Smoking linked with increased risk of most common type of breast cancer

Young women who smoke and have been smoking a pack a day for a decade or more have a significantly increased risk of developing the most common type of breast cancer. That is the finding of an analysis published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. The study indicates that an increased risk of breast cancer may be another health risk incurred by young women who smoke.The majority of recent studies evaluating the relationship between smoking and breast cancer risk among young women have found that smoking is linked with an increased risk; however, few studies have evaluated risks according to different subtypes of breast cancer.To investigate, Christopher Li, MD, PhD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and his colleagues conducted a population-based study consisting of 778 patients with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer and 182 patients with triple-negative breast cancer. Estrogen receptor positive breast cancer is the most common subtype of breast cancer, while triple-negative breast cancer is less common but tends to be more aggressive. Patients in the study were 20 to 44 years old and were diagnosed from 2004-2010 in the Seattle-Puget Sound metropolitan area. The study also included 938 cancer-free controls.The researchers found that young women who were current or recent smokers and had been smoking a pack a day for at least 10 years had a 60 percent increased risk of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. In contrast, smoking was not related to a woman’s risk of triple-negative breast cancer.”The health hazards associated with smoking are numerous and well known. This study adds to our knowledge in suggesting that with respect to breast cancer, smoking may increase the risk of the most common molecular subtype of breast cancer but not influence risk of one of the rarer, more aggressive subtypes,” said Dr. Li.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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The true raw material footprint of nations

Sep. 2, 2013 — The amount of raw materials needed to sustain the economies of developed countries is significantly greater than presently used indicators suggest, a new Australian study has revealed.Using a new modelling tool and more comprehensive indicators, researchers were able to map the flow of raw materials across the world economy with unprecedented accuracy to determine the true “material footprint” of 186 countries over a two-decade period (from 1990 to 2008).The study, involving researchers from the University of New South Wales, CSIRO, the University of Sydney, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, was published today in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It reveals that the decoupling of natural resources from economic growth has been exaggerated.The results confirm that pressures on raw materials do not necessarily decline as affluence grows and demonstrates the need for policy-makers to consider new accounting methods that more accurately track resource consumption.”Humanity is using raw materials at a level never seen before with far-reaching environmental impacts on biodiversity, land use, climate and water,” says lead author Tommy Wiedmann, Associate Professor of Sustainability Research at the UNSW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “By relying on current indicators, governments are not able to see the true extent of resource consumption.””Now more than ever, developed countries are relying on international trade to acquire their natural resources, but our research shows this dependence far exceeds the actual physical quantity of traded goods,” says Wiedmann, who worked at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences when the research was undertaken.In 2008, the total amount of raw materials extracted globally was 70 billion metric tons — 10 billion tons of which were physically traded. However, the results show that three times as many resources (41% or 29 billion tons) were used just to enable the processing and export of these materials.The researchers say that because these resources never leave their country of origin, they are not adequately captured by current reporting methods. They have used a new indicator they call the “material footprint” to more accurately account for these ‘lost’ resources and have developed tools that could assist policy-makers in future.Economy-wide accounting metrics (such as Domestic Material Consumption or DMC) currently used by certain governments and intergovernmental organisations, including the OECD, the European Union and the UN Environment Programme, only account for the volume of raw materials extracted and used domestically, and the volume physically traded.These indicators suggest resource-use in wealthy nations has increased at a slower rate than economic growth — something known as relative decoupling — and that other countries have actually seen their consumption decrease over the last 20 years — something known as absolute decoupling. (See figures).Decoupling of raw material usage from economic growth is considered one of the major goals en route to achieving sustainable development and a low-carbon economy.But the study authors say when their “material footprint” indicators are factored in these achievements in decoupling are smaller than reported and often non-existent.The study relates to the following resources: metal ores, biomass, fossil fuels and construction minerals.Selected country findings:In 2008 China had by far the largest material footprint (MF) in absolute values (16.3 billion tons), twice as large as that of the US and four times that of Japan and India. Sixty per cent of China’s MF consists of construction minerals, reflecting its rapid industrialisation and urbanisation over the last 20 years. Australia had the highest material footprint per capita (about 35 tons per person), but because it is a prolific exporter of resources, it appears to have a relative decoupling. Other developed economies (USA, Japan, UK) show similar levels at around 25 tons per person. …

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Dramatic increase in hospitalization of US children with inflammatory bowel disease

June 25, 2013 — The largest investigation to date has found a dramatic increase in the number of hospitalizations for children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) during the past decade in the United States.The new study, published online and scheduled for the August 2013 print issue of the Journal of Investigative Medicine, found a 65 percent increase in IBD hospital discharges from 2000 to 2009. The number increased from 11,928 discharges in 2000 to 19,568 discharges in 2009.IBD refers to a group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine. The major types of IBD are Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). When looking at these two types of IBD individually, the authors found a 59 percent increase in CD discharges and a 71 percent increase UC discharges.The study looked at more than 11 million hospitalization records of patients 20 years old and younger using a federal children’s inpatient database. For the decade, they identified more than 61,000 pediatric discharges with an IBD diagnosis.According to the study’s principal investigator, Thomas J. Sferra, MD, Division Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, this increasing trend was present in each age category and across all geographic regions (Northeast, Midwest, South and West).”The reason for this large increase in hospitalizations of children with IBD is not clear,” said Dr. Sferra. “We also found an increase in IBD-related complications and co-existing conditions which suggest an increase in the severity of this disease has contributed to a greater need for hospitalization. However, we will need to perform more research to determine whether patients were admitted to the hospital due to IBD or for an unrelated medical condition. Also, while we’re seeing more kids being discharged with IBD, we cannot with certainty say that the incidence and prevalence of childhood IBD has increased in U.S.”The trend found by this nationwide study reflects what appears to be a phenomenon that has been reported for specific regions within the US and for other countries — Canada, Scotland, and Finland.

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Whitebark pine trees: Is their future at risk?

June 10, 2013 — There’s trouble ahead for the whitebark pine, a mountain tree that’s integral to wildlife and water resources in the western United States and Canada.Over the last decade, some populations of whitebark pines have declined by more than 90 percent. But these declines may be just the beginning.New research results, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and published today in the Journal of Ecology, suggest that as pine stands are increasingly fragmented by widespread tree death, surviving trees may be hindered in their ability to produce their usually abundant seeds.”With fewer seeds, you get less regeneration,” says ecologist Joshua Rapp, affiliated with NSF’s Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site and lead author of the paper.Whitebark pine populations vary between producing a high number of seed cones some years, and a low number of seed cones other years.This variation depends on four factors: male pollen cones, female seed cones, wind and proximity.Each year, pollen from male cones is carried on the air to fertilize female seed cones perched atop nearby trees.”In low-cone years, less pollen is released, reaching extremely few female cones,” says Elizabeth Crone, senior ecologist at the NSF Harvard Forest LTER site and co-author of the paper.”But as more and more whitebark pines die, every year becomes a low-cone year.”In isolated pockets of trees, the gene pool is also diminished, meaning the seeds produced may be less viable over time.”For decades, researchers have struggled to understand why many different organisms–trees, fish, corals, insects–from various habitats reproduce synchronously and at certain intervals,” says Saran Twombly, program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.”By combining field data on seed and pollen production for whitebark pines with models that simulate mature cone production, this study helps to answer that question for these pines.”To reach their conclusions, the scientists had to look back in time.They inspected branches from seven whitebark pine sites in western Montana, counting the scars left by pollen cones and seed cones.”All the years with a high number of seed cones had one thing in common: a high number of pollen cones,” says Rapp. “The success of the seeds seems to depend on the amount of pollen produced.”Whitebark pine seeds are an essential food source for many animals in mountain habitats.The Clark’s Nutcracker, a mountain bird, can store up to 100,000 seeds in underground caches each year. Squirrels also store thousands of seeds underground.A diminished number of seed cones has an effect on grizzly bears, the scientists say; the bears regularly raid squirrel seed caches to prepare for winter hibernation.”In the past, low years for whitebark pine cones have led to six times more conflicts between grizzlies and humans, as hungry bears look for food in campgrounds,” says Crone.”Now, concerns about viability of whitebark pine populations are one of the main reasons grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park are still listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.”Birds, squirrels and bears are not the only species that depend on whitebark pine.Vast stands of whitebark pine help to maintain the mountain snowpacks that provide water to more than 30 million people in 16 U.S. states each year.Whitebark pines are often the only trees at the highest elevations. Their branches retain snow as it blows across gusty mountaintops. Their shade moderates snow-melt in the spring, keeping flows down the mountain in check.A small percentage of whitebark pine trees have outlived the ongoing destruction by pests and disease. These trees are the next area of focus for Crone’s team.”We want to find out whether the surviving trees are still producing cones,” Crone says. “They represent the future of whitebark pines.”

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2011 Draconid meteor shower deposited a ton of meteoritic material on Earth

June 6, 2013 — About a ton of material coming from comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner was deposited in the Earth’s atmosphere on October 8th and 9th, 2011 during one of the most intense showers of shooting starts in the last decade, which registered an activity of more than 400 meteors per hour.Every 6.6 years, the comet Giacobini-Zinner circulates through the inner solar system and passes through the perihelion, the closest point to the Sun of its orbit. Then, the comet sublimates the ices and ejects a large number of particles that are distributed in filaments. The oldest of these particles have formed a swarm that Earth passes trough every year in early October. The result is a Draconid meteor shower — meteors from this comet come from the northern constellation Draco — which hits Earth’s atmosphere at about 75,000 km/h, a relatively slow speed in comparison with other meteoric swarms.Josep Maria Trigo, researcher from the CSIC Institute of Space Sciences (ICE), states: “When a comet approaches the Sun, it sublimates part of its superficial ice and the gas pressure drives a huge number of particles that adopt orbits around the Sun, forming authentic swarms. The study shows that in the evening from October 8th to 9th 2011, the Earth intercepted three dense spindles of particles left behind by the comet when it crossed through the perihelion.”The researchers, who published their results in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society magazine, have obtained the orbits of twenty meteors in the solar system. Thus, they have confirmed the origin of the particles that caused the outbreak in that periodic comet. For this, they have count on 25 video-detection stations operated by the Spanish Meteor and Firewall Network (SPMN) and the collaboration of amateur astronomers.Two of those filaments of meteoroids, which had been theoretically predicted already, have been identified by scientists with those left by the comet in 1874, 1894 and 1900. Nevertheless, researchers have confirmed that there was another dense region intercepted by Earth which had not been predicted and that involves a new challenge for theoretical models.In a second article, researchers analyze the chemical composition of six fireballs from that swarm of the comet recorded during the outbreak. José María Madiedo, researcher from the University of Huelva and coordinator of this second study, asserts: “One of them, with an initial mass of 6 kg and nearly half a meter in diameter, named Lebrija in honor of the city it over flew, came to compete with the brightness of the moon that night.”The six analyzed fragments have a possibly similar composition to the carbonaceous chondrites (a type of organic-rich meteorites) but they are much more fragile. Trigo emphasizes: “They don’t seem to have suffered any chemical alteration during their brief stay in the interplanetary environment, which turns out to be very interesting to confirm the astrobiological role of these particles in the continuous transportation of water and organic material to the Earth.”

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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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