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Author Archives: Lena Butler

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

HPV Increases Risk of Head and Neck Cancer

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A new study from researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine has found that individuals with human papillomavirus, specifically HPV-16 in their mouths are 22% more likely to develop a type of head and neck cancer compared to people without it.

In their study, the researchers conducted two different nationwide studies consisting of almost 97,000 people. Patients who were considered cancer-free at the beginning of the study were asked to provide mouthwash samples for the study. Researchers identified 132 cases of head and neck cancer after an average of four years of follow-up. Also included was a comparison group of 396 healthy subjects.

Participants who displayed symptoms of HPV-16 were 22 times more likely to be diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer compared to participants who showed no signs of HPV. The Einstein College team also discovered the presence of other types of oral HPV: Beta- and gamma-HPV, which are usually detected in the skin, but were associated with the development of head and neck cancers.

There was some good news from the study, as well. Easy-to-collect mouthwash samples could potentially help predict a person’s risk for head and neck cancer development, the team said.

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Health & Wellness

Research Shows Regular Exercise Helps Combat Effects of ‘Fat Gene’

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For those who are genetically predisposed to obesity, the good news is just a little exercise per day goes a long way to counteracting that genetic predisposition.

A new study from McMaster University in Canada has shown that as little as one or two hours per week of exercise substantially weakens the influence of a gene known as FTO, aka the fat gene.

The team looked at data from 17,400 people with FTO from six ethnic groups in 17 countries and followed them for more than three years.

The researchers’ findings, which have been published in Scientific Reports, showed that being more active reduces the effect of the inherited obesity gene by as much as 75%, said David Meyre, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics in McMaster’s DeGroote School of Medicine.

“This provides a message of hope for people with obesity-predisposing genes that they can do something about it,” said Meyre. “Our body weight destiny is not only written in our genetic blueprint.”

This is good news for people who do have the FTO gene, which breaks down to:

  • 43% of Europeans
  • 31% of South Asians
  • 24% of South Americans
  • 17% of East Asians
  • 6% of Africans

Although this is all good news for people with the FTO gene, its effects aren’t huge, adding only about three kilograms, on average, to a person’s weight.

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Health & Wellness

New HIV Treatment Shows Promise

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A new HIV treatment has shown promise for helping people living with the disease.

The treatment, an infusion of a specific antibody designed to fight against a wide array of HIV strains concurrently, was observed by researchers to safely lower the level of HIV in a chronically affected person’s blood providing that person was not already on antiretroviral therapy (ART).

This technique of infusing an antibody that fights multiple HIV strains at once is known as passive immunization and was outlined in an issue of Science Translational Medicine earlier this month where a bevy of researchers published their findings.

“Passive immunization with neutralizing antibodies could therefore aid in viral suppression in HIV-infected individuals,” the authors concluded.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this study, a Phase 1 trial, saw 15 volunteers who were already receiving ART and eight who were not receiving it get the antibody infusion. The ART group was given two doses, 28 days apart, while the untreated group only received one of the antibody — called VRC01.

There was no recognizable drop in the amount of HIV in those taking ART. In six of the eight untreated volunteers, however, there was a sharp decline — more than 10-fold — of HIV.

While the antibody infusion may become a viable new treatment for HIV, the researchers say, its cost and the fact that its effects only last a few weeks at a time keep it from being a full-blown cure.

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Addiction Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Cleveland Latest Municipality to Raise Tobacco Buying Age

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Cleveland City Council passed legislation recently to raise the minimum age for those who can buy tobacco, smoking products and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. It is the latest in a long list of localities to raise the legal tobacco purchasing age.

Under the new legislation, a first offense would be a fourth-degree misdemeanor for the vendor, punishable by 30 days in jail or a $250 fine. Offenses after that would be second-degree misdemeanors, punishable by 90 days in jail.

The penalties apply only to vendors.

About 3,800 people under 18 try smoking for the first time each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A report published earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine found that raising the minimum age for tobacco products would “delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults.”

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Addiction Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Concerns Raised Over Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine in Canada

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Cocaine laced with respiratory depressant Fentanyl has sparked concerns after it caused people to accidentally overdose recently in the province of British Columbia.

Police in the Vancouver suburb of Delta say two people were hospitalized recently after ingesting cocaine laced with fentanyl, which cannot be seen, smelled or tasted when it is used to cut other drugs.

“There’s certainly been a couple of overdoses over the last year or so,” said Acting Sgt. Sarah Swallow. “Again none of them were fatal but certainly a couple of overdoses that can possibly be linked to fentanyl in some way.”

“But this is the first time that we’ve seen two in such a short period of time with both people saying they’ve taken the same drug.”

It’s not yet known where the cocaine was obtained.

Early symptoms of a fentanyl overdose can include severe sleepiness, slow heartbeat, trouble breathing, cold, clammy skin and trouble walking or talking.

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Medical Marijuana Real Drug Stories

Legalizing Marijuana May Help Combat Obesity

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Legalizing marijuana — at least medically — may have a positive effect on people’s waists, a new study has found.

Researchers at Cornell University and San Diego State University pored over 12 years of data and found that states that legalized marijuana for medical purposes had a 2% to 6% drop in the probability of obesity.

The drop in obesity rates is likely because fewer young people are drinking alcohol since marijuana is legally accessible to them, the researchers say. They also point out that older patients may experience increased mobility because marijuana helps them deal with aches and pains and this increased mobility helps to combat obesity.

“These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that medical marijuana laws may be more likely to induce marijuana use for health-related reasons among older individuals, and cause substitution toward lower-calorie recreational ‘highs’ among younger individuals,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

“The enforcement of MMLs (medical marijuana laws) is associated with a 2% to 6% decline in the probability of obesity. Our estimates suggest that MMLs induce a $58 to $115 per-person annual reduction in obesity-related medical costs.”

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Alcohol Testing

Mixing Alcohol And Diet Soda Increases Breath Alcohol Levels

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Decreasing the number of calories you take in during drinking may end up increasing your breath alcohol levels, a new study has found.

Researchers, led by Amy Stamates of Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, found that drinking alcohol with diet soda rather than regular soda increased people’s breath alcohol level.

They found this by having 10 men and 10 women between the ages of 21 and 30 drink five different mixed beverage combinations over five sessions. The drinks contained varying amounts of vodka and either diet or regular sweetened soda. One drink was just regular soda alone.

The researchers then measured the alcohol concentrations in the participants’ breaths for three hours and found higher concentrations of alcohol on the breath of the participants when they drank the mixed beverages containing diet soda.

For a low amount of alcohol, the researchers found breath alcohol concentrations were about 22% higher when participants had their beverages mixed with diet soda rather than regular soda and for a larger amount of alcohol, breath alcohol concentrations were about 25% higher when the drinks were made with diet soda.

The researchers say prevention materials should include this information so people know that by trying to avoid some extra calories in a mixed drink, they risk having higher breath alcohol concentrations.

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