Archive for August, 2009

Ankle Circulation Can Warn Of Strokes

Monday, August 31st, 2009

A simple test of blood circulation in the ankle could help physicians identify individuals at higher risk of suffering another stroke according to the American Heart Association.

According to researchers, a simple test to compare blood flow in the ankle to that in the arm is all that’s needed.  A significant difference between the two readings could suggest that a patient suffers from peripheral artery disease, caused by fatty plaque buildup in the arteries of the extremities.

Stroke survivors and those who have experienced transient ischemic attacks — also known as TIAs or mini-strokes — are at high risk of stroke if they have peripheral artery disease according to the scientists.

Researchers screened survivors of strokes and mini-strokes using a device similar to a blood-pressure cuff to check circulation in their ankles. They found that 26 percent of the patients had peripheral artery disease without symptoms. Those patients were three times more likely to suffer from stroke, heart attack or death within the next two years compared to those who didn’t have the condition.

Younger Men Diagnosed With Cancer

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Men with prostate cancer are being diagnosed at younger ages today than in years past, and the racial disparity in stage at diagnosis has decreased.

Researchers reporting in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute analyzed 2004-2005 data on more than 82,500 prostate cancer patients.  They compared this group with patients diagnosed in 1988-1989 and 1996-1997.

The average age at diagnosis decreased from about 72 years in 1988-1989 to about 67 years in 2004-2005 and the rate of particularly late-stage cases fell from about 53 to 8 per 100,000 among whites and from 91 to 13 per 100,000 among blacks.

The current study is also the first nationwide study to document that the racial disparity in prostate cancer stage at diagnosis has decreased substantially during the period from 1988 to 2005.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, August 27, 2009.

Tobacco Kills 6 Million Annually

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Tobacco use will kill six million people next year from cancer, heart disease, emphysema and a range of other ills.

A new report from the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society estimates that tobacco use costs the global economy $500 billion a year in direct medical expenses, lost productivity and environmental harm.

Tobacco accounts for one out of every 10 deaths worldwide and will claim 5.5 million lives this year alone, the report said. If current trends hold, by 2020, the number will grow to an estimated 7 million and top 8 million by 2030.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched a tobacco center to oversee cigarettes and other related products, after winning the power to do so from Congress in June. On Tuesday it set up a committee of advisers to help guide it.

Over the past four decades, smoking rates have declined in rich countries like the United States, Britain and Japan while rising in much of the developing world, according to the nonprofit research and advocacy organizations.

Some other findings from the report:

* 1 billion men smoke — 35 percent of men in rich countries and 50 percent of men in developing countries.

* About 250 million women smoke daily — 22 percent of women in developed countries and 9 percent of women in developing countries.

* Smoking rates among women are either stable or increasing in several southern, central and eastern European countries.

* The risk of dying from lung cancer is more than 23 times higher for men who smoke than for nonsmokers and 13 times higher for women smokers.

* Tobacco kills one-third to one-half of those who smoke. Smokers die an average of 15 years earlier than nonsmokers.

* Nearly 60 percent of Chinese men smoke and China consumes more than 37 percent of the world’s cigarettes.

* 50 million Chinese children, mostly boys, will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases.

* Tobacco use will eventually kill 250 million of today’s teenagers and children.

* Nearly one-quarter of young people who smoke tried their first cigarette before the age of 10.

* Occupational exposure to secondhand smoke kills 200,000 workers every year.

Protein May Identify Breast Cancer

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

German researchers have identified a protein linked to more aggressive and advanced breast cancer tumors.

The scientists studied samples of breast tissue from patients with cancer and compared them with healthy breast tissue.  Researchers found that those whose tumors had elevated levels of GLI1 (glioma-associated oncogene homolog 1) protein tended to have a more advanced stage of cancer, had an increased number of cancerous lymph nodes and a greater chance of death.

Measurement of GLI1 could be a useful for determining cancer prognosis, according to the study which is published this week in the journal BMC Cancer.

More Women Survive Breast Cancer

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

More women are surviving breast cancer in situ according to a report in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association is welcome news for millions of American women.  There were 610,171 in situ survivors in 2005 and reserachers expect that by 2016 the number will exceed one million.

Breast cancer in situ now accounts for 20 percent of newly diagnosed breast cancers. It is the early stage of the disease, when it is still confined to the layer of cells in the ducts or lobules of the breasts.  Cancer is one of the three primary critical illnesses that strikes Americans resulting in billions of dollars of lost productivity and medical expenses according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison explained that while there were 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States in 2005, the number of breast cancer in situ survivors was unknown.

Women with breast cancer in situ are four times more likely to develop invasive breast cancer compared with the general population, the researchers explained.  The scientists study found that women with ductal breast cancer in situ, one of the more common forms, were more than five times more likely to be survivors compared with women diagnosed with lobular breast cancer in situ.

The researchers also reported that more white women survived than black women and women from other ethnic groups.  “Current epidemiologic evidence regarding predictors of subsequent invasive breast cancer after breast cancer in situ is limited,” the researchers noted in their report. “Guidelines are necessary to help the increasing number of breast cancer in situ survivors choose the best treatment and lifestyle strategies while still maintaining high quality of life.”

SOURCES: Barbara A. Brenner, executive director, Breast Cancer Action, San Francisco; Aug. 26, 2009, Journal of the American Medical Association

Declines In Cancer Deaths

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

The scientists note that younger adults between ages 35 and 45 years old experienced the steepest declines in cancer death rates.  They noted that all age groups showed some improvement.  The findings of the study appear in the journal Cancer Research.

The news has both positive and negative implications some experts note.  Surviving cancer often results in an enormous financial toll on both the survivor and their family.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance the industry trade group, uncovered medical costs are a leading cause of personal bankruptcies in the United States.

While U.S. government estimates suggest there had been little improvement in cancer death rates throughout the 20th century, scientists noted the government reports did not tell the whole story.  Researchers used a different way of looking at cancer death rates that measured improvements in cancer deaths by age.

By comparison, government data tends to average all age groups together to produce a composite rate.

Because most cancer deaths occur in older Americans, the average was weighted toward experiences of older people.   Instead, the researchers looked at improvements in cancer deaths among groups of individuals born in five-year intervals starting in 1925.

 Using this methodology, they found that everyone born since the 1930s has enjoyed a decreased risk of cancer death, at every age.  People in the youngest age group (between 35 and 45) had a greater than 25 percent decline per decade in cancer deaths.

Critical Illness Insurance Association Website Launched

Friday, August 14th, 2009

A comprehensive website containing free sales and training audios, downloadable marketing tools and customized E-cards has been launched by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry’s professional trade organization.

“The new website is designed to help educate insurance producers who have never sold critical illness products and provide them with the necessary tools to start prospecting,” says Jesse Slome, the association’s executive director.  “It is our plan to make this the single most comprehensive repository of information and marketing tools for the industry.”

Access to all marketing and sales tools is currently available free of charge as the association is presently waiving membership fees.  For more information, visit the organization’s website: http://www.aacii.org.

Response Times Vary For In-Hospital Heart Attacks

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Quick defibrillation can increase the chances of survival for hospital patients who have cardiac arrest. But sometimes the treatment is not quick enough.

The American Heart Association recommends that defibrillation, a process in which an electronic device gives the heart an electric shock , be performed within two minutes of cardiac arrest.   Defibrillation helps restore normal contraction rhythms in a heart having dangerous arrhythmia or in cardiac arrest. The longer the delay, the less chance the patient has of surviving.

A new study finds that delays are not due to overloaded or undereducated staff.  Previous studies have linked delays to other factors, such as being admitted to the hospital for something other than heart problems or having cardiac arrest at night or on weekends.

According to study, records from nearly 7,500 adult in-patients with cardiac arrest at 200 U.S. hospitals were analyzed. The hospitals completed a detailed survey that included information about the location, hospital teaching status, number of patient beds and the availability of automatic external defibrillators.

The rates of delayed defibrillation — a delay being longer than two minutes — varied from 2.4 percent to more than 50 percent between hospitals, according to the report published in the July 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Differences between hospitals accounted for a great deal of the variation, the researchers found. In one example, patients with identical characteristics had a 46 percent higher chance of having a delayed defibrillation at one hospital compared with another.

Patients at hospitals with fewer defibrillation delays were less likely to die in the hospital. The odds of survival were 41 percent higher in the 25 percent of hospitals with the lowest rates of delays when compared with the 25 percent of hospitals with the most delays, according to the study.

Cancer Survivors Face Tough Road After Treatment Ends

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Cancer survivors are more likely than their healthy peers to suffer serious psychological distress such as depression, even a decade after treatment ends.

According to a study published in the July 27, 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, those who were relatively young at the time of diagnosis, unmarried, had less than a high school education, were uninsured, had other illnesses or had difficulty doing the activities of daily living were at the highest risk of psychological problems.

The United States is home to 12 million cancer survivors, or 4 percent of the population, numbers that are expected to rise as cancer screening improves and Baby Boomers age, according to the researchers, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

To gauge the long-term psychological impact of the disease, they analyzed mental health and medical data on some 4,600 adults who’d survived cancer and over 122,000 who had never had cancer. The data was collected between 2002 and 2006 by the National Health Interview Survey, which is conducted yearly by the U.S. Census Bureau.

During a follow-up period of at least five years and an average of 12 years, about 5.6 percent of cancer survivors were found to have experienced severe psychological distress within the previous month, compared with 3 percent of those without cancer.

Those who are younger, single, have less education and no insurance may suffer more because they have fewer resources to draw from to get through it.   Getting a diagnosis of cancer and going through chemotherapy can be among life’s most trying experiences, said a spokesperson from the American Cancer Society.

The physical and emotional fallout of cancer treatment, including fatigue, pain, nausea and vomiting, mouth sores and hair loss, can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.  While many of these symptoms may subside or disappear after treatment ends, some, including fatigue, can linger for months or years.
Chemotherapy can also cause delayed problems that aren’t apparent until months or years later, including peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain or numbness), infertility, organ dysfunction, hearing loss, muscle atrophy and cardiovascular disease.

In the study, 9 percent of long-term cancer survivors and 6 percent of individuals without cancer reported seeing or talking to a mental health professional within the previous year. One-third of cancer survivors with serious psychological distress reported using mental health services, while 18 percent said they could not afford mental health care.

Tanning Beds Get Highest Carcinogen Rating

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

The International Agency for Research on Cancer moved tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category  (carcinogenic to humans) according to a new report.

Previously, the agency had classified sunlamps and tanning beds as “probably” carcinogenic.  The move puts the devices a notch higher in terms of risk.  It also echoes calls by some U.S. experts to place tougher warnings and restrictions on tanning bed use.

“The use of tanning beds can be deleterious to your health and we hope to encourage governments to formulate restrictions and regulations for the use of tanning beds,” said report coauthor Beatrice Secretan, from the Cancer Monograph Working Group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France. The Agency is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The first priority of the WHO is to restrict the use of tanning beds by those under 18, Secretan said. “If controls are put in place it will reduce the risks of the users or deter people from using them,” she said.
One U.S. expert agreed. “This new report confirms and extends the prior recommendation of the American Cancer Society that the use of tanning beds is dangerous to your health, and should be avoided,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.  The report is published in the August issue of The Lancet Oncology.

In June, scientists from nine countries concluded that the risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent when use of tanning beds and sunlamps begins before 30 years of age. In addition, several studies provided evidence of a link between the use of UV-emitting tanning devices and melanoma of the eye.

Young women in particular are the heaviest users of tanning beds, and are at the greatest risk of causing harm to themselves.  This report also puts to rest the argument that tanning with UVA light is safe.

The FDA currently requires tanning salons to direct all customers to wear protective eye goggles and advises consumers to limit their exposure to tanning devices, and avoid them if you have certain medical conditions such as lupus or diabetes or are susceptible to cold sores.

In addition, the FDA requires labels on these devices that warn of skin aging, skin cancer and eye injury. However, in 2007 the FDA began a review of these warnings and is considering strengthening its warnings about the risk of skin cancer and eye damage, according to the agency.

Seniors Suffer Silent Strokes

Friday, August 7th, 2009

People age 60+ experience silent strokes, researchers report.  They may not be aware and thus won’t utilize benefits of their health insurance or Medicare Supplement insurance.

“These strokes are not truly silent, because they have been linked to memory and thinking problems and are a possible cause of a type of dementia,” study author Dr. Perminder Sachdev, a neuropsychiatry professor at the University of New South Wales in Sidney, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

The research was published in the journal Neurology.  Researchers followed nearly 500 people aged 60 to 64 for four years. The researchers found that 7.8 percent of the group had evidence of strokes that do not cause any noticeable symptoms — known as silent lacunar infarctions — in which blood flow is blocked in one of the arteries leading to areas deep within the brain. An additional 1.6 percent of the study group had experienced silent strokes by the end of the study period.

Those with high blood pressure had a 60 percent greater chance of having a silent stroke than those with normal blood pressure.   Although relatively symptom-free, silent strokes are a major health problem among the elderly, according to the American Academy of Neurology and other health insurance experts.

Individuals who have had a silent stroke are at higher risk for subsequent strokes and for an accelerated loss of mental skills. In addition to high blood pressure, risk factors include diabetes, heart disease, smoking and older age.

Medical and health insurance professionals recommend person experiencing any symptoms of stroke, call emergency medical services immediately.
Common signs of stroke are:
Sudden weakness or numbness of the arms, legs or face, especially on one side
Quick onset of blurred vision in one or both eyes
Difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
Sudden confusion or trouble speaking
Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Many Prostate Cancers Grow Too Slowly To Kill

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Men who had surgery for prostate cancer found only a small percentage died from cancer.  Some men might be able to skip surgery to treat the slow-growing tumors.

The 15-year study of more than 12,600 men with prostate cancer who had their prostates removed found only 12 percent died from cancer 15 years later, even though some showed signs of having an aggressive type of cancer.

Many more men — 38 percent — died from causes other than cancer.  The study “shows a remarkably low risk of dying of prostate cancer within 15 years for treated men, and supports the concept that men with slow-growing cancers may not need immediate treatment,” said Dr. Peter Scardino of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, whose study appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide after lung cancer, killing 254,000 men a year globally.  Doctors have routinely recommended prostate cancer screening for men over 50 using a blood test for prostate specific antigen, or PSA. The belief was that early diagnosis and aggressive treatment for any cancer is better than standing by and doing nothing.

But many prostate tumors are slow-growing and take years to cause harm. Some studies suggest many men are living with the side-effects of aggressive treatment with surgery and radiation for a cancer that may never have killed them.

“Our results demonstrate the low lethality of these cancers after radical prostatectomy,” Scardino and colleagues wrote.  They said in the United States, fewer than 2 percent of men with under age 65 opt to forgo prostate surgery in favor of regular testing for their cancers. And 73 percent of those ultimately have surgery within four years.

But a separate study in the journal Cancer by researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, found that men with early stage prostate cancer who put off the surgery in favor of regular checkups were not overcome by anxiety.

The team sent questionnaires to 150 men to gauge their comfort levels about their treatment decision, as well as levels of depression and anxiety.  More than 80 percent of the 129 men who returned their surveys scored about the same as those in other surveys who decided to undergo treatment for early prostate cancer.
A large, international trial is under way comparing regular checkups versus radical treatment but that study will not be completed for several years.

New Critical Illness Insurance Trade Association Launched

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

A new professional critical illness insurance trade organization has been established to increase the number of insurance and financial professionals successfully marketing critical illness insurance protection.
The new organization, named the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII), has been founded by Jesse Slome, who also founded and serves as executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.
“There is an enormous opportunity in the United States for sale of quality critical illness products,” states Slome, who will direct the new association.  “Our initial focus will be on creating heightened awareness among professionals and support their efforts to successfully market and sell this important protection.”  The new producer-focused association will work closely with the National Association for Critical Illness Insurance (NACII), which promotes industry policy, industry education and industry position.
“We look forward to supporting the efforts of the new organization, recognizing the enormous contribution to long-term care insurance marketplace Slome’s organization has provided,” expressed Ken Smith, NACII President and Director of Health Insurance for Assurity Life Insurance Company.
The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance will be headquartered in Los Angeles.  For further information, visit their Website: http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org/ or call (818) 597-3205.