Families (and their histories) will always be vital for cancer risk assessment

Mary Beth TerryMary Beth Terry

My husband’s dad died of cancer. So did most of his uncles. On both sides. Should he be concerned? Of course. Family history is one of the strongest predictors of most cancers. Few risk factors increase cancer risk more than family history, with the exception of certain viruses and smoking. The increase in risk from family history is even greater if there are multiple individuals within a family with the same cancer and/or if the family members are diagnosed at an early age. The clustering of cancers within families has led to the identification of many causal cancer genes. Genetic testing for these known cancer genes has become the standard of cancer risk assessment for many individuals with a family history. Continue reading “Families (and their histories) will always be vital for cancer risk assessment”

Waterpipe smoking might be just as harmful as smoking cigarettes

Reem Waziry and Elie Akl

Elie_Akl[1] Reem Waziry headshotWaterpipe, also known as shisha, goza, narghile, arghile and hookah, is a traditional method for smoking tobacco. While it originated in Turkey, India and Iran, its use has spread on a global level over the past decade to the point of being labelled a global epidemic.

There are a number of explanations for the global spread of waterpipe tobacco smoking. First, people use it as a way to socialize, as it is smoked in groups. Second, the production of sweetened and flavoured tobacco (Maassel), resulting in aromatic and smooth smoke, can make it more appealing than cigarette smoking. Another major reason is a common misconception that waterpipe tobacco smoking is not harmful, or is less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Continue reading “Waterpipe smoking might be just as harmful as smoking cigarettes”

Parkinson’s disease and cancer risk: is there a relationship?

Freedman_Michal_2015_ORIG_160x140WEBD. Michal Freedman

Some previous epidemiologic studies have suggested that having Parkinson’s disease decreases your risk of developing cancer, and vice versa. If true, this finding could provide insight into underlying biologic mechanisms for the two diseases.

How we set out to answer the question
In a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology we used data from Medicare, a U.S. federal health insurance programme for those aged ≥65 years, linked to U.S. cancer registry data to examine the relationship between Parkinson’s disease and cancer. Because we used Medicare data, we were limited to people aged 65 years and older. However, as the Medicare database is very large, we were able to examine relationships in whites and non-whites, in men and women, and in different age groups (all above 65 years).

We hypothesized that previous studies may have found a lower risk of cancer after Parkinson’s disease because cancer screening or medical work-ups were less frequent in people with a debilitating condition such as Parkinson’s than in people without such a condition. Continue reading “Parkinson’s disease and cancer risk: is there a relationship?”

World Cancer Day 2016

WCD with logoWorld Cancer Day is a global event which takes place annually on 4 February to educate and raise awareness about the disease with the aim of saving millions of preventable deaths each year. This year’s theme ‘We can. I can’ explores how everyone can do their part to reduce the global burden of cancer.

To mark World Cancer Day, the International Journal of Epidemiology has published a free article collection (available until 4 May 2016) showcasing the latest epidemiological research into a variety of risk factors for cancer: Continue reading “World Cancer Day 2016”

Fluoridation of drinking water supplies: tapping into the debate

This article originally appeared on the OUPblog on 6 March 2014: http://blog.oup.com/2014/03/fluoridation-drinking-water-supplies/

Karen Blakey and Richard J.Q. McNally

Since their introduction in the United States in the 1940s, artificial fluoridation programmes have been credited with reducing tooth decay, particularly in deprived areas. They are acknowledged by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century (alongside vaccination and the recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard). Such plaudits however, have only gone on to fuel what is an extremely polarised ‘water fight’. Those opposed to artificial fluoridation continue to claim it causes a range of health conditions and diseases such as reduced IQ in children, reduced thyroid function, and increased risk of bone cancer. Regardless of the controversy, the one thing that everyone agrees upon is that little or no high quality research is available to confirm or refute any public concerns. Continue reading “Fluoridation of drinking water supplies: tapping into the debate”