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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

DNA particles in the blood may help speed detection of coronary artery disease

Higher levels of DNA particles in the blood were linked to high levels of coronary artery calcium deposits in a study. These particles are potentially markers of disease, and may eventually help identify patients with severely narrowed coronary arteries, predict how many coronary vessels were affected, and even whether a patient is likely to suffer a serious heart problem or heart-related death.

The study involved 282 patients, ages 34 to 83, who reported chest pain and were suspected of having coronary artery disease. Researchers used computed tomography imaging to look for hardened, or calcified, buildup in the blood vessels that supply the heart. Blood samples also were tested for bits of genetic material. Release of small DNA particles in the blood occurs during chronic inflammatory conditions such as coronary artery disease.

It is plausible to think that the DNA particles themselves might contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis and the risk of dangerous blood vessel blockages, the study’s authors wrote. “The more the ongoing cell death, which is normal with inflammation, the more DNA enters the circulation and more plaque builds up,” Borissoff said. “Cells get damaged, and the products released from the damaged cells can cause even more damage and inflammatory responses.”
The researchers are testing the DNA particle components further, he said, to see which ones are most sensitive and to understand more about how their levels might vary — for instance, during different stages of progression of atherosclerosis, or during a treadmill test, or after treatment for a heart attack.
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Monday, July 1, 2013

Early Respiratory Infection May Double Type 1 Diabetes Risk: Study

 What may seem like a harmless cold during the first six months of life may more than double a child's chances of developing antibodies that often lead to type 1 diabetes, new German research suggests. 

Infections have long been suspected as potential triggers of type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes (also called childhood diabetes or immune mediated diabetes mellitus) is an autoimmune condition that causes the body's immune system to mistakenly attack and destroy insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, according to background information in the study. Insulin is a hormone needed to metabolize the carbohydrates in foods so that they can be used as fuel for the body and brain.
Substances called islet autoantibodies appear in the blood before the development of type 1 diabetes, sometimes years before diabetes is evident. These autoantibodies help researchers predict whether or not someone will develop type 1 diabetes.
In the current study, the researchers followed 148 children who were under 3 months old when they started the study. All of the babies had a first-degree relative with type 1 diabetes.
Children who had a respiratory infection during the first six months of life had more than twice the odds of developing islet autoantibodies compared to those who didn't have an infection. The researchers also found that having more respiratory infections during the first six months of life was tied to an increased likelihood of a youngster developing islet autoantibodies
Beyerlein said these findings suggest -- but don't prove -- that it's not just the cumulative number of infections, but also that the timing of infections is quite important as well.
"Parents of high-risk children might possibly decrease their children's type 1 diabetes risk by reducing exposure to respiratory infections in very early life," Beyerlein said.
"In general, the early immune system is still in a phase of development, and may therefore be particularly susceptible for challenges by infectious agents. However, we cannot explain yet why specifically respiratory infections might be relevant in this phase," said study author Andreas Beyerlein, head of the working group on epidemiology at the Institute of Diabetes Research in Munich.
Results of the study were published online July 1 in JAMA Pediatrics.

source- healthday

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Does drinking alcohol increase the risk of cancer?

Do you enjoy an occasional, or even a daily, glass of wine, beer, or other drink that contains alcohol? Many adults do. Indeed, 37% of adults in the U.S. report drinking low to moderate amounts, which is, on average, up to 1 drink per day if you are a woman, and 2 drinks per day if you are a man. Another 28% of adults drink more each day, which is considered heavy drinking. A drink of alcohol is generally defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Modest Benefit but Many Risks Associated with Alcohol Drinking

While low to moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, drinking too much alcohol can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart failure, sudden death and stroke. Overall, alcohol consumption is one of the top 10 contributors to sickness and death from injuries, motor vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides, sexual assaults, sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex, falls, birth defects, depression, disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, and sleep disorders.
Additionally, there is a lot of evidence that drinking alcohol increases the risk of several cancers. In 2007, a working group of experts convened by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed the scientific evidence on alcohol and cancer risk for 27 different anatomic sites. They found sufficient evidence that alcohol drinking is a cause of cancers of the mouthpharynxlarynxesophaguslivercolonrectum, and female breast. And for cancers of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus, when people drink and use tobacco, the risks are combined to be greater than either tobacco use or alcohol use alone!
Importantly, it is also now well recognized that drinking even low amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the U.S. and worldwide. Compared to non-drinkers, there is a 10% to 12% higher risk of female breast cancer associated with each drink per day.
The IARC working group also noted that the scientific evidence is limited for several other cancer sites and more research is needed. One cancer for which there has been considerable interest is pancreatic cancer, the fourth most common cause of cancer death among men and women in the U.S. While heavy alcohol consumption causes acute and chronic pancreatitis, it has never been linked definitively to pancreatic cancer. The lack of convincing evidence is in part due to the fact that many individual studies have been too small to tease apart the effects of alcohol from the risk due to cigarette smoking, a well-established risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
To help address this issue, epidemiologists at the American Cancer Society used data collected from the Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS-II), a large cohort of more than 1.2 million U.S. men and women who were followed for cancer death from 1982 through 2008. During that follow-up time, nearly 7,000 study participants died of pancreatic cancer. The large size of the cohort allowed investigators to examine the risk of pancreatic cancer for heavy drinkers and break out whether or not they were smokers.
In those who never smoked, there was a 36% higher risk of pancreatic cancer death among men and women who drank 3 or more alcoholic drinks a day, compared to never drinkers. However, Whereas Among in those who ever smoked, there was a 16% higher risk associated with drinking 3 or more drinks per day. (The reason that the association between drinking alcohol and pancreatic cancer risk is not as strong in those who ever smoked is because they already have higher rates of pancreatic cancer, so the difference between drinkers and non-drinkers in this category is not as strong.) Regardless, these findings strongly suggest that heavy alcohol drinking is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

How does alcohol cause cancer?

We don't completely understand how alcohol causes cancer. Particularly for cancers of the head, neck, and esophagus, and perhaps other cancers such as liver cancer, one reason involves acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical that the body makes when it breaks down alcohol. Acetaldehyde can directly affect normal cells by damaging DNA, which can lead to cancer. For other cancers such as colorectal (colon and/or rectal) cancer, alcohol might adversely affect the metabolism of different nutrients that might play a role in reducing cancer risk. For breast cancer, drinking alcohol can increase circulating estrogens or other hormones in the blood, and hormones play a key role in the development of many breast cancers.

Are the effects of wine, beer, and liquor different?

Most people want to know if drinking wine is better than drinking beer or hard liquor. The research shows that it does not matter what type of alcohol you drink, and that the risk of these cancers is elevated for all alcoholic beverage types.

How to reduce your risk from alcohol

Based on the information and research available to date, a recent study noted that approximately 3% (19,500) of all cancer deaths in U.S. each year can be blamed on alcohol consumption, and about 1/3 of alcohol-related deaths are among those who drink up to about 1.5 drinks per day.
Some people could reduce their risk of cancer by having less alcohol. According to the American Cancer Society's guidelines for cancer prevention, people who drink alcohol should have no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women. The recommended limit is lower for women because of their generally smaller body size and slower metabolism of alcohol. (This is the average per day and doesn't justify drinking more drinks on fewer days of the week).
People who are at particularly high risk for cancer should talk to their doctor about not drinking alcohol or limiting the amount they drink to help reduce their risk.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Steps to prevent heat-related illnesses

Heat related illnesses are one of the main causes for loss of workdays and also death in a number of tropical countries.

People who are at highest risk are the elderly, the very young, and people with chronic diseases or mental illness.

But even young and healthy people can get sick from the heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

The body has an inbuilt mechanism to ward off excess heat. But this mechanism will not be able to keep pace in extremely hot conditions. The factors affecting your body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather are:
  • High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won't evaporate as quickly, which keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.
  • Personal factors. Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and few prescription drugs and also alcohol use can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather.

The following are steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths during hot weather:
  • Stay in an indoor location or in a shade as much as possible.
  • Drink plenty of fluids even  if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
  • Pace yourself. Do not over stress your body
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down whenever possible.