June 2005 Newsletter - Breast cancer case “Safe” radiation dose Vitamin E Success stories — patients with asthma, allergies, and chronic fatigue

Dear Friends and Patients:

My wife Judy recently flew to California to help our son Michael drive back to Gainesville. He graduated from his studies at GIA (the Gemological Institute of America) and now has his graduate gemology degree. It was a long and arduous process for him but now he has the training to do jewelry appraisals and sales. At times the road for him seemed impossible to navigate. Over 30% of his class quit because the going got hard. His final exam required that he identify 20 difficult gem stones (including fakes) 100% correctly or he would fail. In addition he had to take written exams. As parents we encouraged him to take one day at time, and not focus on setbacks or how difficult things were. We encouraged him to picture where he could be if he kept doing enough of the right things. We told Mike that anything worthwhile took effort. The same principles can apply to improving one’s health.

This past March the Center celebrated its 5th birthday. It has been very gratifying to have helped literally over one thousand patients in this period of time. Many of our patients were discouraged about their health and in some cases felt they would never be able to return to work or go back to a “normal” lifestyle. We try to encourage our patients to take things one day at a time much in the same way we encouraged our son. Nutritional therapies take time before the results are obvious. Also, nutritional and other complementary therapies are not a “cure-all” and help people in varying degrees. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies to one’s health. Another way to look at this is what you do (or don’t do) today will determine where you are at in the future.

Mrs. B, a lovely lady in her mid 50′s took vitamins, ate a healthy diet including mostly organic foods, and exercised regularly. She went to her gynecologist annually for checkups, including breast exams. She also had yearly mammograms for the past 8 years. In spite of doing “everything right,” she found a large, irregular area in one of her breasts. This turned out to be malignant. By the time the diagnosis was established, the cancer had spread throughout her body. A friend of hers suggested she see me to get ideas about cancer therapies. Her oncologist advised her to undergo extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments in spite of a predicted very low response rate. I discussed further options with her, including some CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) therapies. I also advised that she undergo a breast thermogram of the opposite breast, as mammography had missed the original cancer and having cancer in the remaining breast could change her treatment plans. Fortunately her thermography turned out negative.

At the end of her interview with me Mrs. B commented “I thought I was doing most things right but still developed breast cancer.” She then asked “Could the radiation from my multiple mammograms have been a risk factor or contributed to the development of my cancer?”

Before answering this question I share this sad story to remind our readers that there is no perfect technology. Mammography misses 1 in 10 breast cancers, on average. It is also less sensitive for women who are overweight, have fibrocystic breast changes, have dense breast tissue or who have breast implants. Thermography, which is a completely different technology looking at heat patterns and sympathetic nervous system response, is also only about 90% accurate. However, thermography can diagnosis a breast cancer 6 – 8 years before a mammogram and does not expose a woman’s breasts to radiation. Combining the two technologies along with clinical breast examination provides a 97%+ accuracy rate. One of the pluses we have found for our thermography patients is that fibrocystic thermal changes that were of concern were able to be reversed in some patients using various natural therapies. For more information on Thermography and Breast Health download the series of 3 articles on breast health and the article on thermography in the “Topics of Intrest” section of this site.

Screening Procedures vs. Diagnostic Procedures

I would like to point out that there is a difference between screening procedures and diagnostic procedures. Screening procedures, which we all assume should be 100% safe, are used to look periodically at symptom-free people for some undetected disease. Screening detects rather than prevents disease, and it makes sense the earlier a problem is uncovered, the better the odds of fixing it. But this assumption has been difficult to confirm with respect to many cancers. By contrast, diagnostic procedures are evaluations of people who already have some suspicious symptoms that may indicate a potential problem. The difficulty, in establishing that cancer-screening which results in early treatment does more good than harm, is intimately tied to the difficulty in telling an early genuine cancer from an abnormality which is harmless. An “in situ cancer” is one which is still located in its original place. Is it then really cancer? Cancer biologists have had a saying: “Cancer is what cancer does. If it kills you, it was a malignancy.” Dr. Otis Brawley, professor of medical oncology and epidemiology of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University says “overdiagnosis exists in virtually every [class of] cancer.”

No one knows how common cancer therapy is for non-cancers (if you use the definition that a cancer must demonstrate uncontrolled growth). For example, a high percentage of prostate biopsies in elderly men show microscopic cancer cells. Most of these men die from causes other than prostate cancer. There is controversy over whether this is something that should be even treated if treatment has no biological benefit. In the United States aggressive approaches with radical surgery or radiation treatments are often undertaken in elderly patients, whereas in other countries a less aggressive watch and wait approach may be taken. Oncologists use increasing the 5 year survival rates as justification for treatment. This has little or nothing to do with proving that a disease is curable, according to Dr. Robert J. Stanley, a radiologist and past president of the American Roentgen Ray Society in an article “Inherent Dangers in Radiological Screening (Stanley 2001).

What is a “Safe” dose of Radiation?

So could the radiation from Mrs. B’s mammograms have contributed to her problems? Because radiation is invisible, many people do not worry about it’s effects at a cellular level, but it is the most significant type of energy that causes oxidative stress, DNA damage, mutations and cancer. Each time a person has an X-ray, the effects are cumulative over a life-time. My background in medicine started in Radiation Oncology as a resident in training, and I became very aware of the powerful effects of ionizing radiation. Back then, we used Cobalt 60 units and also radium needles to treat certain cancers. I could literally “feel” the radiation from the radium needles tingling through my fingers and hand when I held them in the operating room! I was told by the senior doctors at that time “not to worry about it.” So what are safe exposure levels to gamma radiation from X-rays? Sami Sherbini for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission answered this question on August 31, 2001:

“The term ‘safe’ is a value judgement and is difficult to define. Some people consider safe to mean no risk, while others consider safe to carry risks that they consider negligible, but that others would consider unacceptable. In connection with radiation exposure, there is no safe radiation dose if by safe is meant no risk. This is a consequence of the linear, no-threshold model of radiation carcinogenesis that is currently the basis of radiological protection in all countries. This model assumes that the risk of radiogenic cancer increases in direct proportion to the dose, with no threshold below which there is no effect. Thus, even very low levels of radiation are assumed to carry some low risk of cancer. Because of this, regulatory agencies and standard-setting organizations do not speak of safe levels of radiation, but rather of acceptable levels. The dose limits are set at levels that are considered to be roughly at the dividing line between what would be considered an acceptable level of risk and an unacceptable level, assuming continuous exposure at these dose levels. However, because there are no ‘safe’ levels of radiation, meaning there are no levels that carry no risk, licensees are expected, in addition to operating at all times below the dose limits, to also maintain exposures as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). The application of ALARA has led to occupational and public doses that are far below the limits and that now currently stand at levels considered by most people to carry quite acceptable, or even negligible, levels of risk, or, as some may say loosely, safe levels.”

A Different Point of View on X ray Exposure, Cancer Screening, and Cancer Development

Think back over your lifetime and count the total number of X-rays you may have had, including all the dental X-rays, chest X-rays, mammograms, bone density studies, scans with radioactive dyes or other studies were you were placed under an X-ray beam. How much radiation over your lifetime have you been exposed to? There is no way of knowing as no physician is monitoring this.

There are screening procedures that carry more risk than benefit, in my opinion. One example is a “whole body” CT scan where the entire body is X-rayed. This type of study is usually not promoted by a person’s doctor, but is a consequence of an ad in the newspaper where an out of town group promotes this procedure directly to the public as a “preventive health test” and sends a mobile CT scanner . The amount of radiation a person gets from this type of study would be the same as if the person was 150 miles away during the Hiroshima bomb. There are no long term studies that I am aware of that show where this procedure is either safe or beneficial in the long run, and I do not recommend it.

A brilliant but very technical book called Preventing Breast Cancer: The Story Of A Major, Proven, Preventable Cause Of This Disease was written by John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Gofman is a Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkley. Prior to WWII he worked on the A bomb. Soon after the war he and his colleagues showed high LDL and low HDL lipoproteins to be risk factors for heart disease. In 1963, at the request of the Atomic Energy Commission, he established the Biomedical Research Division at the Livermore National Laboratory. By 1970, his findings on radiation hazards displeased the government, where he and a colleague (Dr. Tamplin) concluded ionizing radiation was much more serious than previously recognized. He and Tamplin spoke out vocally against certain Atomic Energy Council projects that they felt would be dangerous, so the government tried to suppress his work and stopped the funding to Dr. Gofman’s laboratory research on chromosomes and cancer. Since that time he has worked independently and does pro-bono research into human health affects from radiation. He is a lecturer in the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.

In his book Dr. Gofman points out that if a woman, starting at age 50, accumulates 15 mammograms over her lifetime and assuming that the mean glandular dose to the breast per 2 view exam is 0.2 rads, the likelihood of a fatal mammogram-induced breast cancer is roughly 1 in 500. If a woman receives more than 15 mammograms or starts at an earlier age, the risk of developing a breast cancer from this X-ray procedure goes up. The bottom line of his book is the recent increase in breast-cancer incidence is not a mystery. He states 75% of the annual incidence is caused by earlier exposure to ionizing radiation from X-rays. He also hypothesizes that medical radiation is an important cause of death from ischemic heart disease due to radiation-induced mutations in the coronary arteries. He is one of a number of prominent physicians who are concerned about the overuse of diagnostic X-rays. For more on this and other radiation related issues you may wish to log on to www.x-raysandhealth.org.

My recommendation is to minimize X-ray studies to those that are absolutely necessary.

Success Stories

Miss C is a 5 year old child whose parent’s brought to the Center several years ago to be evaluated for allergies. This child had a history of frequent ear infections and upper respiratory infections. Miss C would have a difficult time whenever there was an increase in pollens or mold or other inhalants. She would also start wheezing and become ill when visiting relatives who had dogs and cats in the home. She was on multiple medications for asthma and allergies. The parents were reluctant to visit relatives as they knew their daughter would have some sort of allergic reaction and become ill.

After a physical exam and evaluation of allergies using NAET (Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique) vials, allergies to mold, dust, pollens, animal dander, flowers and trees were found. A series of NAET acupressure treatments were undertaken with significant improvement in symptoms. Miss C was now able to visit relatives and not have as severe reactions. This child was recently at the Center and is doing well.

Another patient, Mrs. B, had asthma as an adult and also underwent NAET treatments. At times she would get exertional asthma when she exercised. She began having severe wheezing and breathing episodes that did not respond to her albuterol inhaler, and on several occasions her reactions were so severe she required the use of an epi-pen (self-administered epinephrine). After undergoing an extensive evaluation at the Center it was determined by CRA (contact reflex analysis) that Mrs. B was allergic to her inhaler (most likely the propellant)! In retrospect, every time she would use her inhaler to relieve her wheezing, her symptoms would become much worse. A different brand of inhaler was prescribed and her symptoms disappeared. She underwent NAET treatments and rarely has allergy symptoms now.

NAET is a non-conventional way to eliminate allergies using acupuncture/acupressure techniques and was developed by Devi Nambudripad, M.D.. It is effective in about 85% of the cases in improving or eliminating allergic reactions. I have trained with Dr. Nambudripad at her clinic in Los Angeles. For further information I suggest reading her book “Say Goodbye to Illness.” We carry this book at the Center.

Another Success Story

Mrs. C is a 40 year old lady who presented to the Center in February 2004 with chronic fatigue, inability to lose weight, and bad PMS. After undergoing a comprehensive exam and lab evaluation, she was found to have elevations of bismuth and mercury on her hair analysis. A subsequent provocative urine challenge test using a chelating agent showed a very high level of mercury to be present. Traditional lab testing was normal, including a complete blood count, thyroid studies, metabolic profile, lipid and cholesterol profiles. She ate very little seafood and it was felt her source of increased body stores of mercury was leakage from her dental amalgams, which are over 70% mercury. She also underwent a salivary hormone study which followed her hormonal status over a one month period of time and this study was basically normal except for indications of increased stress.

Mrs. C elected to have her dentist replace her mercury amalgams with non-toxic material, using the proper protocol which included the use of a rubber dam, cooling of the dental drill with water to reduce vaporization of mercury, and amalgam removal by quadrants. After this was completed, Mrs. C began a course of oral chelation with DMSA ( meso 2, 3-dimercaptosuccinic acid ) which is approved by the FDA for lead detoxification, but also in many patients will remove mercury. Once this therapy was completed, a repeat provocative urine test was performed and showed the mercury levels to be minimal (they dropped from 23ug/gm down to 0.6ug/gm). At this point in her therapy, her fatigue had completely resolved and her PMS was no longer a problem. She wanted to start losing weight. We commonly find inability to lose weight as a consequence of toxic metals interfering with a person’s metabolism, hormones, and neurotransmitters that affect appetite. These problems improve or resolve once the heavy metals are detoxified.

Mrs. C was placed on the appropriate diet and supplements and within the first month she was able to lose 10 pounds in weight. This wasn’t easy as all the “bad” carbohydrates were removed from her diet during the induction phase. She no longer craved carbohydrates at her revisit and was able to eat limited quantities without becoming tired. Also, her skin, which had acne, was completely clear for the first time in a long time. This patient is now being seen at routine 3 month intervals.

Mercury pollution of our environment is a major concern and is a well recognized health hazard. It is mostly a by-product of coal firing electrical plants that vaporize mercury into the atmosphere, where it is precipitated into the land and water through rain, eventually getting into the food supply. Mercury pollution of our bodies from dental amalgams can occur when “silver filings” (they are really mostly mercury) vaporize mercury gas each time a person chews food or drinks a hot drink. Replacement of mercury amalgams with non-toxic materials for medical reasons is an area of controversy among traditional dentists. The current evidence is such that there is no place for this toxic metal in the human body. This is supported by medical studies that show mercury causes changes in brain tissue consistent with Alzheimer’s disease, is associated with autism and other neurological disorders, and can also adversely affect hormonal status and heart function. Dr. Boyd Haley, PhD, from the University of Kentucky Medical Center is a vociferous opponent of dental amalgams. NIH (The National Institutes of Health) funded his research for 25 years until he began to seriously call into question the safety of dental amalgams, and the use of Thimersol (a mercury containing preservative) in vaccines and their correlation with autism. Dr. Haley believes that fish are not as big a problem in humans as dental amalgams because methyl mercury from fish is generally excreted quickly while mercury vapor from amalgams is not. At a September 2004 meeting at Tulane University of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Dr. Haley reported on the dramatic rise in autism rates, over 900% in less than a generation in California and 714% nationwide. This correlated with the introduction of Hepatitis B vaccine in 1990 and an increase in the overall vaccination schedule. In 1999, Thimerosal was removed from the vaccines as parents gained increased awareness of the issue and in the first three quarters of 2004 the data showed a decline in autism incidence for the first time.

Is Your Vitamin E Working and is it “Safe”?

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant for heart health and prevents the oxidation of LDL and HDL cholesterol. It also plays an important role for maintaining healthy immune and neurological function. An article questioning the safety of vitamin E was recently published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), stating it was associated with the risk of developing congestive heart failure. There were flaws in this study. For one, the vitamin E levels were never measured in the patients! For another, the patients were ill with heart disease and other diseases, and were on multiple medications. There was no analysis or correlation whether the medications were causing congestive heart failure. For instance, most heart patients are placed on a statin drug. Statin drugs deplete coenzyme Q 10 which can lead to congestive heart failure. Beta blockers are also frequently used in heart patients and can cause congestive heart failure. There was no cross-over where vitamin E was taken away from one group and given to the other group to see if the same thing happened. Using simple logic, look at the foods Vitamin E is naturally found in – nuts, oily fish, some vegetables, egg yolk, and certain oils such as olive oil, canola oil, or safflower oil. Most of these foods are the same heart healthy foods people are encouraged to eat and are the main part of the Mediterranean diet which is associated with a 50% lower death rate from all causes, including heart disease, according to a JAMA article in the preceding year.

A recent study found that cereal fortified with vitamin E has a very high rate of absorption into the bloodstream, whereas pills taken separately with the same food have inconsistent effects. The study also found that taking the supplements alone is largely useless. In this study scientists tested the results of 1) a pill of 400 IU of vitamin E with skim milk; 2) a serving of a wheat breakfast cereal fortified with 30 IU of vitamin E (this is the recommended daily allowance); 3) a serving of wheat cereal fortified with 400 IU of vitamin E; and 4) a serving of unfortified wheat cereal with a pill of 400 IU of vitamin E taken separately.

The 400 IU pill with milk raised the blood plasma level of vitamin E by only 3%. The 400 IU pill taken with cereal had inconsistent results – some people had significant increases in blood vitamin E levels and some did not. The cereal fortified with 30 IU of vitamin E raised the blood levels by a factor of five, and the cereal fortified with 400 IU of vitamin E raised the blood plasma levels by a factor 30 times higher.

It was a conclusion of the scientists that absorption of vitamin E is closely associated with the digestion of food that has some fat in it. If a person is pursuing a low-fat diet or taking vitamin E supplements either on an empty stomach or with just liquids, nothing is being accomplished. This would make sense as vitamin E is an oil. My recommendation is to take all fat soluble vitamins (vitamins D, E, K, and A) with food that has some fat or oil in it.