Organic curiosity: Is it worth the extra cost to buy organic?

A cancer diagnosis often makes people re-evaluate their eating habits, inspiring many to incorporate more organically grown foods in their diets. Some people buy organic because of concerns about the environment, pesticides or animal welfare. Others perceive organic foods to be more nutritious. But considering the higher cost, is there any evidence that organically grown food offers more health benefits than conventionally grown food?

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s dietitians tackle this question in their latest nutrition column for our patient publication, Thrive. In addition to weighing the pros and cons of eating organic food, the dietitians offer lists of foods that typically contain the high and low levels of pesticides when conventionally grown, so that you can spend your money more wisely.
Visit Thrive to read the full story.

Pharmacist’s Corner: Get answers about vitamin D

Vitamin D is the media darling of the supplement world: Studies have linked it to lowering the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. But is it hype? Or should you be paying more attention to your vitamin D intake?

For most people, the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 15 mcg or 600 IU per day, according to pharmacist Emily Mackler and registered dietitian Danielle Karsies, both of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Symptom Management & Supportive Care Program. The best way to get it is to eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, egg yolks or milk fortified with the vitamin.

To learn more about the potential of vitamin D and whether you should be taking a supplement, view the video above. Or, get more information about living with cancer at

Preserving the future with sperm banking

Some cancer treatments may cause infertility, but not all. That’s why it’s important to speak to your doctor and to think ahead. Sperm banking is a good option for men who are at risk of infertility: Many children have been born using sperm that has been banked as long as 25 years.

But it’s key to talk to your doctor about it before treatment begins. The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center recently became a participating partner in the Sharing Hope Program, which offers financial assistance for cancer patients seeking to preserve their fertility.

We talked to Marcia Leonard, co-director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Survivorship Program, about what men with cancer need to know about sperm banking. Read the full Q&A at the Cancer Center’s Living with Cancer site. Or, watch the first installment of a seven-part video about what young men should expect if he elects to bank his sperm.

Traditional healing

Taxol had left Judith Stingo’s toes and thumbs feeling numb. I’s a common side effect of the drug, and it was discouraging to Stingo — particularly after doctors told her it could take as long as a year to regain full feeling.
When Stingo learned the University of Michigan Health System offers acupuncture, she decided to give it a try. After two treatments, she noticed marked improvement. After her third acupuncture appointment, the numbness was gone altogether.

“It was my thumbs that bothered me most. I was constantly touching them with my other fingers. I had to have my husband open jars for me and cut things up. That was very distressing to have to ask other people to do things for you,” said Stingo, a Dexter resident who was treated for breast cancer. “But after that second appointment, it pleased me to no end to feel my thumbs again. It was like a miracle for me.”

Acupuncture may be beneficial in treating a number of cancer-related symptoms and side effects, including fatigue, nausea, pain and nerve problems that cause tingling and numbness, said Andrew Heyman, M.D., a former adjunct assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. Acupuncture may also be beneficial to patients who have mild to moderate anxiety or depression. Continue reading

Cutting through sunscreen confusion

The July 4 weekend is a time for barbequing, lounging poolside or just goofing off in the backyard. But it’s important to practice good sun safety, stress dermatologists at the University of Michigan Health System.

They offer these tips for protecting yourself and your loved ones, along with guidance to help understand the Food and Drug Administration’s new rules about sunscreen.

One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Babies and young children can’t protect themselves from sunburn, so adults must do it for them.

With thousands of products on the market, it can be hard to know how to choose the best sunscreen. Before you start to consider which one to buy, doctors say you should know the following: Continue reading

U-M doctors discuss major lung cancer screening study

The National Cancer Institute published details yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine about a recent study showing a 20 percent decrease in lung cancer mortality among heavy smokers who were screened with CT scans rather than X-rays. But what does this mean for you? Hear what University of Michigan physicians Ella Kazerooni, M.D., and Douglas Arenberg, M.D., have to say.