Archive for October, 2009

High-Definition Colonoscopy Detects More Polyps

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

According to researchers from the Mayo Clinic it appears that high-definition colonoscopy detects more precancerous polyps.  The difference could be as much as 20 percent.

 Approximately 14 million colonoscopies are performed each year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry organization that tracks and reports data related to critical illnesses.  Some 745,000 men were diagnosed with cancer each year, roughly 10 percent with colon cancer. 

The findings, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in San Diego, Calif., are not only important because a large group (2,430) of patients participated, but they resulted from the only study to date that has compared these two methods in a general clinical practice setting, among all the patients who needed a colonoscopy and with all the physicians who performed it. 

An endoscope is the lighted tube inserted into the colon and rectum to look for, and remove, polyps. A high-definition endoscope uses both a high-definition video chip and HD monitors (like HD television) that increase the resolution of the image. 

Researchers found that the rate of detection of adenomas — polyps that are likely to become cancerous — was 29 percent among patients who were scanned with high-definition endoscopes, versus 24 percent for those in which standard endoscopes were used.

Fitness Level, Not Body Fat, Stronger Predictor Of Longevity After 60

Friday, October 30th, 2009

A study reveals that adults over age 60 who had higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness lived longer than unfit adults, independent of their levels of body fat.

Prior studies have provided evidence that obesity and physical inactivity each can produce a higher risk of death in middle-aged adults. Whether this is also true for older adults is uncertain, according to background information in the article.

Medical researchers at the University of South Carolina, Columbia examined the associations between cardiorespiratory fitness, various clinical measures of adiposity (body fat) and death in older women and men. The study included 2,603 adults age 60 years or older (average age, 64.4 years; 19.8 percent women) enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study who completed a baseline health examination during 1979-2001. Fitness was assessed by a treadmill exercise test and adiposity was assessed by body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and percent body fat. Low fitness was defined as the lowest fifth of the sex-specific distribution of treadmill exercise test duration. There were 450 deaths during an average follow-up of 12 years.

The researchers found that those who died were older, had lower fitness levels, and had more cardiovascular risk factors than survivors. However, there were no significant differences in adiposity measures. Participants in the higher fitness groups were for the most part less likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels.

Fit participants had lower death rates than unfit participants within each stratum of adiposity, except for two of the obesity groups. In most instances, death rates for those with higher fitness were less than half of rates for those who were unfit.

Study: Migraine With Aura Can Double Stroke Risk

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Medical researchers advise that they should stop smoking and using birth control pills because new findings reveal they may increase their risk of stroke. 

People who suffer migraine headaches with aura experience visual disturbances before or during the migraine.  For these individuals, the medical scientists found that the risk for ischemic stroke is doubled. Being female, under 45, smoking and using oral contraceptives that contain estrogen added to the risk.   Studies were conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

 According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national organization that tracks data on strokesm heart attacks and cancer, an ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel. The connection between migraine and stroke was already suspected executives note. What was unknown was the extent of risk and who is most at risk. 

Migraine headaches affect up to 20 percent of the U.S. population. Women are up to four times more likely than men to get migraines, and as many as one third also experience an aura before or during a migraine.

Women Having More Heart Attacks. They’re More Likely To Survive

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Two new studies reveal that men still have a higher prevalence of heart attack than women.  Medical researchers report that the gap has narrowed as heart attacks among women have increased while they have decreased among men.

A study by researchers at the University of Southern California revealed that 2.5 percent of the men and 0.7 percent of the women reported a history of heart attacks in the prior surveys.  In the more recent study, they found 2.2 percent of men and 1 percent of women reported heart attacks. 

The narrowing of the male-female difference is easily explained, according to medical experts.  They point to the fact that risk factors are being better controlled in men than in women.  In men, levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol remained the same between the two surveys, while levels of “good” HDL cholesterol improved. Blood pressure levels improved, and fewer men smoked. 

Researchers noted that the improvements for women were marginal, with LDL cholesterol levels about the same. The only risk factor that improved in women was HDL cholesterol. Diabetes and obesity increased in both men and women, the study found.

Coffee May Slow Liver Disease

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

New research published in the November issue of the journal Hepatology reveals information on the first study to address the association between liver disease progression related to hepatitis C and coffee intake. 

Researchers studies nearly 800 patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) who were asked to report their intake of coffee, green tea and black tea. The patients were seen every three months during the nearly four-year study, and liver biopsies were taken at 18 months and 3.5 years to determine the progression of liver disease. 

Patients who drank three or more cups of coffee per day were 53 percent less likely to have liver disease progression than those who didn’t drink coffee. Green and black tea didn’t appear to have an effect, but tea consumption was low among the study participants, the researchers noted in the report

Given the large number of people affected by HCV, the researchers noted the importance of identifying modifiable risk factors associated with the progression of liver disease.  Although we cannot rule out a possible role for other factors that go along with drinking coffee, results from our study suggest that patients with high coffee intake had a lower risk of disease progression, the study concluded. 

HCV infects about 2.2 percent of the worldwide population, including more than 3 million Americans according to the Ameriocan Association for Critical Illness Insurance. The virus is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States and is responsible for 8,000 to 10,000 deaths in the country each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diabetes Drug May Also Help With Weight Loss

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Medical researchers reported that three-quarters of patients on high doses of the drug liraglutide lost 5% or more of their body weight.  The medication is used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.  It was approved earlier this year in Europe for the treatment of diabetes and is marketed under the brand name Victoza.

The injected drug stimulates the release of insulin when glucose levels become too high. It also helps curb appetite. In a new study, researchers in Denmark assigned obese people to one of four liraglutide doses, a placebo or the weight-loss drug orlistat. All the participants followed a diet of about 500 fewer calories than they needed to maintain their weight. They also increased their physical activity levels.

After 20 weeks, those on the medication liraglutide lost more weight than those on the placebo.  Participants on the highest dose of the medication lost 15 pounds, compared with 6 pounds on the placebo and 9 pounds on orlistat. Three-quarters of the subjects on the highest dosage of lost 5% or more of their body weight.

Researchers reported that the medication also reduced blood pressure. At the three highest dosages, reduced symptoms of pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels above normal but not yet high enough to qualify as diabetes.
The study was funded by Novo Nordisk, the Denmark-based company that makes Victoza.

Well-educated Women Hardest Hit By Breast Cancer

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

A study undertaken by Australia’s Monash University Medical School’s Women’s Health Program, found that well-educated women and those who live alone are emotionally the hardest hit.  Older women tended to similarly experience lower levels of overall well being compared to women of similar age in the community two years after their diagnosis. 

Nearly 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2010 according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry trade group, including almost 180,000 breast cancer cases in women.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. With improvements in detection and treatment of breast cancer, 87 per cent of women affected survive five years or more from the time of detection. 

The researchers found that two years post diagnosis women with breast cancer were not more likely to be depressed but were more likely to experience a lowered sense of control over their life, and lower general health, with lessened vitality being limited to older women. 

One researcher explained that the experience of having breast cancer is a personal one and is often accompanied by very complex emotions due to the fact that it strikes at a woman’s very sense of self, purpose and sexuality.

That women living alone were more likely to have a lower well being is a novel and important finding they noted suggesting that such women may benefit by targeted provision of social support.  More educated women are likely to be the best informed about their breast cancer and treatment, and their lower well-being results may reflect greater anxiety over decision making and their difficulty coping with a sense loss of control over their health. 

The study reported that women’s well being two years out from being treated for the disease was overall only modestly lower than for women in general.  The researchers noted that women who struggling with their emotions following breast cancer treatment may benefit from sharing their feelings with those close to them and discussing their concerns with health professionals or participating in breast cancer support group.

Link Between Depression And Chronic Kidney Disease

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center conducted the first study to examine the relationship. 

Medical experts have noted that patients in the early stages of chronic kidney disease are at increased risk for clinical depression according to the study in the current issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

Previous research has shown that depression rates in the general community are 2 percent to 4 percent.  Among diabetes patients, the rate is 11 percent.  Among congestive heart failure patients, 14 percent; and among coronary artery disease after heart attack patients, 16 percent.

Chronic kidney disease patient depression numbers may be higher due to the presence of the same simultaneously occurring conditions that resulted in progressive kidney disease, such as diabetes and atherosclerotic vascular disease, one of the researchers noted.  Patients such as diabetics, who are depressed, may develop progressive kidney disease because of non-adherence to medications and physicians’ advice.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, some 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease and millions more are at increased risk. If treatment does not begin early, the condition progresses to end-stage renal disease. At that point, a patient’s kidneys have failed to the point where dialysis is needed.  Dialysis involves filtering of toxic chemicals in the blood and removing fluid to help control blood pressure.

Stroke Treatment Allows A Third More Time

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Previously published findings indicated that tPA treatment led to better outcomes than placebo in stroke patients treated from three hours to 4.5 hours post-stroke.

In this new study, medical researchers at the University of Heidelberg, and colleagues conducted a secondary analysis of data using different endpoints. They focused on the efficacy and safety of tPA treatment and also looked for any factors or patient subgroups that might affect treatment outcome.

The study included patients who received alteplase from three hours to 4.5 hours after a stroke, and patients who received a placebo. The results showed a clear benefit from treatment with alteplase in all types of patients, including those younger and older than 65 years, men and women, and those with or without a history of diabetes, stroke or high blood pressure.

The study was released online in advance of publication in the December print issue of The Lancet.

Protein May Predict Heart Attack

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

According to a study published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology the C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation in the blood, may predict those at higher risk for heart attack and death but not stroke. 

The study involved over 2,200 people who were 40 years old or older and stroke-free.  All participants had their blood tested for CRP levels and were evaluated for stroke and heart attack risk factors. 

Participants were followed for an average of eight years. In that time, there were 198 strokes, 156 heart-related events and 586 deaths.  The group was comprised of 63 percent Hispanic, 20 percent non-Hispanic black and 15 percent non-Hispanic white residents. 

The study’s researchers found that people with CRP levels greater than three milligrams per liter were 70 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack and 55 percent more likely to die early compared to people who had levels of one milligram per liter or less of the protein in their blood. The protein was not associated with an increased risk of stroke once other risk factors were taken into account.

Prior studies have found the C-reactive protein to be a marker for predicting risk of heart disease.  CRP protein levels are associated with such medical and lifestyle risk factors as diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity.   A lead researcher noted that by living a healthy lifestyle, one may be able to lower these protein levels, thus lowering the risk of cardiac events and possibly early death.   The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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Breast Cancer May Be Developing Earlier

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

The findings presented at the 2009 Breast Cancer Symposium, held last week in San Francisco, could potentially affect how women are screened for breast cancer.   

Reserachers reported that women with a high genetic risk of developing breast cancer are being diagnosed sooner than similar women in the past.  They note this may suggest that tumors are being found earlier in the younger generation. 

About 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be connected to a genetic mutation that is also linked to ovarian cancer. Women with the mutations, known as BRCA1 or BRCA2, have an increased risk of developing breast tumors the scientists noted. Over a lifetime, 60 percent of these women will develop the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. By comparison, 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer. 

Women who have the genetic mutation are advised to be screened for breast cancer starting when they are 25.  The same they note is true for women whose mothers or aunts have the genetic mutation.  A Mammography and MRI are now recommended for these women.

In the new study, the researchers examined the medical records of women with the genetic mutation who took part in the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s clinical cancer genetics program.  The median age of diagnosis in the newer generation was 42, but 47 in the older women. The study authors report that this is worrisome because it could mean that the cancer is developing earlier. 

The findings the researchers noted are concerning and could have implications on the screening and genetic counseling of these women.

Smoking Bans Reduce Heart Attack Occurrence

Monday, October 19th, 2009

A new report from the Institute of Medicine confirms that there is sufficient evidence that breathing secondhand smoke boosts nonsmokers’ risk for heart problems.  The medical researchers added that indirect evidence indicating that even relatively brief exposures could lead to a heart attack is compelling. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, some 43 percent of nonsmoking children and 37 percent of nonsmoking adults are exposed to secondhand smoke in the United States. Experts report that roughly 126 million nonsmokers were still being exposed in 2000.

A 2006 report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office concluded that exposure to secondhand smoke causes heart disease and indicated that smoke-free policies are the most economical and effective way to reduce exposure. However, the effectiveness of smoking bans in reducing heart problems has continued to be a source of debate.

The Institute of Medicine researchers conducted a comprehensive review of published and unpublished data and testimony on the relationship between secondhand smoke and short-term and long-term heart problems. Eleven key studies that evaluated the effects of smoking bans on heart attack rates informed the committee’s conclusions about the positive effects of smoke-free policies. The studies calculated that reductions in the incidence of heart attacks range from 6 percent to 47 percent. 

The report was sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public.

Breast Tenderness Linked To Elevated Cancer Risk

Friday, October 16th, 2009

According to researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA they are not certain why breast tenderness indicates increased cancer risk among women on the combination therapy.

The researchers based their findings by examining data on more than 16,000 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative estrogen-plus- progestin clinical trial.   They speculated that it may be because the hormone therapy is causing breast-tissue cells to multiply more rapidly, which causes breast tenderness and at the same time indicates increased cancer risk.

The UCLA research, published in the Oct. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, compared the daily use of oral conjugated equine estrogens (0.625 mg) plus medroxyprogesterone acetate (2.5 mg), or CEE+MPA, with the daily use of a placebo pill. 

Of the participants in the trial, over 8,500 took estrogen plus progestin and just over 8,100 were given placebos. Participants underwent mammography and clinical breast exams at the start of the trial and annually thereafter. Self-reported breast tenderness was assessed at the beginning of the trial and one year later, and invasive breast cancer over the next 5.6 years was confirmed by medical record review. 

Women on the combination therapy who did not have breast tenderness at the trial’s inception were found to have a threefold greater risk of developing tenderness at the one-year mark, compared with participants who were assigned placebos (36.1 percent vs. 11.8 percent). Among the women who did report breast tenderness at the beginning, the risk at one-year was about 1.26 times that of their counterparts on placebos. 

Of the women who reported new-onset breast tenderness, 76.3 percent had been on the combination therapy.

Women in the combination therapy group who did not have breast tenderness at the outset but experienced new-onset tenderness at the first annual follow-up had a 48 percent higher risk of invasive breast cancer than their counterparts on combination therapy who did not have breast tenderness at the first-year follow-up.

Green Tea May Curb Some Cancers

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

According to a study by Japanese researchers noted that it may take at least  5 cups a day to reduce the risk.

Drinking green tea has been associated with lower risk of dying and heart disease deaths, medical experts have reported.  The just-released study notes that drinking green tea may have a favorable effect “for particular cancers.”

Researchers gathered information on the diets and green tea drinking habits of a large group of Japanese adults aged 40 to 79 years old.  They followed the group for development of blood and “lymph system” cancers. The lymph system is a major component of the body’s immune system.

Some 40,000 men and women who participated in the study had no previous history of cancer.  During 9 years of follow up, 157 blood, bone marrow, and lymph system cancers developed in the study group.

The researchers found that the overall risk for blood cancers was 42 percent lower among study participants who drank 5 or more, versus 1 or fewer, cups of green tea daily.  Drinking 5 or more cups of green tea daily was also associated with 48 percent lower risk for lymph system cancers.

These associations held up in analyses that allowed for age, gender, education, smoking status and history, alcohol use, and fish and soybean consumption.  The report appears in the American Journal of Epidemiology, September 15, 2009.

Aging Heart Can Be Prevented

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Old age is a major risk factor for heart failure, a condition when the heart is unable to pump enough blood around to supply the oxygen the body needs.  Some 5.7 million Americans have heart failure, and nearly 10 out of every 1,000 people over age 65 suffer heart failure every year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Japanese researchers at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto described how they managed to suppress a variety of the P13K gene in a group of elderly mice.  The gene regulates the lifespan of cells and plays a role in the aging of tissues. 

Prior studies found that the suppression of this gene extended the lifespan roundworm and kept the hearts of old fruit flies healthy.  The Japanese researchers reported that compared with another group of mice in which the gene was left intact, mice with the suppressed gene had improved cardiac function and fewer biological markers of aging. 

The medical researchers noted that mice are considered a good surrogate for studies of human diseases and conditions.  Their body plan, physiology and genome share many features with humans they note. The findings were published in the journal Circulation.

Skin Cancer Can Be Inherited

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

 Two new studies suggest that skin cancer can be inhereited.

One study found that having an identical twin with melanoma increased a person’s own risk of developing the disease much more than having a fraternal twin with this type of skin cancer.  The other study revealed that having a parent or sibling with one of several different types of non-melanoma skin cancer increased risk as well.

Having an identical twin with melanoma increased a person’s own risk of the disease nearly 10-fold, while melanoma associated with having a non-identical twin with the disease was roughly doubled. 

Prior studies have suggested melanoma and other skin cancers run in families.  But medical experts note it has been difficult to separate the difference between the influence of genes and those caused by other environmental conditions.  Some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. 

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia looked at twin pairs in which at least one sibling had been diagnosed with melanoma.  After looking at hundreds of candidates, the researchers found that in four of the 27 identical twin pairs, both had melanoma, while three of the 98 fraternal twin pairs had both been diagnosed with the deadly skin cancer. 

In the second study conducted at the University of California Los Angeles, researchers looked at the Swedish Family-Cancer Database to gauge the risk for several types of skin cancer among siblings and children of people diagnosed with these diseases.

They found that people with a sibling or parent diagnosed with some types of skin cancer were more likely to develop skin cancers of various types, not just the ones their relatives had. When tumors occurred at parts of the body more likely to have been exposed to the sun (such as the face, compared to the torso), the familial risk was stronger.  The findings were reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, September 2009.

New Way To Repair Heart Tissue

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Researchers announced they mimicked the way embryonic stem cells develop into heart muscle in a lab. Using mouse embryonic stem cells, the bioengineers used a novel mold of their own design to fashion a three-dimensional “patch” made up of heart muscle cells. 

The new tissue exhibited the two most important attributes of heart muscle cells -– the ability to contract and to conduct electrical impulses. The researchers grew the cells in an environment much like that found in natural tissues. 

The scientists reported that they were able to grow heart muscle cells that were able to contract with strength and carry electric impulses quickly.  One of the major challenges they still face is establishing a blood vessel supply to sustain the patch.

The researchers plan to test their model using non-embryonic stem cells.  Recent studies have demonstrated that some cells from human adults have the ability to be reprogrammed to become similar to embryonic stem cells.

Women With Breast Cancer Have Low Vitamin D Levels

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

The finding comes from scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center who recommend women should be given high doses of vitamin D.   The U.S. Institute of Medicine suggests that blood levels nearing 32 nanograms per milliliter are adequate.

Vitamin D, obtained from milk, fortified cereals and exposure to sunlight, is well known to play an essential role in cell growth, in boosting the body’s immune system and in strengthening bones. 

In a study of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, nearly 70 percent had low levels of vitamin D in their blood, according to a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Breast Cancer Symposium in San Francisco. The analysis showed women with late-stage disease and non-Caucasian women had even lower levels. 

Scientists analyzed vitamin D levels in each woman.  They found the average level was 27 nanograms per milliliter.  More than two-thirds of the women had vitamin deficiency. Weekly supplementation with high doses of vitamin D — 50,000 international units or more — improved the levels, according to the researchers. 

Previous studies have shown that nearly half of all men and women are deficient in the nutrient, with vitamin D levels below 32 nanograms per milliliter.   Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include muscle pain, low energy and fatigue, lowered immunity, symptoms of depression and sleep irregularities.

Some 692,000 American women are diagnosed annually with cancer in the United States according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade group.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting 26 percent of women diagnosed with the illness.

CI Sales Boot Camps Set For Texas, California

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

The nation’s first industry-supported sales boot camps will be held to educate insurance and financial professionals about critical illness insurance protection.   The focus will be on successfully selling insurance protection to individuals as well as in the worksite.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) is organizing the half-day sales conferences that will be held in California (Anaheim) and Texas (Dallas and Houston).

“Few agents are aware of critical illness insurance,” explains Jesse Slome, AACII’s executive director.  “The market is set to explode because everyone knows someone who has had a critical illness but they are not aware of CI protection.”  Critical illness insurance has gained widespread sales abroad in Canada, Britain and other countries.  The initial policies were first introduced in the U.S. in the mid 1990s.

The Southern California Critical Illness Sales Boot Camp will be help May 18, 2010 in Anaheim.  Information will be posted on the Association’s website.  For further information on exhibiting, contact the Association at (818) 597-3205 or via E-mail to: mailto:jslome@aacii.org. 

Shingles Raises Risk Of Stroke In Adults

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

According to a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association the risk was even greater when the infection involved the eyes.  Every 40 seconds someone in America has a stroke, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus; the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body. Usually the virus doesn’t cause problems, but it can reappear years later, causing shingles. 

Studies have shown that people with herpes zoster infection are more likely to develop stroke. The researchers noted that this is the first study to demonstrate the actual risk of stroke following herpes zoster infection. 

Medical experts at the Taipei Medical University Hospital studied some 8,000 patients 18 years and older who received shingles treatment between 1997 and 2001. These people were matched by age and gender with 23,280 adults who weren’t treated for shingles (controls). 

During the one-year follow-up, 133 shingles patients (about 1.7 percent) and 306 of the controls (about 1.3 percent) had strokes.   The researchers noted that people treated for a shingles infection were 31 percent more likely to have a stroke, compared with patients without a shingles infection. 

Patients with shingles infections that involved the skin around the eye and the eye itself were 4.28 times more likely to have a stroke than patients without shingles.  Shingles patients were 31 percent more likely to develop an ischemic stroke during the one-year follow-up than those without shingles. 

Ischemic strokes, which are caused by the blockage of an artery, account for 87 percent of the new or recurrent strokes that strike some 800,000 Americans yearly, Jesse Slome, executive director of the critical illness insurance trade group. 

Shingles usually starts as a rash on one side of the face or body. The rash starts as blisters that scab after three to five days and usually clears within two to four weeks. There is often pain, itching or tingling in the area where the rash develops.

Stem Cell Research Offers Colon Cancer Vaccine Hope

Friday, October 9th, 2009

October 10, 2009.  Human stem cells may provide a means of creating a vaccine against colon cancer and other types of cancers.

Some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer annually according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade orgganization.  “Some 10 percent of cases in both men and women are colon cancer,” notes Jesse Slome, executive director.

American and Chinese scientists reporting noted that cancer and stem cells share many molecular and biological features.   Dr. Zihai Li, of the University of Connecticut Stem Cell Institute, said in a news release that by immunizing the host with stem cells, the researchers were are able to ‘fool’ the immune system to believe that cancer cells are present and thus to initiate a tumor-combating immune program.  The research by Li and colleagues is the first to make the connection between human stem cells and colon cancer vaccination.

 

The study authors noted that, it has long been believed that immunizing people with embryonic materials may trigger an anti-tumor response by the immune system, but this theory has never advanced beyond animal research. The finding that human stem cells may help immunize against colon cancer is new and unexpected they added.  The study was published online Oct. 7 in the journal Stem Cells.

 

The researchers vaccinated mice with human embryonic stem cells and found that the mice developed a consistent immune response against colon cancer cells. The vaccinated mice showed a dramatic decline in tumor growth, compared with non-vaccinated mice.

Vigorous Exercise Associated With Reduced Breast Cancer Risk

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

October 8, 2009.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there’s good news for post-menopausal women.  Engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise may result in a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Nearly 700,000 American women are diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  About one quarter (26%) have breast cancer recognized as the most common cancer affecting U.S. women,

Researchers writing the open access journal BMC Cancer investigated the link between breast cancer and exercise.  According to the international team of researchers headed by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, this new study is one of the first prospective investigations to look at the importance of various intensities of exercise at different stages in an individual’s life. 

Over 110,000 post menopausal women were asked to rate their level of physical activity at ages 15-18, 19-29, 35-39, and in the past 10 years. It was found, over 6.6 years of follow up, that women who engaged in more than 7 hours per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise for the last ten years were 16% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who were inactive. 

No link was observed between breast cancer risk and physical activity in women who were active at a younger age.  The findings could help inform the mechanisms of the physical activity-breast cancer relationship.

New Test Assesses Individual Breast Cancer Risk

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

October 7, 2009.  Some 692,000 American women are diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  About one quarter (26%) have breast cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a new report notes that analyzing individual breast tissue for specific structural characteristics may more precisely determine a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer.

Reporting in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers report that the more acini a woman has and the larger her breast lobules, the higher the chance she will get breast cancer.  Acini, the medical experts note, refers to a cluster of cells that in this instance are the sacs that produce milk.

Currently, factors such as family history of breast cancer, number of pregnancies and age at first pregnancy are helpful in predicting how often breast cancer will arise in a larger population. But, reserachers note, these same tools are poor indicators of individual risk.

Other than family history and genetics, the best tool experts have to predict individual breast cancer risk is the Gail model, which takes into account age and number of previous biopsies, as well as family history and pregnancy history.   But, the authors of the report note that the Gail model is “only slightly better than chance alone.

Breast cancer originates in the breast lobules. The lobules are supposed to disappear as a woman ages, reducing her breast cancer risk, but this doesn’t always happen.  The researchers tissue from women with breast cancer (as well as earlier tissue samples taken before they developed the cancer).  The more acini per lobule a woman had and the larger the lobule, the higher her risk for developing breast cancer, the researchers found.   This new technique proved more accurate than the Gail model.

Dental Plaque May Raise Heart Risk in Black Men

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

October 6, 2009.  Neglecting oral hygene could place black males at increased risk for heart problems a new study reveals.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Dentistry studied women and men who were asked to neglect their oral hygiene as part of the study.  The researchers were seeking to determine whether there would be equal buildup of dental plaque caused a change in total white blood cell count, a known risk factor for heart problems.

They found that the accumulation of dental plaque accumulation in black males was associated with a significant increase in the activity of white blood cells called neutrophils, an important part of the immune system, the researchers noted.  An elevated white blood cell count is one of the major risks for heart attack, previous research has found.

Medical experts noted that when a bacterial infection occurs anywhere in the body, billions of neutrophils are produced in the bone marrow to defend against the intruder.  The researchers observed that with poor dental hygiene, white blood cell activity increased in black men but not black women or whites of either sex.  The findings they note suggest both gender and racial differences in the inflammatory response to dental plaque. 

None of the study participants had periodontal (gum) disease.  the study authors explained.  The study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

To obtain a no-obligation quote for critical illness insurance go to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance’s Consumer Information Center or click on this link.

Protect Yourself From Breast Cancer

Monday, October 5th, 2009

According to medical experts, since 1990, more and more women have been surviving breast cancer, largely because of early detection through mammography and improvements in treatment.

Despite the progress, some 1.4 million American women will be diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Breast cancer accounts for 26 percent of cancer in women and is still the second leading cause of cancer death exceeded only by lung cancer.

Mammograms can find breast cancers earlier, when they are easier to treat and the chances of survival are higher. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms and breast exams for women 40 and older.

Medical specialists also recommend eating a healthy diet to help control weight, since being overweight or obese may raise breast cancer risk.  Get regular physical activity. The American Cancer Society recommends 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week. Forty-five to 60 minutes a day is even better for reducing breast cancer risk.

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than 1 drink per day. Alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

And perhaps most important, be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts or have any other concerns. That conversation could save your life doctors note.

Drug Duo May Reduce Heart Attack And Strokes

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

A combination of cholesterol and blood pressure medicine can cut the incidence of attacks by up to 60 percent according to a new study.

According to Kaiser Permanente researchers, an inexpensive combination of one drug used to lower cholesterol and another medication used to lower blood pressure can reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes by as much as 60 percent.

“An American suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade organization. “Every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke, making these two of the most common critical illnesses afflicting individuals.”

Giving the drugs to nearly 70,000 people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes prevented an estimated 1,271 heart attacks and strokes in one year, Dr. James Dudl of Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute and his colleagues reported in the American Journal of Managed Care.

According to reports, the inspiration for the study resulted from the Archimedes Model, a sophisticated computer simulation of the human body that predicted that lowering blood pressure and cholesterol simultaneously in those at the highest risk for cardiovascular problems. The Model predicted that the combination could reduce the incidence by 71 percent. The report noted that no study had been performed to test the prediction.

The Kaiser team chose two generic drugs, lovastatin for cholesterol and lisinopril for blood pressure, and offered them to 170,000 members of their managed-care programs in Northern and Southern California who suffered from heart disease or diabetes.

Some of the patients were already taking one of the drugs, but none of those selected was taking both. About 75 percent were also taking daily aspirin, but the researchers did not include aspirin in the protocol because they had no way to monitor usage.

They began the program in 2004 with nearly 70,000 patients. The team monitored compliance for two years by checking whether and how often patients refilled their prescriptions, then monitored health effects in the third year through the patients’ health records.

Some 47,268 patients had what the team termed “low exposure” to the drugs, taking them less than half the time. Their risk of hospitalization for heart attack or stroke was lowered by 15 events per 1,000 person-years, and an estimated 726 events were prevented.

Asian Spice Could Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

An estimated six million women in the United States currently use hormone replacement therapy to treat the symptoms of menopause.

Taking a combined estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy has increased their risk of developing progestin-accelerated breast tumors note medical experts.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance nearly 700,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with cancer this year and over one-quarter will have breast cancer.

University of Missouri researchers have found that curcumin, a popular Indian spice derived from the turmeric root, could reduce the cancer risk for women after exposure to hormone replacement therapy.

The results of the study showed that women could potentially take curcumin to protect themselves from developing progestin-accelerated tumors, researchers noted.  In the study, researchers found that curcumin delayed the first appearance, decreased incidence and reduced multiplicity of progestin-accelerated tumors in an animal model.

Breast Cancer Rates Drop 2 Percent Annually

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Deaths from breast cancer have dropped more than two percent each year since 1990 according to a report, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010, released by the American Cancer Society. 

In 2009, some 192,370 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, accounting for more than one in four cancers diagnosed according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.

As a result of improved treatments and increased mammography screening rates, the breast cancer death rate continues to decrease in U.S. women.  The death rate from breast cancer peaked in 1989, and rates have dropped nearly 30 percent.  According to the researchers some 130,000 lives were saved. 

Medical experts note the survival rate could be increased further.  Among uninsured women, only 30 percent had a mammogram during the past two years, compared with about 70 percent of insured women.  If breast cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent, but if you catch it late the survival rate is only 24 percent.

Some 40,170 women will die from breast cancer this year.  Only lung cancer kills more women.  From 2002 to 2003, there was sharp decline in breast cancer rates, particularly for women aged 50 to 69. This reflects the drop in hormone replacement therapy by menopausal and postmenopausal women that began in 2002. Breast cancer rates have remained about the same since 2003.

From 1997 to 2006, breast cancer deaths dropped by 1.9 percent a year among white and Hispanic women, 1.6 percent a year among black women, and 0.6 percent annually among Asian-American and Pacific Islander women.  Black women still have a 40 percent higher death rate from breast cancer than white women,   Death rates have stayed the same for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Mini-Stroke Precedes 1 In 8 Strokes

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

For the study published in the Sept. 29 issue of Neurology, researchers found that, of the 16,409 people diagnosed with stroke over a four-year period, 2,032 — or 12.4 percent of them — had a TIA in the weeks before the stroke.

As a result, the medical experts concluded that a TIA does not have enough predictive power to warrant intensive preventive measures.

A TIA, which some refer to as a mini-stroke, occurs when a clot briefly blocks a brain artery. Symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of a stroke — sudden onset of weakness or numbness in an arm or leg, loss of vision or double vision, speech difficulty, dizziness, loss of balance — but they go away, often in a few minutes. Many people ignore the symptoms, but they are clear signs of possible trouble.

 

Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center. But he disagrees with the Canadian report’s  interpretation of the predictive importance of TIAs.  “They predict 10 to 15 percent of strokes,” Goldstein said. “This is not a small number, so it is an opportunity to prevent stroke that you don’t want to miss when it happens.”

Some medical experts noted that better predictive tools are available.  Many prefers carotid ultrasound, an inexpensive way to listen to blood flow in the main artery to the brain.

SOURCES: Daniel G. Hackam, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, neurology, clinical pharmacology and epidemiology/biostatistics, Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Centre, Robarts Research Institute, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada; Larry B. Goldstein, M.D., director, Duke Stroke Center, Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Sept. 29, 2009, Neurology

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.