Recently in Cancer Prevention Category

CookingMeat&Cancer_Nov_2015_1200x1200.pngRed meat and processed meat have long been linked to increased cancer risk. But did you know the way you cook meat also can affect your cancer risk?

Eating meat cooked at high temperatures through methods like barbecuing and pan-frying can increase a person's chances of developing kidney cancer, according to a new study from our researchers.

"This study encourages us to look not only at what foods we're eating, but also how we're preparing those foods," says Stephanie Melkonian, Ph.D., Epidemiology postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study.


Eating processed meats can raise the risk of colorectal cancer, according to a report released today by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report labeled processed meats as "carcinogenic to humans." Processed meats include hot dogs, bacon, ham, sausages and deli meats. 

WHO put these foods in the same category as cigarettes and asbestos. Red meats such as beef, pork and lamb, are considered "probably carcinogenic to humans," according to the report. A carcinogen is something that can cause cancer, like tobacco use or sun exposure.

Therese_Bevers_193_retouched.jpgThe American Cancer Society issued new guidelines this week for breast cancer screening. The new guidelines state:

  • Women with average breast cancer risk should start having annual mammograms at age 45 and can start having them at age 40. 
  • Women should continue having annual mammograms until they are 54. 
  • After that, women can start having mammograms every other year, or may continue annual mammograms as long as they're healthy and expected to live another 10 years.

Previously, the American Cancer Society recommended that women have mammograms and clinical breast exams every year starting at age 40.

Changes in screening guidelines can often be confusing, so we talked with Therese Bartholomew Bevers, M.D., medical director of our Cancer Prevention Center. Here's what she wants women to know about the new screening guidelines.  

Colorectal cancer genetic testing

Recent reports show that colorectal cancer is on the rise in young adults, especially those younger than 40. And many of these cases are linked to genetic mutations.

The good news is that many colorectal cancer cases in young adults can be prevented with the help of genetic counseling and testing. Understanding your colorectal cancer risk can help you start taking steps to prevent cancer.  

We spoke with Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention, to find out more about genetic testing for colorectal cancer. Here's what he had to say. 

Who needs genetic testing for colorectal cancer? 
Any colorectal cancer patient younger than 50 should consider genetic counseling to evaluate the need for genetic testing. In addition, any colorectal cancer patient with a family history of cancer should consider genetic counseling for similar reasons. 

Doug Jones quit smoking

By Doug Jones

I have always heard people say, "Now is not a good time to quit!" There is always a time when you are less stressed, less busy or maybe more devoted to becoming healthier. I am here to tell you not to listen to those people.

When I started working at MD Anderson in January 2000, I was smoking two packs a day, and had been smoking since I was very young. In 2002, I transferred to Laboratory Informatics, where we support several clinical and research areas around MD Anderson. After talking to some of the doctors and seeing the inner workings of the hospital, I made the decision to quit smoking.

However, I was under so much stress when I made that decision. My mother was moving to Texas, and I was going through a bad divorce.

Getting help at MD Anderson
One of my co-workers recommended that I reach out to Bill Baun, program manager for MD Anderson's employee wellness program.

Making that call was very hard, but I realized I had nothing to lose. Mr. Baun came to our support room, talked with me and made me comfortable and secure in my decision to quit smoking.

He put me in contact with MD Anderson's tobacco cessation program, which provides counseling and support for patients and employees trying to quit. That was the beginning of my new life. 

smoking5.19.jpgBy Clayton Boldt

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that e-cigarette use has grown rapidly among teens in the past few years.
It may seem encouraging that this rise coincides with a drop in the use of tobacco products among kids. But e-cigarettes may not be harmless.

The truth is that we have very limited information on e-cigarettes. Their long-term impacts remain unknown, and we don't yet have enough data to support them as a healthy option.

E-cigarettes may create new tobacco users
Because e-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the FDA, manufacturers don't have to report their ingredients. Therefore, it's unclear what is used to flavor many of these products and what health risks might be linked to those chemicals.

E-cigarettes are available in thousands of flavors, such as bubblegum, cinnamon roll and peppermint. This has likely contributed to the increased use in young non-smokers. Most adult smokers started their habits as kids, and e-cigarettes may create a new generation of tobacco users.

FB_esophagealcancer.jpgEsophageal cancer is most common in middle-aged men who are overweight and have a history of acid reflux or heartburn. But our esophageal cancer team -- one of the few in the United States -- diagnoses this disease in all kinds of patients.

We talked with with Ara Vaporciyan, M.D., and Mara Antonoff, M.D., to find out what you need to know about esophageal cancer symptoms, risk factors and treatment. Here's what they had to say. 

Who's at risk for esophageal cancer?

Known risk factors for esophageal cancer include old age, male gender, obesity, longstanding heartburn, tobacco use, alcohol, and diets heavy in processed meats. Having reflux or Barrett's esophagus, a complication of reflux, poses the greatest risk.

People with exposure to certain chemicals, history of injury to the esophagus, human papillomavirus (HPV) or a history of cancer also are at increased risk.

Remember, having these risk factors doesn't mean that you'll get esophageal cancer. And some people who develop esophageal cancer don't have any risk factors.

Therese_Bevers415.jpgBy Brittany Cordeiro

Recent news headlines suggest women with dense breast tissue need specialty care and exams to detect breast cancer.

But Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center, says the news is ahead of the science.

"We understand that dense breast tissue is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, but we don't fully understand that risk," Bevers says. "We need more research on how to manage women with dense breast tissue before we can say whether extra screening exams make a difference."  

Below, Bevers answers some common questions about dense breasts and screenings. 

What does it mean to have dense breasts?
Breast density describes the proportion of the different tissues that make up a woman's breast. Women with dense breasts have more glandular tissue (breast and connective tissue) than fat.

Also, breast density can only be determined by a mammogram. It's not a measure of feel, such as size or firmness.

amanda42.jpgBy Amanda Woodward

As a melanoma survivor, I know how important it is to find the right dermatologist. After all, I've spent my fair share of time doing just that. My husband is in the Army, and we move often. Each time, I have to find a new dermatologist. It is one of the most stressful parts of moving around for me. It takes a while to build mutual trust.

But I've been fortunate to find some really great dermatologists who listen to my concerns and whom I trust to find any abnormal moles that could lead to skin cancer recurrence.

Here's what I look for in dermatologists:

Are they listening to me?
Like really listening. I spotted the abnormal mole that led to my original melanoma diagnosis. It was just a gut feeling. No, I'm not a doctor, but I do know my body and expect my dermatologist to at least listen and acknowledge my questions and concerns. In the same breath, however, I need my dermatologist to hear me when I say I'm anxious. I would have them remove all of my skin if that were a possibility! So, I also need my dermatologist to reign me in and help me determine what really needs to be examined or removed.

LindaRyansons223.jpgBy Linda Ryan

As cervical cancer survivor, I have spent considerable time and energy trying to protect my children from cancer. I didn't want them to feel the emotional effects of my own cancer journey, and I certainly don't want them to go what I went through.    

When it comes to cancer prevention, there is something I can do now to reduce their chances of being diagnosed with certain cancers in the future: Vaccinate against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause several types of cancer. That includes cervical cancer, as well as head and neck cancers, anal cancer, vulvar cancer and rare genital cancers.

What the HPV vaccine prevents
I know the phrase "HPV vaccine" can conjure up negative connotations, but the words "cancer" and "chemotherapy" are much worse in my book.

Most people don't consider chemo easy or fun. For me, the side effects were painful. When I was undergoing cervical cancer treatment, I didn't have a port, so I received my chemotherapy through an IV. My infusions were close to nine hours long. Some of the medicines and hydration irritated my veins and caused pain that needed to be managed with heat, cold, and eventually, medicine. The pain often brought me to tears.  

Had I been given the chance to be vaccinated 30 years ago vs. having a hysterectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy and live with the worry that I may not see my children grow up, I know what I would have chosen. And, it's what I chose for my two sons.

AmandaWoodward26.jpgBy Amanda Woodward

Pregnancy can do some crazy things to your, well ... everything! In my case, with both my first and now second pregnancies, my skin has broken out like I'm a teenager! But as a melanoma survivor, I know I need to pay extra attention to my skin when I'm pregnant -- and not just to the breakouts. 

Over the years, I've come to learn a thing or two about protecting yourself, and I think it is my duty as a survivor to spread a tiny bit of awareness. Here's what I've learned about caring for your skin when you're a pregnant cancer survivor: 

Communicate with your oncologist.

Prior to trying to conceive, my husband, Kyle, and I sat down with my oncologist and did a little family planning. (Romantic, right?) I completed melanoma treatment five years ago, but still attend follow-up appointments, and, of course, skin checks. We told my oncologist that we were thinking of starting a family and wanted to know what that would mean for my cancer care. He told us that as far as my cancer was concerned, there was no reason I couldn't or shouldn't become pregnant.

136197_Jonasch_E.jpgIn the 1980s, the American Cancer Society reported that 80% of kidney cancers were diagnosed in the late stages. Today, thanks to better screening methods, only about 40% of cases are discovered at the advanced stage even though patients may not have any kidney cancer symptoms

At MD Anderson, we're continuing to make progress in improving kidney cancer diagnoses and kidney cancer treatment. We spoke with Eric Jonasch, M.D., associate professor in Genitourinary Medical Oncology, to find out more about kidney cancer treatment and research, as well as prevention and diagnosis. Here's what he had to say.  

Who's at risk for kidney cancer? What signs and symptoms should people look for?
Those who have a first-degree relative, like a parent or sibling, who have had kidney cancer are more likely to develop kidney cancer. So are men, as this type of cancer is seen in men twice as often as in women.

In addition, the older we get, the greater our risk becomes. Most kidney cancer patients are over age 60. People who are obese, have high blood pressure or smoke also are more likely to be diagnosed with kidney cancer.

How is kidney cancer diagnosed?
Increasingly, kidney cancer is diagnosed incidentally, when a patient comes in for an unrelated complaint that requires a CT scan and the care team discovers a mass in the kidney.

Kidney cancer symptoms don't often show themselves, but patients whose cancer has progressed to a later stage may experience pain in the stomach or lower back, or blood in their urine.

Patients with kidney cancer also may experience unexplained high hemoglobin levels, unexplained uncontrollable blood pressure or unexplained and persistent weight loss.

Once the cancer is spotted through the CT scan, and there is no sign of spread to other organs, the surgical team may proceed directly to a surgical removal of the tumor. But if the tumor looks abnormal or like it has grown outside of the kidney, they may perform a biopsy to determine if it is a different cancer type.


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