Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Medicines to Deter Some Cancers Are Not Taken

Medicines to Deter Some Cancers
 Are Not Taken
by Gina Kolata
New York Times - November 12, 2009 
Many Americans do not think twice about taking medicines to prevent heart disease and stroke. But cancer is different. Much of what Americans do in the name of warding off cancer has not been shown to matter, and some things are actually harmful. Yet the few medicines proved to deter cancer are widely ignored....................

Dr. Abrams responds:
 Hi Gina,
I am here in NYC becoming President of the Society for Integrative Oncology. I had just enough time to scan your front page article before heading to the NY Academy of Medicine for the meeting. And I was at the American Institute for Cancer Research Nutrition and Cancer meeting in DC last week. Not surprisingly I was disappointed with your article, especially as we try to move to a system of health care delivery that might promote health and well-being as opposed to disease management. Your observations that the only things that work to reduce cancer risk are pharmaceutical prescription drugs and that lifestyle modification is futile is a real blow to the attempt to have the American public become more responsible for their health. Studies of diet, and exercise as well, are much more difficult and problematic to conduct than a randomized, placebo-controlled intervention involving a swallowed pill! Nonetheless, to only highlight the negative when just last week the Journal of Clinical Oncology ran an article on how lifestyle (nutrition and physical activity) decrease the risk of second breast cancers. Meyerhardt from the Dana Farber has been very prolific writing articles which clearly demonstrate the detriment of the "Western" diet and the benefits of physical activity - especially in colon cancer!
Even though I disagree with your thrust, hopefully your article will stimulate the same sort of questioning that you aroused in me so that there may be a net benefit. To lull your readership into believing that what they eat or how much they move won't affect their cancer risk reduction is unfortunate! Especially at this critical juncture in our health care reform attempt.
We have disagreed in the past as well. I was just struck by the timing of your article which I will critique during my acceptance speech this afternnon!
Good to communicate again anyway!
With all due respect,
I remain,

Donald I. Abrams, MD
Chief, Hematology-Oncology
San Francisco General Hospital
Integrative Oncology