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This month, in Dr. Bill Nelson's Cancer News Review podcast, you'll hear about cell phone hazards, breast and prostate cancer prevention drugs, and screening for ovarian cancer.

The World Health Organization recently listed cell phones as a probable cause of certain cancers.  There is a persistent worry that cell phones may have health hazards, and Nelson gives his take on the controversial issue.  He says that cell phones emit a type of radiation very different from the type that is given off from power plants.  "It's more like microwave radiation," he says.  "The fear is that the radiation emitted into your ear as you use the cell phone might 'heat up' your ear, skull and brain a little bit."  Nelson says that the impact of such radiation remains unclear.  There has not been an increase in brain cancer rates that can be attributed to cell phones, but, Nelson says, no one knows the lag time for which these devices could cause brain cancer.  Read our recent blog post citing a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health expert discussing the issue.

Next, Nelson discusses a study of aromatase inhibitor drugs, given in a randomized, placebo-based clinical trial to women at high risk for breast cancer.  Nelson says that the trial showed aromatase inhibitors clearly reduced risk for breast cancer, but the side effects of the drugs, including hot flashes, may dissuade women from taking them.  He says more studies are needed to more precisely predict an individual women's risk for breast cancer.

Also among the top news in cancer was a study on standard screening methods for ovarian cancer.  Nelson says that everyone agrees better early detection would improve the chances that current treatments could cure the disease.  But the recent study showed current screening methods of measuring CA125  levels and ultrasound to look more closely at the ovaries has no benefit in reducing ovarian cancer mortality in women who received regular screening compared with women who did not.  These are disappointing results, says Nelson, and the study suggests that these screening tools are not detecting cancers at earlier stages.

Finally, two drugs typically used to treat prostate enlargement and male pattern baldness -- dutasteride and finasteride -- now will include an FDA warning regarding an increased risk for high-grade prostate cancer.  A study showed that overall prostate cancer risk was reduced, but the risk for more advanced, deadly prostate cancers increased in men taking the drugs.  Nelson says the reason for this is not clear.  Benign enlarged prostate disease is common, according to Nelson, and he says options for patients may include another class of agents -- alpha-blocker drugs -- that reduce muscle tone around the prostate.

Program notes:

0:15  WHO and cell phones causing cancer
1:04  Probably carcinogenic
2:05  Won’t do a comparative study
2:24  Exemestane for women at risk for breast cancer
3:16  I don’t think it will be more acceptable for women
3:50  No benefit for ovarian cancer screening
4:50  Randomized to blood tests and ultrasound
5:52  Dutasteride and finasteride warning
6:50  These drugs driving appearance of high grade cancers?
7:37  Be vigilant to look for prostate cancer
8:34  Reduce the size of the prostate
9:20  End