Medical Notes 19-07

Medical Notes this week…

A cancer diagnosis can create stress that goes beyond the breaking point. A new study in the journal Nature Communications shows that people with cancer are more than four times more likely to commit suicide compared to other people. White men and people who receive a diagnosis at a younger age are most likely to complete suicide, along with people who are diagnosed with lung, head and neck, and testicular cancers. Researchers say that even though cancer is a major cause of death in the U.S., most cancer patients survive it and die of other causes.

Electric scooters are a rapidly rising cause of injury, and a new study shows that one in three people involved in an e-scooter accident is injured badly enough to need treatment in the E.R. The study in the journal JAMA Network Open shows that 40 percent of those hurt had head injuries and another 32 percent had fractures. Only four percent of those hurt were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Falls rather than collisions made up nearly three-quarters of the accidents.

And finally… it turns out that people who are good navigators are almost always good at identifying smells as well. A study in the journal Nature Communications finds that the same area of the brain is used for both of these two very different tasks, and that the brain region is bigger in people who are good at them. Scientists admit the finding surprised them.

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Medical Notes 19-05

Medical Notes this week…

Cancer deaths are continuing to decline. In fact, a report from the American Cancer Society trumpets a major milestone—cancer death rates have dropped every year for the last 25 years. Overall, they’ve dropped 27 percent since 1991… but some cancers are even more striking. For example, lung cancer death rates are down by 48 percent among men. Breast cancer death rates are down by 40 percent, and prostate cancer death rates have dropped by 51 percent.

Parents of teenagers are remarkably pessimistic that schools are keeping their kids safe. A study in the Journal of Community Health shows that 36 percent of parents believe their local high school is “highly likely” to have a shooter incident in the next three years. The study finds that the majority of parents are dissatisfied with the systems schools have in place to counteract gun violence.

Two drugs commonly prescribed for type two diabetes may significantly raise the risk for heart attacks. The drugs, sulfonylureas (sul-fon-eye-loor-ee-ahs) and basal insulin, are often prescribed when metformin doesn’t work. But a study in the journal JAMA Network Open shows that patients who take basil insulin are twice as likely to experience cardiovascular harm, and those taking sulfonylureas are 36 percent more likely to be harmed than patients taking newer second-line drugs. Experts say the results should prompt large scale changes in how type two diabetes is treated.

And finally… more than half of people who take medical marijuana for chronic pain admit they’ve driven while under the influence… and one in five users say they’ve driven while they were “very high” in the last six months. The study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence surveyed medical marijuana users in Michigan… where recreational marijuana is also legal. Researchers say they’re troubled that users don’t think there’s much risk to driving under the influence of pot… but they admit they’re not sure how marijuana affects driving for people who use it every day.

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Medical Notes 19-04

Medical Notes this week…

A drinkable cocktail of designer molecules is showing promise in stopping the development of dementia. A study in the journal Cell Reports finds that a cocktail based on an old antibiotic can keep amyloid beta peptides from binding to prion proteins—one of the first steps in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers say the cocktail has also repaired synapses in the brains of rats… restoring memories. Scientists will now start testing the cocktail for toxicity.

If you’re using sugar substitutes as part of a weight loss resolution, a new study says “don’t bother.” In fact, the study in the journal BMJ finds there’s no compelling evidence that sugar substitutes help regulate any important health variable. Blood sugar levels and the risk of heart disease or cancer did not benefit from the use of saccharin, aspartame, or other artificial sweeteners. People who used plain old sugar ended up pretty much in the same place health-wise.

And finally… shaming people for what they do isn’t right… even though new research suggests that it can get people who engage in dangerous activities to quit. A study in the Journal of Consumer Affairs shows that smokers are more likely to quit if they’re told that their peers disapprove of smoking. However, experts warn that shaming people leads others to think that the bad effects of a bad habit are all their fault… and they deserve what they get.

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Medical Notes 18-45

Medical Notes this week…

Acute myeloid leukemia, or AML is one of the deadliest cancers, with a five-year survival rate of about 25 percent… and even when a patient has a lasting remission, the disease almost always relapses. But a new study in the journal Nature Communications finds that the disease appears to be the fault of a single gene, which they’ve located. Researchers say the gene rewires the body’s entire set of blood-forming cells and tissues. They hope the breakthrough could eventually lead to a gene-targeted therapy and improve survival rates.

Scientists have discovered some of the reasons why people with obesity have a higher risk of asthma. A study in the Journal of Physiology—Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology shows that inflammation in airways is greater in people with obesity. Those with obesity are also more likely to over-respond to allergens in airway muscles…causing the airways to narrow. Researchers say the discoveries may improve asthma treatment.

Teachers often contribute to a diagnosis of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder in children… but a new study concludes they may be mistaking immaturity for ADHD. The study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry shows that it’s most often the youngest kids in a classroom who are diagnosed with ADHD. Experts also say that in children who are diagnosed… it appears that some parts of the brain mature up to three years later than in kids who are not labeled.

And finally… one good way to get the vitamins you need in the future may be to chew some gum. A study in the Journal of Functional Foods shows that gum loaded with vitamins delivers enough of them to significantly raise levels in the blood. Both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins were effectively delivered in gum… and researchers say most people think it’s a pleasant way to get nutrition.

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Medical Notes 18-24


Medical Notes this week…

Patients with asthma who haven’t responded well to treatment may be greatly helped  by injections of a drug for eczema. Two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine show that patients with moderate to severe asthma reduced flare-ups by half or more after getting an injection of dupilumab,, a drug approved by the FDA for eczema in 2017. Patients taking the drug cut their emergency room visits about in half and those taking steroids for asthma were also able to reduce their dose.

Scientists have developed a prototype early warning system for the four most common types of cancer that makes a dark mole appear on the skin when it’s activated. Researchers call it a “biomedical tattoo” and say it would be inserted under the skin, monitoring genetic changes in the body. Mutations associated with lung, colon, breast or prostate cancer would make the implant turn a dark color, which would be visible through the skin. researchers say in the journal Science Translational Medicine that the test is at least 10 years away.

Surviving a heart attack may be as simple as exercise. A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology tracked nearly 15,000 people for 40 years. It found that more than 10 percent of them eventually had a heart attack but those who had pursued a light exercise regimen were 32 percent less likely to die from it compared to people who had been sedentary. Those exercising at least moderately were nearly 50 percent less likely to die.  

And finally, researchers say walking and chewing gum at the same time amounts to good exercise. A study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science shows that chewing gum while you walk raises heart rate over walking alone, and makes people walk faster and farther. For men over 40, that adds up to a significant additional calorie burn while for women it didn’t make as much difference.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

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17-20 Segment 1: Elephant DNA: The secret to cancer suppression?

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DNA mutations happen all the time in the body, but the immune system usually detects and deals with them. When the system fails, cancer results. Yet some animals, such as elephants, almost never get cancer, and scientists have learned that the elephant DNA repair system is 20 times more powerful than the human system.

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Medical Notes 17-20



Medical Notes this week…

Researchers continue to search for a brain booster to combat the cognitive effects of advancing age, and they may have found one in human umbilical cord blood. A study in the journal Nature shows that human cord blood injected into old mice significantly improved the function of their brains. Researchers were then able to isolate the responsible factor in the newborn blood, a protein called timp-2. Timp-2 injected into old mice produced the same effects. Researchers say the findings could lead to new treatments of age-related mental decline.

More women who’ve had cancer are having children, but those kids are more likely to be born prematurely, with a below average birth weight. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that breast cancer treatment produces nearly double the risk for preterm birth later, while cancers such as Hodgkins lymphoma increased the risk by 6%. Doctors don’t know if those children have greater health risks later on in life.

And finally, a study now proves that when people get their pictures taken, most of them say “take my left side. It’s my better side.” And when people view pictures, they perceive the left side of faces to be more expressive. That’s according to a study in the journal Brain and Cognition. Scientists explain that the left side of the face is controlled by the right side of the brain, which is more involved in emotion.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.