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Discusses Women's Health

I struggled with choosing a topic for this week’s newsletter. Most of the medical journals are reporting on the new CDC guidelines for opioid prescriptions and the global concerns over the Zika virus. Both these topics have been amply covered in the news media. I did find an announcement that was released on Wednesday by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund which did not receive a lot of media attention. So I thought I would cover it…

Researchers analyzed scientific data available on stomach cancer, diet, physical activity and weight. Their analysis included 89 studies of 17.5 million adults, including 77,000 with stomach cancer. A quick review: Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer worldwide and third most common cause of death from cancer. Also, because Stomach cancer presents with symptoms at a late stage, the five-year survival rate is only 25% to 28%. Men are twice as likely as women to develop stomach cancer. The average age at diagnosis in the United States is 72.

The researchers found that there were different possible causes of upper and lower stomach cancer. They found an association between overweight and obesity and a risk of upper stomach cancer. They postulated two reasons: that obesity is associated with acid reflex and that fat promotes the release of hormones such as insulin, human growth factor and inflammatory chemicals which can be oncogenic. Lower stomach cancer, however, seemed to be increased with excess alcohol and processed meat. Processed meat contains preservatives like nitrites, salt and byproducts which are released when the meat is smoked, and alcohol might serve as a way to dissolve carcinogens and get them into cells or the body might break down alcohol into pro-cancer substances.

When the researchers did their statistical analysis they found that for every 1.8 ounces of processed meat eaten everyday (which is the equivalent of one hot dog or two slices of Bologna), the risk of cancer in the lower stomach rises by 18%. And with every five unit increase in body mass index (BMI), there is a 23% increased risk of cancer in the upper stomach.

All this means that in the United States approximately one in seven stomach cancer cases could be prevented if people did not drink more than three alcoholic drinks a day, did not eat processed meat and maintained a healthy weight. This occlusion is one that we suggest for most health issues!

Tonight is the first night of Passover. A traditional meal includes gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, chicken or boiled meat, matzo and four cups of wine (but we don’t have to finish the entire cup each time). In moderation, there’s nothing here that should be horribly unhealthy. So as I gather the family to have our traditional Sedar in which we celebrate our freedom from slavery and hope for freedom for all those who are oppressed, I will raise my not quite full cup of wine and celebrate this wonderful holiday. And although we are supposed to say “Next year in Jerusalem” I feel it also means “next year may there be health and peace”…

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