Category Archives: Children Health

22 Proactive Things You Can Do on World Cancer Day and Beyond

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Mid_Blue Globe Bkg. Red Ribbon for WCDFebruary 4th each year is designated as World Cancer Day. This day is significant because it

  • kicks off a drive to expand awareness of cancer and its prevention;
  • offers a chance to discover risk factors for cancer and take protective measures;
  • provides a time to reflect on what you can do to make a difference in the fight against cancer;
  • embraces people around the globe to fulfill whatever needs to be done to control this deadly disease; and
  • presents an opportunity to spread a message – We Can Save Millions of People from Preventable Deaths Each Year!

Lifestyle-centered cancer prevention is evidence-based and it’s science. It’s no longer a theory or hypothesis, or breaking news. Healthy lifestyle measures provide powerful ways to lower the risk for many types of cancer.

The theme of World Cancer Day for the current three years (2016-2018) is “We Can. I Can.” Surely, each of us can do something, no matter how small. So, I have compiled a list of actions you can take for World Cancer Day and every day after:

  1. Set a “Cancer Patients First” agenda: Whether from a note, gift, prayer, or—best of all—a visit, let your friend battling cancer know you are with him or her in this fight.
  2. Pack a tool kit for cancer awareness or a thoughtful kit for cancer care.
  3. Remind your loved one to get a cancer screening. Early detection saves lives.
  4. Change one unhealthy behavior, e.g., harmful sun exposure, intentional tanning, alcohol abuse, or tobacco smoking (smokeless tobacco causes cancer too). Importantly, stay on the right course.
  5. Do something about early childhood weight management, especially control obesity in childhood cancer survivors.  Unhealthy behaviors and overweight that develop early in life and persist over time can increase not only the risk for some types of cancer but also cancer-related mortality.
  6. Host a Veggies/Vegetarian party or gathering (the size doesn’t matter).  Alternatively, go on a Mediterranean diet. The point is to replace Western diet components, which are rich in refined grains, animal fats, excessive sugar, and processed meat but poor in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole wheat or whole grains. A substantial body of evidence has linked the Mediterranean diet to increased cardiovascular benefits and prevention of some chronic diseases.
  7. Make a “Cancer Prevention” family dinner, or make a “Cancer Prevention Salad.”  Family meals can be a cost-effective intervention for weight management. Evidence suggests that regular family meals protect against unhealthy eating and obesity in children. If time or schedule is challenging, get your teens and/or other family members involved.
  8. Start or improve your weight management plan and actions. Make sure to have a balanced diet and exercise regime.
  9. Enjoy an “Exercise Day” or “Move Day,” and at least, consider taking a 30-minute walk.
  10. Take a “NO JUNK FOOD Day,” and limit red meats. Then do it often.
  11. Drink filtered tap water at home. Drink plenty of filtered water away from home too.
  12. Drink tea to replace sugar-rich beverages.
  13. Better: Have a “Triple Combat” day, by combining three intensive but joyful actions together.
  14. Give your unexplained pain some TLC by paying attention to it, tracking its duration, frequency or pattern, and scheduling a visit to your doctor.
  15. Give cancer caregivers a token of love to honor their labor of love.
  16. Write or speak to your local/national legislator or lawmaker about a policy idea to make food systems safer or make the environment safer.
  17. Speak out or stand up against any external source that potentially promotes cancer.
  18. Volunteer for a cancer fundraising or a cancer care center.
  19. Support the great cause of fighting cancer in any form you can.
  20. Parents and teachers: Advise your girls and boys to vaccinate against HPV. Recommended vaccination starts at age 11 or 12.
  21. Go along with proven strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD). Why?  Because doing whatever is practical or plausible to lower your risk of CVD will enhance your potential to reduce the risk of cancer. For instance, research findings indicate that proven preventive measures for CVD are identical to preventive actions for prostate cancer.
  22. Take pancreatic cancer seriously. Based on the proposed “pancreatic injury−inflammation−cancer” pathway, it’s critical to avoid risk factors such as smoking, chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, and obesity.   Pancreatic cancer remains a complex, lethal malignancy with the worst prognosis, and a lack of early diagnostic symptoms. It’s also resistant to conventional chemo- and radiation therapies. The rate of its incidence is slowly increasing.

The list can go on and on…

By now, you likely see a clearly centered theme—prevention, which is the most cost-effective implement to fight cancer.

Remember: Cancer doesn’t develop overnight. It’s vitally essential to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Take protective measures such as enjoying a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and a healthy weight now and far beyond World Cancer Day.

And yes, every single small step counts! It’s a life-course approach.

 

Image credit: Designer at <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/medical”>Medical vector designed by Ibrandify – Freepik.com</a>

Never Miss a Chance to Protect Children from Cancer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Cancer Boy w-Ribbon_uthscsa.eduImagine that a tiny, precious life with a bright future was taken away by cancer, the “big C”… Nothing is more devastating than that.

That’s why I’m going to focus on what we can do about childhood cancers, so to prevent the worst loss by all means.

First, what exactly causes childhood cancers remains unclear. Risk factors of childhood cancers are different from those in adult cancers. For instance, lifestyle-related risk factors (such as tobacco smoking, alcohol intake, unhealthy diet, and sun overexposure) do not play a significant role in childhood cancers. Environmental factors have little influence, largely due to the lack of direct exposure of the fetus. Most childhood cancers result from genetic mutations, i.e. genetic errors occur randomly and unpredictably whether it’s inherited or acquired.

So, am I suggesting that there is nothing we can do to prevent childhood cancers or protect our children? No.

If you are not well-informed, you may miss a chance to prevent the unthinkable. Here is an example. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is linked to cancers of cervix, oropharynx, rectum, or at other body locations. Nearly 93% cancer due to HPV-infection could have been prevented with recommended HPV vaccine as routine immunization for adolescent girls and boys starting at ages 11 to 12 years, following specific guidelines.

Can you see how one could miss the chance by doing nothing? Let me expand a little more on preventative measures.

1.      Childhood cancer prevention can start before conception in young women.

The mother-to-be’s well-being has an impact on the babies. For example, a pregnant, smoking mom can affect the offspring’s health in a hazardous way. To say the least, alcohol consumption and drug abuse fall into the same category. To minimize a child’s risk of cancer, young women should stay healthy and fit, and avoid or limit the exposure to toxic chemicals and environmental pollutants in daily life. Detect cancer early by genetic testing or genetic consulting, especially when you have a history of familial cancers.

2.      Cancer prevention with a healthy lifestyle should begin early in childhood.

A lifestyle cannot be developed overnight. Lifestyle factors also take years or decades to influence a cancer risk. Fostering a lifestyle with nutrition-rich diet, regular exercises, and healthy weight from a young age forward can greatly lower the risk of several cancers in adults, as accumulating evidence shows. Childhood obesity prevention can produce considerable health benefits. Also, postpone the time for kids to use cell phone or mobile devices to prevent brain tumor, the leading cancer death in children. Growing studies reveal an association of radiation with pediatric brain tumors, especially when young kids have the thinner skulls, with still developing nervous system and brain.

3.      A long-term protection: prevent secondary cancer after childhood cancer.

Cancer treatment like radiation can harm young kids’ organs or tissues because of their vulnerability and developmental stages. Radiation or chemo therapies for childhood cancers increase a risk for secondary cancer as one ages. Particularly common are tumors of the brain, breast, skin or spine, and bones. The higher doses of radiation, the greater risk these individuals have. So, it’s important to detect cancer early in the population of childhood cancer survivors, and make sure they have regular visits or check-ups, in addition to living a healthy lifestyle.

Let me conclude with the Quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Light tomorrow with today.All said and done, apply these outlined approaches today to protect every child, so that each child has a healthier, happier, and brighter life tomorrow.

 

Image credit: uthscsa.edu and CPD

Zika Virus Infection and Cancer Care Indication

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Zika in USA map_smAre you worried about Zika virus infection? Are you ready for Zika outbreak?

Consider again − after learning the public health threat highlighted here with eyes on the U.S. region.

Let’s start with a snapshot on the crucial timeline to see how Zika epidemic has been evolved after the 1st Zika case identified in Brazil in April 2015.

Snapshot on Timeline of Zika Outbreak

As you may know, Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. Travel-associated cases imply individuals infected abroad and then returned to the country. No immediately mosquito-transmitted Zika infection has been reported in the 50 US states so far, but the CDC has alerted the epidemic is likely to change with mosquito season’s arrival.

How should you be concerned?

Birth defects (e.g. microcephaly, fetal malformations) have been linked to Zika virus. Thus, pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to this emerging infectious disease.

If you are a healthy adult, you’re still not Zika-proof. In most cases, Zika virus causes a brief, mild flu-like illness. As documented, adults have also suffered from severe neurological disorders such as meningitis, meningoencephalitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome. A rare complication may be internal bleeding, which caused the first US Zika-related death.

Here are a few key points:

  • There is no vaccine or effective treatment for this disease.
  • Zika-specific tests could be expensive and not readily available.
  • There is a lot of UNKNOWN, though more research is underway.

How would you possibly be impacted?

With summer approaching, mosquitoes are coming. But don’t panic, not all mosquitoes spread this disease.

Two mosquito species may carry Zika virus: 1) Aedes aegypti; and 2) Aedes albopictus, the latter is also known as Asian Tiger mosquito. However, there is no way to tell if a mosquito is Zika-infected.

Next, where would Zika-carrier mosquitoes likely to be found?

Places like Florida, Texas and Louisiana are home of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, whereas the Midwest and much of the East Coast happen to be climate or environment for Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger) mosquito. So, a “New Bug” is expected to be around.

What can you do?

Current strategic measure is Self-Prevention and Self-Protection, as briefly summarized in the following areas:

Travel cautions: Pregnant women are advised against travel to the affected countries, and if a trip is required, test the positivity of Zika virus presence once returning.

Personal protection: Extra vigilance and care for pregnant women, wearing long-sleeved clothes, gearing up with mosquito repellent (EPA-certified), and remember – The mosquito-biting time could be daytime!

Note that other routes of Zika infection include sexual or maternal-fetal transmission or blood transfusion.

Environmental prevention: Eliminate potential mosquito’s egg-laying sites by emptying or drying water buckets, water storage units and other plant pots.

Medication alert: Although analgesics is a part of supportive management, avoid Aspirin and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs because of the risk for hemorrhage among patients with cancer or dengue or taking specific therapies at elevated danger of bleeding.

Last but not the least, because it’s unclear as how the course of Zika infection influences that of cancer, cancer patients should maintain close check-up or follow-up with your physicians and specialists, particularly for those with an immune-suppressed condition or with significant comorbidity.

Zika outbreak may come rapidly, so get prepared and get ready!

 

References: 1) Hepner and del Pilar Estevez Diz: Journal of Global Oncology. April 2016; and 2) Plourde and Bloch: EID journal. Vol.22, 2016

Image credit: physio-pedia.com and CPD

10 Things Important to Know about Lead Poisoning

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Lead Q & Tap Water_CPDWhat are your thoughts on the Flint lead-poisoning water crisis? Are you concerned about the quality of your drinking water? Do you know how lead may impact your body in the long-term? Read on, you’ll get an instant and clear idea.

Exposure to lead is a serious public health problem because of its association with numerous damages to nearly every system in the human body and various cancers. Here are 10 key concerns and strategies you need to know:

1. A hidden fact: Lead contamination is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and likely symptomless. So, it often goes unknown.

2. Routes of lead toxicity: Lead can get into your body through the water you drink, the food you eat and the air you breathe. How can lead get into your water? Your municipal water system or your house may have pipes containing lead or joined with lead solder.

3. The critical numbers: For lead awareness, I suggest to focus on these two: First, tap water lead should be below the EPA’s action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) or 15 mg/L.Second, in children (esp. under age 5), a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (5 mg/dl) or higher should raise a red flag, as the reference level of CDC recommended public health initiatives. If their blood lead levels exceed 10 mg/dl, the children can be in serious trouble!

4. The irreversible health consequences: Lead is a common occupational and environmental toxin with well-known adverse effects on intelligence, school achievement and behavior. Lead exposure also increases a risk for a variety of chronic illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease.

5. The Link to cancer: Lead is one of the heavy metals that are classified as a probable human carcinogen, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Lead has been linked to cancers of lung, stomach, breast, and renal cells, although further studies await.

6. The influence on generations: Lead compounds cause genetic impairment through various mechanisms including interfering with DNA synthesis and repair, interaction with DNA-binding proteins and tumor-fighting proteins, so genotoxicity can potentially pass on to generations.

7. Drinking and cooking water safety – 3 Rules:

  • Rule 1: Never use warm or hot tap water for drinking, cooking or mixing baby formula.
  • Rule 2: Flush the cold water system for 1-2 minutes especially when the faucet has not been used for several hours. (Otherwise, use the water that’s flushed out for other purposes.)
  • Rule 3: Most desirable is to filter tap water for drinking and cooking. It also costs less than buying bottled water.

8. Children and lead beyond water: Infants and children are susceptible to lead toxicity. So, test your children’s blood lead level.

In fact, the biggest source of lead poisoning in children today is dust and chips from deteriorating lead paint on interior surface or toys. Also be aware that Pica behavior (esp. the ingestion of lead-containing foreign bodies) is a well-established risk factor of lead intoxication in children that may cause grave consequences. Lead is such a ubiquitous environmental toxin widely distributed around the world (e.g. the soil in your kids’ playground) that as a surprise, some traditional herbs (e.g. Ayurveda) may contain toxic amounts of lead.

9. Enough calcium intake: Lead mainly interrupts calcium-dependent processes and calcium signaling in the cells. So ensure enough consumption of calcium and antioxidants from fresh veggies or fruits helps combat negative effects of lead.

10. Everybody has responsibility to prevent water polluting. Learning from the Flint water disaster, we all need to keep vigilant at protecting clean water sources. If you suspect any change in the water, immediately contact your local public health or water system authority.

Bonus ending: Bottled water can serve as an alternative, as the FDA sets specific regulations for it. Take a cautious measure, because not all bottled water is created equal, and bottled water may contain 40% or more of tap water.

 

Image credit: oxfordcounty.ca & CPD

Start Cancer Prevention in Childhood

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Start in Childhood_1408737-mDid you know that the leading cause of death by disease among children under age 15 in the U.S. is cancer? It’s true. Each year more than 10,000 childhood cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. Worldwide, almost 100,000 children die annually from cancer before the age of 15 years.

Losing a child to cancer brings unthinkable pain and despair to the child’s parents, which is why all parents need to do whatever they can, starting from early on, to prevent such a terrible loss.

The most common childhood cancers are brain and central nervous system tumors, leukemia, and lymphoma. There are also some rare forms of pediatric cancer, such as Wilms tumor. The causes of childhood cancers remain largely a mystery. It’s unlikely that known adult lifestyle-related risk factors (such as first-hand smoking and alcohol) influence a child’s risk of getting cancer. Some studies indicate that most childhood cancers result from inherited gene mutations, environmental factors, or interactions between genetic and environmental factors.

Because genetic errors occur randomly and unpredictably, there is little you can do to prevent them except to insist on a healthy lifestyle for your child. Cancer prevention and healthy habits should start from childhood so that we can protect our children from developing cancer when they are children and also later, as adults. The earlier that children adopt a healthy lifestyle, the better off they will be in their overall health and wellness and the more likely they will stay with healthy living in the long term. It is also very important to prevent early-life exposure to toxic substances that can be harmful to children and affect their health decades later.

Fostering a healthy lifestyle for our children can be a challenge given modern society’s hectic lifestyle. For example, everyone knows it’s important to eat more vegetables and fruits, but it’s easy to fall into the fast food or junk food trap. Because we often have so much to do, we also tend to have many excuses to keep both ourselves and our kids from being physically active. But even with a hectic schedule, we need to make time to protect our children from developing cancer now or in the future.

my-kids-1186542-mHere are 10 ways to protect your kids from childhood cancer:

1.      Avoid or minimize exposure to toxic chemicals.
2.      Avoid exposure of your kids to secondhand smoke.
3.      Avoid or minimize radiation exposure.
4.      Limit cell phone use.
5.      Practice sun protection.
6.      Prevent childhood obesity with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
7.      Drink safe, filtered water.
8.      Protect your child from infectious diseases.
9.      Educate teens to practice safe sex.
10.    Ensure your kids’ regular checkups for early detection of any suspicious growths.

As the saying goes, “Our children’s health is our nation’s wealth.” At present, the best strategy to prevent childhood cancer and cancer later in life is your helping your kids develop a healthy lifestyle based on your cancer awareness.

Image credit: by milan6; by coloniera2

9 Invaluable Lessons from Tobacco Smoking

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Subjects on smoking are probably very boring. Some folks may say, “I don’t smoke, and I don’t care” or “Smoking is really bad, I know it…”. Yes, smoking can be harmful to the health of smokers and that of people around them; but its impact, is far beyond.

For the Summer Healthcare Education Series, let’s start with cigarette smoking – the first of 10 causative factors that cardiovascular disease and cancer have in common, see what we all can learn and do.

1 Cigarette_1379962Lesson #1: Cigarette smoking can kill you silently and aggressively but you don’t have to be a victim. 

Quoted by Unknown “One thousand Americans stop smoking every day – by dying.” Sadly, this is the reality. Cigarette smoking causes about 1 in every 5 deaths in the United States each year. It is the leading cause of many preventable diseases and death, from gum, lung and heart disease, diabetes to cancer.

Lesson # 2: You can protect your cardiovascular health with “No Smoking Policy”.

The toxic chemicals in tobacco smoking damage the structure and function of your heart and blood vessels via:
-          making the vessel walls thicker, stiffer and harder, and the lumen narrower, leading to less oxygen supply;
-          making your heart work harder by increasing your blood pressure and heart rate;
-          modifying your cholesterols, i.e. elevating LDL (“bad cholesterol”), lowering HDL (“good cholesterol”);
-          facilitating plaque buildup in your arteries through inflammation.

Evidently, smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. When combined with other risk factors (such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and overweight or obesity), smoking further raises the risk of heart disease.

Lesson #3: You lower cancer risk if you stop letting tobacco products poison your body.

Tobacco products damage almost every organ in the body, from mouth, eyes, lungs, digestive organs, reproductive organs to bladder and bones. A cigarette releases more than 7000 chemicals (including nicotine, carbon monoxide, tar, hydrogen cyanide, etc), and millions of free radicals, among them about 70 are carcinogens (i.e. cancer-causing substances). These harmful agents cause genetic mutation and DNA damage; consequently abnormal cells grow out of control and develop to cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States; a large majority of lung cancer deaths (~90% in men and ~80% in women) are due to smoking. Cigarette smoking also contributes to many other types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, cervix, and some leukemia.

Lesson #4 You learn that the list of smoking-rated diseases is getting long.

Tobacco smoking poses a serious threat to your overall health, just to mention some consequences here:
-          Oral health problems, e.g. periodontal disease
-          Chronic respiratory diseases, e.g. asthma, chronic bronchitis
-          Gastrointestinal ulcers
-          Adverse impact on orthopedic conditions, e.g. fracture healing, wound repair
-          Hearing reduction to loss, and age-related macular degeneration

Lesson #5: You learn to avoid secondhand smoking.

Secondhand or passive smokers inhale many of the same toxic chemicals and carcinogens as active smokers do, leading to approximately 49,000 deaths each year. Furthermore, average 5000 non-smokers die of lung cancer each year as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

Let’s work together to create Smoke-free indoor environment, which means asking co-workers, friends and family members who smoke not to do so in the room, house and car.

Lesson #6: Your learn to protect your children’s health and their long-term quality of life. 

Evidence is rapidly accumulating that tobacco exposure in the uterus is associated with the development of a variety of diseases in the offspring’s later life, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain childhood cancers and respiratory disorders. Nevertheless, early life insult from tobacco causes low birth weight and defects in newborn babies. Secondhand smoking also raises children’s risk of future cardiovascular disorders such as hypertension, hyperlipdemia and heart disease.

Lesson #7: You learn how smoking affects others and the world around you. 

Cigarette smoking itself is lack of consideration of others and consequences. What does smoking do? It contaminates the environment, pollutes the air, and damages people’s health, thereby affecting virtually everyone around and beyond. So, quitting smoking is not all about you. For love, compassion, and respect, it’s worth giving up a “self-pleasure”.

It’s hard to quit smoking, but with self-determination and help, quitting is possible and can be done.

Lesson #8: You learn how to age gracefully and prolong your lifespan.

Smoking speeds up aging and shortens your lifespan. Quitting can help you look younger and feel better by preventing face wrinkles (esp. around the mouth), averting stained teeth, and improving your skin. That’s from the outside. Aging inside is even worse, because it’s a risk factor for cancer and heart disease.

Quitting can reverse smoking’s negative impact, and it’s never too late to quit. According to the American Heart Association, smokers who quit between ages of 35-39 add 6-9 years to their lives, and smokers who quit between ages of 65-69 improve their life expectancy by 1-4 years.

Lesson #9: Smoking is costly for smokers and society. 

Smoking involves both human and economic costs. And sure it’s economically costly. 1 pack of cigarette costs from $4.84 to $12.50, depending on the states. Let’s do some simple math. Just 1 pack (average $8.67) a day, it costs $3164.55 a year, and $63,291 during 20 years; needless to say, there is much more tobacco consumption by most smokers. Why would some people spend a huge sum of money to hurt their own body, besides adding millions of dollars to the cost of health care?

In summary, tobacco use or smoking is unquestionably a major contributor to illness and death. It is everybody’s concern.

Therefore, for those who smoke, you can start here – Free Help to Quit Smoking from credible organizations. For non-smokers, please share this post, step up to help, and spread the word!

Image credit: by ime