Saturday, January 24, 2015

Colorectal Cancer Increasing In Young Adults

Health & Wellness

Inflatable Colon: Physical models like this internal view of the colon can encourage individuals  to book colonoscopies with their doctors. Now, one of the best cancer-screening methods promises even better results with 360-degree Google-like views of the colon; it will be like taking a walk inside.
Photo Credit: Tim Fraser
Source: NatPost

An article, by Nicholas Bakalar, in the New York Times (November 5, 2014) says that in the United States colorectal cancer rates are increasing in young adults, and so is the severity of the disease. This is taking place while the rates are decreasing for those 50 and older.

Bakalar writes:
The study, published in JAMA Surgery, used a national database of 400,000 patients with colon or rectal cancer. Incidences decreased by about 1 percent a year over all but rose among people 20 to 34, with the largest increase — 1.8 percent a year — in disease that had already progressed to other organs.

Incidence rates today, per 100,000 people, are 3 for ages 20 to 34; 17 for ages 35 to 49; and 300 for people over 50. But by 2030, the researchers estimate, one in 10 colon cancers and one in four rectal cancers will be in people under 50, and rates among those over 50 will be 175 per 100,000.

The study draws no conclusions about whether screening should begin at a younger age. “There are always risks and unintended consequences of screening tests,” said the senior author, Dr. George J. Chang, an associate professor of surgery and health services research at the University of Texas.
Of course, screening costs money. Setting a policy to initiate screening at a younger age (like 20) will require not only agreement among physicians, but also more government funds, not always an easy task. Yet, it might become necessary and normative in a decade or so, since screenings is still less costly than cancer treatment. Early detection not only saves lives, it also reduces substantially the cost of treatment.

While this study was U.S..-based, one wonders if it similar in other nations, notably western nations. The chief unanswered question is what is the root cause of younger people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Is it better screenings? Is it lifestyle? Is it genetic? Or is a combination of all such factors, including higher incidences of obesity, poor diet and inactivity. Does alcohol also play a factor in the higher rates for young people? How about the use of laptops, tablets and other electronics?

I am sure that all these questions will eventually be answered. The paper, published in JAMA (November 5, 2014), concludes as follows: “There has been a significant increase in the incidence of CRC diagnosed in young adults, with a decline in older patients. Further studies are needed to determine the cause for these trends and identify potential preventive and early detection strategies.”

For more, go to [NYT]

Friday, January 23, 2015

Iran, Argentina, and Rafsanjani

The Iran File
In the area of diplomacy and international negotiations, one of the chief questions asked about a nation, notably a powerful one intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, is whether it is a rational actor. That is, are the nation’s leaders acting in a rational, predictable way that serve some national interest? Such is the case with Iran, which, before the Islamic Revolution, was not an enemy of either Israel or the west. All this changed in 1979, and there are some in the American government who think the best policy is to talk to Iran, to find some common ground, perhaps to restore diplomatic relationships. This is both irrational and a mistake, says Prof. George Jochnowitz: “The United States should not assume that Iran is acting rationally. Iran was irrational when it continued its war against Iraq for eight years; it was irrational when it blew up the Jewish center in Argentina, and it is irrational today. The only reason that Iran is paying a very high price to build a nuclear facility is its desire to destroy Israel—a country with which it has no dispute whatsoever. Irrational hatreds are always the most dangerous.”
 by George Jochnowitz
Negotiating with Iran makes no sense.

In 2001, Iran’s President Rafsanjani, who is generally described as a moderate, called the existence of Israel an ugly, colonialist phenomenon and said that nuclear war could destroy everything on the ground in Israel but would merely damage the world of Islam.

Rafsanjani’s statement seems to be part of a policy that is not merely anti-Israel but also anti-Semitic. In1994, a suicide bomber drove into the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people. Most of the victims were Jewish but not Israeli. Iran and its ally, Hezbollah, are believed to have organized the attack. In 2007, Argentine authorities secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians and a Lebanese over the bombing.

Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who has accused President Cristina Fernandez of covering up Iran’s role in this terror attack, was found dead on January 18 under mysterious circumstances. Could Iran have played a role? As of the moment, we don’t know.

Rafsanjani’s statement was an indirect appeal to turn Iran into a suicide bomb against Israel. Ever since then, Iran has been devoting itself to building nuclear facilities, with the aid of North Korea, a country that actually sent its planes to fight against Israel in 1973.

Iran has never modified its absolutely pointless struggle against Israel. Iran is threatened by Sunni radicalism—the force that inspires Hamas. Iran fought an extremely bloody war against an Arab country, Iraq, for eight years.

It would make perfect sense for Iran to ally itself with Israel, which in fact was the case before Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in 1979. Nevertheless, Iran pursued its nuclear ambitions. Nothing can explain this except for Iran’s desire to destroy Israel, no matter what the cost, as Rafsanjani suggested. That is why Iran has tempted the world to impose sanctions against it.

The United States should not assume that Iran is acting rationally. Iran was irrational when it continued its war against Iraq for eight years; it was irrational when it blew up the Jewish center in Argentina, and it is irrational today. The only reason that Iran is paying a very high price to build a nuclear facility is its desire to destroy Israel—a country with which it has no dispute whatsoever. Irrational hatreds are always the most dangerous.

Negotiating with Iran makes no sense.

George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at

Copyright ©2015. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Joy Of Eating Together

Food Tastes

Afghan women share a meal of flatbread, goat, lamb, and fruit in the Women’s Garden,
a refuge for conversation and confidences outside the city of Bamian. The garden and
surrounding park were created to promote leisure activities for women and families­.
For this group it includes the chance to bond over food.

: Lynsey Addario, Getty Images

: NatGeo

Is eating more enjoyable when it is is done in the company of others? Is the telling and sharing of stories as important as the consumption of food. It has been said that food tastes better when in the company of friends, notably good friends. Trusting friends. Old friends. It might be so. A pictorial essay in National Geographic shows the joy of eating together; Victoria Pope writes:
Food is more than survival. With it we make friends, court lovers, and count our blessings. The sharing of food has always been part of the human story. From Qesem Cave near Tel Aviv comes evidence of ancient meals prepared at a 300,000-year-old hearth, the oldest ever found, where diners gathered to eat together. Retrieved from the ashes of Vesuvius: a circular loaf of bread with scoring marks, baked to be divided. “To break bread together,” a phrase as old as the Bible, captures the power of a meal to forge relationships, bury anger, provoke laughter. Children make mud pies, have tea parties, trade snacks to make friends, and mimic the rituals of adults. They celebrate with sweets from the time of their first birthday, and the association of food with love will continue throughout life—and in some belief systems, into the afterlife. Consider the cultures that leave delicacies graveside to let the departed know they are not forgotten. And even when times are tough, the urge to celebrate endures. In the Antarctic in 1902, during Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery expedition, the men prepared a fancy meal for Midwinter Day, the shortest day and longest night of the year. Hefty provisions had been brought on board. Forty-five live sheep were slaughtered and hung from the rigging, frozen by the elements until it was time to feast. The cold, the darkness, and the isolation were forgotten for a while. “With such a dinner,” Scott wrote, “we agreed that life in the Antarctic Regions was worth living.”
Humans are social animals; and eating alone, which has now become the norm in many places and societies, goes against the idea of sociability. Sure, there are times, especially in business and when traveling for business, that one has to eat alone. But it is a sad affair; or at least I have always considered it as such when I ate alone in a foreign and strange city. Jean Baudrillard, the French philosopher said: "Sadder than destitution, sadder than a beggar is the man who eats alone in public. Nothing more contradicts the laws of man or beast, for animals always do each other the honor of sharing or disputing each other's food."

For more images, go to [NatGeo].

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The End Of Cancer Deaths By 2050

Human Health

T-Cells: Our bodies natural defenses can be given a boost through immunotherapy, one of the many weapons in the arsenal to combat and defeat cancer.
Source & Credit: NatPost & Fotolia

An article, by Ben Schiller, in FastCompany says cancer deaths could virtually be eliminated by 2050; in making this prediction, Schiller is citing a report from University College’s School of Pharmacy in  London. At the heart of the prediction—both optimistic and exciting—is that medical knowledge and social awareness will lead to a better understanding of cancer and its mechanisms.

It will, within a few short decades, lead to its defeat. The beginning of the end of cancer is near. Schiller writes:
A report from University College London says "it is realistic to expect that by 2050 nearly all cancer related deaths in children and adults aged up to (say) 80 years will have become preventable through lifestyle changes and because of the availability of protective technologies and better pharmaceutical and other therapies."

Currently, 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year, with 8 million dying because of it. The report forecasts the burden to almost double by 2030, to 26 million diagnoses and 17 million deaths. However, a lot of those deaths are expected to occur in China, which has a relatively old population for an emerging country. Deaths among people under-80 are predicted to decline as a percentage of population, particularly in richer countries. For example, the U.K. will see a 40% reduction in deaths by 2030 compared to 1990 numbers.

"In future decades combinations of innovative medicines coupled with enhanced radiological and surgical interventions will, provided research investment levels are maintained, mean that many more individuals with advanced cancers will be cured, or enabled to live with them in a fulfilling manner," the report says.

Aside from advances in genomics and the discovery of personalized drugs, the report points to the importance of "effective psychosocial and practical support for lifestyle changes." Greater awareness of cancer and its environmental causes can make people more responsible for their health, encourage people to report tell-tale signs of cancer at an earlier stage (which is crucial for successful treatment), and spread "know-how" to less advantaged communities. Declines in tobacco use should also help reduce the incidence of cancer.
As I have written a number of times before, this shows more and more that we have entered the golden age of cancer research and cancer treatment. If we are having success in beating cancer, a disease that is heartless and callous as it is non-discriminatory and democratic, it must be remembered that all research, including important medical advances such as we are witnessing today is the fruit of both the European Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution that followed.

This point cannot be over-emphasized enough.

Any and all advances, including the technologies that follow, come about through the dedication and hard work of scientists and researchers who use rational thought processes that lead to the solving of nature's mysteries.

You can read the full report at [UniversityCollege]; and the rest of the article at [FastCompany].