Friday, 13 July 2007

A vaccine for prostate cancer?

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There's good news for prostate cancer patients who've had the disease spread to other parts of the body -- a new treatments, currently being tried out on hundreds of patients with promising results. The drug is called GVAX and it's referred to as a vaccine, although it doesn't work like most vaccines in the sense that it is administered after diagnosis and progression of the disease. According to this news story, GVAX works by adding prostate cancer cells to the body, but these new cells are unable to replicate.

Several members of my family have battled prostate cancer to varying degrees of success, and I know that it's really widespread. So this is great news, and I hope GVAX is the miracle the prostate cancer is looking for.

By the way, if you have prostate cancer, they're recruiting patients for their clinical trials.

Information you need to know about generic drugs

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A generic drug is exactly the same dosage, safety, strength and quality as a brand named drug. Generic drugs also do not take longer to work in the body, again, its the same ingredients as the name you are more familiar.

The reason generic drugs are cheaper is because the makers of these drugs don't have the costs of the original developer of the drug. When the patent on the developer expires, 20 years, other manufactures can introduce competitive generic versions to the FDA for approval. This also creates greater competition in the industry once generic drugs are approved and keeps costs lower.

A great place to go is here for more information on your generic drugs.

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Is Viagra good for the heart?

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Here's some uplifting news: The men in those Viagra commercials have another reason to be happy -- they're doing something good for their heart by taking the drug. In fact, a study at the University of Alberta has even found that patients with a potentially fatal condition, a failing right ventricle of the heart, can improve by taking the drug.

The magic heart-healthy ingredient in Viagra and other erectile-dysfunction drugs is phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, although I suspect that the extra 'activity' that comes with taking Viagra probably has a healthy effect on the heart too.

My Chemical Romance lyrics: Cancer

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MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE LYRICS

"Cancer"

Turn away,
If you could get me a drink
Of water 'cause my lips are chapped and faded
Call my aunt Marie
Help her gather all my things
And bury me in all my favorite colors,
My sisters and my brothers, still,
I will not kiss you,
'Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you.

Now turn away,
'Cause I'm awful just to see
'Cause all my hairs abandoned all my body,
Oh, my agony,
Know that I will never marry,
Baby, I'm just soggy from the chemo
But counting down the days to go
It just ain't living
And I just hope you know

That if you say (if you say)
Goodbye today (goodbye today)
I'd ask you to be true (cause I'd ask you to be true)

'Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you
'Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you

Some natural solutions for high blod pressure

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Sometimes medication is necessary in order to get your blood pressure under control, but if you haven't reached that critical stage yet, there are some natural remedies that you can use to lower your blood pressure. So if you're serious about getting heart healthy, try these solutions from eDiets:
  • Exercise: 30 minutes a day is all it takes ... so how about a walk this evening?
  • Quit Smoking: Qutting's not easy, but it will make a world of difference
  • Lower Salt Intake: Use a low-sodium salt alternative, or try cutting it out altogether
  • Get More Fiber: Increasing your fibre intake doesn't have to mean eating cardboard-like cereal. Ask your doctor how to get more fibre
  • Eat Dark Chocolate: Don't overdo it but in moderation, dark chocolate is heart-healthy
  • Munch on Celery: 4 stalks a day can help relax blood vessels
  • Add Garlic: Garlic has many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure. Eat lots of it -- or as much as those around you can stand
  • Calcium and Magnesium Supplements: Experts don't know why but taking the two together can help with blood pressure. But ask your doctor before taking any supplements.

Increased cancer risk in HIV, transplant patients

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HIV/AIDS and kidney transplant patients are at a much greater risk of developing 20 different types of cancer than the general population, according to research led by Professor Andrew Grulich from the University of New South Wales' National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR) and published in The Lancet.

The research suggests that immune deficiency, which is common to the two types of patients, is responsible for this increased risk of cancer.

HIV/AIDS and kidney transplant patients are more likely to develop Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is associated with the Epstein Barr virus and a number of cancers associated with the human papilloma virus. According to the researchers, for other cancers which are not linked with viruses such as breast and prostate, the HIV/AIDS patients and kidney tranplant patients had rates similar to the general population.

The Cinderella story of a pumpkin

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There has been some very exciting news lately about the benefits of a type of pumpkin. The pumpkin is shown to slow the destruction of beta cells and reduces the need for Type 1 diabetics to inject as much insulin.

The exciting thing is that this experiment found the benefits of the pumpkin were through oral consumption, not injection. The protective effect of pumpkin is thought to be due to both antioxidants and D-chiro-inositol, a molecule that mediates insulin activity. Boosting insulin levels has the effect of lowering blood sugar levels, which reduces levels of oxidative oxygen species that damage beta-cell membranes, preventing further damage and allowing for some regeneration. Beta cells levels in the diabetic rats are, however, unlikely ever to reach that of controls, because some of the cells will have been damaged beyond repair.

An ingredient expert pointed out to me that the pumpkin used in the study is not your canned pumpkin but a special variety of Asian pumpkin. You can check at you local Asian market if they have the Shark Fin pumpkin or if they can get it for you. He also surmised that it may be possible to parlay this breed of pumpkin into a whole new world of Health Foods.

Avandia side effect reports soar

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According to a new Associated Press (AP) feature, federal regulators have experienced a dramatic surge in reports of Avandia-related side effects. In fact, they say they are receiving triple the number of reports just in the last month. This trend began when news broke that the drug, which has been a big money maker for GlaxoSmithKline, may increase the risk of heart trouble.

The data supporting the claim was gathered by the AP from the US Food and Drug Administration. Whoever wrote this article makes a point of noting that the figures were obtained with the backing of the Freedom of Information Act, although the report does not say the FDA resisted handing the information out. The key finding: in the thirty-five days before the Avandia story broke in the media, only five heart attacks were reported as side effects involving rosiglitazone. Rosiglitazone is the active ingredient in Avandia and its little cousin Avandamet, which combines that drug with metformin. Yet in the thirty-five days following the revelation, that number soared to ninety. The AP also says reports of heart-related hospitalizations increased dramatically.

The AP says that several experts consulted for the article agree that doctors are probably attributing patients' heart problems to the drug, whereas before they likely would not have made the connection. The report also touches on the problem that's at the heart of the Avandia story: the dire need for reform of the FDA. Right now, there is no organized governmental oversight of drug safety once a drug is on the market and all reporting of side effects is voluntary. No one is driving the bus, basically. Click here to read more.

Don't know about the Avandia scandal? Want to read more on the background to this story? Click here for just one of a gazillion news stories published recently on Avandia and the FDA.

Exercise reduces inflammation -- good news for diabetics

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Inflammation in the body is bad -- but after reading an overview of a recent study by University of Illinois researchers, I have a better idea how inflammation is measured, and how it can be lowered through exercise.

C-reactive protein (CRP), secreted by the liver, is a biomarker for inflammation. As people age, their CRP levels rise. That is one reason why older people are prone to diabetes and heart disease as both conditions are related to inflammation. Cardiologists are starting to take a look-see at CRP levels, just like cholesterol results. Many studies have suggested regular exercise reduces inflammation, but the studies have not simultaneously adjusted for fitness and body fat. Did exercise independently reduce CRP levels or was it a decrease in the bulge? This study investigated the independent effect of the parasympathetic tone on circulating levels of CRP by assessing heart-rate recovery after exercise.

When you exercise, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, and when you stop, the parasympathetic slows everything down. Exercise is a terrific way to increase parasympathetic tone, which is why an untrained person takes longer to return to a resting heart rate versus a trained one. Researchers studied 132 sedentary individuals aged 60 to 83. Physical fitness of participants was measured by a slew of tests and blood drawn to measure CRP.

The quicker participants were able to return to a resting heart rate (parasympathetic tone) after a strenuous exercise test, the lower their levels of CRP (inflammation). Previous research has shown high body fat is related to high inflammation, and high fitness to low inflammation. This study controlled for both factors, giving muscle to the importance of parasympathetic tone in reducing inflammation. Study co-author Jeffrey A. Woods stated fitness and fatness appear important, but parasympathetic tone may be even more important.

Since I ruptured my achilles two months ago, I bet my CRP levels are higher. A two-footed, regular exerciser before the injury, I am a cardio-disaster. Can't wait to flex my parasympathetic tone soon.

Detecting dangerous deep belly fat

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It used to be that fat was just fat. Not anymore. Turns out that even fat is, upon close examination, more complicated than we ever realized. Did you know, for instance, that accumulations of deep belly fat are particularly harmful? Such accumulations are a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes because they are associated with increased insulin resistance, not to mention increased risk of heart attack.

One problem with deep belly fat, however, is that you can't necessarily detect it with a tape measure or by eyeballing someone's waistline. That is, you can't tell by just looking at a person how much of the fat surrounding their abdomen is deep belly fat versus the subcutaneous fat that lies just under the skin's surface. However, a new study reports that a simple blood test could solve this problem by measuring quantities of the retinol-binding protein 4, also known as RBP4, in the bloodstream. RBP4 is present in much higher levels in the bodies of those with greater amounts of deep belly fat. Not only does this mean that testing for high levels of RBP4 could be useful in assessing risk for conditions such as Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, it also opens up the possibility of treating such conditions by somehow manipulating RBP4 levels.

The study in question was conducted by scientist Barbara Kahn and colleagues from Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the University of Leipzig, Germany. The results have been published in the journal Cell Metabolism (July, 2007). Kahn is particularly well known in the area of diabetes-related research for her work on insulin resistance in mice.

Beta-blocker won't cause weight gain

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The beta-blocker carvedilol does not cause weight gain in diabetic patients, declares a new study just out. Significance? It means the drug does away with a problematic side-effect of other (earlier) beta-blockers, which are medications prescribed to correct high blood pressure. The study has been published in the American Journal of Medicine (July 2007) and was conducted by researchers at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.

Around eleven hundred patients participated in the study, all of whom have Type 2 diabetes and also suffer from high blood pressure. Some took the new drug carvedilol, while others were given the standard metoprolol. Over the course of five months the patients on metoprolol gained an average of 1.19 kg/2.6 lbs, whereas those on taking carvedilol experienced an average gain of 0.17 kg/0.37 lbs, which is considered insignificant.

Weight gain is an undesirable side-effect of medications in virtually any circumstance. However, it is particularly true for people with Type 2 diabetes or those at risk for T2 because overweight and obesity contributes to insulin resistance. In other words, weight gain will likely increase your chances of developing T2 if you're already predisposed or it will make your T2 worse if you already have it...putting you more at risk for the kinds of heart problems that beta-blockers are prescribed to treat! So it's no surprise that Franz H. Messerli, the lead author of the study, told Reuters that doctors should "avoid traditional beta-blockers such as atenolol and metoprolol in the diabetic hypertensive patient or in the hypertensive patient at risk for diabetes."

Alaskan kids score free bikes to prevent diabetes

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Over 700 kids in Alaska's Bristol Bay region will jump on shiny new Trek bikes this summer, thanks to a federal grant to fight diabetes among the area's American Indians and Alaska Natives. With about 8,000 residents in Bristol Bay, that is one bike for every eleven people. Now that's a pile of spokes!

Alaska Native Medical Center reports Alaska natives have experienced a 120 percent increase of diabetes between 1990-2004, and in the mostly Yup'ik Bristol Bay region, it has increased 170 percent. Mary Clark, a 51-year-old Bristol Bay native and local hospital worker stated the area kids are gaining weight as traditionally-eaten berries and fish are being replaced with junk food.

Carol Schumacher, diabetes program coordinator at Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, brainstormed the idea. She said about half the kids in the area are overweight, and exercise is critical to reduce their risk of developing diabetes as adults. Cool idea, Carol! I hope the bikes can truly facilitate lifestyle change. Read more in Anchorage Daily News.

Arthritis drug could prevent diabetes

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A major study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is just out. It found that those treated with hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) - brand name: Plaquenil - an antimalarial drug also prescribed for RA, are much less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. The study was conducted over a period of more than twenty years and analyzed the treatment of 4,905 adult patients with RA. Bottom line: relative risk for T2 diabetes declined by up to seventy-seven percent in patients who took HCQ for four years. Wow.

But that's not all. The researchers also say the RA patient who did develop diabetes were less likely to need medications for blood sugar control. Moreover, according to Mary Chester M. Wasko, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the greatest potential application could come in using HCQ as a preventive for people with pre-diabetic symptoms, "much in the same way as a daily baby aspirin is suggested for people at high risk for heart disease."

This is significant because having RA is a condition that usually leads to reduced activity levels and also to weight gain (as a consequence of taking corticosteroids), and these two factors put them at risk for Type 2 diabetes. So this is good news indeed.

The study was directed by scientists at Stanford University, however, researchers from multiple institutions were involved. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health. The report has been published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Click here or here to read more.

The link between high blood pressure and weight

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A recent study published in the Epidemiology Journal questions the idea that BMI and blood pressure are tied together. The study -- which was done on the island nation of Seychelles -- found that as the number of people with a BMI over 25 rose, the association between BMI and hypertension decreased. The study likely raises more questions than it answers. How good of a measurement is BMI and how much of a role does obesity play in the development of high blood pressure? We know that those who are overweight are at a higher risk of developing the condition, but what other factors -- such as stress, smoking, environment, nutrition, etc. -- come into play? It will be interesting to see where this finding leads.

No more excuses: CPR just got easier

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Forget signing up for a time-consuming class on the other side of town. I mean really, do you actually have time to learn how to save someone's life?

All kidding aside, and because I know you really are busy, you can now conveniently learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in less than 25 minutes -- and in the comfort of your own home. So no more excuses!

The American Heart Association (AHA) has unveiled a revolutionary self-directed learning program: CPR Anytime for Family and Friends, $30. The kits includes an inflatable CPR mannequin, a 22-minute instructional DVD, and a resource booklet. The DVD walks you through each step of the training, from inflating the mannequin to doing chest compressions and rescue breathing.

Not only that, but you keep the kit as you are encouraged to share it with family members, friends, and even community groups. The AHA's goal is to increase the number of potential rescuers and reduce the national cardiac arrest survival rate, which -- as it stands now -- is at a dismal 5 percent.

I often hear that people don't take a CPR course because they don't have the time or because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves in a classroom setting -- I feel your pain -- every year I still get afraid that I won't pass the test. Some people even go as far as to think that they will never need to use it. Hopefully, with CPR Anytime's convenience and ease of use, more people will set aside their fears and excuses and get trained.

If more people learn CPR it can (and will) result in thousands of more lives saved -- something we all should have time for.

CPR anytime also has a kit for new parents, check out their Infant CPR Anytime Personal Learning Program.

Thought for the Day: Don't donate, educate

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In the last few years, I've suspended my annual donation to the American Cancer Society based on what I perceive as the organization's willingness to "get in bed" with product manufacturers and food makers who have no interest in cancer prevention outside of large donations to the organization so that an official logo can be used.

To a point, just the appearance of impropriety disgusts me. Instead of donating, I've been putting together a research package that I end up talking to people about. Not only does empirical research and double-blind studies talk louder than an ACS logo in a mainstream health magazine, it gets people thinking.

Thinking about what they eat, what they do, how they live, what they expose themselves to, etc. Al of those things, when done in harmful ways, can expose one to cancer-causing agents and just help whatever predisposition you may already have to flourish. Sure, all those may have no effect at all also. Are you willing to take the chance?
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Controlling cancer, one bite at a time

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I like to be in control sometimes -- not always, but sometimes. I don't ever wish to be the top boss in any work scenario. I prefer to have a job and do it well without the stress of managing a whole operation. But I do like to be in charge of my schedule, my kids, my thoughts and emotions, the way my life progresses. Cancer? I'd love to have direct supervision over this pesky subject. Sadly, I don't. So I do my best at controlling the factors that might increase my risk of cancer recurrence. I do it through exercise and diet.

Recently, I realized that controlling my diet is best done at home. I can buy the most nutritious foods at the grocery store, bring them home, prepare them in a healthy fashion, and concoct the perfect portion sizes. Take me out of this home element and I get a little scared.

The other night, my husband and I went to Red Lobster for dinner. We had a gift card and were eager for a night out. Before we escaped our crazy kid household, though, we went online to investigate the nutritional values of Red Lobster dishes. We were shopping for the healthiest options, and we were quite shocked to learn there aren't so many. Now we knew the all-fried fish platters would top the charts in calories, fat, and such. But fresh fish and veggies? Also fairly high in these same categories. We surmised it's the butter and oil used to cook our normally healthy fares that compromised these items and while we weren't so happy about the situation, we still went and did the best we could.

That's all we can do as we try to control our lives -- the best we can. There are always outside forces that get in our way. It may be a disease that sneaks up on us, despite our best intentions; it may be deceptive cooking techniques.

Here's my personal plan: eat as much as I can at home -- where I am completely in charge -- and make wise choices when I'm out. It's the best I can do.
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Mother undergoes removal of stomach to avoid rare, hereditary stomach cancer

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Donna Martin, a mother in the UK, is one of the first people in the country to elect to have surgery to remove her stomach after discovering that she carries a rare gene for diffuse stomach cancer, even though she is currently cancer-free.

Physicians offered her the prophylactic surgery after discovering that she was carrying an extremely rare gene known as CDH1, which gives her a 70% chance of developing diffuse stomach cancer. She has already lost her mother and brother to the disease. Diffuse stomach cancer is very rare however, accounting for only 3% of all stomach cancers.

"With this operation, they're saving my life in advance. They can stop the cancer before it's even started. It's taken a lot of deliberation but now I know I'm carrying the gene it's the best thing I can do, " said Martin.

During the gastrectomy, the physicians will remove the stomach and reconstruct the digestive tract so Martin can still digest food.

A pathologist's personal experience with esophageal cancer

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Dick Stienmier, a pathologist, writes about his experience with esophageal cancer in July's issue of The Swallow Tales, the newsletter of the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association. He tells of making his own preliminary diagnosis quite early, after only two mild episodes of difficulty swallowing. After consultations with various oncologists, a plan was set for neoadjuvent therapy to take place in a week's time, followed by surgery.

So what did Stienmier do now? Did he launch into research and study all of the details of the treatments including the surgery, drugs and radiation?

Nope! He went to Florida for the week with his wife, children and grandchildren. They visited Discovery Cove and he even kissed a dolphin at his grandchildren's insistence!

Stienmier explains:

Did I waste valuable time by not obsessing over investigating every source I could find and then trying to design my own therapy? I don't think so at all. Even as a pathologist, I did not think I could propose and design a better course of therapy than the experts I "hired". I let them take care of my medical treatment, while I took care of equally important issues -- strengthening and enjoying my human bonds with my descendents. If my luck with my disease had not been as good as it has been, I still would feel that I could not have spent my precious time in any better way. I hope this may give you something to think about. Kiss the dolphins!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Herpes virus to kill cancer cells?

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A German biotech company has announced positive results from a genetically engineered herpes virus that is designed to kill cancer cells. It not only kills the cancer cells but leaves healthy tissue unharmed. Results from clinical trials has showed promise.

Being injected with a virus might seem strange but researchers believe that viruses could one day become a valuable addition to conventional cancer treatments.

The results have shown in animal testing and limited human testing the ability to kill colorectal and liver cancer cells.

Microwaves: Safe or not?

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I rarely use my microwave and when I do, I try not to be in the same room as it. Silly? Yes, but somehow I can't shake the feeling that something about nuking food with radiation isn't right. So I use the oven to heat things up more often than not, and it's not that much of a hassle.

Should we all be concerned about microwave safety? Fitsugar asked this same question and their answer is no. The amount of radiation that is leaked isn't harmful and there are several safety features designed to keep the radiation inside.

Are you wary of your microwave?

Another mysterious breast cancer case in Australia

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As I covered about a month ago, several unexplained breast cancer cases had been uncovered at an Australian television studio, which was confusing employees and medical officials alike. What was in the environment to cause so many cases of breast cancer within a single physical location?

Well, another breast cancer case has developed at the same location (ABC Studios in Brisbane). As such, staff at the studio are urging a re-opening of an earlier investigation into the mysterious breast cancer cases that seem to have plagued female employees there. Since 1995, there have been 15 reported cases of breast cancer at the studio.

Possible reasons include radiation from magnetic fields used at the studio to other equipment that may be causing abnormal amounts of radiation to be sent into the environment. Whatever the cause, it's one very odd mystery right now down under.

Shy? Your heart is at greater risk

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Are you shy? So shy that you avoid social situations because of your shyness? You might be at a great risk for heart-related health problems. A 30-year study done by Northwestern University in Chicago has found that shy men are at a great risk of developing heart problems than outgoing men -- by 40%!

The reason? It's though to be because of personality traits. We've all heard that type A people (aggressive, bossy, stressed out) are at a great risk of heart problems, and so are socially avoidant people, classified as type D people. For the record, type D people are described as though who "Consciously suppress their feelings. They tend to be worried, gloomy and anxious, shy and insecure, lacking assertiveness and self-confidence."

I've struggled with shyness my whole life and I can attest to the fact that being shy is stressful. But I've said it before (amidst controversy) and I'll say it again -- you can overcome shyness. Though I'm not sure if that improves your odds or not ...

Uninsured women twice as likely as insured women to not get Pap smears

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Pap smears are used to detect cancer or abnormal cells on the cervix and are recommended every three years for women age 18 - 64.

Unfortunately, according to a recent report from the Agency for Health Research and Quality, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 14 percent of American women age 18-64 have not had a Pap smear in the past three years. Asian women were least likely to have received a Pap smear in the past three years.

Insured status also plays a role. Women without healthcare insurance were much more likely to not have had a Pap smear in the past three years; 25 percent of this group had not been screened versus 11 percent of women covered by private insurance and 15 percent of those on some form of public insurance.

Women who were less educated were also less likely to have had a Pap smear in the past three years as were single women when compared to their married counterparts.

There are so many cancers that are difficult to detect in the early stages and for which no widespread screening programs exist. These cancers are often discovered in the late-stage, when there is no cure. In contrast, Pap smear screening reduces both the incidence and mortality from cervical cancer and is simple and relatively inexpensive. Hopefully, as our country continues to grapple with our healthcare access crisis, we can find a way to for more women to get screened for this preventable cancer.

More on Joel Siegel and the causes he believed in

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Patricia reported earlier this week that movie critic Joel Siegel had died of colon cancer at the age of 63. Unlike almost everyone in North America, I'm not that into movies and though I had heard Siegel's name, I didn't really know much about him. But I wish I did, after watching this video on Siegel's life, his fight with cancer and his undying support for a cause he so firmly believed in; Cancer awareness.

After Siegel's first wife died of brain cancer at a young age, the critic began to talk publicly about cancer, and it's with tragic irony that he passed away from the disease that worked so hard to fight. Siegel's final days were marked with deep regret that he didn't get screened for cancer sooner, as his doctors told him that if he had been tested a mere 3 years earlier, he would have had a much better chance at seeing his young son grow up.

Cancer's lost a brave and powerful spokesperson, and I hope his message and memory lives on for a long time.

Black women who experience discrimination more likely to develop breast cancer

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Black women who feel that they have been racially discriminated against are more likely than other black women to develop breast cancer, according to a study out of Howard University led by Dr. Teletia Taylor. The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Taylor and colleagues tracked 59,000 black women over a period of six years. They found that participants who said they routinely experienced discrimination, whether "everyday" or "major", had a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those black women who did not experience such discrimination. This link was stronger among women under the age of 50.

According to the researchers, more work is needed to further understand the relationship between racism and breast cancer.

Death rate in diabetic men down

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Good news and bad news: The reported death rate in diabetic men has gone down over the last 30 years, however it remains unchanged for women. How does this happen?

The study shows the death rate for men with diabetes had reduced 43% between 1971 and 2000. The date rate for women with diabetes throughout this period did not change. The death rate for heart disease among men with diabetes fell by more than half, but again, the death rate for women was static. Overall, the study showed that the decline in death rates for diabetic men mirrored a decline in death rates for all Americans during the study period. Anybody have any clues as to what changed? I have a few guesses - all of which amount to more stressful lives.

The finding in women is concerning, and means we may need to explore whether different approaches are needed to treat men and women. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than women. I wonder if men with diabetes are bigger procrastinators than women when it comes to hormone replacement therapy. Insulin is a hormone, isn't it?

Form and Function: Epithelial tissues

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I am a Licensed Practical Nurse with five years' experience in this profession. I believe it is essential to go back to the basics in all things in order to really understand them. I am fascinated by how our bodies work and I hope I can get my readers to share my fascination. I hope we all learn new things and marvel again at the things we already know. This feature -- which includes a closing section on how disease affects the topic in question -- will run on The Cancer Blog on Wednesdays, and The Cardio Blog and The Diabetes Blog on Thursdays. [The contents in this post are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or substitute for professional medical care.]

We looked at the cell in a series of six articles and now we are moving into the fascinating world of tissues. A tissue is a group of cells with similar structure and function. The tissue then contributes to the functioning of the organs in which it is found. Epithelial tissue exists at the body surface where it lines the skin and various organs such as the mouth, nose and other body cavities. It is also found at the lining of the respiratory, reproductive and urinary tracts. All blood vessels are also lined with epithelial tissue. Epithelial tissue is divided into different types.

The first type of epithelial tissue is the covering and lining epithelium. It forms the epidermis of the skin and the outer covering of some internal organs as well as the inner lining of blood vessels, ducts and body cavities. It is arranged by layers and cell shapes. The layers are: simple epithelium, stratified epithelium and pseudostratified columnar epithelium. The cell shapes are: Squamous, cuboidal, columnar and transitional.

Simple squamous epithelium: It consists of a single layer of flat cells that resembles a tiled floor. It is located in the lining of the blood vessels, lining of body cavities and part of the kidney tubules. Its functions are protection and absorption.

Simple cuboidal epithelium: The cuboidal shape of the cells in this tissue is obvious when the tissue is sectioned and viewed from the side. It is located in the secretory portion and ducts of some glands and part of the kidney tubules. Its functions are secretion and protection.

Simple columnar epithelium: When viewed from the side the cells appear rectangular with oval nuclei near the base of the cells. It lines the gastrointestinal tract and the ducts of some glands. Its functions are absorption, protection and secretion.

Stratified squamous epithelium: In the superficial layers of the epithelium these types of cells are flat, but in the deep layers the cell shape varies from cuboidal to columnar. It is found in the epidermis, lining of the mouth, esophagus and the vagina. Its functions are protection, secretion and some absorption.

Stratified cuboidal epithelium: It sometimes consists of two or more layers of cells and is fairly rare. It can be found in the ducts of sweat glands and functions mainly to protect and in a limited capacity in secretion and absorption.

Stratified columnar epithelium: This is also an uncommon type of tissue. It is mainly found a part of the lining of the male urethra and its main function is protection.

Transitional epithelium: It is variable in appearance, depending on whether the organ it lines is relaxed or stretched. It is found in the lining of the ureter and urinary bladder and its main function is protection.

Transitional columnar epithelium: When viewed from the side these cells give the false impression of a multilayered tissue. It is found in the lining of the trachea, upper respiratory tract and parts of the male reproductive system. Its functions are protection and secretion.

There is a further organization of epithelial cells which is called glandular epithelium. This is the second type of epithelial tissue. It constitutes the secreting portion of the glands, such as the thyroid gland, adrenal glands and sweat glands. We will look at these more closely when we discuss the thyroid and adrenal glands in upcoming posts.

How does this affect you?

Diabetes affects many parts of the body including the epithelial tissues. When we look at the effects of diabetes on different organs in future blogs we will refer back to the epithelial tissues.
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Diabetic driver accused of "cavalier attitude" causing woman's death

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UK couple Suzanne and Julian Meredith went for an evening stroll one night, but their outing ended in disaster. A driver lost control of the wheel and ploughed his car into the two, killing Mrs. Meredith, who was fifty-two years old. The driver, an aircraft engineer named Phillip Willey, is now defending himself in court against a charge of dangerous driving causing death. Turns out, though, Willey is diabetic and he's using that as his defense, saying he blacked out while behind the wheel. Well, that was his defense until the prosecution turned the argument on its head and used it against him, alleging the accident was one hundred percent Willey's fault because he had a "cavalier attitude" to his condition and did not check his blood sugar levels before driving.

Dangerous driving causing death is what it is. Or...should some consideration be given if diabetes is a factor? Maybe. But realize this would not necessarily swing a decision in favor of the diabetic. In this case, for instance, the driver may lose out if the prosecution is successful in proving he was lax in managing his diabetes. Although, of course, the family and friends of Mrs. Meredith are the ones who really lose, no matter how this is settled.

It's a fact that personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are common as muck here in the US. That's why this news story from the UK should serve as a warning to diabetics over here. Not only could an episode while driving cause hurt or even death to you, a loved one, or an innocent third party, it could get you sued too if you survive the accident.

Byetta, Januvia declared safe and effective...for now

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Diabetes drugs Byetta and Januvia have been declared safe and effective...for now...by researchers from Boston's Tufts-New England Medical Center. Both medications effectively reduce blood sugar by around one percent or less. This compares with older drugs like metformin, which can cause a drop of as much as two percent. On the other hand, the newer drugs are popular (and this has received tons of publicity over the last year or two) because they don't routinely cause weight gain like the older drugs and, in fact, they can even promote weight loss.

The Tufts announcement came with a caveat, however: these drugs have not been around long. This means their long-term safety is not known. As far as side effects go, one author of the study, Anastassios Pittas, told USA Today that although they didn't see anything really scary, "I would be more comfortable seeing two-and three-year data before embracing them." Pittas also acknowledges the (exorbitant) cost of Byetta and Januvia is a problem.

No new research was done to arrive at this conclusion. Rather, the researchers assessed the findings of twenty-nine previous studies. Their report has been published in the latest issue of medical-world heavyweight Journal of the American Medical Association.

The timing of this news is indeed fortunate for drug giants Merck & Co., which owns Januvia, and Amylin & Lilly, which owns Byetta. They must be very worried indeed about shaken consumer confidence following the Avandia mess, which has received a lot of publicity of late - bad, very bad, publicity that tarnished the public image of Big Pharma. And it's public image was already down about level with lawyers. (Apologies to all the lawyers out there...)

Form and Function: Epithelial tissue

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I am a Licensed Practical Nurse with five years' experience in this profession. I believe it is essential to go back to the basics in all things in order to really understand them. I am fascinated by how our bodies work and I hope I can get my readers to share my fascination. I hope we all learn new things and marvel again at the things we already know. This feature -- which includes a closing section on how disease affects the topic in question -- will run on The Cancer Blog on Wednesdays, and The Cardio Blog and The Diabetes Blog on Thursdays. [The contents in this post are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or substitute for professional medical care.]

We looked at the cell in a series of six articles and now we are moving into the fascinating world of tissues. A tissue is a group of cells with similar structure and function. The tissue then contributes to the functioning of the organs in which it is found. Epithelial tissue exists at the body surface where it lines the skin and various organs such as the mouth, nose and other body cavities. It is also found at the lining of the respiratory, reproductive and urinary tracts. All blood vessels are also lined with epithelial tissue. Epithelial tissue is divided into different types.

The first type of epithelial tissue is the covering and lining epithelium. It forms the epidermis of the skin and the outer covering of some internal organs as well as the inner lining of blood vessels, ducts and body cavities. It is arranged by layers and cell shapes. The layers are: simple epithelium, stratified epithelium and pseudostratified columnar epithelium. The cell shapes are: Squamous, cuboidal, columnar and transitional.

Simple squamous epithelium: It consists of a single layer of flat cells that resembles a tiled floor. It is located in the lining of the blood vessels, lining of body cavities and part of the kidney tubules. Its functions are protection and absorption.

Simple cuboidal epithelium: The cuboidal shape of the cells in this tissue is obvious when the tissue is sectioned and viewed from the side. It is located in the secretory portion and ducts of some glands and part of the kidney tubules. Its functions are secretion and protection.

Simple columnar epithelium: When viewed from the side the cells appear rectangular with oval nuclei near the base of the cells. It lines the gastrointestinal tract and the ducts of some glands. Its functions are absorption, protection and secretion.

Stratified squamous epithelium: In the superficial layers of the epithelium these types of cells are flat, but in the deep layers the cell shape varies from cuboidal to columnar. It is found in the epidermis, lining of the mouth, esophagus and the vagina. Its functions are protection, secretion and some absorption.

Stratified cuboidal epithelium: It sometimes consists of two or more layers of cells and is fairly rare. It can be found in the ducts of sweat glands and functions mainly to protect and in a limited capacity in secretion and absorption.

Stratified columnar epithelium: This is also an uncommon type of tissue. It is mainly found a part of the lining of the male urethra and its main function is protection.

Transitional epithelium: It is variable in appearance, depending on whether the organ it lines is relaxed or stretched. It is found in the lining of the ureter and urinary bladder and its main function is protection.

Transitional columnar epithelium: When viewed from the side these cells give the false impression of a multilayered tissue. It is found in the lining of the trachea, upper respiratory tract and parts of the male reproductive system. Its functions are protection and secretion.

There is a further organization of epithelial cells which is called glandular epithelium. This is the second type of epithelial tissue. It constitutes the secreting portion of the glands, such as the thyroid gland, adrenal glands and sweat glands. We will look at these more closely when we discuss the thyroid and adrenal glands in upcoming posts.

How does this affect you?

Blood vessels are lined with epithelial tissue. We will look at the different components of blood and the cardiovascular system and then bring it toghether.
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Which has more salt -- a sandwich or potato chips?

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If you're avoiding salt, then you probably know to stay away from salty potato chips. But a recent UK study found that prepared sandwiches can contain as much salt as seven bags of chips. That's a lot of salt, more than any of us should be eating. So where is all that salt coming from? Lunch meat is notoriously salty and prepared foods often contain sodium as a preservative, but the survey found that even sandwiches with similar ingredients had widely varying amounts of salt. So what's a salt savvy person to do when they want a sandwich? Make it at home with fresh ingredients, choose from this list of sandwiches with less than 2mg of sodium, or cut out salt elsewhere in your daily intake.

On heart health in Africa

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The issue of heart health is one that's fairly new to Africans. After all, the first heart attack wasn't even recorded until 1967. And while AIDS and Malaria stole the spotlight as the leading killers in Africa, another deadly cause is silently creeping up on the population: Unhealthy lifestyles. According to this article, 60% of heart disease in Africa is found in young people. Doctors are predicting that death from lifestyle and heart-related ailments (including coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes, stroke, hypertension and alcohol-induced liver cirrhosis) will soar to numbers only found in a epidemic. Now that's scary.

So what (or who) is to blame? The only answer I can come up with is North American influence -- it would seem that our obesity epidemic has spread to many corners of the world, including Africa. Experts note that the availability of food could be a contributing factor, but seeing as millions have died from starvation in Africa, availability of food should be a good thing, not a bad thing.

What are your thoughts?


Detroit's Cancer Institute move blocked by judge

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A judge in Detroit ruled yesterday that the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute could not move from its current location next to the Detroit Medical Center to a location next to another hospital that is about to close for good.

The move was going to leave a "gaping hole" in the Detroit Medical Center's campus and would violate the contractual obligations that the Cancer Institute has about remaining at the Medical Center's main campus.

The Karmanos Cancer Institute became a separate legal entity from the Detroit Medical Center in 2005 but until now has shown no interest in moving away from the medical facility.

Live, learn, pass it on -- cancer style

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I recently received an e-mail from a friend, about a friend of hers who has just been diagnosed with throat cancer. After a little thought about the content of her message, I sat down and typed a response. I share our back-and-forth communication with you today because it may help you, a friend, a family member, someone. And it may motivate some of you to contribute your own wisdom on the topic. If it does, by all means -- please share by leaving a comment.

Jacki,

Hope all is well with you. Nick and I have a close friend that has recently been diagnosed with cancer. It's in his throat and neck area. He had his tonsils removed and showed they are the source of the cancer but he will still be undergoing chemo and radiation.

The reason I am reaching out to you is because I wondered if you had some good recipes for keeping your energy levels up during chemo and radiation. He said he needs to eat a lot of protein -- I want to make him some things, or buy the right food for him that are high in protein -- what should I be doing? How can I help? His throat is going to be very sore due to the location of the cancer and eating is going to be an issue. What do you suggest?

Here is my reply:

As for diet: I suspect extreme temperatures would be risky for the throat area, so I'd try for mild temps when you cook. One idea if he likes seafood is frozen shrimp -- it's just as good for you as fresh seafood and is a great source of protein. He could eat it thawed and over pasta. There's a great new pasta out there by Barilla, called Barilla Plus. It's not wheat (which is kind of gummy) and it's not white and it's very healthy -- lots of protein and Omega-3 stuff. There's 10 grams of protein in one two-ounce serving. One serving of frozen shrimp has about 18 grams. Both of these items are also soft which could help if he has difficulty swallowing. Add some sprinkles of cheese or a little butter for taste.

Other high protein ideas:

Fruit smoothie with protein powder.
Yogurt (beware of high sugar, though)
Cottage cheese (go low fat and it's very healthy). Add fruit on top.
Egg or egg white
Low-fat cheese. I love Sargento Light String Cheese.
Chicken
Turkey
Canned tuna (no albacore -- it has high mercury levels)
Salmon
Nuts and seeds (might scratch going down, though)
Nut butters
Beans
Tofu
Tempeh
Soy
Vegetarian burgers

Eating for energy:

Start the day with breakfast
Eat every three to four hours
Don't skip meals

Here's the catch -- chemotherapy often takes away appetite. So the chore is to keep eating when the idea seems somewhat repulsive.

I suggest naps to restore energy too! Radiation causes fatigue -- Why? No one really knows. Cancer is the perfect excuse for frequent, daily naps! I never took very many. If I ever have to do it all again, I'm taking nap time!

Please let me know if you have any questions! I'd be happy to share more or hunt down answers if you need them.
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Coffee reduces the risk of liver cancer ... or not?

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Recent reports have come out regarding the protective effect of coffee against liver cancer. Specifically, Drs. Larsson and Wolk of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm concluded that for every 2 cups of coffee consumed per day, there was a 43 percent reduction in an individual's risk of liver cancer. They analysed 11studies involving 2,260 liver cancer patients and 239,146 individuals without liver cancer.

However, Dr. Ang Peng Tiam, President of the Singapore Society of Oncology, believes that this and other studies like this one are too "simplistic".

Dr Ang questions, "Why in the liver? Why not in the pancreas or in the stomach? It is for these reasons that sometimes further research needs to be done."

Ang continues, "It will take more than this article to convince me to become a teetotaller or coffee drinker! In a prospective trial, you actually intervene, and you watch for a result. In contrast, in this meta analysis, it is a retrospective study. You are finding people who already have developed cancer, you select a control group who at the present time does not have cancer and then you ask them... from what they can remember, what is their diet like."

Dr. Ang feels the best prevention against cancer is to exercise regularly and eat and drink in moderation.

Approved treatment for cancer that has spread to the spine

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The new approved treatment for spine metastasis uses radiofrequency to kill cancer cells in the spine. After the radiofrequency is delivered to the area with cancer, a type of cement mixture is delivered into the cavity site to fill the empty space which was once occupied by the cancer. This step provides stability to the spine.

This new treatment called Cavity Spinewand minimizes damage to the surrounding tissue since the treatment is placed directly where the cancer cells reside. Patients treated with this method have reported significant pain relief, sometimes even complete pain relief.

Less pain means improved quality of life, mobility and enables patients to continue on with their scheduled chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Genentech's Avastin cancer drug selling like crazy

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Genentech posted a 41 percent increase in its profits for the company's recently completed second quarter on Wednesday in part on the strength of its cancer drugs.

Genentech's Avastin drug, which treats lung, breast and colon cancer, saw sales for the April-June period of this year rise 33 percent to $564 million.

If you're an Avastin customer, has the drug helped with your specific cancer and have you been pleased with the results? I've never met anyone using this drug and have been curious to see what effects it does have on the cancer types it is marketed to fight against.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

The Un-healthiest Job: truck driver

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A few months ago, I spent a few weeks travelling the highways of Australia by bus. During the long hauls, we were often dropped off at truck stops for lunch and dinner. I hate travelling by bus (give me a train or plane any day) but riding was a walk in the park compared to the food we were expected to eat. Everything on the menu was deep-fried, processed and slathered in mayo. Vegetables? What vegetables? I think the fries were the closet thing to a veggie. I'm not a junk food person but I often resorted to tubes of Pringles to squelch my hunger ... now that's desperation.

So it doesn't surprise me that driving a rig is considered one of the most unhealthy jobs out there.Irregular schedules, chugging coffee to keep alert, truck-stop food, sitting all day ... The lifestyle does not sound appealing to heath-conscious people like me. Truck drivers typically suffer from a number of health ailments, including obesity, heart disease and sleep apnea. And they often smoke. It's a recipe for disaster.

But there's good news on the horizon. Companies who employ truck drivers are taking steps to make sure the work environments for their employees are conducive to the healthy lifestyle. And the truck drivers are responding by taking the steps necessary to make the changes necessary to improve their quality of living.

Does suncreen contain cancer-causing agents?

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The gals over at the Beauty Brains addressed the following question a few days ago and I thought I would share:

Q:I've been using Aveeno Baby Sunblock
Lotion on my 2 year old but I read that it contains dioxane which causes cancer. Should I switch sunscreens?.

I think this is an excellent question, and one I would have never thought of because isn't sunscreen supposed to be the holy grail of cancer prevention? But as the girls point out, Dioxane is thought to be cancer-causing ... at high levels. And since the level in sunscreen is so low, and since it evaporates very quickly, the amount that comes in contact with your (or your baby's) skin is minimal, and therefore not problematic. According to the FDA, at least. What do you think?

Ignite the Promise: Global Advocate Summit

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My friend and fellow young breast cancer survivor has received a great honor to serve as one of the 55 delegates representing breast cancer advocates worldwide at Ignite the Promise: Global Advocate Summit in Hungary.

I'm so proud of you Deb!

This press release says it all:

Deb Kirkland, of Baltimore, MD, has been selected to serve as one of 55 delegates representing breast cancer advocates worldwide at "Ignite the Promise: Global Advocate Summit" in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 29-30, 2007.

Organized by Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, the summit will pair the 25 U.S. breast cancer advocates with their counterparts from 30 countries. The overarching goals for holding this international summit are to elevate the dialogue on breast cancer's global impact and to share strategies used to combat breast cancer in the delegates' local communities

"Each year, more than 1 million women worldwide receive a breast cancer diagnosis," said Nancy G. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. "The need to provide these women-regardless of race, nationality, or socioeconomic status-an equal opportunity to beat a breast cancer diagnosis has never been greater. This summit will enable advocates to share outreach tactics that have been implemented in the U.S. and elsewhere to meet our collective goal of saving lives and ending breast cancer forever."

Deb Kirkland is an active breast cancer advocate in her community. Since her diagnosis of breast cancer in 2001 at the age of 32, she has created programming in the state of Maryland for young women with breast cancer. She is a committee member of the Komen annual educational symposium committee, as well as, a Komen grantee. She is program coordinator of the "Breast Friends" grant through LifeBridge Health that provides support, education, and advocacy to young women and their families locally. Kirkland, formerly a critical care nurse, teaches breast health education in the local colleges as well as in the inner city, communicating with young women about the importance of monthly breast self exams and, for women aged 40 and older, the imperative to get annual mammograms and clinical breast exams. By sharing her story and experiences, she hopes to impart a sense of hope and encouragement to women diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I am thrilled to be a part of this global initiative and to have the opportunity to work with other breast cancer advocates from other countries through the efforts of Komen for the Cure. I hope to be able to contribute, as well as, learn from others around the world," said Kirkland. "Together, this growth experience of sharing our local successes and challenges, we can work together to create new, innovative ideas that can be implemented in communities world-wide to help eradicate this disease."

To honor the U.S. delegates in advance of this historic meeting, Mrs. Laura Bush hosted a luncheon on June 1 at the White House extending her appreciation for their tireless efforts to increase awareness and education about breast cancer. "Eradicating breast cancer is a challenge for every country, and too many women around the world are still too embarrassed or too uninformed to seek the treatment they need in time to save their lives," said Mrs. Bush, who is also the Global Summit's Honorary Co-Chair, and a longtime Komen volunteer and breast cancer advocate.

Kirkland is one of the extraordinary advocates selected by Susan G. Komen for the Cure for their records of activism and success in the fight against breast cancer. These women and men have contributed to breast cancer detection and treatment advances through community outreach, shaping public policy, offering health education, providing survivor support, and fundraising.

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