|Issue #13 - October 2003|
Welcome to Naturopathic News issue #13. It’s my goal to help you find natural solutions to health problems. This newsletter is one way to do that. The more educated you are about your health options the better able you will be to take control of your health. Any feedback in the form of comments, letters to the editor, success stories, etc., is appreciated.
STUDY FINDS MAMMOGRAMS CAUSE NEEDLESS WORRY
Women in the United States may be undergoing needless biopsies and worry when they are called back for further tests following breast cancer mammography, according to a study published October 21, 2003.
The finding from the University of California, San Francisco, was based on a comparison of practices in the United States and Britain.
It found that U.S. women who undergo mammograms are called back for second tests twice as often as women in Britain, yet the breast cancer detection rate in the two countries is about the same.
The difference appears to be that the United Kingdom has a single organized screening program run by its National Health Service that provides virtually all mammography for women 50 and over, the report said.
In the United States the screening is done in a range of places from private practices to medical centers and health maintenance organizations, leading to different standards and less consistent interpretation of test results, it said.
"The recall and negative (non-cancer finding) open surgical biopsy rates associated with screening mammograms were twice as high in the U.S. settings than in the United Kingdom." said the study published in last week's Journal of the American Medical Association.
The recall rates in Britain are now substantially lower than in the United States, apparently because of "a centralized program of continuous quality improvement," the study added.
"Efforts to improve U.S. mammographic screening should be targeted to lowering the recall rate without substantially lowering the cancer detection rate," concluded the report.
Journal of the American Medical Association, October 22/29, 2003.
GP: What this report chooses to ignore (as many mammogram studies do) is the number of breast cancers that are caused by the unnecessary mammograms. This is well documented in Preventing Breast Cancer: The Story of a Major, Proven, Preventable Cause of this Disease, by John Goffman, MD.
Australian health professionals have raised concerns that ‘controlled crying’, also known as controlled comforting and sleep training, may have a negative impact on the emotional and psychological health of infants. Controlled crying involves leaving a crying baby for increasing periods of times before coming to comfort them in an attempt to teach them to put themselves to sleep and not cry out during the night.
The researchers say that it is normal for babies and young children to not sleep through the night, and their crying is a sign of distress. Although controlled crying may teach children to stop crying, it may also teach them not to seek help when they are upset.
Australian Association for Infant Mental Health October 2003.
GP: How we raise our babies is a very personal decision, driven by the needs of the family. That said, I have always felt uncomfortable with this particular technique. Paying attention to a baby’s crying is like honoring the symptoms our bodies produce, if we don’t listen to the voice, how will we hear?
CALLING ALL INSOMNIACS
Many of us rush through our days and nights without taking the time to get a good night’s sleep. Would you pay more attention to your sleep habits if they could help to prevent cancer? Well, they certainly can, so if you feel you need a good excuse to get some quality sleep, this is it.
How well you sleep can seriously alter the balance of hormones in your body. This can then disrupt your sleep/wake cycle, also called the circadian rhythm. A disrupted circadian rhythm may cancer through shifts in hormones like melatonin, which the brain makes during sleep. Melatonin is an antioxidant that helps to suppress harmful free radicals in the body and slows the production of estrogen, which can activate cancer. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your body may produce less melatonin and therefore may have less ability to fight cancer.
According to Brain Behavior Immunology October 2003, having a regular circadian rhythm may be necessary in order for your body to defend against cancer, and sleep/wake rhythms that are disrupted due to stress or other issues may promote cancer growth. Exposure to light during the night can also reduce melatonin levels, which is why it is important to sleep in total darkness.
Here is Dr. Deepak Chopra’s Insomnia Protocol:
WOMEN BEAR BRUNT OF ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS
A California study calls for further investigation into how environmental toxins affect women's health. It estimates the health care cost of U.S. women's environmentally associated diseases is $12.2 billion annually.
The push to link environmental safety to women's rights gained research footing on 10/21/03 with the release of a new report called “Confronting Toxic Contamination in Our Communities: Women's Health and California's Future”.
Released by the Women's Foundation of California, a grant-making organization based in San Francisco, the report on contaminants and women’s health focuses on how women's biology and role in society makes them bear the brunt of environmental toxins.
Women often work closely with potentially toxic chemicals and preliminary research suggests that their physiology is more conducive to absorbing and carrying these chemicals, according to the report.
Perhaps most notable about the report, however, is that it points out how little is known about how environmental toxins affect women. Data that takes gender and ethnicity into account is limited, for instance. Historically, women have not been the primary subjects of occupational studies. Of the gender-specific studies that have been done, most focus on reproductive health and newborns.
The report notes that research indicates women, with as much as 10 percent more body fat than men, are able to store more fat-soluble toxic materials. These toxins have been tentatively linked to breast cancer and hormone disruption. Many fat-soluble synthetic chemicals, such as flame-retardants, are probable or known carcinogens, the report found. Women transfer toxins to children in utero and through breast milk, which some researchers suggest can affect fetal development and childhood growth.
The estimated U.S. health care costs of diseases affecting women that have a "strong environmental association" total $12.2 billion, according to the report. These diseases include breast cancer, birth defects, autoimmune disease and infertility. The cost to women beyond health care include lost wages, diminished quality of life and other tolls that environmental researchers are just beginning to track, the report indicated.
"We want to ensure that the health of all Californians remains a high priority on the policy agenda," said Patti Chang, president and chief executive officer of the Women's Foundation of California. "Especially for those disproportionately impacted--low income women and women of color."
Low-income and minority women tend to work or live near environmental toxins, the report said. For instance, many low-income women work as manicurists, housecleaners and factory workers, all occupations that require handling chemicals.
Reducing women's exposure to chemicals shouldn't be left up to just politicians, the report suggests. One group of housecleaners in the San Francisco Bay Area formed environmental cleaning cooperatives that switched from bleaches and other strong chemicals to vinegar, vegetable soap and baking soda. By replacing two conventional all-purpose and glass cleaning products with more natural--and cheaper--cleaning agents, such as vinegar, each cooperative is reducing exposure to pollution by 85 percent, or 1,800 pounds per year, according to the report. And, the housecleaners report fewer headaches, spells of dizziness and skin irritations.
The report pulls together data from various studies and recommends reducing the amount of toxins in the environment in the state and across the country. Authors advocate a first-do-no-harm approach, meaning that chemicals should be more fully tested before they are approved for use.
The foundation that published the report also called on government and businesses to provide safer alternatives to toxic chemicals, as well as collaboration among groups to advocate for policy reforms and further scientific studies. They also seek to pass the burden of environmental cleanup to the producers, rather than taxpayers, by requiring producers to pay for Superfund site cleanups in Silicon Valley, for instance, where the most Superfund sites in the state are concentrated.
This so-called biomonitoring--or study of the amount of pollution in the human body--is gaining popularity among public health experts. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is offering grants to states to conduct biomonitoring projects. A California state bill introduced this year would have established a biomonitoring project within the Department of Health Services, using breast milk as a marker. The bill was killed because of the state’s financial crisis in this year's legislative session, though state Senator Deborah Ortiz, a Democrat, said she would reintroduce the legislation.
"In terms of treatment, care, and lost productivity, the cost of chronic diseases possibly caused by exposure to contaminants is staggering," said Ortiz. "What is unknown and perhaps unknowable, is the cost in human terms, such as the physical and emotional suffering of the individuals and families affected and the loss of human potential across the entire spectrum of the population."
Scientists and doctors suspect a link between environmental toxins and many of today's most prevalent medical conditions, such as asthma, autism, cancer and endometriosis. But with so many chemicals in the environment, finding the so-called smoking gun is nearly impossible. In response, California has passed a number of laws to reduce our so-called "body burden," or the amount of synthetic chemicals found in the human body.
California was the first state to ban thermometers and other products containing mercury, in 2001. Today, hospitals in the state participate in a program that provides incentives to remove all medical equipment containing mercury. Mercury is a neurotoxin linked to infertility in women and men, tremors, impaired vision and paralysis.
In August 2003, California lawmakers adopted the first ban on the manufacturing, distribution and sale of flame-retardants, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), starting in 2008. These flame-retardants--long banned in Europe--are found in carpets, home furnishings, computers and many other everyday products. Support for the legislation was bolstered by a widely reported study that found high levels of these chemicals in the breast milk and breast tissue of women in the San Francisco Bay Area.
GP: Leave it to California to start looking at these very important issues. The only way these health issues will be ultimately eradicated is if we deal with the social, political, and economic ramifications of our actions.
ARE YOU A SUN WORSHIPER?
Sunscreen does not protect against melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, according to researchers. Although the lotions decrease the risk of sunburn, they do not block UVA rays, which cause melanoma.
Researchers found that even sunscreens with the highest protection factor of 35, applied in the correct amounts, were not effective at filtering out the harmful rays. They say that people should limit their sunbathing time and use clothing to block UVA rays when sun is at its strongest.
The Guardian September 28, 2003
GP: Most sunscreen does not do a good job of blocking the UVA that cause skin cancer. Worse, they are good at blocking UVB, the wavelengths our bodies need to produce vitamin D. Never getting burned is the key to not getting skin cancer.
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