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Coronary heart disease and colorectal cancer, chronic pain and sleep disorders and the Sister Study.

PUBLISHED December 10, 2007

A new study helps confirm a link between coronary artery disease and risk of colorectal tumors.

The study, from researchers in Hong Kong and Houston, focused on patients at three Hong Kong hospitals who had no previous colon illness and were undergoing angiography to check for coronary artery disease. All patients (along with a third group of people who didn’t require testing for heart disease) underwent a colonoscopy.

Among those newly diagnosed with coronary artery disease, more than 18 percent were found to have advanced growths in the colon, and 4.4 percent had cancer, compared with almost 9 percent with advanced growths and less than a half percent with cancer in those who tested negative for coronary artery disease. (Less than 6 percent of the third group had advanced growths, and less than 2 percent had cancer.) Two factors in particular predicted a patient’s risk of having both advanced growths and coronary artery disease: a history of smoking and the presence of the metabolic syndrome, a collection of symptoms — such as high blood pressure, a large waist measurement and low HDL cholesterol — that together are linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

While some risk factors for coronary artery disease and colon cancer, such as old age and male sex, cannot be changed, the authors note that “the metabolic syndrome and smoking are environmental factors that can be reversed.”
Journal of the American Medical Association, 9/26/07

“The efforts of those committed to an America less burdened by cancer often are compromised by Federal, state, and local policies that have decreased the availability and affordability of healthy foods, limited physical education in schools, and created a built environment that discourages physical activity.”

In a study of 140 patients on around-the-clock opioid therapy for chronic pain, 75 percent had disordered breathing while sleeping. Almost 40 percent had obstructive sleep apnea (caused by throat muscles relaxing and blocking the airway); 24 percent had central sleep apnea (when the brain doesn’t send needed signals to muscles that control breathing); and 8 percent had both. Untreated apnea can result in dangerous daytime sleepiness and even contribute to heart attack or stroke.
Pain Medicine Online, 7/30/07

Still short of their year-end recruitment goal, organizers of the Sister Study, federally funded research focusing on breast cancer, are urgently seeking participants, especially minority women and women over age 65.

“The incidence and survival statistics are different for women of color and older women, and for women in different occupations and regions of the country. We want to know what makes these statistics different,” says Paula Juras, Sister Study project officer and National Institutes of Health specialist. 

The study, conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, will spend at least a decade following women ages 35 to 74 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico whose sisters had breast cancer. These women are twice as likely to get the disease, says Juras, PhD. “Not only do they share similar genes, but also early environment and lifestyles.” 

Researchers will look at environmental and genetic factors that may increase risk of breast cancer. As of early November, 44,463 women had enrolled, including more than 11,000 minorities and seniors. For details, visit www.sisterstudy.org.

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