20 March 2018
TUESDAY, March 20, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Doctors should start early with skin cancer prevention advice when their patients are light-skinned, suggests new guidelines that bump that starting point back to the age of 6 months. This recommendation, from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, updates a 2012 recommendation that advised doctors not begin this education until children reached the age of 10. “Clinicians should counsel children, their parents and young adults to use sun-protective behaviors. Doing things like using sunscreen, wearing sun-protective clothing, and avoiding indoor tanning can help prevent skin cancer later in life,” said task force member Dr. John Epling, Jr. He is a professor of family and community medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, in Roanoke, Va. For adults aged 24 and older, the task force recommends that doctors assess each patient’s risk for skin cancer and provide advice on how to prevent this disease on an individual basis. Task force member Karina Davidson added, “We have more evidence now that tells us that counseling people to practice sun-protective behaviors can benefit some adults with fair skin types.” She is director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City. “When deciding whether to counsel adults over the age of 24, clinicians should talk with their adult patients about their risk for skin cancer,” Davidson said in a task force news release. Children and teens who are exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation are at greater risk for developing skin cancer in adulthood, the task force explained. This exposure is particularly risky for people with fair skin that burns easily, freckles and light-colored hair and eyes. Those who use tanning beds or have a history of skin cancer or sunburns are also at higher risk for the disease. The new recommendations were published online March 20 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that make recommendations about screenings, counseling services and preventive medications. More information The American Cancer Society has more about skin cancer.
19 March 2018
MONDAY, March 19, 2018 (American Heart Association) — Lee Matzeder’s heart was racing and his chest felt tight during the Kansas City Royals’ World Series victory parade in downtown Kansas City in 2015. But it wasn’t from the excitement of being surrounded by 800,000 likeminded fans celebrating a world championship. The 55-year-old elementary school physical education teacher later learned he was having a heart attack. Fortunately for Matzeder, a complete stranger who just happened to be a registered nurse saw him among the packed crowd, recognized the symptoms and took action. While he doesn’t remember her name, Matzeder said the nurse offered him a granola bar, then escorted him to a medical tent when the snack didn’t help his condition. “It was like divine intervention,” he recalled. Onsite medical staff told Matzeder his blood pressure was dangerously high at 165/135. When staffers found his wife Tina and the rest of the family, she knew right away that her husband was in trouble. “I’m a certified medical technician and have worked in home health nursing for 26 years,” Tina Matzeder said. “So with his chest pain, his skin discoloration and his muscle weakness, I knew he needed immediate medical care.” At the University of Kansas Hospital, a dye test showed two of Matzeder’s coronary arteries were almost completely blocked. A third artery was 70 percent blocked. While heart disease runs in his family — his father died of a heart attack — Matzeder said he still was shocked by the news. “I’m 5-foot-8 and weigh 180 pounds, so I always thought I was in pretty good shape,” he said. The following day, doctors performed a triple bypass operation on Matzeder. The procedure was successful and he remains healthy, according to Janae Carlson, his nurse practitioner at Shawnee Mission Cardiology in Leavenworth, Kansas. “His cholesterol is down, his blood pressure is good and he takes his meds as directed,” she said. “He’s a teacher, so he knows the value of education, and he listens to what I and his doctors tell him.” The story could have ended there with Matzeder living a happy, healthy life, but it didn’t. Soon after he returned to teaching at his school, one of his first-grade students, Chase Maltbie, lost his 39-year-old father to a heart attack while stationed in Korea with the U.S. Army. “Chase was six when he lost his father,” Matzeder said. “And I was six when I lost mine.” Chase and Matzeder developed a strong bond over their shared loss. Matzeder encouraged Chase to help raise funds for the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope For Heart, a program the school had been involved in for many years. Chase turned out to be a fundraising dynamo, raising $1,785 in 2016, and $2,260 in 2017. “That is the most money any student of mine has ever raised in the 21 years I’ve been involved in Jump Rope For Heart,” Matzeder said.
16 March 2018
FRIDAY, March 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The odds of surviving severe burns have steadily increased in recent decades, researchers report. “Remarkably, a patient up to the age of 40 who has sustained a 95 percent body burn now survives half the time, whereas in earlier times a 50 percent body burn killed that same person,” Dr. David Herndon said in a news release from the American College of Surgeons. He’s director of research at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas, and director of burn services at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Herndon led a team of researchers who analyzed the records of more than 10,300 adults and children who were burn patients at those two hospitals between 1989 and 2017. Over that time, the risk that burn patients would die fell about 2 percent a year, the study found. The risk was highest among people who were older, those who had burns over a large area and those who had lung damage from inhaling smoke. The researchers credit the reduction in deaths to improvements in the standard treatment for burn patients. That includes: New protocols for managing inhalation injury. Nutrition to fight infection and promote healing. Early burn excision and skin grafts immediately after the injury. Improved transfer of critically ill patients to hospitals and burn centers has also played a role, according to the researchers. “The most dramatic decreases in [deaths] most recently have been in patients over age 40,” Herndon said. “For example, a woman over the age of 40, with very large burns, is a patient who can survive today if these protocols are implemented,” he explained in the news release. Along with reducing the risk that a burn victim will die, researchers also need to identify treatment methods to improve survivors’ quality of life, Herndon said. And, “burn specialists also need to focus on implementing the protocols that have allowed this improvement in survival to occur,” he added. “We hope our findings will inspire other burn units to try to keep people alive with extensive burns because it’s clear that it can be done,” Herndon said. The study was published online March 9 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. More information The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more on burns.
16 March 2018
FRIDAY, March 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Thinking about a vasectomy? Now — as March Madness begins — might be just the time for the procedure. The NCAA basketball tournament and other major “sporting events are a popular time for men to schedule a vasectomy because we advise them to take it easy for two to three days after the procedure,” Dr. Jim Dupree, an assistant professor of urology at the University of Michigan, said in a school news release. “For most men, this means sitting on the couch in front of their television, and sporting events offer them something to watch while resting,” he said. In fact, an athenahealth study found that urologists in its network did 30 percent more vasectomies during the first week of March Madness in 2016 than in an average week during the rest of the year. Each year, about 500,00 men in the United States have a vasectomy, according to Dupree. Men need to know that the procedure is quick and precise, he said. It takes about 20 minutes and is done under local anesthesia. “Most of the time we don’t need to use a scalpel, and we make a small hole in the scrotal skin with a pointed instrument,” Dupree explained. “This no-scalpel vasectomy has less bleeding, swelling and pain, making it easier and more comfortable for men to recover.” Men should ice the area during recovery and take over-the-counter pain medications, he said. Most men can return to work the next day or the day after. “Complications are rare, including a 1 percent risk of bleeding and infection,” Dupree said. More information The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on vasectomy.
15 March 2018
THURSDAY, March 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Your need for calcium gets a lot of attention, but your body can’t use it without its partner, vitamin D, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Most adults need 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Recommendations for vitamin D range from the current recommended daily allowance of 600 International Units (IUs), all the way up to 4,000 IUs to best support bone health. Adding key foods to your diet will help you get both these nutrients, which can take extra effort if you’re limiting calories to lose weight. Start with salmon, sardines and tuna, fatty types of fish that have both calcium and vitamin D. For other foods high in calcium, opt for more low-fat milk and yogurt, broccoli, kale, bok choy and other green leafy vegetables. Vitamin D is added to milk, but it isn’t found naturally in many foods other than egg yolks and shiitake mushrooms — a great vegetable for making low-cal dishes. Your body can make vitamin D from sun exposure, but that requires a careful approach to avoid increasing skin cancer risk. It’s also hard to get enough rays during winter months and in some parts of the country. Talk to your health care provider to find out what’s right for you. Many foods are now fortified with vitamin D, calcium or both. A great option is unsweetened almond milk. Some brands deliver half your daily calcium and a quarter of your vitamin D needs in a 30-calorie, 8-ounce glass. Always read nutrition labels because the amounts of these nutrients vary by product and by brand. The calcium content of a food must always be listed in the nutrient panel, but you’re likely to see the vitamin D content only on foods that are fortified with it. More information The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more on daily requirements of calcium and vitamin D for different age groups and life stages.
13 March 2018
TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A wearable heart defibrillator reduces the overall risk of early death for heart attack survivors, but not the risk of sudden cardiac death, a new study finds. The defibrillator — housed in a lightweight vest worn directly against the skin — continuously monitors the wearer’s heart. It sounds an alarm and/or verbally announces the need for medical care if needed. If a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm is detected, the defibrillator delivers a shock to restore normal rhythm. The study of 2,300 adult heart attack survivors was partly funded by vest maker Zoll Medical Corp. Patients all had impaired heart function after their heart attack. Those who used the LifeVest wearable defibrillator and took recommended medications were 35 percent less likely to die from any cause within the 90 days of their heart attack than a control group of patients who used medication alone, the study found. But the risk of sudden cardiac death was the same in both groups, according to the study presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) in Orlando, Fla. Research presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal. Generally, the three-month death rate for patients recovering from a heart attack who also have reduced heart function is about 5 percent. In this study, 4.9 percent of patients in the medication-only control group and 3.2 percent of those who wore the vest died within three months of their heart attack. “There is a very high risk of death immediately after a heart attack that tails off after about three months. The challenge is that we don’t currently have a good way of preventing deaths during this very vulnerable period,” study author Dr. Jeffrey Olgin said in an ACC news release. Olgin is chief of cardiology at University of California, San Francisco. Implantable defibrillators are not recommended for patients in the 40 to 90 days after a heart attack. The wearable defibrillator may help reduce patients’ overall risk of death until they get an implantable device, Olgin explained. More information The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on life after a heart attack.
12 March 2018
MONDAY, March 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A hip replacement may help seniors live longer — for at least a decade anyway, a new study from Sweden suggests. “Our study suggests that hip replacement can add years to life as well as adding ‘life to years’ — increasing the chances of longer survival as well as improving the quality of life,” said study author Dr. Peter Cnudde. He’s an orthopedic surgeon with the Swedish Hip Arthroplasty Register in Gothenburg. Cnudde’s team analyzed data on nearly 132,000 residents of Sweden, 68 years old on average, who’d had a total hip replacement between 1999 and 2012. The patients’ progress was assessed for about six years after their operation. In that time, about 16 percent of the study participants died. However, those who’d had the surgery had a longer life expectancy for the decade after their procedure than did people of similar age who had not had a hip replacement. Survival was 1 percent higher among hip replacement patients in the first year after their procedure, 3 percent higher after five years and 2 percent higher after 10 years, the study found. After 12 years, the two groups had similar survival rates. The survival benefit was most significant among people with age-related hip wear and tear — called primary osteoarthritis. They accounted for 91 percent of those who’d had hip replacements. People with a higher number of other health conditions had lower survival odds after hip replacement, as did those who were single and had lower levels of education. The study was published online recently in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. Only an association, rather than a cause-and-effect link, was seen in the study. And the reasons why people who’ve had hip replacement surgery seem to live longer remain unclear, according to the researchers, but likely involve many factors. “No surgeon would recommend [total hip replacement] to patients just to live longer,” Cnudde said in a journal news release. “But it is likely that the chances of surviving longer are associated with undergoing the successful operation, for patients in need of a hip replacement.” More information The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more on hip replacement.
12 March 2018
MONDAY, March 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Poorer Americans with anal cancer — a highly treatable disease — are more likely to die than wealthier patients, a new study finds. Researchers analyzed 2004-2013 data from 9,550 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the anus. Each year, 8,200 cases are diagnosed in the United States, and more than 1,000 people die of the disease. Patients in areas with lower household incomes had worse rates of overall survival and cancer-specific survival than those in the highest income areas, according to the study published online March 12 in the journal Cancer. Overall, patients with the lowest median household incomes had a 32 percent higher risk of early death compared to the wealthiest patients, the study found. “Our findings reveal that U.S. residents who have anal cancer and live in areas of poverty have worse survival than those who live in more affluent areas, even after accounting for differences in age, stage and race,” study leader Dr. Daniel Becker said in a journal news release. He is an oncologist at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center in New York City. The risk of cancer death was also higher among older patients, as well as those who were black, male or unmarried, and whose cancer was more advanced at diagnosis. Income was not linked to the likelihood that a patient would receive radiation therapy. Anal cancer is becoming increasingly common, the researchers noted. They suspect it relates to changing trends in sexual behavior and exposure to known risk factors such as human papilloma virus and tobacco use. “Anal cancer is often a curable disease, and, in light of the tremendous resources available in U.S. health care, we do not believe that poverty should determine cancer outcomes. The ultimate goal is to make sure that all patients receive high quality care, regardless of their wealth or zip code,” Becker concluded. More information The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on anal cancer.
07 March 2018
WEDNESDAY, March 7, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Living in sunnier climes when young might help shield you from multiple sclerosis decades later, new research suggests. The main factor may be the sun’s ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays, which help the body produce vitamin D, according to a Canadian team. They noted that lower levels of vitamin D have been associated with a rise in risk for multiple sclerosis (MS). The finding isn’t entirely new — other studies have shown lower MS rates in sunnier regions. But, “our study went further, looking at exposure over a person’s life span,” explained lead study author Helen Tremlett, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Tremlett’s team tracked the histories of 151 women with MS who were diagnosed at an average age of 40, and 235 women of similar age without MS. The women lived across the United States and nearly all were white. Women who lived in sunnier regions and had the highest exposure to UV-B rays were 45 percent less likely to develop MS than those who lived in regions with the lowest UV-B exposure, the study found. Sun exposure in youth was key: Women who lived in regions with the highest levels of UV-B exposure between the ages of 5 and 15 were 51 percent less likely to develop MS than those with the lowest UV-B exposure between ages 5 and 15, Tremlett’s group found. More time spent outdoors in summer in youth was similarly tied to lower MS rates decades later, the researchers reported March 7 in Neurology. “Our research showed that those who did develop MS also had reduced sun or outdoor exposure later in life, in both summer and winter, which may have health consequences,” Tremlett said in a journal news release. Still, exposure to the sun’s UV rays has a big down side, too: skin cancer. The American Cancer Society has long warned that tanning and burning, especially, are a prime cause of potentially deadly forms of the disease, such as melanoma. Regarding the MS study, one expert said its findings are in tune with prior research. “While geographic location during adolescence was previously known to be associated with MS risk, the current study demonstrates that sun exposure even later in life affects MS risk,” said Dr. Asaff Harel, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Harel noted, however, that almost all of the study group was white, so, “it will be interesting to determine whether the same relationship applies in a more multi-ethnic study.” More information The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on multiple sclerosis.