HW: Giving blood, especially by men, may help prevent some cancers, study says

Jill Breman may have found yet another reason to encourage people to donate blood.

A European study links regular donation of blood to a possible reduced risk of developing certain cancers, particularly in men. A November 2007 article in Transfusion magazine discusses the study.

Snippets of the study reappeared in the Sept. 28 edition of Parade magazine, which is distributed nationally in newspapers.

“I’m like, ‘Wow,’ ” said Breman, the donor coordinator at St. Mary’s Regional Blood Center, 750 Wellington Ave. “I gave it out everywhere.”

The Parade magazine article was titled “8 Ways to Stay Healthy” and giving blood was at the top of the list.

When people donate blood, they receive a free mini-checkup because donor centers must to check blood pressure, blood type and health history, Breman said.

So when donors are screened, they might find out about some medical conditions earlier and received treatment earlier.

Dr. Aaron Long, a pathologist at the regional blood center, was intrigued and excited by the European study and the article in Parade magazine, but he said to be cautious about the results.

“Healthy people are the only ones who can give blood, so are you already testing a healthier pool of people?” Long asked.

However, there is one health benefit to donating blood Long doesn’t take issue with.

Donating blood reduces iron levels in the body, Long said.

Too much iron in the body is dangerous because it can lead to problems such as liver damage and an increased risk of heart disease, Long said.

Being able to lower iron levels through blood donation is particularly beneficial to men.

Women, who typically have lower levels of iron than men, eliminate iron monthly through menstruation.

If continued research and studies support the European study’s findings and donating blood regularly turns out to reduce the risk of heart disease or liver, lung, colon, stomach or throat cancer, Long said it will be great news for medicine.

Either way, Long reiterated the point that donating blood is free, and it isn’t unhealthy.

“It may help you, and it certainly helps others,” Long said.

During the next two months, the number of people who donate blood usually drops because of the busy holiday season, Breman said.

At the same time, more people travel during the holidays, which increases the likelihood of traumatic accidents where blood transfusions may be necessary.

St. Mary’s Regional Blood Center serves hospitals from Moab, Utah, to Avon and from Meeker to Montrose, so the need is high for blood.

Breman estimates the regional blood center supplies 15,000 pints a year.

“We need all types (of blood) all the time,” she said.

For information about donating blood and who is eligible, contact the center at 244-2555.


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