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Jan 29
Early mammograms save more lives--study
Although, the US Preventative Services Task Force recommends breast cancer [abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. ] screenings for women every other year in the later stages of their lives, a new study claims frequent mammograms that begin at a younger age can save thousands of lives.

According to researchers, women who get screened for malignancy every year after the age of 40 cut their risk of dying of breast cancer [abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. ] by 71 percent as opposed to those who undergo mammograms less frequently after the age of 50 years.

According to experts, the fact that young women too can get breast cancer is underestimated. As a result of earlier mammograms, younger women receive more treatment options which in turn leads to better chances of survival.

Co-author of the research, Mark Helvie, director of breast imaging at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center stated, "Task force guidelines have created confusion among women, leading some to forego mammography altogether.

"Mammography is one of the few screening tools that has been proven to save lives and our analysis shows that for maximum survival, annual screening beginning at 40 is best. This data gives women more information to make an informed choice about the screening schedule that's best for them."

Comparison of guidelines
For the purpose of the study, the researchers compared the guidelines issued by the task force on mammography for screening every other year in women 50-74 with those of the American Cancer Society that recommending an annual screening exam in women 40-84.

The experts used a total of six model scenarios of screening mammography designed by the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network.

It was noted that if women opt for breast cancer detection at age 40, they cut the risk of death from malignant tumors by 40 percent.

In contrast, when mammography begins at 50 and occurs every other year, breast cancer deaths go down by 23 percent. The difference translates into 71 percent more lives saved with annual screening starting at 40.

The investigators noted that on average women aged 40-49 years who go for an annual ritual of cancer detection will have a false-positive mammogram once in every 10 years.

R. Edward Hendrick, Ph.D., clinical professor of radiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, lead investigator stated, "The task force overemphasized potential harms of screening mammography, while ignoring the proven statistically significant benefit of annual screening mammography starting at age 40.

"In addition, the panel ignored more recent data from screening programs in Sweden and Canada showing that 40 percent of breast cancer deaths are averted in women who get regular screening mammography.

"Our modeling results agree completely with these screening program results in terms of the large number of women lives saved by regular screening mammography."

The study will be published in the February issue of the 'American Journal of Roentgenology.'

The benefits of mammogram
According to experts, women should undergo a clinical breast exam not only to save their life, but also to avert a mastectomy and avoid other radical cancer treatments.

The aim of cancer screening is to detect the malignancy before it starts to cause symptoms.

The tumors found in the advanced stage are larger and are more likely to have already spread. On the other hand, breast cancers found during mammography are generally smaller and still confined to the breast.

Finding the cancer at the initial stage means a better prognosis [a prediction of the course of the disease] . Smaller tumors can be effectively treated with a lumpectomy [a surgical procedure in which only the tumor and a small area of surrounding tissue are removed] , a type of breast conserving therapy which removes the cancerous lump while sparing the rest of the breast.

Jan 29
Women Suffer Fertility Troubles At 35
According to a new research, females making attempts to have a baby after 35 years are six times more likely to fertility problems as compared to those ten years younger.

As per a major research from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the elder parents are making it more difficult for themselves to have kids and raising the probability of grave medical problems for both mother as well as infant.

By 40, a female is more likely to have a spontaneous abortion than give birth.

Men's fertility also drops speedily from 25 and the physicians guess that the average 40-year-old takes two years to make his wife pregnant - even if she is in her 20s.

According to the numbers in the report by the Royal College, around 30% of 35-year-old females take more time than a year to become pregnant as compared to only 5% of 25-year-olds,.

Hopeful mothers in their late 30s and 40s are far more likely to have problems like as preeclampsia, ectopic gestation, spontaneous abortion or stillbirth and they are also more likely to need a Caesarean.

Kids born to them are more likely to be untimely, smaller or have mongolianism and other genetic troubles.

David Utting, specialty registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at Kingston Hospital NHS Trust and co-author of the review, stated, "Clear facts on fertility need to be made available to women of all ages to remind them that the most secure age for childbearing remains 20-35."

The results of the research have been released in the medical journal Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.

Jan 28
Common weed petty spurge 'could treat' skin cancer
Sap from the common garden weed petty spurge appears to treat non-melanoma skin cancers, experts are reporting in the British Journal of Dermatology.

But they tell patients not to "try it at home" since the treatment is still experimental and can irritate the skin.

Their study involved 36 patients with non-melanoma skin cancer lesions.

Although not the most serious form of skin cancer, non-melanoma lesions are very common, accounting for a third of all cancers detected in the UK.

They include basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and usually occur in older people.

Most cases of non-melanoma skin cancer can be easily treated and cured with surgical removal or freezing, or using a special kind of light therapy that kills the cancer cells.

However, for some people these treatments will fail or are not deemed suitable.
Promising early findings

The study involved 36 of such patients who collectively had a total of 48 non-melanoma lesions.

Each was treated with the sap of the petty spurge plant, or Euphorbia peplus, which was applied to the skin once a day for three days.

The plant sap has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine, and the researchers wanted to put it through its paces in a proper clinical trial.

After a one month, 41 of the 48 cancers had shown a complete clinical response to the treatment, meaning no trace of the tumour could be found on clinical examination.

Patients who experienced only a partial response to the first round of treatment were then offered a second course.

The lesions which responded positively to one or two courses of treatment were then followed up further for between two and 31 months. .

After an average of 15 months following treatment, two thirds (68.5% or 30 of the 48) of the skin cancer lesions were still showing a complete response.

The researchers say large-scale studies are now needed to test the active ingredient in the weed's sap, a substance called Ingenol mebutate, as a potential new treatment option.

Studies show that when Ingenol mebutate is applied to the skin it not only kills the cancerous cells but also recruits white blood cells known as neutrophils that appear to reduce the risk of relapse by destroying any residual malignant cells that could allow the tumour to re-grow.

Kimberley Carter of the British Association of Dermatologists said: "This is a very small test group so it will be interesting to see what larger studies and the development of the active ingredient in E. peplus sap will reveal.

"Whilst it would not provide an alternative to surgery for the more invasive skin cancers or melanoma, in the future it might become a useful addition to the treatments available to patients for superficial, non-melanoma skin cancers.

"Any advances that could lead to new therapies for patients where surgery is not an option are definitely worth investigating.

"It is also very important to note that this is definitely not a treatment people should be trying out at home.

"Exposure of the sap to mucous producing surfaces, such as the eyes, results in extreme inflammation and can lead to hospitalisation."

Cancer Research UK said that people with suspect skin lesions should continue to see doctors who can advise the best treatment.

Jan 28
Kerala doctors on indefinite strike
Medical services in Kerala have been badly hit. Around 1500 resident doctors and house surgeons are on an indefinite strike in five government-run medical colleges of the state.

Many patients were turned away from government-run hospitals due to lack of medical staff.

The doctors are demanding roll back of the recent hike in fees for PG medical courses and better accommodation facilities.

The talks between the doctors' representatives and the government have so far failed to resolve the issue. The doctors have now warned of intensifying their agitation.

The strike has left even patients needing emergency medical attention in the lurch. Thirty eight-year-old Asha was among the many turned away from the hospital due to lack of doctors.

"They just asked us to go somewhere else. Isn't this a hospital meant for the poor? We have no money. Where will we go?" questioned Asha, Patient.

As resident doctors form the backbone of government medical services, the strike totally paralysed the functioning of various medical college hospitals across the state.

"A responsible government should give concrete assurances and also follow them. It is the responsibility of the government to avoid such strikes, not ours," said Jassar Abdul Jabbar, President, Medical Post Graduate Association.

Talks between the agitating doctors and the government failed to break the deadlock.

"There is absolutely no need to go on indefinite strike, now, by virtually declaring a war on the patients," said PK Sreemathy, Minister for Health, Kerala.

With the government and the resident doctors refusing to budge from their stated positions, it seems it's these hapless patients who will continue to bear the brunt of the strike.

Jan 27
Key employees under the most stress: Canadian study
Being an important part of a company's operations might seem to be a worthy career goal, but results of a study suggest such a scenario can come with a personal price.

Findings of a study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health indicate that workers most likely to be stressed out are those the organization depends on the most.

In a survey of 2,737 people, 18 per cent reported their jobs as being "highly stressful." Some of the factors that increased the odds of falling into this category included being a manager, a professional, feeling one's performance can negatively affect others, and working long or variable hours.

Characteristics associated with the highly stressed workers in this study included being engaged and responsible. They also were likely to feel their failure to do their jobs properly could result in damage to their companies' finances or reputations.

Carolyn Dewa, head of the CAMH's work and well-being program, said the types of employees shown in this study as being most stressed out are largely the ones companies should want to protect.

"They're the people who are most invested in your organization," she said Tuesday. "These are the people you depend on."

The survey was taken of workers in Alberta, but its results were seen as being applicable across Canada. It was given a margin of error of two percentage points.

The CAMH said that chronic stress can lead to burnout and worsen existing mental-health and physical ailments. Such issues, Dewa said, contribute to $17 billion in productivity losses annually across the country due to employee absenteeism and those who continue to work but are less effective.

Dewa said both organizations and individuals should work together to prevent situations in which stress can take heavy tolls - both on the company and the employee.

While organizations want to put the most crucial tasks in the hands of their "go-to" people as much as possible, Dewa said companies can benefit in the long run by creating a more even distribution of workloads.

Dewa said workers should be able to tell their bosses that they need help without it being perceived as weakness or damaging their careers.

"If these are workers that you trust because they have been highly productive, then they're also the workers that you want to continue to support," Dewa said.

The survey found 82 per cent of its participants reported very low levels or no stress at all on the job. Those in this group were more likely than the overall general sample to be male, younger than 25 or working for a small business.

Jan 27
Afraid of Snakes? Scientists Explain Why
Fear of snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlers is so universal that most of us probably believe we must have been born with it. It's universal, so it must be innate.

Not necessarily, according to research at several major universities.

That work suggests that we learn which things can be harmful at a very young age -- even just a few months -- because we have an evolutionary bias that predisposes us to fear things that have posed a threat throughout human history.

"What we're suggesting is that we have these biases to detect things like snakes and spiders really quickly, and to associate them with things that are yucky or bad, like a fearful voice," developmental psychologist Vanessa LoBue of Rutgers University said in releasing the research.

LoBue's co-authors of the study, published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, are David H. Rakison of Carnegie Mellon University and Judy S. DeLoache of the University of Virginia.

The research is based on experiments with infants and very young children to see if they automatically know something can be harmful, like a snake, or if they have to learn it by observing fearful faces of adults, or associating a snake with something unpleasant, like a loud shriek.

Babies Not Born With Fear of Threats, Scientists Propose

They found repeatedly that babies don't recognize something as potentially harmful until they are conditioned to do so by something in their environment, and even then they may not show actual fear for a while.

"We propose that humans have a perceptual bias for the rapid detection of evolutionarily relevant threats and a bias for rapid association of these threats with fear," the researchers conclude in their paper.

But we weren't born with it, and in some cases female babies reacted differently from male babies, possibly explaining why some little boys seem fearless of snakes and spiders and things that go bump in the night, but most little girls scream at the mere sight of a snake.

In his part of the research, Carnegie Mellon's Rakison studied 11-month-old infants to see if an image of a snake, for example, alongside a human face showing either happiness or fear, would cause them to recognize that a snake is either harmless or dangerous.

It worked for the girls, but not the boys.

He found that "11-month old girls -- but not boys of the same age -- associated recurrent threats with fearful faces," according to the study. Interestingly, when the babies were shown flowers or other non-threatening images along with faces showing either fear or happiness, it made no difference.

That suggests the presence of a bias to recognize that snakes may be threatening, but not flowers.

DeLoache and LoBue tested infants (8 to 14 months old) and 3-year-old children and adults to see if they found images of snakes more quickly in a matrix of several images than they found harmless objects, like flowers. In all three cases the participants found snakes faster than flowers.

But apparently that instant recognition wasn't necessarily driven by fear. All participants were tested to see if they were really afraid of harmful items, like snakes, or just recognized that they were not supposed to include snakes as close friends.

Study: To Develop an Actual Fear of Snakes, Learning Is Required

The kids, and the adults, who showed signs of actual fear were no faster than participants who were unafraid of snakes at zeroing in on the snakes. That suggests it was a bias to learn fear, not fear itself, that governed the performance.

Similarly, infants who were shown a fearful face along with a picture of a snake recognized that the snake was probably not a good thing, but showed no sign of actual fear (no crying, for example.)

That compelled the researchers to conclude that "to develop an actual fear of snakes or of spiders, learning is required." That fear didn't come automatically, or with the body.

The work builds on previous research by other scientists, involving both humans and monkeys.

Susan Mineka of Northwestern University in Chicago showed that monkeys raised in the lab showed no fear of snakes, but they -- like humans -- visually detected snakes more quickly than harmless images, suggesting they somehow knew snakes could be dangerous, even though they had no direct experience with reptiles.

Humans Not Born With Fear of Snakes but Conditioned to Fear Potential Threats

Mineka and her colleagues suggested that part of the brain automatically invokes a fear response based on threats to survival throughout the history of primates, so it is evolutionarily based. That may explain why persons who live in industrialized countries who have never seen a snake still fear them.

Theoretically, at least, we all have a bias to avoid things that posed problems even in ancient human history.

We aren't born with a fear of snakes. But we have been conditioned by evolution to fear things that pose a threat, so we learn soon after birth that it's not a good idea to pick up a snake.

But of course, that doesn't explain the boy in the back of the class who is about to slip a garden snake over the shoulder of the girl in the next row. How come he's not afraid of the snake?

Maybe -- and this is just a layman's opinion -- proving to the girl that he's tough overrides his evolutionary bias to offer her a piece of candy instead of the snake. After all, me Tarzan, you Jane, still stands.

Jan 24
Nationwide Protest by Indian Medical Association (IMA)
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) members held a nationwide protest demanding the dissolution of the Medical Council of India (MCI) other regulations concerned with the medical education in the country.

They also opposed the decision of the Indian Government on implementation of the Bachelor of Rural Health Care(BRMC). They alleged that this procedure was unethical and would only promote quacks. The association has demanded the ministry to resolve their issues within 15days, or have threatened to go on strike.

IMA president Dr. Zora Singh said, "There are 1,000 doctors registered with IMA and we would counter the ministry's decision if our demands are not met. The Clinical Establishment Bill, 2010 contains some unfair and unacceptable provisions which are highly objectionable. The 'Stabilizing the patient' clause is a hindrance in the smooth functioning."

Jan 24
Meditation Could Improve Memory And Empathy
Changes in the brain consequent on meditation have been documented by the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers.

A structured 8-week meditation program leads to measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress, the study seems to show.

"Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day," says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study's senior author. "This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing."

Previous studies from Lazar's group and others found structural differences between the brains of experienced mediation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. But those investigations could not document that those differences were actually produced by meditation.

For the current study, MR images were take of the brain structure of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation - which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind - participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practice and were asked to keep track of how much time they practiced each day. A set of MR brain images were also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval.

Jan 21
Antioxidants may improve male fertility
Couples who struggle to conceive could find baby-making help from antioxidants such as vitamin E and zinc, hints a new review of more than 30 studies.

The researchers focused on men who were subfertile -- less fertile than average but still capable of making a baby -- and found that those who took antioxidants were more than four times as likely to get their partners pregnant than subfertile men who did not take the supplements.

The New Zealand team stops short of saying that antioxidants actually improve fertility, however. More research is needed to be sure.

Subfertility affects one in 20 men and is responsible for half of delayed conceptions. Up to 80 percent of cases are thought to be due to the effects of oxidative stress on sperm cells, lowering both their numbers and their quality.

Oxidative stress happens when molecules known as free radicals, byproducts of cell metabolism, damage DNA and cells' ability to function. Antioxidants, including certain vitamins and nutrients, help to protect cells by stabilizing free radicals.

This has led some experts to wonder if antioxidants might help sperm stay swimmingly healthy.

"Oral supplementation with antioxidants may go some way to improve a couple's chance of conception," lead researcher Marian Showell of the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

To see if the research to date backs up that idea, Showell and her colleagues reviewed 34 studies that involved nearly 3,000 couples undergoing fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination -- two of the most commonly used methods of boosting conception odds when sperm-related issues are involved. Each study investigated the potential role of one or more antioxidants.

Based on 96 pregnancies among 964 couples in 15 of the studies, the researchers found that antioxidant use by the male partner increased the odds of conception four-fold.

Further, men taking antioxidants improved the likelihood of their partners giving birth to a live baby by a factor of five, the researchers report in The Cochrane Library. Only three of the studies contained data on live births, however.

"The findings of increased live birth rates with antioxidants are based on a total of only 20 births -- a relatively small number," Dr. Mark Sigman of Brown University, in Providence, R.I., who was not involved in the review, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

Sigman, whose research found no improvement in semen quality with the antioxidant carnitine, was cautious about making too much of the review's results.

The included studies did not use the same types or numbers of antioxidants, he added. As a result, the researchers could not determine the effectiveness of individual supplements.

In addition to oral supplements, antioxidants can be found in a range of foods, from cranberries to collard greens, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Both Sigman and Showell cautioned that couples should not count on antioxidants to overcome their fertility challenges. Even if certain supplements prove effective, further research is needed to determine which couples could reap the specific benefits.

Jan 21
Migraines, headaches 'do not increase risk of cognitive decline'
A study - using MRI to study the brains of migraine sufferers - has shown that a higher proportion of these patients exhibit lesions of the brain microvessels than the rest of the population.

Buzz up!
According to several studies, the presence of a large quantity of this type of brain lesion increases the risk of cognitive deterioration (reasoning, memory, etc.) and of Alzheimer's disease. This is why the research team coordinated by Christophe Tzourio, director of the Inserm-Universit‚ Pierre et Marie Curie Mixed Research Unit 708 "Neuroepidemiology", advanced the hypothesis that migraines could "damage" the brain.


To test this hypothesis, the researchers evaluated the impact of migraine on cognitive function. The team used the EVA study-group of individuals aged over 65 years, recruited from the general population in Nantes, and monitored them over a 10-year period.

Cerebral MRI was performed on more than 800 of the participants and these individuals were also questioned about their headaches by a neurologist.

The cognitive tests performed, involved an evaluation of the volunteers orientation in time and space, their short-term memory and their capacity and speed to correctly carry out specific tasks.

The results show that 21 pc of people suffer or have suffered from severe headaches over the course of their lives. For more than 70 pc of these, this involves migraines, some of which are with aura. The MRI scans for those participants having severe headaches confirm that they are twice as likely to have a large quantity of microvascular brain lesions as subjects without headaches.

In contrast, the cognitive scores were identical for individuals with or without severe headaches and for those having or not having cerebral microvascular lesions.

Among participants having a migraine with aura (2pc of the total sample), a specific increase in silent cerebral infarcts and certain lesions was observed, hence confirming previous studies, but without detectable cognitive harm.

"This is a very reassuring result for the many people who suffer from migraine. In spite of the increased presence of lesions of the brain microvessels, this disorder does not increase the risk of cognitive decline. Therefore, we have not observed negative consequences of migraine on the brain ", concludes Tobias Kurth, lead author of the study, who designed and carried out these analyses. (ANI)