29 April 2018
SUNDAY, April 29, 2018 (HealthDay News) — With summer comes the stings of bees and wasps, but one expert has advice on how to keep the pain to a minimum. “The first thing to do is to get the stinger out quickly,” said Dr. Carrie Kovarik. She’s an associate professor of dermatology, dermatopathology and infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania. “The longer the stinger stays in the skin, the more venom it releases, adding to the person’s pain and swelling,” Kovarik explained in an American Academy of Dermatology news release. If the stinger is still in your skin, remove it by scraping over it with your fingernail or a piece of gauze. Never use your fingers to remove a stinger because squeezing it can release more venom into your skin, Kovarik said. Then wash the area of the sting with soap and water, and apply a cold pack to reduce swelling, she suggested. Taking over-the-counter painkillers — such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) — can help relieve the pain. And over-the-counter antihistamines can ease itchiness. Seek emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction, such as: swelling in the face, neck or other parts of the body away from the sting site; difficulty breathing; nausea; hives; or dizziness, Kovarik said. People with a known allergy to insect stings should talk to their doctor about carrying an epinephrine injector, such as EpiPen. “Although most people do not experience severe reactions to bee stings, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on anyone who has been stung in case they develop more serious symptoms,” Kovarik said. And, she added, “If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, or if you or someone you know has been stung multiple times — particularly if he or she is a child — seek medical attention immediately.” More information The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on bug bites and stings.
27 April 2018
FRIDAY, April 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Online reviews of surgeons who perform cosmetic plastic surgery may be unreliable, researchers say. The researchers examined 1,077 online reviews about breast augmentation surgeons that were posted by people in six large U.S. cities. There were 935 positive and 142 negative reviews. “We found the people who write these reviews are either very happy or unhappy, so it’s difficult for the consumer to get balanced information,” said senior study author Dr. John Kim, a professor of plastic surgery at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He also noted that some of the reviews were written by people who had consulted a plastic surgeon but never had surgery. The researchers also found that in reviews by patients who had breast augmentation, their treatment by the surgeon’s staff was nearly as important to them as the outcome of the surgery. “The important thing used to be how the surgery turned out,” Kim said in a university news release. “Our study shows what’s almost equally important are things we wouldn’t have thought of, like how quickly we answer the phone, how nice the staff is in their interactions, the wait time and bedside manner. Service is becoming paramount and almost as important as tangible results and outcomes,” he said. And even though elective cosmetic surgery is generally not covered by insurance, the cost of the surgery was at the bottom of the list of patient concerns, Kim noted. The study was published April 26 in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal. More information The American Society of Plastic Surgeons offers patient safety advice.
27 April 2018
FRIDAY, April 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Construction workers, farmers and others who work in the sun are at greater risk for skin cancer, according to researchers. And a new study reveals these job-related cancers cost nations millions in medical expenses. The researchers said lawmakers should address this trend and take steps to reduce job-related exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. “The findings suggest that policymakers might give greater priority to reducing sun exposure at work by allocating occupational cancer prevention resources accordingly,” said lead investigator Emile Tompa, a senior scientist at the Institute of Work and Health in Toronto. Tompa and his team analyzed government records and health surveys in Canada. They found that in 2011, nonmelanoma skin cancers cost $34.6 million in Canadian dollars. (At current conversion rates, that’s about $27 million U.S. dollars.) These costs included treatment, missed work, out-of-pocket expenses and reduced quality of life. The researchers then looked at the cost per patient for nonmelanoma skin cancers. They found basal cell skin cancers cost $5,760 per person, while squamous cell carcinoma can exceed $10,500 (in Canadian currency). The study was published April 26 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. “The results can also raise awareness among policymakers, employers, unions and workers about the significant contribution of workplace sun exposure to skin cancers,” Tompa said in a journal news release. “These groups can now make a strong cost-benefit argument for inexpensive exposure reduction interventions, such as shade structures, hats and loose clothing, sunscreen, and shift scheduling to reduce the amount of time workers spend in the sun,” he said. More information The American Cancer Society provides more on skin cancer.
26 April 2018
THURSDAY, April 26, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Many of the rescue workers who flooded the ruins of the World Trade Center after 9/11 now face their own private battles for survival, a pair of new studies shows. New York City Fire Department employees who worked at Ground Zero are expected to develop cancer at a greater rate than their fellow New Yorkers over the next decade, the first study found. For example, Ground Zero firefighters are being diagnosed with the pernicious blood cancer multiple myeloma years earlier than would be expected, and their cancer is more aggressive than is typical, the second study discovered. “We should continue to have cancer screening for those who were at the site, and we should have that for the next 15 to 20 years at least,” said Rachel Zeig-Owens, lead author of the first study and an epidemiologist with the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program. “We’re showing it will be valuable and necessary.” When the World Trade Center towers crumbled on Sept. 11, 2001, people were exposed to a brew of airborne toxins that included a number of known carcinogens, Zeig-Owens said. These included dangerous heavy metals, hydrocarbons and asbestos. “Think of an office building that was just pulverized, and everything that was in it,” Zeig-Owens said. “All of that is coming down, and people are breathing in that dust.” Zeig-Owens and her colleagues conducted the first study to help the World Trade Center Health Program plan its response to a possible wave of future cancer cases caused by these toxins. They estimated that in the 20 years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an estimated 2,960 new cancer cases will develop among rescue workers who responded to Ground Zero. The rescue workers are at increased risk of prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and melanoma in particular, the researchers found. The estimated cost of the first year of cancer treatment for those people will be more than $235 million over two decades, the researchers said. “The first year of treatment is the most expensive, normally, and that’s why we wanted to focus on that,” Zeig-Owens explained. A separate group of researchers undertook the second study after noting that New York City firefighters appeared to be developing aggressive forms of multiple myeloma at younger ages, said lead author Dr. Ola Landgren. He is chief of the Myeloma Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. A review of 16 cases found that “the age of onset is about 10 to 15 years earlier than the general population,” Landgren said. “We also characterized the tumors in those patients, and we showed there are features of more aggressive biology than if we compare with [the] general population.” To predict future cases of multiple myeloma, Landgren and his colleagues analyzed blood taken from 781 Ground Zero firefighters as part of a screening program. The researchers looked for a disease called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a usually benign condition in which an abnormal protein shows up in the blood. MGUS is a precursor to multiple myeloma. “Among patients who do develop multiple myeloma, they always run through a proceeding precursor state,” Landgren said. Ground Zero workers have rates of MGUS nearly twice as high as a comparison group of people from Minnesota who were not exposed to the toxins, the researchers concluded. The results of both studies were published April 26 in the journal JAMA Oncology. It’s not clear exactly how much of this cancer risk results from the World Trade Center aftermath, said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society. It’s tough to assess the direct impact of Ground Zero because firefighters typically have a higher cancer rate than average folks, said Brawley, who wrote an editorial accompanying the studies. “It’s been proven for years that firemen have a higher risk of multiple myeloma compared to the regular population,” Brawley said. “I’d love this World Trade Center population compared to firemen from Chicago or Philadelphia or Boston or Detroit, as opposed to a group of people who breathe that Midwestern unpolluted air.” Zeig-Owens agreed, noting that a follow-up study is underway that would establish a comparison group of firefighters who did not work at Ground Zero. More information The American Cancer Society has more about multiple myeloma.
26 April 2018
THURSDAY, April 26, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Few American men are screened for gene mutations that can greatly increase their risk of breast and other types of cancers, a new study reveals. BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations put women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancers, but these mutations also increase men’s risk for certain cancers. “If a male has a BRCA mutation, their risk of breast cancer increases 100-fold,” said senior study author Dr. Christopher Childers. He is a resident physician in the department of surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. “But it’s not just breast cancer — BRCA mutations put men at higher risk for often aggressive prostate cancers that occur at younger ages,” Childers added in a university news release. “These mutations have also been associated with other cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and melanoma [skin cancer],” he noted. “It is therefore very important that men at risk of a BRCA mutation get genetic testing, as it can potentially help them detect future cancers and help physicians tailor cancer treatment if they do.” For the new study, Childers and his colleagues analyzed data from the 2015 U.S. National Health Interview Survey. The investigators found that nearly 2.5 million people had received cancer genetic testing. Of those people, nearly three times as many women had testing compared to men — 73 percent versus 27 percent, respectively. Further analysis revealed that the rate of testing for BRCA gene mutations in men was one-tenth that of women. There was no gender disparity in other types of cancer gene tests, the findings showed. The study was published April 26 in the journal JAMA Oncology. Further research is needed to learn why so few men get tested for BRCA gene mutations and how to increase their rates, said study lead author Kimberly Childers. She is a genetic counselor and regional manager of the Providence Health and Services Southern California’s clinical genetics and genomics program. “Previous studies have shown that men don’t necessarily understand the importance of a breast/ovarian cancer gene mutation — that it is more of a ‘feminine’ issue — but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said. “We hope this study will spur broad national educational efforts.” More information The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on male breast cancer.
25 April 2018
WEDNESDAY, April 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Doctors say they’ve found a way to head off a rare birth defect that causes babies to be born without functioning sweat glands. By introducing a specific protein into the womb, researchers prevented the defect from taking hold in three children. This is the first and only therapy shown to prevent the birth defect, said lead researcher Dr. Holm Schneider. He is a professor of pediatrics and head of the Center for Ectodermal Dysplasias at University Hospital Erlangen in Germany. “If our findings can be confirmed in a planned clinical trial with a larger group of patients, this treatment may indeed become the new standard of care,” Schneider said. The condition, X-linked hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (XLHED), occurs due to a genetic-driven deficiency of a key developmental protein called ectodysplasin A (EDA), the study authors said in background notes. EDA plays an important role in the development of skin tissues and sweat glands in humans. Without its presence in the womb, sweat glands can form abnormally and be irreversibly impaired from birth onward. Between one in 10,000 to one in 50,000 newborns have this birth defect, said Marja Mikkola, director of research at the University of Helsinki’s Institute of Biotechnology in Finland. It runs in families due to a mutation of the gene responsible for EDA production. Babies born with this disorder are in danger of overheating, and must be kept cool and well-hydrated. Estimates indicate that between 2 percent and 20 percent of babies with the condition die as a result of the birth defect, depending on how quickly they are diagnosed, said Mikkola, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. Previous mouse studies have shown that the birth defect might be headed off if a lab-created version of the EDA protein was introduced into the womb during gestation. Schneider and his team decided to see if introducing EDA into the amniotic fluid surrounding a human fetus might have the same preventive effect. Doctors can reliably predict XLHED in developing fetuses using sonograms as early as week 19 of pregnancy, Schneider said. The disorder also causes missing teeth, and doctors use the absence of fetal tooth germs to detect the presence of the birth defect. The research team introduced their lab-grown EDA protein to a pair of twins in two doses, at weeks 26 and 31 of gestation. They also tried it out on a single fetus at week 26. “This protein, however, works only within a certain time window, when the baby is still in the womb, so we have to administer it prenatally,” Schneider said. “We learned from this trial that the replacement approach can only correct sweat gland development if the drug is provided at the right time. After birth, it simply becomes too late.” All three babies were born able to sweat normally, and no other illness related to XLHED had developed after more than a year following birth, the researchers reported. According to Mikkola, “This is a remarkable achievement, as it shows that an inherited developmental disorder can be at least partially cured, and potentially a lifelong cure can be achieved by a short-term protein therapy.” The findings were published April 26 in the New England Journal of Medicine. More information The National Organization for Rare Disorders has more about hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia.
24 April 2018
TUESDAY, April 24, 2018 (HealthDay News) — It’s a long-held stereotype that men are less self-conscious about their weight than women. But a new study reveals that obese men are just as likely as women to be mistreated and stigmatized by others due to their excess pounds. Two out of five men surveyed said they’ve been on the receiving end of weight stigma, “which is really similar to what we see in women,” said lead researcher Mary Himmelstein. This is the first study to look specifically at weight bias targeting men, said Himmelstein, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. “This isn’t really something we think about as a problem for men. Men really aren’t on the radar when we think about weight stigma,” she said. “These results show it should be on the radar.” There are many ways overweight and obese people can be stigmatized about their weight. They can be outright teased or taunted, or have snide comments made about what they’re eating. They can also be stereotyped — “that you can’t control yourself around food, that you have no willpower, that you’re less intelligent than someone who has a slimmer waistline,” Himmelstein said. People might even think they’re doing these folks a favor, but they really aren’t, said Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. “People tend to mistakenly believe if they are harsh with people, it will motivate them to lose weight — if they tease them a little bit or finger-point a little bit,” Kahan said. “There’s not a single study I know that supports that, and in fact there are several studies showing the opposite.” Weight bias instead tends to cause people to binge-eat and exercise less, leading to even greater weight gain, Himmelstein and Kahan said. For this study, Himmelstein and her colleagues surveyed more than 1,500 men from three groups — two online survey panels and a nonprofit advocacy group for the obese. About 40 percent of the men reported experiencing weight stigma, the researchers found. Verbal mistreatment was the most common form of stigma. It most often came from peers, family members and strangers, results showed. Men stigmatized over their weight tended to be younger, were less likely to be married, and were more likely to be obese rather than normal weight or overweight, Himmelstein noted. Kahan said that the results show that more research needs to be done exploring the differences in men and women’s experiences with weight stigma. The sources of weight stigma might differ between the two genders, Kahan added. For example, women might be more likely to receive comments from health care professionals than men. Men also might process and cope with weight stigma differently than women, he noted. “Just experiencing some sort of stigmatizing action or words from someone else, that’s not typically enough to cause harm in an individual,” Kahan said. “It’s when that individual internalizes that stigma, turns it in on themselves, and sort of believes it and takes it to heart, that’s when you start to see some of the mental and physical health problems with those stigmatizing situations.” Men could turn out to have a thicker skin than women when it comes to their weight, although Kahan is not certain of that. “We all have our theories, and I’m not so sure that men are able to shrug it off easier than women,” he said. The new study is published in the May issue of Obesity. More information The National Eating Disorders Association has more about weight stigma.
23 April 2018
MONDAY, April 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The world’s first total penis and scrotum transplant was performed about a month ago on a U.S. veteran who was injured in Afghanistan, doctors say. “We are hopeful that this transplant will help restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions for this young man,” said surgical team member Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee. He’s professor and director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore. According to a Hopkins news release, nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons conducted the 14-hour surgery on March 26. The transplant from a deceased donor included the entire penis, scrotum (without testicles) and partial abdominal wall. The surgery involved transplanting skin, muscles, tendons, nerves, bone and blood vessels. “It’s a real mind-boggling injury to suffer; it is not an easy one to accept,” said the recipient, who wishes to remain anonymous. “When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal [with] a level of confidence, as well. Confidence like, finally, I’m OK now,” he said in the news release. The man has recovered from the transplant surgery and is expected to leave the hospital this week. Speaking to The New York Times, the veteran described his anguish from his injuries, which occurred after he stepped on a hidden bomb. He lost both legs above the knee, but the genital injury was even more devastating. “That injury, I felt like it banished me from a relationship,” he told the Times last week. “Like, that’s it, you’re done, you’re by yourself for the rest of your life. I struggled with even viewing myself as a man for a long time.” He asked that his name not be published due to stigma surrounding genital injuries. Lee told the newspaper, “We’re hopeful we can restore sexual function in terms of spontaneous erection and orgasm.” However, the transplant recipient did not receive the donor’s testes as part of the transplant. Receiving those organs might have enabled the patient to go on to father children with the donor’s sperm, something deemed medically unethical. The patient is currently receiving testosterone to compensate for the lack of testes, as well as the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, to encourage erectile function. As with any transplant surgery, rejection of the patient’s transplanted tissue is a concern, so he is also receiving immune system-suppressing drugs to reduce the risk of rejection. It’s possible to reconstruct a penis using tissue from other parts of the body, but an implant is necessary to enable erections, which poses a much higher risk of infection, Lee explained. Lee also noted that due to other injuries, soldiers often don’t have enough usable tissue from other parts of their bodies for penis reconstruction, so transplant was the only good option. The veteran in this case waited more than a year for a viable donor. The surgery is estimated to have cost between $300,000 to $400,000, but in this case Hopkins paid for the bill and the surgical team worked for free, the Times said. The exact need for these types of surgeries remains unclear, but the newspaper said that Department of Defense data shows that more than 1,300 men have sustained genitourinary injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan, with close to one-third of injuries involving the penis. The patient said he went through tough times emotionally after the injury, and kept the loss of his genitalia a secret from all but a few. “There were times you’d be hanging out and guys would be talking about getting hurt, and that’s one of the first things when they get blown up, to check down there, and they would say things like, ‘If I lost mine I’d just kill myself,'” he told the Times. “And I’m sitting there. They didn’t know, and I know they didn’t mean any offense, but it kind of hits you in the gut.” Thoughts of suicide crossed his mind, he said, but “when I would actually think about killing myself, I would think, ‘Am I really just gonna kill myself over a penis?'” So, he underwent physical therapy, learned to walk on prosthetic legs, and even earned a college degree in the years after the injury. He is now making plans to attend medical school. But intimate relationships seemed out of the question, because he feared disclosing his injury. However, the future looks brighter now, the man told the Times. His goals? “To do well in school, to go to medical school and follow my career as a doctor, find my niche in the field and just excel at it. Maybe settle down and maybe eventually find someone, and get into a relationship, maybe. Just that normal stuff.” More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on explosions and blast injuries.
23 April 2018
MONDAY, April 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Wellness exams are important for monitoring your health and detecting any problems early on. But there are also self-care steps to take to protect yourself the other 364 days of the year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests doing regular skin and body checks. Look and feel for any changes, like a lump, rash or growth. Use a hand mirror for hard-to-see places. Also, make a note of any changes in body function: your energy levels, digestion, vision and hearing, thirst and hunger, bathroom habits, and unintended weight loss or gain. If any of your self-checks turn up anything out of the ordinary, call your doctor. Don’t ignore possible early warning signs. If you have any chronic conditions — like high blood pressure or diabetes — manage them according to your doctor’s orders, and keep a close track of any changes in your numbers and blood test results. You may not feel any symptoms now, but diseases are likely to worsen if you don’t follow an early care plan. This might include medication, at-home testing and regular office visits. It’s also important to know your family medical history. If you have a close relative with a chronic disease, the CDC notes that you could have an increased risk for developing that disease. The agency recommends keeping track of your family health history by writing down the history of family members and keeping the document in a safe place. Update it periodically so you’ll be prepared with accurate information for your health care provider. Family health histories can help physicians determine which tests and screenings you should have. Annual checkups are part of staying healthy, but also be pro-active, and put yourself in the driver’s seat when it comes to protecting your well-being. More information For more on self-care, check out Five Minutes (or Less) for Health.