I'm not surprised. Just released to the public and published in major newspapers is a story on the reduction of heart attack but an increase in cancer rates. The story I read glows with a bragging tone of the amazing reduction of heart attack and it continues with a sobering warning that cancer is showing up more and more often, better go out and get more drugs.
Why am I not surprised? It isn't because I'm a fan of cardiovascular medicine. I know how it works. Not only because I'm published in cardiovascular research, helped develop diagnostic tests to determine heart function and health and taught technological medicine on the university level but, more importantly, I've had a heart attack myself. Believe me, I know the system.
I'm not surprised because I wrote about this very concern in this column just a few months ago. Doctors in the 1950s knew to look at LDL cholesterol levels as a way of determining if a patient had cancer. The lower the LDL the higher the probability of cancer.
Many doctors of this day try to lower LDL using statin drugs like Lipitor (R) to reduce heart attack. Many aim for levels of about 70 mg/dl. Published studies indicate LDL levels lower than 100 mg/dl significantly increase cancer risk.
A Faustian dilemma
The medico-industrial complex has helped reduce one set of ailments and is contributing to the rise of another set of troubles -- cancer. Certainly the entire medico-industrial complex will capitalize and benefit from this predictable situation. You get to choose between heart attack and cancer, better go out and get more drugs.
This doesn't have to be your choice. Cholesterol (including LDL) level is only one marker of heart risk. In my opinion it isn't even the best marker. If cholesterol is mildly elevated and your C-Reactive Protein is low then to me your heart attack risk is reduced. Many people have a heart attack even with low cholesterol values.
Our collective and individual health is strongly influenced by decisions made in Washington DC. Our national regulatory systems are a mess. I don't believe any of it was planned but do believe the capitalistic need to pay corporations and dividend payments to stockholders has put us in a pickle.
For instance, the commodities our government subsidizes add to our ill health due to the availability of these cheap foods. The more refined wheat and corn becomes the higher our individual sugar levels surge. More insulin gets produced, the fatter we become raising the risk of diabetes and heart attack
When high fructose corn syrup, like that in soda pop, comes together with trans-fats even kids get fatty liver which leads to cirrhosis.
A better choice
Why not stop choosing certain agri-industrial foods, lower your refined carbs, lose weight and reduce the need for certain medico-industrial drugs like the statins and have a more physically active life?
Then you don't have to be stuck with a Faustian decision between heart attack and cancer. I don't know how anyone could brag about lowering heart attack but increasing cancer risk.