Testing It Up » November 2010

Monthly Archives: November 2010

Early Disease Detection

Drop in Type 1 Diabetes Death Rate Not Fast Enough

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The good news, according to a feature on Bloomberg BusinessWeek, is that death rates for Type 1 diabetes are falling; it is not, however, falling fast enough.

A study led by Dr. Trevor J. Orchard, a professor of epidemiology, medicine and pediatrics in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, noted a significant drop in the mortality rates of people suffering from Type 1 diabetes. The researchers also determined that patients who were diagnosed with the condition in the 70s had a lower mortality rate when compared against those who were diagnosed in the 60s.

diabetesDr. Orchard gave the following comment: “The encouraging thing is that, given good [diabetes] control, you can have a near-normal life expectancy.”

Despite these encouraging statistics, however, the study also found out that the mortality rates for patients suffering from Type 1 are still significantly higher than the general population – a staggering 7 times higher. For certain demographic groups, such as women, for example, the disparity in mortality rates is even more significant: mortality rates for women who have type 1 diabetes are 13 times higher than those of women who are not suffering from the disease.

Patients suffering from Type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin, so they are forced to rely on insulin replacement therapy all their life. Insulin replacement therapy, however, is not as effective as naturally-produced insulin.

Barbara Araneo director of complications therapies at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, said: “The outcome of this study shows that diabetes care has improved in many ways over the last couple of decades, and as a result people with diabetes are living longer now… Managing and taking good care of your diabetes is the surest way to reduce the risk of developing complications later in life.”

Early Disease Detection

Radiological Society Discuss Mammography at Annual Meeting

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At the ongoing annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago, mammography still remains to be a “hot topic,” even a year after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued revised guidelines for mammography, as shared in a feature on MedPage Today.

mammographyThe annual meeting will include a special expert panel on mammography guidelines, and serves as a venue for the presentation of two studies that focus on breast cancer screening modality. The studies will be presented on Monday and Wednesday at press briefings.

A group from the London Breast Institute will present a study that analyzed data on annual mammograms from the age of 40, and the risks associated with mastectomy.

A group led by researchers from the University of Washington Medical Center will present the results of a study involving a restrospective analysis on cancer yield. The cancer yield analyzed in the study is based on a combination of screening mammography and MRI among women with a personal history of breast cancer, on top of a strong family history of the disease.

The special expert panel on mammography guidelines, on the other hand, included James Brink, MD, of Yale, Bill Hendee, PhD, of Medical College of Wisconsin, and Christoph Wald, MD, PhD, of Tufts. The panel discussed issues regarding medical imaging safety, among others.

In an interview with MedPage Today, Mary Mahoney, MD, of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and president of the RSNA, shared: “We want to address ‘overutilization’ and clear up some misconceptions. Some things have been overstated, which have people too fearful. We don’t want patients to not get a test that they really do need.”

Chicago Health Screening

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Confusion Noted Over Medical Marijuana Laws in Michigan

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Being a medical marijuana user is a two-sided coin for those who live in the state of Michigan. On the one hand, they are given an opportunity to use alternative therapy in the management of the chronic illnesses that they are suffering from; on the other, they place themselves at risk for losing their jobs or their homes.

medical marijuanaThe Detroit News’ Ron French shared the story of brain cancer patient Lori Montroy. Montroy, 50, is from Elk Rapids, Michigan. She had been suffering from pain, insomnia, and depression associated with her illness, and has turned to medical marijuana therapy. Unfortunately, she has been threatened with eviction from her federally-subsidized apartment, stemming from her use of medical marijuana.

In Battle Creek, 2008 Employee of the Year Joseph Casias was fired from the Wal-Mart that he was working for in November 2009, after testing positive for marijuana. Casias, 30, was a duly-registered medical marijuana user, which has been prescribed to him in order to help him with the pain associated with his illness: terminal brain cancer.

Situations such as that of Lori Montroy’s are said to be cropping up across the state of Michigan, along with lawsuits.

Jim Bergman of the Smoke-Free Environments Law Project gave the following comment: “Can you, or can’t you? There is confusion in Michigan… you’ve got a conflict of laws.”

Medical marijuana use was legalized in Michigan in 2008; it is still, however, illegal under federal law. In the case of Lori Montroy, the fact that she lived in a federally-funded building complicated things, because these apartment complexes think that they should follow federal laws or they will lose federal funding.

Michigan Drug Screening

Health & Wellness

Foods to Avoid for a Good Night’s Sleep

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Peaceful slumber through the night is something that we all long for. It is more than just a want, but a necessity, if we were to hope for a productive day.

A feature on WebMD shares the kinds of foods that you should avoid in order to sleep soundly.

sleepBurger and fries. This go-to staple is a no-no, at least if eaten often, if you want to get a good night’s sleep. Research shows that people who regularly eat foods that are high in fat are not only prone to gaining weight; they also potentially experience disrupted sleep.

Caffeine. Your daily pick-me-up should be confined to before noon, according to the feature. This certainly makes sense as the last thing that you will want is a pick-me-up when you want to wind down. One should not only be conscious about not having a cup of coffee at dinner, but also watch out for hidden caffeine that can be found in chocolate, cola, and tea. This means that a mug of hot chocolate may not be the ideal before bedtime beverage; switch to warm milk instead.

Alcohol. Alcohol can work both ways at bedtime; while it can help one fall asleep faster, the quality of sleep may not be that great. One may experience less restful sleep as well as headaches. If you were to have a glass of wine at dinner, make sure to dilute the alcohol with water in order to balance out its effects.

Heavy meals. The digestive system slows down when we sleep, so make sure that you finish a heavy meal at least four hours before bedtime.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Experts: Airport Body Scanners Are Safe

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There was much controversy stirred in the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving by a particular airport security measure: body scanners. In a previous post, we shared the story of a breast cancer patient who was unceremoniously asked to remove her prosthetic breast, which she had to use after having her breast removed as part of her cancer treatment, and show it to an airport security agent.

body scannerApart from concerns regarding privacy, there are those who believe that the radiation-emitting scanners that passengers will have to go through may be a health threat.

According to a feature on Bloomberg BusinessWeek, however, these concerns may not be needed. There are experts who say that while there one is exposed to radiation while passing through the scanner, the exposure is too low to really be any serious threat to one’s health.

A scanner that works properly, according to Arizona State University professor of physics Peter Rez, poses very low radiation exposure. BusinessWeek quoted Rez: “The probability of getting a fatal cancer is about one in 30 million, which puts it lower than the probability of being killed by being struck by lightning in any year in the United States, which is about one in 5 million.” He did clarify, though, that since these are mechanically scanned systems, “if the scanning mechanism were to jam, something which is quite possible, then one could get a very high-level dose [of radiation].”

The machines are equipped with a mechanism that shuts it off in the event that something goes wrong. If that system fails, however, then it is possible that someone can suffer from radiation burn.

Peter Kant, a spokesperson for scanner manufacturer Rapsican Systems, assures that the machines “are completely safe… they have been thoroughly tested.”

Health & Wellness

Shed Extra Pounds the HOT Way!

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We will nip whatever misinterpretations may be building in your minds in the bud by saying – it’s not THAT kind of hot. A feature on WebMD shared an interesting weight-loss aid, just in time for anyone looking for a way to shed any weight that may have been gained during Thanksgiving.

Peppers are commonly known as an ingredient that adds spice and kick to any dish. Beyond just giving your taste buds a jolt, however, these hot fruits (as opposed to vegetables) can help in weight loss, among other health benefits.

pepperNutritional experts say that both sweet and spicy peppers are rich in phytochemicals, compounds that occur naturally in plants. David Heber, MD, PhD, and professor of medicine and public health, as well as chief and founding director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Division of Clinical Nutrition at UCLA, shared that there are close to a million phytochemicals have been identified in nature.

The phytochemicals that are found in peppers have antioxidant abilities, and the family of phytochemicals present in them depends upon the color of the pepper. Peppers come in various colors, including red, green and yellow.

Dr. Heber and his colleagues at the UCLA is using peppers in their efforts towards helping obese patients on an 800-calorie a day diet. He shared: “When you’re on a low-calorie diet, your metabolic rate goes down about 20 percent to 15 percent, and exercise will not raise it… we wanted to see if chili peppers increase metabolism in cases like these.”

The heat in peppers comes from a flavorless, odorless, colorless compound called capsaicin, and Heber said that it has been shown to slightly curb appetite. A compound that is similar to capsaicin – a synthetic form of dihydrocapsiate (DCT) – was given to obese patients as a supplement. The study showed that those who were taking the DCT supplement burned an extra 80 calories a day.

While Dr. Heber clarified that peppers are not exactly “weight-loss wonders,” they make a good addition to the diet of anyone trying to lose weight.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

600,000 People Die Annually Due to Secondhand Smoke

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A study conducted by the World Health Organization lends credence to the fact that smoking does not just impact the smoker; it affects the other people around him or her as well.

Reuters reported that a study by researchers from the WHO revealed that one in a hundred deaths around the world can be attributed to passive smoking. The study is the first of its kind, and assessed the global impact of second hand smoke.

second hand smokeThe WHO also revealed that children are the ones who are most exposed to second-hand smoke among all the age groups. This exposure, according to the study, results in 165,000 deaths a year among children. The study, led by Annette Pruss-Ustun of the WHO Geneva, said in part that “two-thirds of these deaths occur in Africa and south Asia.”

Children are most likely exposed to second-hand smoke at home, and the mortality rates of children in these regions may be the result of the “deadly combination” of infectious diseases and tobacco. The study indicated further that 40 percent of children, 33 percent of whom were of non-smoking men, and 35 percent were of non-smoking women, were exposed to secondhand smoke in 2004.

Deaths among children were said to have been more prevalent in poor and middle-income countries. The same did not hold true for adults, however, as deaths among that age group were spread at all income levels.

Researchers from the WHO studied data from 192 countries, starting from the year 2004. They employed mathematical modeling in estimating the deaths.

Early Disease Detection

Late Diagnosis for Cancers Still Prevalent

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Despite all the efforts from various groups towards information dissemination, in order to detect cancers early enough to be successfully treated, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that many cancers are still being found when they are at their late stages.

cancer detectionAccording to a feature on MedPage Today, half of the cases of colorectal cancer that were diagnosed among patients over the age of 50 in the United States were at a late stage. For colorectal cancer, late diagnosis means that treatment will be more difficult, and will not have a good success rate.

The report, which was published as a surveillance summary on the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, also revealed that the same case holds true for cervical cancer. A third of the cases of breast cancer are also diagnosed at its late stage.

Marcus Plescia, M.D. of the CDC said the following in a press release: “This report causes concern because so many preventable cancers are not being diagnosed when treatment is most effective… More work is needed to widely implement evidence-based cancer screening tests which may lead to early detection and, ultimately, an increase in the number of lives saved.”

The incidence rates for late diagnosis varied between states, according to the CDC. The highest incidence rates were determined to have occurred in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

Early detection is key to the successful treatment of most cancers, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends the ideal time for screening, as well as frequencies. For cervical cancer, for instance, it is suggested that Pap tests begin within three years of initiation of sexual activity, or upon reaching the age of 21.

Health & Wellness

Tylenol Cold Products Recalled Over Alcohol Content

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A report on Bloomberg BusinessWeek shared that 9.3 million bottles of Tylenol cold treatments were recalled by Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The recall was triggered by the non-disclosure of the alcohol content of the products involved on its front label.

In a telephone interview, J&J spokeswoman Bonnie Jacobs revealed that the recall involved three types of Tylenol Multi-Symptom liquid cold medicine. The formulations of these products use flavoring agents that contain less than 1 percent alcohol. The J&J website shared that while the alcohol content was disclosed by the company, it was listed on the package as opposed to the front of the bottle.

tylenolJ&J’s statement on its website was quoted on the article, where it clarified the following: “This is a wholesale and retail level recall and is not being undertaken on the basis of adverse events… No action is required by consumers or health-care providers and consumers can continue to use the product.”

The products affected by the recall include the following: Tylenol Daytime 8 oz. Citrus Burst, Tylenol Severe 8 oz. Cool Burst and Tylenol Nighttime 8 oz. Cool Burst. Ms. Jacobs said that the aforementioned products are to be pulled from warehouses as well as retail locations.

In addition to the recall of Tylenol products, McNeil Consumer Health Care Unit, which sells the medicines in the United States, also pulled 4 million packages of Children’s Benadryl allergy tablets, due to “manufacturing lapses.”
J&J recalled more than 40 types of children’s over-the-counter liquid medicines in April, an incident which spurred the suspension of production at a plant, as well as an investigation of how the company handled the recall by the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Substance Abuse

DEA to Ban Chemicals Used for K2 Production

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has decided to respond to complaints that involved synthetic marijuana products, according to a report on The New York Times.

In a press release on their website, the DEA announced a ban that will be implemented on five chemicals used in the manufacture of synthetic marijuana products. The chemicals involved are as follows: JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol. The DEA is exercising its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control the chemicals mentioned.

K2The effects of these chemicals mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the component that makes marijuana a potent substance. These chemicals are used in the manufacture of products that come in the form of herbs or potpourri, and are technically marketed as incense. One of the known brands is K2, and the products have also been termed as “synthetic marijuana” or “fake pot;” these are being smoked by users who would like to achieve the high brought about by pot – legally. The chemicals, according to the NY Times, are used to coat these products.

The action by the FDA will render these five chemicals as Schedule I substances, the category that is the most restrictive. The treatment of the chemicals as Schedule I substances will last for a year, during which time the government will conduct studies that will determine whether the chemicals should be banned permanently.

Michele M. Leonhart, acting agency administrator, said the following in a statement: “Makers of these harmful products mislead their customers into thinking that ‘fake pot’ is a harmless alternative to illegal drugs, but that is not the case.”