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Build Muscles - Strategies and facts that help you gain

If you want to build muscles you need to understand how, why and when they grow. You already know that you need to exercise. You need to challenge them beyond what they are accustomed to. This is called progressive resistance. Gardually increading, the intensity from workuot to workout, through higher reps, lifting more weight or shorter rest periods. If you have already been training with weights and doing the exercises over a long period of time it is likely you are getting the same results you have always been getting.

 Muscles will adapt to to the stress placed on them. If they are required to lift heavy weights, they will grow stronger and bigger, in order to meet the challenge of lifting whatever is before them. Lift what you always lifted, and look how you have always looked. Train how you always train and get the same results. You need to train uotside of your comfort zone. ALL GROWTH takes place uotside of your comfort zone. Don't cheat on those last few reps. Chances are whatever you are doing is not working, at least not how you would like it to. In order to build muscles, you must be willing to do 3 things.
1) Lift heavy weights
2)Train using bodyweight exercises
3)Train outside of your comfort zone.

As humans we are creatures of habit, we don't like to try new things. Even if we find a plan we like, we struggle to make too many changes. One question I get very often as a personal trainer is "What is the best way to train to build muscles", is it low reps, high reps? The truth is, whatever program you are NOT doing is the best! Change it up.

The human body is a remarkably efficient machine. It will keep changing and adapting to meet the demands and stresses placed on it. In this case, forming bigger and stronger muscles. Once it has grown to a level to meet those demands it will cease to keep changing, in simple terms this is called a 'training plateau'. This is why all programs after a while cease to be effective and thus my comment, "the program you are not doing is the best". Yuor exercise must be intense and variable.

This is one reason why you need variety in your workouts. Don't limit yourself to only weight training. Weight training is by far the best way to build muscle size, but it does have some minor drawbacks. First it only knows muscles and not movement. Weight training only trains the muscles as individuals or individual groups. Thus the training split days, legs one day, chest and arms another etc. Even die hard body builders will tell you that 2 of the best mass building exercises are using your own bodyweight. Parallel Bar Dips, and Wide Grip Pull Ups. On the other hand body weight exercises on their own are not enough to build size, they will build strength, endurance and definition. By using both methods combined into a plan, you can build muscles you never knew existed.

In order to get bigger you must use progressive resistance. This means each workout must progress from the one before it by increasing the load. If you can add weight at each workout great, it only has to be small, 2lb or 1 kilo increments is fine. While adding weight is the Number 1 way to build muscles, it is not the only way. In fact taken to it's logical conclusion, if this was the only way to add progressive resistance you would end up lifting a house! Obviously this doesn't happen. Other ways to use progressive resistance is increase reps, decrease rest periods, slow down or speed up tempo, improve form (technique), add variation, e.g. instead of chin-ups, wide grip pull-ups.

Form (Technique)

I need to mention how important this is. This means perform the exercise properly. Let's use barbell curls as an example. The guy next to you is doing the same exercise and using 100lbs, he is swinging his back a little and has a bit of shoulder movement going as well. Not be outdone or embarrassed, you decide you will use the same amount of weight. After lifting it you realise it is heavier than you thought, but you continue. You get a fair bit more back sway, and you can't complete your final set. You have not wasted your sets, but you have NOT got the maximum results out of the exercise and have risked injury.

Muscles grow though contraction, using correct technique ensures yuo get inetsne contractions in your muscle, this is held for 30-40 seconds during your reps and muscle growt ensures.


Bodyweight Workout - A quick equipment free workout

If you are short on equipment a bodyweight workout may be just the thing for you. Maybe you don't have much time and want to squeeze in a workout or perhaps you just want to give yourself a pump before going out. A bodyweight workout can be used as a means to an end - recovering from an injury, or as the end itself, as an alternative form of training. Using your own body weight as resistance is a convenient way to get a workout without needing a gym or equipment. It can add variety to your current routine. It is one way you can stay in shape when travelling, on a business trip or on vacation.

In the following bodyweight workout we are going to use only a handful of exercises. The first one is called a Hindu squat. This is similar to a traditional squats with the following changes. Stand upright and keep your hands near your chest. As you squat down lower your hands slightly behind you. Squat deep and as you get to the bottom of the squat, stand on you toes. So you are in a full squat position but your heels are off the ground. As you rise bring your arms back up to chest level again. Aim for 50-100 reps. Aim for as many reps as possible.

The next exercise is a Hindu push up. Position yourself like you are about to do a regular push up. Feet wide apart. This time though lift your hips high. So from your head to your hips has a 45 degree angle and you are facing your toes. From this position lower your hips and bend your arms so that you will perform what looks like a regular push up. While at the bottom of the push up, arch your back, so that your hips are now at the lowest point and your head is high. Arms are straight, hips are nearly on the floor. Return to the starting position. See if you can do 10-20 reps.

Regular Crunch/Sit/up. In a normal sit up position, with legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Feet close to buttocks. Curl your spine, so that only your shoulders come up, lower back is still on the floor. Perform a solid crunch, focus on curving your spine. When you have a good curl position, begin to sit up without changing the curve in your back. Only sit up a quarter of the way, until your lower back just comes off the ground. Hold for 2 seconds, lower and repeat. If you do these properly you should get a decent burn in less than 20 reps. If it is easy you are most likely not performing the exercises correctly. Focus on contracting the abs, not on repetitions. You are aiming to exhaust the muscle, the number of reps is not important, only contraction is.

The final exercise in this bodyweight workout is the chin up. You may find this too hard so try this variation. Place a bar (broomstick will do) on two chairs so it is horizontal and can't roll off. Now lie underneath it on your back. Grab the bar with a wide grip. Leave heels on the ground and keep your entire body straight like a board. Lift yourself up until your chest touches the bar. Lower back down but don't lie down on the ground. Aim for 10-20 reps.

You have just worked every muscle in your body without any equipment. I am sure you found it to be one solid and effective workout. Why not subscribe to my blog through the rss feed on the top left and be kept up to date with changes and additions to this website. I am constantly adding workouts, nutrition tips and articles. Don't forget to train hard.


Burning Calories - The path to getting ripped

You have heard the expression burning calories many times but what exactly does it mean. To fully underdstand this, first a quick lesson on what a calorie actually is. It is a unit of heat energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree celsius. When we talk of burning calories, it is equivalent to burning up fuel in a vehicle. The harder and faster your drive that motor, the more fuel you will use. Your body is the motor and the food you eat provides calories as well as many nutrients.

Living burns calories, so does sleeping and sitting, but at a very slow rate. If we want to get ripped and lose alot of fat, then the fastest and safest approach is to exercise. All exercise burns calories, simply walking, jogging, sprinting and resistance training. Each one will be burning calories at a diffrent rate. Some exercises burn more than others. Intense alternate sprints (slow/fast) of any sort that get your heart rate flying, will also burn calories at a higher rate for a few hours after the exercise session has completed. Weight training burns them in a different way.

The human body is an exceptional piece of machinery, capable of amazing things. It is designed to exercise and can withstand intense workouts. If your goal is to get rid of fat, or to get ripped, then you need to focus on burning more calories. You can do this with diffrent types of exercises. Aim for a variety of cardio sessions. Weight training will raise your metabolism so that you are burning calories at a higher rate at rest. Long steady cardio session will burn a large amount of calories in one session. Short cardio interval training will burn a moderate amount during the session but will increase your calorie burning after the session for a few hours. Can you see how combining different training methods can increase your calorie burning.

Have a look at the following chart to see how many calories you can burn with each exercise.

1 hour of jogging = 600 (no extra burn)
1 hour of aerobics = 400 (no extra burn)

1 hour of weight training = 230 (during session) + extra burn.Weight training will also build muscle, for each l lb (1/2 kilo) of new muscle you add to your body, you will burn a further 35 calories per day. If you add 3 lbs of muscle that's an extra 100 calories a day of calorie burning. Muscle burns calories. Over one week it is 700 calories. In one year it is an extra 20lbs of fat loss just from weight training.

20-30 Minute Interval training (HIIT) High Intensity IntervalsYou will burn 200-300 calories during the session. Your metabolism will be raised for several hours after the session burning even more calories. Depending how hard and how long (the harder the better - EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption), you could burn a further 100 calories in the hours after the session.

The above figures are averages, of course you need to consider your age, sex and weight, to get accurate figures for burning calories. They are however, a good general guide, I have given the above examples, to show you how you can construct your workouts for getting ripped, use a combination of all methods to get maximum burn so that you can get ripped.Here is a quick exampleMon, Wed, Fri (weight training)

Mon (40 mins cardio)
Tues (1 hour cardio)
Wed (HIIT 20 mins)
Thurs (45 mins cardio)
Fri (HIIT 20 mins)
Sat (1 hour cardio)
Sun (rest) Return from Burning Calories to Calorie Content


Cancer Treatment Cancer Research Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute Detroit, Michigan

Cancer is a group of many related diseases that begin in cells, the body's basic unit of life. To understand cancer, it is helpful to know what happens when normal cells become cancerous.

The body is made up of many types of cells. Normally, cells grow and divide to produce more cells only when the body needs them. This orderly process helps keep the body healthy. Sometimes, however, cells keep dividing when new cells are not needed. These extra cells form a mass of tissue, called a growth or tumor.

Tumors can be benign or malignant.

Benign tumors are not cancer. They can often be removed and, in most cases, they do not come back. Cells from benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body. Most important, benign tumors are rarely a threat to life.

Malignant tumors are cancer. Cells in these tumors are abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Also, cancer cells can break away from a malignant tumor and enter the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. That is how cancer spreads from the original cancer site to form new tumors in other organs. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.

Leukemia and lymphoma are cancers that arise in blood-forming cells. The abnormal cells circulate in the bloodstream and lymphatic system. They may also invade (infiltrate) body organs and form tumors.

Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they begin. For example, cancer that begins in the lung is lung cancer, and cancer that begins in cells in the skin known as melanocytes is called melanoma.

When cancer spreads (metastasizes), cancer cells are often found in nearby or regional lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands). If the cancer has reached these nodes, it means that cancer cells may have spread to other organs, such as the liver, bones, or brain. When cancer spreads from its original location to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary tumor. For example, if lung cancer spreads to the brain, the cancer cells in the brain are actually lung cancer cells. The disease is called metastatic lung cancer (it is not brain cancer).


Cancer Facts and Figures 2011 Poverty is a Carcinogen. Does Anyone Care

Those were the words of Dr. Samuel Broder when he was director of the National Cancer Institute in 1989.  

As amply documented in the annual "Cancer Facts and Figures 2011" released today by the American Cancer Society, cancer shows that poverty remains one of the most potent a carcinogen-rivaling tobacco and obesity-as we have ever seen.

We have heard lots and lots about how cell phones and Styrofoam cause cancer.  But do you hear anyone talking about the huge impact of poverty and limited education on cancer?

If you don't hear anything about a true carcinogen that statistics show causes 37% of the deaths from cancer in people between the ages of 27 and 64, then maybe you have the answer to a very important question: If we are serious about reducing the burden and suffering from cancer, why aren't we paying attention to those most in need?

The report is one that is eagerly awaited every year by researchers, the media and many others.  It is the source for a lot of the mind-numbing cancer statistics that you see all year long, such as "The American Cancer Society estimates that (fill in the number) of Americans will be diagnosed with (fill in the cancer) in (fill in the year)."  It is one of the most widely cited scientific articles in the medical literature, year after year.

I could fill this page with interesting findings from this year's report, such as the fact that the American Cancer Society estimates that 1.56 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer in 2011 and 571,950 people will die from cancer in 2011.

More encouraging numbers are that the rates of cancer deaths continue to decline as they have for many years, while over the past several years the incidence of cancer in men has remained stable year over year and declining slightly in women annually.  Overall, between 1990/91 and 2007, cancer death rates decreased by 22.2% in men and 13.9% in women.  

In particular, the rates of diagnosis of colorectal cancer in men have dropped 3% EVERY YEAR from 1998 through 2007, and for women the comparable decrease was 2.2%.  And, finally, after waiting for years, we are seeing a decline in deaths from lung cancer in women has finally started a downward trend.

Those are all interesting and important numbers.

But how about these?

By doing what we already know-with prevention, early detection and better treatment-we have avoided 898,000 deaths from cancer between 1190 and 2007.  

We can't tell you how many people are actually alive because those deaths were avoided, since some people today never hear "you have cancer" (think colorectal and cervical cancer, for example since they can be effectively prevented through screening and better diet and exercise) or perhaps because they never started smoking in the first place.  And then there are the people who are the offspring of those people whose deaths have been avoided or who never developed a cancer they would have otherwise developed.  

Bottom line, the people alive today because of the progress we have made likely number in the millions.

But don't start the party just yet.

Not are so fortunate, and that is one of the key points made in today's Cancer Facts and Figures are those who are poor and poorly educated have much, much higher cancer incidence and death rates.  That's unfortunately why I can say that cancer remains a potent carcinogen.

Here are some of the facts:

We know that there are significant gaps in cancer incidence and survival between various ethnic and socioeconomic groups.  I am always reminding people that it isn't the color of your skin that makes all the difference, it's also your education, your job, where you live and other factors that contribute to your risk of developing and dying from cancer.

Some examples include the fact that lung cancer deaths are 4 to 5 times higher in the least educated vs. the most educated people.  4 to 5 times.  That is an immense difference in risk.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 164,000 men and women between the ages of 25 and 64 died of cancer in the United States in 2007.  More than 60,000 (37%) of these deaths could have been avoided if everyone had the same death rates of the most educated whites. 60,000 lives in one year!!!!!!!!

Do you understand that being able to avoid 37% of cancer deaths in this age group shows that this educational disparity makes it a true carcinogenic factor?  It isn't as obvious as tobacco or an HPV virus, but its impact is every bit as significant.

About 24,560 African Americans between the ages of 25-64 died from cancer that same year.  If all African Americans in 2007 had the same death rates from cancer as the most educated African Americans, then 10,000 of those deaths-almost 40%--could have been avoided.

Here is the tricky part:

If you took the same statistic about deaths in the 25-64 YO age group for African Americans, and compared their death rates to their white counterparts with the same education as the African Americans, 5000 (or 20%) of African American deaths would have been avoided.

Wait a minute... 10,000 in the first example and 5,000 in the second?  That's a big difference. Why?

Because in the first example, we are keeping the comparison within the African American community and making the example based on education.  In the second, we are making the comparison to whites with a similar education to African Americans.  In the first, we are looking at socioeconomic and educational differences within a community; in the second we are looking at the differences between similar socioeconomic and educational factors.

If you are a poor African American and don't have an education, you are more likely not to be financially successful-and you have a much higher chance of dying from cancer than your ethnic counterpart who is better educated.

If you are a poor African American, you are still at a disadvantage compared to your poor white counterpart, but for a variety of unacceptable reasons, you still have a higher chance of dying from cancer.  But that increased risk is much less based on race as compared to education.  Education trumps ethnicity.

The report concludes:

"Among African Americans, eliminating socioeconomic disparities has the potential to avert twice as many deaths as eliminating racial disparities....Much of the disparity between African Americans and whites within the same level of education results from differences in risk factors and access to health care that cannot be captured in terms of educations attainment."

Why these differences?  There are many factors, some of which we know and some of which we don't.

I already talked about the impact of education.  That clearly has a lot to do with our habits, our daily lives, whether or not we smoke, our risk of obesity and on and on.  Health insurance is a major predictor of healthier behaviors and better treatments, as well as access to care generally.  

And never, never underestimate the power of discrimination to impact health and outcomes from illness, as reflected in the example I offered above.

From the report:

"Racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive lower-quality health care than whites, even when insurance status, age, severity of disease and health status are comparable.  Social inequalities, including discrimination, communication barriers, and provider assumptions, can affect interactions between patient and physician and contribute to miscommunication or delivery of substandard care."

So for a moment, let's put aside our gratitude that we have avoided the deaths of almost 900,000 people in the United States over 17 years and let's start to focus on the fact that we could save thousands upon thousands of lives every year if we all followed some basic living habits and had access to the services that reduce the risk of dying from cancer.

For me, here is the punch line to this story:

We have been hearing for the past several weeks about the things that could cause cancer.  We have been inundated with media reports telling us what is bad for us and perhaps not so good for us.  We have started a national conversation about cell phones, airport scanners and now Styrofoam and formaldehyde.

But sitting right in front of our noses is the fact that if we did what we already know, at least 37% of cancer deaths in people between the ages of 27 and 64 could be avoided right now.

So who, my friends, is talking about that?  Where is the national conversation about the fact that poverty is a carcinogen?  Are you talking about it?  Is the media talking about it? Are the politicians talking about it? Are your friends talking about it?

If the silence is deafening, then perhaps you have your answer. 


ASCO 2011 Is A Wrap, Along With Redemption, Blisterwalks, And Whether I Will Remem

I am on the plane home from the 2011 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting trying to figure out the best way to write a "wrap up" blog about my sense of what I learned and saw in Chicago over the past 4 days.

I wish I could tell you all the highlights of all the new studies and all of the exciting breakthroughs, but I can't.  Realistically is it impossible to attend all the sessions, read all of the thousands of abstracts and view the additional thousands of posters that are presented at this meeting.  There is so much information that trying to get one's arms around even a fraction of what is available is a monstrous effort.

I will leave it to others to write the headlines and the stories about what they think the latest and greatest research and/or treatment may be, and how it will impact the future of cancer care (they are frequently wrong).

For me, what is more important is the general sense of where we are today and where we are headed when it comes to reducing the burden and suffering from cancer.  Are we really making progress, or basically stalled at the status quo?

And then there where the lighter sides of the meeting, including redemption, blisterwalks, and whether I can ever become part of the social media scene if I keep forgetting my hashtags.

It's fair to say that my blog yesterday about the genomic era sums up my feelings that there is a major shift building in cancer research and treatment that will be a new dominant theme for the next several years.  Yes, I know we have been studying cancer genetics for some time, and yes I understand that things don't always go smoothly, and yes I understand how complex all of this is.  But despite all of those considerations, genomics is still to me the major thematic message coming out of this conference. 

I base my judgments on having heard experts discuss those same barriers outlined above and well-articulated by fellow blogger Gregory Pawleski in response to my blog post yesterday and how they view our ability to recognize and deal with those barriers.  Obviously, I come out a bit more optimistic than Gregory.  Time will tell whose vision is more on target, or whether the future will end up somewhere in between total failure and total success (but in the meantime please know that I have a great deal of respect for what Mr. Pawleski writes.  I am in awe of his knowledge and his ability to synthesize all of this information).

There are other areas of great promise, such as the melanoma studies I discussed two days ago.  Hope now is "in the house" for some among us who have a very serious and too frequently fatal disease where no hope existed before.

This morning I sat in on a discussion of new treatments for prostate cancer. All of a sudden it seems like experts are talking about actually making a dent in the outlook for men with advanced prostate cancer, where hormonal manipulations no longer control the disease.  They are beginning to move the pieces around the chess board trying to figure out how to properly position those pieces, and how to take advantage of our new drugs and immune therapies to get the best results. 

As noted by one of the lecturers, we would not have had that type of conversation about prostate cancer as recently as 2009.   In a sense, this has come upon us while we weren't looking for it.  As was also mentioned this morning, the past 12 months have been terrific for melanoma, and they haven't been so bad for prostate cancer either.

There was a study on the use of an established drug called exemestane--which is used to treat advanced breast cancer--that is now proven to be effective in preventing breast cancer in women at high risk.  This drug joins two other proven breast cancer prevention treatments called tamoxifen and raloxifene that can be used to significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.  But significant barriers remain in getting women to take this drug, such as the basic fact that most health professionals never talk to their female patients about their particular risk of getting breast cancer and most women don't ask or for whatever reason don't want to know. 

Until we can effectively cross that awareness hurdle we won't have a workable medication-driven prevention strategy for breast cancer.  Or, we will have to wait until drugs with fewer side-effects are available. 

And then there is the fundamental question of whether women and those who take care of their medical problems really think the juice is worth the squeeze.  We know that chemoprevention reduces risk of getting breast cancer, but how many lives are actually saved? Are women and their health professionals really telling us that they don't perceive benefits are worth the risks?

When I have had conversations with women who understand the issues, I am constantly confronted with those questions. I am not certain that this current study is necessarily going to leap the hurdle of skepticism that some women express.  If the experts believe in the research, then they have to work on the message.

And, before wrapping up on the science portions of the meeting, I can't forget the myeloma presentation I discussed in my first ASCO blog this year.

I am left with the feeling that if we could only marshal our efforts to address the science and the clinical trials piece more effectively and efficiently, then we could make huge progress in reducing the burden and suffering of cancer.  But I will also admit to being a bit "pollyannish" with that thought. We should never forget that there is much in basic science that has to do with chance and opportunity, and trying to control, guide and/or focus research may prevent us from finding the next "big thing."  You simply cannot always predict success.  Sometimes--and not infrequently--great ideas spring from random thoughts.

So what were some of the lighter observations from this meeting?  After all, there is always something to talk about that would never make "the news."

"Something #1" is personal: this meeting is held at McCormick Place which is a huge convention center--and there are somewhere north of 30,000 people running around this place for four days straight.

Before the meeting started, there was actually a contest (Twitter: #blisterwalk) which was supposed to provide a prize for the most innovative suggestion of how to navigate the halls of (walking) misery.

Me? I have a pair of old, old, old black leather sneakers that I bring out every year just for ASCO. Otherwise they sit in the closet and gather dust.  And then I measure--and report--the number of steps I take every day just walking along the halls from place to place as I go about my business.

This year, my daily total in the center was about 10,000 steps (give or take a few) which is about 5 miles.  And that was just at the convention center!!! Throw in the rest of the walking I did around Chicago after the daily sessions and you can add another couple thousand.  No need for the elliptical these past couple of days!

"Something #2" was the booth of a pharmaceutical company which caught my eye.

For the past several years I have written a blog about some unusual thing I see on the convention floor where the pharma and other companies display their wares, many housed in gargantuan booths which defy description.  One year it was the little rooms where the pharma folks could tell things to foreign docs that they couldn't dare say to an American physician.   Then there was the year where the companies were forbidden from giving anything of value to doctors--even ball point pens and notepads--for fear of corrupting them.  Last year it was the free coffee, which couldn't be consumed by docs from Minnesota and Vermont because their state laws forbade it.  And every other doc was told she/he would have their names posted on the pharma website as having received something of value from a pharma company, in this case, a cup of coffee.

I simply didn't see anything nearly as exciting or interesting this year, but this is the closest I came: 

As I was walking through the hall, my eyes were caught by a pharma company's booth where there was a rather large, plain wall perhaps about 30 or 40 feet long and about 15 or 20 feet high.  The wall was covered in a warm, beige covered carpet-like material which was bathed in lights with a soft orange glow.  Sitting in front of the wall was a young lady, right behind a fairly plain counter, adorned with a simple vase of flowers.  Nothing else was near the wall, and the young lady clearly wasn't doing anything except waiting for people to come up to the desk.  It sort of looked like one of those settings you might see in a funeral home where the surroundings are supposed to put you into a sense of meditation and solitude at the moment of your loss.

What caught my attention were the large capital letters displayed high on the wall behind the lady.  The letters spelled out the word: REDEMPTION.

Now, given that I thought this had a somewhat religious-looking appearance (and this was after all an oncology meeting) I asked myself what type of "redemption" I might receive at this wall.  No pearly gates nearby, and no St. Peter.  

Then I thought this may have been a bit of parody, a little tongue and cheek perhaps. 

After all, this particular company has gone through quite a lot of difficulty getting its primary product for the treatment of cancer approved by the FDA.  Perhaps since they finally got their medicine approved, they felt there was redemption for all of their efforts and this was a sly way of sending a message to certain government agencies and perhaps others that they had finally gained redemption in their quest. As the meeting went on and I talked to some other folks about "the wall," I discovered a number of them had the same thoughts I did. 

As it turned out, the purpose of "redemption" was nothing so grand.  It was much simpler than all of that.  The young lady was simply redeeming tickets or coupons for some sort of promotion. 

So, my redemption will have to wait another day.

"Something #3" has to do with the observation that information technology and social media were very much incorporated into the fabric of the meeting, makig life a lot more interesting than in years past.

There was universal access to the internet throughout the meeting halls (although some were vexed by the fact that occasionally the bandwidth was insufficient to accommodate everyone simultaneously.  I for one was just glad to get an internet connection 95% of the time). 

And the use of social media was definitely on the rise (Twitter: #ASCO11).  I tried to become one of the "Twitterati" but don't know that I succeeded very well. I kept forgetting to put the hashtag on "ASCO11", making my Tweets too long, and coming under criticism from my corporate media colleague from time to time as he wrung his hands and wondered whether his quest to get me to use Twitter was in fact a hopeless cause.

So that's it for ASCO 2011 and all its glory. 

For the most part this is very serious business.  Just as life itself, we have to make an effort to see the lighter side from time to time and laugh a little while we work as hard as we can to gather in all that is happening around us.

As I mentioned before, this was an exciting meeting and I look forward to next year with anticipation.  Hopefully, I won't have to worry about "redemption" in the meantime.


At Long Last, Some Useful Rules About Sunscreens But Questions Remain

Good things-hopefully-come to those who wait.

That time-worn phrase may well apply to today's announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that they have (finally) updated the regulations as to how sunscreens must be tested and labeled to provide consumers with accurate information as to what is actually inside the sunscreen package.

Why the patience piece?  Because we have been operating for decades in the United States without effective, modern oversight of claims made by some sunscreen manufacturers.  Hopefully today's announcement by the FDA is the beginning of the process to correct that problem.

Too many people believe that what the claims they read on the sunscreen label-with words such as "sun block", water resistant, SPFs approaching 100-are in some way regulated by someone when in fact they actually are not. Today's announcement should help clear some of that confusion.

And, lost in all the babble is the fact that sunscreen is just one part of an effective approach to engage in sunsafe behavior.

Key highlights of this new regulation included requirements that sunscreens must meet to be labeled "broad spectrum," which means that a sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays.  UVA and UVB are the harmful rays from the sun, and contribute to increasing the risk of skin cancers and aging of the skin.

The FDA also specified that only sunscreens that are SPF (sunburn protection factor) 15 or greater-in combination with offering broad spectrum protection-can be labeled that they prevent skin cancer and skin aging.  Sunscreens with an SPF less than 15 may help prevent sunburn but cannot make the claim that they reduce the risk of cancer and aging.

In addition, the FDA has established requirements for sunscreens that claim to be water resistant.  Manufacturers of water resistant sunscreens will be required to tell consumers on the label how long their product can be expected to last if you are exposed to water.

The FDA also addressed concerns about possible safety of sunscreen ingredients.

Many of the ingredients of sunscreens have been used for years, however the FDA acknowledged today that they have not been tested for safety using modern techniques. They did emphasize that the benefits of sunscreens containing these ingredients far outweigh the risks given their longstanding safety profile.

Nanoparticles present in sunscreen-especially those containing zinc and titanium oxides-have been another source of concern.  It is the use of "nanotechnology" that has made these effective sunscreens more acceptable since they don't leave you with that white, pasty look that inhibited their use in the past.

Although it appeared during a news conference this morning that the FDA is satisfied at this time that products containing nanoparticles such as zinc and titanium oxides are safe when used as directed based on scientific evidence, another representative seemed a bit more cautious in his comments at second briefing held a couple of hours later by stating that nanoparticles are still being evaluated for safety.

The FDA did say they will continue to examine the science and the data regarding sunscreen ingredients, and will advise consumers promptly should they find evidence to the contrary regarding their safety profile.

One interesting outcome of the FDA's announcement was their statement that they will be seeking further information from manufacturers and others on the safety and effectiveness of aerosol sunscreens.  The FDA apparently is concerned about inhalation risks as well as effectiveness in real-life use.  This is a sunscreen delivery method that many of us (including me) use often because of ease and convenience, and the questions regarding safety and effectiveness are certain to get some notice.

The FDA also signaled they are going to be proposing a rule that no sunscreen can be labeled with an SPF value higher than 50.  It is their opinion that there is no evidence that SPFs higher than 50 provide any additional benefit, so they will be asking for evidence to support the claim that "high value" SPF products do in fact provide more protection.

At long last, we will have some standards that offer us a level of confidence that what we are buying is what we are expecting when it comes to sunscreens.  There are still other less well defined factors, such as how they feel when we apply them, or how they smell. Those are not addressed in this rule.

The implementation date for these regulations is one year from now, except for manufacturers who market less than $25,000 of product annually.  Hopefully we will begin seeing the new labels sooner than that, but probably not in time for this summer season.

The FDA notwithstanding, there are some serious issues surrounding sunscreen use that the FDA rule didn't address but all of us need to know about being safe in the sun.

There are lots of folks who depend-and I would say "over depend"-on sunscreens as their first line of defense against sunburns and skin cancer.  But the sad reality is that they don't use the stuff properly, which appears to be exposing them to a greater risk of skin cancers.  No regulation is going to change bad behavior when it comes to being safe in the sun.

There was a time when some experts recommended that any sun exposure was automatically harmful.  That may be the case for a select number of people who have very fair skin or perhaps have a medical condition or are taking a medication which increases their risk of skin cancer, but it's not a realistic approach for most of us Being in the sun is part of our everyday lives, and is very much a part of an enjoyable, healthy lifestyle.  

Knowing how to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun is very important to enjoying the sun.  Sunscreens are part of that protection, but so are avoiding the sun at peak hours, wearing wide brimmed hats, and wearing protective clothing and sunglasses that block UV rays. Sunscreen is important, but it is not the be all and end all of being sunsafe.

The other reality is that most people who use sunscreen don't use it properly.  They don't apply enough (gobs and gobs would be a good estimate of how much you need to cover your body.  Other measures include "a shot glass," a "golf ball" or a "palm full of sunscreen.) and they don't apply it often enough (every two hours or after excessive sweating or coming out of the water from the pool or the ocean).

Some expert organizations compensate for the failure to use enough sunscreen by recommending SPF 30 instead of 15, but no matter the number if you don't use sunscreen the right way, it won't get the job done.

I suspect this new rule will help consumers make better choices about the sunscreens they choose.  But no rule from the government or education from organizations like the American Cancer Society can make you use sunscreen properly.  That's up to you.   And there is no sunscreen that will allow you to just plop yourself in the sun after you lather up with sunscreen and forget about how long you are lying there.  That just isn't going to happen.

At least you can now you will be able to make an informed choice as to what your sunscreen is actually able to do for you.  But it's still up to you to do it right.


A Walk Down A Country Road, A Church In The Woods, A Lesson About Life

It was a day not unlike other days my wife and I have spent at our home in North Georgia. It was a bit warm, sunny and otherwise reasonably comfortable. The day itself was a bit special, because we were there to take a quiet weekend interlude to celebrate our birthdays. We were glad to have some much needed time together to get away from all the tumult of our everyday lives and basically just relax, to do some of the things that we wanted to do.

We decided to take one of our favorite walks, down a gravel county road, much of it by a river that is near our home. In order to extend the walk to make it five miles when we have the time--like we did today--we took an extra "loop" which goes to a small wooden church tucked deep in the woods.

The sign outside the church says it was founded in the latter part of the 19th century, but some of the gravestones are dated even before then. They still have services there every Sunday.

When we got to the church, we were drawn to a freshly dug grave in the cemetery.  On the top of the dirt was a beautiful bouquet of several dozen yellow roses. Like the turned dirt, these flowers were fresh and just opening, an indication that whoever rested there was only recently buried.

My wife and I started to wonder out loud: Who was this person? What happened to them? Apparently a woman, who loved her so much to have placed those beautiful flowers on her final resting place?

Many questions, and no answers. No name plate, no date of birth or death. Just the flowers on the grave.

For reasons that I will never understand, my wife and I had a few tears in our eyes. We had a prayer together that she didn't suffer in her death, that she had others to pray for her, that although she was missed, she hopefully will be remembered.

And then it struck me that so much of what we do as part of our every day lives is to care for those we rarely meet, many whom we never know.

I thought at that moment of the many colleagues, friends, and volunteers I work with every day. I thought of their commitment to our cause and our effort to reduce the burden and suffering from cancer for others. I thought about how we try to improve the quality of life of so many in their time of need. I thought about how many we touch every day who we will never know personally, and serve them in ways we can never measure. I thought about how much we hope we can bring with just a little bit of good into an otherwise difficult day.

Many of us run through our days without thinking too much about who we are and why we exist. In that moment, in that cemetery by that wooden church in the middle of nowhere, the answer to that question became just a bit clearer for my wife and me.

If you can find a place in your heart for someone you never met and never knew, then perhaps our humanity for each other hasn't been dissolved by all that is going on around us. If we can be touched by a stranger, then perhaps we are still able to touch those who look to us for help and guidance in their times of need. I know thousands of people-along with millions of volunteers--who do that every day.

Sandra and I spent our minutes by the church, then continued our walk. We didn't have much to say to each other for a while, but sensed that the moment in the cemetery told us a lot about who we are and who we aspire to be.

The comforting thought is that we are very grateful we are not alone.


5 Useful Weight Lose Tips

Off late, everybody is on a weight losing spree. There are many ways to that you can choose from to reduce weight; here are some of the best ways to lose weight. These ways have the highest success ratio among the others.

Drink lots of water, it does not mean that you get yourself bloated up with only water. You have to drink enough water to keep your body hydrated. Don't switch from water to juice. Only when enough water is supplied to your body, the kidneys will be able to flush out the waste easily. Drink water about ten to fifteen minutes before your meal, this way you will full once you start having your food, so the consumption of food will be less. Another amazing fact is that drinking cold water will help you lose about sixty two calories. In a day it is advised that you drink about eight to ten glasses of water.

Plan your meal, instead of having three full meals a day, have five smaller meals. This way what happens is, the quantity of food you consume will become less. Also, start your day with good breakfast, the more food you consume for breakfast, the lesser quantity of food you will take in the night. This will help you lose weight, as generally, at nights your physical activities are less, and if you consume more food, it will settle as fat in your body.

Set some practical goals. For instance, in a month if you lose about 1-2 kgs of weight, you can give yourself a treat. You can buy something for yourself or go for an outing or something like that, which will keep you motivated.

Exercising is also important. Exercise plays a vital role is losing weight. You can join a good gym, where the trainer will guide you in the right kind of exercises to lose weight. You have to exercise for at least thirty minutes a day in order to get the best results.

Eat right! Your body requires all the necessary vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Losing weight does not mean that you starve yourself. You have to ensure that your body is supplied with all the imperative nutrients. Say a big "NO" to all the junk food like cakes, chips, colas, spreads, fried food and others. Cut down on in the intake of sweet. Include a lot of fiber in your food.

These are some of the best ways to lose weight. Losing weight is not easy as said; it requires a huge level of determination to follow a strict diet and exercising. Initially, you will find it a lot difficult, but as you see the results automatically you will get tuned to it. Once, you have achieved your target, maintaining the same weight is also important, but this is not very difficult as, you will start loving your new body and will not let anything persuade you to get back to your old habits which will only give you more weight leading to health disorders.


3 Secrets that will make you look thinner

If you already have a healthy lifestyle, but you do not want to follow a drastic diet and at the same time you want to be thinner, choose to look thinner, by using effectively your own wardrobe. Here are 3 secrets that you can apply if you want to show an elongated silhouette. However, these tips should not stop you from eating healthy.

1. Strong colors - Use powerful colors as doing "magic" in your favor. In addition, they will be in trend next spring so any expenditure will not be a waste but an investment. If you have wide hips and thick thighs choose to wear a black skirt, simple, under the knee and a strong color top. You can choose imperial blue or green for the top of your outfit and you will draw attention to the area of your body without any problems.


2. A new bra - Every woman needs to know how to choose the right bra. A bra is not just an accessory, but a very useful object that shapes your silhouette, so be careful when you go shopping to pick a model that suits you best and with an appropriate size. A global study has shown that 85% of women wear the wrong bra. If you do not know what bra would fit you, go to a lingerie shop and ask the seller to help you. In addition, do not think you spend too much money when it comes to bras and choose a quality one, even if more expensive. It is not snobbish or smartly, but it is important for your comfort and health.


3. Choose blouses with cleavage in "V" form - This type of neckline lengthens your figure and makes you look taller and svelter. There is one thing to bear in mind, neck hydration. Many women care for their skin, but not neck or decolletage, which is not good. For your neck you should follow the same beauty routine as the one you follow for your face, cleanser and moisturizing cream.

Extra tip: Show a little bit of skin – If you go to a party or just out with the girls, try to choose clothes won't show you completely covered. Bare arms and cleavage to form a "V" makes you look svelter, plus they look sexy.

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