News breaks in the cancer arena all the time. Sometimes it’s big — like word that a breakthrough drug has increased survival for a hard-to-treat cancer. Sometimes it’s smaller. Any of it may matter to you and your family as you navigate your cancer journey. We do our best to keep you up-to-date with a monthly roundup of some of the most significant recent cancer news.
Electroacupuncture May Relieve Musculoskeletal Pain for Cancer Survivors
What’s New Electroacupuncture (electrical stimulation of acupuncture needles after insertion) reduces average pain severity scores and improves physical and mental quality of life in cancer survivors with chronic musculoskeletal pain, according to a study published March 18, 2021, in JAMA Oncology.
Research Details Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center researchers randomized 360 patients who had been treated for cancer previously and were experiencing musculoskeletal pain into three groups. One group received 10 weekly sessions of electroacupuncture, another received auricular acupuncture (acupuncture to the ear), and the third received what would be considered usual care for musculoskeletal pain (standard pain medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections). The results showed acupuncture was superior to usual care, decreasing discomfort by 1.9 pain points. Acupuncture, overall, also reduced the use of analgesics and improved patients’ physical function and quality of life.
Why This Matters Roughly 1 in 3 cancer survivors in the United States experiences chronic pain, twice the rate of that of the general population, according to a research letter published in June 2019 in JAMA Oncology. It’s one of the most common long-term effects of cancer treatment, and has been associated with impaired quality of life. In the study, the benefits of acupuncture were shown in a large number of patients, across genders and a range of different cancers.
RELATED: Cancer News Update: Acupuncture Helps Cancer-Related Pain, Thyroid Cancer on the Decline, and More
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations Expand Eligibility for Annual Lung Cancer Screening
What's New The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is now recommending low-dose computerized tomography (CT) screening for lung cancer in adults ages 50 to 80 who have a 20 pack-year history of smoking and who currently smoke, or have quit within the past 15 years. The recommendation was published on the USPSTF’s website on March 9.
Research Details A pack-year is a measure used to assess how much a person has smoked during their lifetime; one pack-year is equivalent to smoking an average of 20 cigarettes (one pack) per day for a year. The new recommendations expand the age range for eligibility to 50 to 80 years from the previously recommended 55 to 80 years. Screening may be stopped once a person has not smoked for 15 years, or has a health condition that limits life expectancy or the ability to undergo lung surgery.
Why This Matters The USPSTF reports that smoking and older age are the two most important risk factors for lung cancer.
RELATED: Why Are 'Never-Smokers' Getting Lung Cancer?
Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Linked to Lower Cancer Risk
What’s New A heart-healthy lifestyle may do double duty by reducing the risk for cancer as well as heart disease, according to a study published in March 2021 in JACC:CardioOncology.
Research Details Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and other centers in the United States and the Netherlands analyzed data from over 20,000 participants enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study and the Prevention of Renal and Vascular End-Stage Disease study. Overall, ideal cardiovascular health, as measured by the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 CV health score (which looks at smoking status, physical activity, diet, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar), was associated with a lower risk of future cancer. Participants who developed cancer had higher rates of current or former smoking, use of high blood pressure medications, and high cholesterol requiring statin therapy compared with participants who remained cancer-free over 15 years of follow-up.
Why This Matters An evolving body of evidence has linked heart disease and cancer, not only because they share many of the same risk factors (age, smoking status), but because some cancer treatments can damage the heart. While researchers are still trying to understand the mechanisms underlying the relationship between the two diseases, the findings of the current study make it clear that simple, heart-healthy lifestyle changes might protect against future cancer risk.
RELATED: Food as Medicine: What It Means and How to Reap the Benefits
Ultra-Processed Foods, Drinks Up Colorectal (Colon) Cancer Risk
What’s New Consumption of ultra-processed foods and drinks (those that undergo the most processing and contain more than five additives) increases the risk for colon cancer by as much as 11 percent, according to study findings published in the upcoming April 2021 issue of Clinical Nutrition.
Research Details Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) obtained dietary information via questionnaires from 7,843 adults, half of whom had colon, breast, or prostate cancer. Food and drinks were categorized by the NOVA system (which places foods and drinks into four categories depending on how processed they are). The study’s findings showed that every 10 percent increase in consumption of sugary beverages or products, ready-to-eat foods, and processed meats was associated with an 11 percent greater likelihood of developing colon cancer, but not breast or prostate cancer.
Why This Matters Ultra-processed foods and drinks account for 25 to 50 percent of total energy intake in European diets, and roughly 58 percent of American diets, according to a study published in March 2016 in BMJ Open. Although researchers are not entirely clear about the connection between ultra-processed foods or drinks and colon cancer, it’s possibly related, at least in part, to a low intake of fiber, fruits, and vegetables, wrote the study’s authors.
RELATED: Colorectal Cancer Screening: Family History Key to Determining Age to Start