Six Worthwhile Charities to Donate to!

Illustration of hands up in the air
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Previously we have mentioned several charitable organizations that Howard Fensterman choose to donate to, and in this article, we will expand out to a broader view of charitable organizations across the globe. 

Since there are so many causes that need donations as well as volunteer work, we have picked five that we feel deserve notable attention.

That does not mean that you agree with our picks, as you may have some in mind that you believe are more worthwhile to donate to, and that’s perfectly fine! But we are sure the ones that we have selected here are worthwhile as well, so we simply ask that you read about them and then make your decision. Let’s begin.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospita

$1.8 million per day! That’s what it cost St. Jude to care for these children and they charge the families zero dollars! What’s more precious than a child? What could be more painful than parents who see their child suffer from cancer? Or worse, actually being that child with cancer!

You’ve heard the expression “Let’s stamp out cancer in our lifetime”. Thanks to the superb efforts of St. Jude Cancer Hospital, that may become true! 

Established by Danny Thomas, St. Jude works with top scientists and doctors to research, understand, and subsequently treat children with cancer, as well as other life-threatening diseases. 

Pediatric cancer is St. Jude’s major research and care and the young patients may be there for quite a while. Possibly up to three years or more, and the costs can be astronomical with an average price tag of around $425,000 but can be up to $1 million or more.

With that said, no family ever pays a penny to St. Jude, but if the family does have insurance, St. Jude will bill the insurance company, but that’s it. No copays or deductibles are ever asked for.

Shriners Children’s Hospital

Let’s stay with children’s charities just a bit more. The Shriners Children’s Hospital provides exceptional pediatric care for children suffering from diseases or injuries. They have locations throughout the United States on both coasts and middle America, as well as, one in Hawaii.

Some of the care they provide is orthopedic therapy, gastrointestinal conditions, burn care, rheumatic therapy, sports medicine, and pediatric surgery.

Consider donating to this worthy cause. 

Tunnel to Towers 

We selected Tunnel to Towers because it represents folks who sacrificed more than anyone would want to-to sacrifice. The charity provides new homes free of charge to first responders, law enforcement members, and the American military who have been permanently injured in the line of duty. Tunnel to Towers also provides homes to gold star families who have lost a loved one. 

These homes are state of the art with all the ‘smart’ features necessary for those who have difficulty managing daily home living.

Created by Frank Siller who lost his brother firefighter at the World Trade Center on 9/11. 

While you’re at it, you might want to also consider a donation to Paralyzed Veterans of America

We should never forget the sacrifices our military and first responders have given for our country!

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network 

Pancreatic cancer is one of the scariest cancers to acquire. Over 62,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with this disease in 2022 and it is one of the most difficult to manage almost 49,000 people will die from this cancer this year!

Pancreatic cancer is not easy to diagnose and there are no specific symptoms that occur in the early stages of the disease. Unfortunately, the result is that pancreatic cancer is not found until the later stages, which means that it has already spread through the body, and surgery at that point is not a valid alternative.

That is why we choose the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network as one of our top charities to donate to. 


Most of us have heard about Care. An international organization is driven to help hunger strife families throughout the world.

As per their mission statement: “CARE provides quality, gender-focused and localized humanitarian assistance to 10% of those affected in major crises, reaching at least 50 million people by 2030.”, their goal is to help more than 50 million people from external factors such as war, natural disasters, climate change, and migration that cause homelessness and humanitarian food crisis around the world. 

Care would like to stamp out hunger once and for all. When you donate to Care you know you are helping families that are in dire need of food and shelter.

Camp Good Mourning 

Children fishing at Camp Good Mourning
Photo SS

A local (NY area) 501c3 nonprofit organization that caterers to children who have lost a parent or sibling. Camp Good Mourning is a bereavement organization.

As per their website: “Camp Good Mourning! supports, educates, and empowers grieving Long Island children in a traditional summer camp setting . . . with something EXTRA SPECIAL . . . the ability to connect with other ways who harass experienced the death of a parent and/or sibling!”

When visiting the camp as we have done, the most prominent aspect that we noticed were the smiling faces of the children as they participated in their activities.

If you have suggestions for us to donate to a worthwhile charitable organization, please let us know!

What Are Monoclonal Antibodies?

What is the Difference Between Natural Antibodies and Monoclonal Antibodies?

Medical Lab Technician
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are similar to antibodies produced naturally by the body in response to an infection, but these guys are made artificially in a laboratory. That’s where the term monoclonal comes from. It means they are antibodies created in a lab and are cloned.  

Same as natural human antibodies, monoclonal antibodies are designed to resist a virus by recognizing the spike protein in its cell’s outer coat. This makes it quite convenient for lab scientists and technicians to target a specific virus. In this case, Covid. 

In doing so, the antibodies block the ability of the virus to replicate inside the body, giving the immune system more time to mount its response against COVID-19 infections. 

Who Does Monoclonal Antibodies Help the Most?

Monoclonal antibody infusions are particularly helpful in patients with compromised immune systems, who would find it difficult for their bodies to naturally resist the virus, but it helps healthy people who have caught the virus also, as many have stated that then start feeling better after about 24 hours.

Are Monoclonal Antibodies Only Used for Covid?

Lab technicians looking at blood samples
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

No. Other monoclonal antibodies work as immunotherapies (treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer), as they allow your body’s immune system to react better, which then allows your body to more effectively find and attack tumor cells.    Show Source Texts

Some monoclonal antibodies are attached to a chemotherapy drug to give treatment directly to cancer cells, avoiding healthy cells. Once attached, antibodies may cause other parts of the body’s immune system to destroy cells that harbor an antigen (molecules that induce an immune response)

Once attached, antibodies draw in immune cells to destroy the tumor cells. The antibody latches onto a particular molecule on the surface of a problem cell.   

Are Monoclonal Antibodies Connected to Other Drugs When Infused into a Patient?

As previously mentioned, they are made in a lab to combat a specific infection. They can be injected naturally, called Naked mAbs which means that they are not attached to other drugs such as Brentuximab, which is a chemotherapy drug used to fight cancer cells.

How monoclonal antibodies can be injected into the body is broken down into essentially three categories:

      • Naked Monoclonal Antibodies: These work as a solo drug without any attachments or connections to other drugs. This treatment category is the most commonly used. 
      • Conjugated Monoclonal Antibodies: An additional drug is added with the mAbs, such as with a chemotherapy treatment or a radioactive compound, both used mostly when fighting cancer. 
      • Bispecific Monoclonal Antibodies: Used to target two different proteins at the same time. 

Side Effects

When the antibodies are injected into the body, usually intravenous, an allergic reaction may occur, but these side effects are not life-threatening. Some of the effects a patient may incur are fever, headache, nausea, low blood pressure, and/or rashes.

Final Thoughts

Lab-designed antibodies are ongoing research, but what has been done so far has proven to be worthwhile and fairly successful. Most promising is that researchers can create the antibodies to target specific pathogens depending upon what disease they are working on, such as Covid or cancer. 

Antibodies may be designed to attach to various molecules in the body, such as turning off an immune response when it is overreacting; this phenomenon, which has also occurred with some Covid-19 patients, is called a cytokine storm, which are proteins that control the growth of immune cells. They help the body’s immune system to do its job properly.

COVID-19: Five Things Individuals with Cancer Need to Know

Illustration of covid virus next to vaccine bottles
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The covid virus continues to mutate, leading to new variants of the disease. Some variants, including the Delta variant, Omicron, and the latest XE, may spread more easily than others or may be more resistant to treatments or vaccines, which is why individuals with cancer and cancer survivors need to know a few important things about the disease.

It is hard to say how each individual’s body responds to these variants, as factors such as the amount of contact a person has with others (social engagements, mass transit, shopping, etc.) the amount of protection a person uses (vaccines, masks, washing hands),  the strength (or lack of)  one’s immune system which correlates to the risk factor of the individual. If you are in the category of having immune deficiencies, such as cancer or other high-risk factors, this article may be of some help.

#1. All Cancers Put You at a Higher Risk But Blood Cancer is of Extreme Importance Regarding Covid

Nurse attending to patient
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

If you have cancer and are getting treatment for the condition, your immune system is compromised. This means that your body is not as strong as a healthy person’s immune system and subsequently, you could well be at a higher risk of contracting these viral infections.

A specific type of cancer that can significantly increase your risk is blood cancer. Patients with blood cancer are severely immune-compromised, and their risk of getting the infection is much higher than patients with solid tumors. Their immunity is low because they have much lower levels of immune cells to generate antibodies that fight against the virus. 

#2. Get the Vaccine But Speak to Your Doctor First!

Person getting covid injection
Photo by FRANK MERIÑO from Pexels

All patients with cancer and cancer survivors aged five and above are required to get a primary COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine can be any one of the following{

      • Two doses of Moderna 
      • Two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 
      • Single-dose of Johnson’s and Johnson’s vaccine 

If you are a cancer patient and have recently received treatment, such as chemotherapy, or bone marrow transplant, it is best to consult with your doctor before you get the vaccine. Your immune system must be recovered before you get the preventive vaccine against the virus.  

#3. You May Need an Additional COVID-19 Vaccine Dose

Apart from the primary vaccine, you may also need an additional dose. This additional dose is different from the booster that is recommended to those who have received the initial vaccine and it covers all variants, including the latest one – Omicron. 

Since cancer patients have a weakened immune system, their bodies generate a weaker response. Therefore, there may be a need for getting an additional dose following the completion of the primary vaccine series.  Speak to your doctor about the need, dosage, and timing for the shot.

#4. Should You Get the Second Booster Dose?

A booster dose is different from an additional dose. A booster dose is given to people who have received the primary vaccine after the antibodies have diminished. The second booster dose is recommended for everyone aged 12 and above, especially for seniors who can get the shot now and those under 65 should be able to get the shot as well.

In general, if you are getting cancer treatment or are severely immuno-compromised, you will need the booster shot, but again, we recommend talking to your medical professional before proceeding with the next dose.

#5. You Can Still Get COVID-19 Following Your Vaccination

Everyone, healthy and immune deficient, know that you can still get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated. It might seem alarming, but if you have compromised immunity, you need to rely on other measures along with getting vaccinated to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Man washing his hands in a sink
Keeping your hands clean with soap or sanitizer is one of the best protections against spreading the COVID virus

Some of the measures that you should continue to take despite relaxed restrictions include: 

      • Covering your face with a mask that fits well and covers your mouth and nose
      • Avoiding public gatherings and crowds
      • Maintaining a distance of six feet from people you don’t live with
      • Frequent and thorough hand washing
      • Monitoring your overall health and well-being  

What Should I Do if I Develop Symptoms of Infection?

Couple talking to a medical professional

If you think you have been exposed to the coronavirus or have developed the symptoms of the infection, it’s best to isolate yourself and get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible. At-home tests can tell you if you are infected, but there are a lot of false positives; however, if it shows you do have covid, you most likely do. It is best to go to a medical facility to get a PCR test. If the test results show that you have the infection, make sure you get in touch with your primary healthcare provider and update them about your condition. 

If you develop mild to moderate symptoms, your healthcare provider may prescribe you antiviral medications or antibody treatment to prevent your illness from worsening. Your healthcare provider will also give you an insight into possible drug interactions between the medications for COVID-19 and the treatment you are getting for cancer. 

In some cases, your healthcare provider may decide to pause your cancer treatment while you get the treatment for the virus. 

Final Words 

Coping with cancer is stressful and this anxiety has increased amidst the pandemic. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, are getting cancer treatment, or are a cancer survivor, know that there are several ways you can protect yourself from getting COVID-19. Continue to cover your face with a face mask, practice frequent hand washing, maintain six feet social distance, and avoid public gatherings.

Three Common Blood Disorders

Ilustration of Human Cells

The Significance of Blood 

Blood is the essence of life. It is the fluid that keeps our bodies going. As it circulates, it transports important nutrients and oxygen to every cell. It also collects metabolic waste from the cells and allows our body to get rid of it through the excretory system. Blood is a mixture of various components. Each component performs a specific function. Together, they allow our bodies to survive and thrive. 

Our blood is made up of the following components:


Around 55% of the blood in humans is made up of this component. Plasma primarily contains water and proteins. It also contains glucose and other nutrients. The remaining 45% of the blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. 

Red Blood Cells 

Red blood cells are disc-shaped cells. They are slightly indented towards the center. These unique cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. The life of red blood cells is 120 days and the body regularly replaces them. A normal functioning body produces two million red blood cells every second. 

White Blood Cells 

White blood cells are the body’s internal defense against diseases. Though they make up only 1% of the blood. The presence of these cells protects the body against viral infections.  


Platelets are an integral part of the blood. They help the blood clot in case of a wound or injury and also prevent internal bleeding.  

It is essential that these components run as effectively as possible, but what if something happens and they don’t perform the way they should?

Blood Disorders?

Blood disorders are conditions that impact the blood’s ability to perform its functions effectively; such as if the red blood cells don’t carry the proper number of oxygen it needs. If this happens or any other defect that causes the cells to not function the way they should, a blood disorder has developed and needs to be addressed ASAP, since disorders of the blood can impair the ability of other organs to perform their functions properly and that can be particularly dangerous.

Common Blood Disorders 

Many blood disorders take their names from the components of the blood they affect. Some of the most common disorders include the following: 


Anemia is a type of disorder that affects the red blood cells and is the most common type of blood disorder in the US. Around 5.6% of the US population suffers from some type of anemia. This condition can be hereditary or may develop over time due to environmental factors and/or poor diet. 

Anemia is a condition that affects the ability of the red blood cells to transport oxygen. As a result, an inadequate amount of oxygen reaches the organs in the body and the person may feel fatigued and have a lack of energy. 

There are many types of anemia. Some of them are caused due to structural changes in the red blood cells. Other types are either caused due to a lack of iron or due to an insufficient number of red blood cells in the blood. Most types of anemia can be treated through iron supplements, improved diet, and blood transfusions. 


Hemophilia is a rare, genetic blood disorder. In the US, 1 in every 5,000 male children are born with hemophilia. It affects the ability of the blood to clot. As a result, a person suffering from hemophilia is at a higher risk of excessive bleeding even with the slightest cut.  

Human blood contains proteins called clotting factors. The presence of clotting factors allows the blood to clot in case of a wound. People with hemophilia lack this protein in their blood. The condition is caused by a mutation in one of the genes responsible for making clotting factors. Though hemophilia is a genetic condition, it is not always hereditary. Children with no prior history of the condition may also be born with it. In some cases, people may develop hemophilia later in life.

The severity of the condition can be determined by the number of clotting factors present in the blood. The lower the clotting factor, the more you are at risk of excessive bleeding. There are many treatment options available to manage and cure this condition. Doctors may prescribe treatments based on the severity of the condition. 


Cancer cell, CAR t-cell (lymphocyte) and red blood cells on red background. vector Poster about immunotherapy or chemotherapy cancer
Cancer cell and CAR t-cell (lymphocyte) and red blood cells. Photo: iStock

Even though it is often considered a disease in children, leukemia affects far more adults. Every year, almost 30,000 new cases of leukemia are reported in the US alone. It affects more men compared to women and is more common in white people than in other races. 

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells. Unlike other cancers, it does not form a mass. Instead, it leads to an overproduction of white blood cells. 

Leukemia begins in the soft tissues of the bone marrow. The bone marrow is responsible for producing all types of blood cells. It produces billions of new cells every day. The problem arises when the DNA of the new blood cells incurs damage. This causes uncontrollable growth and division of white blood cells and the result can be a feeling of tiredness, unexplained fever, bruising, headaches, excessive bleeding, unintentional weight loss, and infections. 

A normal functioning white blood cell fights against infections. However, the abnormally high number of white blood cells do not perform any function and do not die naturally. Instead, they overcrowd the blood, leaving little room for the red blood cells and platelets to perform their function adequately. As a result, leukemia leads to multiple blood disorders.  

Prostate Cancer – The Most Common Type of Cancer Among Men


The prostate is a small gland located in the lower abdomen of male mammals. It is a small-sized gland located at the neck of the bladder and is responsible for secreting fluid for the nourishment of sperm. The gland is regulated by testosterone, which is the male reproductive hormone.

Malignant growth of cells in the prostate gland is known as prostate cancer. Cancer is this region can quickly spread into other parts of the body, including the bones.

According to the American Cancer Society, the number of prostate cancer patients in the US is expected to be 174,650 in 2019. It is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in American men.

How Can We Prevent Prostate Cancer?

There are two types of prostate cancer and are categorized according to how fast they can grow.  

  • Aggressive Prostate Cancer
  • Non-aggressive Prostate Cancer 

Aggressive cancers grow very quickly and can spread easily into other organs. Aggressive prostate cancer can affect bones in very little time. Non-aggressive prostate cancer, on the other hand, does not grow very quickly. 


Prostate cancer mainly affects men older than 65 years of age. Around 60% of the reported cases are diagnosed in men over 65, but that is not always the case. In April 2000, 55 year old former New York City mayor Rudolph Guiliani announced that he had prostate cancer, but it was found in the early stages and the tumor was successfully removed.

Causes of prostate cancer are still not known. However, doctors agree that genes, obesity, and diet are some of the most important contributing factors. 


Woman stretching pants showing loss of weightMen who consume large amounts of red meat and animal fat cooked at high heat are more prone to developing prostate cancer. Research has shown that men in countries where meat and dairy products are a staple diet are more likely to develop prostate cancer.

However, the results are different in countries where a basic diet, like vegetables, fruits, and rice, is consumed. In general, a good diet along with exercise can defintitely help in lowing the chances of getting this disease.


Checking WaistlineOne of the most important causes of prostate cancer is obesity. Fats stimulate the production of the male reproductive hormone called testosterone. High levels of testosterone may increase the production of prostate cancer cells.

This shows that people with a high Body Mass Index (BMI) are more prone to developing this illness. 


A DNA adduct (at center) of benzo[a]pyrene, the major mutagen in tobacco smoke

Mutations in certain genes can also cause cells to grow abnormally. The abnormal growth of cells can cause a tumor. These mutated cells can continue to live and grow even when other cells die. They might also spread into other organs. 

If men in your family have a history of prostate cancer, you are also likely to develop this disease. Just like breast cancer, prostate cancer can also be inherited. 

Early Signs of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer can grow silently without causing any apparent signs and symptoms. The disease can go unnoticed for years. This is the reason why regular screening for prostate cancer is very important after you cross the age of 50. 

Most signs and symptoms of prostate cancer appear after the tumor has spread. These early signs and symptoms may include difficulty in urination, burning sensation in urine, blood in urine and stool, pain in ejaculation and pain in the lower back, hips thighs and pelvis.

Some of the symptoms of an advanced-stage tumor include loss of appetite, a drastic reduction in weight, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, severe lower body aches, and bowel problems. 


Doctor reading medical computer dataMen over 50 are recommended to go for regular screening for prostate cancer.  This cancer is more common than other cancers, but successful treatment is high if caught early and there are numerous methods now with regards to how to treat it.

Diagnosis of prostate cancer can be done through one or both of the following methods.

Digital Rectal Exam

During DRE, a doctor physically examines the prostate to find any abnormalities in shape, size, and texture of the gland. 

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test 

This is a blood test where a blood sample is drawn and examined for the presence of PSA. PSA is naturally produced by the prostate gland. Higher ranges of PSA in blood levels may indicate an infection, inflammation, or even cancer. On one case, a 57 year old male was diagnosed with a high PSA but the urologist determined that he has not developed any signs of cancer.

The man is now 63 and still shows the same high PSA but is still free and clear of any dangers to his prostate. Now this might be rather unique so it is still recommended that men over 50 should visit a urologist yearly or more often if needed as a precaution. 

Depending upon the results of DRE and PSA tests, your doctor may recommend further tests, including ultrasound, MRI scan, and a biopsy. Tests are also conducted to find out whether the cancer is aggressive or non-aggressive. 


The treatment of prostate cancer is dependent upon the stage and whether it is aggressive or non-aggressive. Treatment also depends upon the overall health of an individual and severity of symptoms. 

One or more of the following methods may be used to treat prostate cancer. 


Surgery for prostate cancer usually involves removing the prostate gland and some of the surrounding tissues. The surgery can be done using robotic assistance. A microscopic instrument is inserted to facilitate more precise removal of the affected tissue.

More conventional surgery involves an incision in the lower abdomen, and the prostate gland is taken out through the incision. 


Radiotherapy uses high powered energy to kill the extra growth of tissues. Treatment for prostate cancer can be provided using two methods.

  • Radiation from Outside – The affected area undergoes the external radiation to kill cancer cells.  
  • Radiation from Within – A small sized radioactive seed is placed in the prostate tissue, which continues to deliver small doses of radiation over a period of time. 


Powerful drugs are injected into the body to kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used in case cancer has spread to other areas of your body. The drawback of this therapy is that it can also kill healthy normal cells along with fast-growing cancer cells. 

Other treatments include hormonal therapy, biological therapy, and freezing of prostate tissue. Only your consultant can suggest the right treatment after analyzing your condition. 

Is Vaping a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

Woman using a vape cigaretteSo you grab a vape mod convinced that it will pull you off the smoking habit. Think again!

Most marketing materials promoting electronic cigarettes (AKA e-cigarettes) claim that they are safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. These new electronic cigarettes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and models such as Juuls, vape pens, and vape mods.

What Are E-Cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that used to look exactly like a cigarette when they first came out but are now available in all sorts of different shapes; however, regardless of their size and manufacturer, they all contain the addictive chemical nicotine.

Naturally found in tobacco, Nicotine is the element that is primarily responsible for making smoking addictive. Nicotine exists in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes and causes you to continue to desire a smoke. If you ignore the craving, you can suffer withdrawal symptoms such as a rise in blood pressure and spikes in your adrenaline. This increases your heart rate and narrowing of the arteries and subsequently, increases the chance of having a heart attack.

Assortment of vaping devices
Vape mods by Vaping360. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

In our previous blog about e-cigarettes and the oral health problems they may cause, we now go deeper into a more complete discussion about how they can affect the whole body. The key difference between conventional cigarettes and alternatives is that the latter doesn’t contain tobacco. But the problem is that tobacco is not the only harmful substance in a cigarette. Cigarettes contain a range of additional chemicals that are harmful to human consumption and electronic cigarettes have some of the same chemicals. E.G. Nicotine.

Since early 2009, the FDA has continually emphasized that e-cigarettes contain significant levels of toxins and carcinogens. Carcinogens are cancer-causing agents. A study conducted on 42 different manufacturers of liquid nicotine cartridges found that it contained formaldehyde, a chemical associated with causing cancer.

A study conducted by the American Chemical Society found that vaping could adversely affect an individual’s DNA. The study conducted on 15 adults examined their saliva before and after a 15-minute vaping session. The saliva of the adults had an increased level of dangerous toxins such as acrolein and formaldehyde.

If you care for the environment and think that e-cigs are better for the environment than conventional cigarettes because the vapor from them is smoke-free and odor-free, you have a wrong assumption. A study carried out by the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health found that the use of electronic cigarettes increases airborne particle concentration and volatile organic compounds. Both of these substances pose a potential risk if inhaled. 

There have been no long-term studies conducted so far to find if the effects of vapor emitted from e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoke from normal cigarettes. Any cancer usually takes years to develop and electronic cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon, but it is known that there are dangerous toxins in e-cigs as mentioned above.   

Can Vaping Help Cut Down or Quit Regular Cigarettes?

Any company that claims its e-cigarettes can be used to cure addiction or help cut down cigarettes must first provide studies to the FDA showing that the product does what it claims to do and is fit for consumption. So far, there is no substantial evidence through studies or otherwise to prove that electronic cigarettes can be a tool for diminishing usage of conventional smoking.

“Smoking still remains one of the most harmful activities and is responsible for 480,000 American lives lost each year.“

Downsides Outweigh the Upsides

E-cigarette marketers promote their devices as a healthier alternative to smoking. But actual results show that people tend to continue smoking along with vaping and this action is termed dual-use.

Perhaps the biggest health risk posed by e-cigarettes is that they are creating a trend where a perception about smoking being okay and normal is finding its way back after being on the decline for decades. Popular smoking accessories such as the vape pen and Juul are reversing the painfully won gains in the fight against smoking. Smoking still remains one of the most harmful activities and is responsible for 480,000 American lives lost each year.

An Alarming Increase Among Young People

The percentage of teenagers who have tried electronic cigarettes has quadrupled over the last 4 years alone. Nearly three million US students in middle school and high school have tried e-cigarettes. 1 in 5 of those kids who tried them said they never tried conventional smoking before.

The use of Juul and other alternatives to cigarettes by young adults is alarming for a variety of reasons:

    • Nearly 9 out of 10 people who are addicted to smoking started before age 18. Early usage leads to the development of a regular habit.
    • Nicotine found in electronic cigarettes is known to hamper brain development among teens.
    • Vaping can be looked on as a gateway to normal cigarettes as people are tricked into believing that it is harmless flavorful vapor.

The sharp increase in vaping among teenagers is attributed to attractive, candy-like flavors that manufacturers use to target the younger audience. No doubt the cigarette companies have not staged much of a protest against them.

Illinois will be raising the vaping age to 21 and New York State is looking to ban the sale of any e-cigarette product to anyone under the age of 21, as well as prohibit pharmacies from selling any tobacco or e-cigarettes.

Governmental Involvement

Doctor breaking a cigarette in halfNo doubt there is contention these days about how much the government should regulate health care. We will stay out of the political gamut and simply say based on what we already know about vaping, we agree with those states that are changing the laws. Teenagers are most vulnerable to this and so upping the age from 18 to 21 is a great start.

Illinois is changing the legal age from 18 to 21 and New York State is going further. Besides moving the legal age for smoking e-cigarettes to 21, they are also banning tobacco products from pharmacies, as well as prohibiting the use of coupons and rebates related to tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

Bottom Line

Vape pens, pods, Juul, and other forms of e-cigarettes have not been around long enough to make a solid assessment regarding their long-term effect on health.

Instead, many people including teenagers delusionally (based on the known ingredients) believe that these alternatives are safer than the traditional form of smoking and can even help a person quit regular cigarettes.

It has been proven by the FDA that do show that e-cigarettes contain some of the more harmful compounds found in normal cigarettes even though there is no tobacco involved. The fact that some of these chemicals can damage your DNA and become the cause of cancer should be alarming enough on its own.

More research is needed to determine the exact effects of e-cigarettes on health as compared to regular smoking, but the most practical conclusion would be to just stay away from it.

Processed Meat and the Industry Built on Cancer

A fork holding a slice of smoked pork meatWhat is Processed Meat?

Meat that is ‘processed’ is any meat which has been modified so that it can improve its taste or to extend its shelf life and usually falls into the categories of meat that has been smoked, salted, cured, dried or canned. For decades, the processed food industry has been leading us into believing that their products are nutritious and healthy. The processed meat industry, in particular, has been a dominant player in the market with products being served everywhere, from supermarkets to fast food chains,which appeals to children and adults alike, but this is most likely not the case.

Processed meat was inspired by the need for convenience. Hectic schedules, busy family lives, and an ever-increasing workload meant that everyone was looking for a quicker alternative than cooking from scratch. And processed meat appeared as the perfect answer which offered not only convenience but potentially essential nutrients as well. However, the price of convenience has taken a heavy toll on our health.

Processed food has always been an integral part of our cooking culture. We cut, rinse, cook, ferment and dry our food. All these are part of the process, but the processed meat industry which includes meat like bacon, ham, sausages, and salami to name a few, has added industrially processed chemicals to our daily diet.  The industrial process, which is standard for all mass-produced processed meat, strip the food of its nutrients while adding chemicals, preservatives and synthetic food additives.

Processed Meat, Addiction, and Overeating

Processed Meat with VegatablesFresh meat consists of proteins, fats, and water. When the meat is processed, the components change, which in turn transform how the meat is digested and assimilated in our bodies.  

Eating processed meat releases dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter) which increases our chances of getting addicted to such types of food. This leads to a lifestyle where an individual consumes fewer nutrients and fiber but actually eats more as they derive greater pleasure from it. This is how addiction to processed meat starts – an individual feels good after eating and that leads to a repetitive cycle of consumption of such foods.

You might think that the relationship between dopamine and processed meat consumption is coincidental, but the reality is quite different. Processed meat companies are billion dollar empires such as McDonalds and Tyson Foods that pour in hundreds of millions of dollars into marketing and lobbying.  

The marketing campaigns of such companies aim to rope in consumers from the earliest time possible so they remain customers well into adulthood. The need for bacon to be an essential breakfast item and happiness can be found in a happy meal box are part of a campaign carefully derived to keep customers hungry for more.

Processed Meat and the Cancer Link

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report which classifies processed meat such as ham, bacon, salami and frankfurters as a Group 1 carcinogen. This translates into strong evidence suggesting that processed meat causes cancer. Epidemiological studies conducted by the WHO has found sufficient proof that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.

Experts from multiple countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach a definitive conclusion. The studies found that consuming fifty grams of processed meat every day increases the chance of colorectal cancer by 18%. That translates to about four strips of bacon or one hot dog each day.

So Why Does Processed Meat Pose Such a Grave Threat?

Possessed sausage on a tableCertain chemicals such as N-Nitroso compounds and polycyclic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogenic in nature, are produced during the production of processed meats. Cooking processed meats also produces heterocyclic aromatic amines as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are found in air pollution. Furthermore, nitrite and nitrate preservatives used to increase the shelf life of processed meats also release chemicals upon digestion that can lead to bowel cancer.

A recent outbreak of food poisoning in South Africa led to a discovery of high amounts of bacteria in uncooked processed meats such as frankfurters. This type of bacteria was found to be exceptionally dangerous for children, the elderly and pregnant women.

Alternatives to Processed Meat

The average person would be surprised that many healthy and budget-friendly alternatives already exist on the market. These substitutes offer a healthier and better lifestyle than processed meats without compromising on taste.

Replace processed meats such as ham, bacon or prosciutto with healthier proteins such as chicken, tuna, salmon or eggs. To make meals more exciting and healthier, the addition of tomatoes, mushroom, baked beans, hummus or avocado are a good choice to start off with. For more flavor, herbs, chili or smoked paprika can be used.

Response of Processed Meat Producers

The PR managers of processed meat companies have tried to dismiss the WHO’s report that links processed meat to an increase in cancer. They suggest that the study was not conclusive and not backed by enough members. They refute the claims of the report and have since published their own studies as a counter-argument to protect the industry and the massive profits from the sale of processed meats.


The ramifications of the evidence found by the World Health Organization basically identify processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, which is the same category as tobacco. It essentially translates into a call for action to drastically transform heavy processed meat diets into healthier diets.

Heavy advertising and lobbying by processed meat companies have made it harder to overcome mental and social barriers for what is a radical change. Large amounts of money are spent to ensure that people continue with their current choice of processed meats. These factors grouped together with the convenience of on the go meat make it even harder to get rid of foods which have become an integral part of our culture.

For a brighter and healthier tomorrow, it is essential to get rid of foods that are causing deaths and illnesses. Children should be encouraged from a young age to eat healthily and adults can opt for a healthier lifestyle with alternatives that are proven to be better for health.

Stevia: An Organic Sugar Substitute with Zero Calories

Spoon spilling sugar onto a cup
Photo by Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash

Processed sugar is a substance that a majority of the human population is addicted to. From fizzy drinks to our favorite chocolates, a lot of today’s everyday dietary items are overflowing with processed sugar. You may have heard of the statement that a 250 ml serving of carbonated drinks has seven teaspoons of processed sugar in it or you may have heard some associated version of this.  

Processed sugar is packed with calories, and that makes its excessive use detrimental to the human body. Having more sugary items in your daily diet can shoot up the total calorie count to unhealthy levels. Our contemporary lifestyles with minimal physical activity can’t burn down all those excess calories that we consume in the form of sugar. Nearly one-third of the US population is suffering from obesity, and the use of excessive sugar products is one of the main reasons behind that.  

Sugar with Zero Calories

Sugar substitutes with zero calories and without their typical characteristics have been around for quite some time. Diabetic patients, for instance, have been using artificial sweeteners for their caffeine drinks for decades. However, all those sugar substitutes are synthetic. Moreover, they are not feasible to be used as a wider substitute for regular sugar. In addition, there have been studies that associate these types or sweeteners with cancer and other diseases.

Stevia: The Organic Sweetener?

Stevia Sugar Substitute
Photo SS

Amid all the sugar substitutes available in the market, stevia extract might be the only organic option. Stevia is a leafy plant that belongs to the botanical family of ragweed. Stevia has a variety of sub-species from different geographic regions. For instance, stevia known as candy leaf is mostly cultivated in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.  On the other hand, some of its species are native to Paraguay and Brazil.

The stevia strains grown in South America are more in demand because they are sweeter than any other of its species. It is believed that native people in the region have been using stevia as a natural sweetener for hundreds of years.  

Not Like Regular Organic Sweeteners

Jar of sugar cubes

There are multiple organic sweeteners. Sugarcane is the single largest organic source for sugar production. Moreover, the roots of sugar beets are also used to produce natural sweeteners. All these organic sweeteners have one thing in common, i.e. they are packed with calories.

Stevia, on the other hand, is distinguished from the other organic sweeteners because it is completely free of calories. This quality of stevia makes it a sought-after commodity in the market of sugar substitute products.

Before we delve into the details of the nutritional use of stevia and its implications, it would be interesting to have a brief look at the history of this zero-calorie sweetener plant.

History of Stevia

An Italian botanist, Moises Santiago Bertoni, is believed to have discovered stevia at the end of the 19th century in Paraguay. It is important to mention that native Paraguayans were using the plant for hundreds of years. They used to call it kaahe (sweet herb) in their native language. From being used as a medicine ingredient to a sweetener, stevia already had extensive use when Bertoni stumbled upon this plant. At the time of discovery, Stevia was mostly grown in the wild, but after its saplings were identified and brought across the globe, it quickly turned into an easily available herb.    

Benefits of Stevia

A stevia leaf has zero calories, but it is 200 times sweeter than regular sugar. Apart from providing zero-calorie sweetness in foods and drinks, stevia has also been studied for some of its medical implications. For instance, a study conducted last year indicated that stevia has shown positive effects against endocrine disorders. However, that was not a conclusive study. To make the medical use of stevia acceptable on a professional level, more research is definitely required.

Stevia as a Sugar Substitute and FDA Directives

Stevia is currently a part of the global sugar substitute market. However, the FDA has a contingency that only allows a particular extract (high purity steviol glycosides) safe for consumption. They have warned against the use of stevia leaves and crude extracts. The federal regulatory body believes that not enough research exists to back the use of untreated and whole stevia leaves. The FDA cites that crude stevia samples have not been tested for their effect on blood sugar levels. Moreover, researchers have yet to find the stevia effects on cardiovascular, reproductive and excretory systems.

It has also been noted that the ingestion of untreated stevia might lead to lower blood pressure. Under normal circumstances this would be a benefit; however, without maintaining control or monitoring of your blood pressure, it could be risky. Moreover, scientists believe that stevia has unknown effects on anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activities within the body. This vagueness definitely makes it risky to use stevia in its raw form.

Market Overview of the Sugar Substitute Industry

Three years ago, the market for sugar substitutes was capped at $13 billion. It was also forecasted that it would expand to $16.5 billion by the end of 2020.  In 2000, 18% of US adults were using artificial sweeteners. By 2012, this number went up to 24%. The US Department of Agriculture has concluded that US citizens have dropped the use of added sugar in the new millennium. All these findings clearly suggest that there is a lot of potentials for stevia to become the leading sugar substitute given that it has received the required scientific approval.

Zero-Calorie Items Might Not be the Ultimate Solution

Theoretically, cutting down calorie intake to minimum levels is the ultimate solution to deal with obesity. However, many nutritionists believe that that’s not the case. Some research studies have also raised doubts regarding the overselling of zero-calorie items to shed extra pounds. A study conducted in 2014 revealed that a low-calorie diet could lead to the development of overeating behavior in animals.

All things considered, more research is needed to validate the intended benefits of stevia. Moreover, it is also imperative to assess the actual effects of low-calorie diets on obesity in more detail. We would also advise our readers to not add stevia to their diet without prior consultation from certified physicians.  

Bone Marrow Transplantation

Bone marrow is a soft, gelatinous tissue that resides in the centers of a person’s bones. When diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia inhibit the functionality of the bone marrow, a transplant of healthy marrow could be the best treatment option; for some patients, it is the only cure.

619 Red and Yellow Bone Marrow
A bone marrow transplant is a surgical procedure necessary to replace a damaged bone marrow that has been affected by a disease, infection or in rare cases, chemotherapy. The actual process involves the relocation of stem cells, which are spread to the bone marrow. They are meant to help in the creation of new blood cells and encourage the growth of a new marrow.


The bone marrow is fatty tissue that is found inside the bones. It is significant since it creates a number of agents for the blood that is distributed throughout the human body. Red blood cells are cells which distribute oxygen and nutrients that are vital to all parts of the body. White blood cells are meant to combat disease whereas platelets are important for the formation of clots.

Furthermore, a bone marrow also consists of undeveloped blood cells, also known as hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). Most of these cells are not alike in nature and only exist for duplication.

More specifically, if these cells are damaged, then a bone marrow transplant may be administered. The surgery will introduce healthy blood cells and oust impaired ones. A transplantation will enable the patient’s body to function properly again. For instance, the body will be able to produce sufficient red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets if their bone marrow transplant is successful.

There are two ways of obtaining healthy stem cells. The first method is through a donor while the second includes acquiring them from within the patient’s own body. In the latter scenario, stem cells can be harvested if need be. For example, if the patient is suffering from cancer and is scheduled to undergo chemotherapy or radiation, then harvesting stem cells becomes mandatory.

 procedure of Bone Marrow.


Now that we understand what a bone marrow transplant involves, we can assess cases where the performance of a transplant may be necessary. Generally, a bone marrow transplant becomes mandatory when the existing marrow is unable to function adequately.

Reasons for a transplant include aplastic anemia. This is a disorder where the marrow no longer produces new blood cells. In addition, there are several types of cancers that can have an impact on the bone marrow too. Leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma are relevant examples that make a transplant necessary.

Also, as we mentioned earlier, chemotherapy is also another possibility where a bone marrow transplant may be needed. There are cases where the bone marrow may erode since the body is in a weakened state during chemotherapy. The same rules apply to radiation as well.

Moreover, congenital neutropenia, a hereditary disorder in which the patient develops multiple illnesses, is another potential reason for a transplant to be conducted. So is sickle cell anemia, which is also inherited genetically and involves the presence of distorted red blood cells.

Finally, thalassemia is yet another case which may require bone marrow transplantation. When the body develops an abnormal form of hemoglobin, which is a vital component of healthy red blood cells, then that means the individual is suffering from thalassemia and needs surgery.


Prior to surgery, a patient must undergo chemotherapy or radiation, depending on the requirement. This is determined by two distinct methods, the first of which is called Ablative (myeloablative) treatment.

This occurs when a high dosage of chemotherapy is administered. It is typically accompanied by radiation also. The treatment is done to eradicate the presence of cancerous cells in the body. A side effect of ablative treatment is that all the bone marrow that is healthy is also eliminated, which is why a transplant becomes mandatory once chemotherapy is completed.

The other method is called Reduced Intensity treatment (mini-transplant). In essence, this is the opposite of ablative treatment and the patient is exposed to lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation. This procedure is meant to cater to older individuals or patients whose bodies may not respond well to ablative treatment.

Additionally, there are also two basic classifications of bone marrow transplantation, which are stated as follows:

Bone Marrow Transplant

Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant

The transplanted stem cells originate from the body of a child who undergoes the procedure. Once the cells are obtained, surgeons store them safely. Then, these stem cells are inserted back into the affected child’s body when the destructive cells are removed through another procedure.

In case the child undergoes an autologous transplant, a donor is not required. Instead, the child’s own stem cells are used. They are exposed to bone marrow harvesting or stem cell mobilization before the actual transplant takes place.

The main advantage of using a child’s own stem cells is that they are no serious consequences such as graft versus host disease. This transpires when white blood cells are fighting against a child’s healthy cells. This happens because the cells may be donated by another person and do not agree with the child’s body.

Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant

Naturally, there are certain diseases which warrant stem cells to be used by a donor. This process is called an allogeneic transplant. This may prove to be a viable alternative for patients as well. Allow us to demonstrate why.

If the cells found inside the child’s body are considerably affected, then there is no likelihood that they may be replaced at a later stage. When the stem cells are beyond repair, an allogeneic transplant is a logical conclusion.

Likewise, stem cells which are donated may be more accustomed to eradicate the patient’s impacted cells. These are just some examples where undergoing an allogeneic transplantation can increase a child’s chances of being healthy in the long run.

However, the procedure is conditional. An allogeneic transplant is a riskier proposition in contrast to autologous transplants. This is because the cells of a donor and the recipient may not mix well at all, which can result in graft versus hold disease in the child. The feasible option in this instance is to locate a donor who is related to the child. For example, using stem cells from a parent or sibling can yield better results once the surgery is complete.

Hodgkin’s Disease

”Hodgkins Sign"
Photo by Sohel_Parvez_Haque –

What exactly is Hodgkin disease? For starters, it is a form of cancer that impacts the lymphatic system, which is an integral component of the immune system.  It is also known as Hodgkin Lymphoma. 

Description of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

The advent of abnormal cell growth signals the beginning of this disease. Once they expand beyond a required level, they begin to spread. Lymphomas are cancers that start in white blood cells known as lymphocytes. In essence, there are two fundamental types of lymphoma i.e. Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (less common). Cells in the lymphatic system exhibit abnormal growth and can spread beyond its capacity. It is most common in adults between 20 and 40 years of age.

What is a Lymphoma?

To gain satisfactory knowledge of Hodgkin’s, it is imperative to grasp what lymphoma is. Only when we comprehend the latter can we begin to understand this disease better. The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system, which is designed to tackle infections and ailments. (You may have heard of them as lymph nodes). Another function of the lymph system is that it aids the flow of fluids throughout the body.

The lymph system is mainly comprised of cells called lymphocytes. This is a kind of white blood cell. In total, there are two basic lymphocytes:

  1. B lymphocytes (B cells): These establish proteins called antibodies to safeguard the body from the presence of germs, bacteria and the like
  2. T lymphocytes (T cells): These are more complex and there are different types of T cells inside the body. While some perform the function of obliterating viruses and abnormal cells in the body, others help boost the activity of immune system cells.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma usually occurs in B cells.

The Formation of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Diagram showing the lymph nodes lymphoma most commonly develops in CRUK 311Unfortunately, lymph tissues are found in multiple parts of the human body, which means Hodgkin’s can begin anywhere.

Let’s focus on the most likely locations where the disease can manifest itself.

Lymph nodes

These nodes are the size of a bean and are essentially a collection of lymphocytes and other cells spread throughout the body including areas such as the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. A network of lymphatic vessels connects these together. The existence of lymph nodes is normal, but if they swell, this may indicate inflammation or an infection.  


The spleen is an organ that is situated beneath the lower ribs on the left-hand side of the body. They make lymphocytes and other immune system cells. The spleen also has a cache of healthy blood cells while filtering damaged ones. It also refines bacteria and wastage from cells.

Bone Marrow

This is a sponge-like tissue that is found inside specific bones. The development of brand new blood cells is conducted in the bone marrow.


The thymus is a small organ behind the upper breastbone and in front of the cardiac organ. It is significant since it aids the development of T lymphocytes.

Adenoids & Tonsils

Both the labels given above represent an accumulation of lymphoid tissues at the back of the throat i.e. pharynx. They are designed to keep antibodies at bay and encourage the fight against all sorts of germs that are either breathed in via the nose or swallowed through the mouth.

Digestive Tract

The stomach, intestine and other organs in the digestive system and adjoining areas also contain lymph tissues.

Various Kinds of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma cytology large
Micrograph of Hodgkin lymphoma abbreviated HL. Lymph node FNA specimen. Wikipedia
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Hodgkin’s is divided into two main categories, namely Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma and Nodular lymphocyte predominant type, respectively.

Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma

This is the most frequent form and makes up the vast majority of cases that are diagnosed by doctors. There are four main types of classical cases, all of which contain abnormal cells called Reed-Sternberg cells. They are B cells that can turn cancerous.

  1. Nodular Sclerosing is the most common out of the four. It occurs particularly in young adults and can be detected at an early stage since patients develop an inflammation in their neck owing to their lymph nodes becoming enlarged.
  2. Mixed cellularity can affect groups of lymph nodes, which contain a blend of lymphocytes and other types of blood cells.
  3. Lymphocyte-rich is the third type and generally looks quite small compared to others. In fact, a microscopic view is required to determine whether the patient has this type of lymphoma or not.
  4. Lymphocyte depleted is the final kind and is quite rare relatively speaking. The lymph nodes can contain ample fibrous tissues with a scarcity of Reed-Sternberg cells.

Nodular Lymphocyte Predominant

According to research, only 10% of Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases are of the nodular variety. It is more likely to affect older people as opposed to younger ones. The decisive difference between Classical and Nodular type is that the latter involves the presence of meager Reed-Sternberg cells. However, other abnormal cells which doctors refer to as popcorn cells are present in this case. It occurs only in one type of lymph node when it is diagnosed, which means it is a localized disease. The growth of this type is more gradual when compared to the classical disease.

Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment

The treatment is contingent on the stage of the disease. Chemotherapy and radiation are required in all cases. Chemotherapy involves the use of medications that expunge cancerous cells. These drugs can be administered orally or injected through specific veins. On the other hand, radiation includes a high energy beam to wipe out cancer cells. Both procedures are arduous and can take a considerable toll on the patient.

Moreover, there are cases where radiation therapy is sufficient in dealing with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If the patient has Nodular lymphocyte, then radiation is preferred since the dissemination of the cells is slower as compared to Classical type. Immunotherapy or stem cell transplantation can also be used in many cases if the body does not respond well to chemotherapy or radiation.