Monday, December 29, 2003

Health-Related News Items


Are You Hungry?

Raj Patel writes: During this season of goodwill, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, reminds us that not everyone will be eating well over the holidays. Its report on world hunger provides some dyspeptic reading. More than 840 million people worldwide will be going hungry this holiday season, and the report notes that "bluntly stated, the problem is not so much a lack of food as a lack of political will." "Political will" is a fairly murky term, though. There is no shortage of political will when it comes to agriculture, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere. Large agricultural corporations have been buying political will in Washington for decades. The majority of the 2002 farm bill's $180-billion appropriation is earmarked for corporations and wealthy landowners, in defiance of economic or good sense. As a direct result, family farms have gone bankrupt, farming communities have been devastated and poverty is eviscerating rural America. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in November that 34.9 million citizens were hungry in 2002, 1.3 million more than the previous year. The rate of rural poverty is about one-third higher than urban poverty and since 2001 has been climbing. This at a time of an abundance of food and sufficient subsidies to bankroll agricultural corporations into the next decade. When the FAO talks of political will, it refers directly to a social commitment to ensure that the poorest people in society are able to eat. But it is a commitment that has eroded. This hurts rural communities most, not just in this nation but worldwide. In every country, the poorest people are those who live and work in agricultural communities. Policy that affects farming is necessarily policy that affects poverty. (12/29/03)


Obesity linked to Prostate Cancer

BBC Health -- Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may boost their chances of survival by losing weight, say experts. It follows two studies in the United States which found the disease hits obese men much harder than others. The studies involving more than 4,000 men found obese men suffered more aggressive forms of the disease and were more likely to suffer a relapse. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the researchers urged obese men with the disease to lose weight. In the first study, Dr Christopher Amling, who is based at the US Naval Medical Center in San Diego, examined data on 3,162 men with prostate cancer. Of these, 19% were obese. They found that obese men - with a body mass index score of 30 or more - had more aggressive forms of prostate cancer and a higher rate of recurrence. In the second study, Dr Stephen Freedland, who is based at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, examined data from 1,106 men with the disease. Some 22% of these were obese. He found that men who were moderately or severely obese - with a body mass index of 35 or more - had more aggressive forms of the disease. They were also 60% more likely to have a recurrence of cancer compared with other men. Both doctors believe that the proteins and hormones in body fat may promote tumour growth in obese men. These men also have lower levels of testosterone and higher oestrogen levels, which they said may also help fuel the disease. (12/29/03)


Controlling Cancer with Cox-2 Inhibitors?

Breast tumourBBC Health -- Mice genetically altered to produce larger quantities of a chemical called COX-2 had faster-growing and spreading breast cancers. Drugs that "inhibit" COX-2 - from the aspirin family - could have a role fighting breast cancer, say experts. The research was carried out at the University of Connecticut, and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One of the key factors that allows a tumour to grow is whether it has sufficient blood supply to support its new size. Many tumours can harness chemical pathways that prompt the body to create a web of new blood vessels around the cancer, a process called angiogenesis. COX-2, and another chemical linked to it, called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), are already under suspicion for having a role in this process. If this role is proven, there are already drugs available which could interfere with this process, and perhaps improve the chances of patients with breast cancer, which has become the most common cancer in women in the UK. Dr Timothy Hla, who led the study, created a genetically modified mouse which produced more COX-2 in its breast tissue - in theory producing the perfect environment for a breast tumour to create the necessary blood vessels to allow growth. This was what they found - blood vessel density increased prior to visible tumour growth in the mouse breast tissue, and during progression, the density of the blood vessels increased at an exponential way. When drugs called COX-2 inhibitors - designed to interfere with the workings of this chemical - were added to the mix, tumour growth slowed and blood vessel density decreased, pointing again to the role of COX-2 in the process. (12/29/03)








[My World of “Ought to Be”]
2:42:16 PM