TIME Cancer

Nearly 10 Million Americans Still Use Tanning Beds

Skin cancer may be scaring people away

It looks like tanning beds are finally becoming less popular, a new report reveals.

The number of U.S. adults who use indoor tanning beds—which are strongly linked to skin cancer—declined to 4.2% in 2013 from 5.5% in 2010, according to new research published in the journal JAMA Dermatology.

Even young adults are using tanning beds less than in the past. The researchers noted a drop from 11.3% of 18 to 29 year-olds using them in 2010 to a 8.6% in 2013.

Still, the researchers estimate that 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still use tanning beds, and for some age groups, there appears to be more interest. For instance, the number of female tanners dropped in all age groups and among college graduates. However, the researchers noted a 177% increase in tanning among men between ages 40 to 49 and 71% higher among men 50 and up.

Though the study authors can’t say for certain, it’s likely the wider acknowledgement that indoor tanning beds can lead to cancer that has more Americans opting out. The hope among public health experts is that the trend will continue to lose popularity.

TIME Cancer

DDT, Lindane Can Cause Cancer, WHO Says

toxic pestisides lindane ddt
Arben Celi—Reuters An Albanian specialist removes toxic pesticides near the ruins of a former chemical plant in Porto Romano, a village 3 miles from the port city of Durres, May 5, 2006.

DDT was mostly banned in the U.S. in 1970, while lindane is still present in some products

Exposure to insecticides lindane and DDT can cause cancer, according to findings released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday.

WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has now classified lindane, which has been used “extensively” for insect control, as carcinogenic to humans. DDT is now classified as probably carcinogenic to humans, based on evidence that DDT causes cancer in experimental animals and limited evidence that it does in humans.

The chemicals have been linked specifically to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, testicular cancer and liver cancer. Exposure to lindane can increase one’s risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 60%, according to studies conducted in Canada and the U.S.

The chemical 2,4-D, a common weedkiller, was classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on “inadequate evidence” in humans and “limited evidence” in experimental animals. Exposure can occur through food, water, dust or residential application, the IARC said.

Agricultural workers have had the most direct exposure to such chemicals. DDT was introduced to control insect populations on farms during World War II and widely proliferated, but most applications of DDT were banned in the U.S. in 1970. According to the study, however, exposure to DDT through food still exists in some parts of the world.

Lindane-based shampoo is also used to kill lice, while lindane lotion is applied directly to the skin to treat scabies. Both these products have been available since the early 1950s and are still approved by the FDA. Dr. Kurt Straif, head of the IARC, told the BBC that there are no studies currently available that assess the risk of these types of exposure.

DDT can still be legally manufactured in the U.S., but only sold to foreign countries.

The full study can be found here.

TIME Maryland

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Says He Has ‘Very Aggressive’ Cancer

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan at an interview in Annapolis, Md on April 6, 2015.
Patrick Semansky—AP Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan at an interview in Annapolis, Md on April 6, 2015.

The governor says the cancer is "very advanced"

(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says he has “very advanced” and “very aggressive” cancer of the lymph nodes, but he says he will continue to work as the state’s chief elected official.

Hogan says the cancer is B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He says it may be Stage 4, or at least a very advanced Stage 3.

He spoke at a hastily organized news conference Monday afternoon in Annapolis, surrounded by members of his family and cabinet.

Hogan, a Republican who took office in January, says he’s “shocked” by the news.

He says he’s been feeling good and has had few symptoms, but has tumors, a low appetite and some pain. Chemotherapy treatment is planned.

Hogan says his doctors have told him he has a good chance of beating the disease. He joked that his chance is higher than his chances were of beating his Democratic opponent as an underdog in last fall’s election.

Hogan said he will miss some meetings while he undergoes chemotherapy, but won’t stop working, like thousands of other Americans who undergo cancer treatment and stay on their jobs.

“I’m still going to be constantly involved” in running the state, Hogan said, adding that Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will fill in more for him. “Boyd has my back,” he said.

TIME Cancer

You Asked: Can Deodorant Give You Cancer?

You Asked Deoderent Cancer
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

There may be reasons to worry—though hard proof remains elusive.

If you’ve seen the 1989 film Batman—the one with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson—you’ll recall that the Joker terrorizes Gotham City by slipping toxic chemicals into cosmetics: while no single item is lethal, combining deodorant with shampoo and lipstick could kill you.

It’s hard not to think of that movie while chatting with toxicologists who study the potential risk of deodorant and antiperspirant ingredients, especially parabens and aluminum. However, according to the American Cancer Society’s website, there is no “clear” or “direct” link between parabens or aluminum and cancer. The National Cancer Institute site says “more research is needed.”

The FDA, for its part, says “FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens. However, the agency will continue to evaluate new data in this area. If FDA determines that a health hazard exists, the agency will advise the industry and the public.

But “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” says Dr. Philip Harvey, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Toxicology.

Dr. Philippa Darbre, an oncologist at the University of Reading in the U.K., has published more than 30 research papers on those substances found in underarm deodorant and other personal care products. She says that many of these ingredients are concerning on their own. But the health risks of each may be greater—and more difficult to identify—when you consider the complex chemical cocktails that form when they combine.

For example, her research has detected parabens—a category of chemical that acts as a preservative in some underarm and personal care products—in women’s breast tissue, though how those parabens got there and what happens when they are in breast tissue is unknown.

In Darbre’s experiments, combining different parabens with human cells creates activity that may contribute to the development of cancer. But attempts to find these links in humans—as opposed to in petri dishes—have produced inconsistent results. One 2002 study found no correlation between underarm product use and breast cancer; a 2003 study did find ties. Darbre says both studies have flaws and leave many important questions unanswered.

Like Darbre, Harvey has looked into the ways cosmetics interact with your body. He says wiping these chemicals under your arms and on the sides of your chest or breasts “could provide a route of almost direct exposure to underlying tissue containing estrogen receptors.”

Both parabens and aluminum are “estrogenic” chemicals—meaning they interact with your body’s hormones or cells in ways similar to estrogen. That’s concerning, because excess estrogen plays a role in promoting the growth of cancer cells, according to the National Cancer Institute. While many experts think cosmetic chemicals like parabens have only “weak” estrogenic activity, Harvey doesn’t agree. He says, “It is often quoted that parabens are thousands of times less potent than estrogen in terms of their estrogenicity. This can be misleading and ignores actual exposures.”

Harvey says his own calculations suggest these cosmetic chemicals may “significantly add to estrogenic burdens.” Because of that, he says he questions the wisdom of including any chemical with known hormonal activity in your personal care regimen.

But until he and other researchers are able to explain—and demonstrate—the ways these chemicals cause health problems, no regulatory changes are likely.

That’s because unless a chemical is proven harmful, regulators allow you to eat it, smoke it, brush with it or slather it on your body. Finding that proof of harm is a difficult, costly and time-consuming proposition. Darbre says researchers can’t simply mix some human cells and some chemicals in a test tube and watch for cancer to pop up.

So where does that leave deodorant and antiperspirant users? Largely in in the dark, Darbre says. “People want a simple fix,” she says. “Unfortunately it is not simple.”

Until more is known, consumers are in a bind. “Avoiding certain publicized chemicals is only the tip of the iceberg,” she says. Darbre says she switched to a twice-daily regimen of underarm cleaning with soap and water. (“No one has yet complained!” she jokes.) Frequent pit scrubbing may seem unnecessarily laborious—or just plain weird. But if you’re concerned about the chemicals you rub on your body, regular bathing might seem like an attractive alternative.

TIME celebrities

John Hurt Is Battling Pancreatic Cancer

Royal Academy of Arts: Summer Exhibition
Karwai Tang—WireImage LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 03: John Hurt attends the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy on June 3, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

He is "optimistic" about his prognosis

John Hurt, the veteran British actor known for playing the Elephant Man as well as Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter films, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but is “optimistic” about his prognosis.

In a statement to PEOPLE, Hurt, 75, said: “I have always been open about the way in which I conduct my life and in that spirit I would like to make a statement. I have recently been diagnosed with early stage pancreatic cancer. I am undergoing treatment and am more than optimistic about a satisfactory outcome, as indeed is the medical team.”

He added: “I am continuing to focus on my professional commitments and will shortly be recording ‘Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell’ (one of life’s small ironies!) for BBC Radio 4.”

Hurt, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in December, has been twice nominated for an Academy Award – for 1978’s Midnight Express, and for playing the title role of John Merrick in David Lynch’s 1980 biopic The Elephant Man.

“The role stretched me to the limits,” he once told PEOPLE of the latter film.

He has also starred in dozens of other movies, including The Naked Civil Servant and Alien.

This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.com.

TIME Cancer

Avocados Provide Clue to Fighting Cancer, New Study Shows

paul spagnuolo
Imaging/University of Waterloo

Molecules derived from avocados target the stem cells of acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

Avocados aren’t just Americans’ favorite fruit; they also may contain a key to fighting leukemia.

Molecules derived from avocados have been found to target the stem cells of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), according to a study published in the journal Cancer Research on Monday. The lipid found in avocado joins just a handful of drug treatments available that attack leukemia stem cells directly while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

AML is an aggressive form of cancer that kills 90% of people over 65 who are diagnosed. Drugs that operate on stem cells are the most effective in treating the disease.

“The stem cell is really the cell that drives the disease,” said Professor Paul Spagnuolo, a researcher from the University of Waterloo responsible for the study, in a statement about the paper. “The stem cell is largely responsible for the disease developing and it’s the reason why so many patients with leukemia relapse.”

While the drug is still years away from being approved for market use, Spagnuolo is already preparing it for a Phase I clinical trial.

TIME Cancer

Smoking Causes 12 Different Kinds of Cancers

smoking cancer
Getty Images

Smoking causes more than 48% of deaths caused by 12 cancers

Everyone knows smoking can cause lung cancer. But it also causes a whole array of other varieties of the disease, from pancreatic cancer to leukemia. Now, new research sheds light on just how deadly tobacco can be when smokers get cancer.

Smoking causes more than 48% of deaths from the 12 types of cancer sometimes caused by smoking, according to new research in JAMA Internal Medicine. Smoking caused more than 80% of lung cancer deaths as well as 77% of larynx cancer deaths. Other top cancers caused by smoking include esophagus, kidney and liver cancer.

Researchers analyzed 2011 data from interviews conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the study. Overall, approximately 168,000 people are estimated to die of cancer due to smoking in the United States each year.

The study’s researchers note that the prevalence of smoking has been on the decline in recent decades but argue that more needs to be done.

Continued progress in reducing cancer mortality, as well as deaths from many other serious diseases, will require more comprehensive tobacco control, including targeted cessation support,” they conclude.

TIME Cancer

Researchers Grow a Breast In a Dish

Technically, it’s breast tissue but it develops in a lab culture the same way it would in a teen hitting puberty. And it could help scientists to better understand how the breast develops and what happens when things go awry in breast cancer

For the first time, scientists have taken healthy breast cells from women and isolated the stem cells that can recreate major breast structures—including the milk-feeding ducts and structures that actually produce breast milk. In a new paper in the journal Development, they report that they’ve set up a model for studying how normal breast tissue develops during puberty, and, in coming months, expect to introduce mutations in these cells to study how they might develop cancer.

Starting with breast tissue from women who have had breast reduction surgery, Dr. Christina Scheel, from the Helmholtz Center for Health and Environmental Research, and her colleagues managed to isolate the few stem cells within them that are responsible for generating the new breast tissue that results in the breast’s constant remodeling during puberty, at each menstrual cycle and with each pregnancy.

Only one in about 2,000 of these cells are stem cells, but by mixing up a more nurturing culture solution, they were able to increase the growth of these cells by five-fold, and before their eyes the cells began to form the branchlike structures that serve as the duct network of the breast. With other adjustments, Scheel was also able to promote the growth of the cluster-like cells that produce milk. By labeling the initial stem cell, they saw that all of the complex structures in the breast remarkably arose from a single cell, guided by the right developmental instructions.

“[During puberty,] the normal breast tissue grows [aggressively] into the surrounding connective tissue,” says Scheel. “The cells push forward into the surrounding tissue almost like an invasive tumor but in a very controlled process.”

The fact that the normal breast tissue growth is so intense is leading Scheel to next study whether breast cancer might result from some loss of this very controlled regulation of breast tissue growth, similar to a car without brakes.

She and her team also found that when they grew the breast stem cells on a more rigid platform, the cells grew more aggressively and acted more tumor-like compared to when they were grown on a more flexible, softer framework. That may explain why women with dense breasts, which contain more connective tissue, tend to have higher rates of breast cancer. “This model will allow us to better study normal breast development, and then to understand the first steps that predispose women to developing tumors,” she says.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Mom’s Diet During Pregnancy Can Affect Child’s Lifetime Cancer Risk

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Getty Images

Expectant mother’s nutrition during pregnancy can have lasting effects on their children’s health, especially when it comes to cancer risk

In a new report published in the journal Genome Biology, researchers combed the genome to find regions that are particularly vulnerable to outside influences, such as diet, nutrition and environmental exposures, to determine how these factors might affect a developing fetus.

While the genes encoded in every person’s genome determines his characteristics, a second layer of genetic activity, called epigenetics, controls which genes are turned on and which are shut off, at different times in different cells. It’s epigenetics that is responsible for ensuring that a hair cell becomes a hair cell and not a liver cell, and so on. For the most part, these instructions are set during early development in the embryo.

But, as Robert Waterland, associate professor of pediatrics and molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and his team found, there are discrete places in the genome where epigenetic changes are more vulnerable to external influences like diet. They conducted a genome-wide survey to find these regions, and then tried to match them up with easily measurable factors such as nutrition or mothers’ diets.

They did this in a population of women in Gambia, where changing seasonal availability of food allowed them to compare women who conceived during times when food was scarce, to those who conceived when crops were more abundant. Indeed, they honed in on a specific variant in a gene that is involved in suppressing tumors. When this gene is epigenetically activated, it leads to protection against cancer, but may lead to lower immune system function and this activation is influenced by a mother’s nutrition. Lower levels of vitamin B2 may contribute to inceeased cancer suppressing activity, and that may establish an lower risk for cancer among children while they are still in the womb.

“Very different maternal nutritional status nudges the distribution of the epigenetic state in one direction or the other,” says Waterland. “In the next phase of research we want to directly test whether individual epigenetic variations in fact leads to changes in the risk of diseases included cancer and immune-related conditions.”

What’s encouraging about the findings is the fact that in addition to the gene they studied in detail, the scientists also found 108 other genes that might be influenced by factors such as diet. Other such external contributors that Waterland is hoping to investigate are things such as mother’s obesity and the effect of IVF, in addition to environmental contaminants such as pollution or cigarette smoke.

TIME medicine

Woman Gives Birth After a Transplant of Her Own Frozen Ovarian Tissue

Case hailed as a scientific breakthrough

Over a decade ago, a bone marrow transplant left a Belgian girl infertile. Now, a transplant of her own frozen ovarian tissue has helped her get pregnant and give birth to a healthy baby boy, Sky News reports.

The scientific breakthrough is likely to benefit other sick children who lose their fertility through cancer treatments.

“Freezing ovarian tissue is the only available option for preserving their fertility,” Dr Isabelle Demeestere, a fertility specialist at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, told media. The details of the transplant were published in Human Reproduction, a medical journal.

The patient, who suffered from sickle cell anemia, was 13 when her ovary was frozen and she had yet to start her period.

A decade later, four pieces of the frozen tissue were transplanted onto the patient’s remaining ovary at her request. Two years after the transplant, she was pregnant, Sky News reports

Doctors reportedly expect the woman’s ovary function to remain normal, allowing her to have more children in the future.

[Sky News]

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