HEALTH

Research finds elevated insulin levels in postmenopausal women may raise risk of breast cancer

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Elevated insulin levels in the blood appear to raise the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, according to researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Their findings were published in the online version of the International Journal of Cancer July 9.

Increased breast cancer risk for postmenopausal women has previously been linked to obesity and diabetes. Both conditions involve insulin resistance, which causes increases in circulating levels of insulin. Since insulin is known to promote cell division and enhance breast tumor growth in animal models, the Einstein scientists reasoned that relatively high insulin levels may contribute to breast cancer risk in women.

“Up to now, only a few studies have directly investigated whether insulin levels are associated with breast cancer risk, and those studies have yielded conflicting results,” stated Geoffrey Kabat, senior epidemiologist in the department of epidemiology and population health at Einstein and the lead author of the paper. “Those other studies were based on just a single baseline measurement of insulin, while our study involved analyzing repeated measurements of insulin taken over several years — which provides a more accurate picture of the possible association between insulin levels and breast cancer risk.”

An earlier study linking insulin levels with breast cancer risk was carried out by Einstein researchers and was published in the January 7, 2009 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In the most recent study, Kabat and his colleagues analyzed data on 5,450 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, a large multicenter study investigating the influence of a number of factors on women’s health. Most of the women had participated in the clinical trial portion of the study and provided fasting blood samples at the start of the study and then at years one, three and six. The remaining women, who were enrolled in a separate “observational” component of the study, provided fasting blood samples at baseline and at year three of the study. Among all these women, 190 cases of breast cancer were identified over eight years of follow-up.

The analysis by Kabat and colleagues revealed a strong association between elevated insulin levels and increased risk for breast cancer.

After dividing the participants into three groups based on their insulin levels, the researchers found that women in the upper third for insulin level were more than twice as likely to develop breast cancer, compared with women in bottom third for insulin level.

Notably, the link between elevated insulin level and breast cancer was strongest among lean women and weakest among obese women (who, in general, have higher insulin levels compared with lean women).

“This finding is potentially important because it indicates that, in postmenopausal women, insulin may be a risk factor for breast cancer that is independent of obesity,” Kabat said. However, because the number of lean women was small, this finding is preliminary.

While these results require confirmation from other studies, Kabat noted that the current recommendations for reducing breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women — including maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular physical exercise — can help to reduce insulin levels.

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Twinlab announces its 2009 Mobile Beach Bash Celebration

BY Anna Mcgrath

GALVESTON, Texas Twinlab is kicking off its 2009 Mobile Beach Bash Celebration July 11.

The celebration will coincide with the company’s rateyourabs.com contest for a chance to win a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. The 10-stop beach tour will begin in Galveston, Texas and continue along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts to celebrate this summer’s best beach abs.

The event will feature music, models and plenty of product sales, including Twinlab’s ultimate six-pack helper, Ripped Fuel 5x.

“Twinlab’s Ripped Fuel products are all about helping people get the lean, defined bodies they’ve always wanted, and there’s no better place to show off their success than the beach,” said Marc Stover, director of marketing, ISI Brands/Twinlab. “We ran a similar contest last year with enormous success. This year, we upped the ante and decided to take the party to some of the hottest beaches in the country to find that perfect six-pack.”

Contest entry forms and camera will also be on hand for those wishing to enter. Voting will take place at www.rateyourabs.com through September 13.

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NCPA announces new FSA service

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Community Pharmacists Association on Wednesday announced a new service — the FSAok AutoCopay — that enables community pharmacies to continue serving patients who use flexible spending account debit cards within new IRS regulations.

As of July 1, those regulations precluded customers from using their FSA debit card at drug store retailers that had not secured an Inventory Information Approval System, a point-of-sale system that’s able to identify eligible health care FSA purchases by comparing the purchased items’ UPC or SKU number against a pre-established list of eligible items; keep a separate total for the eligible items; and charge the FSA card only for the eligible items total, and request another form of payment for any remaining items.

“We were pleased late last year when, after meeting with NCPA, the Internal Revenue Service extended the deadline [for the new requirement] from January 1 to July 1, 2009,” stated Bruce Roberts, NCPA EVP and CEO. “During that time, NCPA responded to the needs of our members by collaborating with Finpago’s FSAok AutoCopay service to offer a low-cost solution requiring no special software or POS system so that they can continue to serve their patients’ with FSA accounts with an automated copayment claims service and real time substantiation of eligible over-the counter transactions.”

For pharmacies without point of sale systems, AutoCopay makes it possible to accept payment from patients who use FSA debit cards in accordance to IRS regulations.

“The average pharmacy sells more than $60,000 per year to customers with flexible spending account debit cards,” stated Finpago CEO Fred Hawkins.

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