. Drug-resistant bacteria emerge from mutations – microbes are constantly mutating, and these mutations eventually cause resistance to antibiotics.

Drug-resistant infections kill about 19,000 people each year in the U.S., and are a significant cost to the healthcare system.1 Drug-resistant bacteria have the potential to compromise our ability to perform procedures for which antibiotics are crucial.

"If this wave of antibiotic resistance gets over us, we will not be able to do organ transplants, hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy, intensive care and neonatal care for premature babies."

- Dominique Monnet, ECDC scientific advice unit1

The dangers of antibiotic overuse extend further than infection alone – all drugs have side effects, and antibiotics are especially toxic, and their side-effects are significant. . Antibiotics kill bacteria indiscriminately – therefore they disrupt our microbial balance, killing the beneficial flora that aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients and keep other microbes at bay. Children who are prescribed more antibiotics in the first year of life are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma and allergies during childhood.3  Antibiotic use has even been linked to a higher incidence of breast cancer.4   

Antibiotics are one of the most common medications taken by pregnant women, and a new study has made connections between antibiotics use during pregnancy and incidence of birth defects. Sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins were each associated with several birth defects – women who took these classes of antibiotics while pregnant were 2-4 times as likely to give birth to a baby with a heart defect. The more commonly used penicillins, eythromycins, and cephalosporins were each associated with at least one birth defect.2  

Antibiotics are not harmless medications and should be reserved for severe (and carefully documented) bacterial infections - infections that would seriously threaten the health of the patient if left untreated. We have powerful immune systems which, when supported by excellent nutrition, will clear the more moderate infections without help from drugs. 

 

References:

  1. http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE5A927820091110
  2. Crider KS et al. Antibacterial medication use during pregnancy and risk of birth defects: National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Nov;163(11):978-85.
  3. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.
  4. Velicer CM et al. Antibiotic Use in Relation to the Risk of Breast Cancer. JAMA. 2004;291:827-835.

 

Excess body fat responsible for over 100,000 cancer cases per year

 

obese man

(Image credit: Tobyotter @Flickr)

The American Institute for Cancer Research is currently holding their annual conference on Food, Nutrition, Physical Acitity, and Cancer in Washington D.C. Yesterday AICR held a news conference and announced new estimates based on the work of their researchers - that excess body fat is responsible for 100,500 cancer cases in the U.S. each year. 

 

100,500 – this equates to:

49% of endometrial cancers

35% of esophageal cancers

24% of kidney cancers

21% of gallbladder cancers

17% of breast cancers

9% of colorectal cancers

ALL preventable!

 

Also in this news conference, AICR expressed their concerns about the lack of public awareness about the link between obesity and cancer.

Scientists suggest that this link between obesity and cancer is due to excess fat increasing levels of sex steroids and other hormones that promote cancer growth. Also the reduced immune function and elevated oxidative stress associated with excess body fat may contribute to the initiation of cancer by damaging DNA.

AICR presented additional data showing that overweight and obesity also decrease rates of survival in those already diagnosed with cancer.

Overall, the message is that maintaining a healthy weight with nutritional excellence and exercise will dramatically (even more dramatically than previously thought) reduce your risk of cancer.

 

Reference: http://www.aicr.org/site/News2/153571380?abbr=pr_&page=NewsArticle&id=17333&news_iv_ctrl=1102

 

Breast cancer and prostate cancer: Early detection saves lives?

If breast and prostate cancer were detected early, via mammograms and PSA tests, treatment could begin earlier, and lives would be saved – right?

Wrong, according to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined incidence and mortality rates for breast and prostate cancer over the past 20 years.1

Why? The authors think that we are in a state of “overdiagnosis” – that many slow-growing, non-threatening tumors are being detected and treated; at the same time, the more dangerous and aggressive cancers may be missed because they can grow and become lethal in the time interval between screenings, and by then treatment will not work. Overall, the mortality rates of breast and prostate cancer have not decreased significantly in the past 20 years.

Still, are there sound reasons to skip these screenings altogether? You decide…

Mammograms: Following detection of a tumor, 80% of biopsies are negative, and the risk of false positives is very high in women under 50.2 This equates to thousands and thousands of unnecessary surgical procedures are performed on women after they have had a suspicious mammogram result. In a recent review, it was estimated that for every 2000 women screened, one will benefit, more than 200 will have a false positive result, and 10 healthy women will be treated unnecessarily.3 And those women who are treated for cancers earn many chemotherapy-related deaths counterbalancing any life-span enhancements in those treated.4 PSA tests: About 70% of men who have elevated PSA levels do not actually have cancer.1 And the side effects of the associated treatments include bowel, urinary, and sexual dysfunction.5 Additionally, a 9-year study in Sweden showed that men who had undergone endocrine treatment for prostate cancer were at a 20-30% increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and death from myocardial infarction.6 

With both of these tests, detection of low-risk cancers also causes much undue emotional trauma to patients and their families.

woman crying

 

(image credit: Samat Jain @Flickr)

The American Cancer Society now advises:

“There are some cancers for which we don’t currently recommend screening, such as prostate cancer, because the benefits are unclear or unproven.”7 

The authors of the JAMA article offer strategies for the scientific and medical communities: to find specific biomarkers that can differentiate high-risk from low-risk cancers, and to target high-risk individuals with preventive treatments.

I offer a strategy to you: Be proactive – reduce your risk of breast and prostate cancer. Practice prevention by maintaining a healthy weight and eating an anti-cancer diet - a high-nutrient diet rich in protective phytochemicals from cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, and berries, and minimizing or eliminating browned foods, animal products, and refined flour and sugar. Taking sufficient Vitamin D is also important. You can read more about the strong connections between diet and cancer in my article “Eat for Health – the Anti-Cancer Diet."

 

References:

1. Esserman L, Shieh Y, Thompson I. JAMA. 2009 Oct 21;302(15):1685-92. Rethinking screening for breast cancer and prostate cancer.

2. Wright CJ, Mueller CB. Screening mammography and public health policy: the need for perspective. Lancet 1995;346(8966(:29-32.

3. Gøtzsche PC, Nielsen M. Screening for breast cancer with mammography. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Oct 7;(4):CD001877.

4. Rock E, De Michele. A Nutritional approaches to late toxicities of adjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer survivors. J Nutr 2003 Nov;133(11 Suppl 1):3785S-3793S.  

5. Albertsen PC, Hanley JA, Fine J. 20-year outcomes following conservative management of clinically localized prostate cancer. JAMA 2005;293 (17):2095-2101

6. M. Van Hemelrijck et al. 1BA Increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality following endocrine treatment for prostate cancer: an analysis in 30,642 men in PCBaSe Sweden. EJC Supplements - September 2009 (Vol. 7, Issue 3, Page 1, DOI: 10.1016/S1359-6349(09)72024-5)

7.http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MED/content/MED_2_1x_A_Special_Message_from_CEO_John_Seffrin_PhD_on_Cancer_Screening.asp)