Monthly Archives: June 2007

Vitamin C rich food linked to lower oral cancer risk

  • 6/28/2007
  • web-based article
  • staff

Increased intake of food rich in dietary vitamin C or ascorbic acid, but not supplementary vitamin C may drastically cut the risk of mouth cancer, an epidemiologic study has found.

Oral cancer results in a higher rate of death, about 50 percent of the cases, than breast, skin or cervical cancer because of delayed diagnosis.

But the study by Nancy Nairi Maserejian from Harvard School of Public Health suggests that high intake of dietary vitamin C may reduce the risk of oral cancer by nearly 50 percent.

In the study, researchers went through data from 42,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study to examine associations between incidence of cancer and a number of major nutrients such as vitamin C, A or carotenoids. The information was updated every two to four years.

During the study, 207 oral pre-malignant lesions were documented.

With various confounding factors considered, the researchers found no significant association between reduced risk and higher total intake of vitamin C, vitamin A or carotenoids.

Dietary vitamin C, however, was associated with a reduced risk of lesions although the link was not found with the vitamin from supplements.

Risk reductions were also found for carotenoids, beta-cryptoxanthin and alpha-carotene, but not for beta-carotene, lycopene or lutein/zeaxanthin intakes.

Increased intake of vitamin E was linked with a higher risk of oral cancer, particularly among smokers who were taking supplements.

It is not clear why vitamin C supplements were not associated with reduced risk of oral cancer. The researchers suggest that maybe there is some component in vitamin C rich foods plays a role in the reduction of oral cancer risk.

Although they do not know what exactly the compound is, they say that vitamin C-rich foods are certainly beneficial.

The study was published in the May 2007 issue of International Journal of Cancer.

June, 2007|Archive|

Smokeless tobacco still playing with fire

  • 6/26/2007
  • Munster, IN
  • John Doherty

Time was when smokeless tobacco was fashionable and every house had a fancy spittoon. Now it’s something that most guys would prefer the women in their lives didn’t know about.

Yes, it is primarily a male habit. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 92 percent of users are male. However, oral cancer won’t discriminate in favor of the 600,000 women using nationwide.

Still, when most people think chewing tobacco, they don’t think about one gender or another. They think about one sport: baseball.

A number of collegiate baseball players who chew tobacco were contacted by The Times for this story. Not one would agree to be interviewed — even anonymously.

However, a longtime youth baseball coach was more than happy to come forward. Not because he chews. He doesn’t and never did.

It’s due to what he sees during his daytime job.

Jay Platt is an oral surgeon. And about once a month, a young man who chews tobacco will come into his office. “He’s concerned that he has a white patch on his cheek or gum and he’s afraid it’s cancer,” Platt said. “We biopsy it and most times it isn’t.”

One would think that would be enough to scare someone straight. However, they invariably tell Platt, “I can’t quit,” because they’re addicted.

According to the National Cancer Institute, smokeless tobacco users absorb 2-to-3 times more addictive nicotine into their bloodstream than smokers do.

While nicotine doesn’t cause cancer, there are more than 10 other substances found in smokeless tobacco (see table) that do.

Consequently, sometimes the news from the biopsy is bad and the resulting treatment involves more than just removing the visibly affected tissue.

“The surgery is radical and disfiguring,” Platt said. “It impairs chewing and speech.”

Typical is loss of part of the tongue and mandible (jawbone). Radiation therapy and chemotherapy often follow.

The American Cancer Society estimated there were 31,000 cases of oral cancer last year. The five-year survival rate for oral cancer is slightly higher than 50 percent, which is far better than lung cancer. Consequently, some would argue that smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative to cigarettes. Similarly, one could argue that getting shot by a .22 is a safe alternative to getting shot by a .45.

So why ever start?

Younger baseball players are attracted to the habit by seeing big leaguers with that wad of tobacco in their cheek. If they spend enough years in the game, they’ll find a teammate who’s more than willing to help get them started.

This, despite the practice being banned at the high school, college and professional minor league levels.

Platt, who has a son playing collegiate baseball, isn’t convinced the ban is enforced all that well. “Yes, I see it all the time,” he said. “College kids in particular.”

And it isn’t as if those guys are pretending to chew tobacco. Even that is prohibited by the NCAA. A January 2003 memorandum from the NCAA to its umpires reads in part:

1. If a player, coach or other team personnel is using tobacco of any type, they are to be ejected immediately.

2. If a player coach or other team personnel is using something that has the appearance of tobacco, it should be removed immediately. The offending person is not to be ejected. The appearance of tobacco includes tins, pouches, mint leaves and any substance that mimics a tobacco product.

The rule for professional minor league baseball is similar. Instituted in 1992 in hopes of gradually ending the habit at the major league level, the strategy seems to be paying off in the minors. Success in the big leagues, though, has been elusive, with one study demonstrating usage remaining constant at 36 percent between 1998 and 2003.

The numbers among teenagers aren’t encouraging either with the CDC estimating that 13.6 percent of high school boys and 2.2 percent of high school girls use smokeless tobacco regularly.

How then do you get them to stop?

The National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP) offers a seven-step program on its Web site, While admitting that the process is a tough one, NSTEP advises current users that “each urge to chew lasts only 3-5 minutes — you can get through the craving with deep breathing exercises and keeping busy.”

Keeping oneself busy is better than keeping an oral surgeon busy with biopsies. “If (you) keep chewing,” Platt said, “(one of those biopsies) will eventually be positive.”

Then you will be keeping a plastic surgeon; ears nose, and throat specialist; and an oncologist busy. Ultimately, in 2004, the ACS estimated more than 7,000 oral cancer victims kept a funeral director busy.

June, 2007|Archive|

Recipe for Success

  • 6/25/2007
  • New York, NY
  • Stacie Crozier
  • American Dental Association (

The recipe called for months of planning, hard work by dedicated volunteers and a vision to raise oral cancer awareness.

The pièce de résistance was the 2nd annual Oral Cancer Walk sponsored by the Student National Dental Association at New York University College of Dentistry April 14 in Harlem.

Following a “cookbook” plan developed after its event last year, the SNDA raised nearly $32,000 for the Oral Cancer Foundation and attracted more than 500 walkers—up from $20,000 and 300 walkers last year. But just as important, the SNDA’s recipe for success included partnerships among volunteer dental students, faculty, dental hygiene students, cancer survivors and health groups and other partners who all worked together for months to stage the 4-mile walk.

“So many people wanted to get involved and they were so excited about it,” said Jocelyn Jeffries, event chair. “Making the event a success is all about the team. The team was fantastic. I was just an incidental player.”

One of the event’s featured speakers and top fundraisers was Dr. Jerry Wilck, a dentist in Langhorne, Pa., and an oral cancer survivor.

“I was happy to participate and raise money for a cause that is close to my heart,” said Dr. Wilck.

“Two years ago, I had noticed an ulcer in my mouth and it hadn’t been painful. I’m not sure how long it was there before I realized it wasn’t going away. I thought maybe it was caused by that new cinnamon flavored toothpaste I had recently started using. So I waited a week or two before asking my oral surgeon to do the biopsy. Neither of us suspected cancer.”

But it was stage I squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue. Dr. Wilck began a whirlwind of tests, surgery and speech rehabilitation.

Since his bout with oral cancer, Dr. Wilck volunteers to bring awareness to the public and the dental profession through local media, the Oral Cancer Foundation and other venues. (See his story on the Oral Cancer Foundation Web site.)

Ms. Jeffries worked on the planning team for last year’s event and helped develop a poster presentation last year—a cookbook on how to organize an event.

“I cannot tell you how many details, how much red tape can be involved. Permits, police and community details, promotional materials and logistics. I hope our guidelines can help other schools organize a walk in their communities.”

“Being aware and mastering skills to prevent oral diseases, and protect and promote oral health are fundamental to our profession,” said Dr. Caswell A. Evans, president, American Association of Public Health Dentistry. “The efforts undertaken by the NYU students focused oral cancer awareness activities on a community that experiences a disproportionate burden of disease and could serve as a model for students, faculty and practitioners everywhere.”

Also associate dean for prevention and public health sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, Dr. Evans says, “At the University of Illinois great emphasis is placed on Yul Brynner Oral Cancer Awareness Week and students are heavily involved in numerous oral cancer related events. These are important opportunities to inform the public and broaden the focus of the oral health workforce.”

Next year, Ms. Jeffries said, the NYU group hopes to get more involved in community outreach in the African American community—since African American men are the population group with the highest rates of oral cancer—by working at health fairs and other community events.

“I’m graduating this year,” added Ms. Jeffries, “but I’m staying in the area, doing my residency at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, so I will be able to help out again next year.”

June, 2007|Archive|

Too scared to smoke!

  • 6/22/2007
  • New York, NY
  • staff

The man with the artificial voice box is a powerful speaker to smokers

Scare-tactic television ads featuring a smoker who got throat cancer seem to be working, the health commissioner said Thursday.

The city’s annual community health survey found that 17.5 percent of adult New Yorkers smoked in 2006, down from 18.9 percent a year earlier. Nationwide, an estimated 21 percent of all U.S. adults smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The drop marked the third time in four years that New York City’s smoking rates have fallen.

The overall trend began five years ago when the city began a campaign to tax, ban, and frighten smokers into quitting.

When the city first implemented its $1.50 per pack cigarette tax in 2002, about 21.6 percent of New Yorkers smoked. Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed up the hefty tax with a ban on smoking in most indoor public spaces in 2003.

Before those two changes, smoking rates had been stagnant for a decade.

The city’s progress appeared to stall somewhat in 2005, when the percentage of New Yorkers smoking didn’t change significantly from the prior year. Health officials responded with the $10 million anti-smoking advertising campaign.

Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden credited the ads Thursday with encouraging more people to quit, especially the television spots featuring cancer patient Ronaldo Martinez.

The series of ads, originally made by Massachusetts health officials, showed Martinez speaking with an artificial voice box and cleaning the hole in his throat that he now uses to breathe.

“We scoured the world for the best ad,” Frieden said.

Two of the largest drops in the smoking rate last year occurred among men and Hispanics, the city said.

Frieden said the state could push more people to quit by adding another 50 cents to the tax on cigarettes. He made a similar plea last year, but the legislature declined to act.

The city’s tobacco use data was based on a random telephone survey of 10,000 New Yorkers conducted late last summer by Baruch College. The survey questions related to the adult smoking rate and had a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.

June, 2007|Archive|

Snus Increases Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

  • 6/21/2007
  • Memphis, TN
  • staff

According to an article recently published in The Lancet, Scandinavian moist snuff (snus) increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. However, it has not been confirmed that snus increases the risk of oral or lung cancer.

Snuff is classified as a carcinogen; however, its use is increasing in several different populations. The use of snus and its association with the risk of specific cancers is not well understood. In order to gain a better understanding of this association, researchers from Sweden recently conducted a study to evaluate the incidence of cancer of the oral cavity, lung, and pancreas among snus users.

This study included data from nearly 280,000 Swedish males who were asked about tobacco smoking or snus use between 1978 and1992. Approximately 126,000 of these males were never-smokers at the entry of the study, and the recorded data include men who never used tobacco. Healthcare records were followed until 2004.

– The risk of developing pancreatic cancer was doubled among snus users.

– The use of snus was unrelated to the risk of oral cancer or lung cancer.

The researchers concluded that use of snus was related to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, but no increased risk of oral or lung cancers. The authors stated, “Use of Swedish snus should be added to the list of tentative risk factors for pancreatic cancer.”

Luo J, Ye W, Zendehdel K, et al. Oral use of Swedish moist snuff (snus) and risk for cancer of the mouth, lung, and pancreas in male construction workers: a retrospective cohort study. The Lancet. 2007;369:2015-2020.

June, 2007|Archive|

Trial To Study Targeted Antiangiogenesis Drug Sutent And Radiation Against Cancer

  • 6/21/2007
  • Hickory, NC
  • staff

Last year, the drug Sutent (sunitinib) made headlines for its effectiveness against kidney and gastrointestinal cancers.

Now, radiation oncologist at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia are hoping to find out if combining Sutent and radiation will help patients with a wide range of cancers.

Adam P. Dicker, M.D., Ph.D., professor of radiation oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, and his co-workers are enrolling patients in a Phase 1 clinical trial aimed at looking for potential side effects in patients receiving small amounts of the combination treatment for a variety of cancers, such as brain tumors and prostate, lung, and head and neck cancers. The trial stemmed from laboratory studies conducted at Jefferson.

Sutent works by inhibiting the action of various enzymes called tyrosine kinases that are involved in a tumor’s blood supply. The drug halts the development of blood vessels growing into and feeding tumor growth, cutting its blood supply, as well as oxygen and nutrients. Both of these effects stop the tumor from growing. Dr. Dicker and his colleagues have laboratory data that indicate that when given together with radiation therapy, the combination will have a greater effect on tumors compared to either drug or radiation therapy alone.

“The study combines standard of care radiation therapy with an exciting anti-angiogenic drug that has already shown patient benefit in some cancers,” explains Dr. Dicker. “It’s the first time that this drug has been combined with radiation therapy.

According to Dr. Dicker, tumors rely on developing a blood supply of their own to grow, which is a process called angiogenesis. Interfering with angiogenesis has been shown to make tumors disappear or shrink in laboratory models. Drugs that block angiogenesis also have been shown to enhance the effects of radiation therapy in treating tumors.

“We’re particularly excited about treating patients with brain metastasis because there are significant unmet treatment needs for these individuals,” Dr. Dicker says.

The Jefferson team hopes to enroll approximately 20 patients.

“Other anti-angiogenics have shown demonstrable clinical benefit with radiation,” he notes. “We think this is an area that has great promise.”

June, 2007|Archive|

Dental clinic receives grant

  • 6/21/2007
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • staff
  • Vancouver Sun (

The PHS Community Dental Clinic on the Downtown Eastside received a $280,000 grant from the province Tuesday to support screening for oral cancer.

The money, presented by Community Services Minister Ida Chong, will also support the clinic’s work to help people quit smoking and provide a healthy nutrition program.

Downtown Eastside residents are 60 times more likely to test positive for oral cancer than the general population. If detected early, oral cancer has an 80-per-cent survival rate.

The grant will allow the PHS Dental Clinic to hire additional dentist time and clear a backlog of patients.

June, 2007|Archive|

Pathology at the forefront in Medical Futures Awards

  • 6/20/2007
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Kathleen Armstrong

A blood test designed to diagnose mental health illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia took centre stage at the recent 2007 Medical Futures Innovation Awards, winning the overall award for the mental health and neurosciences category.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Sabine Bahn and Professor Chris Lowe accepted the award on behalf of their research team at the Institute of Biotechnology at Cambridge for the Psynova – Blood Test for Mental Illness, which uses novel biomarkers to identify those who are predisposed to mental illness, well before they present with symptoms.

Bahn and Lowe established Psynova Neurotech in 2005 as a vehicle to commercially develop and exploit novel biomarkers for neuropsychiatric disorders. Working closely with the Cambridge Centre for Neuropsychiatric Research (CCNR) and the Institute of Biotechnology (IOB), they have put together a database of comprehensive data on biomarkers specific to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The overall award for cancer innovation went to Dr Nicholas Coleman, a scientist from Cambridge whose team of researchers has identified a novel marker that is present in cancer cells but not in normal cells. They believe their new system will pick up certain cancers – such as cervical, bowel or lung cancer – earlier and more accurately.

Coleman and his team have undertaken a series of academic studies to clinically validate MCM (minichromosone maintenance proteins) testing as a method for identifying cancer and precancer, mainly relating to cervical smears. Further clinical validation studies will look at its application for bowel, lung and mouth cancer. The test could be widely available within the next two years.

June, 2007|Archive|

Tobacco-funded research snuffed out on campus

  • 6/20/2007
  • Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • Keith Gerein
  • Edmonton Journal (

Academic researchers who receive funding from the tobacco industry are no longer welcome at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health.

Members of the school’s faculty council voted overwhelmingly in favour of that directive Friday, declaring their opposition to grants like the $1.5-million US deal accepted by one of their colleagues.

“The issue here is a perception of a conflict of interest with the mission of the school of public health,” said Roger Palmer, the school’s dean.

The school is the third group on campus to approve a tobacco funding ban, and it actually employs a researcher who has received money from such companies.

Carl Phillips, a health policy expert, has been at the centre of the controversy since he came to the U of A in 2005 with a lucrative, five-year grant from the makers of smokeless tobacco brands Skoal and Copenhagen. The focus of his research is to examine the health effects of chewing tobacco compared with smoking.

Some see the issue as one of academic freedom, a principle that asserts scholars should have the ability to pursue projects of their choice and unpopular causes, without fear of losing income or job promotions.

Others see the issue in terms of institutional integrity. They suggest that restricting such freedom is justifiable in certain cases, especially instances when the values of higher learning are seen to be tainted.

“Tobacco is uniquely hazardous to human health and the industry has a history of unethical behavior in terms of restricting information to the public on how dangerous their product is,” said Palmer, who voted to support the funding ban. The dean was among 19 council members who did so, compared with one vote against and six abstentions.

“For a school of public health to be associated in any way with tobacco industry was, for me, personally unacceptable.”

Phillips could not be reached for an interview. He released a statement saying, “In the last few months, two of North America’s most respected universities, the University of California and Stanford, considered similar measures and voted overwhelmingly in favour of academic freedom and against a funding ban,” he said.

“But the School of Public Health chose to give in to outside political pressure and tell the world that it does not trust the university’s ethics review process or its own faculty to guard research integrity.”

Phillips has said previously that his study is protected from the influence of the tobacco companies. His research indicates that chewing tobacco is a safer alternative to smoking, and could be used as part of a “harm reduction” strategy for diehard nicotine addicts.

Other have said Phillips’s arguments are misleading, insisting there are better ways to treat addiction, such as through nicotine patches or gum.

“There is no question that this research is intended to assist with tobacco marketing,” said Les Hagen, director of the advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health.

The council’s vote will not affect the remainder of Phillips’s project, but it could put pressure on the institution’s administration to adopt a similar policy university-wide.

June, 2007|Archive|

Study relates perio, tongue cancer

  • 6/20/2007
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Arlene Furlong
  • American Dental Association (

The greater the bone loss from periodontal disease, the greater the risk of tongue cancer, new research suggests.

Scientists at the University at Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute calculated that the risk of tongue cancer due to chronic gum disease increased fivefold with every millimeter of alveolar bone loss, regardless of smoking status.

The scientists compared bone loss in 51 white men with tongue cancer to 54 white men without, all of whom were treated at the cancer institute between 1999 and 2005. Measurements of alveolar bone loss from panoramic radiographs were taken in all patients by the same periodontist, who did not know the cancer status of study patients.

After eliminating the potential effects of age, smoking status and the number of existing teeth, persons with chronic gum disease were 5.2 times more likely to have tongue cancer with every millimeter of bone loss than those without gum disease. The results showed that other conditions of the teeth—decay, fillings, crowns and root canals—ad no significant effect on the incidence of tongue cancer.

Dr. Mine Tezal, Ph.D., and colleagues hypothesize periodontal viruses and bacteria could be toxic to surrounding cells and produce changes that lead directly to oral cancer, or could indirectly contribute to cancer through inflammation.”We have presented preliminary data suggesting an independent association between history of periodontitis and the risk of tongue cancer,” the study’s authors wrote in the May issue of The Archives of Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. “This association needs to be confirmed by larger studies that include other oral cancer sites, women and subjects of other races with a more comprehensive assessment of confounding [factors].”

Julie Frantsve-Hawley, Ph.D., director, American Dental Association Foundation Research Institute, says additional research using larger numbers of participants with more comprehensive evaluation of periodontal disease is needed to draw definitive conclusions.

Added Dr. Dan Meyer, ADAF senior vice president, science and professional affairs and director of the ADA Division of Science, “There are predisposing general health considerations, including past tobacco and alcohol use, that often cannot be fully accounted for when looking at some of the complexities and potential interactions from multiple conditions that may coexist at the same time.”

June, 2007|Archive|