Archive for April, 2014


There’s been much in the news recently about e-cigarettes. The Santa Cruz City Council has just voted to update the city’s tobacco related ordinances which would ban the use of e-cigarettes where smoking is currently restricted and requiring the product to be sold only by vendors with tobacco retail licenses. Thus, Santa Cruz joins some 50 California state cities and counties in creating such restrictions.

E-cigarettes, also called vape pens or e-hookahs, are made to resemble cigarettes. They are battery-operated, which allows conversion of liquid nicotine into a vapor which enters the lungs and is easily absorbed into the blood stream. There’s no tobacco, flame, smoke, tar or carbon monoxide which is probably the only good thing that can be said for this product.

I’d like to touch upon some of the questions and concerns regarding electronic cigarettes.

Are e-cigarettes safer than regular cigarettes?

They are probably safer than cigarettes because of the lack of the above mentioned substances found in burning regular cigarettes. That being said, e-cigarettes are a nicotine delivery system, are highly addictive and ultimately harmful because of the effects of nicotine, which is a potent stimulant drug that is probably unsafe for children, pregnant women and people with certain heart conditions. These products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and many are manufactured in China, a country not known for its quality control and safe products.

Can e-cigarettes help break the habit of smoking regular cigarettes?

There is no good scientific evidence that smoking e-cigarettes can effectively wean one off of regular cigarettes. In fact, one large study of 75,000 teen smokers found that those who were trying to quit smoking were less likely to succeed if they also smoked e-cigs and many actually ended up smoking more real cigarettes. Better ways of breaking the smoking habit would be to utilize the strategies of behavioral counseling, nicotine replacement products and prescription non-nicotine medication.

Are kids smoking e-cigarettes?

Since some 90 percent of long term smokers began smoking under the age of 18, it’s not hard to imagine the allure of e-cigarettes to our youth. The CDC has reported a disturbing trend that the use of e-cigarettes more than doubled among U.S. middle and high school students from 2011 to 2012. To make them more appealing to minors, manufacturers are making e-cigarettes in assorted eye catching colors and candy flavors like watermelon, cotton candy, and bubble gum.

So with no proven health benefits and with too many questions concerning safety and long term addiction, e-cigarettes should come with at least the same restrictions, warnings and health concerns as with regular tobacco cigarettes.

The bottom line is that for the sake of one’s health, I would strongly discourage the use of any and all tobacco and nicotine products.

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In previous articles (February 28 and March 14) I described cancer in general terms and then discussed specific common cancers. Now I would like to describe various cancer treatments available and methods of cancer prevention.

There are a variety of treatments available today for treating cancer, including:

– Surgery. This can remove the cancer or as much of it as possible.

– Radiation. This uses X-rays to kill cancer cells.

– Chemotherapy. This uses potent drugs to kill the cancer cells.

– Stem cell transplant. This is also commonly called bone marrow transplant. This uses stem cells which are found in the bone marrow and are the precursors to all other blood cells. The cells are collected from the patient, or less commonly from a donor, and then placed back into the patient after receiving a large dose of chemotherapy or radiation. This allows for the creation of a new healthy bone marrow and immune system.

– Hormone therapy. Some cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer are worsened due to the effects of certain hormones in our bodies. Blocking these effects is the goal of hormone therapy.

– Targeted drug therapy. This method allows an anti-cancer drug to specifically attack a specified cancer cell.

– Biological therapy. Helps your own immune system to better recognize and fight off cancer cells.

– Alternative medicine. Not scientifically proven, yet found to be quite helpful for many patients. Such therapies include meditation, acupuncture, yoga, massage, and hypnosis.

– Vitamins and food supplements. Also unproven, but widely used with some success.

Although there is no way as of yet to prevent cancer, there are ways to reduce the risk of having cancer including:

– Stop smoking. Smoking has been associated with many types of cancer, not just lung cancer.

– Eat a healthy diet. Concentrate on fruits and vegetables and select whole grains and non-fatty proteins.

– Avoiding excessive sun exposure. Avoid mid-day sun, use sun screen liberally and avoid tanning booths.

– Get plenty of exercise. At least 30 minutes of exercise daily is a good goal.

– Avoid obesity. Maintain a healthy weight.

– Drink alcohol in moderation if you choose to drink. One dink per day for women, two drinks per day for men.

– Schedule routine screening exams. Talk to your doctor about what exams you may need depending on your risk factors.

The bad news about cancer is that it is still so very prevalent in our society. As I have personally found out, anyone can experience it. The good news is that through early detection and rapidly improving treatments, cancer patients in general have a much improved survival rate. I think that if researchers can somehow find methods to mobilize our immune systems to better recognize cancer and to successfully overwhelm it in its early stages, we may then be close to a cure for many cancers.

From my own personal experience with cancer and from many patients I have treated, my advice is that if something about your health just doesn’t seem right, don’t assume it’s nothing to worry about. Listen to your body as only you can do. Don’t take a chance. Being checked out by your doctor sooner rather than later could save your life.

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