NFCR Writer Amy Yates, Author at NFCR

NFCR Writer Amy Yates

Potential Breakthrough in Cancer-Fighting Nanomedicine

The term nanomedicine, alluding to technologies with mechanisms and surface area characteristics sized in terms of billionths of a meter, has held promise for years, but breakthroughs specific to therapies have been limited. After five years of intense collaborative work by distinguished scientists from Arizona State University (ASU) and China’s National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST), a potential major one has ensued. Their new technology may prove to be among the first capable of successfully distinguishing and delivering precise drugs to cancer-cells. This dual action development could represent a major milestone for oncology nanomedicine.

“These nanorobots can be programmed to transport molecular payloads and cause on-site tumor blood supply blockages, which can lead to tissue death and shrink the tumor,” said Baoquan Ding, a professor at the NCNST.

The nanorobots in question are tiny drug delivery systems which can both recognize the cancerous cells molecular signals and offload a proper treatment. The treatment agent is a blood-clotting enzyme, called thrombin, which blocks the blood flow to cancer cells, cutting off their life-sustaining nutrients and ultimately causing them to die. The nanorobots swiftly, and in large numbers, aggregate together at the heart of the tumor by recognizing a specific tumor endothelial protein, called nucleolin. Only tumor cells express this protein in large numbers, and this recognition process is crucial. It ensures that thrombin will only be delivered to tumors and therefore not spark clot formation in and around healthy tissue.

The active clot-forming enzyme is transported on what can best be envisioned as a rectangular DNA origami sheet, 90 by 60 nanometers in size. This is one-thousandth the width of a human hair! This origami DNA sheet is folded in on itself in intricate ways, ultimately forming a hollow tube. Within this tube are an average of four Thrombin enzymes. This whole DNA origami apparatus actually is the nanorobot. After the nanorobot has completed its task, it safely degrades and is easily and naturally excreted by the body.

This nanotechnology has shown to be successful and safe on mice and larger animals, working swiftly and being generally expelled within 24 hours of being introduction into the blood stream. In a primary mouse lung cancer model, this thrombosis triggered tumor shrinkage in only two weeks. Similarly, in a melanoma mouse model, almost 40% of tumors showed complete regression and the median survival time for the cancer-stricken mice more than doubled. In these models, not only were the primary tumors impacted, but further metastasis (cancer spread) was also prevented.

“The thrombin delivery DNA nanorobot constitutes a major advance in the application of DNA nanotechnology for cancer therapy,” said Hao Yan, the director of the ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics and the Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences.

The America-China team expects to pair up with clinical partners in the near future where they can further the technology and move towards commercialization. They anticipate these DNA nanorobot’s will be tested on humans in two of five years. The technology is expected to serve as a platform for future nanomedical treatments. Other cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, as well as treatments for other chronic diseases, may too be administered using this delivery system—potentially opening a new frontier.

The National Foundation for Cancer Research currently funds two scientists whose work includes potentially transformative nano-scale cancer diagnostic technologies. Rakesh Jain, Ph.D., and his collaborators have recently developed a next-generation diagnostic tool of in vivo optical imaging utilizing nano-sized quantum dots to capture detailed images of internal body structures. Such imaging could potentially be used to study how the blood flow pattern in a tumor changes as the tumor develops, and may also lead to new ways of monitoring disease progression or responsiveness to a drug treatment.

Ovarian cancer expert and NFCR-supported physician scientist, Robert Bast, Jr., M.D., is developing an early detection tool of carbon nanotubes that emit a fluorescent signal when irradiated with a specific light to locate ovarian cancer. He and collaborators are planning a future use where the administered nanotubes may be linked with antibodies against ovarian cancer biomarkers and will accumulate at tiny tumors (100 ovarian cancer cells) for early detection.

Within the cancer nanomedicine therapy field and comparable in some respects to the ASU and NCNST initiative, Esther Chang, Ph.D., who received NFCR funding for over 20 years from 1988 to 2013, and her team have developed a nanoscale drug delivery system that carries anti-cancer agents (like the p53 tumor suppressor gene) directly to both primary and metastatic tumor cells. Clinical trials are now treating patients with brain, pancreatic and other advanced cancers and preliminary results appear to be promising.

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Caring for a Father with Cancer

Caring for Father with Cancer

A dad is often portrayed as being the stable, financial provider of the household. He is often thought of as being strong, protective and the ultimate decider on important matters. Of course, this is stereotyping and a gross over-generalization. It does, however, expose some real patterns or, at least, social norms.

This perception of what a dad is can make a cancer diagnosis truly earth-shattering. It can destroy the archetypal image of strength, success and endurance. As a result, it can place the perceived leader in the spot of requiring support; sometimes, for the first time ever. Furthermore, it may provide the first setting in which a father is forced to be openly vulnerable. Conversely, it can also provide us, the children, with a new opportunity for connection, compassion and kind support.

Compassion is powerful. It has the amazing capacity to reduce activation of our fight, flight or freeze responses. Simply showing our love and compassion to our sick dads can literally help them become healthier. Studies have shown that compassion reduces anxiety, helps to improve sleep and helps to improve mental outlook. Compassion can also provoke positive experiences, such as appreciation, gratitude, and acceptance. It can allow both the giver and the receiver to connect to their shared love. As a result, it can create new territory where positive bonding can be explored and created. The simple act of honest and intentional compassion can make a profound difference in our dads’ healing. When in doubt, compassion is always a great starting place.

Sometimes compassion doesn’t feel like enough. In these cases, role modeling healthy living can be another avenue to directly help improve our dads’ cancer journeys. Changing a lifetime of might have been sub-optimal health behavior isn’t easy. It’s often the case that our dads may not know where to begin.

By displaying healthy behaviors, we can help make their health pursuits much more approachable. This may mean we offer to be an exercise buddy, where we work on strength-related postural exercise, myofascial stretching or gentile lymphatic stimulation through easy re-bounding. An approach such as this can provide our dads’ bodies with the conditioning required to increase general resilience, without causing stress. It can also assist in active recovery, which is often critical after enduring harsh treatments. We can also bring over healthy lunches or even cook at our fathers’ residences.

While active support can make a world of difference for dads with cancer, sometimes, our dads may just need some help scheduling in fun time. Planned play can provide a much needed, light-hearted escape from the seriousness of cancer. This may look like going for a walk, playing “throw and catch,” doing a karaoke night or even playing board games. Relaxed fun time plays an important role in maintaining low levels of stress, a positive outlook and a healthy life perspective with meaningful social connection. Supporting our dads with these important experiences during trying times can deeply help them overcome their fears and worries.

This weekend is Father’s Day and is all about honoring fathers—for their love, support and guidance throughout our lives. If you’re at a crossroads about what to get your father or father figure this Father’s Day,  consider just making something meaningful – honor dad with a card and a donation in his name.



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A Day Honoring Survivors!

National Cancer Survivor Day

National Cancer Survivors Day is observed each year on the first Sunday in June. So today, people far and near will be coming together to celebrate life, inspire and support those battling cancer, provide guidance for the families and caregivers of cancer-patients, show gratitude to medical professionals and demonstrate to the world that it’s possible to thrive after cancer.

National Cancer Survivors Day helps to bring awareness to some of the common struggles faced by people battling the disease, improve cancer-survivor legislation, increase resources and promote research. All are worthy initiatives, and the latter, of course, is of special interest to the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR).

With this all being said, the Day also celebrates advances in treatments which are leading to a growing number of cancer survivors. As such, the excitement and mission of the Day can provide helpful motivation for those who are considering donating to cancer research.

Our organization recognizes this reality and has decided to match all donations, up to $130,000, for the months of May and June. So, if you’ve been on the fence as to making a donation or not, this is an ideal time to support this important cause and have your contribution go far.

There are over 15.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today. Due to an increase in treatment effectiveness and an aging and expanding population, this number is projected to increase to 20.3 million by 2026. This growth is tremendously encouraging. However, it does raise some important questions regarding post-cancer care.

Beating cancer is often considered the final step of an intensive cancer-fighting journey. However, the health-journey doesn’t end when the cancer does. Substantial bone loss, pain and lack of function due to surgery, immune suppression, fatigue and general distress, among other uncomfortable symptoms, can persist for years following. On this Day, it’s important to refresh our compassion towards cancer survivors and show them that we recognize their continued struggles. In addition, as a community, we can help to connect survivors with resources that can help them to continue their health journeys.

National Cancer Survivors Day is the perfect opportunity to come together to demonstrate and celebrate the possibility of success. This Day can help deepen support networks by connecting people from all areas of the community. Finally, it can help to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges for cancer survivorship and can inspire new solutions to these challenges.


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Springtime with Cancer

Spring is nearing its end, and summer is nearly upon us.

As the season of beginnings approaches its end, let’s recall the effortless, fresh and optimistic tone which it inspires in so many of us. It is always possible to connect to the reality of the beautiful nuances and cycles that continue to unfold within the environment. Just as the seasons continue to change, so too can the human physiological processes which underpin health be impacted by these fluctuations.

Let’s take advantage of the benefits as we may!

Spending time outdoors, for example, actually has been shown to reduce some of the stress hormones thought to promote cancer. This is because breathing in fresh air has the amazing capacity to relax the central nervous system. It can also help connect emotions, thoughts and breath. This has the powerful ability to evoke moments of gratitude and, even, joy; which, are considered two of the most desirable emotions. These emotions are actually correlated to cancer survival, studies have shown.

When you combine this with healthy outdoor exercise, you’re really taking steps to improve your health and well-being. Spending time outside is often undervalued and underappreciated. Springtime is the perfect reminder of the real potency which it holds, especially when it comes to mental and physiologic health.  

In addition to the warming temperatures, the springtime offers a multitude of new smells, colors and sounds, all of which seem to symbolize the onset of new life and the connections which come along with it. Such vibrancy can be the substance of inspiration for social connection. It can help to improve relatability and increase social engagement, both of which are shown to increase longevity. This, and the added vitamin D, could be partially why cancer survival rates improve as the weather does. It is recommended that every cancer patient have a solid and diverse support system. There is no better time than spring to reach out to the community for support, advice and connection. If you currently don’t have this support in your life, allow the singing birds to inspire you to seek out more connection.

The freshness of spring often ignites a desire to consume healthier foods. This is partially because springtime generally offers an expanding availability of healthy local fruits and vegetables. It can make seasonal eating much more enticing. Whether you live on the U.S. West Coast and have exposure to apricots, the East with exposure to arugula, the North, with exposure to asparagus or in the South, with exposure to eggplant; take the time to explore what fresh and local foods are available to you. Then, check online for new and easy recipes you can use to create something new with your local ingredients. This can provide you with the antioxidants, phytonutrients and micro-minerals which are beneficial for immune and metabolic health. Both of which are important when fighting cancer and dealing with some of the more destructive aspects of cancer treatments.

Allow the spring—and approaching summer—to inspire healthy exercise, a new mental outlook, meaningful social engagement and tasty seasonal eating.

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Brain Cancer Awareness Month

Brain Cancer Awareness

In recognition of Brian Cancer Awareness Month, the National Foundation for Cancer Research today offers up a rather in depth overview of a handful of innovative technologies being explored in labs to address the terrible disease class.

Although brain cancer only makes up 1.4% of all new cancer cases, the reality of the lasting and life-altering cognitive, physical and psychological compromises from brain cancer make it particularly scary. Even benign tumors can cause significant changes in people’s lives, depending on what brain regions are being affected. Not to mention that no brain regions are off limits for tumor progression, and many regions are hard to directly biopsy and/or monitor during treatment. That is to say that all areas of the brain are subject to any of the 130 different brain tumors types.

This variability in presentation, along with the difficulty of tracking, is part of what makes brain cancer treatment challenging. As the 10th deadliest cancer in the U.S., the brain cancer mortality rate is 25.5% for people ages 65-74. This is partially a result of that fact that only five drugs are approved for brain tumors, despite the 78 investigational drugs that have been researched in the last 20 years. Furthermore, the brain cancer mortality rate is not dropping at the same speed as other cancers.

It is clearly time to raise awareness of and spending towards brain cancer research, detection and treatment.

Understanding the risk factors for any disease can help provide guidance on how to reduce incidences. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of conclusive research towards environmental risk factors for brain cancer. The only clear environmental hazard is exposure to ionizing radiation. The other conclusive risk factor is familial history, although this correlation is not strong—only about 5%. On the other hand, there are anti-cancer behaviors that do help prevent brain cancers. Included are dietary factors such as high fruit and vegetable consumption by the mother during pregnancy and the child in early years of life. In addition, having chicken pox and having adult allergies have been shown to reduce brain cancer risk.

There are some new and potentially exciting advancements in brain cancer treatment. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are one of these potentially potent new technologies. Extracellular vesicles are tiny lipid particles that can carry molecules through the bloodstream in order to monitor a tumor’s composition and response to therapy.

Although not a cancer drug, this technology may allow for much more elegant and precise brain cancer treatment. It can do so by providing useful information on how a cancer is responding to various treatments in real time. This technology is particularly interesting for brain cancers which are hard to biopsy, and has already shown success in gaining information about the condition of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a particularly deadly type.

Shannon Stott, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and the BioMEMS Resource Center, who was instrumental in developing this technology, says that EVs were designed to be a low-cost, easy to use devices that could likely be brought into clinical practice swiftly.

“We are excited by… early-stage data, and look forward to scaling the technology and increasing the number of patient samples analyzed,” Dr. Stott notes. “Specifically, we are interested in exploring how these vesicles change over time in response to treatment, and we see our blood-based assay as an ideal way to explore this in brain tumor patients.”

Tumor vaccines, angiogenesis inhibitors and growth-factor inhibitors are all also being investigated and used for brain cancers. All of these new treatments are focused on reducing cancer development and metastasis by minimizing the factors which promote tumor growth. These factors include both the protein growth-factors and proteins which allow cancer cells to escape white blood cell notice.

Growth-factors have been consistently shown to be essential attributes of tumors. Their suppression minimizes the tumors’ ability to condition its internal and external environment for growth. Tumor vaccines, on the other hand, can help assist in the recognition of tumors by the patient’s own immune system. With optimal recognition, the immune system can treat the cancer as a foreign entity which it organizes around to destroy. While anti-angiogenesis drugs prevent the growth of blood networks which feed the tumor. All of these approaches have worked successfully for other cancers. With more research and fine-tuning of these drugs, it is hoped that they will work for brain cancer as well.

The National Foundation for Cancer Research continues to support scientists performing cutting edge work in many of the areas outlined above, especially angiogenesis and growth-factor treatment efforts for brain cancer. For example: 

  • NFCR support from 1980 to 2016 for Harold Dvorak, M.D., facilitated his pioneering discovery in 1986 of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), providing the molecular basis for the field of angiogenesis. This discovery led the research community to develop VEGF inhibitors that increase survivorship in five types of cancers but are without benefit for GBM.
  • Instead of the accepted mechanism of shutting down blood vessel growth, discoveries by NFCR-supported scientist, Rakesh Jain, Ph.D., on how anti-VEGF drugs work led to a paradigm-shift in the angiogenesis field. He and his team showed anti-VEGF therapy transiently “normalizes” GBM tumor vessels, allowing for a window of opportunity associated with increased blood flows making radiation therapy more effective. Dr. Jain’s team current research has promising results for a new therapeutic approach for GBM which combines treatment types.
  • Former NFCR-supported scientist, Web Cavenee, Ph.D., now chairman of our organization’s Scientific Advisory Board, uncovered a mutant version of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) – named EGFRviii – most frequently found in GBM tumors. He has led a team to develop monoclonal antibodies to target EGFRviiii and a version is now in clinical trials.

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National Women’s Health Week: The Time for Health is Now

Womens Health Week

It’s National Women’s Health Week—the perfect time to take control of your health. Did you know that over 300,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018? Or, that over 75% of these new diagnoses will be invasive? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health created National Women’s Health Week to empower women to make health a priority so that the prevalence of diseases like cancer can be minimized.

Are you fully in charge of your own health? Do you live with day-to-day vitality? If not, it may be time for some introspective research and priority setting. In today’s busy world it can be a major challenge to make it to the doctor’s office. Especially when nothing feel’s “wrong.” But, try to keep in mind how crucial preventative screenings can be. It is estimated that preventative screenings reduce women’s breast cancer risk by 15%. Additionally, 70% of cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus, which can be screened for and treated. HPV vaccines can also be administered. Taking the time to go to the doctor’s office can help you rest assured that you’re in good-health. It can also help you prove to yourself that you value your health and are willing to prioritize it.

Exercise is a sure-fire way to reduce general cancer risk. Moderate exercise increases lymph circulation, improves white blood cell status, reduces stress hormones and improves metabolism. Exercise literally allows for oxygen, one of the primary compounds for energy production, to be more easily integrated into and dispersed throughout the body. Exercise even changes the metabolic coherence within reproductive tissues. It increases longevity, improves mood and enhances sleep quality. If you haven’t adopted a healthy exercise regimen, it may be time to consider doing so.

Also make sure to be mindful of your energy capacity when starting an exercise program. Research shows that exercise intensity for women varies throughout their menstrual cycles. The science behind this, and resulting advice, can get complicated quickly. But, as a general rule, it’s advised to be aware of where your body is at and acknowledge that your peak performance will fluctuate throughout the month. By respecting your energy status, you’ll be more likely to experience the benefits of exercise without any unnecessary stress.

Nourishment is another major ingredient in women’s health. Nourishment directly improves physical health but can also enhance self-compassion, creativity and mindfulness within life. When sufficient time and energy are dedicated to dietary lifestyle, it can greatly improve health, reduce cancer-risk and benefit overall well-being. On the contrary, when diet is based on convenience or habit, eating can become erratic, mindless, shame-inducing and, even, cancer-causing. When fruits and vegetables make up the bulk of one’s diet, and red-meat and alcohol are sparsely consumed, cancer risk will be greatly minimized. Finding self-driven motivation to eat healthy and honor your body is a major step in self-health empowerment. As such, it can be helpful for both physical and mental health.

Let National Women’s Health Week help bring light to the importance of women’s health across this country.



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Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Approximately 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day in the U.S. That’s well over 3 million diagnoses every year. Fortunately, skin cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer. The five-year survival rate for early detected melanoma is 99% and over 90% of melanomas are considered preventable. With that being said, one person dies nearly every half-hour from melanoma in the country. These statistics show the importance of awareness, prevention and early diagnosis for skin cancer, and they point to why an entire month, May, is dedicated to skin cancer awareness.

Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma are, respectively, the three most common forms of skin cancer. These three different cancers vary based on the cells within the skin, in which the cancer develops; the basal cell, the squamous cell or the melanocyte. The squamous is the most superficial layer, followed by the basal and, finally, the deepest, the melanocyte. Basal cell carcinomas generally don’t metastasize. As such, they are the least threatening of the three. They often appear as red bumps. Squamous cell carcinoma, on the other hand, can spread throughout the body. This cancer often appears as a red and/or scaly patch or bump. They are most common on the face, lips, ears and mouth.

Malignant melanomas are the most dangerous of the three and lead to the highest number of mortalities for Americans. These melanomas often develop around existing moles and tend to form irregular shapes with diverse colors. However, they can also appear to be bruise-like with slight underlying pigment changes. Malignant melanomas can even appear as a dark streak under the finger nail.

Skin cancer is a highly preventable disease that is strongly correlated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Such UV rays are considerably genotoxic. In other words, they interfere with the normal functioning of the genetic material within a cell by causing it to mutate. This damage is caused both by the absorption of energy and the intermediate hazardous products that are produced via the UV energy. Ultimately, these rays cause DNA damage and errors in transcription. Both UVA (deep penetrating) and UVB (superficial penetrating) cause DNA damage. Ideally, free radical scavengers, like vitamin E, can help to “clean up” and remove these damaged DNA parts. Similarly, glutathione, the cells primary antioxidant, can help to remove dangerous by-products of UV radiation produces within the cell. However, if more damage is caused than can be repaired, the stage is set for cancer growth.

The best way to prevent the dangerous cellular cascade caused by UV radiation is by putting on sunscreen (or lotion with UVA and UVB protection) and by wearing protective clothing. The SPF (sun protection factor) should be at or above 30 (97% of UVB rays blocked) for extended activities and at or above 15 (93% of UVB rays blocked) for regular use. Since UV radiation does not always correlate with heat, it is important to wear sun protection regularly. It should be a part of normal healthy habits; similar to teeth brushing. In addition, it is recommended to avoid tanning beds and plan to be close to shaded areas on strong UV ray days. Finally, it is essential to find a dermatologist and schedule a minimum of one appointment per year. One blistering sunburn in youth more than doubles cancer risk later on in life. Given that cancer can develop over time and be in places that are hard to see, a trip to the dermatologist is truly the best way to ensure skin health.

Skin cancer is largely preventable and highly treatable, when caught early on. Don’t be a statistic! Save your life and the lives of those you love by wearing and promoting skin protection, developing safe sun habits and scheduling yearly dermatologist appointments.

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National Cancer Control Month: Smoking Prevention and Cessation

The new age of cancer prevention has begun. People no longer need be subject to the deterministic paradigm of the past, where genetics ruled over lifestyle and environment. The fact is, 90 -95% of cancer diagnoses have their roots in environment and lifestyle. Up to 30% of cancer deaths are due to tobacco use, 20-35% are due to diet, 15-20% are due to infections and the remaining 10-20% are due to stress, radiation, physical activity and environmental pollutants. With more information than ever before and close to the highest rates of cancer diagnoses ever seen, the time for prevention is now. Given that smoking is the single most direct contributor to cancer, this aspect is of primary importance for prevention.

Smoking is one of the greatest barriers to health. It has been widely established as causative for various cancers, including cancers of the lung, oral cavity, larynx, esophagus, bladder, pancreas, kidney, cervix and stomach, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. Smoking disrupts the ability of the body to efficiently take in oxygen and transport it into the blood stream where it is a required substrate for our cells metabolic processes. Not only does smoking interfere with health function by diminishing physiological processes, it also adds carcinogenic materials into the body which actively promote pathogenic processes. Smoking cessation and smoking prevention are major targets in cancer prevention.

Personal finances and mindfulness are two important, under-rated aspects of smoking prevention and cessation. The simple act of engaging in budgeting or financial planning can reduce smoking by raising awareness of the financial cost of the habit. When people are aware of the real life sacrifices that are being made or would be made as a result of smoking, they are much less likely to participate in the act. In fact, the financial aspect of smoking is more effective than health education for smoking cessation and prevention.

Engagement in futuristic thought can also help people idealize themselves and their lives. This can increase their motivation for creating positive change by allowing them to connect to their aspirations for the future. In this process, it often becomes abundantly clear that smoking is a direct financial hindrance to future experiences including travel, home purchases, higher education and retirement.

Mindfulness coaching can also play a major role in reducing smoking. Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.”

Mindfulness can help reduce smoking in numerous ways. It can assist in the recognition of habit-driven or secondary behavior-driven smoking. For example, smoking for a mental break from work, smoking right before bed to relax or smoking in the car. This type of smoking is mindless and driven by secondary influences. These behaviors can be recognized and more appropriate ones can be substituted. For example, walking outside to have a moment to clear one’s head can provide a healthy mental break. The addition of smoking to this behavior is not needed. Similarly, listening to calming music or a guided meditation before bed can efficiently help with relaxation. Finally, focusing on breath while driving can help people experience alertness or presence without the addition of cigarettes. In other words, the helpful act of mindful inhalation and exhalation, doesn’t require cigarettes.

Mindfulness allows people to recognize the primary motivator behind their behaviors. Smoking is generally not the most effective behavior to promote one’s desired experience. Often, smoking is habitually tied to helpful behaviors which are providing the real benefits.

Increasing mindfulness so as to experience the real implications of smoking can also be extremely motivating. This can be achieved by engaging in exercise, noticing the feeling of respiratory exhausting and, then, realizing that this feeling would be increased if smoking was introduced or decreased if smoking were reduced. In this way, mindfulness can help people bring attention to the experiential health consequences that smoking produces. The mindful experience of health compromise is more motivating than the conceptual understanding of the health compromise.

Finally, mindfulness can be a powerful tool in the process of quitting smoking. It can assist in recognizing urges before they are too powerful to overcome. It can help people identify smoking triggers within their external or internal environments. With this information, the reaction to the trigger can be controlled or the trigger can be avoided. Mindfulness can also support the addition of lifestyle changes which can combat some of the withdrawal symptoms. This may include regular exercise, increased water consumption, regular eating or even relaxing meditation.



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Head, Neck and Mouth Cancer Prevention through Awareness and Understanding

Head & Neck Cancer prevention week

Cancer can often feel like a disease of mysterious origin. There are difficult to pronounce words, complex statistics and evolving theories involved in the explanation of the development of cancer. Its nefariousness and criticality can create a fear-associated mental distancing or even an attitude of fatalism. Together, this can allow cancer to feel hopelessly untouchable or, even, alien. It can appear that healthy living is simply a shot in the dark at avoiding the dreaded disease, making prevention strategies hard to follow through on.

This understandably befuddling perspective on cancer and its emergence can in some respects be countered if we pause and consider that cancer emerges often as a result of response to physiological stress. That is to say, mechanical stress, chemical stress, heat stress and biological stress are primary environmental influencing factors in cancer development. Anytime a tissue is structurally compromised, heated, exposed to toxins or invaded by pathogenic viruses, it will be damaged. Its functioning will become compromised and the door towards cancer progression will open.  Just as termite exposure, extreme temperatures or mechanical strain will threaten the stability of a building; biological stress, heat stress and mechanical stress will threaten the health of biological tissues.

In the case of many head, neck and mouth cancers, this has been find to be particularly so. In conjunction with Head, Neck and Mouth Cancer Awareness Week, which this National Foundation for Cancer Research Post calls attention to, let’s look deeper at this relationship.

Top contributing factors to mouth cancer (including lip cancer) are chewing tobacco, smoking (especially from a pipe), sun exposure, the human papillomavirus (HPV), hot beverage consumption and exposure to environmental toxins. As you may have noticed, each of these aspects relates to a specific type of stress. The exposure of said stressors to the tissues of the mouth, for example, create a cancer-promoting environment. Tobacco is chemically stressful, sun exposure causes unwanted radiation, HPV can cause biological stress if not inoculated against, hot beverages cause heat stress and environmental toxins cause chemical stress. As you can see, the direct and repetitive stress to the tissues of the mouth greatly increase the likelihood of cancer development and progression.

Each of these stressors, which can lead to cancer, can be directly observed and experienced. Whenever you are in a potentially toxic environment, such as one with a lot of cigarette smoke or toxic paints, try to be sensitive to your breath. Think about how these toxins will become ingested and how the blood-rich mouth, nasal passage and neck will be the first to bare the burden of the toxins. Similarly, if you’re drinking your hot coffee and experience some pain from the heat stress, take the time to recognize that this pain has a function of letting you know that you’ve stressed the tissues of the mouth and throat. Then, use this for motivation to reduce the temperature of your normal morning coffee.

Biological stress can be more abstruse, but it’s still extremely relevant. Its contribution to cancer is also very logical. Viral and bacterial infection steal resources from healthy tissues, they create toxic compounds and they interrupt normal DNA synthesis. Viruses play a major role in oral cancers. Did you know that oral malignancy from HPV has now surpassed cervical malignancy? The virus is also particularly resilient in men. It is, therefore, strongly recommended for both men and women to get the HPV vaccine.

When it comes to preventing cancer, sun exposure falls into the Goldilocks paradox. Too little is problematic, but so is too much. The ideal middle ground is where health is promoted. With this being said, the lips are particularly fragile and vulnerable to sun damage. In addition, the minimal surface area prevents the lips from being a high pay off area for Vitamin D production. As a result, it is strongly recommended to use UVA/UVB lip protection on a regular basis. This act alone has the potential to impact 90% of all non-melanoma skin cancers and reduce lip cancer by a sizable amount. To reduce lip cancer, use a combination of shade-seeking, lip protection and careful monitoring of the lips.

Although sometimes more obscure, many cancers are influenced by direct stress. Increasing awareness of said stressors can be significantly helpful in minimizing cancer risk. Mindfulness of the quality of environment in which your tissues live within can help promote healthy behavior which will reduce your likelihood of getting cancer and assist you in feeling healthier. Remember, to minimize the likelihood of cancer development, make sure to increase your self-awareness and minimize stressful environmental influences.


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Aspirin: Effective at Lowering Cancer Risk?

Aspirin lowers cancer risk

Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals found within many plants, fruits and vegetables. They have been medicinally used since ancient times to treat fever, pain and headaches. With only minor upgrades, a salicylate-derived medication is now one of the most effective and widespread medications on the planet. This medication is acetylsalicylic acid, also known to us all as aspirin.  

Although currently popular for its ability to reduce vascular diseases, aspirin recently gained recognition for its ability to reduce cancer risk and increase cancer-treatment outcomes.

The highlights of this research are as follows:

  1. Aspirin has been shown to be particularly potent for reducing gastrointestinal cancer risk, such as colorectal cancers.
  2. Aspirin has been shown to be successful in reducing breast cancer risk in women with diabetes.
  3. Finally, there are mixed yet promising results for aspirin’s ability to reduce metastatic spread and mortality for people who currently are being treated for a variety of cancers.

Aspirin is a simple yet potent medication that has various mechanisms of influence within the human body. Aspirin attenuates elevated blood sugar levels by increasing insulin secretions and utilization. In doing so, aspirin can facilitate better arterial vascularity and promote an increase in tissue metabolic activity. This increase in tissue metabolic activity can, in turn, promote cellular restoration, increased antioxidant status and improved general cellular function. All of which are important for increasing the health resilience of the cell.

Antioxidant status within the liver is particularly benefited by the administration of aspirin. This can create a meaningful and positive shift in global health status due to the importance in antioxidant activity within the liver for whole body detoxification. Aspirin also has a free-radical scavenging effect which can be particularly helpful when undergoing cancer-treatments that produce these molecules, such as radiation. Within this context it has been shown that aspirin can even reduce free-radical inspired damage to DNA that often occurs in radiation.

Finally, aspirin has powerful anti-inflammatory properties due to its ability to inhibit prostaglandin forming cyclooxygenases. Prostaglandins are primarily derived from n-6 essential fatty acids, such as those found in vegetable oils. Prostaglandins play a role in healthy immune function but when out of balance can be pro-inflammatory and carcinogenic. It is likely that aspirin’s cancer-reducing properties partially arise from its ability to reduce inflammation.

This is still an emerging field of research. The National Foundation for Cancer Research advises that you speak with your doctor about the benefits and potential harms associated with regular aspirin use. With this being said, the takeaway is that aspirin supplementation has shown some, albeit specific, cancer risk mitigation properties.


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