This Interactive Chart Shows How Your Lifestyle Can Change Your Cancer Risk

World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research
World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research

If you read a lot of health news, you probably spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about your cancer risk. Will drinking too much coffee give you cancer? What about eating hot dogs? Or using a cell phone? Since it can be difficult to interpret the research, the World Cancer Research Fund has an interactive graphic, as Lifehacker spotted, that can help put things into perspective.

The World Cancer Research Fund, an international network of cancer prevention charities based in the U.S., the UK, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong, is dedicated to the science of how diet, nutrition, and physical activity affect cancer risk. Its Interactive Cancer Risk Matrix (see the full version here) visualizes what current research says about cancer risk and prevention in regards to lifestyle choices, like eating processed meat or having been breastfed as a child. (It doesn’t, however, include the genetic factors that play a role in cancer risk.) It features both factors that increase your risk for certain cancers—bacon and booze, for example—and factors that seem to decrease your risk, like eating a lot of whole grains and staying active.

A bubble chart that shows factors that decrease cancer risk in shades of green
World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research

The visualization divides risk factors into three categories: convincing, probably, or limited-suggested evidence. The first two mean that there’s significant research to show a causal link between those factors and either an increase or decrease in cancer risk. Limited evidence means there’s not enough definitive research for experts to be confident making a recommendation either way—the studies suggesting a link might be of poor quality, or the results too inconsistent to make a definitive call on it, even if there has been some evidence to suggest it has an effect.

These lifestyle factors don’t usually affect your risk of all cancers, so the graphic specifies which cancer each risk factor is associated with. As a result, some factors show up in multiple spots. A high adult body weight has been shown to have a probable increase in risk for cervical cancer, for instance, but a convincing increase in risk for other cancers, like liver cancer, colorectal cancer, and kidney cancer.

Not all of the risk factors are intuitive. Sure, arsenic in drinking water might increase your risk of lung cancer, but what does drinking mate have to do with cancer? Each of the bubbles is a link to the site’s in-depth webpages on related research, so if you click on the “mate” bubble, it will take you to a research digest of what current science tells us about the links between non-alcoholic drinks and cancer risk.

Explore for yourself here.

[h/t Lifehacker]

FDA Recalls Thyroid Medications Due to Contamination Risk

iStock
iStock

Hypothyroid medications manufactured by Westminster Pharmaceuticals have been recalled after it was discovered that one of the company’s Chinese suppliers failed to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, CNN reports.

The oral tablets contain levothyroxine (LT4) and liothyronine (LT3), which are both synthetic hormones used to treat thyroid conditions.

The medicine was recalled as a precaution after it was discovered during a 2017 FDA inspection that the Chinese supplier in question, Sichuan Friendly Pharmaceutical Co., was not practicing good manufacturing practices.

However, patients with serious thyroid conditions shouldn’t throw out their pills just yet. No adverse effects from the medication have been reported, and the risk of not taking the medication outweighs the risk of taking a recalled pill.

According to the FDA, “Because these products may be used in the treatment of serious medical conditions, patients taking the recalled medicines should continue taking their medicine until they have a replacement product.”

For more information on the specific lots and products in question, visit the FDA’s website.

[h/t CNN]

A 'Zombie Gene' Might Be the Reason Elephants Rarely Get Cancer

iStock
iStock

When it comes to cancer rates in the animal kingdom, elephants are an anomaly. As Popular Science notes, cancer should be more common among larger species, but with elephants, that simply isn’t the case. Only about 5 percent of elephants die from cancer, compared to 11 to 25 percent of humans.

In a new study, published in Cell Reports, University of Chicago researchers found what’s believed to be the genetic source of elephants’ cancer immunity. Elephants, like all mammals, have a gene called LIF that is known to suppress tumors. Humans have one copy of this gene, but elephants have 10 copies, which have developed over 80 million years of evolution. However, only one of those copies, called LIF6, is functional in elephants.

The other LIF copies are essentially dead because they lack a specific piece of DNA to make them function. At some point during the evolutionary process, the LIF6 gene copy turned back on, but scientists don’t know why or when this occurred. This “zombie gene” helps kill mutated cells, in true Night of the Living Dead fashion.

“This reanimation of LIF6 occurred perhaps over 59 million years,” Joshua Schiffman, who studies cancer in elephants but was not involved in the study, told Popular Science. “That’s an amazingly long period of time for nature to modify and perfect an anticancer mechanism.”

Scientists aren’t yet sure how this could be applied to cancer research in humans, but they say it’s a promising start and a creative approach to the problem. While these findings are still fresh and need to be duplicated, it raises the possibility of creating a drug that mimics the function of LIF6.

[h/t Popular Science]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios