Secretary Shinseki – Please Notify Veterans There’s No Waiting List at the Zumwalt Mesothelioma Treatment Program in Los Angeles

The mesothelioma treatment team at the West LA VA Medical Center would love to have a list of veterans to treat. But there’s no list, no waiting list and no effort to educate our war heroes stricken with asbestos cancer that help is available.You’ve read about the double digit number of veterans who have allegedly died whilewaiting to be treated. We may never know how many veterans with mesothelioma have died after receiving no or sub-standard treatment.According to the popular literature, about 4,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Of those, roughly a third were exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy. It’s not a stretch to surmise that at least 600 Navy veterans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year–a diagnosis that carries …

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Why we miss subtle visual changes, and why it keeps us sane

Ever notice how Harry Potter’s T-shirt changes from a crewneck to a henley shirt in the “Order of the Phoenix,” or how in “Pretty Woman,” Julia Roberts’ croissant inexplicably morphs into a pancake? Don’t worry if you missed those continuity bloopers. Vision scientists at UC Berkeley and MIT have discovered an upside to the brain mechanism that can blind us to subtle visual changes in the movies and in the real world.They’ve discovered a “continuity field” in which we visually merge together similar objects seen within a 15-second time frame, hence the previously mentioned jump from crewneck to henley goes largely unnoticed. Unlike in the movies, objects in the real world don’t spontaneously change from, say, a croissant to a pancake in a matter of seconds, so the continuity field is stabilizing what we see over time.”The continuity field smoothes what would otherwise be a jittery perception of object features over time,” said David Whitney, associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and senior author of the study published today (March 30) in the journal, Nature Neuroscience.”Essentially, it pulls together physically but not radically different objects to appear more similar to each other,” Whitney added. “This is surprising because it means the visual system sacrifices accuracy for the sake of the continuous, stable perception of objects.”Conversely, without a continuity field, we may be hypersensitive to every visual fluctuation triggered by shadows, movement and myriad other factors. For example, faces and objects would appear to morph from moment to moment in an effect similar to being on hallucinogenic drugs, researchers said.”The brain has learned that the real world usually doesn’t change suddenly, and it applies that knowledge to make our visual experience more consistent from one moment to the next,” said Jason Fischer, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT and lead author of the study, which he conducted while he was a Ph.D. student in Whitney’s Lab at UC Berkeley.To establish the existence of a continuity field, the researchers had study participants view a series of bars, or gratings, on a computer screen. The gratings appeared at random angles once every five seconds.Participants were instructed to adjust the angle of a white bar so that it matched the angle of each grating they just viewed. They repeated this task with hundreds of gratings positioned at different angles. The researchers found that instead of precisely matching the orientation of the grating, participants averaged out the angle of the three most recently viewed gratings.”Even though the sequence of images was random, participants’ perception of any given image was biased strongly toward the past several images that came before it,” said Fischer, who calls this phenomenon “perceptual serial dependence.”In another experiment, researchers set the gratings far apart on the computer screen, and found that the participants did not merge together the angles when the objects were far apart. …

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Hold the phone: Prolonged cell use can trigger allergic reaction, as can body piercing, tattoos and cosmetics

Nov. 21, 2010 — Chatting endlessly on your cell phone can lead to an allergic reaction to the nickel in your phone, according to allergists at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in Phoenix, Nov. 11-16. From cosmetics to jewelry, body piercings to tattoos, allergies can lurk in unlikely places, allergists say.

“Increased use of cell phones with unlimited usage plans has led to more prolonged exposure to the nickel in phones,” said allergist Luz Fonacier, MD, ACAAI Fellow. “Patients come in with dry, itchy patches on their cheeks, jaw lines and ears and have no idea what is causing their allergic reaction.”

Nickel is one of the most common contact allergens, and affects up to 17 percent of women and 3 percent of men. Contact with objects containing nickel, such as keys, coins and paper clips are generally brief, so the nickel allergy may not occur on the area of contact. However, even in these brief encounters, nickel can be transferred from fingers to the face and cause eyelid irritation. The risk is increased by frequent, prolonged exposure to nickel-containing objects, such as cell phones, jewelry, watches, and eyeglass frames.

“Allergists are seeing increasing numbers of nickel allergy among patients,” said Dr. Fonacier. “Some researchers suggest that there should be more nickel regulation in the U.S. like there is in some European countries.”

Symptoms include redness, swelling, itching, eczema, blistering, skin lesions and sometimes oozing and scarring. Avoidance of direct skin contact is the best solution. For cell phones, try using a plastic film cover, a wireless ear piece, or switching to a phone that does not contain metal on surfaces that contact the skin, suggests Dr. Fonacier. However, identifying the allergen and avoiding it is the only long term solution.

Body Piercings & Tattoos

You can also have an allergic reaction to your body art (piercing and tattoos). Twenty-four percent of people 18 to 50 years old have tattoos and 14 percent have body piercings.

“Allergic reactions from tattoos come mainly from the pigments used to color the dye,” said Dr. Fonacier. “The issue with body piercing goes back to the increasing prevalence of nickel allergies. Some researchers suggest we delay introduction of ear piercing until children are older than 10 years.”

Cosmetics

“It’s well known that our everyday cosmetic products contain many substances that cause allergies,” said Dr. Fonacier. “Although the cosmetic industry is one of the largest in the world, it is not highly regulated in the U.S. The average person uses 12 personal products a day. Those 12 products may contain up to 168 chemicals, many of which can be an irritant or a substance that causes an allergic reaction.”

Nearly 22 percent of everyone patch tested for allergies react to chemicals in cosmetics, according to Dr. Fonacier. Fragrance and preservatives contained in cosmetics cause the most allergic reactions. Common allergy symptoms from cosmetics include: redness, itching, crusting, swelling, blistering, dryness, scaliness and thickening of the skin.

Those who suspect they have allergies to cosmetics, tattoos or nickel should be tested by an allergist — a doctor who is an expert in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma.

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Severity of facial wrinkles may predict bone density in early menopause, study suggests

June 6, 2011 — A news study finds that the worse a woman’s skin wrinkles are during the first few years of menopause, the lower her bone density is.

The results are being presented at The Endocrine Society’s 93rd Annual Meeting in Boston.

“In postmenopausal women the appearance of the skin may offer a glimpse of the skeletal well-being, a relationship not previously described,” said Lubna Pal, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and associate professor at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.

The study demonstrates only an association between bone density and skin wrinkling, stressed Pal, the study’s principal investigator. However, she called their findings noteworthy.

“This information,” Pal said, “may allow for the possibility of identifying postmenopausal women at fracture risk at a glance, without dependence on costly tests.”

The study is an ancillary study to an ongoing multicenter trial called the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study, or KEEPS, which is funded by the Aurora Foundation and the Kronos Longevity Research Institute in Phoenix. This ancillary study included 114 women in their late 40s and early 50s who had had their last menstrual period within the past three years and who were not taking hormone therapy. Women were excluded from participating if they had undergone any cosmetic skin procedures.

Women received a score for face and neck wrinkles based on the number of sites with wrinkles and on the depth of the wrinkles. The skin firmness or rigidity was measured at the forehead and the cheek with a device called a durometer. Study participants also underwent measurement of bone density by dual X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) and by a portable heel ultrasound device.

The investigators found a significant inverse correlation between the wrinkle score and the bone density, meaning the higher the score (and the worse the wrinkles), the lower the bone density. This relationship was evident at all skeletal sites — hip, lumbar spine and heel — and was independent of age, body composition or other factors known to influence bone density, Pal said. Additionally, firmer skin of the face and forehead was associated with greater bone density.

Although the connection between bones and skin may seem unclear, Pal explained that they share common building blocks — a group of proteins known as collagens. As we age, changes in collagen occur that may account for age related skin changes including worsening skin wrinkles and sagging skin, and also contribute to deterioration in bone quality and quantity.

Long-term studies are needed to substantiate a relationship between wrinkles and the risk of bone fracture, Pal said.

“Ultimately, we want to know if intensity of skin wrinkles can allow identification of women who are more likely to fracture a bone, especially the femoral neck or the hip, an often fatal injury in older people,” she said. “If this is the case, then including the study of skin wrinkles to other clinical risk factors may allow identification of fracture risk in populations that do not have access to more costly technology.”

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