Six new genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s found

Using data from over 18,000 patients, scientists have identified more than two dozen genetic risk factors involved in Parkinson’s disease, including six that had not been previously reported. The study, published in Nature Genetics, was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by scientists working in NIH laboratories.”Unraveling the genetic underpinnings of Parkinson’s is vital to understanding the multiple mechanisms involved in this complex disease, and hopefully, may one day lead to effective therapies,” said Andrew Singleton, Ph.D., a scientist at the NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and senior author of the study.Dr. Singleton and his colleagues collected and combined data from existing genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which allow scientists to find common variants, or subtle differences, in the genetic codes of large groups of individuals. The combined data included approximately 13,708 Parkinson’s disease cases and 95,282 controls, all of European ancestry.The investigators identified potential genetic risk variants, which increase the chances that a person may develop Parkinson’s disease. Their results suggested that the more variants a person has, the greater the risk, up to three times higher, for developing the disorder in some cases.”The study brought together a large international group of investigators from both public and private institutions who were interested in sharing data to accelerate the discovery of genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s disease,” said Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of NIH. “The advantage of this collaborative approach is highlighted in the identification of pathways and gene networks that may significantly increase our understanding of Parkinson’s disease.”To obtain the data, the researchers collaborated with multiple public and private organizations, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, 23andMe and many international investigators.Affecting millions of people worldwide, Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that causes movement problems, including trembling of the hands, arms, or legs, stiffness of limbs and trunk, slowed movements and problems with posture. Over time, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Although nine genes have been shown to cause rare forms of Parkinson’s disease, scientists continue to search for genetic risk factors to provide a complete genetic picture of the disorder.The researchers confirmed the results in another sample of subjects, including 5,353 patients and 5,551 controls. …

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Trees save lives, reduce respiratory problems

In the first broad-scale estimate of air pollution removal by trees nationwide, U.S. Forest Service scientists and collaborators calculated that trees are saving more than 850 human lives a year and preventing 670,000 incidents of acute respiratory symptoms.While trees’ pollution removal equated to an average air quality improvement of less than 1 percent, the impacts of that improvement are substantial. Researchers valued the human health effects of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion every year in a study published recently in the journal Environmental Pollution.The study by Dave Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Satoshi Hirabayashi and Allison Bodine of the Davey Institute is unique in that it directly links the removal of air pollution with improved human health effects and associated health values. The scientists found that pollution removal is substantially higher in rural areas than urban areas, however the effects on human health are substantially greater in urban areas than rural areas.”With more than 80 percent of Americans living in urban area, this research underscores how truly essential urban forests are to people across the nation,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “Information and tools developed by Forest Service research are contributing to communities valuing and managing the 138 million acres of trees and forests that grace the nation’s cities, towns and communities.”The study considered four pollutants for which the U.S. EPA has established air quality standards: nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in aerodynamic diameter. Health effects related to air pollution include impacts on pulmonary, cardiac, vascular, and neurological systems. In the United States, approximately 130,000 PM2.5-related deaths and 4,700 ozone-related deaths in 2005 were attributed to air pollution.Trees’ benefits vary with tree cover across the nation. …

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Change in guidelines for type 2 diabetes screening tests may lead to under-diagnosis in children

New American Diabetes Association (ADA) screening guidelines may lead to the missed diagnoses of type 2 diabetes in children, according to a new study by University of Michigan.The research, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, finds that both pediatric and family medicine providers who care for children are using screening tests for type 2 diabetes that may result in missed diagnoses for children, says lead author Joyce Lee, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor in U-M’s Departments of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and Environmental Health Sciences.In 2010, the ADA recommended that physicians use Hemoglobin A1c screening tests, rather than glucose tests for identifying children and adults with pre-diabetes and diabetes. However, this change has been controversial, because of lower test performance of HbA1c in children compared with adults.The study found that when presented with the ADA screening guidelines, 84% of physicians reported that they would switch from using glucose tests to using HbA1c tests.”This potential for increased uptake of HbA1c could lead to missed cases prediabetes and diabetes in children, and increased costs,” says Lee.”A number of studies have shown that HbA1c has lower test performance in pediatric compared with adult populations, and as a result, increased uptake of HbA1c alone or in combination with non-fasting tests could lead to missed diagnoses of type 2 diabetes in the pediatric population.'”Also, a recent analysis of screening strategies found that HbA1c is much less cost-effective than other screening tests, which would result in higher overall costs for screening.”The study was based on a national sample of providers from pediatrics and family practice.”Greater awareness of the 2010 ADA guidelines will likely lead to increased uptake of HbA1c and a shift to use of non-fasting tests to screen for adolescents with type 2 diabetes. This may have implications for detection rates for diabetes and overall costs of screening.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Quality problems in America’s nursing homes tied to turnover

Two studies examining the relationship between turnover of nursing staff and quality problems in nursing homes have found adverse outcomes. This comes at a time of greater demand for care by the growing numbers of elderly Americans.The studies, both published in December, were based on data from the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey, which generated a sample of 1,174 nursing homes representing more than 16,000 nursing homes in the United States. These data were linked by facility to quality outcomes from contemporaneous databases used to monitor standards of nursing home care. The linkages were to Quality Indicators from Nursing Home Compare and to data on deficiencies of care from the Online Survey, Certification and Reporting (OSCAR).Staff turnover is of concern for nursing homes, as high turnover has been associated with increased adverse outcomes. These studies suggest that preventing staff turnover should be given greater emphasis.In the first study, “Are Nursing Home Survey Deficiencies Higher in Facilities with Greater Staff Turnover,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, Nancy B. Lerner, DNP ’10, RN, BSN ’66, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), and colleagues including UMSON Professor Alison M. Trinkoff, ScD, MPH, RN, FAAN, found that turnover for both licensed nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) was associated with quality problems as measured by deficiencies considered to be closely related to nursing care (qualify of care, qualify of life, and resident behavior deficiencies reported by OSCAR).In the second study, “Turnover Staffing, Skill Mix, and Resident Outcomes in a National Sample of U.S. Nursing Homes,” published in the Journal of Nursing Administration, Trinkoff and colleagues found that adverse resident outcomes such as pressure ulcers and pain are related to high turnover among CNAs. The study, even after controlling for factors including skill mix, bed size, and ownership, found nursing homes with high CNA turnover had significantly higher odds of pressure ulcers, pain, and urinary tract infections.”Changes are needed to improve the retention of care providers and reduce staff vacancies in nursing homes to ensure high quality of care for older Americans,” Lerner states. Further the study by Lerner and colleagues suggests the need for continued research using deficiencies as a measure of quality in addition to the quality indicators used by others.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Maryland, Baltimore. …

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Mesothelioma Patients

Mesothelioma PatientsCaring For a Mesothelioma PatientIt is estimated that approximately 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Because the latency period (the period of time between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma) is long, people who were exposed to asbestos even decades ago are currently developing the disease. Another variable that is extremely important to a patients out look is his or her overall health at the time of diagnosis. Generally the healthier a patient is, the better he or she will react to cancer treatments, and the greater the chances of longer survival. It may take some time for the diagnosis to be made.A mesothelioma patient is an individual who has been exposed to toxic asbestos fibers in the …

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What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

In a lot of cases where someone is involved in a car accident or suffers from some kind of injury, you might hear your attorney talk about “pain and suffering damages.” For a lot of people who don’t have a lot of knowledge about the law, this term can sound a little confusing. While it’s always best to talk to your attorney about any legal question you have, here is what you need to know about pain and suffering damages.DamagesIn the legal world, the word “damages” is just another way of saying money. More specifically, it’s money other people owe you because they caused you harm. For example, if you are involved in a car accident because someone else drove recklessly, that person may have to pay you money. Depending on how badly your car was damaged and whether you suffered an injury, the other driver may have to pay to both repair your car and compensate you for the injuries you received. The driver might also have to pay you because the accident left you in pain or prevented you from going to work and earning an income. All of these types of payments are referred to as damages.Pain and SufferingIn any case where someone is hurt, it’s often very easy to determine the price of property damage, medical costs, and lost wages. These types of damages are known as economic damages.Yet the courts also allow for non-economic damages, or as they are more commonly referred to, pain and suffering. These types of damages are not so easily calculated because there is no fixed dollar amount associated with them.Any time you’re hurt in an accident you might be entitled to recover pain and suffering damages because you’ve suffered pain, gone through emotional or psychological distress, have been disfigured, or have sustained injuries that have affected your ability to do things you like to do. If any of these situations occurred as a result of the accident or injury you sustained, and someone else is at fault, you can receive pain and suffering damages.Calculating the Cost of PainWhenever you sue for pain and suffering damages, the question of how much you are entitled to always arises. …

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Is bigger really better when it comes to size of labor wards?

Sep. 9, 2013 — New research reveals that large labor wards — those handling 3,000 to 3,999 deliveries annually — have better overall approval rates compared to small, intermediate or very large obstetric units. The study, appearing in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, a journal published by Wiley on behalf of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology, suggests that greater access to in-house obstetricians and auxiliary specialists contributes to the lower obstetric injury claims from patients at large labor wards in Denmark.Nearly one million children were born in Denmark over a 15-year period, with a noted downward trend from 69,000 births in 1995 to 63,440 in 2009. While obstetric injuries are rare, they can be severe or fatal when they do occur. During the same time period, the Danish Patient Insurance Association (DPIA) provided compensation of nearly 300 million Danish kroner (40 million €; $53 million U.S.) for approved obstetric injury cases.For the present study, researchers reviewed DPIA obstetric claims with 1,326 included in the analysis. Financial compensation from DPIA is granted if one or more of the following conditions are met:1. If an experienced specialist in the field in question would have acted differently during examination or treatment thereby avoiding the injury — the “specialist rule,”2. if the injury is caused by defects in, or malfunction of the technical equipment used in association with investigations or treatment,3. if the injury might have been avoided using another available treatment, and this was considered to be equally safe and potentially to offer the same benefits,4. if the injury encountered is serious and more extensive than the patient should be expected to endure.The claims were categorized based on size of the labor unit with small units performing less than 1,000; intermediate at 1,000 to 2,999; large at 3,000 to 3,999; and very large wards with greater than 4,000 deliveries per year.Analysis shows that the overall approval rate for submitted obstetric claims was nearly 40%. …

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China’s clean-water program benefits people and the environment

Sep. 5, 2013 — Rice farming near Beijing has contaminated and tapped the city’s drinking water supply. For the past four years, China has been paying farmers to grow corn instead of rice, an effort that Stanford research shows is paying off for people and the environment.Rice farming is more lucrative than corn for Chinese farmers, but flooded paddies contribute to decreased water quality and quantity.The brown, smog-filled skies that engulf Beijing have earned China a poor reputation for environmental stewardship. But despite China’s dirty skies, a study led by Stanford environmental scientists has found that a government-run clean water program is providing substantial benefit to millions of people in the nation’s capital.The Miyun reservoir, 100 miles north of Beijing, is the main water source for the city’s more than 20 million inhabitants. Greater agricultural demands and a decline in precipitation, among other factors, have cut the reservoir’s output by two-thirds since the 1960s. The water has also become increasingly polluted by fertilizer and sediment run-off, and poses a significant health risk.Similar conditions shut down Beijing’s second largest reservoir in 1997; shortly after, officials began implementing a plan to prevent the same from happening to the Miyun reservoir.The system follows the successful model established by New York City, in which the government and wealthier downstream consumers provide payouts to upstream farmers, who in turn modify their agricultural practices to improve water conditions.In the case of China’s Paddy Land-to-Dry Land (PLDL) program, farmers are paid to convert their croplands from rice to corn, a solution that reduces both water consumption and pollution. Rice paddies are constantly flooded and are often situated on steep slopes, leading to significant fertilizer and sediment runoff. Corn, meanwhile, requires much less water, and fertilizer is more likely to stay in the soil.Improving rural lifeThe program is indicative of China’s recent efforts to improve living conditions for its rural citizens.”At the top, China sees environmental protection and poverty alleviation as vital to national security,” said Gretchen Daily, a biology professor at Stanford and senior co-author on the study. “The challenge is in implementing change. It’s amazing that in four short years, the government got everyone growing rice in this area to switch to corn, which greatly improved both water quality and the quantity that reaches city residents downstream.”Farmers earn almost six times more money growing rice than corn, so the government compensated farmers with funds that more than made up the difference. …

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Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival just 7 percent

Sep. 1, 2013 — Survival for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is just 7%, according to research presented at ESC Congress 2013 by Professor Xavier Jouven and Dr Wulfran Bougouin from France.Professor Jouven said: “Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an important public health problem, accounting for more than 400,000 deaths every year. The main cause is ventricular tachyarrhythmias which are often triggered by acute ischaemic events that can occur in persons with or without known heart disease. The survival rate from cardiac arrest has remained low over the last 40 years despite major investment and the epidemiology of SCD in Western Europe is unclear.” The Paris Sudden Death Expertise Centre (SDEC) Registry is a population based registry using multiple sources to collect every case of cardiac arrest in Greater Paris (population 6.6 million) according to the Utstein Style.1 Cases are continuously recorded (within hours of occurrence) and standardised follow-up is initiated on admission to the intensive care unit. Incidence, prognostic factors and outcomes are recorded.The results reported today reveal the 2 year experience of the SDEC Registry. From May 2011 to December 2012, 3,670 sudden cardiac arrests, with resuscitation attempted, occurred. Most cases occurred at home (72%) with bystanders in 81% of cases, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in only 42% of cases. Among those cases only 34% of patients were admitted alive at hospital and 7% were discharged alive.Professor Jouven said: “The majority of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside hospital so specific programmes are needed in the community. Friends and relatives of people at risk of SCD should learn CPR and attend regular training to keep their skills up-to-date.” Therapeutic hypothermia and early coronary reperfusion were both significantly associated with survival (p<0.001) but these procedures were used in just 58% of patients admitted to hospital. Professor Jouven said: “These interventions markedly improve survival yet are given to just over half of patients. …

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Diabetic stroke risk after AMI drops in 10 year period

Aug. 31, 2013 — The risk of ischemic stroke after acute myocardial infarction in diabetics has dropped over a 10 year period, according to a study of more than 173,000 AMI patients in the Swedish RIKS-HIA register.The findings were presented at the ESC Congress today by Ms Stina Jakobsson from Sweden. They reveal that reperfusion therapy and secondary prevention drugs produced the decline and brought stroke risk after AMI closer to that of non-diabetics.Ms Jakobsson said: “Ischemic stroke following an acute myocardial infarction is a fairly uncommon but devastating event with high mortality. It has long been recognized that patients with diabetes mellitus are at a particularly high risk of complications after an AMI but until now, the risk of ischemic stroke after an AMI in patients with diabetes has been uncertain.”The study included 173,233 patients registered as having their first AMI during 1998-2008 in the Swedish Register of Information and Knowledge about Swedish Heart Intensive Care Admissions (RIKS-HIA). RIKS-HIA contains data on all patients admitted to Sweden’s 74 coronary care units.During 1998-2008, of the 33,503 (19%) patients in the register who had a previous diagnosis of diabetes, 5.5% had an ischemic stroke within one year after the AMI. This compared to a stroke rate of 3.5% in patients on the register who did not have diabetes and 0.3% in the Swedish general population (who were not on the register and had no history of AMI). Ms Jakobsson said: “We believe that an important mechanism behind the increased risk for ischemic stroke after an AMI, especially in diabetic patients, may be increased inflammation and platelet reactivity seen with an AMI.”Ischemic stroke rate decreased over time. During 1998-2000, 7.1% of diabetic patients had an ischemic stroke within one year after their first AMI, compared to 4.7% during 2007-2008. A smaller decline was observed in non-diabetic patients, from 4.2% in 1998-2000 to 3.7% in 2007-2008.In the diabetics, prior reperfusion therapy with coronary angioplasty, coronary angioplasty during the AMI hospital stay, and prescription of the secondary preventive medications acetylsalicylic acid, P2Y12-inhibitors and statins when leaving hospital were independently associated with the reduced stroke risk over time.Higher age, prior ischemic stroke, a specific type of myocardial infarction (ST-elevation MI) and atrial fibrillation during the hospitalization were found to be risk factors for an ischemic stroke within one year after AMI in patients with diabetes.The study found that despite the greater improvements in stroke risk seen in diabetic patients, they were treated to a lesser extent than non-diabetic patients with reperfusion therapies during their initial hospital stay. They also left hospital with less standard medication for secondary prevention after an AMI. …

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Exercising one day a week may be enough for older women

Aug. 30, 2013 — A study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) reveals that women over age 60 may need to exercise only one day a week to significantly improve strength and endurance.The study, appearing in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, monitored 63 women performing combined aerobic exercise training (AET) and resistance exercise training (RET) for 16 weeks. One group performed AET and RET one time per week, a second group two times per week and a third group three times per week. The study found significant increases in muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and functional tasks in each group, but there were no significant differences in outcomes among groups.”One of the biggest barriers to exercise training for the older female population is adherence, and one of the key findings in this study is that doing a little bit of exercise can go a long way,” said Gordon Fisher, Ph.D., primary investigator of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Human Studies in the School of Education, with a secondary appointment in Nutrition Sciences in the School of Health Professions.”Telling people that they need to do at least three to five days of exercise to improve their overall health can be a major obstacle,” Fisher said. “Lack of time is the most often-cited barrier to exercise adherence. This study demonstrates that doing as little as one AET and one RET workout each week can provide a lot of benefit for older women’s overall quality of life and health.”Fisher said the paper, “Frequency of Combined Resistance and Aerobic Training in Older Women,” goes against what most people believe about exercise — that more is better. Greater frequency, intensity and duration of exercise training have been shown to be beneficial in younger adults. However, there have not been many studies looking at older women and exercise. This study suggests that the progressive overload that benefits a younger demographic may not necessarily apply to all aspects of health and fitness in women over the age of 60.”Before I saw the data, if anyone told me that the group that only exercised once a week would improve their leg press more than 45 pounds during a 16-week period, I would have been quite surprised,” said Fisher. “We were also surprised that all three groups increased their lean muscle mass but did not have any significant decreases in body weight.”This is an important consideration, as it is well known that there is a progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass throughout the aging process; thus preservation of lean muscle is extremely important in aging adults. …

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Most ward nurses say time pressures force them to ‘ration’ care

July 29, 2013 — Most ward nurses say they are forced to ration care, and not do or complete certain aspects of it — including adequate monitoring of patients — because they don’t have enough time, indicates research published online in BMJ Quality & Safety.The lower the nurse headcount, the greater the risk, the study shows, prompting the researchers to suggest that hospitals could use episodes of missed care as an early warning sign that nurse staffing levels are too low to provide safe, high quality care.They base their findings on a survey of almost 3000 registered nurses working in 401 general medical/surgical wards in 46 acute care NHS hospitals across England between January and September 2010.The questions, which covered five different domains, were designed to gauge the prevalence of missed care — care that nurses deemed necessary, but which they were unable to do or complete because of insufficient time.Thirteen different aspects of nursing care were included in the survey, ranging from adequate patient monitoring, through to adequate documentation of care, and pain management.The researchers wanted to find out if there was any association between nurse staffing levels and the number of these episodes, and whether these were linked to overall perceptions of the quality of nursing care and patient safety in a ward.So they asked nurses to rate the quality of care on their ward, and to indicate how many patients needed assistance with routine activities and frequent monitoring. The researchers also assessed the quality of the working environment using a validated scoring system — the Practice Environment Scale (PES).The results showed that 86% of the 2917 respondents said that at least one of the 13 care activities on their last shift had been needed, but not done, because of lack of time. On average, nurses were unable to do or complete four activities.The most commonly rationed of these were comforting and talking to patients, reported by 66% of participating nurses; educating patients (52%); and developing or updating care plans (47%).Pain management and treatment/procedures were the activities least likely to be missed, reported as not being done by only 7% and 11%, respectively.Higher numbers of patients requiring assistance with routine daily living or frequent monitoring were linked to higher numbers of missed care activities.Staffing levels varied considerably across wards, but the average number of patients per nurse was 7.8 on day shifts and 10.9 at night.The fewer patients a nurse looked after, the less likely was care to be missed or rationed, and the lower was the volume of these episodes. Staffing levels were significantly associated with rationing eight of the 13 care activities.Nurses looking after the most (in excess of 11) patients were twice as likely to say they rationed patient monitoring as those looking after the fewest (six or fewer). Adequate documentation and comforting/talking with patients also suffered the most.Staffing levels of healthcare assistants had no bearing on rationing of care. But the quality of the work environment did, with the average number of care activities significantly lower (2.82) in the best than in the worst (5.61).Around eight care activities were left undone on wards nurses rated as “failing” on patient safety, compared with around 2.5 on wards rated as “excellent.””Our findings raise difficult questions for hospitals in a climate where many are looking to reduce — not increase — their expenditure on nurse staffing,” comment the authors, who go on to say that hospitals would have to reduce the number of patients to seven or fewer per registered nurse to significantly reduce the amount of care left undone.But they suggest: “Hospitals could use a nurse-rated assessment of “missed care” as an early warning measure to identify wards with inadequate nurse staffing.”

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Women’s height linked to cancer risk, study finds

July 25, 2013 — The taller a postmenopausal woman is, the greater her risk for developing cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.Height was linked to cancers of the breast, colon, endometrium, kidney, ovary, rectum, and thyroid, as well as to multiple myeloma and melanoma, and these associations did not change even after adjusting for factors known to influence these cancers, in this study of 20,928 postmenopausal women, identified from a large cohort of 144,701 women recruited to the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).”We were surprised at the number of cancer sites that were positively associated with height. In this data set, more cancers are associated with height than were associated with body mass index [BMI],” said Geoffrey Kabat, Ph.D., senior epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, N.Y. “Ultimately, cancer is a result of processes having to do with growth, so it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk.”Some genetic variations associated with height are also linked to cancer risk, and more studies are needed to better understand how these height-related genetic variations predispose some men and women to cancer, according to the authors.Kabat and colleagues used data from the WHI, a large, multicenter study that recruited postmenopausal women between the ages 50 and 79, between 1993 and 1998. At study entry, the women answered questions about physical activity, and their height and weight were measured.The researchers identified 20,928 women who had been diagnosed with one or more invasive cancers during the follow-up of 12 years. To study the effect of height, they accounted for many factors influencing cancers, including age, weight, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, and hormone therapy.They found that for every 10-centimeter (3.94 inches) increase in height, there was a 13 percent increase in risk of developing any cancer. Among specific cancers, there was a 13 percent to 17 percent increase in the risk of getting melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium, and colon. There was a 23 percent to 29 percent increase in the risk of developing cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid, and blood.Of the 19 cancers studied, none showed a negative association with height.Because the ability to screen for certain cancers could have influenced the results, the researchers added the participants’ mammography, Pap, and colorectal cancer screening histories to the analyses and found the results remained unchanged.”Although it is not a modifiable risk factor [A modifiable risk factor can be changed, controlled, or treated, e.g., diet, lifestyle. Height is a non-modifiable risk factor because it cannot be changed], the association of height with a number of cancer sites suggests that exposures in early life, including nutrition, play a role in influencing a person’s risk of cancer,” said Kabat. “There is currently a great deal of interest in early-life events that influence health in adulthood. Our study fits with this area.”

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Want kids to eat healthier? Don’t tell them, show them

July 19, 2013 — If given the choice between eating a salad loaded with veggies or a burger and fries most kids, and for that matter most adults, would likely pick the less healthful option. But instead of telling kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, Iowa State University researchers found the trick may be to convince them visually.Laura Smarandescu, an assistant professor of marketing, and Brian Mennecke, an associate professor of information systems, did just that using a digital display featuring a rotating image of a salad along with menu information. They found salad consumption among kids increased as much as 90 percent when a digital display showed a rotating image of the salad. The results are from a field study conducted in July at the YMCA of Greater Des Moines camp in Boone. The camp is for children with diabetes, ages 6-12.Campers were offered a nutritionally balanced daily menu, which included foods like tacos, sloppy joes, fruits and vegetables and had the additional option of a salad bar. The kitchen staff weighed the salad bar items before and after each meal to calculate how much was consumed. The digital sign had the greatest appeal among boys at the camp, who were 50 to 70 percent more likely to serve themselves lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots when the digital display showcased a vivid picture of a salad.”The cool effect that we found and didn’t expect was with boys,” Smarandescu said. “It makes sense because boys like video games and interact more with technology. We noticed many boys stopping to look at the display and their behavior seemed to be more influenced by the presence of the display.”The results from the field study mirror what Smarandescu and Mennecke discovered in the lab. When given the choice between a still photo of a particular food or a rotating image, participants in the lab opted for the rotating menu item. …

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New details about H7N9 influenza infections that suddenly appeared in China

June 19, 2013 — Researchers with the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute have revealed new information about the latest strain of type A influenza, known as H7N9, in a report in the journal PLOS Currents: Outbreaks.Since June 7, 132 confirmed cases of human infection with H7N9 have been reported in China and 37 people have died, according to the World Health Organization. It is the first time human infection with the avian influenza H7N9 subtype has been detected, and researchers fear that this strain may have pandemic potential.The possibility of an animal source of the infection is being investigated, as is the possibility of person-to-person transmission.However, most people who contracted the disease reported having contact with live birds in a bird market prior to infection. Researchers at the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory found that younger women generally have the most contact with poultry, but it is older men who are experiencing the most infections.The findings suggest that there is something unique about older men that makes them particularly susceptible to H7N9. Their greater risk of infection is not just because they tend to spend more time exposed to an avian source.Researchers quickly compiled the data using a variety of available sources to discover risk factors, which could aid in containing the spread of H7N9.”Normally we have to wait for epidemiologists to collect new data in the early days if an outbreak. We were able to combine data from existing sources in an innovative way to rapidly learn about H7N9 risk factors,” said Caitlin Rivers of Plainfield, N.H., a graduate student majoring in genetics, bioinformatics, and computational biology and research assistant at the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory.To contain the spread of this strain of influenza, some Chinese live bird markets have been closed. It may help, but still does not explain the high infection rate of older men. Further studies are required to understand what other factors may be involved in transmission to help contain H7N9’s spread.”In keeping with a commitment to open science, the raw data and calculations are available publicly. We invite others to use and expand upon this work,” said Bryan Lewis, a public health policy analyst with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.This work has been partially supported by NIH MIDAS Grant 2U01GM070694-09 and NIH MIDAS Grant 3U01FM070694-09S1.

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Common genetic disease linked to father’s age

June 7, 2013 — Scientists at USC have unlocked the mystery of why new cases of the genetic disease Noonan Syndrome are so common: a mutation that causes the disease disproportionately increases a normal father’s production of sperm carrying the disease trait.When this Noonan syndrome mutation arises in a normal sperm stem cell it makes that cell more likely to reproduce itself than stem cells lacking the mutation. The father then is more likely to have an affected child because more mutant stem cells result in more mutant sperm. The longer the man waits to have children the greater the chance of having a child with Noonan syndrome.Noonan Syndrome is among the most common genetic diseases with a simple inheritance pattern. About one of every 4,000 live births is a child with a new disease mutation. The disease can cause craniofacial abnormalities, short stature, heart defects, intellectual disability and sometimes blood cancers.By examining the testes from 15 unaffected men, a team led by USC molecular and computational biologists Norman Arnheim and Peter Calabrese found that the new mutations were highly clustered in the testis, and that the overall proportion of mutated stem cells increased with age. Their computational analysis indicated that the mutation gave a selective edge over non-mutated cells.”There is competition between stem cells with and without the mutation in each individual testis,” said Arnheim, who has joint appointments at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “But what is also unusual in this case is that the mutation which confers the advantage to testis stem cells is disadvantageous to any offspring that inherits it.”The new findings also suggest an important new molecular mechanism to explain how certain genetic disease mutations can alter sperm stem cell function leading to exceptionally high frequencies of new cases every generation.

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Distracted drivers: Your habits are to blame

June 3, 2013 — More than a decade of research has shown that using a handheld or hands-free phone while driving is not safe because the brain does not have enough mental capacity to safely perform both tasks at once.Researchers have fallen short of explaining why drivers are so easily distracted until now. In two peer-reviewed academic journals, Georgia Tech Assistant Professor Robert Rosenberger explains that, because people talk on the phone on a regular basis, they have developed learned habits that take over their awareness, sometimes entirely.”By habit, a driver’s overall awareness is overtaken by the content of the phone conversation and not the demands of driving,” said Rosenberger, a researcher in Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy. “It doesn’t even matter if the person’s intent to focus on driving is stronger than the willingness to talk on the phone. Sooner or later, the phone-associated habits will subtly tug the awareness away from the road.”Rosenberger’s alternative interpretation of the scientists’ data is built from a philosophical perspective called phenomenology, or the study of consciousness.”When a person talks or texts on a phone, they go into a zone and everything around them seems to fall into the background of awareness,” he adds. “For instance, you no longer hear the TV that you were watching seconds before the phone rang. Walls and adjacent objects seem to disappear. The only thing you concentrate on is the other person’s voice.” Because texting is a two-way conversation, Rosenberger says the same theory applies.However, having a conversation with a passenger in the car is different. Studies show that driver distraction isn’t as great because passengers are active participants in the driving experience.”For instance, if two people are talking in a car and an ambulance approaches, they tend to stop speaking and look for the sirens,” he says. “A person on the other end of the phone typically continues to speak because they aren’t aware of the changing situation.”With new technology in the car dashboard becoming increasingly popular, Rosenberger is concerned that these features are giving drivers a false sense of security. Voice-controlled texting and dashboard apps are designed to keep a driver’s hands and eyes away from a phone, but the greater risk of distraction remains, he says.”People who see and use these new technologies may think, ‘Now I don’t have to look at my phone. …

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