Active teens, fit adults


Women who played team sports and were physically active as teens have a lower risk of early death from cancer and other causes later in life, says a study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

For the study, 74,941 Chinese women aged 40 to 70 years old were asked about their adolescent and adult exercise history, lifestyle habits, medical history and socioeconomic factors. There were 5,282 deaths during nearly 13 years of follow-up, including 2,375 deaths from cancer and 1,620 from cardiovascular disease.

Women who were physically active as teens had a 16 per cent lower risk of death from cancer and a 15 per cent reduced risk of death from all causes. Playing team sports was associated with a 10 per cent reduced risk of death from all causes and a 14 per cent lower risk of cancer death.

Women who were active both as teens and adults had the greatest advantage—a 20 per cent lower risk of death from all causes and a 13 per cent lower risk of death from cancer. Exercise also reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular events.

“Adolescent exercise participation, independent of adult exercise, was associated with reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Our results support the importance of promoting exercise participation in adolescence and highlight the critical need for the initiation of disease prevention early in life," the study author added.


Urine test for pancreatic cancer

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have developed a simple urine test that could detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages.

More than 80 per cent of pancreatic cancers are diagnosed at later stages when the cancer has already spread, making the patients ineligible for surgery to remove the tumour—the only potential cure. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest five-year survival rate, which is 3 per cent.

The researchers identified three protein markers after analysing 488 urine samples: 192 from patients with pancreatic cancer, 92 from patients with chronic pancreatitis and 87 from healthy volunteers. Additionally, they looked at 117 urine samples from patients with diseases of the liver and gall bladder. The researchers focused on three proteins—LYVE1, REG1A and TFF1—of the nearly 1,500 proteins found in the urine samples. Patients with pancreatic cancer had increased levels of all three proteins compared to healthy people and patients with chronic pancreatitis had significantly lower levels of the three proteins.

The new test could accurately identify patients with stages 1-2 pancreatic cancer 90 per cent of the time. “For a cancer with no early stage symptoms, it’s a huge challenge to diagnose pancreatic cancer sooner, but if we can, then we can make a big difference to survival rates. With pancreatic cancer, patients are usually diagnosed when the cancer is already at a terminal stage, but if diagnosed at stage 2, the survival rate is 20 per cent, and at stage 1, the survival rate for patients with very small tumours can increase up to 60 per cent,” the study co-author noted.

The findings were published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Did You Know
India will overtake China as the world's most populous country by 2022, six years earlier than previously predicted.
United Nations


Vaccine against Ebola

An experimental vaccine for Ebola has shown promising results during a phase III clinical trial in Guinea. Since its outbreak in West Africa in 2013, Ebola has killed more than 11,000 people and infected more than 27,000 people. The vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The vaccine has been tested on 7,651 people who were in close contact with Ebola patients.

The clinical trial adopted the ring vaccination method that was used to eradicate smallpox. "The premise is that by vaccinating all people who have come into contact with an infected person you create a protective 'ring' and stop the virus from spreading further.”

The trial chose 100 Ebola patients; 4,123 of their close contacts were vaccinated immediately, while 3,528 were vaccinated three weeks later. None of the patients who were vaccinated immediately contacted the virus while there were 16 cases in the delayed group, giving the vaccine a 75-100 per central efficacy.

The trial is ongoing and will now include children. The vaccine will be administered immediately to all who come in contact with an Ebola patient without delay.

The study in the journal The Lancet concludes that the vaccine “might be highly efficacious and safe in preventing Ebola virus disease and is most likely effective at the population level when delivered during an Ebola virus disease outbreak via a ring vaccination strategy.”

Did You Know
People who ate spicy food, especially fresh chilli peppers, 1-2 times a week had a 10 per cent reduced overall risk of death and eating them 3-7 times a week reduced the risk by 14 per cent. Death from cancer, ischaemic heart disease and respiratory diseases were all lower among spicy food eaters. Capsaicin, the main ingredient in chilli peppers, is known to have anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.


A gentle poke

Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, have developed a noninvasive procedure that helped five paralysed men move their legs again. Called transcutaneous stimulation, the new technique involves delivering electrical current to the spinal cord through electrodes placed on the skin of the lower back.

The new findings follow previous research where the same team helped four paralysed patients move their legs, hips, ankles and toes after electrical stimulation was delivered through a device surgically implanted on the spinal cord. The new technique goes a step further and induces movement without surgery.

The patients in the current study, aged 19 to 56 years, had been completely paralysed from the waist down for at least two years. They had one 45-minute training session per week for 18 weeks. Electrodes were placed on the lower back and electrical currents were administered in a unique pattern. The electrical charges did not cause any discomfort to the patients.

The patients also received several minutes of conditioning during each session and for four weeks, the patients were also given twice daily doses of buspirone, a drug often used to treat anxiety disorders.

At the beginning, the patients' legs only moved when the stimulation induced was strong enough to generate involuntary step-like movements. The range of movement significantly increased as the study went on. By the end of the study, the patients were able to move their legs with no stimulation at all.

“It’s as if we’ve reawakened some networks so that once the individuals learned how to use those networks, they become less dependent and even independent of the stimulation,” said the lead researcher.

The findings were published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

3D-printed pill

The world's first 3D printed tablet will be available soon. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first tablet that will be made using 3D printing technology.

The drug levetiracetam (SPRITAM) made by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals is used to treat adults and children who suffer from certain types of seizures caused by epilepsy.

The drug will be made using ZipDose Technology, which allows the drug to be layered and tightly packed into a single pill that dissolves easily with one sip of liquid. High doses of the drug—up to 1,000mg—can be loaded into one single pill. The new technology will allow tablet doses to be made based on an individual's specific needs—no measuring or splitting required.

Although certain medical devices such as prosthetics are currently available using 3D printing technology, this is the first oral medication approved for use with this technology.

“By combining 3DP technology with a highly-prescribed epilepsy treatment, SPRITAM is designed to fill a need for patients who struggle with their current medication experience. This is the first in a line of central nervous system products Aprecia plans to introduce as part of our commitment to transform the way patients experience taking medication,” said Don Wetherhold, chief executive officer of Aprecia.


Connect to live

Being socially connected can be good for your health. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, middle-aged women who are socially active have a three-fold lower risk of suicide than women who are socially isolated.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among middle-aged women, and the rates have been steadily growing. The number of women who say they don’t have anyone to talk to about important matters have tripled over the past two decades.

The study followed 72,607 women aged 46 to 71 years old in 1992 until 2010. They answered questions that assessed their level of social integration such as interaction with friends, marital status and participation in religious and other social groups.

The incidence of suicide decreased with increasing social integration. Women who were in the highest and second highest groups of social integration were 74 and 77 per cent, respectively, less likely to commit suicide compared to those with the least social integration.

The results held even after accounting for mental illnesses such as depression and other serious physical illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Surprisingly, depression was not common among the participants.


Not widely used

Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women worldwide. It is often diagnosed in advanced stages when the cancer has started to spread. It is one of the most common malignancies in Indian women.

Injecting chemotherapy directly into the abdomen—intraperitoneal chemotherapy—combined with standard intravenous method can significantly improve survival in ovarian cancer patients. But a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that the combo therapy is not widely used as recommended.

The researchers analysed the medical records of 823 women treated for stage III ovarian cancer and were eligible for IP/IV combination therapy.

Eighty-one per cent of women treated with the dual therapy were alive three years after treatment compared to 71 per cent of those who received IV chemotherapy alone. In spite of the improved survival, only 41 per cent of the patients received the dual treatment.

The patients in the study were also able to tolerate the side effects of the dual treatment and majority of IP/IV patients were able to complete all six cycles of chemotherapy.

The combo therapy was recommended by the US National Cancer Institute in 2006 following a clinical trial that found that ovarian cancer patients who received IP/IV chemotherapy lived an average of 16 months longer than those receiving IV therapy alone.

Patients on the dual therapy will receive the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel through a vein in the arm, and the drugs cisplatin and paclitaxel through a catheter inserted into the abdominal cavity.

"This is the first study to show that IP/IV chemotherapy improves survival in the real world, outside of a clinical trial. Unfortunately, fewer than half of the women who qualify for IP/IV chemotherapy received the treatment. This suggests that increasing access to IP/IV chemotherapy may improve ovarian cancer patients' survival," the study author noted.

Did You Know
Listening to the music of their choice, considerably improved the quality and efficiency of wound closure of plastic surgeons.
Aesthetic Surgery Journal


Young dads die early

According to a Finnish study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, men who become fathers before age 25 have a greater risk of dying in middle age.

The researchers analysed data on more than 30,500 men born between 1940 and 1950 and followed them from age 45 until death or until age 54. The average age of first-time dads was 25-26. About one in 20 of the men died during the 10-year follow-up; around 21 per cent died from heart disease and 16 per cent from alcohol-related causes.

Compared with men who became fathers at 25-26, those who became dads by 22 had a 26 per cent greater risk of dying in middle age. The risk was 14 per cent for men who had their first child between 22-24 years of age. But men who became fathers between 30 and 44 had a 25 per cent lower risk of death during midlife. Becoming a father between 27 and 29 did not have any impact on midlife mortality.

A further analysis of 1,124 siblings found that those who became fathers by age 22 and 22-24, respectively, were 73 per cent and 63 per cent more likely to die during middle age. But brothers who became fathers between 30 and 44 had a 22 per cent lower risk of death during middle age.

According to researchers, the psychological and economic stress of taking on the combined role of father and breadwinner could be the reason.

“The findings suggest a causal effect of young fatherhood on mortality and highlight the need to support young fathers in their family life to improve health behaviours and health,” the study concluded.

Understanding prostate cancer

Scientists at Cancer Research UK have, for the first time, categorised prostate cancer into five different types. Currently, prostate cancer is not divided into subgroups.

The researchers analysed samples of healthy and cancerous prostate tissue from 259 men. They looked for abnormal chromosomes and measured the activity of 100 different genes linked to prostate cancer. They identified five distinct types, each with a characteristic genetic fingerprint.

According to the study published in the journal EBioMedicine, this method was more accurate at identifying the most aggressive types of prostate cancer than tests that are currently available, including the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test and Gleason score.

“The new findings could help doctors decide on the best course of treatment for each individual patient, based on the characteristics of their tumour," said the lead author.

Did You Know
Zion Harvey, 8, became the first child in the world to receive a bilateral hand transplant. A team of 40 physicians, nurses and other staff participated in the 10-hour operation which was done at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the US.


Brain drink

How many cups of coffee you drink a day can impact your brain health.

An Italian study involving 1,445 people, aged 65-84 years, has found that drinking one to two cups of coffee every day can considerably reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI)—a precursor to dementia and Alzheimer’s—compared to not drinking coffee. On the flip side, however, increasing your coffee intake can also increase the risk of MCI.

These findings suggest that “cognitively normal older individuals who never or rarely consumed coffee and those who increased their coffee consumption habits had a higher risk of developing MCI. Therefore, moderate and regular coffee consumption may have neuroprotective effects against MCI,” said the investigators.

According to the authors, coffee may diminish excessive activation of adenosine A2A receptors, which may reduce the damage caused by plaque build-up in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. Coffee also improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is a strong risk factor for cognitive decline. “Caffeine could in part compensate the cognitive decline in older individuals because its effects on vigilance and attention, mainly in situations of reduced alertness. Finally, habitual and moderate consumption of coffee may prevent MCI through attenuation of subclinical neuroinflammation and reduction in oxidative stress.”

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.


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The Week

Topics : #health

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