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You are here : 3-RX.com > Home > GeneticsPublic Health


Europeans get unequal cancer care -Swedish study

CancerJan 18 09

European patients continue to receive unequal access to cancer treatment depending on where they live, according to new findings from experts at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute published on Friday.

The latest research by Nils Wilking, a clinical oncologist, and Bengt Jonsson, a health economist, updates earlier work undertaken by the two cancer specialists in 2005 and 2007.

Their analysis reveals wide gaps in relative survival rates across Europe, reflecting differing levels of access to modern - and expensive - cancer treatments.

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Canada-US scientists discover gene responsible for brain’s aging

Genetics • • NeurologyJan 18 09

Will scientists one day be able to slow the aging of the brain and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? Absolutely – once the genetic coding associated with neuronal degeneration has been unraveled.

According to a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, a research team from the Université de Montréal, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has taken a giant step in this direction by identifying a gene that controls the normal and pathological aging of neurons in the central nervous system: Bmi1.

The primary risk factor for diseases such as macular degeneration, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s is age. Although many researchers have sought to better understand the genetics and pathophysiology of these diseases, few studies have focused on the basic molecular mechanisms that control neuronal aging.

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Nursing study concludes postnatal depression can possibly be prevented drug-free

Depression • • PregnancyJan 18 09

A heart-to-heart chat with a peer has proven an effective way to prevent postnatal depression in high risk women, cutting the risk of depression by 50%, according to a University of Toronto nursing study published in BMJ Online today.

Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis, an associate professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and Canada research chair in perinatal community health, examined the effectiveness of telephone-based peer support to prevent postnatal depression in high risk women.

After Web-based screening of more than 21,000 women from seven health regions in Ontario, 701 high risk mothers were recruited and randomized to receive standard postnatal care or standard care and the support of a peer volunteer (who had experienced postnatal depression themselves).

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Researchers Assess the State of Stroke Telemedicine

Public Health • • StrokeJan 18 09

Stroke telemedicine is a lifesaving practice that deserves further advancement, Mayo researchers write in the January 2009 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Since its inception, stroke telemedicine has developed nationally and internationally as a reliable means of aiding patients. Yet certain key systematic components need to be developed more fully while specific unsettled issues must be resolved.

Called a “telestroke,” a patient with suspected stroke symptoms presents to a local hospital emergency department to undergo a remote stroke assessment by a vascular neurologist at a hub hospital. Described as a consultative modality, stroke telemedicine consults specialists at stroke centers to facilitate the care of patients with acute stroke at underserviced hospitals. In the article, Mayo researchers explain: Telecommunications, which started with the telephone and advanced to audiovisual (AV) communication, has changed the face of medicine not only in remote areas but also in urban areas with a shortage of subspecialties. A surge in the use of telestroke across the United States, Canada and Europe occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, resulting in the development of 20 new telestroke networks. The implementation of telemedicine for stroke is a vital piece to the puzzle of creating universal access to emergency care for all patients with stroke, regardless of geographic location or hospital resources.

“Well-designed studies have shown that this consultative modality is valid, accurate and reliable. Numerous telestroke networks exist worldwide, and most of these networks have published their implementation experiences and early outcome results,” reports study author Bart Demaerschalk, M.D., Mayo Clinic neurologist. “Successfully delivered promises of telestroke include remote instant expert stroke diagnoses, delivery of short-term therapies, and secondary prevention advice.”

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1 gene regulates pain, learning and memory

Brain • • Genetics • • PainJan 16 09

In 2002, a group of scientists at the University of Toronto was able to identify a gene which they dubbed DREAM (downstream regulatory element antagonistic modulator). The gene’s function was highly interesting: it obviously served as a key regulator in the perception of pain. Mice who lacked the gene showed clear signs of markedly reduced sensitivity to all kinds of pain, whether chronic or acute. Otherwise, the mice appeared perfectly normal.

The work leading to these findings was carried out in the lab of Josef Penninger, then principal investigator at the Amgen Institute in Toronto. The publication describing the gene’s function was received with great interest (Cell, Vol. 108, 31-43, 11.1.2002) and DREAM was subsequently termed the “Master-Gene of pain perception”.

Josef Penninger, meanwhile scientific director of IMBA, the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, continued to wonder what other surprises DREAM might have in store. In a collaborative effort with neurobiologists from the University Pablo de Olivade (Seville) he devised experiments to follow up on the previous findings. A team of scientists under Ángel Manuel Carrión subjected DREAM-less mice to numerous neurological tests and analyzed their memory skills. The results were striking: without DREAM, mice were able to learn faster and remember better. Fascinatingly, the brains of aged mice (18 months) showed learning capacities similar to those of very young mice.

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Delayed surgery may affect fracture recovery

Surgery • • TraumaJan 16 09

An elderly person who has fractured their femur - the large thigh bone that connects the leg to the hip - may want to have surgery sooner rather than later, according to a study linking longer times to surgery to a somewhat increased risk of post-surgery complications.

Dr. Rudiger Smektala from Ruhr University Bochum in Bochum, Germany, and colleagues used data from a study on hip fractures at 286 hospitals to determine whether elderly patients benefit from early surgical treatment for these common fractures.

Just over a quarter of patients had surgery within 12 hours of the fracture, 41 percent had surgery within 12 to 36 hours, and roughly 32 percent more than 36 hours after the fracture.

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Air pollution may prompt abnormal heart rhythm

HeartJan 16 09

Patients with heart rhythm disturbances who have an implantable heart defibrillator are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, a Swedish study indicates.

In patients with these devices, known as implantable cardioverter defibrillators, or ICDs, exposure to air pollution may rapidly (within 2 hours) prompt ventricular arrhythmia—a potentially life-threatening condition in which the heart rhythm becomes irregular, the study shows.

Previous studies have documented an association of ventricular arrhythmias with air pollution exposure lasting from 24 to 48 hours.

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Obese elderly at high risk for chronic pain

Obesity • • PainJan 16 09

Half of people aged 70 and older suffer from some type of chronic pain, and women and the obese are particularly vulnerable, new research shows.

Chronic pain, defined as pain that persists for three months or longer, is known to be common among older people, Dr. Richard B. Lipton and colleagues from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, note. Obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent among US seniors, they add, so studying the relationship between excess weight and chronic pain among older people—as well as the role of conditions that might influence both pain and obesity, such as mental health problems, should be studied.

To that end, Lipton and his team looked at 840 men and women participating in the Einstein Aging Study, an ongoing investigation of people 70 and older living in the Bronx.

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Global warming linked to European viral epidemic

Public HealthJan 16 09

An epidemic of the viral disease nephropathia epidemica (NE) has been linked to increases in the vole population caused by hotter summers, milder winters and increased seedcrop production by broadleaf trees. Research published in BioMed Central’s open access International Journal of Health Geographics links outbreaks of this rodent-borne disease to known effects of global warming.

Dr Jan Clement from the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Belgium’s Rega Institute (University of Leuven) worked with a team of medical researchers and bioscience-engineers to investigate outbreaks of NE in Belgium. Dr. Clement founded the Belgian Hantavirus Reference Centre in 1985, and noted that of the 2,200 cases since then, 828 (37.6%) occurred in just the last three years, 2005-2007. The epidemic has been shown to extend to neighboring countries such as France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg. He said, “This animal-borne disease, scarcely known before 1990, has been increasing in incidence in Belgium with a cyclic pattern, reaching epidemic proportions since 2005. The fact that the growing combined effect of hotter summer and autumn seasons is matched by the growth of NE in recent years means this epidemic can be considered an effect of global warming”.

NE is caused by infection with Puumala virus (PUUV), which is spread by the bank vole, a rodent common throughout most of Europe. The authors believe that warmer weather causes increases in the amount of ‘mast’, plant seeds from oak and beech trees, that forms the voles’ staple diet.

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Countries undergoing economic change urged to limit social and health costs for populations

Public HealthJan 16 09

Countries seeking to make massive changes in the way their economies are run, for example by privatising formerly state-run sectors, must take into account the potential impact of such changes on people’s health, experts warn today.

The warning comes after a study of former countries of the Soviet Union, including Russia, that underwent privatisation programmes in the 1990s, following the collapse of communism, revealed how the process coincided with large increases in male mortality in some countries. The findings are published in the Lancet Online First today.

The authors, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, analysed mortality rates in working aged men (15-69 years) in post-communist countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union between 1989 and 2002. They found that mass privatisation programmes were associated with a rise in short-term adult male mortality rates of 12.8%. They suggest that unemployment, which rose by 56% during this period, was probably a key factor.

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Reduced breast cancer risk: Physical activity after menopause pays off

Cancer • • Breast Cancer • • MenopauseJan 16 09

Several studies had previously suggested that regular physical exercise reduces the breast cancer risk of women. However, it had been unknowned just how much exercise women should take in which period in life in order to benefit from this protective effect. Moreover, little was known about which particular type of breast cancer is influenced by physical activity.

Answers to these questions are now provided by the results of the MARIE study, in which 3,464 breast cancer patients and 6,657 healthy women between the ages of 50 and 74 years were questioned in order to explore the connections between life style and breast cancer risk. Participants of the study, which was headed by Professor Dr. Jenny Chang-Claude and conducted at the German Cancer Research Center and the University Hospitals of Hamburg-Eppendorf, were questioned about their physical activity during two periods in life: from 30 to 49 years of age and after 50.

A comparison between control subjects and breast cancer patients showed that women in the control group had been physically more active than patients. The scientists calculated the relative breast cancer risks taking account of the effect of other risk factors. Results show that the risk of developing breast cancer after menopause was lower by about one third in the physically most active MARIE participants compared to women who had generally taken little physical exercise.

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Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Help Seniors Keep Disabilities at Bay

Dieting • • Food & NutritionJan 16 09

It is well known that moderate drinking can have positive health benefits — for instance, a couple of glasses of red wine a day can be good for the heart. But if you’re a senior in good health, light to moderate consumption of alcohol may also help prevent the development of physical disability.

That’s the conclusion of a new UCLA study, available in the online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, which found that light to moderate drinking among these seniors reduced their odds of developing physical problems that would prevent them from performing common tasks such as walking, dressing and grooming.

“If you start out in good health, alcohol consumption at light to moderate levels can be beneficial,” said lead study author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, an associate professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “But if you don’t start out healthy, alcohol will not give you a benefit.”

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Study sees no eye cancer risk from cell phones

Cancer • • Public HealthJan 14 09

Regular mobile phone use does not appear to increase a person’s risk of getting a type of cancer called melanoma of the eye, German researchers said on Tuesday.

The study involving about 1,600 people detected no link between the time a person spent using a cell phone over about a decade and their chances of developing melanoma of the eye, they wrote in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The findings contradicted an earlier, smaller study by the same researchers that had raised concern about such a link.

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Early-life distress may increase neuroblastoma risk

CancerJan 14 09

Distress in the prenatal and neonatal period of development are associated with an increased risk of developing neuroblastoma in the first year of life, but not in subsequent years, according to a report in the International Journal of Cancer.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that involves embryonic nerve cells of the sympathetic nervous system. It usually metastases quickly and is seen primarily in young children and infants.

The natural history of this cancer suggests that there may be biological differences between tumors that spontaneously regress and undergo benign transformation, which are usually diagnosed before 1 year, and the aggressive type that do not respond to treatment and are usually diagnosed after 1 year of age, Dr. Elizabeth Bluhm from Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC, told Reuters Health.

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Experts draw link between tainted milk, kidney stones

Dieting • • Food & Nutrition • • Urine ProblemsJan 14 09

Scientists in China and Hong Kong have established for the first time in a study that consuming the plastic-making chemical melamine can cause kidney stones in people.

At least six children died and 290,000 fell ill in China last year after consuming milk formula tainted with melamine, which was added to cheat protein tests. But the causal link between melamine and kidney problems the children suffered was never scientifically established until now.

The experts studied urine samples of 15 mainland Chinese toddlers with kidney stones and compared those taken from 20 children in Hong Kong who also consumed tainted milk but who did not develop stones.

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