Showing posts with label Other Health News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Other Health News. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

New Test Could Detect All Types of Cancer in Just Minutes

This New Test Could Detect All Types of Cancer in Just Minutes

5 DEC 2018

Researchers have developed a test that could be used to diagnose all cancers. It is based on a unique DNA signature that appears to be common across cancer types.

The test has yet to be conducted on humans, and clinical trials are needed before we know for sure if it can be used in the clinic.

Each cancer type, whether it be breast or bowel cancer, has different genetic and other features. A test that detects one cancer may not work on another.

Researchers have long been looking for a commonality among cancers to develop a diagnostic tool that could apply across all types.

Our research, published in the journal Nature Communications, has found that cancer DNA forms a unique structure when placed in water. The structure is the same in DNA from samples of breast, prostate and bowel cancers, as well as lymphoma.

We used this discovery to develop a test that can identify the cancerous DNA in less than ten minutes.

How our test works
Current detection of cancer requires a tissue biopsy – a surgical procedure to collect tissue from the patient's tumour. Researchers have been looking for a less invasive diagnostic test that can detect cancers at an earlier stage.

One possibility, still in development, is a liquid biopsy, testing for circulating cancer DNA in the blood.

Our test also uses circulating cancer DNA but involves a different detection method.

Nearly every cell in a person's body has the same DNA, but studies have found that cancer's progression causes this DNA to undergo considerable reprogramming.

This change is particularly evident in the distribution pattern of a tiny molecule called a methyl group, which decorates the DNA.

A normal cell DNA's distinct methyl pattern is crucial to regulating its machinery and maintaining its functions. It is also responsible for turning genes on and off. Altering this pattern is one of the ways cancer cells regulate their own proliferation.

This methyl patterning has been studied before. However, its effect in a solution (such as water) has never been explored.

Using transmission electron microscopy (a high-resolution microscope), we saw that cancerous DNA fragments folded into three-dimensional structures in water. These were different to what we saw with normal tissue DNA in the water.

In the lab, gold particles are commonly used to help detect biological molecules (such as DNA). This is because gold can affect molecular behaviour in a way that causes visible colour changes.

We discovered that cancerous DNA has a strong affinity towards gold, which means it strongly binds to the gold particles.

This finding directed us to develop a test that can detect cancerous DNA in blood and tissue. This requires a tiny amount of purified DNA to be mixed with some drops of gold particle solution.

By simply observing the colour change, it is possible to identify the cancerous DNA with the naked eye within five minutes.

The test also works for electrochemical detection – when the DNA is attached onto flat gold electrodes.

Since cancer DNA has higher affinity to gold, it provides a higher relative electrochemical current signal in comparison to normal DNA. This electrochemical method is highly sensitive and could also eventually be used as a diagnostic tool.
Why this matters

For this test to work properly the DNA must be pure. So far we have tested more than 200 tissue and blood samples, with 90 percent accuracy. Accuracy is important to ensure there are fewer false positives – wrongly detecting cancer when there is none.

The types of cancers we tested included breast, prostate, bowel and lymphoma. We have not yet tested other cancers, but because the methylation pattern is similar across all cancers it is likely the DNA will respond in the same way.

It is a promising start, though further analysis with more samples is needed to prove its clinical use.

The next step is to do a large clinical study to understand how early a cancer can be detected based on this novel DNA signature. We are assessing the possibility to detect different cancer types from different body fluids from early to later stages of cancer.

We are also considering whether the test could help monitor treatment responses based on the abundance of DNA signatures in body fluid during treatment.

Abu Sina, Research Fellow, The University of Queensland; Laura G. Carrascosa, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland, and Matt Trau, Professor, The University of Queensland.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Laboratory Tests - Need help making sense of your test results?

During a regular checkup, or yearly physical, your doctor may request laboratory tests to monitor your health, or perhaps to get a diagnosis.

Laboratory Tests
If you need help making sense of your test results, check out the National Institutes of Health's Web site, where you can find out; why your doctor ordered the test, what it's used for, and what the results may mean.  
Updated this month: Laboratory Tests.

Liver Chemistries Is The New Liver Function Tests
If you're a liver patient, like myself, you might be all about the liver function test, now called "liver chemistries." In 2016 the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) issued new guidelines on the evaluation of abnormal "liver chemistries," and suggested that "liver function tests" be referred to as "liver chemistries" or "liver tests." The reasoning behind the name change is simple "Liver Function Tests" are not true measures of hepatic function.

Liver Function Testing - Oldie But Goodie

An interesting article published in 2010 by Dr. Pullman:
The first thing to know is that what is commonly called liver function testing (LFTs) has little if anything to do with the function of the liver. They are really tests that are clues to liver injury or disorders, but not really liver function. The first two tests are the ALT (Alanine aminotransferase) and AST (Aspartate aminotransferase) were formally called SGPT and SGOT respectively. These are enzymes that normally function inside liver cells primarily, and are present in the blood stream in small quantities. When there is something causing injury to liver cells, these enzymes leak into the bloodstream in large quantities, and elevated serum levels of these enzymes what physicians call hepatocellular injury.
Continue reading article:

Both Fatty liver Disease and Hepatitis C are two liver disorders often first detected through a routine blood test, both may not have any symptoms, talk to your doctor to see if you might be at risk.

Stay happy, stay healthy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Organic Food's Dubious Cancer Benefits

Organic Food's Dubious Cancer Benefits
Hi folks, today Medscape launched both a video & article by F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, reviewing the following study: Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk - Findings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study, investigating the association between organic food consumption and the risk of cancer, published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Check it out:
Organic Food's Dubious Cancer Benefits
Today we are looking at an observational study that shows that people who eat lots of organic food have slightly lower rates of cancer than people who don't eat lots of organic food...
Look, organic food is a luxury good. And luxury goods are associated with a survival benefit because rich people live longer. Is it fair? No. But it's true. 
Free registration may be required to view article. 

Yesterday, UK's NHS website published this analysis nicely summing up both media coverage and the research article:

Eating organic food linked with lower cancer risk
"Organic food lowers blood and breast cancer risk, study finds," the Mail Online reports.

The news website reports on a large study in France that questioned 69,000 people on their consumption of organic food, and then monitored them for 5 years to see how many developed cancer.

Organic food is grown without the use of pesticides, manmade fertilisers or genetic modification (GM) techniques. Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Researchers found that people who ate the most organic food had a 24% reduced risk of cancer compared to those who ate the least.

Despite the encouraging media reports, this study does not prove that eating organic food will protect you against cancer.

The study does not demonstrate that organic food is the direct cause of the reduced risk. People who ate more organic food had healthier lifestyles in general, doing more exercise and eating more fruit and vegetables than other people. Though the researchers tried to adjust for such health and lifestyle factors, it's still possible these things had an influence.

So, claims that "eating organic food will reduce cancer rates" remain unproven. It would be better to focus on eating a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre and low in processed meat, and to maintain a healthy weight. Eating well, along with taking regular exercise and not smoking, can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer. 

Where does the study come from? 
The research was conducted by the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale, and Universit é Paris 13. Funding was provided by several French organisations including the Ministry of Health, Institute for Health Surveillance, and the National Institute for Prevention and Health Education.

One of the researchers declared that they had an advisory role promoting the use of organic products to 2 non-profit organisations.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The UK media took the findings at face value without acknowledging other factors that could have potentially influenced the results, and the small number of cancer cases recorded. For example, the Mail's statement that: "The biggest impact was seen on non-Hodgkin's lymphoma risk [a cancer of the lymphatic system], which plummeted among those who shunned chemical-sprayed food" is certainly overblown, given that this was based on tiny numbers and could be a chance finding.

But to their credit, the UK media did point out that people who eat organic food tend to have a healthier lifestyle than people who don't. 

What kind of research was this?
This was a population-based cohort study that aimed to see whether eating organic food was associated with risk of developing cancer.

The organic food market avoids the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and GM methods, and restricts the use of medications in animals.

Previous research has demonstrated other potential beneficial effects of eating an organic diet, such as a lowered level of pesticides in urine samples. But few studies have looked at the potential link with cancer.

Observational studies such as this are useful for exploring potential links but can't prove cause and effect, as other health and lifestyle factors could be having an influence. 

What did the researchers do?
This study involved 68,946 participants (78% women, average age 44 years) of the internet-based French cohort study, NutriNet-Sante. The cohort was set up in 2009 to look at links between diet, nutrition and health.

At the start of the study, participants provided information on their sociodemographic status, body measurements, health status and lifestyle behaviours. 

They were asked 2 months later how often they ate 16 different organic products, including fruit and vegetables, dairy and eggs, meat and fish, grains and cereals, ready meals, wine, chocolate and coffee. 
They were asked to tick 1 of the following:
most of the time
never ("too expensive")
never ("product not available")
never ("I'm not interested in organic products")
never ("I avoid such products")
never ("for no specific reason")
I don't know

For each product, 2 points for were given for "most of the time", 1 point for "occasionally" and 0 for all other responses. The 16 items therefore had a total organic food score ranging from 0 to 32 points. The analysis was split into 4 quartiles, from lowest to highest intake.

Health outcomes of participants were recorded for an average of 4.5 years. This information was gathered through annual questionnaires. If participants reported receiving a diagnosis of cancer, they were asked for medical records (obtained for 90%) and details of the treating doctor or hospital.

The fully adjusted analysis took account of the following potential confounders:
age and gender
marital status
education, occupational status and monthly income
smoking and alcohol intake
body mass index
physical activity
overall food energy intake and intake of fibre, fruit and vegetables, processed foods and red meat
hormonal factors in women, such as use of hormone treatment and whether they'd been through the menopause 

What were the basic results?
In total, 1,340 cancers developed among the 68,946 participants (2% of the cohort). These included breast cancer (34%), prostate cancer (13%), skin cancer (10%) and bowel cancer (7%).

Consumption of organic food was more common among:
those with a higher education or occupational status
those who did more physical activity and who had healthier diets in general

Those who ate the most organic food had a 24% lower risk of developing cancer compared to those with the lowest intake (hazard ratio (HR) 0.76, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.64 to 0.90).

There were no differences in people who ate moderate amounts of organic food compared with those who ate the least.

By specific cancer, significant links with organic food intake were only found for:
postmenopausal breast cancer
lymphomas overall
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma specifically

However, these results should be taken with caution, particularly because of the very low number of cases. 

What do the researchers conclude?
The researchers conclude: "A higher frequency of organic food consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Although the study findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer." 

This study is a valuable investigation into potential links between eating organic food and cancer risk. However, the author's conclusion could be a little premature. This study alone cannot prove that eating organic food will prevent you getting cancer.

There are a few points to note.

Cancers still developed among people who ate the most organic food – it's just there were fewer cases (269 vs 360 among those eating the least amount of organic food). So even if there is a direct link, eating organic food is not guaranteed protection against cancer.

The conclusions about the links with specific cancers were based on tiny numbers – for example, 15 non-Hodgkin's lymphomas among those eating the least organic food vs 2 among those eating the most organic.

Organic food intake was taken at a single point in time and self-reported. This may be inaccurate and not reflect lifetime habits.

There was a notable difference in sociodemographics and lifestyles of those eating the most organic food. The researchers tried to adjust for these factors, but there's still a chance these things influenced the results. This means the study can't prove that eating organic food is responsible for the reduced risk – it could just be down to living a healthier lifestyle in general.

The study benefits from a large sample size, but these were online volunteers to a health and nutrition study who may not represent the general population of France.

Experts have added similar notes of caution. For example, Professor Tom Sanders of King's College London says: "[The authors'] conclusion, that promoting organic food in the general population could be a promising cancer preventive strategy, is overblown."

It's understandable to want to eat organic food for health or environmental reasons. But in terms of protecting against cancer, what's far more proven to have an effect is a healthier diet in general with a high amount of fruit and vegetables and fibre and low amount of processed meat, along with regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight. 

Links to the headlines 
Mail Online, October 22 2018 
The Sun, October 23 2018 
The Times (subscription required), October 23 2018

Links to the science
Baudry J, Assmann KE, Touvier M, et al. 
JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online October 22 2018

Analysis by Bazian
Edited by NHS Website

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Toxin at heart of drug recall shows holes in medical safety net

August 22, 2018

Toxin at heart of drug recall shows holes in medical safety net 
Alexandra Harney, Ben Hirschler
SHANGHAI/LONDON (Reuters) - A toxin inadvertently produced in the manufacture of a widely prescribed medicine but not spotted for years raises questions about regulators’ ability to detect risks in a sprawling global drug supply chain increasingly reliant on factories in China.

China’s Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical (600521.SS), which produces bulk ingredients for drugmakers, told its customers in late June it had found NDMA in its valsartan, an off-patent blood pressure drug originally developed by Novartis (NOVN.S). The discovery means that some of the 10 billion pills containing valsartan sold worldwide last year to prevent heart attacks and strokes had traces of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), classified as a probable human carcinogen. No one has been reported as sickened by the toxin, once used in the production of liquid rocket fuel... 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

NIH researchers discover highly infectious vehicle for transmission of viruses among humans

NIH researchers discover highly infectious vehicle for transmission of viruses among humans

Researchers have found that a group of viruses that cause severe stomach illness — including the one famous for widespread outbreaks on cruise ships — get transmitted to humans through membrane-cloaked “virus clusters” that exacerbate the spread and severity of disease. Previously, it was believed that these viruses only spread through individual virus particles. The discovery of these clusters, the scientists say, marks a turning point in the understanding of how these viruses spread and why they are so infectious. This preliminary work could lead to the development of more effective antiviral agents than existing treatments that mainly target individual particles.

The researchers studied norovirus (link is external) and rotavirus (link is external)–hard-to-treat viruses that are the most common cause of stomach illness, or gastroenteritis, and that afflicts millions of people each year. The viruses cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to abdominal pain and can sometimes result in death, particularly among young children and the elderly. Their highly contagious nature has led to serious outbreaks in crowded spaces throughout many communities; most notably in cruise ships, daycare centers, classrooms, and nursing homes. Fortunately, vaccines against rotavirus are now available and are routinely given to babies in the United States.

“This is a really exciting finding in the field of virology because it reveals a mode of virus spread that has not been observed among humans and animals,” said study leader Nihal Altan-Bonnet, Ph.D., senior investigator and head of the Laboratory of Host-Pathogen Dynamics at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). “We hope that it will provide new clues to fighting a wide range of diseases involving many types of viruses, including those that cause gastrointestinal illnesses, heart inflammation, certain respiratory illnesses, and even the common cold.”

The study was supported in part by the Intramural Research programs of the NHLBI and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), both part of the National Institutes of Health. It is featured as the cover story of Cell Host & Microbe and appears online on August 8.

Until a few years ago, most scientists believed that viruses, particularly those responsible for stomach illnesses, could only behave as independent infectious agents. However, in 2015 Altan-Bonnet and her colleagues showed that polioviruses could transmit themselves in packets, or membrane-bound vesicles containing multiple virus particles. The scientists compared this new model of viral transmission to a Trojan horse: A group of membrane-bound viruses arrives at a host cell and deposits viruses in the cell while dodging detection by the immune system. The scientists did not know whether this system applied to animals and humans, or how effective these packets were in infecting host cells.

To find out, they focused on rotaviruses and noroviruses, which mainly get spread by accidentally ingesting tiny particles of an infected person’s stool — through, for example, contaminated food or liquids. The researchers obtained fecal samples of humans and animals (pigs and mice) and found that the viruses are shed in the stool as virus clusters inside membrane-bound packets. In addition, they found that these virus-containing vesicles were significantly more infectious than the free, unbound viruses within the samples.

Membrane-bound vesicles containing clusters of viruses,including rotavirus and norovirus,within the gut. 
Rotaviruses are shown in the large vesicles,while noroviruses are shown in the smaller vesicles. 
NIH Medical Arts
The researchers determined that the high level of infectiousness was likely due to the vesicles delivering many viruses at once to the target tissues; protecting their viral cargo from being destroyed by prolonged exposure to enzymes; and possibly by making their viral cargo invisible to the antibodies that are in the stool or gut of the host. More studies are needed, but the extreme potency of the virus packets, they said, has a clear consequence: it not only enhances the virus’ ability to spread more aggressively; it also increases the severity of the disease it causes. Handwashing (link is external) with soap and water helps prevent the spread of viruses.

“Our findings indicate that vesicle-cloaked viruses are highly virulent units of fecal-oral transmission, and highlight a need for antivirals targeting vesicles and virus clustering,” Altan-Bonnet noted.

NIH support also includes the following grant from NIAID: RO1-AI091985.

This press release describes a basic research finding. Basic research increases our understanding of human behavior and biology, which is foundational to advancing new and better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Science is an unpredictable and incremental process — each research advance builds on past discoveries, often in unexpected ways. Most clinical advances would not be possible without the knowledge of fundamental basic research.

Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Listen: With Stricter Guidelines, Do You Have High Blood Pressure Now?

November 14, 201712:56 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
You may not have had high blood pressure Sunday, but you may have it today. Even if your blood pressure hasn't changed a smidge. What's up?

The rules shifted Monday. It used to be that we encouraged people to adopt healthy behavior to keep their blood pressure down but didn't label someone as having hypertension until systolic blood pressure (the top number) exceeded 140 millimeters of mercury and/or the diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) exceeded 90 mm Hg. Lots of people watch those numbers closely.

Now the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have updated blood pressure guidelines that move the goal post for many people.
Continue reading......

NIH blood pressure study supports important part of new AHA/ACC hypertension guidelines
Today the AHA and the ACC issued the first comprehensive new high blood pressure guidelines in more than a decade that indicate high blood pressure should be treated earlier with lifestyle changes and in some patients with medication – at 130/80 mm Hg rather than 140/90. An important component of these guidelines was informed by the results of the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), a clinical study sponsored in part by the NHLBI and designed to determine the best way to treat blood pressure in adults with hypertension, 50 years or older, who are at high risk for heart disease.

SPRINT, which began in the fall of 2009, included more than 9,300 participants, recruited from about 100 medical centers and clinical practices throughout the United States. It remains the largest study of its kind to date to examine how maintaining systolic blood pressure at a lower than previously recommended level would impact cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

Monday, November 13, 2017

NIH blood pressure study supports important part of new AHA/ACC hypertension guidelines

Data from landmark NIH blood pressure study supports important part of new AHA/ACC hypertension guidelines

This is a field of blood cells. The bi-concave disks are red blood cells or erythrocytes. The white cell with the dark purplish, multi-lobed nucleus is a neutrophil, a type of white blood cell or leukocyte. The smaller spikey objects are platelets.

Findings from a landmark study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) support a key component of the new 2017 Hypertension Clinical Practice Guidelines announced by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) at the annual AHA meeting in Anaheim, California.

In 2013, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the NIH, adapted to changing times and refined its focus to generating high quality scientific evidence in support of the development of clinical practice guidelines worthy of the public trust. The new high blood pressure guidelines illustrate the utility and impact of NHLBI scientific studies.

Today the AHA and the ACC issued the first comprehensive new high blood pressure guidelines in more than a decade that indicate high blood pressure should be treated earlier with lifestyle changes and in some patients with medication – at 130/80 mm Hg rather than 140/90. An important component of these guidelines was informed by the results of the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), a clinical study sponsored in part by the NHLBI and designed to determine the best way to treat blood pressure in adults with hypertension, 50 years or older, who are at high risk for heart disease.

SPRINT, which began in the fall of 2009, included more than 9,300 participants, recruited from about 100 medical centers and clinical practices throughout the United States. It remains the largest study of its kind to date to examine how maintaining systolic blood pressure at a lower than previously recommended level would impact cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

The pace of scientific advances today requires systematic synthesis for developing guidelines that will assist busy practitioners. The successful implementation of these guidelines will lead to improvements in the health of the nation and reduce the risks posed by heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the United States’ leading cause of death.

In addition to primary sponsorship by the NHLBI, SPRINT is also co-sponsored by the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and The National Institute on Aging.

Dr. David Goff, Director, Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, NHLBI, is available to comment on the SPRINT study and its relationship to the new high blood pressure guidelines.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact the NHLBI Office of Science Policy, Engagement, Education, and Communications at 301-496-5449 or (link sends e-mail).

About the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI): NHLBI, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.
For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hospital Impact—Pharmacy benefit managers are a lot like car dealers

Hospital Impact—Pharmacy benefit managers are a lot like car dealers
by Sheila Arquette |
Sep 28, 2017 8:26am 
The system for car purchases—where Americans buy cars from dealerships instead of directly from the companies making them—makes it hard to know how much it actually costs to make a car, so it’s hard to know you’re getting the best price. 
The same system applies to buying lifesaving prescriptions. Drug manufacturers set a list price, but consumers rarely pay that, and how much drugs should really cost is uncertain.
Continue reading.... 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

There are more new cases of cancer each year than marriages in the UK

Cancer Diagnosis Now 'More Common Than Marriage'
Liam Davenport
July 11, 2017
The cancer diagnoses are divided almost equally among men (51%) and women (49%). Just more than half (53%) of all new cases are cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and bowel.
Five-year survival rates range from more than 80% for breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma of the skin, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and thyroid and testicular cancer to fewer than 15% for lung and liver cancer and 6% to 7% for mesothelioma and pancreatic cancer.
Continue reading...

10 July 2017
Being diagnosed with cancer is now one of the most common life-changing events in people’s lives, Macmillan wants the public to be better informed about the reality of cancer diagnosis and treatment

There are more new cases of cancer each year than marriages in the UK, according to a new report from Macmillan Cancer Support.

The report, The C-Word: How we react to cancer today, reveals being diagnosed with cancer is one of the most common life-changing events in people’s lives. New analysis reveals:
Cancer is more common than new marriages: Latest figures show there are over 70,000 more new cases of cancer each year in UK than new marriages[i].

Cancer is more common than women having their first child: Latest figures show there are almost 50,000 more new cases of cancer each in year in England and Wales than women giving birth to their first child[ii].

Cancer is as common as graduating: Latest figures show there are a similar number of undergraduate degrees awarded each year in the UK[iii], compared with new cases of cancer.

Cancer affects many people at the “prime” of their life: More than 1.2 million people have been diagnosed with cancer under the age of 65 in the past 10 years, including more than 340,000 diagnosed in their 20s, 30s and 40s[iv].

Cancer is the most feared disease

Macmillan’s research reveals that while receiving a cancer diagnosis is an increasingly common life event, it is the disease people most fear getting (37%), ahead of Alzheimer’s (27%), stroke (7%), depression (4%), heart disease (4%) or multiple sclerosis (2%)[v].

For one in 10 people in the UK (10%), cancer is their biggest fear of all, ahead of losing a loved one, their own death or even terrorism[vi].

However, Macmillan’s report highlights that people’s perceptions and fears around cancer can be unhelpful in supporting them to understand their choices when they are diagnosed. When they were first told they had cancer, one in three people (34%) say they were in a daze and couldn’t take anything in[vii].

We all need to be better prepared and informed about cancer

As one in two people will get cancer at some point in their lives[viii] and more and more people are living longer after cancer[ix], Macmillan wants the public to have a better understanding of the reality of a cancer diagnosis.

The charity has released the report to coincide with the launch of its major new advertising campaign, Life with cancer, which Macmillan hopes will remove some of the fear around diagnosis and highlight the support that is available for people living with cancer today. The charity believes that life with cancer is still life and that people should have the right support in place to help them live it as normally as possible.

A positive new approach to cancer awareness, the campaign reflects the insight that 85% of people with cancer don’t want to be defined by the disease[x]. The series of recently released adverts, show that cancer doesn’t have to change who you are with an important message: life with cancer is still life.

Macmillan’s research shows that nine in ten (90%) people living with cancer say they are still living their lives as normally as they can[xi].

The charity believes that being as prepared as possible, knowing what to expect during and after treatment and being told what support is available from the moment of diagnosis, can support people to continue to live their lives.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

“Being told you have cancer changes your life, and it can leave people feeling as if they’ve been thrust into the unknown, bewildered and unprepared.

“But as more and more people are being diagnosed with cancer, it’s important that we are all better informed about what to expect if we do one day we receive this shocking news.

“Cancer is almost always life-changing, but it isn’t always life-ending. Life with cancer is still life – you’re still a dad, a sister, a grandparent, a friend. Macmillan has supported millions from the point of diagnosis, throughout their treatment and into the future. From our experience, we believe that living well with cancer begins at diagnosis. People should come away from those first appointments feeling informed about their choices and knowing what support is available.”

Jane Ives, 49, a mum of two from Hampshire, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She says:

“Getting a diagnosis of cancer was probably the single most terrifying thing that has happened to me. My biggest fear by far was not seeing my children fully grow up. Not being there for those milestones in their lives – their graduations, their weddings maybe. But here I am three years on and in a few weeks I will be at my eldest’s graduation, which will be a huge moment for both of us. While the fear never quite leaves you – you realise life goes on after cancer and you appreciate the here and now.”

Macmillan’s new report, The C-Word: How we react to cancer today, explores what it’s like to receive a cancer diagnosis in 2017, how our fears and preconceptions affect us in the moment we’re told, and how each of us can be prepared for the news. This is essential in helping people to live their best possible life with cancer.
Source -

Friday, November 4, 2016

Young Adults' Problem Drinking May Have Lasting Health Effects

Young Adults' Problem Drinking May Have Lasting Health Effects

PISCATAWAY, NJ – Young adults with symptoms of alcohol dependence may see health effects late in life—even decades after conquering their problem drinking, according to a study in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Researchers found that, of 664 U.S. male veterans, those who had symptoms of alcohol dependence for at least five years in young adulthood generally had poorer physical and mental health by the time they were in their 60s.

And that was true even if they'd gotten control over their drinking problems by the age of 30.

The findings are surprising, said lead researcher Randy Haber, Ph.D., of the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System, in Menlo Park, Calif.

It's clear that people's lives improve when alcohol dependence goes into remission, Haber pointed out, but it is not clear whether there are hidden consequences that remain after heavy drinking has ceased. For instance, evidence shows that both brain and body are affected by excessive drinking, but we don’t know how long these effects last.

The new findings suggest that years of alcohol dependence during young adulthood result in silent but "permanent" injuries that, in later life, appear to result in serious health problems, according to Haber.

The findings are based on men taking part in a larger study of Vietnam-era veterans. Haber's team focused on 368 men who did not report any symptoms of alcohol dependence at any point in adulthood, 221 who had at least three symptoms of dependence in young adulthood and middle-age and 75 who had symptoms in early adulthood but not after the age of 30.

Overall, the study found that men who had alcohol dependence symptoms for at least five years in early adulthood scored lower on standard measures of both physical and mental health once they'd reached their 60s.

For example, those with alcohol dependence in young adulthood had, on average, three medical conditions in later life whereas those without this history reported two. In addition, their scores on a depression scale were about twice as high.

Most important, these effects were seen even among men who'd been free of dependence symptoms for several decades.

The reasons are unclear. But, Haber said, other studies have shown that chronic drinking may injure parts of the brain involved in emotional regulation, self-control and decision making. It's possible, he noted, that years of alcohol exposure in early adulthood could have lasting effects on those brain areas.

Still, Haber stressed that this study is reporting "averages" and not what any one person is destined for.

He said that people who not only quit problem drinking but also turn their lifestyle around—eating well, not smoking and just generally "taking care of themselves"—will likely see health benefits that last into late life.

Plus, he said, there is a "whole body of literature" showing that when people with alcohol dependence go into recovery, their lives improve in almost every area.

"If you have entered (alcohol dependence) recovery, keep going," Haber said. "Live your life to its fullest."

Haber, J. R., Harris-Olenak, B., Burroughs, T., & Jacob, T. (November 2016). Residual effects: Young adult diagnostic drinking predicts late-life health outcomes. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77(6), 859–867. doi:10.15288/jsad.2016.77.859

To arrange an interview with Randy Haber, Ph.D., please contact Michael Hill-Jackson at the VA Office of Public Affairs at 650-444-7380 or

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs ( is published by the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. It is the oldest substance-related journal published in the United States.

To learn about education and training opportunities for addiction counselors and others at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, please visit

Monday, May 16, 2016

Increased physical activity associated with lower risk of 13 types of cancer

Increased physical activity associated with lower risk of 13 types of cancer

The investigators confirmed that leisure-time physical activity, as assessed by self-reported surveys, was associated with a lower risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. They also determined that leisure-time physical activity was associated with a lower risk of 10 additional cancers, with the greatest risk reductions for esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver cancer, cancer of the gastric cardia, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia.

A new study of the relationship between physical activity and cancer has shown that greater levels of leisure-time physical activity were associated with a lower risk of developing 13 different types of cancer. The risk of developing seven cancer types was 20 percent (or more) lower among the most active participants (90th percentile of activity) as compared with the least active participants (10th percentile of activity). These findings, from researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the American Cancer Society, confirm and extend the evidence for a benefit of physical activity on cancer risk and support its role as a key component of population-wide cancer prevention and control efforts. The study, by Steven C. Moore, Ph.D., NCI, and colleagues, appeared May 16, 2016, in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Hundreds of previous studies have examined associations between physical activity and cancer risk and shown reduced risks for colon, breast, and endometrial cancers; however, results have been inconclusive for most cancer types due to small numbers of participants in the studies. This new study pooled data on 1.44 million people, ages 19 to 98, from the United States and Europe, and was able to examine a broad range of cancers, including rare malignancies. Participants were followed for a median of 11 years during which 187,000 new cases of cancer occurred.

The investigators confirmed that leisure-time physical activity, as assessed by self-reported surveys, was associated with a lower risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. They also determined that leisure-time physical activity was associated with a lower risk of 10 additional cancers, with the greatest risk reductions for esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver cancer, cancer of the gastric cardia, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia. Myeloma and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, and bladder also showed reduced risks that were significant, but not as strong. Risk was reduced for lung cancer, but only for current and former smokers; the reasons for this are still being studied.

“Leisure-time physical activity is known to reduce risks of heart disease and risk of death from all causes, and our study demonstrates that it is also associated with lower risks of many types of cancer,” said Moore. “Furthermore, our results support that these associations are broadly generalizable to different populations, including people who are overweight or obese, or those with a history of smoking. Health care professionals counseling inactive adults should promote physical activity as a component of a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention.”

Leisure-time physical activity is defined as exercise done at one’s own discretion, often to improve or maintain fitness or health. Examples include walking, running, swimming, and other moderate to vigorous intensity activities. The median level of activity in the study was about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, which is comparable to the current recommended minimum level of physical activity for the U.S. population.

There are a number of mechanisms through which physical activity could affect cancer risk. It has been hypothesized that cancer growth could be initiated or abetted by three metabolic pathways that are also affected by exercise: sex steroids (estrogens and androgens); insulin and insulin-like growth factors; and proteins involved with both insulin metabolism and inflammation. Additionally, several non-hormonal mechanisms have been hypothesized to link physical activity to cancer risk, including inflammation, immune function, oxidative stress, and, for colon cancer, a reduction in time that it takes for waste to pass through the gastrointestinal tract.

Most associations between physical activity and lower cancer risk changed little when adjusted for body mass index, suggesting that physical activity acts through mechanisms other than lowering body weight to reduce cancer risk. Associations between physical activity and cancer were also similar in subgroups of normal weight and overweight participants, and in current smokers or people who never smoked.

The study was a large-scale effort of the Physical Activity Collaboration of NCI’s Cohort Consortium, which was formed to estimate physical activity and disease associations using pooled prospective data and a standardized analytical approach.

“For years, we’ve had substantial evidence supporting a role for physical activity in three leading cancers: colon, breast, and endometrial cancers, which together account for nearly one in four cancers in the United States,” said Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., a co-author from the American Cancer Society. “This study linking physical activity to 10 additional cancers shows its impact may be even more relevant, and that physical activity has far reaching value for cancer prevention.”

The National Cancer Institute leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH’s efforts to dramatically reduce the prevalence of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit
NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®
Moore SC, et al. Leisure-time physical activity and risk of 26 types of cancer in 1.44 million adults. JAMA Internal Medicine. May 16, 2016. DOI:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1548.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Public Reporting Measures Fail to Describe the True Safety of Hospitals

Public Reporting Measures Fail to Describe the True Safety of Hospitals
Study finds only one measure out of 21 to be valid
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Common measures used by government agencies and public rankings to rate the safety of hospitals do not accurately capture the quality of care provided, new research from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality suggests.
The findings, published in the journal Medical Care, found only one measure out of 21 met the scientific criteria for being considered a true indicator of hospital safety. The measures evaluated in the study are used by several public rating systems, including U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hospitals, Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Score, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) Star Ratings. The Johns Hopkins researchers say their study suggests further analysis of these measures is needed to ensure the information provided to patients about hospitals informs, rather than misguides, their decisions about where to seek care.
“These measures have the ability to misinform patients, misclassify hospitals, misapply financial data and cause unwarranted reputational harm to hospitals,” says Bradford Winters, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins and lead study author. “If the measures don’t hold up to the latest science, then we need to re-evaluate whether we should be using them to compare hospitals.”
Hospitals have reported their performance on quality-of-care measures publicly for years in an effort to answer the growing demand for transparency in health care. Several report performance using measures created by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) and CMS more than 10 years ago. Known as patient safety indicators (PSIs) and hospital-acquired conditions (HACs), these measures use billing data input from hospital administrators, rather than clinical data obtained from patient medical records. The result can be extreme differences in how medical errors are coded from one hospital to another.
“The variation in coding severely limits our ability to count safety events and draw conclusions about the quality of care between hospitals,” says Peter Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D., another study author and director of the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. “Patients should have measures that reflect how well we care for patients, not how well we code that care.”
The researchers analyzed 19 studies conducted between 1990 and 2015 that directly addressed the validity of HACs and PSI measures, as well as information from CMS, the AHRQ and the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission’s websites. Errors listed in medical records were compared to billing codes found in administrative databases. If the medical record and the administrative database matched 80 percent of the time, the measure was considered a realistic portrayal of hospital performance.
Of the 21 measures developed by the AHRQ and CMS, 16 had insufficient data and could not be evaluated for their validity. Five measures contained enough information to be considered for the analysis.  Only one measure—PSI 15, which measures accidental punctures or lacerations obtained during surgery—met the researchers’ criteria to be considered valid.
“Patients and payers deserve valid measures of the quality and safety of care,” says Pronovost, who is also Johns Hopkins Medicine’s senior vice president for patient safety and quality. “Despite their broad use in pay for performance and public reporting, these measures no longer represent the gold standard for quality, and their continued use should be reconsidered.”
The researchers say they hope their work will lead to reform and encourage public rating systems to use measures that are based in clinical rather than billing data.
Pronovost recently outlined additional fixes that could be implemented by the rating community in a commentary published in the April 2016 issue of JAMA. Designating a separate reporting entity to establish standards for data collection and making funds available for systems engineering research were listed as possible starting points by Pronovost and his co-author, Ashish Jha from Harvard.
This work was supported by internal funds from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. Established in 2011, the Armstrong Institute works to improve clinical outcomes while reducing waste in health care delivery both at Johns Hopkins and around the world. Led by Pronovost, the institute develops and tests solutions in safety and quality improvement that can then be shared at the regional, national and global levels. Using a scientific approach to improvement, the Armstrong Institute employs robust measures that can be broadly disseminated and sustained.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tattooing may be ancient, but safety questions remain

Also see: 
Aug 5
Nationwide Recall Of A Thousand Virgins Grey Wash Tattoo Inks And Tattoo Kits Due To Microbial Contamination
Use of these products may cause bacterial infection and can lead to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.

Health | Thu Aug 6, 2015 1:18pm EDT
Related: Health

Tattooing may be ancient, but safety questions remain
By Kathryn Doyle
Reuters Health – - Tattoo health and safety regulations tend to focus on short-term risks like infections, but little is actually known about the long-term risks of living with ink under your skin, according to a new review in The Lancet.

“Almost everybody these days has a tattoo, and nobody is talking about the side effects of ink deposits,” said senior author Dr. Andreas Luch of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin.

“There is no proof that these ink ingredients are safe, being injected into the body,” Luch told Reuters Health.

Between one and five percent of tattooed people suffer a bacterial infection, and some people can have allergic reactions to the ink, according to the report.

Those are short-term effects. It is harder to measure the long-term effects of ink since tattoo inks are in most countries classified as cosmetics, Luch said.

Since the inks are classified as cosmetics, their long-term toxicology can’t be tested in animals, Luch said. In his opinion, tattoo inks should be a completely different product category.

The skin barrier effectively keeps surface cosmetics out of the body, he said.

But tattoo ink is injected into living tissue, which contains blood vessels, nerves and immune cells.

“We need to assume that all of these ink ingredients, including preservatives, processing aids or whatever, will become systemically available in the body over time,” Luch said. “Regulation based on cosmetics is insufficient.”

Examining the bodies of the deceased who have had tattoos for decades has shown that up to 90 percent of the ink has disappeared from the skin, he said.

“We cannot answer the question what is going to happen with these inks,” whether they accumulate in organs over time or are excreted, Luch said.

Similar questions remain for laser tattoo removal: when the pigments are fractured and fragmented under the skin - where do they go – he added.

“In the U.S. the (Food and Drug Administration) has the authority to regulate inks, but is not currently doing so,” said Dr. Michi Shinohara, a dermatologist at the University of Washington in Seattle who was not involved in the review.

“Regulation of tattoo parlors and tattoo artists is left to the states, and the requirements for operating vary widely from very minimal (bloodborne pathogen training) to fairly complex (hundreds of hours of apprenticeship),” Shinohara told Reuters Health by email.

There are no industry standards for ink ingredients, the industry is minimally regulated, and few problems with tattoos are reported to authorities, she said.

Modern tattoo inks mostly contain organic pigments, but can also include preservatives and contaminants like nickel, arsenic and lead, Luch and his coauthors note. In one study in Switzerland, preservatives banned for use in cosmetics were found in 14 percent of tattoo ink samples.

Reactions tend to be more common from colored inks than from black and white ones, Luch said.

Tattooing has been going on for at least 5,000 years, but has become a modern trend, with roughly 120 million people in the western hemisphere having at least one tattoo, Luch said.

“The acute risks are well known,” including pain, bleeding, infection and allergic reaction, Luch said. “The tattooist at least needs to explain that something like this could happen,” he said.

But long term risks, like organ toxicity or cancer, are still unknown, he said.

“It’s an individual decision, we cannot tell someone not to get a tattoo,” Luch said. “I wouldn’t like to have a tattoo on my skin, but if a person likes colored skin, what can I say?”

It’s not necessary for people to stop getting tattoos, Shinohara said, “but I think people should be smart about it - research the parlor, ask about any recent problems, follow the aftercare instructions and report immediately to the tattoo artist and a physician for any problems that occur after tattooing.”

SOURCE: The Lancet, online July 23, 2015.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Three in 10 U.S. adults experience drinking problems

Three in 10 U.S. adults experience drinking problems
By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) - Roughly three in 10 U.S. adults have a drinking problem or have misused alcohol at some point in the past, a large study finds.

And less than one in five people with symptoms of addiction or dependence received treatment for the problem, according to survey responses from more than 36,000 adults nationwide who were asked about their alcohol consumption.

“The stigma of alcohol problems is a major barrier to getting treatment,” senior study author Deborah Hasin, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University in New York, said by email.

Hasin and colleagues focused their analysis on a medical condition known as alcohol use disorder, which is diagnosed based on the impact drinking has on daily life. Symptoms can include drinking more or longer than intended; finding that alcohol is negatively impacting family, work or school; and making dangerous choices such as driving while intoxicated or having unprotected sex.

While the condition is diagnosed based on the impact of alcohol rather than a set number of drinks, women can limit their risk of developing a problem if they consume no more than three drinks in one day or seven over the course of a week, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. For men to minimize risk, the cap should be four drinks in one day or no more than 14 per week.

One drink in this scenario could be a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor.

Generally, if people misused alcohol, the problem emerged around age 26, the study found. People with the most severe addiction tended to develop symptoms by age 23, while more mild dependence generally surfaced around age 30.

Overall, men and white adults were more likely to develop an alcohol problem than women or minorities, but Native Americans had greater rates of severe addiction than whites.

Married or cohabiting couples were less likely to drink excessively than divorced or single adults.

Poverty made drinking more likely, with higher rates of serious drinking problems among low-income people than among those at the highest income levels.

Education also made a difference. Compared with people who attended college, adults who didn’t complete high school had greater odds of experiencing severe alcohol problems within the past 12 months, the study found.

After controlling for factors such as marital status, income and education, drinking problems were associated with other substance abuse disorders as well as with depression and bipolar disorder, the researchers report in JAMA Psychiatry.

“Although people often report drinking alcohol to self-medicate a psychiatric disorder, heavy drinking can also cause psychiatric symptoms,” Dr. Henry Kranzler, director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania, said by email.

Genetics can also play a role in making people more susceptible to both addiction and depression, said Alexis Edwards, a researcher at Virginia Institute of Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University who wasn’t involved in the current study.

“We know that the liability to alcohol use disorder is influenced by genetics, and so is liability to basically every other psychiatric and substance use disorder,” Edwards said.

Researchers and clinicians focus on the impact of alcohol rather than on a specific number of drinks consumed because the outcomes of excessive use can vary and people often underestimate how much they drink, Hasin said.

“Drinking a nightly single glass of wine would be considered a low-risk pattern by almost any standard,” Hasin said. “For people who have several drinks at a party or a ball game, the answer isn’t that simple.”

People who have less severe problems with alcohol may not recognize that they are drinking to excess, said James MacKillop, a researcher in psychiatry and neuroscience at DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Ontario who wasn’t involved in the study.

“In my experience, individuals with moderate and severe alcohol use disorders would generally meet the colloquial definition of alcoholism, MacKillop said by email. “Individuals with mild alcohol use disorders are necessarily experiencing some level of alcohol-related impairment, but are less likely to self-identify as having alcoholism and may not meet the general perception of an alcoholic.”

SOURCE: JAMA Psychiatry, online June 3, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Readers’ Favorite Online Health Stories:Rashes, Sore Throats, Kidneys, and More

Readers’ Favorite Online Health Stories
Rashes, Sore Throats, Kidneys, and More

NIH News in Health aims to bring you a wide range of health-related stories, including articles about healthy lifestyles and both common and rare diseases. Some topics are consistently popular, viewed by hundreds or thousands of people month after month on the NIH News in Health website.

Here are 5 reader favorites, representing our most-viewed Web articles over the past 2 years. See if any of these topics might be useful to you or someone you know.

1. Red, Itchy Rash?
You’ve probably had a rash at some point or another, whether from poison ivy, soggy diapers, or something more unusual. Why does your skin break out in red blotches like that? More important, is there anything you can do about it? Dr. Stephen I. Katz, director of NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, answers these questions and more while also addressing specific conditions, such as skin allergies, eczema, and psoriasis. “If you have any significant rash, you should see a dermatologist,” Katz says. A dermatologist, or skin doctor, is specially trained to figure out what’s causing a rash and help you get the right treatment.

2. Soothing a Sore Throat.
When you’ve got a sore throat, your throat may feel scratchy, and it may hurt when you swallow. Most sore throats are caused by viral infections such as the common cold or the flu. The best way to protect yourself from the germs that cause these infections is to wash your hands often. Try to steer clear of people who have colds or other contagious infections. And avoid smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke, which can irritate your throat.

3. Keep Your Kidneys Healthy.
Your kidneys aren’t very big—each is about the size of your fist—but they do important work. They keep you healthy by maintaining just the right balance of water and other substances inside your body. Unfortunately, if your kidneys start to malfunction, you might not realize it for a long while. Kidney disease usually won’t make you feel sick until the problem is serious and irreversible. That’s why it’s important to catch kidney disease early, so you can try to prevent or delay health problems. You’re at increased risk for kidney disease if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure. Talk with your health care provider about whether you should be screened for kidney disease.

4. Should You Take Dietary Supplements?
More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals, and herbal products, also known as botanicals. People take these supplements to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first,” says Dr. Paul M. Coates, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. “Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.”

5. Waking Up to Anesthesia.
When you face surgery, you might have many concerns, including worries about going under anesthesia. General anesthesia is a combination of drugs that dampens pain, knocks you unconscious, and keeps you from moving during the operation. Although anesthesia is typically considered quite safe for most patients, many people have concerns about possible risks and side effects. Some people, especially elderly patients and children, can have lingering confusion and thinking problems for several days after anesthesia. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns, but don’t delay important surgery because of fear of anesthesia.

Friday, August 8, 2014

FDA - Inks Used in Certain Tattoo Kits Cause Infections

This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Inks Used in Certain Tattoo Kits Cause Infections

Tempted to get a tattoo? Today, people from all walks of life have tattoos, which might lead you to believe that tattoos are completely safe.

But beware—there may be associated health risks.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) became aware of a problem after testing inks in home use tattoo kits marketed by White and Blue Lion, Inc. FDA has confirmed bacterial contamination in unopened bottles of the company’s inks.

According to Linda Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, using these inks for tattoos could cause infection. “FDA has confirmed one case of skin infection involving a consumer that used this company’s tattoo products,” Katz says, “and we are aware of other reports linked to tattoo products with similar packaging.”

Risks Can Be Severe
According to Katz, “Tattooing poses a risk of infection to anyone, but the risk is particularly high for those with pre-existing heart or circulatory disease, diabetes or compromised immune systems.”
She notes that injecting contaminated ink into the skin or using contaminated needles may result in infections at the site of the tattoo. Signs of localized infection include redness, swelling, weeping wounds, blemishes, or excessive pain at the site. If you experience any of these signs, seek medical care right away. Even after a localized infection has healed, the area may be permanently scarred.

Further, an infection that is left untreated or inadequately treated could spread through the bloodstream (a process known as sepsis). These infections may be associated with fever, shaking chills (rigors) and sweats. If these symptoms arise, treatment with antibiotics, hospitalization and/or surgery may be required.

Products Recalled, But Risk Remains
White and Blue Lion, Inc. recalled contaminated products on July 11, 2014, but FDA is still concerned that consumers and professional tattoo artists may be purchasing or using contaminated home tattoo kits and inks from other distributors.

Specifically, how can you identify kits and inks that you should not use because they may be contaminated? FDA advises you to watch out for inks intended for permanent makeup or traditional body tattoos that:

  • have no brand name, carry a dragon logo, and/or are missing the name and place of business of the manufacturer or distributor,
  • are sold singly and in kits containing anywhere from five to 54, or perhaps more, bottles of inks of various colors, and
  • are marked with “Lotch” [sic] and Batch numbers, and “Date produced” and “Best if used by” dates.
“If you’re buying tattoo inks or getting a tattoo from a professional tattoo artist, you should first examine the products to determine whether the inks or kits meet the above descriptions,” cautions Katz.

FDA’s goal is to encourage consumers and tattoo and permanent make-up artists to take certain precautions and to urge potentially infected clients to seek medical care. “Reporting an infection to FDA and the artist is important in order for FDA to investigate, and to enable the artist to take steps to prevent others from becoming infected,” says epidemiologist Katherine Hollinger, D.V.M., M.P.H., from the Office of Cosmetics and Colors.

What to Do
Consumers and tattoo artists should do the following:

  • Seek immediate medical care if you experience any signs of infection.
  • Don’t use tattoo inks and kits that have no brand name, carry a dragon logo, and/or are missing the name and place of business of the manufacturer or distributor.
  • Dispose of tattoo inks that meet this description.
  • Do not use recalled kits.
  • Report adverse events or side effects through FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.
Updated: August 7, 2014

For additional information addressing Hepatitis and tattoos visit:
The Official Blog of the Hepatitis and Tattoos Website
Part of the Hepatitis C Support Project and the HCV Advocate
Be sure to check out our other blogs: The HBV Advocate Blog and the The HCV Advocate News & Pipeline Blog

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Amazing - Peek Inside the 21st Century Doctor's Bag

A Peek Inside the 21st Century Doctor's Bag: Mobile Health Technologies for Medical Education from Academic Medicine on Vimeo.

A Peek Inside the 21st Century Doctor's Bag: Mobile Health Technologies for Medical Education from Academic Medicine

 Shiv Gaglani is a medical student at Johns Hopkins and an editor of Medgadget, which covers innovations in medical technology. He curated the Smartphone Physical, which debuted at TEDMED in 2013, and is interested in the potential of mobile health technologies to improve medical education and clinical exam skills. In this video, Shiv, co-author of a recent Academic Medicine commentary with Dr. Eric Topol, demos three mobile health technologies: the smartphone-based electrocardiogram, ophthalmoscope, and stethoscope.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Behind The Headlines: Cannabis use 'genetically linked' to schizophrenia

What is Behind the Headlines?
We give you the facts without the fiction. Professor Sir Muir Gray, founder of Behind the Headlines, explains more... 

Cannabis use 'genetically linked' to schizophrenia

Study finds people predisposed to [schizophrenia] and drug users share common genes,” the Mail Online reports. A new study suggests that ‘schizophrenia’ genes are associated with cannabis use.

It has long been known that there is an association between cannabis use and schizophrenia – but the “direction of travel” has been hotly debated.

Does cannabis use trigger the onset of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals? Or are people with a genetic predisposition to develop schizophrenia more likely to use cannabis than the population at large (possibly as a coping mechanism)?

This latest study suggests that the latter may be the case; at least in some people. The study involved 2,082 healthy adults whose genetic make-up was examined for risk factors for schizophrenia.

People with more genetic risk factors (carrying more of the DNA variants that have been associated with schizophrenia) were more likely to have reported ever using cannabis.

However, it is important to note that none of the people in the study actually had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. In addition, as this is a cross-sectional study (see below), it cannot definitively answer the question of cause and effect.

A person’s risk for schizophrenia, or for cannabis use, are likely to be influenced by a complex mixture of genetic factors (including those not identified or examined here), lifestyle and environmental factors.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London; Queensland Brain Institute and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Australia; the Department of Developmental Psychology and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Amsterdam; the Washington University School of Medicine.

It was funded by the UK Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research; the Australian National Health, Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council; the Centre for Research Excellence on Suicide Prevention (CRESP – Australia); and the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The Mail Online reported the story accurately and informatively.

What kind of research was this?

This was a cross-sectional study using data collected in a larger cohort study. It aimed to assess the association between cannabis use and the level of genetic predisposition for schizophrenia.

As it is a cross-sectional study it is only able to describe this association and cannot prove cause and effect. That is whether the genetic predisposition caused them to use cannabis or that conversely, cannabis would cause them to develop schizophrenia.

What did the research involve?

A group of 2,082 unrelated healthy adults were recruited from the large Australian Twin Registry studies.

The participants were asked questions over the telephone on their cannabis (marijuana) use, including:
Did you ever use marijuana?
How old were you the very first time you tried marijuana (not counting the times you took it as prescribed)?
How many times in your life have you used marijuana (do not count times when you used a drug prescribed for you and took the prescribed dose)?

The genotype (each person’s genetic make-up) was obtained. These were compared with samples from a large Swedish study which has identified a number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), DNA sequence variations, that are believed to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.

The presence of more than one of these SNPs gives a “polygenic” (multiple gene variants) risk factor, and some SNPs are associated with a particularly higher risk (having the most significant associations with schizophrenia).

These risk scores were analysed in comparison with the answers to the cannabis questions to look for any associations.

In the second part of the study, the researchers looked at the polygenic risk scores of 990 twins (just over a third were identical twins).

They took the mean polygenic risk score from each pair of twins and used this to predict whether neither, one or both twins used cannabis.

What were the basic results?

Out of the 2,082 adults included in the study, 1,011 (48.6%) had ever used cannabis. The mean age of starting cannabis was 20.1 (95% Confidence Interval [CI] 19.7 to 20.5) and the mean number of times they’d used cannabis over their lifetime was 62.7 (95% CI 19.7 to 20.5).

The researchers found a significant association between a person’s extent of genetic predisposition for schizophrenia and their reported use of cannabis. People who had used cannabis had higher genetic risk scores for schizophrenia than those who had never used cannabis. The strongest associations were found between the higher risk SNPs and ever use of cannabis.

However, the results showed that the genetic risk factors they assessed only predicted a small amount of a person's risk of using cannabis. This meant that other factors have more of an influence on whether a person uses cannabis.

In the secondary analysis, twin pairs where both reported using cannabis had the greatest polygenic risk factors for schizophrenia.

Pairs where only one of them used cannabis had an intermediate level of risk factors, and the lowest burden was in those where neither used cannabis.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers say this study shows “that to some extent the association between cannabis and schizophrenia is due to a shared genetic aetiology [cause] across common variants. They suggest that individuals with an increased genetic predisposition to schizophrenia are both more likely to use cannabis and to use it in greater quantities.”


This study shows an association between genetic risk factors for schizophrenia and cannabis use. However, as it is a cross-sectional study, it cannot answer the often debated cause and effect question of whether cannabis use increases risk of schizophrenia, or whether there is a common genetic predisposition to both.

The study cannot prove that cannabis use is a risk factor for developing schizophrenia.

It also cannot prove that the genetic risk factors (SNPs – variations in the DNA sequence that have been associated with schizophrenia) also directly increase the risk of using cannabis. As the researchers’ results suggested, the genetic risk factors they assessed only predicted a small amount of a person's risk of using cannabis. There may be many other factors involved. A complex mixture of genetics (including DNA variations not examined here), lifestyle and environmental factors is likely to contribute to a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia, and to their risk of using cannabis.

It should also be noted that none of the participants in the study actually had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Though the SNPs thought to increase the genetic risk of developing schizophrenia were identified in a large Swedish cohort study, the authors do point out that they may not be accurate.

They say that in this Swedish sample from which these SNPs were identified, use of cannabis may have been more common among the people who had schizophrenia than in the controls without schizophrenia.

They say this could mean that the SNPs actually increase risk of cannabis use rather than risk of schizophrenia.

A further limitation of the study is that cannabis use was self-reported which may give rise to inaccuracies in the estimated level of use. Also people may not have been willing to disclose any use of an illegal substance during a telephone interview.

Cannabis may not be as dangerous as other drugs (including legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol) but it is certainly not safe. There are many negative effects of cannabis, including a risk of developing dependency, its tendency to reduce motivation and concentration, and the likelihood that it reduces male fertility.

Furthermore, the risks of the tobacco and nicotine which are usually consumed at the same time need to be taken seriously. Read more information about the health risks associated with cannabis.

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter. Join the Healthy Evidence forum.

Links to the headlines
Are cannabis smokers genetically more likely to develop schizophrenia? Study finds people predisposed to the condition and drug users share common genes. Mail Online, June 24 2014

Links to the science
Power RA, Verweij KJH, Zuhair M, et al. Genetic predisposition to schizophrenia associated with increased use of cannabis. Molecule Psychiatry. Published online June 24 2014