Alcohol linked to cancer in eight countries in Western Europe

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Almost one in ten cancers in men and three percent of cancers in women in Western Europe are attributable to former and current alcohol drinking, according to a study conducted in France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Greece, Germany and Denmark.

The study authors argue that a substantial proportion (40-98 percent) of the alcohol-attributable cancers occurred in individuals who drank more than the recommended guidelines on upper limits of two standard drinks a day in men and one standard drink a day in women. (A standard drink contains about 12 grams of alcohol and is equivalent to a 125 ml-glass of wine or a half-pint of beer.)

The study calculated that in 2008, current and former alcohol consumption by men was responsible for about 57,600 cases of cancer of the upper digestive tract, colorectum and liver in Denmark, Greece, Germany, Italy, Spain and Great Britain. Over half of these cases were caused by drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day. Alcohol drinking by women in the eight countries caused about 21,500 cases of upper digestive tract, liver, colorectum and breast cancer, of which over 80 percent was due to consumption of more than one drink of beer, wine or spirits per day.

“Our data show that many cancer cases could have been avoided if alcohol consumption is limited to two alcoholic drinks per day in men and one alcoholic drink per day in women, which are the recommendations of many health organisations,” the study said. “And even more cancer cases would be prevented if people reduced their alcohol intake to below recommended guidelines or stopped drinking alcohol at all.”

1. Schütze M, Boeing H, Pischon T, et al. Alcohol attributable burden of incidence of cancer in eight European countries based on results from prospective cohort study. BMJ 2011; 342: d1584. (open access)

Knowledge of HPV, cervical cancer and vaccines among young women in Brazil

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HPV and cervical cancer education is needed for young Brazilian women

Young Brazilian women of low socioeconomic status were found to have low levels of knowledge of human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer development and prevention, according to a study of women age 15-24 years after their first delivery in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Only one third of the women reported having “ever heard about HPV”, despite the fact that the study began 16 days after public news and announcements about the first regulatory approval of one of the HPV vaccines in June 2006, and the fact that the women had relatively high levels of education within the Brazilian context. Only 19 percent and seven percent of the women, respectively, knew that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and that it can cause cervical cancer.

Awareness regarding HPV vaccines was high, with 74 percent of the women mentioning their preventative aspect, and 57 percent of women could identify at least one of the vaccines they had received; that is, they could name the vaccine or the disease which it was intended to prevent.

Despite the possibility to provide a large number of information to mothers during the prenatal and postpartum periods, this group of women had low levels of knowledge of HPV and cervical cancer development and prevention. “Thus, these women could benefit greatly from educational interventions to encourage participation in primary and secondary cervical cancer prevention programs,” the study concluded.

1. Rama CH, Villa LL, Pagliusi S. Awareness and knowledge of HPV, cervical cancer, and vaccines in young women after first delivery in São Paulo, Brazil–a cross-sectional study. BMC Women’s Health 2010; 10: 35. (open access)

Alcohol-related cancer cases and deaths in China

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Despite more than 60 percent of Chinese men and 90 percent of Chinese women reporting no alcohol drinking, a study shows that alcohol consumption accounted for 4.40 percent of cancer deaths and 3.63 percent of cancer cases in China in 2005.

Liver cancer was the main alcohol-related cancer, contributing more than 60 percent of alcohol-related cancers.

“Particular attention needs to be paid to the harm of alcohol as well as its potential benefits when making public health recommendations on alcohol drinking,” according to the study.

1. Liang H, Wang J, Xiao H, et al. Estimation of cancer incidence and mortality attributable to alcohol drinking in china. BMC Public Health 2010; 10: 730. (open access)

HPV infection and cervical cancer in Nigeria

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A study confirms that in Nigeria, as elsewhere, women infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 18 are at higher risk of developing invasive cervical cancer than those infected with other high-risk HPV types. Current HPV16/18 vaccines have enormous potential to reduce cervical cancer in Nigeria, the study concluded.

In the general population, 26.3 percent of women were HPV-positive, among whom the prevalence of HPV35 and HPV16 were equally frequent (12 percent). Among those with cervical cancer, however, HPV16 predominated strongly (67.6 percent of HPV-positive cases), with the next most common types being 18 (10.3 percent), 35, 45 and 56 (each 5.9 percent).
Comparing among HPV-positive women only, HPV16 and HPV18 were over-represented in cervical cancer cases versus the general population. Other high-risk HPV types, as well as low-risk and multiple HPV infections were less common in HPV-positive women with cervical cancer than from the general population.

1. Okolo C, Franceschi S, Adewole I, et al. Human papillomavirus infection in women with and without cervical cancer in Ibadan, Nigeria. Infectious Agents and Cancer 2010; 5: 24. (open access)

Most young women in the U.S. are not getting the HPV vaccine

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A study published in the journal BMC Women’s Health indicated that only 32 percent of women aged 19-26 years who had not received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine believed the vaccine was important, and less than one-third had discussed the vaccine with a doctor or received a doctor’s recommendation.

“The most effective way to protect the greatest number of women against HPV infection is to optimize provision of vaccine to all women eligible for vaccination,” the study authors said.

Therefore, educational interventions for young women about vaccine safety, vaccine efficacy, insurance coverage, and the value of vaccination to women in monogamous relationships may be needed to better inform those who decline HPV vaccination.

Read more at Suite101.

1. Zimet GD, Weiss TW, Rosenthal SL, et al. Reasons for non-vaccination against HPV and future vaccination intentions among 19-26 year-old women. BMC Women’s Health 2010; 10: 27. (open access)

Cancer control in developing countries

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Cancer is a rapidly increasing problem in developing countries. Without an understanding of cancer services and access to these services in developing countries, effective cancer control programs cannot be developed or sustained, a new study suggests.

The study demonstrates an urgent need to improve health services for cancer control in developing countries. Current resources and needed investments must be optimally managed. National, regional and international collaboration and political leadership are needed, focusing on four key priorities:

  • Capacity building in oncology health services research, policy and planning relevant to developing countries.
  • Development of higher quality health data sources.
  • More oncology-related economic evaluations in developing countries.
  • Exploration of high-quality models for delivering cancer control in developing countries sensitive to varying needs, resources and priorities.

These hold the promise of optimizing needed investment in cancer control for developing countries and improving national cancer control planning.

Research has shown that of the estimated 7.6 million cancer deaths worldwide in 2007, 62 percent were in developing countries. Experts projected a 75 percent increase in cancer incidence in the developing world between 2000 and 2020.

1. Hanna TP, Kangolle ACT. Cancer control in developing countries: using health data and health services research to measure and improve access, quality and efficiency. BMC International Health and Human Rights 2010; 10: 24. (0pen access)

U.S. cancer rates on steady decline

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Cancer remains a major public health problem in the United States – one in four deaths among Americans is due to cancer – but cancer death rates have been declining by up to 21 percent among men and 12 percent among women in recent years, according to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Statistics, 2010 report.

The decrease in deaths due to cancer translated to the avoidance of around 767,000 deaths over the 16-year period the report covered. Researchers credit the steady decline to reductions in smoking, early detection of cancer and improved cancer treatments.

Read more at Suite101.

1. Jemal A, Siegel R, Xu J, Ward E. Cancer Statistics, 2010. CA Cancer J Clin 2010; 60: 277-300. (open access)