15 June 2018
FRIDAY, June 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The scorching heat of summer poses dangers to people, but dogs also need protection from soaring temperatures, one veterinarian warns. Benjamin Brainard, director of clinical research at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, offered the following tips to help pet owners keep their dogs cool when it heats up outside: Never leave dogs in the car. Never leave a dog unattended in a parked car on a hot day — even if the windows are down. “There is never a safe way to leave your animal in a car in the summer,” Brainard said in a university news release. “Even with the windows down, it still gets much hotter inside a vehicle than outside.” Always provide water and shelter. Dogs can get heat stroke just like people. Never leave a dog outside without access to fresh water or shelter. During very hot or humid weather, dogs should be brought indoors if possible. “Dogs don’t sweat. The only way for them to get rid of heat is evaporation through their tongue,” Brainard said. “The more humidity, the less effective that evaporation will be.” Avoid strenuous activity during peak sunlight hours. Dogs may not be able to run as far or as fast in hot, humid weather — even if they run consistently during the winter. “There are some dogs that will continue to push themselves no matter what they feel. If you throw a ball, they’ll continue to fetch it,” Brainard said. He noted that pet owners may have to set activity limits during the hottest part of the day to keep their dogs safe. Some dogs need more help than others. Hot weather can be more taxing for certain dog breeds, including pugs, bulldogs and other “flat-faced” dogs. Older and obese dogs may also be less tolerant of the heat and need to take breaks and drink water more often. Not all dogs can swim. “If you take your dog out on a boat or to the lake, be sure you know they can swim ahead of time,” Brainard said. Dogs heading out into deep water should wear a doggy lifejacket. Protect dogs against summer pests. Pets should be protected from fleas and ticks with the appropriate preventive treatments. Pet owners should keep in mind that the treatments made for dogs are harmful to cats until they are dry. It’s also important to be aware of snakes, which may be more active in the summer. Don’t forget the sunscreen. Certain dog breeds have sensitive skin that can be irritated by the sun’s UV rays. These pets may benefit from sunscreen that is safe for animals. Sunscreens formulated for people, including products that contain zinc, may be toxic to dogs. Consult a veterinarian. Pet owners who have concerns about their dog’s sun and heat exposure, ticks or fleas should talk to their animal’s vet. The ASPCA website also has a 24-hour poison control hotline and emergency medical guidelines. More information The ASPCA provides more safety tips to help pets stay cool in hot weather.
15 June 2018
FRIDAY, June 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The sun you get when you mow the lawn or run errands could protect you against colon cancer, new research shows. How? Sunlight prompts the production of vitamin D, and people with sufficient levels of the vitamin had a 22 percent lower risk of colon cancer, said lead researcher Marjorie McCullough. She’s senior scientific director of epidemiology research for the American Cancer Society. That risk also appears to decrease further as vitamin D levels rise, though the study did not prove that sunlight causes colon cancer risk to drop. The chances of developing colon cancer decline about 19 percent in women and 7 percent in men for every incremental increase in blood vitamin D levels, the researchers found. “It appeared across most of the range we were looking at, the relationship was linear,” McCullough said. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States, with about 140,250 new cases and 50,630 deaths expected during 2018, the researchers said in background notes. About 1 in every 24 women and 1 in every 22 men will develop colon cancer during their lifetime, they said. “It has long been postulated that vitamin D deficiency can cause other problems besides osteoporosis and immune system dysfunction,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, an internist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City who was not involved with the study. “The suspicion that vitamin D deficiency might be responsible for the development of cancer is corroborated in this study, where vitamin D deficiency and colorectal cancer are linked,” Horovitz said. Don’t start baking yourself to avoid colon cancer, however. Only about 7 percent of the U.S. population have levels of vitamin D deficiency low enough to increase their risk of colon cancer, McCullough said. “If you live in a sunny area year-round, or if you’re living in an area where the spring and summer months are warmer, your levels will be higher just incidentally,” McCullough said. “We do not recommend people seek sun exposure to raise their vitamin D levels, because UV radiation is a strong risk factor for skin cancer.” Vitamin D has long been associated with bone health, but the nutrient hasn’t been recommended to protect against colon cancer or other health problems due to scant research, McCullough said. When the U.S. National Academy of Medicine put out its vitamin D guidelines in 2011, it concluded that the medical evidence of vitamin D benefits for cancer were not sufficient enough to make a recommendation, she said. To clear this up, McCullough and her colleagues combined data from 17 different studies involving 5,706 people with colon cancer and 7,107 healthy participants from the United States, Europe and Asia. The researchers even reanalyzed blood samples from about a third of the participants, so they could perform a more direct apples-to-apples comparison across all of the 17 studies. They concluded that vitamin D does indeed appear to provide protection against colon cancer, particularly for women. Most people get enough vitamin D just by living their lives, McCullough said. The sunlight you get from a casual walk down the street, running errands, and even walking from the car or train to your office building is sufficient to stimulate proper vitamin D production in your body, she said. People also get vitamin D from fortified foods like milk, cereal and orange juice, and from fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout and swordfish, McCullough said. Because of this, people shouldn’t rely on supplements to get their vitamin D, McCullough said. Heavy doses of vitamin D can be toxic. “High-dose individual supplements are not recommended,” she said. It’s not known exactly why vitamin D could protect against cancer, but researchers suspect the vitamin plays a role in controlling cell growth and promoting programmed cell death, McCullough said. “Cancer occurs when there’s uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells,” she said. “Experimental studies have shown that vitamin D can help to limit proliferation of abnormal cells.” The new study was published June 14 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. More information The U.S. National Institutes of Health have more about vitamin D.
15 June 2018
FRIDAY, June 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A number of infection control measures need to be taken when giving “kangaroo care” to premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, researchers say. This approach — which involves meaningful touch and skin-to-skin contact between parents and babies — is increasingly encouraged in hospitals to aid the infant’s development. However, the staff at a children’s hospital in Michigan noted that skin-to-skin care led to an increase in Staphylococcus aureus infections among newborns. So, officials there introduced a three-part program to reduce those infections. “We know that skin-to-skin care and meaningful touch are good for the baby, but the increase in infections showed how this type of caregiving can carry a risk,” said lead researcher Gwen Westerling. She’s an infection preventionist at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. The three measures are: Increased awareness of hand hygiene, Mandatory staff education about S. aureus, and Parent skin cleansing prior to skin-to-skin contact. In the first year after the measures were introduced, 20 babies in the small-baby unit developed S. aureus infections, compared with 59 the year before, according to the report. The findings were presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), in Minneapolis. “The results demonstrate that interventions even as simple as cleaning the skin prior to care can drastically improve infection rates,” Westerling said in an APIC news release. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. More information The March of Dimes has more on kangaroo care.
15 June 2018
FRIDAY, June 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — If you could protect yourself from cancer, you’d do it, right? Yet most Americans still aren’t taking the easiest step to prevent the most commonly diagnosed type — skin cancer, which will affect one in five people at some point in their lives. Only 14 percent of American men and 30 percent of women regularly use sunscreen when outside for more than an hour, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among women, avoiding signs of aging was a strong motivator. But avoiding sunburn may be the more important reason for everyone. The risk of melanoma, the most serious — and potentially deadly — form of skin cancer doubles if you get five or more sunburns in your life, or if as a youngster you had just one blistering sunburn. And even without sunburn, prolonged tanning exposes you to the two most common skin cancers, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which can occur anywhere on your body. While some guidelines suggest SPF 15 sunscreens, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30. Also look for water resistant and “broad-spectrum” products to protect against UVA and UVB rays. Always re-apply every 2 hours and after sweating, swimming and toweling off. Other smart sunscreen tips: Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure. Don’t wait until you’re at the beach to put it on. Use one full ounce of product for each application. Cover exposed skin from head to toe. That includes ears, the back of your neck and exposed areas of your scalp, especially bald spots. Make sun protection a family affair: Help each other cover all those hard-to-reach areas. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a detailed infographic on sun protection for your skin that you can print and hang up as a daily reminder.
14 June 2018
THURSDAY, June 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Teen girls who regularly toss back four or five alcoholic drinks may be setting themselves up for a lifetime of lower bone density, new research suggests. The study of college women included some who reported regularly binge drinking during high school and in the first year of college. That means downing four or more alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period. “We found that for those who were the heaviest binge drinkers, bone health wasn’t as good as it was for those who had not been heavy binge drinkers in high school. And we saw that even after we accounted for other factors that could affect bone health,” said the study’s lead author, Joseph LaBrie. He’s a professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “If you don’t reach peak bone mass, you may not recognize it. But especially in women, a lack of bone density can be really important later when you might develop brittle bones, osteoporosis and have fractures,” he said. Women’s bone mass reaches its peak density when a woman is between 20 and 25 years old. After this, bone mass gradually declines throughout the lifespan. So anything that interrupts the production of bone before this peak may contribute to a lower bone density throughout life, according to the researchers. This could be critical in older age when fractures from the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis disable many adults. The study included 87 women between 18 and 20 years old. Sixty percent were white. Eighteen fell into the heaviest regular binge-drinking category. The study defined heavy binge drinking as more than 115 episodes since the start of high school, or almost twice a month on average. All had bone scans to measure their bone density. The researchers controlled the data to account for other factors that could affect bone development, such as weight, physical activity and contraceptive use. The investigators found that women who were regular binge drinkers had lower bone density in their spines. However, the study could not prove cause and effect. Dr. Caroline Messer is an endocrinologist specializing in bone loss at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Over the years, studies have shown that high intake of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of osteoporotic fractures. Excessive drinking during adolescence is particularly deleterious because the teenage years are crucial for the development of peak bone density,” said Messer. Alcohol intake of more than 2 to 3 ounces daily can result in decreased bone density for a variety of reasons, she explained, including interference with the absorption of calcium and vitamin D. Alcohol also lowers estrogen levels. “Estrogen is important for the proper growth and development of bones, particularly in the spine. This may explain the finding of lower mass in the spine in college-aged women who were binge drinking regularly,” Messer said. She was not involved in the study. Heavy levels of alcohol consumption also cause several changes that encourage the breakdown of bone, she added. The researchers didn’t look at the effects of binge drinking and bone density in men, but LaBrie said he suspects the findings would be similar in males. There are some differences in hormones and the timing of puberty in men and women, LaBrie noted, but “a similar dynamic is probably going on with men.” The study was published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. More information The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more on bone health.
13 June 2018
WEDNESDAY, June 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The color of a patient’s skin appears to influence the medical care they receive for high cholesterol levels, a new study shows. Blacks are less likely than whites to receive appropriate treatment with cholesterol-lowering statins, the researchers report. The reasons behind this racial gap in care are a complex brew of economic status, financial barriers, clinical factors and even the patients’ own beliefs regarding the medications, said lead researcher Dr. Michael Nanna, a cardiology fellow with Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “African-Americans were less likely than white patients to believe statins are safe, or to believe statins are effective,” Nanna said. “They also were less likely to trust their clinician.” Blacks have a higher risk for heart disease than whites, but previous studies have shown that they are less likely to be prescribed statins, the researchers said in background notes. “The reasons underlying these racial differences in statin treatment are poorly understood, so we wanted to see if African-Americans in contemporary medicine are treated less aggressively than whites and, if so, we wanted to look at the reasons why,” Nanna said. To explore the issue, Nanna and his colleagues surveyed nearly 5,700 patients from a nationwide registry who were eligible for statin therapy, either because they had heart disease or were at high risk for hardening of the arteries. Participants filled out the surveys on an iPad while waiting to be seen by a doctor. Overall, blacks were only slightly less likely than whites to be prescribed any sort of statin, about 71 percent compared with 74 percent, researchers found. However, blacks were much less likely to be prescribed a dose of statin that would do them any good. Only one-third of black patients had been prescribed a statin dose high enough to meet treatment guidelines, compared with 44 percent of whites, researchers found. Blacks received inadequate doses of statins even though their average levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol were higher than those of white patients, Nanna added. The black patients in this study also had more high blood pressure, diabetes and hardening of the arteries, all of which are heart risk factors that would indicate the need for statin therapy, said Dr. Usman Baber, an assistant professor of internal medicine with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “Therapeutic intensity does not match patient-level risk,” said Baber, who was not involved with the study. “It’s troubling to see there’s a racial gap where African-American patients are even less likely than white patients to receive needed medicine.” But why is this happening? The surveys identified many of the usual suspects. Blacks were more likely to be covered by Medicaid rather than private insurance, which could have affected their access to health care. They also had lower economic and educational levels than their white counterparts. Further, black patients were less likely to be treated by a cardiologist or doctor familiar with guidelines for treating high cholesterol, the researchers found. But black patients’ own perceptions about statins and about their doctors also appeared to play a role, Nanna said. Blacks were less likely than whites to believe statins are safe (36 percent versus 57 percent) or effective (70 percent versus 74 percent), the study found. Blacks were also less likely to trust their doctor, 82 percent versus 94 percent of whites. “We need to build trust with our patients,” Nanna said. “We need to be consistent in our application of guideline recommendations, and educate both clinicians and patients on the appropriate therapies for risk reduction.” There’s one additional factor that the study did not investigate, Baber noted — the beliefs and thought processes of the doctors treating these patients. “We don’t know what the physicians were perceiving,” Baber said. “For example, were clinicians less likely to prescribe medications because their perceptions about the patients with respect to risk or tolerance or adherence also differed by race?” It’s also possible that there were solid medical reasons why doctors chose not to prescribe heavier doses of statins to blacks, the researchers noted. Because doctors weren’t included in the study, there’s no way to tell. The study was published June 13 in the journal JAMA Cardiology. More information The American Heart Association has more about blacks and heart disease.
13 June 2018
WEDNESDAY, June 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A growing number of American men are having cosmetic surgery to improve their looks and increase their confidence, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports. More than 1.3 million cosmetic procedures were performed on U.S. men in 2017, according to the group. “For a lot of men, just having a procedure on an area of their body that they’re self-conscious about can really make a positive impact on how they see themselves,” Dr. Lorelei Grunwaldt, a plastic surgeon in Pittsburgh, said in a society news release. Over the past five years, there was a 23 percent increase in liposuction and a 12 percent increase in tummy tucks among men, and a 30 percent increase in male breast reductions, according to the society. Young men tend to focus more on enhancing their bodies, while older men have more minimally invasive facial procedures to look younger. In 2017, nearly 100,000 men had filler injections, a 99 percent increase since 2000, with a fourfold increase in Botox injections, the group said. Dr. Jeffrey Janis, president of the society, noted that it is important to have cosmetic procedures done by a board-certified surgeon. “The extensive training that these doctors go through gives them the versatility to offer their patients more choices so that each person receives the right procedures to meet their goals,” he said. More information The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on plastic and cosmetic surgery.
12 June 2018
TUESDAY, June 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Eating a nutritionally balanced high-quality diet may lower a cancer patient’s risk of dying by as much as 65 percent, new research suggests. The finding that total diet, rather than specific nutritional components, can affect a cancer patient’s prognosis “was particularly surprising to us,” said the study’s lead author, Ashish Deshmukh. Total diet, he explained, was one that appeared to be “balanced” and “nutrient-rich” with a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins and dairy. Deshmukh is an assistant professor with the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions. To explore the impact of nutrition on cancer, the researchers sifted through data collected between 1988 and 1994 by the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Almost 34,000 people were included in the survey, which asked all participants to offer up a 24-hour diet diary. The team then used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” as a yardstick for ranking the nutritional quality of the diets used by 1,200 people who had been diagnosed with cancer. The USDA guidelines specify serving recommendations for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, dairy, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. In turn, all 1,200 patients were then tracked for an average of 17 years, with researchers verifying all subsequent deaths — up to 2011 — through the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics Linked Mortality Files. By that point, half the cancer patients had died. But the research team found that those who had consumed the most nutritious diets overall had a 65 percent lower risk for dying — either from cancer or any other cause — than those who had consumed the worse diets. Deshmukh noted that the investigation did not assess the exact length of the survival benefit, nor did the researchers explore how exercise or other types of healthy behavior may impact cancer outcomes. Only an association was seen between diet and death risk, not a cause-and-effect link. But the researchers noted that the overall strength of the protective benefit of eating well held up even after digging deeper to look at the specific risk of dying from certain types of cancer, including skin cancer and breast cancer. “It is most critical that cancer survivors and their health care providers start talking about [a] balanced diet,” said Deshmukh. “It is also crucial that cancer survivors work with their dietitians to identify a balanced diet regimen, and then follow that regimen. “There are no harms [from] healthful eating,” he added. Marjorie Lynn McCullough is a senior scientific director of epidemiology research with the American Cancer Society. She noted that the “study had some limitations, such as not controlling for smoking, and evaluating older nutrition guidelines which have since been modified.” She was not involved with the study. But, she added, the findings are “generally consistent with growing evidence supporting recommendations to eat a healthy diet for cancer survivors.” Like the guidelines for cancer prevention, McCullough said, that means lowering the intake of sugar and empty calories by consuming “a mostly plant-based diet, including a variety of vegetables, whole fruits and whole grains, in addition to exercise and achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. “However, nutrition needs can vary during treatment, recovery and over the long term,” she cautioned, “so cancer survivors should work with their health care practitioner to tailor advice on nutrition and physical activity to their situation.” The findings were published June 12 in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum. More information There’s more on nutrition and cancer at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
12 June 2018
TUESDAY, June 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Summertime means fun time, but you still need to follow some basic health and safety precautions. Dehydration is a common summer problem and often results in dizziness, dry mouth and lightheadedness. But it also can be more severe, according to Dr. Ravi Rao, a family medicine physician at Penn State’s medical center. Mild dehydration can be corrected by drinking water or other drinks that contain electrolytes, while more severe cases are treated with intravenous fluids. “Hydration is big — especially if you are out in the sun. You should be drinking one or two glasses of water every hour,” Rao said in a Penn State news release. Drink more if you’re physically active and are sweating more, or if you’re having alcohol or caffeinated drinks. “If you are drinking, you should alternate alcoholic drinks with water,” Rao said. Sun protection is also key. When outside, apply sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 every one to two hours, especially if you’re going in the water. Use sunscreen even if it’s cloudy because the sun’s rays are still getting through. “That’s when people get burned the most because they’re getting the same exposure but without the heat that signals them to get out of the sun,” Rao said. Even with sunscreen, you should take breaks from the sun by using an umbrella or spending time in the shade because “cumulative [sun] exposure can increase your cancer risk,” he explained. Ticks are another summer hazard. Use a Permethrin spray on clothing, an insect repellent with DEET on exposed skin, and check for ticks before heading indoors. “People with dogs are actually at higher risk because they can bring them in the house,” Rao said. And if your summer fun includes travel to another country, be sure to make an appointment for any necessary vaccinations as soon as possible. “Sometimes people come in a week before their trip, and that’s too late,” Rao said. “Some of the vaccinations are a two- or three-shot series so you need to start a couple of months ahead.” More information The National Safety Council has more on summer safety.