So much is happening in the world of health and medicine that I am including a roundup of several interesting items. At least one will be of interest to you, if not more.

Overall, it would take around three years of screening 5,000 people to prevent just one breast-cancer death

Beating cancer is a constant concern for the world of medicine, health and for individuals who are suffering as well as those caring for family and friends. There is no doubt that a healthy immune system is the best way to beat cancer.

Researchers have stated in a new report that the immune system is the way to win the war on cancer and not chemotherapy.

The research team from Eberhard Karls University in Germany has demonstrated and proved that the immune system has the capability to drive tumours and cancerous cells into a state of permanent dormancy.

“It is very likely that we cannot win the war on cancer by exclusive military means. Instead, it will be an important milestone to restore the bodies’ immune control of malignant tumours,” said lead researcher Martin Röcken.

This means that immunotherapy (where the immune system is bolstered to fight cancer) is an effective cancer therapy and it does so without destroying any cells. Instead, it causes lifelong dormancy in cancer cells and stops the cancer spreading. The ‘military means’ include chemotherapy, the standard response to cancer, which destroys the immune system. (Nature, 2013)

In a separate study in Nature Medicine, 2012, researchers stated that chemotherapy is completely worthless and that cancer sufferers would do better by avoiding the drugs altogether.

They state that these drugs encourage the production of the protein WNT16B, which promotes cancer-cell survival and growth. It interacts with other cancer cells, causing them to grow and invade healthy cells and resist later treatment. The researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle have provided the results of this study.

In another study, reported by the British Medical Journal last year, it was stated that people aged over 75 should not bother with cancer screening. The researchers believe that this age group is more likely to outlive any cancer and the risks from screening (such as a false positive reading) could outweigh the benefits.

More specifically, breast and colorectal cancer screening are the main ones to avoid in the over-75s and in those not expecting to live beyond the next 10 years, say the researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

This research was based on the outcomes of nine screening trials, which involved 150,000 people aged 50 and above. Overall, it would take around three years of screening 5,000 people to prevent just one breast-cancer death and more than 10 years of screening to prevent one death per 1,000 women screened.

Generally, one in 10 people screened will have a false positive reading, resulting in needless worry and possibly initiating a series of further tests and unnecessary treatment.

Moving on to a really interesting result from the researchers of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. They analysed 97 medical trials which involved around 2.9 million people living in 10 countries. Overall, they found that overweight people had a “significantly lower all-cause mortality” – in other words, they are far less likely to die from any disease or cause, including cancer and heart disease (JAMA, 2013).

What this means, in attention-grabbing headlines, is that ‘overweight people live longer’. Researchers believe that those few extra pounds may have a protective effect and provide energy reserves if you suffer from a life-threatening illness or serious injury.

The specifics of the size of people in the study showed that people who are overweight (BMI 25-30 kg/m2) live longer than other weight groups, even those who are slim and have normal weight with a BMI of 18.5-25 kg/m2).

In addition, those with grade 1 obesity (BMI 30-35 kg/m2) live longer than people with greater levels of obesity and have about the same risk of mortality as normal-weight people. The results of this report could provoke a huge discussion about the health benefits, or not, of carrying extra weight.

Why do some people suffer fractures more easily than others? Scientists have finally discovered the reason for this. Brittle bones and fractures, which are common in postmenopausal women who have an increased risk of osteoporosis, could be prevented by eating plenty of broccoli and spinach.

It is all related to the proteins osteocalcin and osteopontin, which keep our bones strong. When we fall, these proteins are disturbed and cannot continue to do their usual protective work.

Any fall will weaken bones and a further slip can then break a bone. Vitamin K found in green leafy vegetables, as well as in supplements, help to feed these proteins and may help them withstand a fall, say researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 2012).

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