Posts Tagged ‘medical news’

Healthier Lifestyle Could Prevent 350,000 Cancer Cases

Monday, February 7th, 2011

About 340,000 cancer cases in the United States could be prevented each year if more Americans ate a healthy diet, got regular exercise and limited their alcohol intake.

These types of lifestyle changes could lead to significant reductions in particularly common cancers such as breast (38 percent fewer cases per year), stomach (47 percent fewer) and colon (45 percent fewer) according to according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

Cancer is now one of the most significant critical illnesses according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “The chances of surving cancer today is good news for millions’ explains Jesse Slome, AACII’s executivce director.  “However, the emotional and financial toll are something most are not prepared for.”

Physical activity is recommended for people of all ages as a means to reduce risks for certain types of cancers and other non-communicable diseases.  

Experts recommend that in order to improve their health and prevent several diseases, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity throughout the week. This can be achieved by simply walking 30 minutes five times per week or by cycling to work daily.

Other healthy lifestyle habits that reduce the risk of cancer include quitting smoking, avoiding secondhand smoke, avoiding excessive sun exposure, and preventing cancer-causing infections.

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. Each year, 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 7.6 million die from the disease. But 30 percent to 40 percent of cancers can be prevented and one-third can be cured through early diagnosis and treatment, according to the WCRF.

Red Meat Eaters Face Higher Cancer Risk

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Those who eat red-meat may have a greater likelihood of developing certain cancers.

According to a new study, meat lovers face increased risk of cancer of the throat and stomach than people who limit their intake of steaks and hamburgers.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, about 21,000 cases of stomach cancer and 16,640 cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in 2010. 

Researchers found that among nearly 500,000 older U.S. adults followed for a decade, only a small number developed cancers of the esophagus or stomach. However, the risks were relatively greater among those who ate a lot of red meat, or certain compounds generated from cooking meat. 

Overall, study participants in the top 20 percent for red-meat intake were 79 percent more likely than those in the bottom 20 percent to develop esophageal squamous cell carcinoma — a cancer that arises in the lining of the upper part of the esophagus. 

The findings, reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, do not prove that red meat promotes the two cancers, the researchers emphasize. 

However, the scientists report that the results add to what has been an uncertain body of evidence on the link between red meat and esophageal and stomach cancers. 

A 2007 research review by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, both non-profit groups, concluded that red and processed meats were associated with a “limited suggestive increased risk” of esophageal cancer. 

Researchers followed nearly 500,000 adults ages 50 to 71 over roughly 10 years. At the outset, participants completed detailed questionnaires on their diets — including the methods they typically used for cooking meat, and the usual level of “doneness” they preferred — as well as other lifestyle factors.

Over the next decade, 215 study participants developed esophageal squamous cell carcinoma; that included 28 cases among the bottom 20 percent for red-meat intake, and 69 cases in the top 20 percent.

Another 454 men and women were diagnosed with gastric cardia cancer. There were 57 cases among participants with the lowest red-meat intake, and 113 in the group with the highest intake. 

When the researchers accounted for other factors — like age, weight, smoking and reported exercise habits — participants who ate the most red meat were 79 percent more likely than those with the lowest intake to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus.

Vitamin E May Add To Stroke Risk

Friday, November 5th, 2010

People taking vitamin E supplements may put themselves at a slightly increased risk for a hemorrhagic stroke.

According to a new report, an estimated 13 percent of the population takes vitamin E supplements.  Some studies have suggested that taking vitamin E can protect against heart disease, while others have found that, in high doses, it might increase the risk of death reports the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks medically-related news.

Vitamin E supplementation is not as safe as we may like to believe, noted one of the lead researchers with the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.  Specifically, their findings reveal it appears to carry an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

While the risk is low translating into one additional hemorrhage per 1,250 persons taking vitamin E, widespread and uncontrolled use of vitamin E should be cautioned against the scientist added.

There are basically two types of stroke: one where blood flow to the brain is blocked, called an ischemic stroke, and one where vessels rupture and bleed into the brain, called a hemorrhagic stroke. Of the two, hemorrhagic strokes are more rare, but more serious, the researchers noted.

The research team looked at nine trials that included 118,756 patients. Although none of the trials found an overall risk for stroke associated with vitamin E, there was a difference in the risk of the type of stroke.

The researchers found there were 223 hemorrhagic strokes among the 50,334 people taking vitamin E, compared with 183 hemorrhagic strokes among the 50,414 people taking a placebo.

However, for the risk of ischemic stroke, vitamin E was actually mildly protective, reducing the risk of ischemic stroke 10 percent, the researchers found.

Researchers Find Cause Of Cognitive Decline In Seniors

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Researchers have found that certain types of specializations on nerve cells called “spines” are depleted as a person ages, causing cognitive decline in the part of the brain that mediates the highest levels of learning. 

According to scientists at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, these spines receive an important class of synapses that are involved with the process of learning. The discovery provides the medical community with a new therapeutic target to help prevent this loss of function.

“Millions of aging seniors suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  These conditions account for the longest and most costly causes for long term health care.

When a person ages they lose certain spines the researchers noted.  We did not know which ones and how their loss impacted cognition.  The new study shows which spines are lost and what their impact is on brain function, giving us a foundation to research treatment interventions to protect against age-related cognitive decline.

The research team studied six young adult and nine older rhesus monkeys as they participated in a delayed response test. The monkeys watched as food was baited and hidden, and then a screen was put in front of them so they could no longer see the location of the hidden reward.

At the beginning of the test, the screen was raised immediately and the monkeys were able to find the food reward right away. The subject’s memory was tested by increasing the time that the reward was blocked from view to test if the monkeys retained where the reward was placed over longer intervals of time. Aged monkeys performed significantly worse on the tests than young monkeys, especially as the time intervals increased.

The researchers determined that the older monkeys lacked the thin spines but retained the larger spines, indicating that the loss of the thin spines may be responsible for the monkeys’ inability to learn and retain information during the test. For the first time, the researchers determined that the large spines were stable, which provides a synaptic basis for the observation that expertise and skills learned early in life are often maintained into old age. 

The study is published in the June 2 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

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Irregular Periods Tied To Heart Disease

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

According to a new study women who said they’d typically had irregular periods in the past were 28 percent more likely than women who reported regular monthly periods to develop heart disease.

The study, which followed more than 23,000 Dutch women for a decade, found that there was no increased risk seen among women who reported regularly long menstrual cycles (30 or more days between periods) or regularly short cycles (26 or fewer days between periods).

Despite their relatively higher risk, though, the large majority of women with irregular periods did not develop heart problems during the study period. Of the roughly 4,000 women who reported a history of irregular periods, 150 were diagnosed with coronary heart disease over the next 10 years.

Just over 17,000 study participants reported having either regular monthly periods (between 27 and 29 days) or regularly short cycles. Of those women, 530 developed coronary heart disease.

The women were 50 years old, on average, at the start of the study.

It’s known that women with a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have higher risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes than other women their age. In that disorder, the ovaries produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones and menstrual periods are irregular or completely absent.

Reserachers found no evidence that altered hormone levels explained the association between irregular periods and heart disease risk. Nor did factors such as body weight, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol account for the link.

In this study, women with irregular periods tended to have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those with monthly periods; however, the association was not statistically significant — meaning the finding may have occurred by chance.

Reported by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Stroke Risk Not Cut By Folic Acid Supplements

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Their findings are based on a review of clinical trials involving more than 39,000 participants.  Prior studies experts explain have linked low blood levels of a chemical lowered by folic acid to lower rates of stroke.  Stroke is one of the three major illnesses impacting older individuals according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national educational organization.

Researchers at the UCLA Stroke Center in Los Angeles identified 13 well-designed clinical trials of folic acid and stroke. Participants in all the trials had been diagnosed with conditions such as kidney and heart disease, as well as stroke.

There were 784 strokes among 20,415 participants taking folic acid, compared to 791 strokes reported among 18,590 people who did not take the supplements.

The analysis which was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, settles the question about whether folic acid supplementation leads to a major reduction in stroke.  “The answer is ‘no,’” the lead researcher reports.

Still, the researchers suggest more research into folic acid and stroke, particularly for men and those in the earliest stages of heart disease. Data from both of those groups suggested there might be an effect, although researchers could not determine whether or not that was due to chance.

Those potential benefits appeared in trials carried out in countries whose food supplies were not fortified with folic acid. In the U.S., the benefits of folic acid supplementation may have already been achieved through food fortification. In an effort to reduce the birth defect spina bifida, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required the addition of folic acid to all enriched cereal-grain foods starting in 1998.

Black Women Wait Longer For Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Researchers from the George Washington Cancer Institute looked at 581 breast cancer patients who were examined between 1997 and 2009 at seven hospitals and clinics in Washington, D.C. and found that insured black women and uninsured white women waited more than twice as long to be given a definitive breast cancer diagnosis than insured white women. 

Lack of health insurance slowed the speed of diagnosis among white patients, but having insurance did not lead to quicker diagnosis among insured black women.

Overall, black patients waited twice as long as white patients to begin treatment after breast cancer diagnosis. 

The findings highlight the need for improved outreach and other types of assistance for black patients.

Black women should be the focus of breast cancer screening outreach and follow-up because they experience greater delays in diagnosis and in treatment than white women, regardless of insurance status. 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Taking Blood Pressure Medication Cuts Dying Risk

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

A study of U.S. Medicaid patients found that the more closely a person adhered to his or her doctor’s recommendations for filling their blood pressure medication prescription, the lower his or her risk of stroke and death. 

Stroke is one of the primary illnesses costing millions of American families according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks medical research that impacts individuals.

Taking just one more pill as recommended each week (from a one-a-day regimen) cut stroke risk by 9 percent and death risk by 7 percent, researchers with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. 

The medical experts studied the medical records of about 49,000 Tennessee Medicaid patients for 1994 to 2000 to determine if blood pressure medication refill adherence or frequency of physician visits influenced risk of stroke or death. The researchers also investigated whether the type of blood pressure-lowering drugs a patient took was associated with stroke or risk of dying. 

Patients were taking two different types of blood pressure drug on average, although some were taking as many as six. Sixty percent of the patients filled their prescriptions less than 80 percent of the time, and were classified as non-adherent to their medication. 

During follow-up, which ranged from 3 to 7 years, 619 study participants had a stroke and 2,051 died.

Patients who were non-adherent were a half-percent more likely to die over a five-year period compared to adherent patients. Blood pressure drugs known as thiazide diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and beta blockers all cut death risk by 3 to 4 percent, while thiazide diuretics also cut stroke risk. 

Patients in the study averaged about five doctor office visits a year, although there was a wide range, with some not seeing a doctor at all and others logging nearly 90 visits a year.  Patients who visited the doctor more often were 1 percent less likely to die.

Men Less Likely To Die After Heart Attack

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

The study found that fewer women had their blood vessels injected with dye so that blockages are visible on an X-ray.   Cardiologists presenting the research at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Atlanta, said women should be treated with all recommended strategies, including invasive ones. 

Some earlier studies have also suggested that women have a higher risk of death after a heart attack than men, but it is unclear why. Biological differences might explain it, researchers said, but there were also substantial differences in the treatment regimens women received. 

The researchers analyzed data on more than 3,500 patients who were treated for heart attacks between January 2006 and December 2007. 

An estimated 785,000 American men and women will have a new coronary attack tgis year according to the non-profit American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data related to heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The women, who made up almost one-third of the patients, were nine years older than the men on average and had more health problems. 

The study found women received fewer effective treatments for heart attack. Women were almost twice as likely to die during the initial hospital stay and during the following month.

Stroke Incidence Rises Significantly Among Younger Americans

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

A new report presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference noted that the average age of stroke patients in 2005 was nearly three years younger than the average age of stroke patients in 1993-1994.

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, this represents a significant decrease as the percentage of people 20 to 45 having a stroke was up to 7.3 percent in 2005 from 4.5 percent in 1993-1994.  Stroke is one of the three most frequently incurred critical illness.  Cancer and heart disease are the other two impacting millions of Amerucans yearly.

Stroke has traditionally been considered a disease of old age.  Medical experts report that the findings are of great public health significance because of the potential for greater lifetime burden of disability among younger patients.

Researchers examined data from the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, which includes about 1.3 million people. They report that the trend is likely occurring throughout the United States because the higher prevalence of risk factors such as obesity and diabetes seen in the young here are also seen throughout the country.

The study recorded the age of people hospitalized for their first-ever stroke from the summer of 1993 to the summer of 1994, then compared it to calendar years 1999 and 2005.

In 1993-94, the average age of first stroke was 71.3 years old. The average age dropped to 70.9 in 1999 and was down to 68.4 by 2005.

Researchers also found racial differences in stroke incidence. For blacks, the incidence of strokes among those over age 85 dropped significantly by 2005. For whites, the incidence decreased significantly starting at age 65 by 2005.

Single Men Face 64% Greater Risk Of Stroke

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

According to a new Israeli study when age and known stroke risk factors such as obesity, smoking and diabetes were included in the analysis, single men had a 64 percent higher risk of fatal stroke than married men. 

The study, which tracked more than 10,000 civil servants and municipal workers from 1963 to 1997, found that 8.4 percent of the single men died of strokes, compared to 7.1 percent of the married men. 

According to the medical researchers, the 3.6 percent of men who reported dissatisfaction with marriage also had a 64 percent higher risk of a fatal stroke, compared to those who considered their marriages to be very successful. 

“Clearly stroke is one of the three major critical illness that threaten Americans,” notes Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  “It’s clear that a long, happy relationship is associated with a higher likelihood of taking the recommended measures against the known stroke risk factors.” 

Most of the men (86 percent) were immigrants, some of whom arrived before the state of Israel was created, one researcher noted.  A not inconsiderable proportion of these men had migrated from states of personal persecution and economic hardship and it is not known whether this had something to do with the finding.

Gas Cooking May Increase Cancer Risk

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Researchers in Norway have found that cooking with gas produces more potentially harmful fumes than electric cooking.    In a report published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, they also point out that professional chefs and cooks are more at risk than the average at-home cook. 

The risk to average at-home cookers is low, at least under Norwegian conditions, where most homes have a kitchen exhaust fan, reports the study’s author.   The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified cooking fumes from frying at high temperatures as “probably carcinogenic.” The fumes have been found to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heterocyclic amines, higher and mutated aldehydes, and fine and ultrafine particles. 

But a remaining question has been what role, if any, does the energy source — gas or electric– or type of fat used in frying play in producing the fumes. 

The researchers created a kitchen typical of those in Western European restaurants, measuring 62 square feet and containing both a gas stove and an electric stove with a canopy hood.

They fried 17 pieces of beefsteak, each weighing about a pound, in both margarine and soya bean oil for 15 minutes. The only PAH found was napthalene (now banned, but once found in mothballs), most notably when frying with margarine on a gas stove, according to the report. 

The highest levels of all compounds, including ultrafine particles that more easily penetrate the lungs, were produced while frying with gas. 

In their homes, people can make sure that they have a powerful exhaust fan, preferably one that is vented directly to the outside and does not have a charcoal filter, one of the researchers emphasized. 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Lower IQ Linked To Heart Disease Risk

Monday, February 15th, 2010

An estimated 80 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade group.  Nearly 800,000 Americans will suffer their first heart attack this year.

The findings do not prove that those with low IQs develop more heart disease.  The study’s authors point out that they only show a possible connection between intelligence level and heart problems. 

Still, one of the authors suggested the findings show the value of helping kids to be smarter. From a public health perspective, there is the possibility that IQ can be increased, with some mixed results from trials of early learning and school readiness programs. It may also be worthwhile for health promotion campaigns to be planned with consideration of individual cognition levels. 

The study, published in the February issue of the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, examined more than 1,100 Scottish men and women aged around 55 years in 1987, who were followed-up for two decades. 

Of the factors studied, cigarette smoking boosted the risk of heart disease the most, followed by low IQ. The researchers suggested that low IQ could boost the risk of heart disease due to its links to lack of healthy activities and related obesity and high blood pressure. Low IQ could also be a sign of illness or insufficient nutrition during a person’s lifetime.

Intensive Rectal Cancer Treatment Shows Promise

Monday, February 1st, 2010

The study included individuals with poor-risk rectal cancer.  That means they have a high likelihood of disease recurrence and poor survival odds despite receiving standard chemotherapy and optimum surgery.

Patients underwent 12 weeks of chemotherapy treatment with capecitabine and oxaliplatin, followed by chemoradiotherapy with capecitabine and surgery, followed by another 12 weeks of capecitabine treatment. 

After 36 months, 68 percent of the patients had no cancer progression, and the overall survival rate was 83 percent. After five years, the overall survival rate was 75 percent. 

Tumor downstaging was shown in most patients receiving neoadjuvant treatment with a low incidence of involved [circumferential resection margins (CRMs)] in the surgical specimens.  Before treatment, 90 percent of eligible patients had tumors with CRMs at risk or involved. 

The study was published online Jan. 25 in The Lancet Oncology.

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks information regarding the three primary critical illnesses which impact Americans, cancer, heart attack and stroke.

What To Watch For Early Spotting Of Ovarian Cancer

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

New research from the Cancer Research Center in Seattle shows that women with ovarian cancer are much more likely than healthy women to report symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and feeling full quickly after eating.  This is especially true if the symptoms are relatively new and persistent. 

While ovarian cancer is fairly rare, the symptoms are relatively common and possibly explained by less serious conditions.  Thus medical experts note that the ability to predict who has cancer based on symptoms alone is limited. 

Researchers found that for every 100 women in the general population whose symptoms matched those in a widely accepted ovarian cancer symptom index, only one would actually have early-stage ovarian cancer. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the disease strikes about one in 72 women.  Last year, 21,550 new cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed among U.S. women; 14,600 deaths were attributed to the disease.  

The study is published in the Jan. 28 online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute notes that finding ways to detect early-stage ovarian cancer is an ongoing challenge.

Ovarian cancer sometimes is found during a pelvic exam, but tumors are often too deep within the body for doctors to detect. In addition, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often missed or misdiagnosed as other less serious conditions, including menopause, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome or even depression. 

While nine of 10 women whose ovarian cancer is caught early are alive five years after diagnosis, only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are found at their early stage, according to the American Cancer Society. 

According to the study findings, women who were diagnosed with cancer were 10 times more likely to experience the symptoms than women without cancer.   Among patients with early-stage disease, about 27 percent experienced the symptoms for at least five months before diagnosis.

Early EKG Improves Survival Odds From Heart Attack

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The research found that these people often were able to bypass the emergency room and go directly to the cardiac catheterization laboratory for treatment with what’s commonly known as an angioplasty. 

Findings published in the January issue of Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions report those given an EKG by paramedics were treated 60 minutes, on average, after reaching the hospital, compared with 91 minutes for people who did not have an EKG before arriving at the hospital. 

Research has shown that rapid angioplasty treatment reduces the chances of dying within the next year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks informatioon on surving cancer, heart attacks or stroke, the three primary critical illnesses. 

For the study, the researchers examined medical records for cardiac patients taken to three hospitals in Southeast Michigan for five years to 2008.   Of those who did not have an EKG done before arrival, 2 percent died in the hospital. None of the patients who were given pre-arrival EKGs died in the hospital, the study reported.

Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Disease

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the projected reductions would be similar to the benefits accruing from a 50 percent drop in the smoking rate and a 5 percent decline in body mass index among obese adults. 

U.S. health agencies recommend that most adults limit their daily consumption of salt to less than 5.8 grams (2,300 milligrams [mg] of sodium), with 3.7 grams a day preferable. 

The American Heart Association urges the average American to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, but also notes that older people, blacks and people with high blood pressure need to go even lower — to under 1,500 mg per day. 

Despite these recommendations, the average daily intake of salt is on the increase.  In 2005-2006, the study authors stated, men in the United States took in an average of 10.4 grams of salt a day and women consumed 7.3 grams a day, far more than the suggested limit. 

Excess salt can cause or worsen high blood pressure and raises the risk for cardiovascular disease.  Only about one-quarter of the salt in the U.S. diet comes directly from the kitchen table salt shaker.

The researchers, from the University of California, San Francisco, fed previously published data on heart disease in U.S. adults aged 35 to 84 into a computer model.  The model then predicted that the reduction of 3 grams of salt a day would cut the number of new cases of coronary heart disease each year by 60,000 to 120,000; stroke by 32,000 to 66,000 cases; and heart attacks by 54,000 to 99,000. 

The annual number of deaths from any cause would be reduced by 44,000 to 92,000.  Limiting salt intake would be good for the fiscal diet as well, saving an estimated $10 billion to $24 billion in health care costs yearly, the paper found.

But if Americans cut even a mere 1 gram of salt from their meals and snacks every day, the effects would still be stunning, the authors stated: 20,000 to 40,000 fewer cases of coronary heart disease; 18,000 to 35,000 fewer heart attacks; 11,000 to 23,000 fewer strokes; and 15,000 to 32,000 fewer deaths. 

Reported by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national non-profit trade organization.

Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

According to medical researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, the more omega-3 that patients with coronary heart disease consumed, the slower their telomeres shrank. Telomeres are structures at the end of a chromosome that get shorter the more times a cell divides, making them a marker of biological age. 

The scientists finding, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, report that there is a significant impact of omega-3s on cell support and cell functioning.  They note that if you supplement with omega-3s or eat omega-3s, your cells stay healthier, your cells age less quickly. 

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, “Cardiologists have known for two decades that increased dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial for patients with coronary artery disease, particularly those who have had a prior heart attack. It reduces the risk of subsequent heart attacks and death. 

Researchers noted that the reasons for that benefit have not been well defined.  For the new study, the researchers followed about 600 patients in the San Francisco Bay Area with coronary artery disease. Blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and telomere length were measured at the beginning of the study and again about five years later. 

The medical experts reported that as blood levels of omega-3 went up, the rate at which telomeres shortened decreased.  To the extent that that is a marker of biological aging, the rate of biological aging went down. 

The findings don’t change current recommendations regarding omega-3 fatty acids or what people should be doing.   The American Heart Association recommends that those with coronary heart disease get about a gram a day of omega-3 fatty acids.

Erectile Dysfunction Predicts Heart Disease

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

According to a report published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology erectile dysfunction is among the list of known risk factors determined by the Framingham Heart Study.  Other risk factors include cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure. 

An estimated 80 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease.  Nearly 800,000 individuals will have a new coronary attack this year reports the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  The average age for heart attacks among men is 64. 

The study followed 1,057 men, aged 40 to 70, for an average of 12 years. Overall, 37 percent of the men with erectile dysfunction were in the high-risk category according to the Framingham standards, compared with 17 percent of men without erectile dysfunction. 

Once the link to cardiovascular problems was established, researchers started modeling to see if adding erectile dysfunction to the risk profile could reclassify some men.  Over the years, studies of a number of diagnostic techniques — including computerized tomography scanning and various molecular markers, such as inflammation-related C-reactive protein — have been shown not to improve on the Framingham profile’s predictive power. 

Medical experts note that other tests and measures are either costly, require blood tests or carry some risk, whereas erectile dysfunction can be determined by a simple question.  They advise doctors to ask a simple question in the office that will reveal a diagnosis very clearly.

It is also information that men should offer to their doctors which can lead to preventive therapy that can be lifesaving.

Drinking Green Tea Decreases Lung Cancer Risk

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Those who had at least a cup of day of green tea could see more than a 5-fold decrease in lung cancer risk. Still better were the results for former or current smokers, who saw a nearly 13-fold decrease in risk.

The theory is that smoking elicits an inhibitory effect in the well-known antioxidants in the green tea, which is why current and former smokers see a higher degree of protection. The findings were reported at the American Association for Cancer Research-International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Joint Conference on Molecular Origins of Lung Cancer.

However, researchers still note that green tea or not, stopping smoking is the best way to remove lung cancer risk. Lin said, “We suggest smokers or nonsmokers, both of them, should drink green tea to keep away from lung cancer. However, the cessation of smoking is the best way for cancer prevention.”

Lin’s group designed a hospital-based study that included questionnaires and genetic typing. They used 170 lung cancer patients and 340 healthy controls. The longer the green tea “habit,” the better, as well. Researchers saw a more than threefold reduction in risk for more than 10 years compared with none among both smokers and those who never smokers.

An earlier study that we reported on showed another possible antioxidant benefit of green tea. It showed that green tea may also help slow the growth of prostate cancer.

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Visit website for free information on this important protection.

More Proof That Statins Cut Stroke Risk

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Each year about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke and 185,000 have a recurrent stroke, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared with white adults. 

Researchers found that much of the benefit from statins such as Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor appears tied to the drugs’ lowering of blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.  Their review of data from clinical trials including almost 267,000 participants showed an overall 12 percent reduction in stroke incidence among those taking statins, with each 1 percent reduction in total cholesterol predicting a 0.8 percent relative risk reduction of stroke. 

Medical experts note that the report contains hints that the reduction of stroke risk is not entirely explained by the cholesterol-lowering effect of statins.  They noted that there are many possible explanations for the reduction in stroke risk observed in actively treated patients, and one of those is a reduction of inflammation with statin therapy. 

There was no debate about the value of statin therapy in reducing other cardiovascular risks in people with high LDL levels. The Italian analysis found more benefits from statins than from other cholesterol-lowering regimens. 

The most gratifying thing reported by this meta-analysis is that statins among all lipid-lowering therapies appear to be the most effective, noted an expert from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The use of statin therapy is particularly important among people who have had a stroke. They are being used more aggressively in people who have had a stroke in an attempt to prevent another. 

At least one trial has shown a significant reduction in second strokes among people taking statins.  The report, published in the Jan. 19 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was led by physicians at G. d’Annunzio University in Chieti, Italy.

Weekend Stroke Victims Receive More Aggressive Treatment

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

January 13, 2010.  Stroke victims brought to a hospital on a weekend are more likely to receive the powerful clot-dissolving drug tPA than those who arrive on a weekday.

Researchers conducted the study following a report showing that aggressive treatment for heart attacks was more likely to be given during the week rather than the weekend.

The heart attack study sent researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina.Kazley searching through the records of almost 79,000 people admitted to Virginia hospitals between 1998 and 2006 with ischemic strokes, in which a clot blocks a brain blood vessel.

The research team found that relatively few patients received tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which works quickly to break up clots. In fact, only 543 of the 58,378 people admitted on weekdays got the drug, compared to 229 of the 20,279 admitted on weekends. The numbers show that the weekend stroke victims were 20 percent more likely to be given tPA than weekday arrivals.

The findings published in the January issue of the Archives of Neurology explained that because there are fewer elective procedures on weekends, patients have better access to expertise and better access to diagnostic technology such as CT [computed tomography] scanners. They are also more likely to present at an earlier time, since they are less likely to have to battle traffic to get to the hospital.

Despite the higher level of tPA treatment on weekends, no statistical significance in the death rates of the two groups was seen in the study. Only about one percent of patients who got the treatment, and at those low numbers it is very difficult to find a significant difference.

“It is vital for all adults to understand the symptoms of a stroke vital to getting treatment quickly,” explains jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness insurance.   Stroke symptoms can include a sudden weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, vision trouble, dizziness and headache.

Excess Protein in Urine Is Indicator of Heart Disease Risk Among Whites

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine note that proteinuria, a long accepted indicator of heart disease risk, has far less impact on blacks than it does on whites.   Medical experts believe that the more protein in a patient’s urine, the greater the risk for heart disease and stroke. 

The study indicates that excess protein in the urine — a common finding with progressive kidney disease in individuals with diabetes — is strongly associated with calcium deposition in the major arteries in white patients, but not in black patients.  Therefore, they conclude, that proteinuria appears to be associated with an increased risk of heart attack in the white ethnic group. There may be biologic factors predisposing whites to heart disease or protecting blacks from developing it, the scientists note.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data related to cancer, heart disease and stroke, in the general community, blacks have more heart disease risk factors than whites, including higher blood pressures and LDL (known as “bad”) cholesterol levels, and higher blood sugars in patients with diabetes. As such, they face a higher risk for heart attack than whites. 

Several large studies have shown that despite having more risk factors for hardening of the arteries, black men had less calcium in the heart arteries — one-eighth the amount — compared to white men. In addition, given access to equivalent healthcare as whites, blacks with diabetes face only half the risk of a heart attack, indicating that blacks appear to somehow be protected from the cardiovascular effects of these risk factors. 

The researchers evaluated whether excess protein excretion in the urine — a major heart disease risk factor in whites — was also a risk factor for heart and vascular disease in blacks. The level of urine protein was examined in over 800 white participants and nearly 400 black participants, all with diabetes. Participants were also tested for atherosclerosis, based on the buildup of calcium in their major arteries. 

The research team found that in the white population, greater amounts of protein in the urine were directly associated with higher levels of atherosclerosis. This association, however, was not seen in the black study population. 

The study appears in the January issue of Diabetes Care.

Pediatric Cancer Survivors Face Higher Heart Disease Risk

Monday, January 11th, 2010

These risk factors for heart disease are being found at an earlier age than in the general population, according to research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

An estimated 80 million Americans have cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance 2010 Fact Book.  Someone suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds the report notes.

Researchers at Emory University, extracted data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, which included 8,599 cancer survivors and 2,936 of their siblings.  In data previously published from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, pediatric cancer survivors were found to be at almost 10-fold greater risk for cardiovascular disease than their non-survivor counterparts. 

In this study scientists identified whether the predisposing risk factors for cardiovascular disease — obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemea and diabetes — were present at higher rates compared to siblings. If the risk factors could be recognized and treated early it is hoped some of the long-term cardiac side effects could be averted. 

They found that cancer survivors were nearly twice as likely as their siblings to take medication for high blood pressure, 60 percent more likely to take cholesterol medication and 70 percent more likely to have diabetes. 

Radiation treatment may be playing a role in the development of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  Total body irradiation was linked with a 5.5-fold increased risk and chest and abdomen radiation a 2.2-fold increased risk of cardiovascular risk factor clustering, which when present is associated with subsequent cardiovascular disease. 

Researchers examined the presence of cardiovascular risk factors and found that physical inactivity among cancer survivors was linked with a 70 percent increased risk for cardiovascular risk factor clustering. Older age at the time of the study was linked to an 8.2-fold increased risk for cardiovascular risk factor clustering among survivors compared with children who had never had cancer.

Lower Vitamin D Levels in Blacks May Up Heart Risks

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Researchers at the University of Rochester explain that darker skin reduces production of vitamin D, which is made during exposure to sunlight.  They note that several studies have associated low levels of vitamin D with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Medical experts noted that people with dark skin who live at higher latitudes, where the intensity of sunlight is less, may be at greater risk.

As estimated 80 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Nearly 800,000 have a new coronary attack each year.

Doctors at the University of California, Davis examined data on more than 15,000 U.S. adults in a national nutritional study. They found that overall, the 25 percent of adults with the lowest levels of vitamin D had a 40 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death. When they singled out blacks, the report found a 38 percent higher incidence of such deaths than among whites. Most of that difference was related to lower levels of vitamin D. 

A second issue concerns the proper level of intake of the vitamin.  The experts noted that a consensus is evolving that the current levels recommended are too low, and those with darker skin need higher levels.

The current recommendation is a daily intake of 400 International Units (IUs) for most adults, and 600 IU for those over 70.

Study Reveals Risk Of Having A Critical Illness Before Age 65

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

 A 25-year-old male non-smoker has a 24 percent chance of having a critical illness (cancer, heart attack or stroke) prior to turning age 65.   The same-aged male who smokes has a 49 percent chance according to the first National Critical Illness Risk Assessment Study published by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

“Cancer, heart attacks and strokes happen at all ages and most people are not prepared for either the emotional or financial cost,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the industry trade organization.  “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. bankruptcies are the result of medical expenses and 78 percent of those filing for bankruptcy had health insurance when they were first diagnosed.”

The national critical illness risk assessment prepared by Milliman, Inc., a leading actuarial firm, reveals the likelihood of incurring a critical illness for men and women at different ages up to age 55.  According to the study’s findings, women face less risk than men at all ages.  Non-smoking women are at significantly less risk than their male smoking counterparts.  While nearly half (49 percent) of 35-year-old male tobacco users will incur a critical illness before age 65, only 35 percent of female smokers will according to the report. 

REPORTERS:  If you would like the complete finding of the study with breakdown by ages, please call the Association at (818) 597-3205 or E-mail Jesse Slome at mailto:jslome @ aaltci.org

The study reveals that 17 percent of non-smoking men and 36 percent of male smokers who reach the age of 55 without having a critical illness will be diagnosed with one prior to turning age 65.  For women who reach age 55, some 12 percent of non-smokers and 23 percent of smokers will face a critical illness before reaching age 65.

INSURANCE PROFESSIONALS:  The complete findings are available to Association members.  Click here for membership information.

“Surviving a critical illness is likely today as a result of advances in emergency treatment and medical care,” states Slome.  “Survival comes with a high cost even for those with health insurance which often is accompanied by co-pays, high deductibles and exclusions for various new treatments.”   Michelle Dyke, actuary with Milliman, adds, “there are substantial non-medical expenses associated with battling a critical illness including travel expenses to see specialists and lost wages that health insurance does not cover.”

Critical illness insurance pays a tax-free, lump-sum cash benefit generally upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness.  The first policies became available in the United States in 1996 and today some 600,000 individuals have such protection.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals.  The organization is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA.

Increased Diabetes Risk For Those Who Quit Smoking

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Researchers at Johns Hopkins note that smoking is a well-known risk factor for type 2 diabetes.  New research points out that elevated diabetes risk is related to the extra pounds people typically put on after renouncing cigarettes. 

Type 2 diabetes is a common disease that interferes with the body’s ability to properly use sugar, and to regulate and properly use insulin, a substance produced by the pancreas that normally lowers blood sugar during and after eating.

“No one should use the study’s results as an excuse to keep smoking, which is also a risk factor for lung disease, heart disease, strokes and many types of cancer,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

The study which was published in the January 5 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine reported that people who quit smoking have a 70 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first six years without cigarettes as compared to people who never smoked. 

The risks were highest in the first three years after quitting and returned to normal after 10 years. Among those who continued smoking over that period, the risk was lower, but the chance of developing diabetes was still 30 percent higher compared with those who never smoked. 

The study comprised nearly 11,000 middle-aged adults who did not yet have diabetes from 1987 to 1989. The patients were followed for up to 17 years and data about diabetes status, glucose levels, weight and more were collected at regular intervals. 

According to the study, those who smoked the most and those who gained the most weight had the highest likelihood for developing diabetes after they quit. On average, over the first three years of the study, quitters gained about 8.4 pounds and saw their waist circumferences grow by approximately 1.25 inches.

Breast-Feeding May Help A Woman’s Heart

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Researchers found that those women who had not breast-fed were much more likely to have calcification or plaque in their coronary artery, aorta and carotid artery. When calcifications and plaque build up in the arteries, blood flow can be reduced, and, if enough of these deposits build up, they can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care had previously looked at breast-feeding’s effect on older women.  Their study found that post-menopausal women who had breast-fed were less likely to report having heart disease.  Another study on breast-feeding from a different research group recently reported in the journal Diabetes that women who breast-fed were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a clustering of risk factors that indicate an increased risk for heart disease.

The current study included women who had at least one baby. At the time of the study, they were 45 to 58 years old, had never been diagnosed with heart disease and had no known symptoms of heart disease.

The researchers found that 32 percent of the women who had not breast-fed had coronary artery calcification, compared with 17 percent of the breast-feeding moms. The researchers found calcifications in 39 percent of the aortas of women who hadn’t breast-fed, versus 17 percent of the women who had. They also found plaque deposits in the carotid artery of 18 percent of the women who had not breast-fed and 10 percent of those who had.

After adjusting the data for socioeconomic status, family history and lifestyle factors, heart disease risk factors and body mass, the researchers concluded that women who had not breast-fed were five times more likely to have aortic calcifications than women who consistently breast-fed. 

Report prepared by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Check out the website for costs for critical illness insurance coverage.

Protein Could Yield Treatments For Liver Cancer

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Research from United States and Japanese scientists explain that learning more about how TAK1 works could improve understanding about the development of liver disease and cancer, and lead to new therapies.

The researchers noted these findings in their report, released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

TAK1 appears to be a master regulator of liver function according to the dean of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine statement issued in a university news release. 

It was already known that TAK1 activates two proteins that play a role in immunity, inflammation, programmed cell death and cancer. But it wasn’t clear whether TAK1 promotes or prevents liver cancer.

To investigate this question, scientists created mice with liver cells that lacked TAK1 and found that the mice had a high rate of liver cell death. To compensate, the rodents’ livers produced too many cells, resulting in liver damage that led to liver cancer, the researchers found. 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness insurance.  Visit our website for more information on critical illnesses and a form of insurance that pays a tax-free lump sum payment upon diagnosis of cancer.

Heart Disease To Cost $503 Billion In 2010

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The record amount represents an increase of nearly 6 percent, and many cases could have been prevented, according to the American Heart Association report. 

The figure includes both health care costs and lost productivity due to death and disease, according to an update published online in the journal Circulation.  An estimated 80 million Americans – about one in three – have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Obesity and other risk factors, like too little exercise and poor diet, are fueling the expected increase in health care costs associated with heart disease and stroke.  Current statistical data shows Americans to be on average overweight, physically inactive and eating a diet that is too high in calories, sodium, fat and sugar according to the head of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee. 

According to the heart association, 59 percent of adults who responded to a 2008 national survey described themselves as physically inactive.  The report also says fewer than half of people with heart disease symptoms are receiving cholesterol-lowering drugs, like statins. 

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States and in most industrialized countries. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes accounted for 32 percent of all deaths globally in 2005. 

The heart association said the number of inpatient cardiovascular operations and procedures jumped 33 percent from 1996 to 2006, from 5.4 million to 7.2 million.

Calorie Intake Linked To Longevity And Cancer Development

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

According to findings reported by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham,  reducing calorie-intake can benefit longevity and help prevent diseases like cancer that have been linked to aging.

The researchers conducted tests by growing both healthy human-lung cells and precancerous human-lung cells in laboratory flasks. The flasks were provided either normal levels of glucose or significantly reduced amounts of the sugar compound, and the cells then were allowed to grow for a period of weeks.   Restricted glucose levels led the healthy cells to grow longer than is typical and caused the precancerous cells to die off in large numbers.

Every year some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer.  It ranks as one of the leading factors for the need for costly long-term care according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance among aging seniors.

Two key genes were affected in the cellular response to decreased glucose consumption. The first gene, telomerase, encodes an important enzyme that allows cells to divide indefinitely. The second gene, p16, encodes a well known anti-cancer protein.

Healthy cells saw their telomerase rise and p16 decrease, which would explain the boost in healthy cell growth, the researchers explained.  The research into the links between calorie intake, aging and the onset of diseases related to aging is thought to be a first of its kind given that it used the unique approach of testing human cells versus laboratory animals.

The group’s study titled “Glucose Restriction Can Extend Normal Cell Lifespan and Impair Precancerous Cell Growth Through Epigenetic Control of hTERT and p16 Expression” has been published in the online edition of The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, or FASEB Journal.

Scientists Crack Genetic Codes of Two Cancers

Friday, December 18th, 2009

The complete genetic codes of two human cancers have been mapped for the first time. It has been described as the most significant milestone in cancer research in more than a decade.  The findings could herald a medical revolution in which every tumor can be targeted with personalized therapy. 

The research was led by the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, England.  Medical experts note that the findings could launch a medical revolution in which every tumor can be targeted with personalised therapy. 

Mapping of cancer code is a huge breakthrough and may soon herald blood tests that could detect tumors far earlier than currently possible explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness insurance.  There are 1.4 million cancer cases in the U.S. and well over 500,000 cancer-caused deaths occur annually. 

Scientists were examining which genes go wrong in different types of cancer.  The DNA code for the skin cancer called melanoma reportedly has more than 30,000 errors, mostly caused by too much exposure to the sun. The lung cancer DNA had more than 23,000 errors, most triggered by exposure to cigarette smoke.

The exhaustive genetic maps, which catalogue every DNA mutation found in two patients’ tumours, will transform treatment of the disease. Scientists predict that by about 2020 all cancer patients could have their tumours analysed to find the genetic defects that drive them. This information would then be used to select the treatments most likely to work. 

Physicians and researchers noted that insights will also lead to the development of powerful drugs to target DNA errors that cause cancer and highlight ways in which the disease can be prevented. Cancers would be diagnosed and treated according to their genetic profiles rather than their position in the body.

Radiation From CT Scans May Cause Cancer Risk

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Research findings reveal that Americans who are overexposed to radiation from diagnostic tests, especially from a specialized kind of X-ray called a computed tomography, or CT, scan have an increased liability for incurring cancer.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, about 70 million CT scans were done on Americans in 2007, up from 3 million in 1980.  A chest CT scan exposes the patient to more than 100 times the radiation dose of a chest X-ray.

Medical researchers at the National Cancer Institute developed a computer model to estimate the impact of scans.  They estimated the scans done in 2007 will cause 29,000 cancers. A third of the projected cancers will occur in people who were ages 35 to 54 when they got their CT, two-thirds will occur in women and 15 percent will arise from scans done in children or teens. 

The researchers estimated there will be an extra 2,000 excess breast cancers just from CT scans done in 2007.  They found radiation dosage varied widely between different types of CT studies, from a median or midpoint of 2 millisieverts for a routine head CT scan to 31 millisieverts for a scan of the abdomen and pelvis, which often involves taking multiple images of the same organ. 

By comparison, the average American is exposed to about 3 millisieverts of radiation a year from ground radon or flying in an airplane — a level not considered a risk to health.

Many Stroke Survivors Don’t Take Lifesaving Meds

Monday, December 14th, 2009

According to research, about 19 percent of patients didn’t take prescribed blood thinners.  Each year about 600,000 Americans experience their first stroke and 185,000 have a recurrent stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Over 143,579 people die each year from stroke in the United States and stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.   Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55 the Association notes.

Ischemic stroke is caused by blocked blood flow in the brain. Several types of medications can reduce the risk of another ischemic stroke. These include blood thinners – also known as antithrombotic medications, of which aspirin is the most common.

This seven-year study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, examined 4,168 ischemic stroke survivors.  Researchers found that about 19 percent of patients didn’t take blood thinners. Men, older patients and non-Hispanic patients were more likely to take blood thinners.

 

The study will be published in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Bone Drugs May Cut Risk Of Breast Cancer

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Reserachers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute examined studies to determine whether bisphosphonates may actually prevent disease recurrence through a variety of mechanisms.  Bisphosphonates are already used to treat complications that result from breast cancer spreading to the bones. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance statistics, nearly 700,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with cancer each year.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. 

One study looked at more than 150,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the U.S. government-led Women’s Health Initiative.  The women taking bisphosphonates, namely Fosamax (alendronate), had a 32 percent reduction in their rate of invasive breast cancer compared to women who were not taking one of these drugs. 

When conducting the study, University of California, Los Angeles, researchers were able to control for the fact that women with low bone mineral density are already at lower risk for breast cancer.  

In another study, Israeli researchers found that postmenopausal women taking bisphosphonates for one or more years had a 29 percent reduction in their risk of breast cancer.  And the tumors that did appear tended to be estrogen receptor-positive and thus easier to treat than estrogen receptor-negative tumors. 

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, concluded that zoledronic acid, another bisphosphonate, is safe and effective for use by postmenopausal women with breast cancer who are being treated with aromatase inhibitors. Bone mineral density increased 6.2 percent in women taking zoledronic acid, compared with 2.4 percent in the control group.

Genetic Test Could Help Spot Breast Cancer

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

New research suggests that within the cell nucleus, chromosomes and individual genes occupy specific locations relative to one another. The organization of these bodies can change for many reasons, but one of them is cancer. 

Researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute have honed in on several genes that have a different physical position inside the nucleus in invasive breast cancer cells than in normal breast tissue cells. A change in the position of one gene in particular, HES5, predicted invasive breast cancer nearly all of the time, they found.

The discovery suggests that looking at three-dimensional properties of the cell could one day be used as a new method of diagnosing breast cancer.  Some 1.4 million new cancer cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women.

The study published online in the Journal of Cell Biology reports that  while breast tumors are typically detected by a mammogram, which is basically an X-ray of the breast.  The other way of detection occurs when a woman or her doctor feels a lump. To determine if the mass is cancerous or benign, a doctor would order a biopsy, which involves the removal of a small tissue sample that is then analyzed by a pathologist. 

Using 11 normal human breast tissue samples and 14 invasive cancer tissue samples, the researchers identified eight genes that were frequently repositioned in cancer specimens. They found that the repositioning of the gene HES5 indicated breast cancer in nearly all samples. 

Previous research had implicated HES5 with cancer, according to background information in the study. In the new study, the researchers also found that changes in the location of several other combinations of two or three genes also indicated cancer with high accuracy.

Hops Compound May Prevent Prostate Cancer

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Medical researchers at the German Cancer Research Center, in Heidelberg, Germany have presented findings at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference. 

The natural compound, xanthohumol, is derived from hops and belongs to the group of flavonoids that are found in many plants, fruit, vegetables and spices. Studies to date have shown that xanthohumol blocks the action of estrogen by binding to its receptor, which may lead to prevention of breast cancer. 

The researchers examined whether xanthohumol might not only block the effects of the male hormone androgen.  Researchers stimulated hormone-dependent prostate cancer cells with testosterone, which led to a massive secretion of prostate specific antigen (PSA). PSA is used for screening and early detection of prostate cancer in men. Cells were then treated with testosterone and xanthohumol and the effects were examined.

They found that xanthohumol inhibited its potential to stimulate the secretion of PSA and other hormone-dependent effects.  Molecular modeling results showed that xanthohumol directly binds to the androgen receptor structure. 

The researchers suggest that this compound may have beneficial effects in animals.  When they measured the anti-androgenic potential of xanthohumol in rats, they found that although xanthohumol was not able to prevent an increase in prostate weight after testosterone treatment, it could reduce testosterone-increased seminal vesicle weight. 

Data posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance that tracks data and research on the three primary critical illnesses, cancer, heart attack and stroke.

Cancer Cases And Deaths Continue to Drop

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

According to the findings of a new report, new cancer cases and deaths from cancer have declined significantly for both men and women and for most racial and ethnic populations.

These decreases were largely due to decreased incidence and death from lung, prostate and colon cancer among men and a drop in two of the three leading cancers in women which include breast and colon cancers. 

Data from the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries revealed that new diagnoses for all types of cancer in the United States declined almost 1 percent per year from 1999 to 2006 and cancer deaths dropped 1.6 percent per year from 2001 to 2006. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data for the three primary illnesses afflicting Americans (cancer, heart attack and stroke) there were nearly 1.5 million people with new cancer diagnoses in 2009. 

Cancer rates are still higher for men than for women, but men had the biggest declines in new cases and death, the study revealed.  This year’s report focused on trends in colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer, the third most-diagnosed cancer in both men and women, is also the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. 

Overall, colon cancer rates are declining, but the decline is mostly among those over 65. Increasing numbers of cases in men and women under 50 is worrisome, the report noted.  Among both men and women, there were major declines in colorectal cancer cases from 1985 to 1995, minor increases from 1995 to 1998, and significant declines from 1998 to 2006. Since 1984, death rates also dropped, with accelerated rates of decline since 2002 for men and since 2001 for women.

In fact, from 1975 to 2000, cases of colorectal cancer fell 22 percent; 50 percent of which was most likely due to changes in lifestyle, and 50 percent to more people being screened. 

In addition, deaths from colorectal cancer fell 26 percent during the same time; 9 percent of the drop came from lifestyle changes, 14 percent came from screening and 3 percent came from improved treatment, according to the report. 

Going forward, if there were no changes in lifestyle, screening or treatment, there would be a 17 percent drop in colorectal cancer deaths from 2000 to 2020. However, if current trends remain the same, there will be a 36 percent drop in colorectal cancer deaths. 

If more Americans adopted more healthy lifestyles, such as quitting smoking, and were screened for colon cancer and had access to optimal treatment (such as more effective chemotherapy), deaths from colon cancer could be reduced by 50 percent by 2020, the report predicted.

Drinking Coffee Reduces Risk of Advanced Prostate Cancer

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference revealed that coffee has effects on insulin and glucose metabolism as well as sex hormone levels, all of which play a role in prostate cancer. 

Medical researchers report that that men who drank the most coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer than men who did not drink any coffee. This is the first study of its kind to look at both overall risk of prostate cancer and risk of localized, advanced and lethal disease. 

Some 745,000 men are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance that tracks critical illness data for cancers, heart attack and stroke.  Approximately 300,000 men die each year of cancer. 

The researchers are unsure which components of the beverage are most important, as coffee contains many biologically active compounds like antioxidants and minerals.  They study examined both regular and decaffeinated coffee intake of nearly 50,000 men every four years from 1986 to 2006. 

Nearly 5,000 men developed prostate cancer over that time. The researchers examined the association between coffee consumption and levels of circulating hormones in blood samples collected from a subset of men in the cohort.  The results do suggest there is no reason to stop drinking coffee out of any concern about prostate cancer, the report adds.

Losing Weight Proves Effective Cure for Sleep Apnea

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Medical researchers reported that obese men with severe sleep apnea when the study began benefited most from weight loss.   According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, sleep apnea involves the temporary cessation of breathing during sleep and is a relatively common but under-diagnosed disease. Five or more such events per hour is considered a disease. 

Untreated, sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of traffic accidents, as well as stroke and heart disease. Moderate and severe sleep apnea also increases the risk of premature death. It has long been known that people with overweight or obesity are more likely to develop the disease, and that men are more affected than women. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Each episode lasts for at least 10 seconds and is caused by the collapse of the upper airways during sleep.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers examined if weight-loss can help to cure moderate and severe sleep apnea. 

The study included obese men between ages 30 and 65. The participants had moderate to severe sleep apnea.  The participants were randomly assigned to two groups, one of which underwent an intense weight-loss program, the other served as a control group, for a period of nine weeks. 

The results of the study show that the weight loss group lost roughly 40 pounds on average after nine weeks and more than halved the number of apnea events. None of the treated patients had severe sleep apnea, half had only mild sleep apnea and one in six could be declared healthy. The researchers also noted that the effect of the weight loss program was greatest in patients with severe sleep apnea.

Breast-Feeding Can Help Mom’s Heart Decades Later

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California reported that among women who didn’t have pregnancy-related diabetes, breast-feeding between one and five months lowered the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 39 percent.  Breast-feeding for the same duration lowered the risk of the syndrome by 44 percent in women with gestational diabetes. 

The longer a woman breast-fed, the better it was for her later health the medical researchers noted. Breast-feeding for longer than nine months dropped the risk of metabolic syndrome by 86 percent in women with gestational diabetes. Women without gestational diabetes saw a 56 percent reduction in their risk of metabolic syndrome, according to the study. 

The benefits of breast-feeding for infants are well-documented and include lower risk of ear infections, stomach problems, respiratory illnesses, asthma, skin allergies, diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For women, breast-feeding appears to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The researchers recruited some 1,400 women into a prospective, multi-center study designed to assess what factors increase the risk of coronary artery disease. At the start of the study in 1985, none of the women had been pregnant before, and none had metabolic syndrome. 

The women were examined at the start of the study, and again at 7, 10, 15 and 20 years after the start of the study.   While participating in the study, 704 of the women had babies. During pregnancy, 84 women developed gestational diabetes. During the study follow-up, 120 women developed metabolic syndrome.

Of those who developed metabolic syndrome, the average duration of breast-feeding was 2.6 months, while the average time breast-feeding for women who didn’t develop metabolic syndrome was seven months, according to the study. 

The researchers noted that women who would like to reduce their risk of metabolic syndrome should follow health-eating guidelines, get regular exercise, and if having a baby, consider breast-feeding.  The study appeared online in the journal Diabetes.

Report posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Constipation May Be Early Sign Of Parkinson’s Disease

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

A Mayo Clinic study found a relationship between Parkinson’s and a history of constipation.  They note the incidence was about two times more frequent in a group of men and women with Parkinson’s disease than in an age-matched group of men and women who did not have the disease. 

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative brain disease that causes body tremors, rigid muscles, and difficulty walking and talking according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade organization committed to educating Americans about health issues. The disease alters the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls spontaneous body processes such as heart rate, digestion, salivation, and bowel function. 

Reserachers noted that chronic constipation is common among people who suffer from Parkinson’s.  They note that constipation may precede the appearance of classic movement symptoms of the disease in some people.   The medical experts evaluated about 38 years of medical records comparing constipation history in 196 men and women who developed Parkinson’s at an average age of 71 years, and 196 Parkinson’s-free “controls” of similar age and gender. 

Roughly 36 percent of the Parkinson’s patients had a history of constipation compared with only 20 percent of the controls, a significant difference.  After allowing for differences in age, smoking, coffee drinking, the use of constipation-inducing drugs, and constipation during the 19 years prior to the onset of Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s patients remained about two times more likely than controls to have a history of constipation.  Their findings were reported in a recent issue of Neurology.

Stroke Risk Highest For Those Born In South

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

According to a new report in Neurology reveals that people born in the North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama show a consistently higher incidence of stroke compared to those born elsewhere.  Each year about 600,000 people experience their first stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds. 

The higher stroke incidence in those seven states has been recognized for years.  Researchers , at the Harvard School of Public Health’s division of society, human development and health noted that the reason is unclear. 

Researchers studied data from 1980, 1990 and 2000 U.S. national death records for people aged 30 to 80 who were born and lived in 49 states. They calculated stroke death rates by linking the data to U.S. census information. 

The findings revealed that white people who were born and lived their adult lives in what is often referred to as “the stroke belt” were 45 percent more likely to die of a stroke in the 1980 group, 29 percent more likely in the 1990 group and 34 percent more likely in the 2000 group than those who were born and lived outside the seven Southern states. 

The findings were comparable for blacks: 55 percent, 47 percent and 34 percent higher risk for the respective groups.  Among whites who moved to the stroke belt as adults, the risk was 11 percent greater, according to the 2000 data, and 20 percent higher for those who were born in the stroke belt but later lived elsewhere. 

The higher rate was attributed to multiple factors such as genetics, environmental toxins and learned behavior.  They noted social environment that dietary habits and access to medical care may result in some element of socioeconomic risk.

Diabetes Cases To Double In US

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

The study published in the December issue of Diabetes Care predicts that by 2034 about 44.1 million people will have the disease, up from 23.7 million today.  At the same time, the cost of treating people with diabetes will triple, rising from an estimated $113 billion in 2009 to $336 billion in 2034. 

Researchers note that a key factor driving the soaring costs is the number of people living with diabetes for lengthy periods.  Over time, the cost of caring for someone with diabetes tends to rise along with their risk for developing complications, such as end-stage renal disease, which requires costly dialysis according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

In making their estimates, researchers at the University of Chicago used data on people 24 to 85 years old who took part in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health Interview Study. 

Prior forecasts, including the ones currently used by the federal government’s budget analysts, have underestimated the burden, the researchers noted. A 1991 study, for example, predicted that 11.6 million people would have diabetes in 2030. In 2009, there were already more than twice that many living with diabetes. 

Among Medicare beneficiaries, the number with diabetes is expected to rise from 8.2 million to 14.6 million in 2034, with an accompanying rise in spending from $45 billion to $171 billion the study reveals.  The high cost of chronic disease is one of the most pressing issues facing the United States as legislators grapple with financial strains on Medicare and the larger issue of health-care reform, the researchers explained. 

Factors driving the increase in diabetes cases include the aging population and continued high rates of obesity, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells don’t use it correctly.  In the study, the researchers assumed that the obesity rate would remain relatively stable, topping out at about 30 percent in the next decade and then declining slightly to about 27 percent in 2033.

Ginkgo Won’t Prevent Heart Attack Or Stroke in Elderly

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Researchers report that the herbal supplement may help ward off peripheral artery disease.  According to the findings of a new study, the popular herbal remedy might help prevent the leg-circulation problem known as peripheral artery disease.  

Ginkgo contains nutrients called flavonoids, which are also found in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine, and are believed to offer some protection against cardiovascular events, according to the researchers.   The supplement, increasingly popular in the United States and Europe, has been touted to improve memory, and to prevent dementia, heart disease and stroke. 

Reserachers at the University of Pittsburgh found that ginkgo had no benefit in preventing heart attack or stroke.  Consistent with observations of researchers in Europe, the medical experts noted that ginkgo appeared to have some benefit in preventing peripheral vascular disease.

Last year the same University of Pittsburgh team reported that ginkgo biloba had no effect on preventing dementia.  For their latest study, reearchers randomly assigned 3,069 patients to 120 milligrams of highly purified ginkgo biloba or placebo, twice a day as part of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study.

Over the six years of the trial, 385 participants died, 164 had heart attacks, 151 had strokes, 73 had mini-strokes (“transient ischemic attacks”) and 207 had chest pain, the researchers found.  There was no significant difference between those taking ginkgo or placebo for any of these outcomes, the study reports.

However, among the 35 people who were treated for peripheral artery disease, 23 received placebo and 12 were taking ginkgo — a statistically significance difference, the researchers noted.  About 8 million Americans have peripheral artery disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Peripheral artery disease typically affects the arteries in the pelvis and legs. Symptoms include cramping and pain or tiredness in the hip muscles and legs when walking or climbing stairs, although not everyone who has PAD is symptomatic. The pain usually subsides during rest.

Pregnancy-Produced Hormone May Prevent Breast Cancer

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Researchers at the Center for Immunology and Microbial Diseases and in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Albany Medical College, N.Y., report that the protein, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), may serve as a viable, well-tolerated agent for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.  AFP is a protein normally produced by the liver and yolk sac of a fetus. 

Hormones produced during pregnancy, such as estrogen, all induce AFP, which directly inhibits the growth of breast cancer, noted one of the researchers.  Medical experts explain that the body can produce a natural defense system against breast cancer.  They note this can be developed into a drug that can be used to protect women from breast cancer. 

Recent studies have shown that hormones released during pregnancy, such as estrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin, reduce a women’s risk for breast cancer.   Nearly 700,000 women will be diagnosed with cancer this year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Breast cancer affects about 26 percent of female cancer victims.

Researchers’  results showed that treatment with estrogen plus progesterone, estrogen alone or human chorionic gonadotropin reduced the incidence of mammary cancers in rats.   The researchers noted that each of these treatments elevated the serum level of AFP and that AFP directly inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells growing in culture.  While none of these treatments prevented mammary tumors in 100 percent of the rats, it appears to delay mammary tumor formation and prevent breast cancer development in approximately 30 to 50 percent of the rats.

Kidney Transplant Plus Sleep Disorder Adds Up to Trouble

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Researchers in Hungary conducted a study of kidney transplant recipients and found that 25 percent had moderate to severe sleep apnea, a rate similar to that seen in kidney disease patients on dialysis awaiting a transplant. 

The findings they note indicate that both types of patients who have the breathing-related sleep disorder should be considered at high risk for serious heart-related complications.  Transplant recipients with sleep apnea were more than twice as likely as those without the syndrome to be taking three or more anti-hypertensive drugs, but still had higher blood pressure than those without the sleep disorder. Obesity increased a transplant patient’s risk of developing sleep apnea.

Organ transplants are increasingly available according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Some critical illness policies will provide a cash benefit when a transplant is received.

When the Hungarian medical researchers calculated risk scores, they found that kidney disease patients with sleep apnea were twice as likely to suffer heart disease or stroke than those without sleep apnea.  They recommend that physicians should screen transplant patients for obstructive sleep apnea and offer appropriate treatment,” the study authors concluded. 

The study will be published in January in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Migraine Increases Likelihood Of Stroke

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off by plaque accumulation or a blood clot.

In astudy presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed the findings of 21 studies that included a total of 622,381 men and women, aged 18 to 70, in Europe and North America.

Those with migraines were 2.3 times more likely than people without migraines to suffer ischemic stroke. The risk was 2.5 times higher for migraine sufferers who experienced aura (visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzag lines and blurred vision), and for women experiencing aura, 2.9 times higher.

The findings reinforce the link between migraine and stroke and also correct some discrepancies in previous analyses that yielded mixed results, according to Hopkins cardiologist and senior study investigator Dr. Saman Nazarian.

Nazarian said nearly 1,800 articles have been written about the relationship between migraine and stroke, but the Hopkins review is believed to be the largest of its kind and was more selective, including only studies that used similar designs and groups of people.

“Identifying people at highest risk is crucial to preventing disabling strokes. Based on this data, physicians should consider addressing stroke risk factors in patients with a history or signs of light flashes and blurry vision associated with severe headaches,” Nazarian said in a Hopkins news release.

There are a number of migraine prevention and treatment options, including smoking cessation, taking medications to lower blood pressure or taking blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin, Nazarian added. For women with migraines, additional options include discontinuing use of birth control pills or stopping hormone replacement therapy.

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Rapid Cooling May Help When Heart Attack Hits

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Swedish researchers examined the use of a device called RhinoChill, which cools the brains of heart attack patients during ongoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). 

The median time between cardiac arrest onset and the start of cooling was 23 minutes. On arrival at hospital, the average body temperature of cooled patients was 93.56 degrees F, compared with 95.9 degrees for standard care patients. 

The study found that 46.7 percent of patients in the cooling group survived to hospital discharge, compared with 31 percent of patients who received standard care.   In addition, some 36.7 percent of those in the cooling group and 21.4 percent of those in the standard care group were in good neurological condition when discharged from the hospital. 

Patients who received a combination of early CPR — started within six minutes of collapse — and cooling had the best outcomes.   The researchers noted that the earlier you can do the cooling, the better. When resuscitation efforts were delayed, there was no significant difference in survival.  

The study was to be presented Nov. 15 at an American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, some785,000 Americans will have a new cornary attack this year.

Drug Shrinks Lung Cancer Tumors

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Researchers report that the drug also stopped lung cancer tumors from growing and becoming resistant to treatment.

One in five people with lung cancer have small cell lung cancer and only three per cent of these people are expected to survive for five years. With this form of lung cancer, tumors spread quickly so it is rarely possible to remove the tumors surgically. Because of this, small cell lung cancer is treated with chemotherapy, with or without additional radiotherapy. 

Initially, the treatment often appears to work, reducing the size of the tumors. However, the tumors usually grow back rapidly and then become resistant to further treatment. 

The researchers have identified a drug that, in some mice, was able to completely shrink tumors away. In the mouse models, it was also able to stop tumors from growing and it helped other forms of chemotherapy to work more effectively. If the drug proves successful in humans, the researchers hope that it could help patients with this kind of lung cancer to live longer. 

The Section of Molecular Oncology and Lung Cancer Research at Imperial College London which conducted the study suggests that it may be possible to develop the drug PD173074 into a new targeted therapy for small cell lung cancer.  

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancer killer in the world according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.   Around one in five of people diagnosed with lung cancer will have small cell lung cancer. Although it responds to chemotherapy initially, the tumors soon become resistant to treatment and sadly nearly all people with the disease do not survive.

Study: Breast Cancer Cured But Pain Survives

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

According to a report in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association the pain exists even two or three years following treatment.  Almost 60% of the over 3,000 women surveyed experience other symptoms of nerve damage, such as numbness or tenderness, according to a study of women treated for breast cancer in 2005 and 2006. 

The researchers noted that women under 40 and those who have more extensive surgery, such as a mastectomy, and radiation are the most likely to report pain.  Women, they report, also have more pain if surgeons removed many of the lymph nodes in their armpits, a common place for breast cancer to spread.

Most breast cancer patients can ease their symptoms with over-the-counter pain relievers.  Every year nearly 700,000 American women are diagnosed with cancer according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  About one in four women are diagnosed with breast cancer and as a result of early detection and improved treatment, most survice.

 

While the medical experts explain that it is not always possible to prevent chronic pain, there are ways women can reduce their risk.

 

Women should choose doctors who perform “sentinel-node” biopsies, one of the experts writing in the Journal noted. In the procedure, surgeons remove and test one or a few key lymph node for malignant cells instead of automatically removing all of the nodes. If the sentinel node is cancer-free, surgeons leave the others in place. The procedure also reduces the risk of lymphedema, a painful swelling in the arm.

Moderate Exercise May Lower Prostate Cancer Risk

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Researchers examined men who underwent biopsies for possible prostate cancer.  Those who exercised moderately, the equivalent of three to six hours of walking per week, were less likely to be diagnosed with the disease. 

The study found that compared with their sedentary counterparts, these men were two-thirds less likely to have a biopsy positive for prostate cancer. In addition, men who performed one to three hours of walking each week had an 86 percent lower chance of having an aggressive form of the cancer. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness insurance, some 745,000 men are diagnosed with cancer each week.  Prostate cancer is the leading cancer impacting men.  The study findings which appear in the current issue of the Journal of Urology do not prove that exercise helps prevent prostate cancer the researchers point out. But it could offer men another incentive to get active. 

A number of studies have looked at the relationship between exercise and prostate cancer, and while most have pointed to a protective effect, about one-third have found no association.   And among men diagnosed with prostate cancer, 51 percent of sedentary patients had more-aggressive cancer, versus 22 percent of those who had been mildly active — getting the equivalent of one to three hours of moderate walking per week.

Eating Red Meat Linked To Prostate Cancer

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute report the findings of a major study.  Researchers followed more than 175,000 men for nine years.  Those who ate the most red and processed meats had heightened risks of developing any stage of prostate cancer, or advanced cancer in particular.  Prostate cancer is the most commong cancer in men according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, followed by lung and colon.

The findings which were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology add to a conflicting body of research on meat intake and prostate cancer risk.   Prior studies have come to different conclusions.  However, medical experts generally consider the evidence linking red and processed meats to the disease to be limited and inconclusive.

These latest findings do not settle the question. The researchers explain that they do suggest that processed red meats and high-heat cooking methods — namely, grilling and barbecuing — may be particularly connected to prostate cancer risk.

The researchers used that information to estimate the levels of certain potentially cancer-promoting chemicals in the men’s diets.  Over the next nine years, 10,313 study participants developed prostate cancer and 419 died from the disease. 

Overall, the researchers found, the 20 percent of men with the highest intakes of red meat, which in this study included beef and pork, were 12 percent more likely than those who consumed the least to develop prostate cancer.

Obesity Causes 100,000 U.S. Cancer Cases

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Researchers estimate that obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of all medical spending in the United States or an estimated $147 billion a year.  Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. The American Cancer Society reports that nearl 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year and 562,000 will die of the disease. 

Medical researchers at the American Institute for Cancer Research reported that having too much body fat causes nearly half the cases of endometrial cancer, which is a type of cancer of the uterus.  Too much body fat they note was also responsible for one third of esophageal cancer cases.

The researchers expect the number of cancer cases will likely rise as Americans get fatter.  Nearly a third of Americans are overweight, defined as having a BMI of 25 to 30. 

More than 26 percent of Americans are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. BMI is equal to weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. A person 5 feet 5 inches tall becomes obese at 180 pounds (82 kg). 

The American Institute for Cancer Research reported the percented of cancer cases that would be prevented if everyone in the United States maintained a healthy weight.  Here are some of its estimates of cancer types that could be prevented annually if Americans stayed slender:

Endometrium – 49 percent of cases or 20,700 people

Esophageal – 35 percent of cases or 5,800 people

Pancreatic – 28 percent or 11,900 people

Kidney – 24 percent or 13,900 people

Gallbladder – 21 percent or 2,000 people

Breast – 17 percent or 33,000 people

Colon – 9 percent or 13,200 people

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Race, Income, Marital Status Has No Impact On Prostate Cancer Outcome

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

A study conducted at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that socioeconomic status factors had no impact on predicting the outcome of treatment. All patients did equally well, based on the known prognostic factors. 

The study, presented this week at the American Society for Radiation Oncology meeting in Chicago is unique in that nearly 50 percent of patients in the analysis are African American. 

Prostate cancer affects one in six men in the United States according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance and the majority of all prostate cancer are diagnosed in men older than 65.  Most individuals diagnosed with the illness will survive.  Only one in 35 will die of prostate cancer.   Radiation therapy involves administering high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. 

According to the study’s lead researcher, prior studies on socioeconomic status and cancer outcomes done by other groups have had conflicting results.  One study, for example, suggested that African Americans with breast or colon cancer do much worse than white patients because they receive care at hospitals with less expertise.

Another study the medical experts noted show that men with prostate cancer who are married have better outcomes than those who are unmarried or without a partner. And yet other studies suggested that hospitals with large minority patient populations have higher mortality for cancer.

A shortcoming of many of the studies is the fact that they include a relatively small percentage of African American patients.  By comparison, almost half of the Ford study group was African American, which allowed researchers to undertake a more accurate assessment of how socioeconomic status affects prostate cancer outcomes.

Low Cholesterol May Be Sign Of Cancer

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Previously, some medical experts had thought that low cholesterol may have been a cause.  According to researchers reporting this week, findings suggest that men who have low cholesterol actually have a lower risk of developing high-risk prostate cancer.

There were some 1.4 million cancer cases in the United States last year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  The cost of caring for medical conditions caused over 60 percent of the 1.5 million Americans to declare bankruptcy.

A study of more than 5,000 U.S. men conducted by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found a link between low cholesterol and a lower risk of high-grade prostate cancer among men over age 55.

The researchers report that if men had total cholesterol of less than 200 milligrams/deciliter, they had a nearly 60 percent lower risk of developing high grade prostate cancer, the riskiest kind. 

It is not clear whether taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs might help men with prostate cancer. That would need to be studied, the medical experts noted.  The study was reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Cholesterol-lowering Medicines May Be Effective Against Cancer

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Statins lower cholesterol by blocking certain enzymes involved in metabolism.   Medical experts note that  they have also been shown to help proteins attach to cell membranes.  Because many of the proteins that are lipid-modified cause cancer, there are now hopes that it will be possible to use statins in the treatment of cancer. 

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Germany, conducted studies that show statins can have a dramatic inhibitory effect on growth and development.  The researchers note that their results support the idea that statins can be used in more ways than just to lower cholesterol.  Not least that they can prevent the growth of cancer cells caused by lipid-modified proteins, but also that they can be effective in the treatment of diabetes and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. 

The findings were published in the article Statins Inhibit Protein Lipidation and Induce the Unfolded Protein Response in the Non-Sterol Producing Nematode C. elegans, published in the journal PNAS.  The study is the result of a research partnership between the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology.

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Low Vitamin D Linked To Heart, Stroke Deaths

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

 

A new study reports that adults with lower, versus higher, vitamin D levels in their blood may be more likely to die from heart disease or stroke.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin mostly obtained from direct sunlight exposure, but also found in foods and multivitamins.  Researchers at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland compared blood levels of vitamin D and deaths from heart disease or stroke over time in several thousand men and 3,402 women.

Participants were just over 49 years old on average at the beginning of the research and had no indicators of cardiovascular disease.  During follow-up of about 27 years on average, 640 of the participants (358 men) died from heart disease and another 293 (122 men) died from stroke.

Compared with participants’ with the highest vitamin D, those with the lowest had 25 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke, the researchers noted.  There was a “particularly striking association” between vitamin D levels and stroke deaths, they explain.  Those having the lowest vitamin D seemed to confer “twice the risk,” compared with those having the highest vitamin D.

Allowing for age, gender, and other demographic factors, plus alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, and season in which vitamin D levels were obtained did not significantly alter these associations.  In this study, vitamin D levels were “substantially lower” than levels thought to be sufficient, and “somewhat lower” than those reported in previous studies in other European and American populations.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the non-profit industry organization, some 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year.  From 1995 to 2005, the death rate from coronary heart disease declined 34 percent.  The study findings were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.