Archive for September, 2009

New Discoveries Offer Hope for Failing Eyes

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Already a leading cause of vision loss among people older than 60, macular degeneration involves the breakdown of the macula, which helps provide clear vision. As the macula deteriorates, people see a blurred spot in the center of their vision.  The blurriness grows over time. 

Researchers report that new treatments now under study or in development could be used to treat the two forms of macular degeneration, wet and dry. Current treatments for the wet form of the disease have proven quite successful. The wet form is more rare but can cause rapid vision loss if not caught early.

Researchers have discovered a combination therapy of vitamins and antioxidants that reduces the risk of progressive vision loss by more than 20 percent, according to a report from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Other progress against the wet form of the disease has come through the use of drugs that target vascular endothelial growth factor.  Caught early in the course of the disease, the chance of vision loss is less than 10 percent over a two-year period, scientists note.  Cutting-edge research also may have found another way to tackle the wet form of macular degeneration. In the June 14 issue of Nature, doctors reported that blocking the activity of a specific protein can reduce the same blood vessel growth that leads to the wet form.

No effective treatments have been found for the dry form of macular degeneration.  The dry form accounts for 85 percent of all macular degeneration cases, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  

Medical experts note that a combination of antioxidants and zinc may slow the progression of the disease. Smokers should not use this treatment.  The recommended supplements contain: 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 International Units of beta-carotene, 80 milligrams of zinc and 2 milligrams of copper.

 

On a positive note, scientists reportedly are optimistic that within three to five years a treatment for the dry form of macular degeneration will exist.

PSA Test Unreliable Prostate Cancer Screening

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

New research reveals the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test may lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment of prostate cancer.

Researchers noted that the inability of the PSA test to distinguish between deadly and harmless prostate cancers makes it unusable as a population-wide screening tool.  PSA is a protein made by the prostate gland. It is found in small amounts in the blood of healthy men, and is often elevated in men with prostate cancer, but also in men with benign prostate enlargement.

Some 745,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry trade group.  Nearly 300,000 will die and prostate cancer causes about a quarter of all cancer deaths among men.

The lead author of one study, a urologist with Gavle Hospital in Gavle, Sweden, noted that in addition to PSA, further biomarkers are needed before inferring population-based screening for prostate cancer.  The claim was based on a study of PSA tests of over 500 men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Their PSA was measured several years before being diagnosed. Scientists compared those tests with PSA tests from over 1,000 men without prostate cancer.

Reserachers reported that in men with a prediagnostic PSA level below 1 nanogram per milliliter, only six men [1.2 percent] were later diagnosed with a high-risk prostate cancer. Hence, PSA levels below [that] almost ruled out a future high-risk prostate cancer diagnosis.  They noted that the direct implication of their findings in a screening situation was that no matter which PSA cut-off you adopt for selecting men for further diagnostic work-up, you will either have too many false positives or too many false negatives.

Given the current trend in lowering the PSA cut-off to about 3 nanograms per milliliter, the medical reserachers noted that a large number of healthy men will be subject to painful, stressful and costly diagnostic procedures.  Their report worried that the wide overdiagnosis of slow-growing tumors causing unnecessary medical treatment and anxiety.

Although most agencies providing recommendations on prostate cancer screening, especially those outside the United States, do not recommend routine PSA testing for the early detection of prostate cancer, it continues to be performed frequently medical experts noted.

Exercise May Prevent Protate Cancer

Monday, September 28th, 2009

According to a new study released today by Duke University Medical Center men who were moderately active were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Moderately active was defined as anything equivalent to walking at a moderate pace for several hours a week.

The researchers looked at men who had a prostate biopsy and found that exercise was associated with less aggressive disease in men who did develop prostate cancer.  As the amount of exercise increased, the risk of cancer decreased, the study’s lead author said in a news release.

The majority (58 percent) of the men in this study were sedentary, which means they exercised less than the equivalent of one hour per week of easy walking.

Prostate cancer is the third most common cause of death from cancer in men of all ages and is the most common cause of death from cancer in men over 75 years old. Prostate cancer is rarely found in men younger than 40.

Men at higher risk include African-America men older than 60, farmers, tire plant workers, painters, and men exposed to cadmium. The lowest number of cases occurs in Japanese men and those who do not eat meat (vegetarians).

Prostate cancers are grouped according to tumor size, any spreading outside the prostate (and how far), and how different tumor cells are from normal tissue. This is called staging. Identifying the correct stage may help the doctor determine which treatment is best.

Excess Body Weight Causes 124,000 New Cancers

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Based on estimates from a new modeling study, the proportion of cases of new cancers attributable to body mass index were highest among women and in central European countries such as the Czech Republic, Latvia, Slovenia and Bulgaria. 

The lead author of the study noted that as more people stop smoking and fewer women take hormone replacement therapy, it is possible that obesity may become the biggest attributable cause of cancer in women within the next decade.

 Researchers created a sophisticated model to estimate the proportion of cancers that could be attributed to excess body weight in 30 European countries. Using data from a number of sources including the World Health Organization they estimated that in 2002 (the most recent year for which there are reliable statistics on cancer incidence in Europe) there had been over 70,000 new cases of cancer attributable to excess BMI out of a total of nearly 2.2 million new diagnoses across the 30 European countries.

 The percentage of obesity-related cancers varied widely between countries, from 2.1% in women and 2.4% in men in Denmark, to 8.2% in women and 3.5% in men in the Czech Republic. In Germany it was 4.8% in women and 3.3% in men, and in the UK it was 4% in women and 3.4% in men.

 They found that the number of cancers that could be attributed to excess body weight increased to 124,050 in 2008. In men, 3.2% of new cancers could be attributed to being overweight or obese and in women it was 8.6%. The largest number of obesity-related new cancers was for endometrial cancer (33,421), post-menopausal breast cancer (27,770) and colorectal cancer (23,730). These three accounted for 65% of all cancers attributable to excess body mass index.

Flu Can Increase Heart Attack Risk

Friday, September 25th, 2009

British researchers report.that both seasonal and the pandemic H1N1 swine flu will put more people at risk for heart attacks.  They urged those most prone, especially those with heart disease and diabetes, to get a seasonal flu shot and an H1N1 flu shot which may reduce the chance of getting the flu and thereby lower the risk for a heart attack.

In thre United States someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds and 785,000 individuals will have a new coronary attack this year according to data published by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, an industry trade group.

Medical experts note that influenza – or the flu – is most concerning because of its secondary complications.  They note that death or hospitalization isn’t because of the influenza but rather it’s because influenza puts you in a weakened state and is a stress on the system.  The British researchers noted that the flu virus may have a negative effect directly on the heart.

To determine the risk of heart attack among those with flu, researchers at the UCL Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology in London, reviewed nearly 40 studies conducted between 1932 and 2008.  The studies showed an increase in deaths from heart disease and more heart attacks during flu season.

Excess deaths because of heart disease averaged 35 percent to 50 percent, according to the report in the October issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases.  The studies also showed that getting a flu shot reduced the risk of dying from heart disease or suffering a heart attack.

Guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology strongly recommend that all individuals with cardiovascular disease receive annual influenza vaccination.

Aspirin Protects Against Colon Cancer

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Colorectal is the second biggest cause of cancer death in the United States and Europe, where a total of 560,000 people develop the disease each year, and 250,000 die from it according to the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, the national trade organization.

Scientists at the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University in Britain said the benefits of aspirin were only seen after several years.  The researchers noted that they uncovered a simple way of controlling stems cells that make tumors grow.

The researchers tested over 1,000 people with Lynch syndrome — an inherited condition that predisposes a person to a range of cancers, particularly of the colon.  Some were given aspirins and some a placebo.

Follow-up tests after 10 years showed that although there was no difference in cancer rates after 29 months, a significant difference was detected after four years.  Fewer people in the aspirin group developing colon cancer, the study’s leader noted.

To date, there have been only six colon cancers in the aspirin group as opposed to 16 who took placebo, the study notes.  There is also a reduction in endometrial cancer.

People with Lynch syndrome have an increased risk of many cancers including stomach, colon, brain, skin, and prostate. Women carriers also have a high risk of developing endometrial and ovarian cancers.

In low daily doses aspirin has been found to stave off the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as chase away occasional aches and pains.  Other scientists have previously found it can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer and suggested it does so by blocking the enzyme cyclooxygenase2, or COX-2, which promotes inflammation and cell division and is found in high levels in tumors.

Prostate Cancer Treatment May Spark Heart Problems

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The findings from new research conducted at King’s College in London could make doctors think twice before prescribing the standard hormone treatment to men with prostate cancer, particularly if they are at risk of heart disease.

More than 670,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer globally every year, making it the second-most common cancer in men, after lung cancer.  In the U.S., over 185,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  About 600,000 men are being treated with endocrine therapies for prostate cancer worldwide.

Researchers studied 30,000 men in Sweden with prostate cancer who received hormone therapy between 1997 and 2006. They compared the rate of heart problems in those patients to the rate in the general Swedish population.

Prostate cancer patients had a 28 percent higher relative chance of having a fatal heart attack and a 21 percent increased chance of dying from heart disease.  While these risks were still low in absolute terms, the researchers estimated that the hormone therapies would cause heart problems including a heart attack at the rate of about 10 persons for every 1,000 prostate cancer patients.

Previous studies have found hormone therapy given to prostate cancer patients with a history of heart disease increases their chances of dying.  Scientists believe that male-produced testosterone has some protective effect on the heart. Thus, hormones that interfere with testosterone could be deadly.

Vitamin D Proves Heart Healthy

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

An estimated 800,000 Americans will have a first heart attack this year and the combined financial cost of heart attacks and strokes is over $225 billion.  Most personal bankruptcies today are directly tied to medical and healthcare costs.

A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and Massachusetts General Hospital studied the association between vitamin D levels in the blood and the death rates of those 65 and older.  

Researchers found that older adults with insufficient levels of vitamin D die from heart disease at greater rates that those with adequate levels of the vitamin.  The results are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

It’s likely that more than one-third of older adults now have vitamin D levels associated with higher risks of death and few have levels associated with optimum survival noted the lead author on the study. 

The study noted that older adults are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency often because their skin has less exposure to the sun as a result of less time spent outdoors as well as the body’s reduced ability to make vitamin D.

The study analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics that was of the 24 million older adults in the United States. Compared to those with optimal vitamin D status, those with low vitamin D levels were 3 times more likely to die from heart disease and 2.5 times more likely to die from any cause.

“Vitamin D has health effects that go beyond strong bones,” one of the researchers explained. “It’s likely that it makes a vital contribution to good health.”

Older Individuals Should Eat More Whole Grains To Lessen CI Risk

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The study looked at the eating habits of hundreds of men and women in their 60s.  Overall, the participants consumed relatively low amounts of whole-grain foods, averaging 1.5 servings a day, and dietary fiber, averaging 18.6 grams a day. 

According to health insurance professionals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines recommend that older people consume three or more servings daily of whole-grain foods and 21 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day. 

Among the study participants, bread and cold breakfast cereals were the main sources of whole grains.  Women were more likely than men to consume whole grains, the researchers found.

After adjusting for factors such as levels of physical activity, the study findings noted that a higher intake of whole grains was associated with lower amounts of total body fat and abdominal fat.  Obesity is a leading predictor of health conditions and a cause of nearly two million Americans having a heart attack or stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

The study found that people who consumed the highest amounts of whole grains had about 2.4 percent less total body fat and 3.6 percent less abdominal fat than those who ate the least. This difference was found to be related to fiber in cereal, but not in fruits or vegetables. When only cereal fiber was taken into account, those who consumed the most had 3.2 percent less body fat and 5 percent less abdominal fat than those who ate the least amount of cereal fiber.

The findings appear in the October issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Childhood Stroke More Common

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Medical experts note that pediatric strokes are rare.  A new estimate puts its incidence at only 2.4 strokes per 100,000 person-years. But the study, reported in the September 17 online issue of Stroke, also cites five previous studies in which the estimated incidence ranged from .54 to 1.2 per 100,000 children per year.

Medical researchers at the Pediatric Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease Center at the University of California, San Francisco, Children’s Hospital examined data on 2.3 million children up to the age of 19 who were enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente managed-care plan in northern California from 1993 to 2003.

They searched for stroke cases listed by diagnostic code for billing purposes and also for reports indicating strokes in radiological studies, including computed tomography and MRI. The radiology reports yielded a higher incidence of stroke.

The concept that children simply don’t have strokes is widely prevalent, one of the lead researchers noted.

This new comparison of the two methods of identifying a pediatric stroke found that radiological evidence was much more sensitive than the billing code. The radiology method was far more sensitive (83 percent) than the billing code method (39 percent.)

SOURCES: Heather J. Fullerton, M.D., director, Pediatric Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease Center, University of California, San Francisco, Children’s Hospital; E. Steve Roach, M.D., director, pediatric neurology, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Sept. 17, 2009, Stroke, online

Weight Loss Good For Kidney Health

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Medical experts explain that kidneys filter waste products from the blood and excrete them in the urine. When damaged, their ability to perform these vital functions is reduced. 

Some 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance and millions of others are at increased risk.  By 2015, experts predict there will be more than 700,000 people with the most advanced form of kidney disease known as end-stage renal disease.

More than a third of US adults are either overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk for kidney trouble, not to mention heart trouble and diabetes.   To determine if weight loss could help protect the kidneys, medical researchers at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic studied data from studies that examined the impact on kidney function of weight loss achieved through diet, exercise, or surgery.

The researchers found that losing weight through diet and exercise reduced one key measure of kidney damage – namely, excess excretion of protein in the urine, what doctors call “proteinuria.”   The medical report noted that weight loss achieved through surgery seemed to help normalize the rate at which the kidneys filter waste products in obese adults with abnormally high filtration rates.

The findings were reported in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology.

Middle-Age Heart Risk Factors Shorten Men’s Lives

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Although death from heart disease has been declining, in part due to better control of cardiovascular risk factors and better care, a study by British researchers looks at death from heart disease in terms of life expectancy.

The researchers collected data on nearly 19,000 men ranging from 49 to 69 years of age. The men were first evaluated between 1967-1970.  At the start of the study, the men completed a questionnaire that included questions about their medical history, smoking, employment and marital status. In addition, height, weight, blood pressure, lung function, cholesterol and blood sugar levels were also measured.

After about 28 years of follow-up, 7,044 surviving men were examined again in 1997.  When the study began, 42 percent of the men smoked, 39 percent had high blood pressure and 51 percent had high cholesterol. By 1997, about two-thirds had stopped smoking and their blood pressure and cholesterol levels had also dropped, the researchers noted.

Despite these changes in risk factors for heart disease, men who had three heart risk factors in middle age had a threefold higher risk of dying from heart disease and a twofold increased risk of dying from other causes, compared with men with none of these risk factors, the study found.

Men who had all three risk factors at the time they entered the study lived 10 years less than men with none of the risk factors. Life expectancy after 50 was an additional 23.7 years for men with three risk factors, compared with 33.3 years for men without the risk factors, the researchers found.

Individuals who choose to not treat and control these major cardiovascular risk factors should recognize they may be giving up, on average, as much as 10 to 15 years of life by doing so, te research team reported.  The study was published in the Sept. 18 online edition of the British Medical Journal,

SOURCES: Robert Clarke, M.D., reader in epidemiology, University of Oxford, UK; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Sept. 18, 2009, British Medical Journal

During CPR, More Chest Compressions Saves More Lives

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

When it comes to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) you’re better off doing less mouth-to-mouth and more chest compressions, according to a new study.

CPR consists of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  It is performed on people whose hearts have stopped beating.  Medical experts explain that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation moves oxygen into the lungs of someone who can’t breathe on his own, while chest compressions move blood carrying that oxygen to the heart and the brain.

This year some 800,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry trade group.  The average age of a person having a first heart attack is 64 for men and 70 for women.

Researchers found that the odds that someone whose heart has stopped beating will survive goes up markedly when rescuers spend more time giving chest compressions.

The findings emphasize that the chest compressions you do on a loved one are one of the most important things that can be done, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.  They shared the important information recognizing many are untrained or not confident giving mouth-to-mouth ventilation.  Evenn by themselves, chest compressions can make a difference, the medical researchers noted.

Canadian medical researchers examined CPR tracings in over 500 patients who suffered “out-of-hospital” cardiac arrest in the US and Canada.  There was roughly a 10 percent increase in the chance of survival for every 10 percent increase in amount of time that rescuers spend giving chest compressions they found.

Researchers found that the heart began pumping blood effectively on its own about 80 percent of the time when rescuers spent most of their time on chest compressions, compared to just shy of 60 percent of time when they spent most of their efforts on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Similarly, about one in eight patients survived long enough to go home from the hospital when rescuers spent most of their time on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but that rate of survival doubled when rescuers spent most of their time on chest compressions. 

The study appears in the Journal of the American Heart Association, September 14, 2009.

Free Membership And Access To Sales & Marketing Tools

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Insurance agents, financial planners and investment advisors interested in learning more about selling critical illness insurance can access the online Learning, Marketing & Sales Center of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

For a limited time, the professional trade organization is offering free membership.  membership includes access to the online center where one can listen to and download audios, access E-cards that can be sent to generate leads as well as marketing and sales material.

“The new Association was established to jump start sales and awareness for this important protection,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the organization.  “For that reason, we are providing access completely free-of-charge as an introductory special offer.”

Access requires producers sign-up and establish a User Name and Password.  “We will use this information to communicate with members and see what improvements we can make,” Slome adds.

To sign up for immediate access, Click Here Now.

Hispanic Americans Have Lower Cancer Risk

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Hispanic (Latino) Americans are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to develop and die from all cancers combined as well as the four most common cancers (female breast, prostate, colorectal, and lung) according to a new report.

However, Hispanics have higher rates of several cancers related to infections (stomach, liver, and cervix) and are more likely to have cancer detected at a later stage.

The findings come from the latest edition of Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos.  Hispanic Americans comprise the largest, fastest-growing, and youngest minority in the United States.  An estimated 98,900 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in Hispanic/Latinos in 2009. Prostate is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, while breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Colorectal cancer is the second-most common cancer in both men and women.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  More than 1.44 million Americans had a diagnosis of cancer in 2008 and some 565,000 died.  According to the National Institutes of Health, cancer cost the United States an estimated $228 billion in medical costs in 2008.

An estimated 18,800 Hispanics are expected to die from cancer in 2009; the top two causes of cancer death among men are lung and colorectal cancer, while breast and lung cancer are the top two in women.

Between 1997 and 2006, cancer incidence rates decreased among Hispanics by 1.3% per year in men and 0.6% per year in women, compared to decreases of 0.8% per year and 0.4% per year in non-Hispanic white men and women, respectively.

 During the same time period, cancer death rates among Hispanics decreased by 2.2% per year in men and 1.2% per year in women, compared to decreases in non-Hispanic whites of 1.5% per year in men and 0.9% per year in women.

The report also finds that compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanic/Latino Americans have a later stage of diagnosis for many cancers, including breast and melanoma and have generally similar 5-year survival, except for melanoma, for which survival rates are lower in Hispanic compared to non-Hispanic white men (79% versus 87%) and women (88% versus 92%).

Written by Jesse Slome from the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance
http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org

More Adults At Risk Of Heart Disease

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Only 7.5 percent of Americans are now in the clear when it comes to heart disease risk factors according to a new study.

Resaerchers found that several decades of steady reductions in heart disease may be on the wane.  The obesity epidemic affecting millions of Americans bears much of the blame for the increased risk.  As a result, the decline in cardiovascular disease mortality in the U.S. seems to be coming to an end and may even reverse itself.

A worsening cardiovascular risk profile in the population could potentially lead to increases in the incidence and prevalence of cardiovascular disease, noted researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   The increases in cardiovascular disease and diabetes will affect the nation’s medical costs, stated Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Medical costs account for two-thirds of all U.S. bankruptcies, he noted.

The researchers collected data on adults 25 to 74 years of age looking for low-risk factors for heart disease.  These include items such as not smoking, having low blood cholesterol, normal blood pressure, normal weight and no sign of diabetes.

Using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the study found that in 1971 to 1975, a paltry 4.4 percent of adults had all five of these heart-healthy factors. However, by 1994 that number had risen to 10.5 percent of adults. 

The latest data, from 2004, found that the fraction of American adults with all five healthy characteristics had dropped to 7.5 percent.  Minorities tended to fare worst, since whites tended to have more low-risk factors than either blacks or Mexican-Americans, the report found.

The reserachers identified three reasons for the backslide in health; decreases in the percentages of adults who were not overweight or obese, a decrease in those who had a favorable blood pressure, and an increase in the number who have diabetes.  There was one bright spot in the report, a decrease in the percentage of adults who were not currently smoking.

Because excess weight is a major cause of diabetes and hypertension, it is critical that the percentage of adults who are overweight or obese be reduced, the researchers noted.  “This alarming development is occurring despite great improvements in medical interventions to prevent cardiovascular diseases,” he said. “It is of particular concern that these trends do not yet reflect the consequences of the current epidemic of childhood obesity.”

If these trends continue, the recent gains in life expectancy in the U.S. will be lost, the medical experts noted.

The study was published in the Sept. 14 online edition of Circulation.

SOURCES: Earl S. Ford, M.D., M.P.H., U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Rob M. van Dam, Ph.D., assistant professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School; Boston; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Sept. 14, 2009, Circulation, online

Overdiagnosis Of Prostate Cancer In Men Likely

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Over 1 million additional men were likely to have been incorrectly diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.

Researchers indicated that over the past two decades, the introduction of prostate-antigen screening, or PSA, has resulted in the overdiagnosis reported in a new study published online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

 The report notes that overdiagnosis has been associated with early diagnosis in prostate cancer, but there have been no previous national estimates of its magnitude.  Nearly 800,000 American men are diagnosed with cancer each year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  Prostate cancer accounts for 10 percent of all cancer-related deaths.

 

Using data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program, researchers at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice examined age-specific prostate cancer incidence rates in American men diagnosed and treated in each year after 1986.   The PSA screening was introduced in 1987.

 

According to the study, an additional 1.3 million men were diagnosed.  These they note would otherwise have never been diagnosed absent screening, and more than 1 million have been treated since 1986.

 

The increased diagnosis has been most dramatic among younger men.  The diagnosis for prostate cancer has more than tripled since 1986 in men aged 50-59 (from 58.4 to 212.7 per 100, 000) and more than a sevenfold increase in men under age 50 (from 1.3 to 9.4 per 100,000).

Cut Salt For Better Health

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

If Americans cut their salt intake to recommended levels, they’d have far fewer cases of high blood pressure, and save billions of dollars in critical illness health care costs.

High sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure and its complications including heart and kidney disease.  Scientists with the Institute of Medicine recommend that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. The average American, however, consumers about 1,000 mg more than that, according to the authors of the study appearing in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Researchers estimate that if the average sodium intake fell to the recommended level there would be 11 million fewer cases of high blood pressure each year.   According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance estimmates some 70 million American adults have high blood pressure.  The costs of treating high blood pressure and related heart disease and strokes would fall by $18 billion.

While reducing sodium intake sounds simple, it is actually fairly difficult for individuals to do, the researchers noted.  That’s because so much of the sodium Americans consume comes not from their own salt shakers, but from packaged foods and meals eaten out.

SOURCE: American Journal of Health Promotion, September/October.

Any Lifetime Smoking Ups Breast Cancer Risk

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Women who smoke 100 or more cigarettes may substantially increase their odds of developing breast cancer. 

Researchers report new evidence that a woman smoker can reduce her risk of breast cancer by stopping smoking as soon as possible.    The study compared smoking history and other breast cancer risk factors among 1,225 women who developed breast cancer and 6,872 who did not during the first year after their initial visit to the Mayo Clinic Breast Clinic. 

Surveys completed during this visit indicated just over 10 percent were current smokers, almost 9 percent were former smokers, and 81 percent had never smoked.

In addition women who had used oral contraceptives for 11 years or longer had a 200 percent increase in the odds of developing breast cancer. Women who used postmenopausal hormone therapy showed 81 percent increased odds, while aging raised the odds of developing breast cancer by 2 percent per year.

SOURCE: The Breast Journal, September/October 2009

Obesity, Alcohol, Smoking Increase Risk Of Second Breast Cancer

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Survivors of breast cancer have a significantly higher risk of developing a second breast cancer than women in the general population have of developing a first breast cancer.   Breast cancer now has a greater than 90 percent five-year survival rate in the United States, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry trade group.

Considering the large and ever-growing number of survivors, scientists noted that little is known about lifestyle factors may make survivors more vulnerable to a second cancer.

A just published study by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center finds that obesity, alcohol use and smoking all significantly increase the risk of second breast cancer among breast cancer survivors.

The researchers found that obese women had a 50 percent increased risk, women who consumed at least one alcoholic drink per day had a 90 percent increased risk, and women who were current smokers had a 120 percent increased risk of developing a second breast cancer.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that obesity, alcohol consumption (consuming at least seven drinks a week) and current smoking may be important risk factors for second breast tumors. The research also suggests that current smokers who imbibe at least seven drinks a week may be at particularly high risk of second breast cancer.

The National Cancer Institute funded the research that was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Colon Cancer Screenings Still Too Low

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States after lung cancer. There are several types of screening tests available.

Despite highly publicized education campaigns and widespread agreement about the importance of colorectal cancer screening, screening rates still lag.  Rates for minorities, the uninsured and other vulnerable groups are lower still, with only 22 percent of lower-income people screened.

Using data from a Texas health system researchers identified 20,000 men and women ages 54 to 75 who were eligible for colorectal cancer screening.  About 15 percent of the patients lived below the poverty line.

Patients most likely to get screened included those who saw a doctor regularly or who had health insurance.

Those with insurance were almost three times as likely to be screened, and those who saw the doctor regularly were nearly four times as likely to be screened. 

Women were slightly more likely than men to be screened. Hispanics were slightly more likely to be screened than whites.

Surviving Cancer Can Depend On Where You Live

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Researchers with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services analyzed survival patterns in different areas of New Jersey among 25,040 men and women diagnosed with colorectal cancer from 1996 through 2003, and monitored through 2006.

They found that the number of people who lived at least 5 years after being diagnosed and treated was about 84 to 88 percent in high-income white neighborhoods, compared with 80 percent statewide.

Survival rates were much lower – just 73 percent – “in low income, racially diverse neighborhoods,” they found.  Five-year survival was 83 percent among Caucasians compared with 75, 79, and 80 percent among Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders.   These findings are similar to those from other regions in the U.S. and elsewhere. Taken together, the data provide strong support for the theory that health is affected by many factors, such as biological, behavioral, and environmental traits, the researchers note.

SOURCE: International Journal of Health Geographics, July 23, 2009.

Coffee Linked To Heart And Stroke Risk

Friday, September 4th, 2009

People who drink lots of coffee but who don’t follow a Mediterranean-style diet are more likely to have atrial fibrillation, according to a new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Barcelona.

Researchers studied patients who’d been recently diagnosed with the common heart arrhythmia to supply information about their dietary habits, including caffeine consumption. Their diets were compared with those of people without atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation means the heart’s two upper chambers quiver instead of beating regularly, leading to heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue and an increase in the risk of stroke.

According to the scientists, daily coffee intake was divided into four categories: none, low (one cup per-day), medium (two to three cups a day), and heavy (more than three cups).

The individuals participating in the study were cross-ranked according to their adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, olive oil, fruits and vegetables and includes little red meat.

The report notes that individuals with atrial fibrillation were less likely to follow the Mediterranean diet than those without the heart condition. Those with atrial fibrillation also consumed more red meat and full-fat dairy products.

The heaviest coffee drinkers were also more likely to have atrial fibrillation than those who drank less, the study found.

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Aug. 30, 2009

Strokes Occurring At Younger Ages

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Strokes are no longer an affliction of old age, a new study finds.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis found that people in the working ages of life are having strokes with greater regularity than ever before. 

While more people under the age of 65 are suffering strokes, rehabilitation is often not offered to younger people with mild stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  Heart attacks, cancer and strokes are the three major critical illnesses affecting Americans.

The study examined data on nearly 8,000 people treated for stroke between 1999 and 2008. Researchers found that 45 percent were under 65 and 27 percent were under the age of 55. This differs drastically from data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which states that 66 percent of all strokes occur in people over 65, the report in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy reports.

Most of the strokes among those under 65 were mild.  Individuals typically do not have outward signs of impairment and therefore are discharged with little or no rehabilitation.  The report noted that these individuals have trouble reintegrating back into complex activities of everyday life such as employment.

About 71 percent of patients who had a mild to moderate stroke were discharged directly home, discharged with home services only, or discharged with outpatient services only.   Follow-up with stroke victims revealed that 46 percent of those with a mild stroke said they were working slower, 42 percent said they were not able to do their job as well, 31 percent said they were not able to stay organized and 52 percent said they had problems concentrating.

SOURCES: Timothy J. Wolf, O.T.D., M.S.CI., O.T.R/L, instructor, occupational therapy and neurology and investigator for the Cognitive Rehabilitation Research Group, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.; Richard Isaacson, M.D., assistant professor, neurology and medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; September/October 2009, American Journal of Occupational Therapy

Men Who Gain Weight At Risk Of Prostate Cancer

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Men who gain weight as young adults are at heightened risk of developing prostate cancer according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii reported that obesity is a risk factor for many common cancers, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer in postmenopausal women. However, whether obesity plays a role in prostate cancer risk has been unclear, researchers say.

The new study finds that body mass in both younger and older adulthood, and weight gain between these periods of life, may influence prostate cancer risk. There are some 1.4 million new cases of cancer diagnosed each year in the United States according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. Over 565,000 Americans die from cancer each year.

The researchers collected data on almost 84,000 men. The study also examined the relationship between weight and prostate cancer in a multiethnic population including blacks, Japanese, Hispanics, Native Hawaiians and whites. Men who were overweight or obese at 21 had a lower risk of localized and low-grade prostate cancer, the researchers found.

The study findings revealed that when men put on weight seemed to matter, as did race and ethnicity. Higher weight in older adulthood was associated with increased risk of prostate cancer among white and Native Hawaiian men and a decreased risk of prostate cancer among Japanese men.

Genetic Culprit In Deadly Skin Cancer

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

The National Institutes of Health researchers have identified a new group of genetic mutations involved in the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma.

This discovery is encouraging because some of the mutations, those found in nearly one-fifth of melanoma cases, reside in a gene already targeted by a drug approved for certain types of breast cancer.

Melanoma is becoming increasingly more common, the result is thought to be sun exposure that can damage DNA and lead to cancer-causing genetic changes within skin cells.

A team of scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) sequenced the protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) gene family in tumor and blood samples from people with metastatic melanoma.

The study was among the first to use large-scale DNA sequencing to systematically analyze all 86 members of the PTK gene family in melanoma samples.

Though additional work is needed to gain a more complete understanding of these genetic mutations and their roles in cancer biology, the scientists findings open the door to pursuing specific therapies that may prove useful for the treatment of melanoma with ERBB4 mutations.