05 February 2018
MONDAY, Feb. 5, 2018 (HealthDay News) — It looks like public health efforts to warn younger Americans about the dangers of tanning beds and sun exposure are paying off. Rates of the deadly skin cancer known as melanoma have dropped among Americans aged 15 to 44, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Unfortunately, baby boomers who baked themselves in baby oil during their youth are now paying the price as they age, with more than 70 percent of melanoma cases now being diagnosed in those over 55. Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the warnings about the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure are working. “The study shows that melanoma is decreasing slightly among younger adults, which is an indication that our efforts to ban indoor tanning among minors, and educate children and teens about the dangers of sunburns and tanning is having an impact,” she said. If this trend continues, then cases of melanoma should eventually decline in all age groups, Day added. “I would hope and expect that as this data is collected over decades, we will also see the older population have a corresponding decrease in melanoma rates as we see their exposure to UV rays decrease in their early years,” she said. Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer, said the study’s lead researcher, Dawn Holman, a behavioral scientist in the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. Each year, more than 70,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with it, and more than 9,000 die from it, the report noted. “Melanoma is often caused by overexposure to UV rays from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds,” Holman said. The steady increase in melanoma rates among older adults indicates a need to continue promoting sun safety throughout adulthood, she added. But, “the slight decrease in melanoma rates among younger adults is good news and may be related to a decrease in UV exposure among younger age groups,” Holman explained. For the study, the investigators used data from the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries and the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program. The researchers found that the rate of melanoma increased significantly between January 2005 and December 2014 among all white adults. However, when broken down by age groups, melanoma rates decreased among whites aged 15 to 44, Holman said. “We observed similar patterns when examining trends among men and women separately,” she added. Specifically, melanoma rates among white men ranged from 2 per 100,000 among those aged 15 to 24, to nearly 200 per 100,000 among those older than 85. Among white women, rates ranged from nearly 5 per 100,000 among those 15 to 24, to nearly 61 per 100,000 among those older than 85, the researchers found. People of all ages can benefit from protecting their skin, Holman said. “Plan ahead and make sun protection part of your routine. When spending time outdoors, wear protective clothing, apply sunscreen on exposed skin and seek shade, especially during midday when the sun is most intense,” she suggested. This combined approach works better than relying on sunscreen alone, she added. Moreover, people should avoid sunbathing and indoor tanning altogether. “Simply put, tanning your skin is damaging your skin,” Holman said. The report was published online Jan. 31 in the journal JAMA Dermatology. More information For more on melanoma, visit the American Cancer Society.
01 February 2018
THURSDAY, Feb. 1, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Improperly used “bug bombs” are making Americans sick — and improved labeling isn’t helping, government health officials say. Pesticide foggers are often used indoors to combat insects, such as fleas, cockroaches and bed bugs. But directions must be followed carefully because breathing the spray mist can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. More than 3,200 bug bomb-related illnesses — including four deaths — were identified in 10 states between 2007 and 2015, according to the new report. Failure to leave the home during the “bombing” and early re-entry were the most common reasons for pesticide exposure, the researchers said. Excessive fogger use — another culprit — was tied to more severe respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms. To reduce the risk of illness, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required improved labels on these “total release foggers” made after September 2012. But the investigators found no significant difference in the number of bug-bomb illnesses reported in the first three years after the new labeling took effect. “Integrated pest management strategies need to be adopted, as well as better communication about the hazards and proper uses of [total release foggers],” Ruiling Liu and colleagues wrote in the report. Liu is with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. More than nine in 10 fogger-related chemical exposures occurred in homes, with 5 percent of patients aged 5 years or younger. Another 14 percent were 60 or older, the report noted. Although the updated labeling includes illustrations, researchers found the directions often went unread or ignored. For example, many users left the treated room but not the premises, as directed. Or they left home, but returned to retrieve a pet or forgotten item. However, some users ventilated treated homes the recommended length of time or longer, but still got sick. This might mean the recommended ventilation period is insufficient, the report suggested. Patients’ symptoms included cough, trouble breathing and upper respiratory pain or irritation. Vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain or cramping were among other complaints, the findings showed. Because pre-existing asthma was linked to more severe illness, the researchers said a special warning might be needed for people with this respiratory condition. The chemicals most often involved were pyrethroid (78 percent of cases) and pyrethrin (24 percent), according to the report. If you come into contact with the fogging chemicals, health experts say you should leave the area at once and wash your skin. But avoiding the pesticides from the get-go is even better, they advise. “In order to avoid toxic exposures, do not use foggers in small, enclosed spaces, and inform your loved ones if an area has been treated,” said Dr. Payal Sud, a medical toxicologist in New York who was not involved with the new report. “Especially keep your children and pets away from the treated area,” added Sud, associate chair of Northwell Health’s Glen Cove Hospital. “When you return to the area, make sure the doors and windows are opened to promote ventilation of the fumes,” Sud said. The findings were published in the Feb. 2 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. More information The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines safety precautions for bug-bomb use.
31 January 2018
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 31, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Could a cancer “vaccine” fight more than one kind of malignancy? A new study in mice suggests it’s possible: A shot containing two compounds that stimulate the immune system was injected directly into tumors and killed those cancer cells. Not only that, it also destroyed rogue cells from the tumors that had already traveled to other sites in the rodents’ bodies, researchers reported. What’s more, they said this approach worked for lymphoma, breast cancer, colon cancer and the deadly skin cancer melanoma. How did the researchers accomplish the feat? “We found a way to get the body to reject cancer by putting stimulants of the immune system directly into the cancer,” said study author Dr. Ronald Levy, director of the lymphoma program at the Stanford Cancer Institute in California. “The immune system can recognize cancer and kill it, but the cancer is inhibiting the immune cells. If we stimulate the immune cells, we can get them to do their job at the tumor and do the job elsewhere,” he said. So will this approach work in humans? Levy said he has no reason to believe it wouldn’t. And because the treatment is injected directly into the tumor in very small doses, side effects would likely be minimal. But Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, was considerably more cautious about the treatment’s potential. “This study had excellent results. The mice had substantial responses, and the mice lived longer. But it’s important to remember that it’s a mouse study. Lab studies in animals don’t always translate to people,” said Lichtenfeld, who had no part in the study. He noted it’s a good sign that both agents used in the new treatment are already being tested in people. Levy and his colleagues explained that as cancer begins to develop, the immune system recognizes cancer cells as foreign invaders and sends cells to attack and destroy the invader. Specifically, T-cells often infiltrate and attack cancer cells. But as the tumor grows, the cancer cells may come up with ways to suppress the activity of the T-cells, according to the researchers. This allows cancers to grow at the original site, and to release cells that allow cancer to spread to other parts of the body. The two agents used in the experimental vaccine act on the immune system in different ways, according to Levy. One makes immune system cells work better and prompts them to call in reinforcements, while the other triggers the immune cells to multiply and migrate. By injecting the two immune-stimulating agents directly into the tumor, the treatment only boosts immune cells that have learned to fight against that particular cancer. So when the immune cells leave the tumor, they only seek out cells from that specific cancer, Levy said. So far, the researchers were able to eliminate four types of cancer in the mouse study. In the majority of those cases, one treatment was enough to eliminate the cancer. The researchers expect to start a small human trial including 15 people with lymphoma soon. Levy said he imagines that this treatment would be one tool against cancer, and that it would likely be combined with other treatments to overwhelm the disease. He noted that when treatments such as surgery and radiation are combined, some cancers can already be treated successfully. Lichtenfeld pointed out that there are still a lot of unknowns about this treatment: Will it work on everyone? How many cancers might be impacted? Does it have the potential to overstimulate the immune system? The bottom line, he said, is that this is an interesting, and certainly important, study, but further research is needed. “Hopefully, this research will move forward quickly,” Lichtenfeld added. The study was published Jan. 31 in the journal Science Translational Medicine. More information Learn more about immunotherapy for cancer treatment from the American Cancer Society.
31 January 2018
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 31, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Winter can be harsh on your skin, especially your hands and face. Try these fast, easy and inexpensive steps to avoid the chapping and flaking that comes with the season. Resist taking hot showers and long soaks, both of which remove your skin’s natural oil barrier, causing it to dry out more easily, suggests the American Academy of Dermatology. The water temperature should be between the high 90s and 100 degrees, no higher. Immediately after bathing, seal in any moisture your skin absorbed by slathering on a thick moisturizer. Choose an ointment or a cream, not a thin lotion. For daytime, use nourishing products with sun protection. The sun’s rays can still age you, even in cold weather months. Washing hands frequently is essential to avoid the spread of cold and flu germs, but to avoid chapping, moisturize them after every rinse. And always wear warm gloves when outdoors and protective ones when using cleaning products or washing dishes. Don’t forget your lips, which can also fall prey to dryness. Dab on lip balm to prevent chapping. It can be as simple as plain petroleum jelly. Resist licking lips that are dry — that actually increases dryness. If your skin is easily irritated, avoid all scented products and harsh deodorant-type soaps. Wear cotton or silk clothes next to your skin before layering on woolens. If the air in your home is dry from your heating system, use a humidifier, especially at night, to put moisture back in the air. If the same situation exists at work, consider a desktop unit. Don’t wait to see signs of dryness. Be proactive to save your skin from winter’s wrath. More information Get additional winter skin tips from Wake Forest Baptist Health.
30 January 2018
TUESDAY, Jan. 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Stimulating the brain with an implantable device may be safe — and possibly helpful — for some people with Alzheimer’s disease, a small pilot study suggests. In what researchers described as a “proof of concept” treatment, three Alzheimer’s patients had deep brain stimulation (DBS) wires implanted in the brain — in areas related to skills like planning, judgment and problem-solving. Over the next 18 months or more, the tactic appeared to be safe. And there were “signals” that it was slowing down two of the patients’ decline, said lead researcher Dr. Douglas Scharre, director of cognitive neurology at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. Deep brain stimulation is already used to treat some cases of Parkinson’s disease and certain other brain disorders. But it’s far too early to know whether it has value for people with Alzheimer’s, Scharre stressed. “This is not ready for prime time,” he said. “It’s not something patients can ask their neurologist for.” Keith Fargo, who directs scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, agreed. It’s “much too early” for patients or caregivers to seek out DBS, said Fargo, who was not involved in the study. Instead, he said, these findings suggest that deep brain stimulation is “a reasonable route” to study in larger clinical trials. The results were published online Jan. 30 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Deep brain stimulation involves implanting electrodes in the brain, then connecting them to a pulse generator placed under the skin of the chest. Sometimes called a “brain pacemaker,” it delivers electrical pulses that alter the activity in specific brain “circuits.” The theory behind trying DBS for Alzheimer’s patients, Scharre said, is similar to the “use it or lose it” principle: If key brain areas can be stimulated to form new connections among cells, it might slow decline. Right now, Scharre noted, medications for Alzheimer’s target brain chemicals involved in memory. But Alzheimer’s impairs all kinds of mental functions — including judgment, planning and decision-making. And those issues have a huge impact on daily life, for patients and their caregivers, Scharre added. So, the patients in his study received DBS, for at least 18 months, to brain areas that regulate those mental skills. All three patients were in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s and were on standard medications. After starting DBS, all saw a general decline in their memory, problem-solving and other skills. But they declined at a slower rate, compared to 96 similar patients whose information was taken from an Alzheimer’s research database. Two of the DBS patients declined at a “meaningfully” slower rate, according to Scharre. That included one who actually showed some improvements. That patient was LaVonne Moore, 85, of Delaware, Ohio. When she entered the study, she was not preparing any meals. After two years of deep brain stimulation, she’d regained that skill — and was better able to perform some other simple tasks, like selecting her clothes and organizing outings. In a Ohio State news release, her husband, Tom Moore, said her Alzheimer’s has progressed, but more slowly than he’d expected. “LaVonne has had Alzheimer’s disease longer than anybody I know, and that sounds negative, but it’s really a positive thing because it shows that we’re doing something right,” Moore said. If DBS ever becomes an option for Alzheimer’s, Scharre said it would not be for everyone. It would not be appropriate, for example, for people who are frail or have other serious medical conditions. In the pilot study, side effects included hot flashes, heart palpitations and burning sensations in the skin, which were reversed by adjusting the DBS settings, the researchers said. There is no larger trial in the works yet, according to Scharre. What’s needed, said Fargo, is research that compares deep brain stimulation against a placebo device. On a broader level, he noted, this study highlights an important point: “Alzheimer’s disease is more than just amnesia.” For caregivers, Fargo said, the problems with abilities like judgment and planning can actually be more challenging. So any new therapies that help address those issues would be welcome. More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s — a number that could rise to 16 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. More information The Alzheimer’s Association offers resources for caregivers.
28 January 2018
SUNDAY, Jan. 28, 2018 (HealthDay News) — If your New Year’s resolution was to quit smoking, it’s probably time to consider ways to improve your chances of success. For starters, list your reasons for wanting to quit, suggest experts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Want to improve your health? Save money? Smell and taste food better? Those are common reasons smokers cite for wanting to kick the habit — something that nearly 70 percent of adult smokers say they want to do, according to the FDA. Reviewing your reasons for wanting to quit can help you when you get the urge to smoke. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. Quitting smoking can be difficult so you might have to try a few times before you’re successful. Research has shown that trying but failing to quit can lead to more attempts in the future, and that it often takes multiple attempts to finally quit smoking. The agency also notes that there are a number of FDA-approved products that can help you quit smoking. These include nicotine replacement therapy products. They provide controlled amounts of nicotine, to reduce smoking withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Two types are available by prescription — a nicotine nasal spray and a nicotine inhaler. Three types can be bought over-the-counter — nicotine gum, skin patches and lozenges. Their effectiveness can vary, but these products can double your chances of successfully quitting smoking, according to the FDA. There are also FDA-approved prescription drug products without nicotine that can help you quit smoking. Just be sure to read and carefully follow the directions for prescribed smoking-cessation products and talk to your doctor if you have questions. Anyone younger than 18 who wants to quit smoking should talk to a health care professional about whether they should use smoking-cessation products, according to the FDA. More information The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.
26 January 2018
FRIDAY, Jan. 26, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Waiting for acne to clear up on its own can be frustrating, especially for teens who are already self-conscious about their appearance. Untreated acne can cause low self-esteem and anxiety as well as permanent facial scars. Ignoring it or assuming kids will outgrow it can harm them physically and emotionally. Acne can also continue into the adult years, and be especially problematic for women. Mild cases with just a few blemishes or blackheads may respond in a month or two to over-the-counter drugstore products with ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. These are designed to unblock pores and encourage cell turnover. But deep pimples and inflamed pustules need the strength of prescription products and the know-how of a dermatologist. Most prescriptions are topical. That means they’re applied to the skin, typically to kill bacteria and/or reduce oil. Often in gel form, they may contain a retinoid (a vitamin A-based ingredient), prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide, or antibiotics. There are many effective combinations that your dermatologist can recommend. If one doesn’t work, another might. Severe acne, with cysts and nodules, often needs medication in pill form, from antibiotics to the most powerful vitamin A drug called isotretinoin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one 4- or 5-month course of isotretinoin brings about clear skin in 85 percent of patients. However, it can have serious side effects, primarily birth defects, so it’s essential that people taking it don’t become pregnant (or even breast-feed) while on it. There are also many office procedures that may help, such as lasers and other light therapies; chemical peels; and extractions, which remove stubborn cysts and help prevent scarring. With so many options, there’s no reason to suffer through this skin condition. More information The American Academy of Dermatology has a section on acne on its website, including the latest treatments.
23 January 2018
TUESDAY, Jan. 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Water pollution is damaging Americans’ health, and at a high financial cost, too, new research finds. Water-related recreational activities lead to more than 90 million cases a year of gastrointestinal, respiratory, ear, eye and skin-related illnesses in the United States, according to the study. The researchers calculated that those illnesses result in $2.9 billion a year in medical costs and costs related to time away from work or school. For the study, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago assessed waterborne illnesses contracted from swimming, paddling, boating and fishing in lakes, rivers and other natural bodies of water. The study did not examine illnesses associated with swimming pools or water parks. “The costs associated with these illnesses help us put into perspective the costs of projects that aim to help make our recreational waterways cleaner and safer,” Samuel Dorevitch, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, said in a university news release. “The costs of beach monitoring and notification programs over the summer months are known,” Dorevitch said. “But until now, we haven’t known the cost associated with illness acquired through recreation on natural waters. This information should help policymakers put the costs of water-quality monitoring and water-quality improvement projects into context.” However, the findings should not panic people, he said. “At 90 million illnesses out of an estimated 4 billion total water recreation events annually in the U.S., the number of people who get sick is around 2 percent,” Dorevitch explained. That said, he added that it’s not easy to determine exactly how many illnesses result from water recreation. “If somebody gets sick a couple of days after swimming and visits their doctor, the root cause of the illness — bacteria or viruses in the water — may not be recognized or investigated,” Dorevitch noted. About $10 million has been allocated annually for beach-water protection efforts, he said, calling it “a small fraction of annual estimated illness burden.” Dorevitch suggested that stepped-up efforts “to reduce severity of illness among water recreators should be explored to reduce total economic burden while encouraging more individuals to enjoy safe surface-water recreation.” The study findings were published online Jan. 9 in the journal Environmental Health. More information The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more on beaches and health.
18 January 2018
THURSDAY, Jan. 18, 2018 (HealthDay News) — You’ve gotta be kidding me. That’s gotta be fake. That’s the understandable first reaction of many to the viral phenomenon dubbed the “Tide Pod Challenge.” Sad to say, it’s real. Prompted by internet dares, dozens of U.S. teenagers in recent weeks have popped liquid laundry detergent packets from a variety of manufacturers into their mouths just to see what happens, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). There have been 39 reported cases of teens intentionally ingesting laundry pods during the first 15 days of 2018, poison control center statistics show. That’s exactly as many cases reported for the entire year of 2016, and nearly three-quarters of the 53 intentional misuse cases reported to poison control in 2017, the AAPCC said. “It’s one of those things that seems to have taken on a life of its own, once it became a social media meme,” said Alfred Aleguas Jr., managing director of the Florida Poison Information Center-Tampa. “Frankly, it’s a little crazy.” The plastic skins of laundry pods are designed to dissolve on contact with water and automatically release the pods’ contents. That means when kids pop a pod in their mouths, they’re very likely going to receive a flooded snootful of chemical cleansers. “It is important to remember that these products are highly concentrated detergent packets. Their contents can cause serious harm if they are ingested or come into contact with the eyes or skin,” said the American Cleaning Institute, a trade industry group. “They are not a toy and should not be used in pranks. Product safety is not a joke.” Dr. Alfred Sacchetti, chief of emergency medicine at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, N.J., noted that “any detergent is to some extent a caustic. It can burn you.” Scarring from severe burns to the esophagus could create a long-term choking hazard for a teen, he explained. “Now the opening from your mouth to your stomach has been narrowed. Food gets stuck. If you try and eat a hot dog, it gets stuck,” Sacchetti said. Kids could require a food tube implanted into their stomach to keep them nourished while they undergo multiple surgeries to repair the throat damage, he added. At the very least, kids who stick a pod in their mouth will cough, gag and foam at the mouth. At worst, they could experience diarrhea and vomiting, chemical burns to their throat and airways, severe breathing problems, seizures and even a coma, poison control experts said. “We’ve even had some deaths” in years past, Aleguas said. “There’s something about these single-load liquid laundry packets that make them more toxic.” When laundry pods first hit the market several years ago, experts were particularly concerned about young children trying to eat them. The pods are very colorful and look like candy. Indeed, children aged 5 and under were far and away most affected by intentional and unintentional exposure to single-load liquid laundry packets in 2017, accounting for 10,583 of the total 12,299 cases reported to the nation’s poison control centers. As a result, most messages about laundry pods have focused on warning parents to keep them out of the hands of young children. Poison centers even have gone so far as to recommend that parents with kids 5 and under not use the pods at all, Aleguas said. “I thought we were getting a pretty good handle on it in our pediatric population,” Aleguas said. “I’d never expected this from older children, honestly.” Putting the pods in a locked cabinet won’t help with teenagers, since they can just hit the supermarket and buy their own if they’re determined to pull this stunt, Aleguas said. “Parents should sit down and talk with their teens and say, ‘Yes, it seems funny and we know it’s going around on social media, but it really has the potential to produce some very severe symptoms,'” Aleguas said. “You really are playing with fire. It’s all fun and games until someone shows up in the emergency department.” Dr. Boris Khodorkovsky, associate chair of emergency medicine for Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, doesn’t mince words about the fad. “It’s one of the most ridiculous things I ever heard in my life,” Khodorkovsky said. Along with the potential harm from the laundry chemicals, Khodorkovsky is also concerned that the pods’ plastic skin might not dissolve completely. If inhaled, the plastic film could close off a person’s airway and prevent breathing. If your child is suffering mild symptoms, you should call the national poison help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 for advice, experts said. You also can text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your mobile phone. Act quickly at any hint of worse symptoms, or if the child already has a chronic breathing condition like asthma, Khodorkovsky said. “If there’s any suggestions of losing consciousness, problems breathing, drooling in the mouth or, God forbid, having a seizure of some sort, I think that’s something where they’ll need to call 911 immediately,” Khodorkovsky said. “I wouldn’t wait and call poison control. I would call 911 because those are significant symptoms. More information For more on laundry detergent pods, visit Consumer Reports.