TIME Cancer

This Is How Much Movember Raised This Year

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Mike Harrington—Getty Images

Fewer mustaches, but still a lot of donations

November is over, and so are the scraggly beards and ‘staches that grew as a result of the Movember campaign for men’s health. This year, the campaign had more than 715,000 global participants and raised more than $69 million for research so far.

That’s still less than last year’s tally of $116 million, but funds will keep coming in until early 2015. 2013 also saw a good 200,000 more mustache-growers: a total of 969,188 worldwide.

“We’re realistic and, like any organization, are aware that there will be some years that are stronger than others in terms of participation,” said a Movember spokesperson in an email to TIME. “However, our community has funded more than 800 programs that are making a tangible difference for men’s health.”

Movember also announced that they funded a prostate cancer research breakthrough earlier this year, which allows men to undergo a genetic test that can predict their risk of recurrence. The organization also launched True NTH, a $36 million investment to improve the quality of life of men with prostate cancer.

Funds from this year’s campaign are still incoming, but to date, Movember has raised more than $600 million in its 11 years of existence, thanks to the nearly five million men and women who participated. You can keep an eye on the Movember tally here.

TIME Cancer

Can Low-T Therapy Promote Prostate Cancer?

lab rat
Getty Images

New rat research raises health questions for researcher

“Low T” therapy is a fast-growing trend for men who want to jack up testosterone—which declines naturally with age but which can also be clinically low in some people—and the testosterone therapy industry is predicted to reach $5 billion by 2017. The long-term safety effects of supplementing with the hormone is still in question, however—especially in light of a study earlier this year that found double the heart attack risk in certain men after starting testosterone treatments. Other research suggested there was no meaningful increase in heart risk, adding to the confusion. But a new rat study published in the journal Endocrinology raises some alarming questions about the increasingly popular drugs.

Maarten Bosland, PhD, study author and professor of pathology at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Medicine, devised an animal model to test the tumor-promoting effects of testosterone in rats. He exposed a group of rats to a carcinogen, which would put them at risk of developing cancer. He also gave some of the rats testosterone, but no carcinogen. In a third group, he administered both the carcinogen and the testosterone. Then, he measured tumor growth among the two groups.

None of the rats developed prostate cancer when they were just exposed to the carcinogen, but 10-18% of them did when they were just given testosterone. When the rats were exposed to the carcinogen and then given testosterone—even at very low doses—50-71% developed prostate cancer. “I was totally amazed about how strong testosterone can work to promote the formation of prostate cancer in these animals,” he says.

Of course, an animal model can’t determine what will happen in men, but Bosland thinks a similar effect is possible. “Absent of having solid human studies, we won’t be able to say that—it’s just an extra warning signal,” he says. “But I think it’s a clear indication that there is risk.”

TIME Cancer

How Diet Can Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer

Tomato and bean consumption helps prevent the disease

Consuming more than ten servings a week of tomatoes and beans lowers the risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bristol.

The findings expand on previous research and suggest that men should consume foods rich in lycopene and selenium, which are found in tomatoes and beans respectively, to help prevent the onset of a disease that kills about 30,000 men in the United States each year.

The study compared the diets of more than 1,800 men between the ages of 50 and 69 who had prostate cancer to the diets of more than 12,000 of their cancer-free peers.

While the study’s conclusions provide some dietary guidance, researchers say more work needs to be done to develop further dietary guidelines.

“Our findings suggest that tomatoes may be important in prostate cancer prevention. However, further studies need to be conducted to confirm our findings, especially through human trials,” said Vanessa Er, a researcher at the University of Bristol who led the study. “Men should still eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and stay active.”

TIME prostate cancer

Hypnosis Reduced This Person’s Hot Flashes By 94%

One man's hot flashes vanished with hypnosis

One man with terrible hot flashes—about 160 a week—found relief through hypnosis.

In a Baylor University case study recently published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, a 69-year-old man referred to as Mr. W underwent seven weeks of hypnotic relaxation therapy for hot flashes, and had positive results.

Although it’s less common, men indeed can get hot flashes, though they are typically less inclined to seek treatment for them. Unlike women, whose hot flashes are usually related to changes in estrogen, prostate cancer survivors can develop hot flashes as well. Hot flashes due to prostate cancer can actually be more severe and last longer than hot flashes among women.

“If a guy has hot flashes, you can’t say, ‘Well, why don’t we put you on estrogen?’ But it’s a pressing problem,” said study author Gary Elkins, director of Baylor’s Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory in a statement.

Mr. W, who was a prostate cancer survivor, went under both hypnosis with a therapist, and self-hypnosis. During the hypnosis, Mr.W imagined he was at his favorite fishing spot, sitting on a bucket between two trees on a long shore of grass, watching the water early in the morning. The hypnosis transcript would tell he would experience comfort and coolness, and that he would feel a cool breeze coming across the lake and would feel it on his face. Mr. W reported that he learned how to stop his hot flashes with self-hypnosis, and by the end of the sessions, he had a 94% decrease in hot flashes and a 87% increase in sleep quality.

The findings support earlier studies from the researchers on postmenopausal women and breast cancer survivors. People have varying responses to being hypnotized, but the researchers are hopeful, since it could be a cost effective way for people to deal with their symptoms themselves, without drugs.

TIME Aging

7 Medical Tests Every Man Needs

Medical patient and doctor
Lee Edwards—Getty Images/Caiaimage

Admit it, guys: You don’t even like going to the doctor when there’s something wrong, let alone for preventative check-ups. But being proactive about your health—by getting recommended screenings for serious conditions and diseases—could mean you’ll spend less time at the doctor’s office down the road.

Depending on age, family history, and lifestyle factors, people need different tests at different times in their lives. Here’s a good overview for all men to keep in mind.

Diabetes

You may never need a screening for diabetes if you maintain a healthy weight and have no other risk factors for the disease (such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure). But for most men over 45—especially overweight men—a fasting plasma glucose test, or an A1C test, is a good idea, says Kevin Polsley, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Loyola University Health System in Chicago.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also recommends diabetes screenings for overweight adults younger than 45 who have a family history of the disease, or who are of African American, Asian American, Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander descent.

Fasting plasma glucose and A1C are both blood tests that should be done in your doctor’s office. The A1C test does not require fasting beforehand, but if your doctor wants to test you using fasting plasma glucose, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything but water for eight hours beforehand.

Health.com: Could You Have Type 2? 10 Diabetes Symptoms

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Even if you’ve been in a monogamous relationship for years, it’s not a bad idea to get tested if you haven’t already done so. Many common sexually transmitted infections can go undiagnosed for years. For example, people can go as long as 10 years without showing symptoms of HIV. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that everyone ages 15 to 65 be screened for HIV at least once. This is especially important, Dr. Polsley says, if you have had unprotected sex, used injected drugs, or had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a one-time hepatitis C screening for all adults born between 1945 and 1965, regardless of risk factors. “Believe it or not, there’s a lot of hepatitis C cases out there in which people either don’t have symptoms yet or don’t know what’s causing their symptoms,” says Dr. Polsley. “Screening for STIs is something I offer as routine at just about every physical, regardless of a patient’s age or health history.”

Health.com: Best and Worst Foods for Sex

Body Mass Index

You don’t need to make an appointment to figure out your body mass index, a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. Regardless of whether you calculate this stat yourself or your physician does the math for you, it’s important to be aware of this number, says Dr. Polsley.

A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal weight. Although this calculation isn’t perfect—and can sometimes label healthy people as overweight or vice versa—most doctors agree that it’s still an important component of assessing overall health. “It can be a very good opportunity to discuss diet and exercise, and to show our patients how important these things are,” Dr. Polsley says.

Health.com: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Cholesterol

The American Heart Association recommends men have their cholesterol levels tested every four to six years once they turn 20. “Men have an overall higher risk for cardiovascular disease than women, and high cholesterol is often a big part of that,” Dr. Polsley says. But your doctor may want to screen you earlier (and more often) if you have heart disease risk factors such as diabetes, tobacco use, or high blood pressure.

Cholesterol is measured by a blood test, and your doctor may ask you not to eat for 9 to 12 hours beforehand. Generally, a cholesterol test will measure your levels of total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides. Depending on your results, your doctor may make dietary recommendations or prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication like a statin.

Blood pressure

Like high cholesterol, high blood pressure is often a symptomless condition—but luckily, the test for hypertension is quick and painless, involving a rubber cuff that squeezes the arm and measures the flow of blood through a large artery in the bicep. “You should have your blood pressure checked pretty much every time you see your doctor,” says Dr. Polsley, starting at age 18.

Don’t get to the doc often? Have it checked at least every two years, or yearly if your numbers were previously considered borderline (a top “systolic” number above 120 or bottom “diastolic” number higher than 80).

You can check your blood pressure at health fairs, in pharmacies, or at home with a monitoring device. If your systolic pressure cracks 130 or your diastolic goes over 85, your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications—like exercising more and eating less salt—or they might prescribe medication.

Health.com: 31 Fat-Burning Recipes

Colonoscopy

Most men should be screened for colon cancer beginning at age 50, but those with a family history of the disease may benefit from earlier testing. Men and women alike tend to dread this test—in which a small camera is inserted into the anus and explores the large intestine for polyps or other signs of cancer—but Dr. Polsley says it’s not as bad as it sounds.

“The preparation for the test is actually the worst part,” he says: You’ll need to empty your bowls completely before the exam, which may involve not eating solid foods for one to three days, drinking lots of clear liquids, or taking laxatives. “The actual colonoscopy shouldn’t be too uncomfortable, because you’re sedated through the whole thing.”

But here’s the bright side: If your doctor doesn’t find anything suspicious, you won’t need another colonoscopy for up to 10 years.

Prostate exam

Screening for prostate cancer is more controversial than for other cancers, says Dr. Polsley, and some studies have shown that these tests can be expensive and unnecessary, and may do more harm than good. But he suggests that all men over 50 at least talk with their doctors about the pros and cons of these tests—usually either a digital rectal exam (in which the doctor inserts a gloved finger, or digit, into the rectum to feel for lumps and abnormalities) and a PSA test, which measures a protein called prostate-specific antigen in the blood.

Prostate cancer screenings can and do save lives, but they may also result in false-positive or false-negative results. And because many cases of prostate cancer progress very slowly, some men (especially older men) don’t benefit from aggressive treatment. Whether you decide to get screened for prostate cancer should be a decision you make with your doctor, says Dr. Polsley. In the meantime, it’s important to know the symptoms of an enlarged prostate—like having to urinate frequently or having trouble urinating—which could also signal cancer.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Cancer

Early Chemo May Help Men With Prostate Cancer Live Longer, Study Says

New research suggests men with metastized prostate cancer may benefit from having chemotherapy earlier than usually recommended

Men diagnosed with prostate cancer will often put off chemotherapy, with their doctor’s approval. But new research suggests that men who get chemotherapy early on may actually live longer.

Typically, men with prostate cancer will start their treatment with simply active surveillance of their tumors, before starting hormone therapy. Men will undergo chemotherapy only when their tumors become resistant to hormone therapy. But a recent clinical trial found that men treated early with chemotherapy lived longer than men who underwent the standard treatment.

The clinical trial randomized 790 men with recently diagnosed prostate cancer into two groups. One followed the standard treatment guidelines, and the other received chemo right away alongside their hormone therapy. The men who underwent chemotherapy lived over a year longer than the men on the standard treatment regime.

“We haven’t seen survival benefits like that for any therapy in prostate cancer,” said Dr. Michael J. Morris, an associate professor at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who was uninvolved with the study but was chosen to comment on it at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the New York Times reports. The study was selected as one of the most impressive out of thousands of studies presented at the conference in Chicago.

The findings are still preliminary, but if proven, they could change clinical practice. However, the research focused on a specific population of men with prostate cancer that had either spread beyond the prostate, or had come back after initial treatment. Since screening catches prostate cancer early, not many men experience metastasized prostate cancer. One of the greatest challenges the researchers foresee is convincing men to choose chemotherapy first, especially if there are other common options.

MONEY Health Care

The Poor are More Likely to Die of Cancer

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People from wealthy areas are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than people from less wealthy areas. Mark Kostich—Getty Images/Vetta

Your financial status affects your risk of the disease more than you might think.

A new study from Cancer, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, finds that cancer afflicts wealthy and poor areas at about the same rate. But the study also found that they suffer from different kinds of cancer—and the cancers that strike the poor are more often deadly.

The study looked at the incidence rates of 39 kinds of cancer in different census tracts. Researchers found that poorer areas have higher rates of lung, colorectal, cervical, oral and liver cancer, while wealthier areas have higher rates of breast, prostate, thyroid and skin cancer. The 14 cancers associated with poverty have a mortality rate of 107.7 per 100,000, while the 18 cancers associated with wealth have a mortality rate of 68.9.

“The cancers more associated with poverty have lower incidence and higher mortality, and those associated with wealth have higher incidence and lower mortality,” researcher Francis Boscoe said in a statement. “When it comes to cancer, the poor are more likely to die of the disease while the affluent are more likely to die with the disease.”

Why the difference? The researchers aren’t sure, but they did find that the kinds of cancers that are more prevalent in poorer communities are associated with “behavioral risk factors,” like smoking, drinking, drug use and poor diet. Furthermore, wealthier areas report higher rates of cancers with few symptoms, like skin, thyroid and prostate cancer. These cancers often require advanced medical technology to detect. Since wealthier areas offer better access to healthcare, the scientists suspect that those people are more likely to be diagnosed with earlier stage cancers, but they plan to do more research.

TIME

The Genes Responsible for Deadly Prostate Cancer Discovered

“These two genes individually don’t do anything, or very little, but only when they are co-active do they produce aggressive forms of the disease,” says the director of Columbia University's Genome Center

Treating prostate cancer has always been trickier than most patients anticipate. Unlike other cancers, most prostate tumors are slow-growing and emerge late in life, so the majority of men affected are more likely to die of other causes than their cancer. For up to 15% of cases, however, the disease can be fast-moving and life-threatening, and because doctors don’t have good ways of separating these aggressive cases from the less dangerous ones, many physicians and patients prefer to err on the side of over-treatment. Recent changes to prostate screening recommendations advising men not to get routine blood tests that can signal the disease have made matters more confusing for men worried about the disease.

That may soon change, thanks to a test that can pick out the slow-growing cancers from the faster-growing ones. Researchers at Columbia University report in the journal Cancer Cell that they have identified two genes that are likely driving the most aggressive cases of prostate cancer. Other scientists had linked the genes, FOXM1 and CENPF, to cancer, but none had connected them to prostate growths. And more importantly, none had figured out that the two genes’ cancer-causing effects only occurred if they are turned on at the same time.

MORE: Genetic Test Can Predict Most Aggressive Cases of Prostate Cancer

Co-senior investigators Cory Abate-Shen of Columbia University Medical Center and Andrea Califano, director of Columbia’s Genome Center, found that both genes had to be active in order for the prostate cancers to progress. Having over-expression of either gene wasn’t sufficient to drive the prostate cancer to spread or grow more quickly. “These two genes individually don’t do anything, or very little, but only when they are co-active do they produce aggressive forms of the disease,” says Califano. It’s not clear yet what makes the genes more active, but there are ways to control their expression and avoid the cancer-causing pathway, he says.

The genes, which are identified from a biopsy of prostate tumor tissue, could help doctors and patients triage the more dangerous forms of prostate cancer from the indolent ones. That means that men with suspicious growths could get a biopsy before deciding on treatments, much in the way that many women diagnosed with breast cancer do. If both genes are turned on and highly active, then they would be advised to get immediate treatment such as surgery, radiation or tumor-targeting drugs, or some combination of these. If neither gene, or only one is active, then doctors might recommend less intensive therapy while they monitored the tumors. Having the biological back-up that suggests that the inactive genes are less likely to cause aggressive cancer could help many patients feel more comfortable with such a watchful waiting approach.

A test to distinguish prostate cancers is already in the works; in 2013, Califano, Abate-Shen and their colleagues identified three genes that were associated with slower-growing tumors that likely did not need immediate treatment. They are in discussions with companies to develop a commercial test to put those genes together with the two newly isolated one associated with aggressive growth that could guide more targeted, and cost-effective, treatment of prostate cancer.

TIME health

This One Graphic Will Change the Way You Look at Breast Cancer Screening

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Nurse with patient having a mammogram. bojan fatur—Getty Images

Here are the real numbers on mammograms and how to read them.

If you’re a woman in your 40s or 50s, you’ve almost certainly been told that you should have a mammogram. Many women are pressured to do so by their doctors. This has a long tradition. In the dark ages of male chauvinism, the American Cancer Society wrote, “If you haven’t had a mammogram, you need more than your breasts examined.”

Although that message wouldn’t go down well today, the underlying paternalistic attitude towards women hasn’t changed much. Information about the actual benefits and harms of screening has been held back for years. Pink ribbons and teddy bears, rather than hard facts, dominate the discourse.

Why is that? It’s not because the information is hazy. No other cancer screening has been studied so extensively. The fact box below outlines benefits and harms. It is based on half a million women in North America and Europe who participated in randomized clinical trials, half of whom attended screening and half of whom did not. The fact box shows what happened to them 10 years later:

Untitled

First, look at the benefit. Out of every thousand women aged 50 and older, five without screening died from breast cancer, compared to four in the screening group. This is an absolute reduction of 1 in 1,000. In fact, it might even be an optimistic estimate because the Canadian follow-up study of women for 25 years after these trials found no reduction at all. But the exact number is not my point here. What I want to explain is how women are being misled.

Trick #1: State that screening reduces breast cancer mortality by 20% or more, because it sounds more impressive than explaining that the absolute risk reduction is 1 in 1,000.

This trick has been used for years in pamphlets. You might think, well, it’s not much, but at least one life is saved. But even that is not true. The number of deaths from all cancers, breast cancer included, is the same in both groups, as seen in line two of the fact box. And that leads us to trick #2:

Trick #2: Don’t mention that mammography screening doesn’t reduce the chance of dying from cancer. Talk only about the reduction in dying from breast cancer.

Often, and particularly if a person had multiple cancers, the exact cause of death is unclear. For this reason, total cancer mortality is the more reliable information when you look at it in terms of the larger goal: saving lives. In plain words, there is no evidence to date that routine mammography screening saves lives.

Now let’s look at the harms.

Trick #3: Don’t tell women about unnecessary surgery, biopsies and other harms from overtreatment. If you are asked, play these down.

The first way a mammogram can harm women is if it comes back with a false positive, leading to invasive and unnecessary biopsies. This isn’t the rare fluke most people seem to think it is. This happens to about a hundred out of every thousand women who participated in screening. Legions of women have suffered from this procedure and the related anxieties. After false alarms, many worried for months, developing sleeping problems and affecting relationships with family and friends.

Second, not all breast cancers are life-threatening. Women who have a nonprogressive or slowly growing form that they would never have noticed during their lifetime often undergo lumpectomy, mastectomy, toxic chemotherapy or other interventions that have no benefit for them and that are often accompanied with damaging side-effects. This happened to about five women out of a thousand who participated in screening.

There’s one final trick I would like to share with you.

Trick #4: Tell women about increased survival. For instance, “If you participate in screening and breast cancer is detected, your survival rate is 98%.” Don’t mention mortality.

Susan G. Komen uses this trick, as do many health brochures. How can 1 in 1,000 be the same as 98%? Good question. Five-year survival rates are measured from the time that cancer is diagnosed. What this means is that early diagnoses only seem to increase the rate of survival; it doesn’t mean that 98% were cured, or even lived longer than they would have without an early diagnosis from a mammogram. What’s more, screening also detects nonprogressive cancers, which further inflate short-term survival rates without having any effect on longevity. For those reasons, survival rates are often criticized as misleading when it comes to the benefits of screening. What you really need to know is the mortality rate. Again, look at the fact box, which uses neither 5-year-survival rates nor other misleading statistics such as relative risk reductions.

Do men fare any better with screening for prostate cancer? In a 2007 advertisement campaign, former New York City major Rudi Giuliani explained, “I had prostate cancer five, six years ago. My chance of surviving prostate cancer—and thank God, I was cured of it—in the United States? Eighty-two percent. My chance of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44% under socialized medicine.” By now you will recognize that Giuliani fell prey to trick #4. In reality, despite the impressive difference in survival rates, the percentage of men who died of prostate cancer was virtually the same in the U.S. and the U.K. Most importantly, randomized clinical studies with hundreds of thousands of men have shown no proof at all that early detection with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests saves lives; it reduced neither deaths from prostate cancer nor total mortality. What PSA testing is good at is detecting more nonprogressive cancers than breast cancer screening. The subsequent (unnecessary) surgery or radiation has harmed many men, causing incontinence and impotence. What men should know: getting prostate cancer is not a death sentence. Almost every man lucky enough to live a long life will eventually get it. But only about 3% of American men die from it.

Thanks to these tricks, quite a few doctors (perhaps yours?) are inadequately informed as well. But again, why is the misinformation so widely spread? Like those who refused to peer through Galileo’s telescope for fear of what they would see, many who have financial or personal stakes in screening and cancer treatment—from medical businesses to patient advocacy groups sponsored by the industry—close their eyes to the scientific evidence and cling to a one-sided view.

Mass screening is not the key to saving lives from cancer; the effective means are better therapy and healthier lifestyles. About half of all cancers in the U.S. are due to behavior: 20-30% to smoking; 10-20% to obesity and its causes, such as lack of exercise; and about 10% and 3% to alcohol in men and women, respectively. With respect to breast cancer, less alcohol and a less sedentary lifestyle with more physical activity, such as 30 minutes of walking a day, can help.

Until five years ago, cancer screening brochures from organizations in Germany (where I live) used all four of the above tricks to advocate screening. That is no longer so. All misleading statistics have been axed, and for the first time harms are explained, including how often they occur. However, none of the organizations have yet dared to publish a fact box, which would make the evidence crystal clear to everyone. Then, every woman could finally make an informed decision on her own.

Gerd Gigerenzer is the author of Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions. He is currently the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, and lectures around the world on the importance of proper risk education from everyone from school-age children to prominent doctors, bankers, and politicians.

TIME obituary

How We Die Author Dies Aged 83

In this Nov. 16, 1994, file photo, The National Book Awards prize winning writers Sherwin B. Nuland, center, William Gaddis, left, and James Tate greet each other after the awards ceremony in New York. Nuland, has died at age 83 Adam Nadel / AP

Sherwin B. Nuland, who wrote an award-winning book that became central to the ongoing debate regarding assisted suicide, has died from prostate cancer

Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland, the author of the award-winning book How We Die, died in his home on Monday after battling prostate cancer. He was 83.

How We Die was published in 1994 and won a National Book Award for its description of the destructiveness of dying. The book became part of the moral and legal debate over physician-assisted suicide in the U.S.

Nuland leaves behind his wife, four children and four grandchildren. His daughter, Victoria Jane Nuland, is the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs.

[The New York Times]

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