Monday, October 25, 2010

Floaters--tiny particles in your field of vision--are an irksome consequence of aging.

Oct. 05--Georgina Almeda, a retired secretary and teacher from Coral Gables, kept seeing gnats on her mangoes.

"Guasasas," she calls the critters in Spanish.

She tried swatting them off, to no avail.

Next, Almeda started to see what looked like a backward C with a dot on each end in her line of vision. Then, she saw "a cobweb." She thought it might be a reflection of her mascara, but she was concerned enough to see an eye doctor.

What Almeda was seeing are called floaters -- harmless, tiny particles inside the eye that become visible when they enter your line of vision -- another one of those irksome but normal consequences of aging.

"It's often very disconcerting for people," says Dr. Sander R. Dubovy, an ophthalmologist at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami. "What happens is that people don't know about them and they're bothersome, but they're a normal part of aging."

Most of the time floaters appear at about age 60, "plus or minus a few years," depending on your vision history, Dubovy says.

Near-sighted people may get them earlier. So might people prone to eye infections.

Floaters occur when the eye's gel-like lining, the vitreous, begins to change consistency, and small bits of it break loose. Those gel particles float around the liquid center of the vitreous, casting shadows on the retina as light passes through the eye.

"When this jelly starts to liquefy, it changes consistency and can pull away from the retina," Dubovy says. "When that happens you can see more floaters.

"It's like a piece of Scotch tape you put on a wall and it looks clear, but if you pull it off, it takes a little paper with it and the tape becomes cloudy."

The floaters move when your eyes move.

"It pulls off a little bit of pigment tissue when it detaches from the retina," Dubovy says. "It sits in the center of vision, and reading or focusing on something becomes a problem."

You see the floaters more often in bright light and when you look down.

Most people require no treatment -- but if your floaters are accompanied by a flash of light, you need to see a doctor immediately. That flash could mean the detachment has caused a tear in the retina. A small tear is easy to fix with a laser, Dubovy says.

"If you catch it early, you should be fine," he says. "If you wait some time, it can lead to more problems."

A 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that one in seven people who experience sudden eye floaters and flashes will have a retinal tear or detachment.

But here's the good news: For most people, floaters go away within months.

"These things become less bothersome over time," Dubovy says. "They may dissolve a little bit or settle down. The third thing is that the brain tends to get used to them and blocks them out. The eye adapts."

There are a few things you can do to cope with floaters while they're with you:

--If they appear when you put your head down to read, elevate the book by propping it on a book stand.

"Get it out of your central area of vision," Dubovy recommends. "Shift where your head is."
--Look straight ahead when you're watching TV.

"When you're sitting up they settle to the bottom part of the eye and they're not in the central area of vision," the doctor says.

There isn't any treatment for floaters because only in "very rare" cases do they become crippling, and the risk of surgery for a normal case of floaters far outweighs the benefits
"It gets better more than 99 percent of the time," Dubovy says. "The key thing is see a doctor to make sure you don't have retinal tear."

Unlike most diseases, there's nothing you can do to prevent floaters.

"If you live to a decent age," he says, "you'll experience them."

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Can Pomegranate Juice Put a Halt to Middle-aged Spread?

IT CAN help prevent cancer, is good for your heart and can even boost your sex life.

If that wasn't enough to tempt you to drink some, it is now claimed that pomegranate juice can also help shift middle-age spread.

Scientists believe that the superfood has the power to reduce the fat stored round the stomach - the 'spare tyre' in men, or 'muffin top' in women.

After just one month, volunteers who consumed a bottle of pomegranate juice every day were found to be less likely to develop fatty cells around their abdomen.

They also had much lower blood pressure, therefore reducing their risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. The researchers from the University of Edinburgh believe pomegrate juice may lower the amount of fatty acid in the blood, known as nonesterified fatty acid or NEFA.
Previous studies in humans and animals have shown that high NEFA levels are linked to a greater storage of fat around the abdomen, as well as an increased risk of heart disease and type II diabetes.

In the experiment, 24 men and women were given a 500ml bottle of pomegranate juice to drink every day for four weeks.

The researchers found that nearly half of all volunteers had much lower NEFA levels by the end of the trial. They believe that this will make them less likely to store fat around their stomach.
In addition, more than 90 per cent of the men and women had lower blood pressure by the end of the month.

Dr Emad Aldujaili and Dr Catherine Tsang, lead researchers at Edinburgh University's School of Health Sciences said: 'There is no doubt that pomegranate juice is beneficial in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease because our results showed a significant and consistent lowering of blood pressure.' Dr Aldujaili added: 'There is early evidence that consumption of pomegranate juice may influence abdominal fat. 'We believe that these initial findings deserve more detailed study. The subjects in our latest study had a healthy body mass index, making the impact more difficult to observe.

'In future research we will investigate the effect on overweight or obese subjects in whom the effect may be more evident.' Dr Aldujaili will present his findings at the International Functional Food meeting at Oxford Brookes University next month.

It is already known that pomegranate juice is high in antioxidants, chemicals which help to neutralise harmful oxygen molecules called free radicals.

If left unchecked, these molecules can damage cells causing illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and resulting in the body aging more quickly.

The fruit is also thought to enhance the sex life, as the antioxidants increase the amount of blood flowing to the genitals.

(C) 2010 Daily Mail. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company All Rights Reserved

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Millions with voice problems don't know treatment is available.

DURHAM, N.C.-Two-thirds of Americans with voice problems don't seek medical care either because they don't know treatment is available or because they think the problem will just go away, according to a new study conducted at the Duke Voice Care Center (see also Depression).
That's concerning, says Seth Cohen, MD, an otolaryngologist at Duke. "Voice disorders aren't benign nuisances that just go away. They are symptoms of a range of medical conditions from allergies to cancer. When caught early, the right treatment can make a big difference. Left untreated, they can become chronic problems that previous studies show have a major impact on quality-of-life issues, including an increased risk of depression. This study helps us understand the barriers preventing people from seeking treatment when there is so much at stake."

An estimated 20 million Americans have dysphonia, the clinical umbrella term for a hoarse or raspy voice that can cause pain when speaking and make it difficult to communicate effectively. Previous data link dysphonia to decreased work productivity and social isolation. Patients also incur financial burdens including rising health care costs. Overall, economic losses have been estimated in the billions.

"Dysphonia affects everyone at every age," says Cohen, author of the study that appears online in the journal Laryngoscope. "You don't have to have a vocally demanding job to suffer."
There's a host of conditions that lead to dysphonia, including tobacco, alcohol and caffeine use, certain medications, voice overuse/misuse, hearing loss, dry mouth and reflux. Dysphonia can also be sign of something more serious, like asthma, lung disease, Parkinson's or laryngneal cancer.

"You have no idea what is causing the problem or what the appropriate treatment should be until an evaluation is performed," says Cohen. That requires the use of a laryngoscope that threads a camera down the throat so doctors can determine the medical cause.
Few dysphonia patients go that route.

In the Duke study of 789 patients in a primary care network, nearly 30 percent (29.1 percent) had dysphonia at least once in their lifetime; 4.3 percent had it for more four weeks. More than half (54 percent) of those with current dysphonia had missed at least one day of work as a result of their condition. More than three-quarters (77.9 percent) of patients who had dysphonia more than once had never received treatment.

When asked why they didn't seek treatment:
30.4 percent did not know options for treatments were available;
33.3 percent thought the problem would go away on its own;
26.1 percent didn't seek care because their physician didn't asked about vocal problems;
14.5 percent thought dysphonia was due to aging;
7.2 percent cited expense and insurance coverage;
4.3 percent cited travel limitations.

Cohen says it's important for patients to understand that vocal disorders can get progressively worse when left alone.

"Patients who don't seek treatment get caught in a vicious cycle. As the problem becomes more chronic, patients seem to be accepting it, but that won't make the situation better," he says.
Rather than take vocal disorders for granted, Cohen stresses, "Patients need to become better advocates for their own health. They should talk to their doctor so they can get appropriately evaluated and a personalized treatment plan can be developed."
Keywords: Cancer, Depression, Duke University Medical Center, Dysphonia, Mental Health, Oncology, Voice Disorders.

This article was prepared by Drug Week editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2010, Drug Week via

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Higher blood and dietary antioxidant nutrient levels predict reduced mortality risk over 13 year average.

A report published online on September 1, 2010 in the British Journal of Nutrition revealed a protective effect for a number of antioxidant nutrients against all-cause and disease-specific mortality in older individuals over a 13 year average period. "The purpose of the present paper is to explore the predictive significance of a selection of biochemical indices for nutrients that are believed to mediate redox-modulatory (antioxidant or pro-oxidant) functions in living tissues," the authors write. "Evidence that subsequent all-cause mortality may be predicted by vitamin C intakes and/or status has been obtained in several previous studies, and similarly for carotene and selenium."

Researchers at MRC Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge and University College in London evaluated data from 1,054 participants in the British National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which enrolled men and women aged 65 and older from 1994 to 1995. Blood samples obtained upon enrollment were analyzed for plasma vitamin C, retinol, alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, carotenoids, zinc, copper, iron, selenium and a1-antichymotrypsin, a serine protease inhibitor that is increased during inflammation. Four day dietary records were analyzed for the intake of these nutrients and energy intake. The participants were followed through September, 2008 and the causes of any deaths were documented.

Seventy-four percent of the men and 62 percent of the women enrolled in the Survey died over the course of follow-up. Increased plasma vitamin C, alpha-carotene, selenium, zinc and iron were signficantly associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality, as was the dietary intake of vitamin C, carotenoids, zinc, copper and total energy. These patterns remained fundamentally similar when deaths from vascular, cancer and respiratory diseases were separately considered, however, increased dietary vitamins C and E were found to confer a significant protective effect against cancer, and dietary vitamin E protected against respiratory disease in males (while carotenoid intake was protective in women). An association of elevated plasma copper and a1-antichymotrypsin levels with increased mortality was explained by the fact that a1-antichymotrypsin and a major copper-containing plasma protein increase during inflammatory states.

"A number of baseline nutrient status indices with ‘redox-modulatory’ connotations appear to predict all cause, primary vascular disease, cancer or respiratory disease mortality in older British adults," the authors conclude. "Future studies should attempt to determine, first, which nutrients are the most frequent predictors of all-cause and specific-cause mortality in different populations, and second, whether these predictions can imply causal relationships, such that dietary or other interventions might promote disease-free longevity."

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Researchers discover performance-enhancing medications improve anticancer drug's efficacy

U.S. researchers discover Viagra enhances anti-cancer drug's efficiency

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have shown that the impotence drug Viagra, in combination with doxorubicin, an anti-cancer drug, enhances its anti-tumor efficacy in prostate cancer while alleviating the damage to the heart at the same time.

For more than four decades the chemotherapeutic agent doxorubicin has been used to treat a number of human cancers, including that of the prostate. Despite doxorubicin's clinical efficacy for cancer treatment, its use is associated with irreversible heart damage, often presenting several years after treatment stops. Researchers have been working over the past 15 years to find an optimal therapeutic intervention for protecting the heart against the cytotoxicity associated with doxorubicin.

In the study published online Monday in the Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers using a variety of powerful in vitro and in vivo approaches, have shown that a combination of Viagra, generically known as sildenafil, and doxorubcin significantly enhances the generation of reactive oxygen species that trigger cell death, or apoptosis, in prostate cancer cells. They also observed that the combination did not harm the normal, healthy prostate epithelial cells.

"We believe sildenafil could be an excellent candidate for incorporation into cancer treatment protocols -- with the potential of enhancing the anti-tumor efficacy, while protecting the heart against both short term and long term damage from doxorubicin," said principal investigator Rakesh Kukreja.

Kukreja is excited about the potential translational impact of this work. "My team and I are hoping to move the research forward to a clinical trial and plans are under way to do so," he said. The clinical trial would evaluate the effectiveness of the drug combination in cancer patients.

(c) 2010 Xinhua News Agency - CEIS. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Exercise: A dose of good medicine

On a recent Wednesday night, Cindy Gerstner, 42, strapped her feet into a rowing machine and began gliding back and forth with all the energy she could muster. This wasn't just a workout for Gerstner, whose stage 4 breast cancer has spread to her brain, lungs, bones and liver. It was a 40-minute dose of medicine.

"It's part of my treatment plan," said Gerstner, a member of Recovery on Water, a crew team made up of breast cancer patients and survivors who believe exercise is a powerful tool to help keep cancer at bay. "It's almost as important as chemotherapy in helping me stay on this earth as long as possible."

Once relegated to health clubs, exercise is muscling into its way into a wide variety of disease prevention and treatment plans. Physical fitness programs are already a staple of cardiac care.

But though research is still in the early stages, there's encouraging evidence that consistent workouts can help with everything from cancer, autoimmune disorders and Parkinson's disease to alcoholism. University of Illinois scientists recently received funding for a study that looks at whether riding a stationary bicycle during treatment can help dialysis patients.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Breast cancer research is emphasizing prevention as a priority.

Oct. 03--When Amy Matzek's mother got breast cancer, her own risk for the disease doubled automatically. Now she's fighting every day to even the odds.

Matzek works out. She pops flax seed capsules and vitamins, and she gathers her food from the produce aisle.

"I remember my mother having breast cancer. I remember her lying on the couch, being in pain," said Matzek, a 36-year-old mother of three.

"I didn't want this to be me, and I didn't want it to be my daughters."

The regimen this Kansas City woman is putting herself through may seem like wishful thinking to some. But it's backed by science, and the evidence is mounting.

Prevention has become an urgent priority among breast cancer researchers, and with good cause.

After taking a nose dive early in the decade -- most likely because huge numbers of menopausal women abandoned risky hormone replacement therapy -- rates of new breast cancer cases have stayed stubbornly constant.

Prevention researchers are investigating everything from conventional drugs to things typically found in health food stores: soy protein, green tea, grape seed extract and fish oil.
And, yes, the vitamin D and flax seed that Matzek is taking.

In the United States, two dozen prevention studies at places such as Stanford University, Columbia University and the University of Kansas Medical Center are enrolling patients.
The good news is that women can do plenty to significantly lower their risk of breast cancer, doctors said.

"If we did all the things that we know, we could dramatically reduce breast cancer in this country," said Powel Brown, chairman of the clinical cancer prevention department at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Lifestyle counts
For some women at high risk, the best prevention is tough: Years of drug therapy or even surgery to remove their breasts before cancer appears.

But women with an average or moderately elevated cancer risk may improve their odds just by doing what they know they should: Cutting back on alcohol consumption, losing weight, eating a healthful diet, getting regular exercise -- things we've been told to do to avoid maladies such as heart disease and diabetes.

"Lifestyle changes may be all we need, and they're good things we all should be doing anyway," Brown said.

Women at higher risk -- those with a family history of breast cancer and lab findings of pre-cancerous cells in their breasts, for example -- may need stronger medicine.
It's a matter of hormone control.

Up to 80 percent of breast cancers are fueled by the female hormone estrogen. The drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene block estrogen from binding to breast tissue cells. In large, long-term studies, women who took one or the other of the drugs for five years cut their risk of breast cancer by as much as half.

But the drugs cause severe side effects -- hot flashes, cold sweats, blood clots, weight gain, endometrial cancer -- that make women highly skeptical.

"The problem is nobody wants to take these drugs," said Carol Fabian, a doctor and breast cancer researcher who runs a prevention program at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
"They don't want to get hot flashes. You consult with these ladies and they say, 'You know, I'll just let you follow me.' How can you argue with them?"

Another category of drugs now being studied as a preventive measure also is problematic, Fabian said.

Aromatase inhibitors, which block estrogen production in post-menopausal women, are being used to keep breast cancer from returning after women have undergone treatment. But the drugs cause fatigue, aches and pains, and can lower sex drive.

"Unless they're extremely high risk, I don't think people would be any more likely to take it (for prevention) than tamoxifen," Fabian said.

Drug alternatives
Fabian and her KU colleagues have been looking for more palatable prevention measures that are reasonably inexpensive and can make women healthier even if they don't stop them from getting breast cancer.

Take exercise, for example. Breast cancer is less common among women who stay active. And exercise reduces inflammatory chemicals in the body that promote the survival of precancerous cells.

Fabian put 25 women on a 1,200 calorie-a-day diet and an exercise regimen of six hours or more of walking every week.

The women not only lost weight, they ended up with fewer precancerous cells in their breasts.
Unfortunately, many of the women in the study had gained back their weight a year later. A follow-up study Fabian is planning will include counseling to help women keep the weight off.
This summer, Fabian and a research team at the University of Texas-Austin received a $4.5 million grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure to conduct a nationwide study on whether flax seed supplements can reduce the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women.
Flax seeds contain estrogen-like chemicals called lignans that appear to dampen the effect of the body's estrogen. In countries where people eat plenty of flax seeds or other foods high in lignans such as sesame seeds, rye bread, cabbage and broccoli, breast cancer risks are about 50 percent lower.

"In the U.S. we do not eat a lot of unprocessed fruits and vegetables with lots of lignans in them," Fabian said.

In a small pilot study, Fabian found that women who took concentrated flax seed extract capsules showed reduced growth of precancerous breast cells. Fabian's new study will enroll a total of 200 women at eight universities.

"Even if it reduces risks by just 10 or 20 percent, that's better than something more effective that no one will use," Fabian said.

Weighing risks
Brown of MD Anderson thinks more women would take the drug option for breast cancer prevention if they assessed the risks and benefits the way they do for other kinds of drugs.
Statins to lower blood cholesterol, for example.

"Statins do have side effects, yet most of us take these medicines without worrying. We assess our risk of heart disease," Brown said.

"It's the exact same thing with cancer, but for whatever reason, the media message for preventing cancer is something about changing your behavior."

One group with greater motivation to take preventive drugs is women with a genetic susceptibility to breast cancer. Less than 1 percent of women have mutations in either their BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, but they have a 60 percent chance of developing breast cancer. Their risk of ovarian cancer also is higher. The lifetime breast cancer risk for all women is about 12 percent.

Women who test positive for the gene mutations face the decision whether to have their ovaries removed and undergo preventive mastectomies and reconstructive surgery.

"Each patient has to decide how aggressive she wants to be," said John Shook, a cancer surgeon at St. Luke's Hospital.

Women may postpone surgery until after they have children, he said. They may take years to decide.

But eventually, most women do choose surgery, Shook said.

Amy Matzek hasn't been tested for the gene mutations. "I think it puts you in a dilemma about some radical choices," she said.

But, as a patient in Fabian's prevention program at KU, Matzek is vigilantly monitoring her health. She has a breast exam every six months and a mammogram every year.
Matzek is a nurse and a hospice administrator. She has seen women in their 40s and 50s whose breast cancer was diagnosed too late.

"I think something has to jump-start you into doing something about breast cancer," Matzek said. "For me, I think it was less the fear of breast cancer than the fear of not seeing my children grow up."
New tools and techniques are increasing the survival rates for those with breast cancer.

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Black rice could be superfood!

Black rice - revered in ancient China but overlooked in the West - could be one of the greatest "superfoods", scientists revealed yesterday.

The cereal is low in sugar but packed with healthy fibre and plant compounds that combat heart disease and cancer, say experts.

In ancient China it was known as "Forbidden Rice" because only nobles were allowed to eat it. Today, black rice is mainly used in Asia for food decoration, noodles, sushi and deserts.

Food scientist Dr Zhimin Xu said: "Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health-promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries."

(C) 2010 The Herald. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company All Rights Reserved

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vitamin D may help protect against endometrial cancer in obese women!

Findings from a study of mice published online on September 21, 2010 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research suggest the possibility of a protective benefit for supplemental vitamin D against the development of endometrial cancer in obese women. Obesity has been associated with double the risk of endometrial cancer compared to that experienced by normal weight women, and the condition also significantly amplifies the risk of the cancer's recurrence. While a recent study failed to determine a protective association for vitamin D against endometrial cancer, the research did not examine the vitamin's effect in the obese population. Read More.......

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Blood test accurately predicts death from prostate cancer up to 25 years in advance!

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A blood test at the age of 60 can accurately predict the risk that a man will die from prostate cancer within the next 25 years, according to researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, and Lund University, in Sweden. The findings, published today online in the British Medical Journal, could have important implications for determining which men should be screened after the age of 60 and which may not benefit substantially from continued prostate cancer screening.

The study analyzed blood samples from 1,167 men born in 1921 that were collected between 1981 and 1982 as part of the Malm? Preventive Project in Sweden. All men were carefully followed until they had reached age 85 or had died. After studying various biomarkers, the researchers found that the PSA level was a highly accurate predictor of long-term risk. PSA testing has been recommended for the early detection of prostate cancer for many years; however this new data suggests a baseline PSA could determine who should and should not continue to be screened for prostate cancer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

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