Science in the Spotlight: Top 5 Findings of 2010
As CRU readers know, this year there was a lot of promising research in the field of weight, diet and physical activity to cancer. Many of the studies have spurred further research that we’ll likely hear about in 2011.
For now, here are the top 5 findings in the field, according to AICR experts.
1. New guidelines for cancer patients and survivors: Get moving
In June, a panel of experts concluded that cancer patients and survivors should aim to get the same 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise that is recommended for the general public. Even if the If the 150-minute goal is not possible, survivors and patients – even those undergoing treatment --- should find ways to move more.
The guidelines’ conclusions, which contrast with the advice of resting traditionally given to cancer patients, found there are numerous benefits to exercise for those diagnosed with cancer, including improving physical function, quality of life, and cancer-related fatigue.
2. Cancer Prevention and High Doses of Vitamin D: Not proven
Since the previous Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on Vitamin D in 1997, numerous studies have suggested that increasing vitamin D may play a role in preventing cancer, along with heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions. In November, the Institute of Medicine (IOM)’s long-awaited report on Vitamin D concluded that more vitamin D is helpful for bone health, but the evidence on cancer prevention (along with other chronic diseases) was inconsistent and inconclusive. More research is needed, the report notes.
Evidence linking bone health to vitamin D was strong enough for the committee to increase the recommended intake level to 600 IU per day for ages 1-70, and 800 IU per day for ages 71 and older. And most people are getting enough of both calcium and vitamin D.
The IOM recommendations, similar to AICR’s recommendations on supplements and cancer prevention, are for the general public.
3. The diabetes-cancer connection: There is one
A growing body of evidence is finding that having diabetes or signs of insulin resistance may lead to an increased risk of certain cancers. The connection is strongest among cancers of the liver, pancreas, and endometrium and lesser for cancers of the colon/rectum, breast, and bladder.
Similar conclusions were reached by AICR’s InDepth’s paper, The Diabetes-Cancer Connection, and the report: Diabetes and Cancer: A Consensus Report, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Diabetes and cancer share many of the same risk factors: overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity and poor diets.
4. Telomere: Possible link between aging and cancer prevention
In 2009, a team of scientists was awarded the Nobel Prize for their research into telomeres and this year, research involving telomeres was big. Telomeres are the DNA caps on the ends of our chromosomes. As cells age – and divide – telomeres shorten, and shorter telomeres increase the risk of cancer. Studies have shown that telomeres can also lengthen under certain condition.
This year, scientists made a number of important findings on telomeres’ role in both aging and cancer. Given that aging is the top risk factor for cancer, the link between telomere length to both aging and cancer is a promising area of study.
The US departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are expected to soon release the updated Dietary Guidelines, which are updated every five years. The updated 2010 Dietary Guidelines promises to emphasize obesity prevention and stress the importance of a plant-based diet, suggests the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).
The 2010 DGAC cited the evidence-based conclusions of the AICR/WCRF expert report and its updates on cancer prevention.
The DGAC also emphasizes total diet by recommending a practical approach to eating, similar to AICR’s approach for cancer prevention.
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