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Study unveils many ways carcinogens trigger development of breast cancer

Because only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are due to high risk inherited mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, scientists say a better understanding of how environmental factors contribute to the disease is needed to prevent future breast cancers and lower incidence rates.

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In the most comprehensive review to date of how breast cancer develops, scientists have created a detailed map that describes the many ways in which environmental chemicals can trigger the disease. Using ionizing radiation as a model, the researchers identified key mechanisms within cells that when disrupted cause breast cancer. Because the findings can be generalized to other environmental carcinogens, they could help regulators identify chemicals that increase breast cancer risk.

“We know exposure to toxic chemicals can play an important role in the development of breast cancer,” says Ruthann Rudel, an environmental toxicologist at Silent Spring Institute and one of the study’s co-authors. “Yet, when regulators try to evaluate whether a chemical is harmful or not, the tests they use do not capture the effects on the breast. This gap in testing means potential breast carcinogens are being given the green light for use in our consumer products.”

Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in women, with incidence rates highest in North America and Europe, and rates increasing globally. Because only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are due to high risk inherited mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, scientists say a better understanding of how environmental factors contribute to the disease is needed to prevent future breast cancers and lower incidence rates.

Toward that end, researchers at Silent Spring looked at ionizing radiation–an established risk factor for breast cancer. People can be exposed to ionizing radiation from many sources, including X-rays, CT scans and radiation treatment. The effects of radiation on breast cancer have been extensively studied, based in large part on studies of survivors of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and women who were exposed to medical radiation as adolescents.

Reporting in the journal Archives of Toxicology, Rudel and co-author Jessica Helm reviewed 467 studies to identify the sequence of biological changes that occur in breast cells and tissue from the time of radiation exposure to the formation of a tumor. They then created a map of these sequential changes, revealing multiple interconnected pathways by which ionizing radiation leads to breast cancer.

The researchers created the map using a framework called an Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP). AOPs were designed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as a way to represent how complex diseases develop, and to help regulators, chemical manufacturers, and drug companies predict how chemicals might affect diseases early in the research process.

“It turns out, not surprising, breast cancer is a lot more complex than how it’s conveyed in traditional cancer models,” says Rudel. In traditional models, ionizing radiation triggers breast cancer solely through DNA damage. The new model by Silent Spring integrates recent findings in cancer biology that show radiation, in addition to DNA damage, also increases the production of molecules called reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. These molecules wreak havoc inside cells, causing inflammation, altering DNA, and disrupting other important biological activities.

“This study is important and highlights the need for a holistic consideration of mechanistic evidence when identifying potential carcinogens,” says Kathryn Guyton, a senior toxicologist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer. “In reality there are multiple key characteristics of carcinogens. Increasingly, we are appreciating that human carcinogens may exhibit different combinations of these key characteristics.”

The Silent Spring team also found that the biological changes that lead to breast cancer are highly influenced by reproductive hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. Reproductive hormones stimulate the proliferation of cells within the breast, so chemicals that similarly encourage cell proliferation could make the breast more susceptible to tumors. “Critical periods of development, such as during puberty or pregnancy when the breast undergoes important changes, are times when the breast is especially vulnerable,” says Rudel.

To address gaps in chemical safety testing, the Silent Spring researchers identified a series of tests regulators could use to find chemicals that disrupt the pathways outlined in their new model. Chemicals that disrupt these pathways would be considered potential breast carcinogens, thereby discouraging their use in products.

“This study is an invaluable contribution to the field and a real wake-up call for regulators,” says Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. “By holding on to an oversimplified model of how chemicals cause cancer, regulators have been missing critical information, potentially allowing toxic chemicals to enter our products, our air, and our water.”

The AOP project is part of Silent Spring Institute’s Safer Chemicals Program which is developing new cost-effective ways of screening chemicals for their effects on the breast. Knowledge generated by this effort will help government agencies regulate chemicals more effectively and assist companies in developing safer products.

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Men with sensory loss are more likely to be obese

The association between physical activity and obesity was higher in men with hearing loss, who were 2.319 times more likely to be obese than women who reported difficulty hearing. Obesity in those with sight loss was 1.556 times higher in inactive men than women.

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Men who suffer sensory loss, particularly hearing loss, are more likely to be physically inactive and obese than women, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Public Health.

Researchers analysed data from more than 23,000 Spanish adults, and examined associations with physical inactivity and obesity in people with vision and hearing loss, and explored differences between men and women.

Results suggest inactive people with hearing loss were 1.78 times more likely to be obese compared to those who did not have any hearing loss. In people who had difficulty seeing, the odds ratio is slightly smaller, with a likelihood of obesity being 1.375 times higher than those who did not report vision loss.

The association between physical activity and obesity was higher in men with hearing loss, who were 2.319 times more likely to be obese than women who reported difficulty hearing. Obesity in those with sight loss was 1.556 times higher in inactive men than women.

Those with combined seeing and hearing difficulties had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity (44.8%) and obesity (26.1%). Analysis showed a significant association between physical inactivity and obesity in men with vision or hearing loss, but not in women.

Around 62% of adults in Spain are overweight, with 26% reporting as obese. In the UK, the figures are broadly similar at around 64% and 28% respectively, suggesting strong similarities between the countries.

A total of 11.04% of the people surveyed self-reported vision loss, 6.96% reported hearing loss, and 3.93% reported suffering both vision and hearing loss.

Lead author Professor Shahina Pardhan, Director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “It is clear from our study that there are significant differences between genders.

“Although women were overall less physically active than men, we found an association between physical inactivity and obesity in men, but not in women. This indicates that, especially in people with vision and hearing losses, exercise and being active has a very important role in preventing obesity for men.

“Adults, especially those with sensory losses, should be encouraged to be as physically active as possible but there are obviously challenges, strongly suggesting that intervention and encouragement would play a very important role.

“An effective strategy to increase the levels of physical activity in this population group would be through targeted intervention programmes based on health awareness on the importance of physical activity.”

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Dad tips we take for granted but go a long way

With all the pressure that comes with responsibilities, dads also need to look after their own wellbeing too.

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There is no one-size-fits all way to being a father, but most working dads want to do the best to support their loved ones. With all the pressure that comes with these responsibilities, dads also need to look after their own wellbeing too. 

Donato Avellana is the Health and Wellbeing Lead for the Vibe Team at Canva Philippines, and as a father himself, he acknowledges the importance of work-life balance. He has helped build programs at Canva that empower employees to have a healthy work-life balance, with holistic programs for all domains of wellness. Taking his learnings from this, he shares some helpful and practical tips to help dads to develop healthy habits that can boost their happiness at work and at home. 

1. Rest and recover well

Rest and relaxation is crucial to improve our overall health. Try your best to get at least 7 hours of sleep, go to bed an hour before you go to sleep, and stay away from your TV or mobile phone, as several studies show that the blue light from screens can disrupt sleep. Sleep is often a neglected component of overall well-being, but this is where the body repairs itself to get ready for another day. Remember that you deserve to rest.

2. Start your day with a cold shower 

Showering can also offer more benefits than many realise.  By using water that is a little cold, you can improve blood circulation, with the lower temperature causing blood to run to the skin’s surface. Good blood circulation plays an important role in our health for proper nutrient distribution throughout our body.

This is also a good time for dads to have their ‘me’ time. Breathing exercises are a great way to start the day, by offering the opportunity to regroup and reflect. 

3. Move more, make it a habit

The health benefits of movement have been scientifically proven time and time again. Your body is connected to your brain and your movement habits can positively impact how you think and feel. Inactivity can make you feel sluggish and tired, making it hard to find motivation and deliver on responsibilities.

Add regular walks, stand often, or follow stretching routines that you can commit to during the day. Taking time for a short 10-15-minute walk is a great way to have a mental and physical break.

4. Eat smart: practice a mindful eating habit. 

We have been educated about what healthy eating is since we were kids. Eating intuitively on a regular schedule is very important. Eating with no structure creates mindless eating that can lead to poor nutrition choices. Think of nourishing your body with healthy fuel for efficient performance instead of just eating. Eat a variety of whole foods, have fruits and vegetables, and hydrate smartly.

5. It’s okay to ask for help

This shortlist might not be easy for everyone, so I encourage dads to seek help when they need it. You might want to start at home with your spouse, ask for help from co-workers, peers, fellow fathers, professionals such as your doctor.

Showing appreciation to your father

If you’re still looking for heart-felt gift ideas for your dad, you can browse through Canva for free design ideas and inspiration. 

Make your dad, grandfather or any other special figure feel loved and appreciated by designing personalized cards. A wide variety of photos, customizable templates, and full-color professional layouts are available. You can also find Filipino templates by changing the language settings to Tagalog and searching for the word ‘tatay’.

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Sun Life Philippines holds ‘Tiny Habits’ workshop

The interactive event carried a fitness theme and was conducted by certified Tiny Habits Coaches TJ Agulto and Claire Limof AHA! Behavorial Design.They shared tips on creating tiny habits in a continuous period of two weeks and also emphasized the importance of celebrating small wins.

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Members of Sun Life Philippines’ Bright Habit Starters community were recently treated to an exclusive workshop on Tiny Habits, the breakthrough method for building habits by world-renowned Behavior Scientist Dr. BJ Fogg.

The interactive event carried a fitness theme and was conducted by certified Tiny Habits Coaches TJ Agulto and Claire Limof AHA! Behavorial Design.They shared tips on creating tiny habits in a continuous period of two weeks and also emphasized the importance of celebrating small wins.

The event was followed by one-on-one coaching sessions to help the participants commit to their habits. This was supervised through the Bright Habits Chatbot, which prompted them to perform daily check-ins for two weeks. This led to the participants achieving 93% success rate in practicing their Bright Tiny Habits.

Following the launch, a second batch of participants is now undergoing the same program, this time with the goal of creating habits to improve their relationships.

The Tiny Habits workshop is just one of the many perks enjoyed by the Bright Habit Starter community. Members are also provided with helpful tips, exclusive promos, and other activities designed to create a sustained behavior change in the present so they can reach their goals in the future. Launched just last March as part of Sun Life’s Ito Ang Araw Mo campaign, the community now has over 3,000 members.

Those interested to be a part of the Bright Habit Starters Community simply have to join via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/itoangarawmo.

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