All posts by Albert Mak MD

Head & Neck Cancer From Diabetes

Could Diabetes Cause Head and Neck Cancer?

Could Diabetes Cause Head and Neck Cancer 1Researchers in Taiwan have recently linked diabetes with head and neck cancer, finding that the risk for such cancers is about 50 percent higher in people with diabetes than it is in people without the metabolic disease. People with diabetes between the ages of 40 and 65 are at the highest risk of all.

The study, which was conducted by Kuo-Shu Tseng, PhD and colleagues at Tainan University of Technology in Taiwan, looked at the records of 89,089 people with recent diabetes diagnoses. The researchers compared the data with that of control patients of similar age, gender and medical condition, but without diabetes. The data came from Taiwan’s Longitudinal Health Insurance Research Database.

Diabetes Linked to Greater Risk of Head and Neck Cancer

The researchers looked at the differences in head and neck cancer risk between groups of cohorts based on age, gender and the number of years since each patient was diagnosed with diabetes. When compared with members of a control group, rates of head and neck cancer were 1.47 times higher for patients who had been diagnosed with diabetes.

The average age of head and neck cancer diagnosis among those with diabetes was 55.52 years. The average patient was diagnosed with head and neck cancer 4.48 years after being diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes patients aged 40 to 65 years were at the highest risk of developing head and neck cancer, while diabetic men were more likely to develop the cancer than diabetic women.

In addition to diabetes, the patients were found to suffer from other concurrent diseases including:

  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Coronary artery disease

What accounts for the link between diabetes and head and neck cancer? The researchers postulate that the two conditions could share hereditary risk factors or be linked to the same genetic mutation. It’s also possible that head and neck cancer, like breast cancer, could be the result of ongoing hyperinsulinemia, which is common in patients with Type 2 diabetes. The use of insulin may be linked to cell overgrowth. Head and neck cancer could also be the result of some other aspect of metabolic dysfunction. While more research is needed to understand the reasons for the link between diabetes and cancers of the head and neck, patients with diabetes — especially those between the ages of 40 and 65 — would do well to remain alert to possible head and neck cancer symptoms.

Could Diabetes Cause Head and Neck Cancer 2Causes and Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer

Unfortunately, the researchers in this study didn’t have access to information regarding the patients’ other risk factors for head and neck cancer. Two of the biggest risk factors for these cancers are tobacco and alcohol use, although there are several occupational and other factors that can increase your risk of head and neck cancers. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is responsible for a significant portion of head and neck cancers today.

Treatment for head and neck cancer has improved dramatically in recent years. Targeted radiation treatments now allow doctors to treat cancerous tumors of the head and neck while minimizing damage to healthy surrounding tissues. That’s good news for patients diagnosed with these cancers, since the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat are particularly vulnerable to radiation treatment side effects.

Researchers in Taiwan have discovered a possible link between diabetes and head and neck cancer. Diabetic men aged 40 to 65 are at the highest risk. The good news is that these cancers are more treatable than ever. Staying alert to possible cancer symptoms could save your life.


Guide to Prostate Cancer

Your Basic Guidebook to Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer InformationProstate cancer is a disease that can only affect men. Unlike even breast cancer which though associated with women but can grow in both sexes, the prostate gland is as common a natural occurrence in the female body as ovaries are in men. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system and is responsible for the production of much of the volume of the seminal fluid. Cancer of the prostate gland is more commonly diagnosed than breast cancer, and it is gaining as much popularity as the pink-ribboned disease. Prostate cancer is often relatively slow growing and often shows no symptoms. In later stages, however, it can be responsible for diminished reproductive function, problems urinating, blood in the urine and pain in the back or pelvis when urinating.

Risk Factors

The direct causes of prostate cancer are not entirely known but there are a few correlations to increased risk. Prostate cancer is significantly more prevalent in developed nations; however, this is largely due to the availability of medical testing increasing the rate of diagnosis. Also, race, diet, family history and obesity all can play a factor. There is a small increased risk of prostate cancer with lack of exercise.

High rates of red meat and dairy consumption increase the risk for prostate cancer. It’s possible this is due to a decrease in the rates of vegetable consumption that has a direct correlation with high red meat diets. Also, men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) with prostate cancer are twice as likely to be diagnosed in their lifetime; this soars to five times as likely with two or more first-degree relatives diagnosed.

Survival Rates

Luckily, the five-year survival rate for prostate cancer in the United States is 99 percent. In fact, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will die of other causes without treatment. That is, what kills them while they have prostate cancer is generally not the cancer itself. The median age of diagnosis for prostate cancer is 66 and the median age of death is 80. As with any cancer, the progression of the cancer is important for determining the treatment and survival outlook. Due to our extensive testing programs, 80.7 percent of prostate cancer diagnoses are due to the location of a tumor still within the prostate, and the five-year survival rate for local stage prostate cancer is 100 percent.

Treatment Options

The most common treatment methods for prostate cancer are watchful waiting or active surveillance. This is largely due to the comparative harmlessness most people experience with early stage, slow growth prostate cancer. Prostate Cancer DetailsHowever, surgery to remove the tumor can leave the patient incontinent, due to the prostate’s proximity to the bladder, or with no natural reproductive function, which makes many men hesitant to undergo surgery. Most cases will never need surgery, and instead will use other extremely effective courses of treatment.

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, which has led to dramatic increases in treatment options and survival rates in the last 40 years. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t cause for concern. If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, work closely with your physicians to pursue the right treatment.



Introduction to Lung Cancer Facts

A Basic Introduction to Lung Cancer Facts

Lung Cancer FactsLung cancer is one of the three most prevalent cancers in the U.S., along with breast and prostate cancer. Unfortunately, unlike breast cancer and prostate cancer, which affect similar numbers of people as lung cancer, lung cancer is much more deadly. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. and worldwide. This is true for both men and women. In 2012, lung cancer was responsible for 1.56 million deaths. The symptoms of lung cancer include weight loss, coughing, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, fever, chest pain and difficulty swallowing, but these symptoms are common to other respiratory illnesses, so their lack of distinctness delays medical attention to the cancer until it’s too late.

Risk Factors

The single greatest risk factor for lung cancer, by far, is long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, including secondhand exposure. Tobacco exposure accounts for 80-90 percent of lung cancer cases. The other primary risk factors are exposure to asbestos, radon gas or certain other air pollutions as well as, unfortunately, genetics. However, these only accounts for about 10-15 percent of lung cancer cases. Radon gas is a direct result of the breakdown of radium which is a product of the breakdown of uranium. It’s considerably more common in some places than others due to the prevalence or absence of radium deposits in the soil. It’s believed that air pollution accounts for about 1.5 percent of lung cancer cases. Genetic causes of lung cancer are not entirely understood, as is the case with most gene-related health issues.

Survival Rates

The five-year survival rate of lung cancer is 16.8 percent based on 2004 to 2010 statistics. Although this is truly tragic, it’s in large part because large majorities, more than 57 percent, of lung cancer cases that are discovered are in the late stages in which the cancer has metastasized. Of these cases, only 4 percent of people survive for five years. Therefore, 2.28 percent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed with late stage lung cancer and survive for five years or more.

The survival rate for individuals who are diagnosed with early stage lung cancer is 54 percent. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of cancer diagnoses are in the local stage. If we can convert even half of the late and middle stage diagnoses, which together account for a full 79 percent of all lung cancer cases, to early-stage diagnoses through regular checks and early detection, then the five-year survival rate of alllung cancer cases would rise to almost 32 percent. That is a big hypothetical completely dependent on the fact that relative survival for localized lung cancer remains static.

These statistics, 54 percent of lung cancer deaths, is an incredibly good reason for all long term smokers or secondhand smokers to get regular tests for lung cancer after the age of fifty. The average age of diagnosis is 70 while the average age at death is 72. If you or your partner has smoked for decades, get checked regularly.

Lung Cancer InformationTreatment Options

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that even after successful treatment of the original tumor, the cancer may have spread to inoperable areas, necessitating alternative and less invasive options like precision radiology. Treatment options are limited in most cancer cases. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are common treatments for the late stages of cancer. Early stage lung cancer can see surgery as effective depending on the health of the individual and the type of cancer. Ultimately, hope for survival depends on early detection, a good attitude and a capable cancer care team.



Kidney Cancer 101

Kidney Cancer 101 – Risk Factors & Treatments

Kidney Cancer InfoThere are several different types of cancer which fall under the umbrella category of kidney cancer. Of these there are two predominant types, renal cell carcinomas (RCC) and urothelial cell carcinomas (UCC). The names describe which region they originated in. RCC originated in the kidney specifically and is responsible for 90-95 percent of all cases. UCC is a cancer that can occur in other organs in the urinary system and grows out of the transitional lining of the kidneys and other hollow organs like the bladder. What’s included in the following statistics is the specific form of UCC that can be considered kidney cancer, which is called renal pelvis cancer.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk of kidney cancer include smoking, obesity, family history, hepatitis C or kidney diseases which necessitate dialysis. Smoking can as much as double the risk for kidney cancer. Kidney and renal pelvis cancers combined account for approximately 3.8 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in the United States. The median age of diagnosis for kidney and renal pelvis cancer is 64 with 50 percent of diagnosed patients being between the ages of 55 and 74. Kidney and renal pelvis cancer is more common in men, and people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent are the least at-risk; other races are pretty evenly at risk.

Survival Rates

About 72.4 percent of those diagnosed with kidney or renal pelvis cancer will survive for five years or more. This is largely because most diagnoses are still at the local stage, and the survival rate for the local stage is 91.8 percent. The five- year survival rate for regional kidney and renal pelvis cancers is 64.6 percent. Stage-3 has a 12.1 percent five-year survival rate. This cancer is responsible for approximately 14,000 deaths per year in the United States. The median age at death for kidney and renal pelvis cancer is 71. It should be noted that every case is different and each individual should discuss these survival rates with their doctor.

Treatment OptionsKidney Cancer 101

Treatments for kidney cancer are dependent upon the stage of the disease but surgery is typically the fallback treatment. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are not usually used as kidney cancers do not often respond to such treatment. Sometimes in surgery the entire kidney is removed but most tumors are amenable to a partial removal, or removal of only the infected area. However, surgery isn’t always possible as the tumor may have spread or there may be preexisting conditions that prevent this. Kidney cancer sufferers should talk to their doctors about viable alternatives to surgery.

Kidney cancer, like other forms of cancer death rates, is dependent on the stage in which it’s discovered. The most common symptoms are blood in urine, flank pain and weight loss. Diagnosis often takes into account a range of biochemical tests that may use blood or urine to analyze any differences in electrolytes, renal and liver function and blood clotting patterns. Physical examination may reveal an unidentified mass or an enlarged organ. As with many other cancers active surveillance is often the first step in treatment.


What You Need to Know About Liver Cancer

Liver Cancer 101: What You Need to Know

Liver Cancer InfoSimply put, cancer is tough; it takes grit to face the stark reality of it. Sometimes all you want is the facts, plain and simple: primary causes, treatment options, survival rates and the like. This information pertains specifically to individuals diagnosed with cancer that began in the liver, rather than cancer that started somewhere else and migrated to the liver.


The primary cause of liver cancer is combined from hepatitis B and hepatitis C, making up 60 percent of all primary liver cancers. Because of this, liver cancer is relatively uncommon in the U.S. and accounts for only 2 percent of new diagnoses annually. However, because of the prevalence of hepatitis in other parts of the world (developing nations especially) it’s the third leading cause of cancer death globally, which underscores its severity.

Other causes of liver cancer include cirrhosis, which is most likely caused by alcohol abuse in the U.S. Risk of infection increases with those who have histories of obesity, diabetes, smoking and several hereditary conditions including hemochromatosis and primary biliary cirrhosis

Survival Rates

This year, there will be an estimated 33,190 new diagnoses of liver cancer and an estimated 23,000 deaths. Only one in six patients will live for five years or more after a liver cancer diagnosis. As bleak as this is, medical professionals have managed to increase five year survival rates to where they are from one in 20 in 1991. Liver Cancer Explained

Liver cancer is most often diagnosed in people over the age of 55 with men being twice as likely as women to be diagnosed. Part of the reason that survival rates are so low is that only 42 percent of cases are localized when discovered. Almost one in five cases has already metastasized by the time they’re discovered, and one in four has spread to regional lymph nodes, which significantly lowers the patient’s likelihood of survival.

Treatment Options

The treatment of choice for tumors that haven’t spread is usually a surgery that will remove the tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue, with the hope that no cancerous tissue will remain. Five-year survival rates after surgery can be above 50 percent due to recent improvements; however, cancer recurrence after surgery still exceeds 70 percent. These are daunting numbers and require the patient to think long and hard about all options available. Some are unwilling to perform a surgery that might not work while others are looking for anything that might promise a few more years. However, some people are unable to pursue surgery which means they must look into other options, like often surprisingly effective radiation techniques.

Although liver cancer doesn’t affect many Americans, it continues to be a major weapon in cancer’s arsenal. If you have a persistent pain in your abdomen, just below and to the right of the end of the ribcage, you should seek medical attention. Of course, the highest-risk people are those with hepatitis who are probably already on the lookout for this and other types of liver damage.