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Family Squabbles Can Derail Recovery From Cancer Surgery
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer patients burdened by stress and family conflicts before surgery may face a higher risk for complications following their operation, a new study suggests.

Investigators found that patients with a so-called quality-of-life "deficit" appeared to have a nearly three times greater risk for complications compared to those with a normal or good quality of life.

"We've long known that patient quality of life is a complex and important construction," said study lead author Dr. Juliane Bingener, a professor of surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "It involves spiritual health, mental health, social support and family support. And we know that for cancers such as colon, pancreatic and lung cancer, it can predict overall survival. But what we didn't know is if it also correlates with complication risk following surgery."

What the researchers found, Bingener said, "is that if a patient has a deficit in their quality of life before surgery, then their risk for having a serious complication within the first two weeks following surgery is much higher than it is for patients with a good quality of life."

Post-surgical complications included fever, bleeding and infections, some of which were fatal.

The findings, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, were based on 431 colon cancer patients who underwent surgery in 1993. The study only found an association between quality of life and surgical outcomes; it did not prove cause and effect.

Patient surveys ranked quality of life on the basis of a wide range of physical, social and psychological measures, including pain, fatigue and nausea, as well as "distress" related to daily routines, the work environment, and interactions with family and friends.

The research team found that nearly one in five patients experienced some type of complication, including death in two cases, before hospital discharge.

Thirteen percent of patients were determined to have a relatively poor quality of life before surgery. That translated into a 16 percent risk for developing a serious complication while still in the hospital, the researchers said.

By comparison, those with better quality-of-life scores faced a complication risk of 6 percent.

"The situation is very individual for each patient. And other factors can play a major role in complication risk, such as a patient's age or the presence of other diseases," said Bingener. "But all things being equal, there was a very clear correlation between a poor quality of life and a higher risk for problems following surgery."

The role played by family members, caregivers and close friends can be important, Bingener suggested.

"Support can have a big influence on quality of life," she noted. While there's no cookie cutter recipe that everyone who wants to help can follow before surgery, she said simply being there and having a conversation to find out what the patient's needs are can help reduce worry and offer reassurance. "That in itself may ultimately boost quality of life," Bingener said.

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, said the findings strike him as "reasonable," given the burden patients face while recovering from surgery.

"It's important to note that patients emerging from any type of surgery tend to do a lot better when they cooperate with the rehabilitation regimen set forth for them," he said. "But patients who feel stressed or depressed tend not to participate fully. If you're scared or in shock, you either don't do the exercises or you don't do them as vigorously as one should."

That can boost your odds for complications, Brawley said. For example, failing to do recommended breathing exercises can result in pneumonia, and refusing to walk or follow prescribed leg movements can lead to serious blood clots, he added.

"So, yes, the way people in a patient's circle handle the situation leading up to surgery can make a difference," Brawley said, adding it's important not to panic.

"The most helpful thing you can do," Brawley said, "is to try to have a positive attitude, and to choose to deal with what comes next as constructively as possible."

More information

For more about cancer surgery recovery, visit the American Cancer Society.Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Juliane Bingener, M.D., professor, surgery, department of surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer, American Cancer Society, and professor, oncology and epidemiology, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.; August...

Vitamin E, Selenium Supplements Don't Seem to Prevent Cataracts
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Daily supplements of selenium or vitamin E don't seem to protect against the development of age-related cataracts among men, a new study indicates.

Previous animal research has suggested that one or both could help prevent cataracts. To investigate this further, William Christen, from Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and his colleagues examined data from a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of selenium and vitamin E. The trial was initially designed to study prevention of prostate cancer.

Of the more than 35,000 men involved in the initial study, more than 11,000 were asked to report if they had been diagnosed with cataracts or undergone cataract removal surgery since the study began. All of the black men in the study were aged 50 years or older. All of the other men were aged 55 years or older.

The average treatment and follow-up period was about six years. There were almost 400 cases of cataracts during that time, according to the findings published Sept. 18 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Among the men taking selenium, there were 185 cases of cataracts, compared to 204 in the group that didn't take this supplement. Meanwhile, 197 cases of cataracts were diagnosed among the men taking vitamin E, compared to 192 in the group that didn't take it.

The men taking the supplements and those who didn't also had similar rates of cataract removal, the researchers pointed out in a journal news release.

"These randomized trial data from a large [group] of apparently healthy men indicate that long-term daily supplemental use of vitamin E has no material impact on cataract incidence," the study authors wrote.

"The data also exclude any large beneficial effect on cataract for long-term supplemental use of selenium, with or without vitamin E, although a smaller but potentially important beneficial effect could not be ruled out," they added.

One expert concurred.

"To date, there has been no study that has conclusively identified vitamins or minerals as being a useful aid in the prevention of cataracts," said Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and eye surgeon director for the New York Rangers hockey team.

"At the present time, there are no preventative solutions to slowing the progression of cataract formation other than decreasing exposure to ultraviolet light through the use of sunglasses," Fromer said.

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about cataracts.Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Mark Fromer, M.D., ophthalmologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City, and eye surgeon director, New York Rangers; JAMA Ophthalmology, news release, Sept. 18, 2014...

Almost Everyone Needs a Flu Shot: CDC
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Less than half of all Americans got a flu shot last year, so U.S. health officials on Thursday urged that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated for the coming flu season.

"It's really unfortunate that half of Americans are not getting the protection from flu they could get," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a morning news conference.

The result is lost days from work and school and a lot of preventable suffering, hospitalizations and deaths, he said.

Just one-third of adults 18 to 64 -- the age group hit especially hard last flu season -- were vaccinated against flu last year, according to new CDC figures.

Also, more than 100 children died from flu-related complications last year, Frieden noted.

"Many of those deaths might have been prevented if children had gotten a flu vaccination," he said. Ninety percent of the children who died were unvaccinated, he added.

Dr. Paul Offit, a professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said during the press briefing that every year children die in his hospital from flu.

"Parents' reaction is invariably the same," he said. "They can't believe this happened to them."

Most of these parents didn't want their child vaccinated because they didn't consider flu serious or they thought the vaccine wasn't safe, Offit said.

"The riskiest aspect of getting vaccines is driving to the office to get them," Offit said.

While just 46 percent of Americans overall were vaccinated against flu last year, children fared better than adults -- with 59 percent of kids immunized compared to 42 percent of adults, the CDC said.

Coverage was highest among children younger than 5 years and adults 65 and older, according to the CDC's Sept. 19 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

This year the CDC recommends the flu nasal spray vaccine for children 2 to 8 years old, Frieden said. But if the nasal spray isn't available immediately, these kids should get the shot, he said.

There is some encouraging news in the new report, the nation's health experts said.

Slightly more than half of pregnant women got flu shots in recent years. "It's important because pregnant women are most susceptible to severe complications from flu," Frieden said.

Dr. Laura Riley, director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said at the news conference that the flu vaccine is safe during pregnancy.

"It protects the mother from severe illness and it protects the baby from infection in the first six months of life before the baby can be vaccinated," Riley said.

Among health care workers, vaccination rates are rising, Frieden said. Overall, 75 percent of health care workers were vaccinated last flu season.

Vaccination coverage was highest among doctors and nurses, at 90 percent.

"Influenza is constantly evolving, and it's unpredictable," said Dr. William Schaffner, past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, during the press conference.

"That is why everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year," he said. "What is it about 'everyone' that we don't understand?" Schaffner asked.

Flu activity in the United States tends to pick up in October and usually peaks between January and March, according to the CDC.

Frieden said about 150 million doses of flu vaccine should be available for the U.S. market this year. This is up somewhat from last flu season.

More information
For more on flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Sept 18, 2014, press conference with Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; William Schaffner, M.D., past president, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, professor of preventive medicine a...

Obama Calls for National Plan to Fight Antibiotic Resistance
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- President Barack Obama escalated the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria on Thursday, ordering key federal agencies to pursue a national strategy to deal with the threat.

Obama signed an executive order that creates a new cabinet-level task force charged with crafting a national action plan for dealing with new "superbugs" -- which are ordinary and previously treatable bacteria that have become resistant to standard antibiotics through repeated exposure to the drugs.

The president also called for better federal oversight of the use of antibiotics in health care, strengthened efforts aimed at tracking the superbugs, and the development of next-generation antibiotics that can overcome bacterial resistance.

Finally, the order announced a $20 million prize for the development of a rapid diagnostic test that doctors can use to identify highly resistant bacterial infections.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are associated with 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These infections cost $20 billion annually in the United States, according to a news release from the Obama administration.

Dr. Jesse Goodman, director of the Center on Medical Product Access, Safety and Stewardship at Georgetown University Medical Center, called Obama's order a "great step forward," but cautioned that the fight will require a "sea change" in current thinking.

"Doctors, farmers and agribusiness, health systems and the public all need to think totally differently about antibiotics," Goodman said. "They are precious resources and we must reduce their inappropriate use. Better diagnosis and stronger infection control practices can make a big difference right now and safely reduce antibiotic use."

More information

To learn more about antibiotic resistance, visit U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Sept. 18, 2014, news release, The White House; Sept. 18, 2014, news release, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C....

Grief Can Weigh on Immune System in Older Folks, Study Says
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Older people become more physically vulnerable during bereavement, new research shows.

That's because the balance of stress hormones during bereavement changes with age, British researchers say. As a result, older people who are grieving are more likely to have weakened immune systems and develop infections, the study found.

"During the difficult weeks and months after loss, we can suffer from reduced neutrophil function. Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cell and as such are essential at combating infections and illness, so we become vulnerable when this happens," Dr. Anna Phillips, a reader in behavioral medicine at the University of Birmingham, said in a university news release.

There is a link between neutrophil function and the balance of stress hormones, the study authors noted. Two stress hormones respond differently to grief with age: cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS).

The study authors said that their research, published online recently in Immunity and Ageing, is the first to compare the relationship between stress hormones and immune function across different generations.

The study involved adults who were coping with the loss of a spouse or close family member. For younger people, the ratio of these two stress hormones was more balanced. For older people, however, the ratio was much higher, the research revealed.

"The effects of loss are poorly understood on the whole -- we know that it affects the immune system amongst other things -- but we don't fully understand the role played by our stress hormones," said Phillips. "We hope that this is a step towards that understanding, and being able to provide the best possible support."

Study co-author Janet Lord, a professor of immune cell biology at the University of Birmingham, added that "cortisol is known to suppress elements of the immune system during times of high stress, so having an unbalanced ratio of cortisol and DHEAS is going to affect how able we are to ward off illness and infection when grieving."

However, Lord pointed out in the news release, cortisol "is also incredibly useful -- particularly in activating some anti-stress and anti-inflammation pathways -- so it's not as simple as trying to suppress the cortisol in vulnerable people."

Possible treatments for those at increased risk of stress are hormonal supplements and similar products, the researchers suggested.

But Phillips concluded, "there is, quite simply, no substitute for a strong support network of family and friends to help manage the risks during a period of grieving."

More information

The American Cancer Society provides more information on coping with loss.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of Birmingham, news release, Sept. 9, 2014...

Study: Exposure to Diversity Might Boost Baby's Social Skills
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to diverse communities may boost infants' social learning, according to a new study.

Hearing different languages in the park or supermarket could help children be open-minded and willing to learn from people who are different from them, researchers found.

"Research has shown that children, like adults, are often biased against interacting with and learning from people who are different from them," said Amanda Woodward, a University of Chicago psychology professor, said in a university news release.

Early exposure to diversity could prevent children from developing these biases, the study's authors said.

"In this new study, we found that these fairly young babies are tuning into the social world outside of their home environment. The exposure to diversity may help protect against the development of a bias very early in life," said Woodward.

For the study, to be published in the November issue of the journal Cognition, the researchers examined data from experiments involving 82 toddlers. The 19-month-old children, who lived in English-speaking households, took cues from an adult who either spoke English or Spanish.

The researchers also analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data to determine the prevalence of non-English languages spoken in the children's neighborhoods.

"We were interested in linguistic diversity -- that is, how many different languages babies might hear," said the study's lead author Lauren Howard, a psychology doctoral student. "All of the babies in our study heard only English from their parents and caretakers. But they lived in neighborhoods where multiple languages were spoken."

The experiments tested how well the toddlers could learn from a non-English speaking person. The study found that infants who heard a diversity of languages in their neighborhoods were more likely than infants from less diverse neighborhoods to take direction from Spanish-speaking adults.

"Babies from more diverse communities learned and imitated more of the Spanish speaker's actions," said Howard. "Our findings showed that hearing those languages outside the home, for example at the park or on the bus, made infants more open to learning from someone who did not speak English."

Woodward said the study provides evidence that infants' social learning is shaped by the diversity of the neighborhood in which they live, even if they don't have direct interaction with people who speak other languages, added Woodward.

More information

The University of South Alabama provides more information on social learning.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of Chicago, news release, Sept. 10, 2014...

Rising Atlantic Ocean Temperatures Could Pose Threat to Reefs
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Rising temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean may be allowing certain tropical fish to spread to shallow waters that are becoming warmer, an expansion that could pose a significant threat to coral reefs, ecologists report.

A study of 40 species along the reefs off the North Carolina coast shows northward movement by the invasive and poisonous lionfish, according to researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, who published their findings in the September issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series.

"Globally, fish communities are becoming more tropical as a result of warming temperatures, as fish move to follow their optimal temperature range," study author Paula Whitfield, a research ecologist at NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, said in a news release. "Along the North Carolina coast, warming water temperatures may allow the expansion of tropical fish species, such as lionfish, into areas that were previously uninhabitable due to cold winter temperatures."

The Indo-Pacific lionfish was first sighted off the Florida east coast in the late 1980s. They have since spread throughout the western North Atlantic, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, according to the news release.

In 2000, the lionfish was also reported off the coast of North Carolina. Historically, both temperate and tropical species live in the North Carolina reefs, confined to their range limits by water temperatures. But, the researchers noted, temperatures in this zone are becoming more tropical.

Lionfish are viewed as a major threat to Atlantic reefs by reducing reef fish recruitment and biomass, the researchers said, and they may be involved with cascading impacts such as decreased coral cover on coral reefs.

For their findings, the researchers combined year-round bottom water temperature data with fish community surveys in water depths from 15 to 150 feet off the coast of North Carolina from 2006 to 2010.

"The temperature thresholds collected in this study will allow us to detect and to estimate fish community changes related to water temperature," explained Whitfield.

"This kind of monitoring data set is quite rare because it combines multiyear quantitative fish density data with continuous bottom water temperature data from the same location," added the study's co-author, Jonathan A. Hare, NOAA Fisheries research oceanographer, in the release.

The researchers found the fish community in deeper water, from 122 feet to 150 feet with a winter mean temperature of 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit, was primarily tropical. They concluded that water temperature was a key factor in controlling their expansion.

And they noted lionfish have become the most abundant species in those areas. Although the lionfish were restricted to depths below 87 feet where the average water temperature was higher than 59.5 degrees, the fish could spread to shallow waters that are becoming warmer.

"The results will allow us to better understand how the fish communities might shift under different climate change scenarios and provide the type of environmental data to inform future decisions relating to the management and siting of protected areas," said Whitfield.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides more information on climate change.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, news release, Sept. 15, 2014...

One Dose of Antidepressant Changes Brain Connections, Study Says
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Just a single dose of a common antidepressant can quickly alter the way brain cells communicate with one another, early research suggests.

The findings, reported online Sept. 18 in Current Biology, are a step toward better understanding the brain's response to widely prescribed antidepressants. Experts said the hope is to eventually be able to predict which people with depression are likely to benefit from a drug -- and which people would fare better with a different option.

In a small study of healthy volunteers, researchers found that a single dose of the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) seemed to temporarily reduce "connectivity" among clusters of brain cells in most regions of the brain.

The exceptions were two brain areas -- the cerebellum and thalamus -- where the drug boosted connectivity. In simple terms, connectivity refers to how brain cells "talk" to one another.

The cerebellum coordinates the body's voluntary movement, while the thalamus is involved in movement, sleep, and processing sensory information, including the things we see, hear and touch.

It's not clear yet what the findings could mean, said Dr. Radu Saveanu, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida.

But Saveanu, who wasn't involved in the study, said he sees it as an early step toward more "personalized medicine" for depression. In theory, brain scans could be used to predict a patient's likelihood of responding well to a given drug.

"Even though we have a large number of antidepressants available, we have no good way of predicting who'll respond to a medication," Saveanu said.

However, much research remains before brain scans could be used to guide anyone's treatment, he stressed. But the current study is a necessary first step, Saveanu said, because it looked at how one antidepressant dose affects depression-free people's brains.

Now some questions are, how do depressed people's brains respond? Are they different from people without depression? And how do people with depression differ from each other?

The study included 22 healthy adults who underwent functional MRI scans, which chart blood flow in the brain, giving an indication of the brain's electrical activity. Each study participant underwent three scans on separate days: a baseline scan; another done three hours after a dose of Lexapro; and a third done three hours after a dose of a placebo (inactive) pill.

Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a group of antidepressants that also includes brands like Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft. The drugs are widely prescribed, but no one knows precisely how they act on the brain.

It's been thought that they change the brain's connectivity, but that those effects probably take a few weeks to show up, said study researcher Dr. Julia Sacher, a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany.

"Our findings reveal that SSRIs affect brain connectivity right away, and that these changes encompass the entire brain," Sacher said.

It's possible, she added, that those changes are a first step in "remodeling" the brain before the drugs improve symptoms, which typically takes a few weeks -- if they work at all.

Sacher agreed that much work remains before these findings can prove useful in the real world. She said researchers still need to understand how different antidepressants affect the brains of people with and without depression -- not only after the first dose, but over the longer term, too.

The hope is to uncover distinct differences in brain connectivity between depression patients who ultimately respond to an antidepressant and those who don't.

Then, one idea would be to do a short brain scan before someone who is depressed starts treatment, Sacher said. "Ideally, the pattern of this baseline brain scan could provide psychiatrists with additional information on what kind of treatment would have the highest probability to help with the patient's symptoms," she said.

That's not feasible right now, she stressed, but in the future it could be.

Saveanu agreed. Functional MRI scans are noninvasive and take about 15 minutes. As the price comes down over time, Saveanu said, they might offer a viable way to help tailor depression patients' treatment.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on antidepressant medications.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Julia Sacher, M.D., Ph.D., fellow, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany; Radu Saveanu, M.D., professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Sept. 18, 2014,

New Ebola Cases Top 700 in Just One Week, Officials Report
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- In a sign that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is starting to spread faster than ever, the World Health Organization said Thursday that more than 700 new cases of the deadly viral infection were reported in just one week.

That brings the total number of cases to more than 5,300, with roughly half of those reported in the past three weeks, the Associated Press reported. The number of deaths now tops 2,600.

WHO has estimated that as many as 20,000 people could eventually be struck by Ebola in this current outbreak.

Most of the deaths have been in Liberia, the AP reported. Health care workers have also taken a heavy hit, with 318 infected and about half of those now dead.

Earlier in the week, President Barack Obama announced a significant increase in U.S. aid to help combat West Africa's Ebola crisis, and WHO warned that the window to contain the deadly virus was closing and infections could start doubling every three weeks.

Obama said Tuesday he will dispatch 3,000 military personnel to West Africa to offer medical and logistical support to beleaguered health care facilities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and to increase the number of beds to quarantine and treat victims of the epidemic.

The program's goals include the training of as many as 500 health care workers a week, and building as many as 17 health care facilities with 100 beds a piece. Home health care kits will be distributed, and local residents will be trained on how to handle people infected with the disease, USA Today reported.

The total cost of the aid program is estimated at $763 million, the newspaper said, including $175 million that the United States has already set aside to fight Ebola, which can have a mortality rate as high as 90 percent.

Administration officials said it would take about two weeks to get the U.S. personnel on the ground in West Africa, the AP reported. American troops will coordinate the aid effort through a joint command center in Monrovia, Liberia, USA Today said.

Underscoring the nature of the threat, WHO said Tuesday that nearly $1 billion is needed for everything from paying health workers and buying supplies to tracing people who have been exposed to the virus. An estimated $24 million is needed just to pay for burials and body bags to contain the infectious disease. Also needed: protection suits, especially for health care workers who are at heightened risk because Ebola is spread through contact with bodily fluids such as blood from a patient.

White House officials said it's crucial to contain the Ebola as swiftly as possible. Some U.S. medical experts worry that the virus could mutate and expand beyond Africa, possibly threatening the United States, The New York Times has reported.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, endorsed Obama's plan, labeling it a "major commitment," the Times reported.

"It seems coordinated and coherent," he told the newspaper. The "real core," he added, was the military's logistical support "because the heart of any kind of epidemic containment concept is getting the goods to the right place, putting up the institution."

Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told the Times that Obama's plan didn't go far enough. The focus on Liberia was too limited, and more should be done to assist Guinea and Sierra Leone, he said.

"We should see all of West Africa now as one big outbreak," Osterholm said. "It's very clear we have to deal with all the areas with Ebola. If the U.S. is not able or not going to do it, that's all the more reason to say the rest of the world has to do it."

Four American medical aid workers have been infected with Ebola while working in West Africa. Two -- Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol -- have recovered after aggressive treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

A third health care worker, Dr. Rick Sacra, is being treated at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, and officials said he is expected to make a full recovery.

The fourth infected American, so far unidentified, continues to undergo treatment at Emory.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Ebola is primarily being spread in West Africa in two ways: The first is among people caring for people with the disease, whether at home or in health-care settings and hospitals; the second is unsafe burial practices.

More information

For more on Ebola, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; USA Today; Associated Press; The New York Times...

Scientists Studying Sickle Cell Trait
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are trying to learn more about a condition called sickle cell trait, which can cause sudden death in young athletes.

In people with sickle cell trait, intense physical activity, heat and dehydration can cause muscle breakdown that can lead to kidney damage and cardiac arrest. Between 2000 and 2014, nine collegiate football players in the United States collapsed and died during training and were later found to have sickle cell trait.

"More student-athletes with sickle cell trait have died than those with any other condition, including heart defects," Dr. John Wood, of the Saban Research Institute at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, said in a hospital news release.

"Sickle cell trait should not be a barrier to an active lifestyle or competitive sports, but the problem is that many people won't have any warning symptoms. Because of that, they don't even know they have this condition and can't take the necessary precautions," he added.

Sickle cell trait occurs in people who have one abnormal hemoglobin gene and one normal gene. They do not usually have any symptoms of sickle cell disease, but they can pass the trait on to their children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in 12 black people and about 2 million people overall in the United States are affected, and most of them don't know they have the condition.

Recently, sickle cell trait testing became mandatory for all U.S. Armed Forces recruits and all NCAA Division I and II athletes.

"How sickled hemoglobin in the red blood cell triggers such rapid muscle damage (in people with sickle cell trait) is quite a puzzle," Wood said. "It is also unclear why only a few athletes are stricken when so many others participate under harsh conditions without difficulty. That's what we are trying to find out."

The researchers so far have "found that individuals with SCT exercised to lower oxygen levels and red cell energy reserves than people with regular hemoglobin. This could allow SCT athletes to unknowingly push their muscles to dangerously low oxygen and energy levels during rigorous activity," Wood said.

He and his team are now studying how the body regulates blood flow to the muscles and brain in people with sickle cell trait and in those with sickle cell disease. Those findings could help identify who is at serious risk during intense exercise.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sickle cell trait.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Children's Hospital Los Angeles, news release, Sept. 3, 2014...

Mentors May Steer Young People Toward More Rewarding Careers
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Teens and young adults who've been mentored may be more likely to get a job that provides them with greater responsibility and independence early on in their career, according to a new study.

"We found that having a mentor provides a clear benefit well into their working lives," the study's lead author, Steve McDonald, an associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State University, said in a university news release.

In conducting the study, published online recently in the American Journal of Community Psychology, the researchers examined data compiled on more than 12,000 teens and young adults. Those polled were asked if they ever had a mentor. The young people were surveyed again six years later and asked about their jobs. The researchers also took into account differences in the participants' social and economic backgrounds.

"People from socioeconomically advantaged backgrounds are more likely to have mentors. We wanted to find a way to determine which professional benefits stem from mentorship, as opposed to benefits that came from socioeconomic advantages," McDonald explained.

According to study co-author Joshua Lambert, a doctoral student at the university, the investigators "found that overall employment and compensation were about the same. But people who had mentors when they were younger had greater 'intrinsic' job rewards."

Intrinsic rewards include having more authority, independence and responsibility, which make jobs more rewarding.

"The findings imply that mentees learn to place a higher value on jobs with more intrinsic rewards -- and those same characteristics are associated with long-term career success," McDonald concluded.

More information

The National Mentoring Partnership has more about the value of mentoring.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: North Carolina State University, news release, Sept. 17, 2014...

ER Waiting Times Vary Significantly, Studies Find
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to emergency room waiting times, patients seeking care at larger urban hospitals are likely to spend more time staring down the clock than those seen at smaller or more rural facilities, new research suggests.

"The experience of crowding and our ability to provide timely emergency care varies dramatically across hospitals in the United States," said one of the authors of the new research, Dr. Renee Hsia, an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

"All things being equal, hospitals with longer wait times or lengths of stay tended to be large, urban, publicly owned hospitals that took care of a high proportion of Medicaid patients," said Hsia, who's also an attending physician and director of health policy studies in the department of emergency medicine at San Francisco General Hospital.

The findings are from two research letters in the Sept. 15 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

In the first study, Hsia and co-author Sidney Le -- a UCSF medical student -- focused on medical records concerning adult patients seen at almost 3,700 different emergency rooms across the country in 2012 and 2013.

Nearly three-quarters of the ERs were in non-teaching hospitals. Almost two-thirds of the ERs were at private non-profit facilities. And, slightly more than half were located in an urban setting.

Patients who were not ultimately admitted waited an average of a half-hour to see a health care professional. And, overall, they spent a little more than two hours in the ER, the study found.

On the other hand, admitted patients spent an average of four hours in the ER. About one-third of that time occurred after admission but before an in-patient bed became available.

The investigators also found that ER patients seen and discharged at a large and/or urban hospital ended up waiting longer to see someone (and spent more time overall in the ER) than those at smaller and/or rural facilities. And among admitted patients, those seen at either a public hospital or a major teaching hospital tended to be in the ER notably longer than those admitted to other types of care centers.

In the second analysis, Hsia and colleagues examined data from nearly 25,000 ER visits. The data had been collected by the 2010 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

Hsia's team found that just over half of the ERs were able to get 90 percent of patients who needed to be admitted in and out of the ER within an 8-hour period. But, less than a quarter of ERs were able to get 90 percent of their non-admitted patients discharged within a 4-hour period.

The researchers cautioned that efforts to pressure ERs to perform better need to recognize that not all patients are alike, with some needing greater and lengthier emergency care than others.

"Emergency department patients require varied services," they wrote, "and a [length of stay] that is adequate for one patient may be insufficient for the evaluation of another."

Along the same lines, Hsia noted that well-meaning policies intending to push ERs to shorten their waiting times "may have unintended consequences," perhaps even encouraging the unnecessary admission of patients who might be better off being discharged.

Dr. Jeremiah Schuur, author of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal, seconded Hsia's concerns.

"It's certainly important to publicize this issue," said Schuur, who is an assistant professor of emergency medicine with Harvard Medical School.
"Medicare started advertising waiting times at ERs about a year ago. And that will be a strong incentive for hospitals to work on and improve their waiting times," he added.

"But in terms of other types of incentives, I'm not sure that tying performance to say payments, for example, is a good move. Because some of the hospitals with longer waiting times, like teaching hospitals, care for the most complex patients who often don't have access to regular care. And these places are, by nature and necessity, going to have longer waiting times," warned Schuur, who is also chief of the division of health policy translation in the department of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"And for concerned patients it's also important to note that waiting times shouldn't be the only determining factor in terms of where one seeks emergency care," he said.

"For one, seeking out the closest facility is usually the right thing to do. And for trauma and chest pain patients calling the EMS system is the right way to access emergency care. And in those cases, the patients may not actually have a choice as to what facility they go to," he explained.

More information

To learn more about when you should head to the emergency room, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

SOURCES: Renee Hsia, M.D., M.Sc., associate professor, University of California, San Francisco, and attending physician/director of health policy studies, department of emergency medicine, San Francisco General Hospital; Jeremiah D. Schuur, M.D., M.H.S., ...

Research Shows Possible Neurological Patterns for PTSD Symptoms
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Imaging technology has shed new light on how certain symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) manifest in the brain, according to a new study.

PTSD is a mental health condition that can cause a wide range of debilitating symptoms, such as flashbacks to a traumatic event, being in a constant state of stress and avoiding certain situation and people, according to background information from the study.

Researchers identified a specific opioid receptor in the brain linked to emotion that is also associated with a specific group of PTSD symptoms, including listlessness and emotional detachment. They suggested their findings could help doctors develop targeted, or personalized treatments for the condition.

"Our study points toward a more personalized treatment approach for people with a specific symptom profile that's been linked to a particular neurobiological abnormality," explained the study's lead author, Dr. Alexander Neumeister, co-director of NYU Langone Medical Center's Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, in an NYU news release. "Understanding more about where and how symptoms of PTSD manifest in the brain is a critical part of research efforts to develop more effective medications and treatment modalities."

The study, published online Sept. 17 in JAMA Psychiatry, represents a shift within the field of psychiatry away from a "one-size-fits-all" approach to more individualized treatments for mental health issues that target specific areas of the brain.

"People with cancer have a variety of different treatment options available based on the type of cancer that they have," noted Neumeister. "We aim to do the same thing in psychiatry. We're deconstructing PTSD symptoms, linking them to different brain dysfunction, and then developing treatments that target those symptoms. It's really a revolutionary step forward that has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) over the past few years in their Research Domain Criteria Project."

"We know from previous clinical trials that antidepressants, for example, do not work well for dysphoria and the numbing symptoms often found in PTSD," Neumeister added. "Currently available antidepressants are just not linked specifically enough to the neurobiological basis of these symptoms in PTSD. Going forward, our study will help pave the way toward development of better options."

For the study, which was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the researchers compared brain scans of healthy people with scans of those diagnosed with PTSD, major depression, or generalized anxiety disorder, whose symptoms ranged from emotional detachment to isolation.

The participants were given a harmless radioactive tracer that illuminates a class of opioid receptors, known as kappa, when exposed to a PET scan (high-resolution positron emission tomography). Kappa opioid receptors bind to a natural opioid, known as dynorphin, which is released by the body during stressful times to reduce the feeling of dysphoria, marked by hopelessness, detachment and emotional unease.

Under chronic stress, however, kappa opioid receptors retract inside cells and do not bind to dynorphin, which can cause feelings of dysphoria.

The researchers found that fewer available kappa opioid receptors in the brain, however, were not linked to feelings of anxious arousal. They also saw a link between reduced cortisol levels, a hormone, and unavailable kappa opioid receptors. They concluded cortisol is an indicator for certain types of PTSD symptoms.

"This is the first brain-imaging study to explore any psychiatric condition using a protein that binds to the kappa opioid receptor system," Neumeister pointed out. "Returning veterans are a particularly vulnerable population, so we are hopeful this research will lead to better treatments for them, since they represent an escalating demographic of victims of PTSD."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on PTSD.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: NYU Langone Medical Center, news release, Sept. 17, 2014...

FDA Panel: Limit Testosterone Drug Use
September 18, 2014


THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- There is little evidence that testosterone replacement therapy effectively treats normally sagging levels of the hormone in aging American males, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said Wednesday.

The panel, from two key FDA committees, overwhelmingly voted, 20-1, to tighten use of the popular drugs and require drug makers to conduct tests assessing the drugs' risk of heart attack and stroke, according to Bloomberg News.

"The whole idea is to try to rein in the inappropriate advertising and use of these drugs," Dr. Michael Domanski, a panel member who is director of heart failure research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, told The New York Times.

The FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of its expert panels, but usually does.

Along with sharply curtailing how many men might be prescribed testosterone supplements, insurance companies could also limit coverage for their use if the FDA follows its panel's advice, experts told the Times.

In what has become known as the Low-T fad, Baby Boom generation men have turned to testosterone replacement therapy in response to the sagging muscles, lower energy levels and sexual problems that often accompany natural aging, the FDA noted in a review provided to committee members in advance of the meeting.

"There's a large group of men out there who are getting older, and they are looking for ways to evade the consequences of aging," Dr. Bradley Anawalt, an endocrinologist from the University of Washington in Seattle, said ahead of the meeting.

The FDA review pointed out there's no clear scientific evidence showing testosterone replacement can reverse some of the effects of aging. Yet the "Low-T" craze has been aided by consumer advertising for remedies that promise renewed vitality and strength for aging men, the report said. It also noted that there's growing evidence many men who are receiving testosterone replacement therapy do not need it.

Anawalt said he hoped the FDA hearing signals increased government oversight of testosterone therapy and increased public funding for studies on its effectiveness.

"This is a hormone that has been used as a therapy for decades without much scrutiny," he added.

The number of patients with a testosterone prescription nearly doubled over three years, leaping from 1.3 million people in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2013, according to the FDA review, done by Dr. Christine Nguyen, the agency's deputy director for safety, and Dr. Hylton Joffee, director of the FDA's division of bone, reproductive and urologic products.

An FDA analysis found that only about one-half of men now taking testosterone therapy have been diagnosed with hypogonadism, the specific medical diagnosis for testosterone deficiency.

Further, 25 percent of men started the therapy without lab testing to confirm that they had low levels of testosterone, the report said. More than one in four never received a lab test during the course of their therapy, which is crucial to making sure the patient's hormone levels are within the normal range, according to the FDA.

"Many endocrinologists feel that testosterone is being prescribed for men without a clear indication for its use, or for men who are not indicated for it at all," said Anawalt.

Testosterone therapy, even if used correctly, could have serious consequences for heart health, the FDA report added.

One recent study found a 30 percent increased risk of stroke or heart attack in a group of men recently prescribed testosterone therapy, the FDA said. Another found that men 65 and older experienced a two-fold increase in heart attack risk within the first three months of receiving a testosterone prescription, according to the agency.

In June, the FDA announced that testosterone supplement products must now carry a warning label on the general risk of blood clots in the veins.

Until a decade ago, testosterone deficiency tended to be a little recognized and undertreated illness, said Dr. Ronald Tamler, director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center in New York City.

"Then all of a sudden, the [pharmaceutical] industry started picking up on this and realized that testosterone was a fantastic business, and realized some patients had needed this medication for decades," Tamler said.

Unfortunately, he added, doctors who aren't hormone experts are performing testosterone level tests at the wrong time of the day, which can lead to overdiagnosis of low levels.

Testosterone levels are at their peak early in the morning and decline naturally throughout the day, he said, but some doctors have been performing hormone tests at all times of the day, diagnosing some men as having low testosterone when in fact their levels are normal.

"We swiftly went from one extreme to the other extreme, which was overtesting for it, overdiagnosing it and overtreating it," he said.

At the same time, the science is "murky" on the link between testosterone and increased risk of stroke or heart attack, Tamler added. The FDA review agreed, noting that some studies found potential harm, while others found none.

More information

For more on the FDA's meetings on testosterone replacement therapy, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

.Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Ronald Tamler, M.D., director, Mount Sinai Diabetes Center, and associate professor, endocrinology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City; Bradley Anawalt, M.D., representative, The Endocrine Society, and endocrinologist, Univers...

Health Tip: Why Proteins Are Essential
September 18, 2014


(HealthDay News) -- Proteins are an essential part of your diet, but it's important to choose healthy, lean proteins to keep your body going strong.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says benefits of healthy proteins include:

  • They're rich in nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium.
  • Proteins are the building blocks for blood, muscles, bones, skin, cartilage, hormones and enzymes, and they provide needed calories.
  • B vitamins found in proteins help your body release energy, boost a healthier nervous system, create red blood cells and create new tissue.
  • Iron in proteins helps the blood carry oxygen.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Health Tip: Losing Weight After Baby
September 18, 2014


(HealthDay News) -- When you're ready to get back in shape after baby is born, remember that slow and steady is the healthy way to go.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers these suggestions:

  • Give your body at least a month to recover from childbirth before you try to lose weight.
  • Never skip meals. Focus on eating nutrient-rich, healthy foods -- rather than counting calories.
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water per day, more if breast-feeding.
  • Eat at least 4 1/2 cups of fruit and vegetables each day.
  • Eat healthy, protein-packed snacks during the day.
  • Slowly work your way back to a regular exercise routine, and avoid any fad diets that purport to make you lose weight quickly.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


More Than One Kind of Message May Convince Smokers to Quit, Study Says
September 17, 2014


WEDNESDAY, Sept. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Positive messages about the health benefits of quitting smoking may help some people kick the habit, a new study suggests.

Although smokers who think quitting will be difficult responded better to "loss-framed" messages about the harmful effects of smoking, researchers found smokers who believe they can quit whenever they want benefit more from "gain-framed," or positive, messages about how quitting will improve their health.

The researchers concluded that using a mix of both types of messages might get more people to stop smoking.

"This study shows us that leveraging both gain- and loss-framed messaging may prompt more smokers to quit," lead investigator Darren Mays, a population scientist at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a university news release.

Most tobacco warnings on cigarette packages in the United States and around the world are "loss-framed" messages. The researchers cautioned that these statements may not convince many smokers to quit.

The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act authorized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products. The law also required new picture labels to be posted on the labels of cigarette packs.

However, implementation of this legislation has been delayed by lawsuits from the tobacco industry. Because its nine proposed graphic label warnings were struck down in court in 2012, the FDA is pursuing more research to support these graphic warning label requirements.

The study, published Sept. 15 in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, involved 740 participants. The researchers examined the effects of four images: a man using a device to help him breathe; a healthy lung next to a diseased lung; a man lying on a white sheet with stitches on his chest, and a mouth ravaged by cancer. These images had either "loss-framed" or "gain-framed" messages.

"Gain-framed" messages stressed the health benefits of quitting, such as a reduced risk of death from tobacco. Meanwhile, "loss-framed" messages emphasized negative outcomes from smoking, such as increased risk of death.

The American Cancer Society-supported study found each image was effective. The researchers said their findings could provide additional evidence for new graphic warnings proposed for U.S. cigarette packages.

"Leveraging policies such as graphic warnings for cigarette packs to help smokers quit is critical to improve public health outcomes," concluded Mays. "Our study shows that framing messages to address smokers' pre-existing attitudes and beliefs may help achieve this goal."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on ways to quit smoking.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Georgetown University Medical Center, news release, Sept. 15, 2014...

Are Migraines in Middle Age Tied to Raised Parkinson's Risk Later?
September 17, 2014


WEDNESDAY, Sept. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Migraines in midlife may be associated with increased odds of developing Parkinson's disease or other movement disorders in later years, new research suggests.

The study, which did not prove a cause-and-effect link between the two brain-based conditions, also suggested that the migraine-Parkinson's association was stronger in women with migraines preceded by aura. An aura is a warning sign of a pending attack that includes flashes of light and skin tingling.

"We should emphasize that while the risk is increased for Parkinson's disease and these [similar] symptoms, they're still uncommon among those with migraine," said study author Ann Scher, a professor of epidemiology at Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md. "I don't think people should necessarily worry that if they have migraines, Parkinson's disease is [in their future]."

The research is published in the Sept. 17 online edition of the journal Neurology.

Throbbing, chronic headaches that impact about 28 million Americans aged 12 and up, migraines affect three times as many women as men, according to the American Headache Society.

Meanwhile, about 1 million people in the United States have Parkinson's disease and up to 60,000 more are diagnosed each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. The incurable neurological condition causes tremors, stiffness, slow movement, and impaired balance and coordination.

Scher and her colleagues reviewed records of more than 5,600 Icelandic people aged 33 to 65 who were tracked for 25 years. At the study's start, about 4,000 participants had no headaches, with 1,028 suffering non-migraine headaches, 238 migraine with no aura and 430 migraine with aura.

In later life, participants were asked whether they'd been diagnosed with Parkinson's or experienced symptoms; had a family history of Parkinson's; or had symptoms of restless legs syndrome, a movement disorder characterized by uncomfortable leg sensations and an irresistible urge to move the legs.

The findings showed that those with migraine with aura at midlife were more than twice as likely to have been later diagnosed with Parkinson's than people with no headaches. Those with migraine with aura were 3.6 times as likely to report four of six parkinsonian symptoms, while those with migraine with no aura were 2.3 times more likely. Overall, the study found nearly 20 percent of those with migraine with aura had symptoms, compared to 12.6 percent of those with migraine with no aura and 7.5 percent of those with no headaches.

Both Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome involve a dysfunction in the brain chemical dopamine, Scher said, and migraine development is also thought to be associated with dopamine abnormalities. Future research should examine whether Parkinson's and migraine share genetic risk factors, she added.

"Previous studies noted that migraine, particularly migraine with aura, was linked to cardiovascular disease and stroke, so there's increasing interest in whether these linkages might manifest in other neurological symptoms later in life," Scher said.

Dr. Michael Okun, national medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation, called the new research "interesting." But he said it had several notable weaknesses, including that its participants were only from the Icelandic region and that some patients reporting Parkinson's symptoms had not been formally diagnosed with the disorder.

"The idea that a history of migraine headaches has something to do with Parkinson's is intriguing, but there's not a lot of scientific data right now that would support that notion," said Okun, also co-director of the Movement Disorders Center at the University of Florida. "I'd be extremely cautious to conclude that migraine is associated with Parkinson's."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about Parkinson's disease.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Ann Scher, Ph.D., professor, epidemiology, Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, Md.; Michael Okun, M.D., national medical director, National Parkinson Foundation, and co-director, Movement Disorders Center, University of Florida, Gainesville,...

PTSD Link to Food Addiction Seen in Report
September 17, 2014


WEDNESDAY, Sept. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Women who have the largest number of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are almost three times more likely to develop an addiction to food, a new study suggests.

The findings don't prove a direct link between PTSD and women overeating or becoming addicted to food. And it's also possible that certain women are prone to food addiction and experiencing trauma, PTSD, or both.

Still, the research seems to add to existing evidence connecting PTSD to overeating and obesity, although the overall risk is fairly low, the researchers from the University of Minnesota said.

The findings can be helpful, said the study's lead author, Susan Mason, an assistant professor with the university's division of epidemiology and community health. "If clinicians providing mental health care are aware that PTSD is sometimes accompanied by problematic eating behaviors, then they may be able to offer better and more tailored care to their patients," she said.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops in some people after they experience a horrific event, like a natural disaster, violence or warfare. Those with PTSD may become endlessly vigilant, have a difficult-to- impossible time relaxing, and can develop flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety.

Previous research has linked PTSD to higher rates of obesity and being underweight, Mason said, along with addiction problems. It's difficult for researchers to figure out exactly what's going on, however, because they can't use the gold standard of research, a clinical trial, to examine a possible connection. It would be unethical -- and probably impossible -- to randomly assign some people to develop PTSD and then compare them to healthy people.

In the new study, researchers tried to get a handle on possible connections between PTSD and food addiction.

Food addiction is defined as a kind of psychological dependence on food, with symptoms like other kinds of addictions. For instance, physical withdrawal if those with the disorder stop eating certain foods, using food to make them feel better and eating when they don't need to.

Mason said she wasn't aware of research pinpointing how many people suffer from food addiction.

The researchers examined the results of Nurses' Health Study II surveys of more than 49,400 female nurses in the United States in 2008 and 2009. The women joined the study in 1989 when they were 25 to 42 years old.

According to Mason, the researchers found that 6 percent of the one-third of women who had no signs of PTSD showed signs of food addiction. Of the 10 percent of women who had the most symptoms -- 6 to 7 on a 7-symptom PTSD screening questionnaire -- nearly 18 percent had a food addiction.

The researchers noted two things: Nurses reported their most common trauma experience was treating individuals with traumatic injuries, and early onset of symptoms predicted a higher prevalence of food addiction.

Why do these numbers matter? "It is a big deal if a substantial proportion of women are feeling highly distressed or feel that their functioning is being undermined by their relationship with food," Mason said.

Still, she said it's not clear how all this is connected to obesity. The nurses in the study who seem to be addicted to food "are substantially heavier than women who do not meet those criteria, but we don't yet know whether the food addiction causes obesity, or the other way around, or if the two things are both caused by some underlying factor we don't know about."

Dr. Timothy Brewerton, executive medical director with The Hearth Center for Eating Disorders in Columbia, S.C., praised the research. "This study represents a major advance in validating the concept of food addiction, and in linking food addiction with trauma and PTSD," he said.

He noted that the study adds support for the idea that food addiction is real -- "there are a lot of naysayers in the eating disorders community in regard to the existence of food addiction"-- and suggests that trauma and PTSD could be a cause. "The greater the number of PTSD symptoms, the greater the probability of food addiction," he said.

As for future research, Mason said researchers want to look at larger groups of people to see if the connection holds up.

The study appears in the Sept. 17 issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

More information

For more about PTSD, visit the National Center for PTSD.Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Susan Mason, Ph.D., assistant professor, division of epidemiology and community health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Timothy Brewerton, M.D., executive medical director, The Hearth Center for Eating Disorders, Columbia, S.C., and clinica...

DNA Blood Test Might Identify Status of Prostate Cancer
September 17, 2014


WEDNESDAY, Sept. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A blood test that measures DNA from a prostate cancer tumor could provide doctors with a better assessment of the state of a man's disease, a new study suggests.

If used routinely, this blood test could reveal when treatment for advanced prostate cancer stops working and actually begins promoting tumor growth, the researchers suggested.

"Our study showed that a steroid treatment given to patients with advanced prostate cancer and often initially very effective started to activate harmful mutations and coincided with the cancer starting to grow again," study leader Dr. Gerhardt Attard, from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, explained in an ICR news release.

"In the future, we hope to routinely monitor genetic mutations in patients with advanced disease using just a blood test -- enabling us to stop treatments when they become disease drivers and select the next best treatment option. We need to confirm these findings in larger numbers of patients, but using these types of blood tests could allow true personalization of treatment for prostate cancer patients, based on the cancer mutations we detect," he explained.

Using a blood test to measure circulating tumor DNA levels is less expensive and less invasive than needle biopsies. This test could be an effective way to monitor the emergence of treatment-resistant prostate cancer, the study published on Sept. 17 in Science Translational Medicine suggested.

"Drug resistance is the single biggest challenge we face in cancer research and treatment, and we are just beginning to understand how its development is driven by evolutionary pressures on tumors," Paul Workman, interim chief executive at the ICR, said in the news release.

This discovery "reveals how some cancer treatments can actually favor the survival of the nastiest cancer cells, and sets out the rationale for repeated monitoring of patients using blood tests, in order to track and intervene in the evolution of their cancers," Workman said.

"There are currently too few treatment options for men living with advanced stage prostate cancer. Not only do we desperately need to find more treatments for this group of men, we also need to understand more about when those that are available stop working and why," Dr. Matthew Hobbs, deputy director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said in the news release.

"This research is important as it shows that there might be a new way to monitor how a man's cancer is changing during treatment, and that could help us to pinpoint the stage at which some drugs stop being effective. In the future, this could arm doctors with the knowledge they need to ensure that no time is wasted between a drug that stops working for a man and him moving on to another effective treatment," Hobbs said.

But, Hobbs also noted that this is preliminary research and that the study size was small -- just 16 men. He agreed with Attard that the findings need to be confirmed in a larger study.

The researchers cautioned that any patients currently taking medication for advanced prostate cancer should continue to take their medications as prescribed and discuss any concerns about their treatment with their doctor.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute provides more information on prostate cancer.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Institute of Cancer Research, news release, September 17, 2014...

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