Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, sometimes known as the sunshine vitamin because the ultraviolet rays from the sun initiate its production in the skin. Vitamin D is a type of prohormone that is produced when cholesterol in the skin is exposed to the UV rays from the sun. Further processing in the liver and kidneys is an important step in the production of the active form of vitamin D called calcitriol. The two different types of vitamin D are D2 (ergocalciferol) present in plant-based products such as mushrooms, and D3 (cholecalciferol) present in animal products and fatty fish. Vitamin D3 is found to be twice as effective as D2 in raising the blood levels of vitamin D.
Despite advances in understanding the development of cancer and how it spreads, the method of cancer treatment has not changed much. For the past several decades the main treatment options for a cancer patient have been surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Although there are newer chemotherapy drugs available to treat cancers, the cancer death rate continues to rise. Each of the current treatment options is associated with inherent risks and side effects and most patients are submitted to some combination of these options.
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the US, and about 1 in 8 are likely to develop it during their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 62,930 of noninvasive (in-situ) breast cancers will be diagnosed in the US this year.
Despite expensive treatment options and the availability of pharmaceutical drugs, the long-term outlook for curing breast cancer remains poor. While women are aware of breast cancer, very few take steps towards prevention other than mammogram screenings. Men can also develop breast cancer and one percent of all breast cancers are in males. However, male breast cancer is difficult to treat, which is mainly due to lack of awareness and a delay in diagnosis resulting in the cancer having already spread.
With the arrival of summer, people become acutely aware of exposure to the sun, the risk of skin cancers and the importance of the use of sunscreen. Skin cancer is the most common of all types of cancers in the USA and other developed countries. Worldwide, it accounts for more than 30% of all diagnosed cancers. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the most common forms of skin cancers, and malignant melanoma is the most dangerous of all of them. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 96,480 new melanoma cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2019 and melanoma will be attributed as a cause of death for 7,230 people. It is estimated that one in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
The Monsanto takeover in 2018 promised big business for Bayer. At a time of intense pressure on pharmaceutical companies, the strengthening of Bayer’s agrichemical division seemed like the perfect solution. Monsanto owned Roundup, a leading weed killer, and genetically modified plants that worked perfectly with it. Together these products were a multibillion-dollar money-making machine. Bayer, meanwhile, had an established lobbying machine that was highly experienced in promoting toxic substances. To the company’s executives, Monsanto’s Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate looked to be a seamless fit.
Bone cancer is the cancer originating primarily from the bone and its surrounding tissue. However, the most common form of cancer in the bones is from metastasis from another primary cancer at a different organ. Osteosarcoma is the most common primary bone cancer followed by chondrosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, fibrosarcoma and others.
Worldwide, kidney cancer is one of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. The American Cancer Society estimates 63,990 new cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed in the US in 2017. Kidney tumors can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) and since they tend to grow quickly without any specific symptoms, they are usually removed before any diagnostic biopsy is done. Males tend to get kidney cancer twice as often as females. Common risk factors for kidney cancer include smoking, obesity, and exposure to chemicals like benzene, asbestos, and certain pesticides. Being African American or a family history of hypertension, lymphoma or kidney cancer, and certain genetic conditions further increase the risk of developing kidney cancer.
Head and neck cancers are a group of tumors originating from several areas above the collarbone. They include cancers of the larynx, salivary glands, tongue, thyroid, and nasopharyngeal area. Annually there are 60,000 new cases of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) in the US, and more than 13,000 deaths. Squamous cells are a type of cells found in the outer layer of the skin and in the mucous membranes and include the cells lining airways and intestines.
The biggest risk factor for head and neck cancers include tobacco use and smoking (this includes the smokeless tobacco), and alcohol - all of which are highly preventable causes. Additionally, sun exposure, and occupational exposure to substances like chromium, radium, leather, and wood dust can also increase the risk of developing HNSCC. Hence, the ears, nose, and throat happen to be the most common affected areas.
Ovarian Cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in the USA, and is the deadliest of gynecological cancers in women. According to the 2016 estimates of the American Cancer Society, 22,280 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States and 14,240 women will die from this disease. The main reason for such high death rate is that ovarian cancer is often diagnosed when the disease has already progressed. Unfortunately, there are no specific symptoms pointing to ovarian cancer. A woman can have an array of vague symptoms such as dull abdominal pain, feeling of fullness or bloating, changed bowel habits, indigestion, loss of appetite and weight loss. Sometimes, an abdominal mass may also be present. This non-specificity of symptoms helps explain why the majority of women are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread to the pelvis, abdominal organs, the liver and the lungs.
Our last issue of our Health Science News Page focused on polyphenols, which are the nutrient compounds present in various plants that help in protecting plants from insects, diseases, pollutants, and damage from ultraviolet rays. In Part 1 we discussed a few of the important and most researched polyphenols - specifically quercetin, curcumin, green tea extract, and resveratrol - and their actions and functions in the human body.