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Weekly Links: August 5, 2011

Posted on August 3, 2011, 3:13 PM

The first-ever study comparing brain cancer incidence in kids who use cellphones with those who do not has found no difference, suggesting that children’s long-feared vulnerability to brain cancer with early cellphone use does not exist. In a four-country study published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers matched 352 children and adolescents diagnosed with brain cancer with 646 similar kids who were healthy, and compared their patterns of cellphone use. The children ranged in age from 7 to 19, and researchers asked how long they had been regular

users of mobile phones, which ear they tended to favor, and whether they ever used a hands-free device. Some 55% of the children diagnosed with a brain tumor reported they had been regular users of a mobile phone before diagnosis. A slightly smaller 51% of the healthy children in the comparison group said they talked regularly on a cellphone. After grouping the children according to the intensity of the cellphone use, the researchers found no relationship between how often a child used a cellphone and the likelihood of his or her developing brain cancer. And brain tumors were no more likely to occur on the side that a child preferred to hold a cellphone to his or her head (where a cellphone’s heat, at least, might penetrate into brain tissue) than they were on the opposite side.,0,2294937.story

A new study shows that breast cancer rates, which had been declining in the U.S. since 2000, leveled off in 2007 and since then have remained relatively constant. However, a closer look at the study tells two stories: one of steadiness and one of change. Breast cancer is not one disease,” said William Anderson, a cancer epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute and author of the new paper. “It’s the sum of these two different types of cancer that have different risk factors and different trends.” The study showed that the hard-to-treat, estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer (ER-negative) has been declining steadily since 1992. However, rates of the more common ER-positive breast cancer, showed more variance. From 1992 to 2000, its incidence rose, peaking at 232 cases per 100,000 women. Then, it dropped sharply from 2000 to 2003. Since then, it’s been slightly increasing. The reasons for these different rates aren’t fully understood yet. “There are possibly some risk factors in the population that affect these types of tumors differently,” Anderson said. “The cancers are really different, so one would expect that.” The study will be published in the September issue of the Journal of National Cancer Institute.

Health experts say many cancer-stricken smokers have a hard time quitting even after they are diagnosed. Up to 18 percent of lung cancer patients and 12 percent of patients with colorectal cancer continued to smoke after a cancer diagnosis, according to a recent study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researcher Kathryn E. Weaver. Just as surprisingly, about 25 percent of their family members continued to smoke, even after watching a loved one’s struggles. “It just speaks to the incredible addictive power of nicotine,” said Weaver, an assistant professor in the department of social sciences and health policy whose work was published this spring in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Head and neck cancer patients may be particularly vulnerable to the pull of nicotine, she said. Half of patients with those kinds of cancers are smoking at the time of their diagnosis, compared with about 20 percent to 40 percent of people with lung cancer. Some cancer patients continue to smoke because they think there’s no point to stopping, but Weaver said that’s just not true. Stopping smoking after a diagnosis has been associated with better response to treatment reduced symptoms and even prolonged survival. “I do have a lot of empathy for cancer patients,” she said. “One message we need to emphasize is that it’s never too late to quit.”

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