Friday, 26 January 2007

B.B. King hospitalized in Texas

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Hot off the press (assuming that phrase still applies when your news source is internet based), musician B.B. King, 81, has been hospitalized at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Fortunately, it is expected that he will be discharged some time today, as the reason for his admittance was apparently just a low fever.

King, who is known for writing such blues hits as "The Thrill is Gone" and "You Upset Me Baby," was in Texas to perform at the Grand Opera House on Thursday night. It remains unclear at this time whether B.B.'s hospital visit was at all related to his type 2 diabetes, but early indications seem to point against this.

As a long-time proponent of raising diabetes awareness, B.B. can often be found playing his trademark guitar Lucille during commercials for blood sugar testing meters. In addition to his contribution to music and diabetes awareness, B.B. is also the person behind the B.B. King's Blues Club and Restaurant, which has locations in cities around the U.S.

Researchers examine risk faced by endurance athletes

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I can distinctly recall hearing the news of the tragedy. I was in my early teens at the time, probably just turned thirteen. Basketball was my life, as sports are to many kids of that age. I also remember watching both pro and college basketball games whenever I myself was not playing for one of the eight thousand teams (recreation league, school team, CYO team, etc.) I played on, looking up to these men as demigods. But then, the news struck that one of these players, one of these sports idols of mine, had suddenly collapsed and died during a basketball game. His name was Hank Gathers, a rising star at Loyola Ma rymount University that was well on his way to being drafted into the NBA.

It was determined that Gathers suffered from an abnormal heartbeat, exercise induced ventricular tachycardia. Since then, there have been reports over the years at different times about athletes who either collapsed during a game or were held back by doctors from playing a game because of a similar condition. There was not much information being circulated about the cause and origin of this condition, leaving the public to wonder why these athletes were suffering from an abnormal rate and rhythm of the heart. However, researchers at the University Hospital Gasthuisberg at the University of Leuven in Belgium have begun examining this issue.

After conducting a study on 22 endurance athletes who were referred to them with ventricular arrhythmia between 1997 and 2005. The researchers discovered that most of these athletes have dysfunctional right ventricles. At the present time the researchers are still examining the dangers of this condition in endurance athletes, and are doing so by ruling out such external factors as family history. Whether or not long-term, strenuous endurance activity can lead to ventricular arrhythmia or tachycardia remains unknown for now.

Fitness program may lower health care costs

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Researchers found that offering seniors with diabetes the opportunity to participate in a subsidized community-based exercise program may help lower health care costs.

The researchers analyzed 163 seniors with diabetes who participated in a community-based fitness program that was fully subsidized by the HMO. For comparison, the study also included 364 seniors who did not participate in the fitness program. After 12 months, the researchers found that total health care costs did not differ among the two groups of seniors. However, among those in the HMO subsidized exercise group, those who attended more exercises classes per week than the rest of the group had health care costs roughly 41% less than the average of the group.

The study found that health care costs can be greatly reduced among a previously sedentary older adult who engages in moderate physical activity three days a week or more. One in five Medicare recipients has diabetes. That's a pretty significant number. Diabetes-related health care costs account for about a third of total Medicare expenses. Exercise can reduce health care costs and increase physical functioning. Any amount of physical activity is beneficial for everyone and it is even more so for people with diabetes, regardless of the effects on health care costs. What's the going rate for well-being these days, anyway?

One step closer to uncertain survival

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It's an unsettling journey -- the pursuit of the five-year cancer survival mark. Some say each year of cancer survival makes the future more of a sure thing. And so surviving five years -- the traditional landmark of real remission -- is a big accomplishment. But then there's the perspective of numbers that for me say I have a 93 percent chance of surviving breast cancer for five years. After that, though, there's no telling what will happen. So I am eagerly awaiting the moment when I cross the five-year finish line as I anxiously realize this very same moment may also signal a more dismal outlook.

The paradox hit me straight in the face yesterday as I was waiting for my radiation oncologist to give me another six-month all clear announcement. I was reading the January/February 2007 issue of Coping magazine while I waited. And as I flipped through the pages, I landed right at these words:

Studies show that half of all breast cancer recurrences occur after completion of five years of standard tamoxifen therapy. Additionally, a third of women with estrogen receptor-positive early breast cancer experience a recurrence, and more of half of these recurrences occur more than five years after surgery.

Now this doesn't apply directly to me. My breast cancer was estrogen receptor-negative which makes me a non-candidate for tamoxifen. And this is what scares me. My tumor was aggressive and while my treatment was also aggressive, I don't get the extra five-year protection from hormone therapy. If women taking this drug can have recurrences after completing the therapy, I wonder what's in store for me having not had it.

Maybe I'm making comparisons that don't amount to any real conclusions. Perhaps my type of disease allows for a more secure future. Or perhaps it places me on shaky ground. I don't know for sure. And I don't think I'll dive any deeper into research than I already have. Instead, I will live for today -- while enjoying the announcement my oncologist shared with me yesterday. All clear!
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Calling all cell phone users: new study warns of cancer

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On December 8, 2006, I wrote about a Danish study investigating the possible link between cell phone use and cancer. This largest-ever study of it's kind put fears to rest. Cell phones do not cause cancer, said researchers who announced that cell phone users -- even long-term users -- are at no more risk of developing cancer than their non-cell phone using counterparts.

There's just no biological basis for concern about radio waves, reported the lead investigator of t his study. But another newer study reports something entirely different.

Long-term mobile phone users are more likely to develop cancer -- brain cancer, on the side of the head where the phone is held -- according to the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland. It will all be detailed later this year in the International Journal of Cancer, but the general gist of the study is already circulating.

The study -- the second one to suggest an increased risk of cancer due to emissions from cell phones -- found that people who regularly used cell phones for more than 10 years were 40 percent more likely to develop nervous system tumors called gliomas. Comparisons were made between 1,521 people with gliomas and 3,301 people without the tumors. While no connections were initially made between the phones and cancer, a link was found when researchers specifically focused on those who had used their phones for more than 10 years.

Short -term use of cell phones has never been linked to cancer. That's good. But I tend to believe cell phones are going to become even more a staple of our technologically-driven lives than they are now. And so 10 years may actually be considered short-term one day -- which means we all may soon be at risk.

For now, until research becomes more conclusive, we get to pick and choose which study to stand behind. So take your pick -- and stay tuned for future scientific revelations.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Let's remember The Godfather, James Brown

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Mister James Brown, that bad old Soul Brother Number One, is gone. Okay, so it's been about a month now since he passed away. But I'm rejoining the world of blogging after a few weeks away, and I want to start with a tribute to James Brown who, as it happened, suffered from Type 2 diabetes.

Let's remember him. How about all those arrests? How about that infamous car chase with the cops in tow? Who could forget those ghastly mug shots? Yes, let's remember all his crazy antics. He was "Super Bad," as the song said. But let's also remember that although James Brown frequently ended up on the wrong side of the law and was more than a little eccentric, he was also a musical force of nature. Brown propelled his incredible funk and soul forward by force of a powerhouse personality, fully earning his status as a music legend - not to mention an icon of the black community.

I saw James Brown perform in 2005. Onstage, Mr. Cold Sweat was still a powerhouse. Offstage, however, he had become frail. In the end, diabetes was one of the afflictions that gave Brown great trouble. It probably won't come as a shock to you that Brown was not a terribly health-conscious fellow. That neglect extended to a failure to get control of his diabetes. Brown finally died of heart failure while battling a case of pneumonia. But I also found a few mentions on the web of Brown's battle with diabetes. According to a feature in the Chicago Defender, Brown was not taking his insulin and had told his sister that the disease had damaged his legs and feet. Fannie Brown says, "I do remember him saying something about the doctors telling him that if he didn't change his lifestyle that there could be complications (from diabetes), but I don't remember the whole conversation. That was a few years ago. So you can't really quote me on that. Whatever it was, I think he changed his lifestyle." Uh, maybe.

Don't know much about the music of James Brown? Want to learn? Let me point you in the right direction. Rolling Stone is featuring James Brown on its cover this month. Inside is a lengthy tribute, which recounts the man's amazing career.

Slowing down Glucose Production

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Anybody ever frustrated with left-field highs? You haven't had a morsel to eat in hours and you're stymied (if not righteously furious) your sugar is off the wall. I've been there. No sir, I don't like it. Where is this high coming from? Thank your liver. Researche rs are working on a drug to slow down the body's overproduction of glucose when our bodies lock-down in fasting mode. Halleluiah.

A key enzyzme involved in the metabolic pathway used to produce glucose is phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase. This enzyme helps control blood sugar levels during a fasting period. Researchers believe an overproduction of the enzyme might lead to the bamboozling highs we sometimes encounter after a long period of...well...nothing!

A proof of concept study shows that it is possible to alter the activity of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase without directly interfering with homeostatic functions of metabolism. This research could be used to design a drug that can prevent the liver from overproducing glucose in a person with diabetes. I'll thank the Lord when this one hits the shelves.

The Cost of Diabetic Depression Treatments

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Researchers found that using a systematic approach for the treatment of depression in diabetics will not increase health care spending, and might actually decrease the overall costs.

Researchers evaluated the cost and cost-effectiveness of a systematic depression treatment program versus the usual care for 329 outpatients with diabetes and depression. The intervention involved specialized nurses who provided a 12-month stepped-care depression treatment program using psychotherapy or antidepressant drugs or both. Systematic depression treatment significantly reduced the patients' average depression scores after 6 and 12 months, and these improvements were maintained at 24 months.

Outpatient depression treatment costs were approximately $700 higher in the intervention group during the first year, the results indicate. However the general medical outpatient costs in this group were lower, and offset most of the difference. During the second year, the approximately $100 in higher outpatient depression treatment costs in the intervention group was more than offset by lower outpatient costs of approximately $1400.

The study was designed with the hope of alleviating human suffering caused by diabetes. If reducing the burden of suffering also reduces costs of care, then depression management programs should be routinely integrated into diabetes care. Preempt this mission with the fact that the systematic depression treatment programs were associated with an increase of 61 depression-free days and an estimated cost savings of $300 - that's a monthly stipend of 20% more Happy Days and a half tank of gas. That'll give you something to smile about!

Leading drug maker Pfizer lays off 10,000

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The world's largest drug maker -- Pfizer Inc. -- announced Monday it will cut 10,000 jobs and close at least five facilities due to fierce competition from generic drug makers. The goal, says Pfizer spokespeople, is to whittle away annual costs by $2 billion by the end of the year -- to combat the prediction that the company will lose 41 percent of its sales to generic drugs between 2010 and 2012.

Pfizer's other obstacles include expiring drug patents -- costing Pfizer about $14 billion in revenues between 2005 and 2007 -- as well as demands for lower prices by insurers and large purchase rs, and repeated requests for evidence of products' worth.

The 10,000 layoffs amount to 10 percent of the company's global workforce and will take jobs from 2,200 United States employees. The company will cut 20 percent of its European sales force, will close three research sites in Michigan and two manufacturing plants in New York and Nebraska, and is considering selling a manufacturing site in Germany and closing two research sites in Japan and France. In the midst of all of this, the company will focus its efforts on transforming the way they do business.

"I believe we must transform the way we've done business in the past in order to be more successful in the future," said Jeffrey Kindler, CEO and chairman of Pfizer. " Incremental evolution is not enough. Fundamental change is imperative -- and it must happen now."

Pfizer's Monday announcement is the second declaration of budget cuts. A previous announcement has the company -- the maker o f cancer drugs Aromasin, Ellence, Camptosar, and Sutent -- slashing costs by $4 billion a year until 2008.

Study reveals link between household pesticides, cancer

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Nearly a decade ago, women in Long Island began to worry about their high rates of breast cancer. So they advocated and lobbied and pushed until a public law was passed that allowed for the creation of the Long Island Breast Cancer Project. Funded by both the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, great data has emerged from this project -- like the data linking breast cancer and household pesticides.

Although much research has linked cancer with pesticides in work and industrial settings, few studies have investigated what these chemicals can do in households -- until now, thanks to research conducted as part of The Long Island Breast Cancer Project.

Published online in the December 13 American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found an association between lifetime residential pesticide use and breast cancer risk in a sample of 1,508 Long Island women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1996 and 1997. These women were compared to 1,556 random controls. All women were asked to self-report their pesticide exposure and to offer blood samples for the study of organochlorine compound levels -- found in lawn and garden products.

As expected, researchers found an increased breast cancer risk for women whose blood samples showed the highest levels of organochlorine compounds. They also found it hard to find women who did not use lawn and garden pesticides t o some degree.

Use of household pesticides has infiltrated our society, says researcher Susan Teitelbaum, assistant professor in the department of community medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who reports she is happy to see a movement toward use of alternative methods, like integrated pest management.

Teitelbaum has just one recommendation as result of this study. It's quite simple really -- stop using pesticides.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Diabetes pain drug may impair sugar control

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A study reveals the drug duloxetine is useful in treating diabetes-related pain, but it may worsen control of blood sugar levels. Diabetes is the number one cause of damage to the peripheral nerves in th e United States. Neuropathy will first appear as burning or stinging in the feet, usually worse at night. The nerves to the feet are affected first because the damage is occurring along the entire length of the axons and the axons to the feet are the longest in the body.

Duloxetine is one of only two drugs approved for the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain (DPNP), a common problem in diabetic patients, Cymbalta(R) or duloxetine is the first drug approved by the FDA for painful diabetic polyneuropathy. The drug was previously approved as an antidepressant. The drug is an SSNRI meaning it is both a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. By blocking the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, these neurotransmitters increase in the spinal cord and brain. It is speculated that both increased serotonin levels and norepinephrine levels produce an inhibitory effect on the ascending sensory tracts.

Data was collected from three clinical trials to investigate changes in weight, sugar levels, and cholesterol levels in patients with DPNP treated with duloxetine. Short-term treatment with duloxetine was associated with a modest increase in fasting sugar levels, but not with significant increases in hemoglobin A1c, a measure of long-term sugar control. With longer treatment, however, there was a significant rise in hemoglobin A1c, indicating impaired sugar control. In addition, there were also small changes in cholesterol levels among duloxetine-treated patients, but a small increase in HDL "good" cholesterol was the only statistically significant change. Weight declined with short-term duloxetine treatment, but increased slightly with long-term treatment.

Mommy Dearest to the Rescue

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New research is revealing that cells passed from mother to child during pregnancy could be used to treat diabetes. Scientists found these cells can develop into functioning islet beta cells which produce insulin in the pancreas.

Scientists studied 172 individuals and took pancreatic tissue from four deceased males. They found small numbers of female islet beta cells able to produce insulin. There was no evidence the mother's cells were causing damage or becoming the target of an immune response. However, the team found more maternal DNA in the blood of children and young adults with type 1 diabetes than in healthy individuals. Researchers believe the maternal cells may be helping to regenerate tissue in the pancreas.

I heard about this study last year. It sounded quite promising and led me to wonder if I had a child - could the stem cells from the umbilical cord become healthy beta cells for me? Sure. However, the big question still remains - how can I stop the killer Ts from spanking my islets in the first place?

Scientists look more closely at what causes autoimmune disease

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The immune system is sort of like your offensive linemen in football. It protects the body from invading disease and infection, just as the offensive line protects the quarterback from being sacked by members of the opposing team. When using this analogy, a specific group of white blood cells called T cells can be considered your All-Pro linemen, your best protection against against invading pathogens. These T cells are controlled by a second group of cells called regulatory T cells. In keeping with our football analogy, let's think of these regulatory T cells as our offensive coordinator, calling the shots from the s ideline. What these regulatory T cells do is prevent the T cells from attacking the body's own tissue. Think of it as an offensive coordinator who tells his lineman not to sack their own quarterback or block their own players. But, when the regulatory T cells (offensive coordinator) fail to control the T cells (offensive linemen) from attacking a body's own tissue, this is what causes autoimmune disease.

I apologize for the "...and that's how a bill becomes a law," type explanation, but I thought it was important to get that information out before mentioning a related study that appeared in the January 21 online edition of Nature. In the study, scientists from the Whitehead and Institute and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute identified a key set of genes that lie at the core of autoimmune disease. A previous discovery that regulatory T cells are controlled by a master gene regulator called Foxp3 (okay, back to the football analogy. Consider Foxp3 the head coach). Foxp3 is so vital that when it stops functioning, the body can no longer produce working regulatory T cells. As a result, the T cells (linemen) damage organs and tissue, causing symptoms of type 1 diabetes and Chrohn's disease. But, until this study, there had never been a full understanding of how Fox3p controls regulatory T cells because they did not know exactly which genes fell under Foxp3's co mmand.

Using DNA microarray technology to scan the entire genome of T cells and locate the genes under Foxp3's purview, approximately 30 genes were uncovered. One in particular, called Ptpn22, showed an especially strong connection. This was quite a discovery for the scientists, as it had been known that Ptpnn22 is strongly related to type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Graves' disease. What wasn't known, however, is that Ptpnn22 could be linked to regulatory T cell function.

This discovery is a solid step forward in the effort to understand how Foxp3 enables regulatory T cells to prevent autoimmunity.

Ranch C. Kimball named new Joslin prexy

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First, you park your car in a garage that leaves you about two inches between you and the car next to you. After doing your best not to clip their side mirror with your door as you open it, you then make your way out of the garage and across the street. Hmmm? It looks like a bunch of brick buildings, nothing all that remarkable. That's what you say to yourself as you approach. A small sign then directs you down a long, narrow walkway -- which, at first, seems to be nothing more than an alley with a ha nd rail. A couple of hundred feet or so later, however, you finally see what it is you expected to see: The Joslin Diabetes Center. The world's largest diabetes research center, diabetes clinic, and provider of diabetes education (and also the home to some of the most enormous wind chimes I've ever seen). With its impressive, massive, glass structure and post-modern artistic, metal framework, you feel as if you've almost found The Secret Garden -- er, only it's made of glass and metal.

Whatever. My point is that when you finally arrive at Joslin, you feel like you are somewhere special. Somewhere that things, good things, are happening every day. Advancements, improvements, discoveries, breakthroughs -- you know that words such as these are routinely attributed and applied to the work being done inside that building. The craziest part is that I've only been in the waiting room and the rotunda! Having now gone with my girlfriend to several of her doctor's visits, I've had the pleasure of getting a glimpse into this amazing world of research and technology. Being a patient at Joslin for many, many years, she seems to know so many people by name. But, it seems as though there is someone new over there whose acquaintance she will soon have to make. His name is Ranch Kimball, and aside from having a first name that makes me wish his last name was Hiddenvalley, he is the man who has been appointed the new CEO and president of of Joslin.

Kimball will succeed C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., who was involved at Joslin for 25 years as Executive Vice President and then over 11 years as president. Clearly, Kimball has some big shoes to fill, but this respected former businessman and economic development reformer gets high praises from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Diamaxol and the secret of Banaba

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Those of us who don't have a metabolism like Sea biscuit might fall for the too good to be true ads every time. This time the object of my curiosity is Diamaxol. The product was formerly called Diabeticine, but the FDA didn't like the hint of medicine in the name, so the manufacturers changed it.

The product supposedly reduces blood sugar levels, eliminates (strong word) insulin resistance, and normalizes insulin production. A partial list of Diamaxol ingredients include: Banaba, Guggle (Guggul), Bitter Melon, Licorice extract, Cinnamon herb powder, Gymnema Sylvestre, Yarrow, Cayenne, Juniper Berries, Huckleberry, and Vanadyl Sulfate How exactly does Diamaxol claim to work it's magic? It's not magic - it's simply science. The magic behind the formula is actually the miraculous human body doing its job. Diamaxol is more like the stage crew for David Copperfield, rather than the show itself.

Diamaxol interferes with glucose absorption and prevents the stimulation of glucose from the liver. This effectively reduces blood sugar levels. It also eliminates insulin resistance by repairing cell receptors to better handle insulin. Scientists agree, insulin resistance is one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes. The normalization of insulin production is restored (in type 2) and replaced (in type 1) by an organic compound. Curiously enough, banaba is at the top of the list of ingredients. Banaba contains corosolic acid, which activates the transport of glucose across cell membranes, resulting in blood sugar reductions. It has been used in the Philippines for years to treat diabetes. Because the FDA has approved Diamaxol as a supplement, at least we know that it can't hurt. Sounds interesting, perhaps worth looking into - but is it worth the $75 to $100 a bottle?

ED is related to modifiable factors

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A study shows that men with type 2 diabetes experience pronounced risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) when they have symptoms of depression.

Depression appears to be a vicious cycle that may instigate the development of ED, while the ED symptoms perpetuate the symptoms of depression. Effectively deducing that ED in diabetic patients is not related entirely to organic factors. The study evaluated men with type 2 diabetes who completed questionnaires every 6 months for 3 years. Five hundred men reported ED at the start of the study, and an additional 192 developed the disorder during follow-up. The investigators noted higher prevalence of high blood pressure (46% versus 32%) and lipid abnormalities (23% versus 13%) among men who complained of ED. The researchers also observed higher incidence of retinopathy, neuropathy or heart and vascular disease in ED sufferers. Those with ED were more likely to be treated with insulin or diuretics. Depression and ED was found more often in those with poor physical and psychological health.

The researchers surmised that erectile problems are not necessarily an inevitable outcome of the aging process. The risk factors for ED are modifiable and can be changed to reduce the likelihood of the outcome (or lack thereof). The results should serve as uplifting news for suffers of ED, no pun intended.

Get your sleep on to get your Ghrelin down

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Elixir Pharmaceuticals is a company focused on age-related diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Elixir released new data on research that ultimately could lead to a treatment for type 2 diabetes.

The research explains the role of ghrelin, a hormone secreted by the stomach. Ghrelin controls appetite by increasing levels before meals and decreasing levels after meals. A lack of sleep produces ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and creates less leptin which, amongst its many other effects, suppresses appetite. Research scientists have developed an anti-obesity vaccine, which is directed against the hormone ghrelin. The vaccine uses the immune system antibodies to prevent ghrelin from reaching the central nervous system, thus producing a desired reduction in weight gain.

The research conducted by Elixir, as well as the obesity vaccination, shows compelling evidence that ghrelin plays a pivotal role in metabolic regulation. Scientists have shown pharmacologic inhibition of the ghrelin receptor results in a reduction in fasting glucose levels, reduction in insulin resistance, and weight loss. This could lead to victorious battle for science in the war on obesity.

SIDS linked to gene variation

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In two new studies published by Vanderbilt researchers in the online edition of the journal Circulation, it was suggested that sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may in some cases be caused by mutations in genes related to potentially lethal heart rhythms.

An estimated 2,200 deaths occur each year in the United States as a result of SIDS, thereby making it the third leading cause of death in infants, but the number one cause in infants aged 1 month to 1 year. There are other known risk factors associated with SIDS, such as as sleeping on the stomach during pregnancy and smoking and/or exposure to second-hand smoke. Awareness of these risk factors has lead to a decrease in the number of related deaths in recent years, but why it still remains a leading cause of infant mortality in developed nations remains unclear.

Based on this new information, however, the researchers put forward the possibility that SIDS, in certain cases, may have been caused by variations in genes associated with inherited forms of cardiac arrhythmia. In their study of 201 SIDS cases from Norway, it was discovered that 9.5 percent of SIDS victims had gene mutations of this kind.

The researchers are hoping that the use of this knowledge will result in strategies to identify whether infants are carriers of these specific gene mutations before, as one of the researchers properly put it, "the tragic event of their death."

The Dilemma: which disease is more worth treating?

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Fight infectious diseases or treat chronic illnesses? Which of the two do you choose? This is the very dilemma faced by many third world nations, with economic shortfall being the cause for such a decision to be made. So, with little alternative but to make a choice, many poor countries have focused their medical attention to preventing the spread of communicable diseases. As expected, this has left people suffering from chronic non-communicable conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer with few treatment options.

In the January 18, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Gerard Anderson, PhD, a professor from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, addressed the dire need for more international aid for chronic, non-communicable diseases in these poorer countries. He cites facts surrounding the dangers of not properly treating such diseases, and also highlights statistics showing cardiovascular disease as being the cause of 27 percent of all deaths in poor countries, whereas HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined only account for 11 percent of deaths in poor countries.

The professor is quick to point out that he does not feel as though aid for communicable diseases should be cut. Rather, he feels that an equal amount of resources should be made available for chronic, non-communicable diseases, as well. As for a reason why the former receives more attention than the latter, he posits that it may be related to the fact that the world fears the world fears the global spread of communicable diseases, a danger that is not attributed to chronic, non-communicable disease. Also, in many cases chronic, non-communicable diseases are not viewed as being of great urgency, so they do not receive an equal amount of media attention.

For more information, review Dr. Anderson's article, "Expanding Priorities -- Confronting Chronic Disease in Countries with Low Income" in the January edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

High percentage of children having surgery are overweight or obese

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Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System just released a report in the new issue of the National Medical Association, stating that a very high proportion of children having surgery are overweight or obese.

Examining a database of over 6,000 pediatric surgeries at the University of Michigan Hospital from 2000 to 2004, the researchers found that almost 32 percent of the patients were overweight or obese (with more than half of that 32 percent being obese). One of the major concerns, aside from the clear relationship to a nationwide rise in overweight and obese children, is that these children -- just like overweight and obese adults who undergo surgery -- are more likely to develop infections in their wounds.

The research also suggests that overweight and obese children have a greater likelihood of requiring particular types of surgery. Most frequently, overweight or obese children had to have their tonsils and adenoids removed. Additionally, overweight and obese children were more apt to require surgeries related to breathing problems and sleep apnea; orthopedic surgeries to mend broken bones; and procedures for dealing with gastrointestinal problems.

As stated, the marked increase in the number of overweight and obese children is not limited to Michigan alone, but applies to the entire nation. Over the past two decades, overweight and obesity in children has nearly tripled, just as it has concurrently risen in adults. This surgery related discovery is one of many associated health problems.

Asprin may be life saver for cancer patients experiencing heart attack

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According to the WHO (the World Health Organization, not the band), there are roughly 10 million cancer patients worldwide, of which 1.5 million may develop blood clots during their cancer treatment. As such, these individuals face great risk of dying from heart disease if they do not receive proper treatment, which, as doctors may have now discovered, includes taking aspirin to prevent heart attack.

The prevailing thought on aspirin was that because it is a blood thinner, it is not safe for people with cancer to take. Because people battling cancer typically experience low platelet counts and abnormal clotting, it was believed that aspirin would only serve to worsen these pre-existing problems. But, a recent study held by a joint team of researchers from the department of cardiology at the M.D. Anderson Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and Duke University Medical Center discovered that this may, in fact, not be true at all.

The findings of their study, which will be published in the February 1, 2007 issue of the journal Cancer, center on evidence suggesting the beneficial properties of aspirin for cancer patients experiencing heart attack. They found that 9 out of 10 cancer patients with low platelet count, and who were suffering form heart attack and who did not receive aspirin, died. By contrast, they also found that in a group of 17 similar cancer patients who did receive aspirin, only one patient died. Additionally, it was also discovered that even cancer patients who do not have low platelet counts who experience heart attack can be helped by taking aspirin, in the same manner that it helps people without cancer.

Further and more detailed information on the study will be available in the February issue of the journal Cancer.

Important staging procedure necessary for survival of ovarian cancer

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An analysis of data from SEER, Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, shows that a common staging procedure given to patients diagnosed with Stage I non-clear cell ovarian cancer will live longer than those not going through the same procedure.

The procedure is called lymphadenectomy, meaning the removal of the lymph nodes during surgery to remove the cancer. Standard therapy is supposed to include lymph node removal but many of the women diagnosed with early stage disease fail to undergo a complete staging procedure.

Information on 6,686 records of women with Stage I invasive ovarian cancer diagnosed between 1988 and 2001 was analyzed. Overall, five year survival was 92.6 percent for those who underwent removal of lymph nodes versus 87 percent for those who did not have the nodes removed during surgery.

Cincinnati Reds pitching coach Vern Ruhle dies of cancer

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Former Cincinnati Reds pitching coach Vern Ruhle died Saturday after a year-long battle with myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. He was 55.

Ruhle, who missed the entire 2006 season following his diagnosis, had recently undergone stem cell transplants in hopes the procedures would successfully treat his cancer. But complications of the disease rendered the attempts unsuccessful.

Ruhle served 12 years as a major league pitching coach and worked in Houston, Philadelphia, and New York before joining the Reds in 2004. He had a career record of 67-88 with a 3.73 ERA.

Ruhle is survived by his wife, Sue, his daughter, Rebecca, his son, Kenny -- and his Cincinnati Reds family.

"The baseball and Cincinnati Reds families mourn the loss of an excellent coach, wonderful husband, and loving father," the Reds said in a statement. "In his 35 years in professional and collegiate baseball, Vern touched many people inside and outside the game. We are privileged to have been a part of his life. He will be greatly missed."

Radiation after lumpectomy cuts recurrence for some

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Women 65 and older with early stage breast cancer who receive radiation after a lumpectomy -- a breast-sparing surgery to remove cancerous tumors -- may receive from radiation a decreased risk of recurrence. But a new study suggests many forgo the treatment due to its drawbacks.

Results of the study revealed women who received a lumpectomy and no radiation were 60 percent more likely to experience a breast cancer recurrence or a new tumor than those rece iving either a mastectomy or lumpectomy followed by radiation.

Lead study author Ann Geiger of Wake Forest University wants women to get the message that while her study did not address how radiation affects survival, it does decrease the risk of recurrence. And this is particularly important because older women are more likely to develop breast cancer yet are less likely to treat their diseases as aggressively as younger women.

For some, like older women with very small tumors, the risk of dying is very low and so radiation may not be a priority. For other older women, like those in their 80s, the hassle and discomfort of a six-week course of radiation might not be worth it. But for those on the fence about whether or not to sign up for radiation treatment, it seems submitting to the treatment definitely has its merits.
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NC State basketball coach Kay Yow back in the game

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Kay Yow, head coach of the North Carolina State women's basketball team, returns to her job today following a two-month leave she took to fight cancer for a third time. Yow's first game back will be on Thursday against Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) rival Virginia.

Yow, 64, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. Two years ago the disease returned and was treated. And in November, Yow left her team after doctors determined he r cancer had returned once again.

For the past two months, Yow has been receiving chemotherapy along with other new therapies. And while Yow's disease is not gone and her life-extending treatment will continue throughout the season, doctors say her health has improved. And she says she's ready to get back in the game.

Yow, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and coached the U.S. women's team to a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, has been a head coach for 32 seasons. Her assistant Stephanie Glance led the Wolfpack team (13-7, 2-3 ACC) in Yow's absence.

Cancer survivor that smoked

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There are some of us out there--diagnosed with cancer and then continued to smoke cigarettes. I was one of those people. Basically, as soon as I was told I had a very suspicious mammogram, I went out side to wait for my husband and was puffing away.

This might seem crazy to those who have never smoked or been addicted to nicotine. It seems crazy to smoke at all knowing all the damage it does but then when you have already sat in that chemo chair it becomes even more absurd.

I am writing this post to tell of my experience with quitting after being diagnosed with cancer. In the hopes it might help someone else do the same. First, I would like to point out that it would be the hardest time to quit during the first few months after being diagnosed. Your mind is not in the right state to take on such a mental endeavor.

I would not advise waiting three years like I did, but I think eventually a light bulb came on my head and said "hey, Kristi, you might actually live through this breast cancer experience so you have to quit"!

One important and major thing is that I became mentally ready. I was embarrassed that I had the nerve to light a cigarette after I had already been diagnosed with cancer. Did I want to put myself through cancer again? I did not blame myself for smoking causing my breast cancer, I will never know if it did contribute so i just don't bother myself with thoughts on that aspect. What is done is done and all I can try to do is help my body be more healthy in the future.

I have heard that reformed smokers are the worst! They tend to get on everyone--I know now why they do this. Because its really not that hard to quit. Think about what amazing things your are doing for you body -- getting rid of all those chemicals that come along with the nicotine.

It is quite difficult in the beginning, I'm not going to sugar coat it. My first night after dinner without smoking, my husband and I were enjoying a few glasses of wine on our deck. I said to him, "ok, what do we do with ourselves"? That was my time to have a smoke while enjoying my wine. It was rough.

I did have cravings of course. What I read was that a craving will last 3 minutes. Wait out those three minutes. Its doable.

I am no expert on quiting smoking. I just had to quit cold turkey and am convinced it is the only way. Using the patch or other items of that nature only prolong the inevitable.( you will have to go through withdraw eventually). Your body needs 72 hours to be clear of nicotine. That is when the cravings are the strongest. After that time period dealing with your triggers and times of day you smoke is another obstacle. Slowly weaning yourself off nicotine rarely works.

I have found a terrific website called www.whyquit.com. That is what helped me to quit. You can read reaffirming messages about how good it feels to be in a non-smoking world and enjoying more than you did when you smoked.

One thing I like that they said on the site was that if you were going to feel as horrible as you do the first few weeks after quiting for the next twenty years they would advice continuing to smoke. But it is true that after a while you don't think about it, wake up feeling better, don't stink...i can go on and on.

Take a look at the website if you feel you might be ready. good luck!

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Are schools doing enough to keep our children safe from UV rays?

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Lee Hemming was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at the age of 18. She says she was never desperate for a tan and only would get a sunburn twice a year - on the days of her school swimming and athletics carnivals.

Even though we know that genetics plays an important role in skin cancer, the total amount of time a person spent in the sun and the intensity of the UV rays at the time were also key factors.

Some professionals think it goes as far as saying schools that allow children to become sun burnt are guilty of exposing them to injury. Schools need to provide a safe environment for their students.

The World Health Organization says that when ultraviolet radiation is extreme it is often between the hours of 10am and 2pm.

Maybe it would beneficial to move outdoor activities to a time in the day that does not fall into the killer hours. They advise slapping on that sunscreen for outdoor activities and stay indoors if the index is eight or above!

Common chemo aid causes bone loss, tumor growth

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A drug commonly used to minimize the toxic effects of chemotherapy has been shown in mice to cause bone loss and promote tumor growth, according to the results of a recent study.

This drug, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) -- also known as Neupogen, Neulasta, and Granocyte -- helps restore white blood cell counts that take a beating during chemotherapy, protecting cancer patients from an increased risk of infection.

According to resear chers, G-CSF -- essentially a growth factor -- encourages bone breakdown. And any therapy that decreases bone density can enhance tumor growth in bones. So doctors are urged to closely monitor their patients during chemotherapy with regular bone density scans. They can also prescribe medications to prevent bone loss if necessary. And patients can protect their bones by consuming enough calcium and vitamin D and engaging in regular exercise.

Currently, research on cancer patients treated with G-CSF have not yielded the same strong results researchers found among mice.

The details of this study appear online in the journal Blood, and will be published in an upcoming print issue.

Uncertain future for drug used to shrink tumors

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Canadian researcher Evangelos Michelakis, associate professor of medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, has stumbled upon something quite remarkable -- a potentially new anti-cancer agent called dichloroacetate, or DCA.

DCA is nothing new -- it's long been used for treatment of rare metabolic disorders -- but using it to fight cancer puts an entirely new spin on the potential of this drug.

"This is one of the most exciting results I've ever had," Michelakis said. "But I can't be overenthusiastic until it works on a huma n."

Michelakis and his colleagues have successfully used DCA to shrink human lung, breast, and brain tumors in both lab rats and test tubes. And while this type of research may not ordinarily generate a lot of excitement, this specific study is creating a buzz because DCA has been safely used in humans for decades, without adverse side effects.

"One of the big concerns about drugs is that they can harm people but we already know this drug is safe," Michelakis says. "It doesn't even affect normal cells."

One of the fundamental premises of cancer biology is that mitochondria -- the energy producing units of cells -- are permanently damaged by cancer. What DCA does is revive the mitochondrial function, encouraging the death of cancer cells.

The overwhelming hope is that DCA will move right to human testing. But the overwhelming fear is that it will not -- because of economic reasons. There is no longer a patent on DCA so it is not own ed by any one company. With little chance of one group making a large profit, there may be no incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research.

Sadly, this drug -- that appears to work remarkably well -- may never benefit cancer patients. All because no one stands to make billions of dollars from it.

Prescription for good health -- get a dog

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A U.K. researcher confirms what many dog lovers already know -- dogs are good for your health.

Apparently, dog owners are generally healthier than non-pet-owners. They have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, suffer fewer minor ailments, and stray from serious medical problems too. Dogs can prevent their owners from getting sick, help them recover more quickly when they do fall ill, and they can even warn of cancer, heart attack, epilep tic seizures, and hypoglycemia, says Dr. Deborah Wells from the Canine Behaviour Centre of Queens University in Northern Ireland.

Wells, whose study is published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, says dogs buffer us from stress -- a well-known cause of illness -- and promote general well-being. Owning a dog leads to increased physical activity and increases development of social interactions -- both of which minimize stress and contribute to human health.

While Wells found those who own both dogs and cats benefit from their pets, dog owners enjoy improved health for much longer than cat owners.

Hereditary retinoblastoma and soft tissue sarcomas

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Patients diagnosed with retinoblastoma have a greater chance than the general public of developing soft-tissue sarcomas over their lifetime, says an article recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer that originates in the eye. Treatment for retinoblastoma often includes radiation therapy and may also include chemotherapy and surgical removal of the eye. There has been some concern that radiation therapy increases the risk of developing cancer in tissues within the radiation field.

The National Cancer Institute recently conducted a study to evaluate potential associates between patients diagnosed with retinoblastoma and the rate of soft-tissue sarcomas following treatment.

The study included 963 patients treated and diagnosed with hereditary retinoblastoma from 1914-1984. Data on these patients regarding the rates of soft-tissues sarcomas were compared to the general population.

The researchers concluded that patients diagnosed with hereditary retinoblastoma appear to have a significantly increased risk of developing soft-tissue sarcomas. This risk was increased in these patients whether or not they received radiation therapy and remained increased outside the field of radiation therapy; this indicates a potential genetic susceptibility for soft tissue sarcomas among patients with hereditary retinoblastoma.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Newer blood-pressure drugs pose less diabetes risk

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Research has confirmed modern blood-pressure treatments are less likely to be associated with new cases of diabetes than older medicines.

Historically, beta-blockers and diuretics have been associated with reducing glucose-tolerance and triggering the onset of diabetes. The results of past clinical trials found the danger was less with angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) and angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (ACE). The study was based on a systematic review of 22 clinical trials involving 143,000 patients who did not have diabetes when they were started on the different medicines.

An individual's risk of getting diabetes while taking diuretics and beta blockers depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to, your weight, your family history of diabetes, whether or not you have recently gained weight and the extent you remain on the prescribed medication. I'd hate to think the only treatment to lower your blood pressure subsequently raised your blood sugar. With the risk of diabetes lurking around every corner -- we have little space for drugs that are exclusively curable in one respect and haphazardly injurious in another.

Sunday Seven: Seven things my body can do

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Valerie Monroe, beauty director for The Oprah Magazine, writes a monthly column -- Ask Val -- that appears on the pages of Oprah's feel-good publication. She responds to questions about make-up, skin care, hair care, and overall body care too.

In her February 2007 column, Val writes, "Many of you have written to tell me that you began to be less critical of your body when you appreciated the things it could do." As I read this, I had what Oprah would call an Aha! moment, a moment when something just clicks and makes sudden sense. Aha!, I thought, as I considered all the things my body can do, completely independent of how I look on the outside. So while I was jogging today - - my body can now easily run three miles -- I ran through all of my body's accomplishments, and I stored them in the files of my mind so I could later write them down.

Here are seven things my body can do. As you read them, consider your own body -- its strength, its power, its capacity for greatness -- and remind yourself of your wondrous self the next time you start to criticize the way you look.
  • My body can partner in the creation of human life. It can carry babies and deliver them and love them and care for them and raise them. Not all bodies have this power. I am lucky.
  • My body can climb an attic staircase, crawl into cramped and dark corners, pull large boxes out of wedged spaces, drag them back to the staircase, and walk backwards down the stairs with goods balancing on my head so that I can fulfill the wish my five-year-old child who wanted so badly in early November to assemble our Christmas tree and decorate our house for the holidays. "Let's wait until Daddy gets home," I told Joey when I found myself crammed into a tiny space in the attic, wrestling with a heavy box full of artificial tree parts. "You can do it, Mommy," Joey said. "You are strong." And so I fought my way through the frustrating feat because I was afraid of the lessons I would teach this little boy if I didn't. In the end, it was Joey who taught me the lesson. I can do it. I am strong.
  • My body can endure and conquer a 5K run when it once could barely run around the block. With a little extra effort and push, I think my body can accomplish even more.
  • My body, once weak and without definition, can lift increasingly heavy weight and can generate muscle tone. It can even do push-ups -- real push-ups. It takes dedication and practice and persistence and mental toughness too. But I see progress. I feel progress. And I want more.
  • My body can help others. I can use my fingers to type words on a keyboard that will reach friends and family and people I don't even know. My words can inform and support and encourage and heal. I can use my hands and my semi-creative talents to create hand-made gifts, to cook and deliver very mediocre meals for friends in need, to massage my husband's sore back, to braid my niece's beautiful hair and paint her tiny nails. I can use my arms to hug my little boys with all my might. I can use my voice to communicate, my ears to listen, my senses to feel.
  • My body can tolerate surgery and chemotherapy and radiation and horrible allergic reactions to antibiotics. My body was badly beaten by a treatment protocol intended to cure me of a disastrous disease. And somehow, in some way, it survived.
  • My body killed cancer. With the aid of medical intervention and a hopeful attitude, my body overcame the worst and best thing that has ever happened to me. And if it could do nothing else, I would be truly happy for this one thing my body can do.
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Prostate cancer drug trial halted for causing leukemia

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A clinical study involving 1,000 prostate cancer patients was stopped this week by Southwest Oncology Group in Michigan due to concerns the treatment may have caused leukemia in three of the participants.

The men in the study received the chemotherapy drug mitoxantrone, thought to possibly improve survival rates for those with poor prognoses following prostate surgery. But before results could be measured, leukemia struck and researchers halted the study, dec laring the leukemia findings "an unacceptable risk to patients."

While the assumption is that the drug caused the leukemia -- a disease commonly associated with children and the elderly -- it's still unproved at this point.

Mitoxantrone is not a worthless drug, say some experts. Since its release a decade ago, it has been used to decrease bone pain for men with advanced prostate cancer and to treat multiple sclerosis and, ironically, adult leukemia.

7th Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer

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The only international educational conference dedicated to the critical issues of young women affected by breast cancer. The 7th annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer will be held on Friday, Saturday and Su nday, February 23-25, 2007 in Arlington, Virginia.

Some key benefits of attending the conference:

  • Hear updates relevant to young women from leading professionals who care for them.
  • Learn what's in the pipeline in scientific research and clinical care for young women affected by or at increased risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Empower yourself to make informed choices with up to the minute and age appropriate information about your treatment and well-being.
  • Gather the resources you need from a variety of exhibitors to help you navigate your breast cancer journey.
  • Network with peers who relate to your experience.

When a young women is diagnosed with breast cancer, she may not know where to turn. Her psychosocial and medical issues are fundamentally different than those of her older post-menopausal counterparts as is the impact of her diagnosis on her family, friends, partner,colleagues and children.

The conference is a collaboration of Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the Young Survival Coalition.

Aspirin not so bad for cancer patients suffering heart attacks

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Cancer patients who have heart attacks are typically not treated with a course of life-saving aspirin because of the belief that these patients might experience lethal bleeding.

This belief is now under dispute and researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center say that without aspirin, the majority of these patients will die. Their arguments, subject of a recent study, will be published in the February 1 issue of the journal Cancer.

Aspirin has been viewed as harmful because of its tendency to thin blood. Becau se cancer patients can experience low platelet counts and abnormal clotting, aspirin has been considered a contraindication. But this study found that nine of 10 cancer patients with low platelet counts who experienced heart attacks and who did not receive aspirin died. Only one patient died, however, in a group of 17 cancer patients who received aspirin.

This conclusion -- that aspirin helps people with cancer just as it does for people without cancer -- may help medical professionals determine guidelines for treatment of heart attacks in cancer patients. Because right now, physicians are uncertain about how to balance treatment for both conditions.

Sisters design Healing Threads hospital wear

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It could be the cure for the common hospital gown -- you know, the faded, ultra-thin gowns with the revealing and drafty designs. If only hospital buyers could fork over a few extra bucks, we could all lounge in our hospital beds in The Original Healing Threads -- a stylish alternative to standard-issue hospital attire.

Cancer patient Peg Feodoroff was thinking of the traditional humiliating hospital gown in the spring of 2003 while she was undergoing treatment for stage 3 melanoma and her sister, Claire, was undergoing chemotherapy for stage 4 metastatic colon cancer.

Feodoroff's thoughts led to an idea. And so she recr uited Claire and another sister, Patty, and together the three sisters crafted a machine-washable, wrinkle-resistant, StainSmart garment with an Asian-inspired look and special features -- long, wide sleeves that roll up for tests, hidden panels easily accessed for bandage changing, inner pockets to hold treatment and drainage bags, and easy-to-use buttons, fasteners, and ties. Breakaway pants and robes and also part of the The Original Healing Threads collection.

A portion of The Original Healing Threads profits go to creating Claire's Foundation, a group supporting single mothers fighting terminal illnesses, in honor of Claire, who lost her battle with cancer just one year ago.

Don't wait for your local hospitals to buy into this novel idea. Buy one on-line for yourself or a loved one. Prices range from $44 to $120.

Captured memories of late grandmother, lost blond hair

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Today I watched a video of myself. I was interviewing my grandmother about her 83 years worth of memories -- a project my husband and I dreamed up so that my grandma's life story would live on long after her death.

The video was taped in May 2000, three years before my grandma died and four and a half years before I was diagnosed with cancer. My hair was long and blond and straight, like it had been since I was a little girl, and it was twisted and clipped on the top of my head. I instantly longed for this hair -- and for my grandma too -- and just as I was convincing myself that my post-chemotherapy dark, curly hair wa s merely a new phase of my life -- much like the phase of living without my grandma -- my six-year-old son entered the room, looked at the TV screen and said, "Mommy, I really like your hair like that."

"I do too," I told Joey.

"Can you get it back?" he said.

"No, I can't get it back," I replied, knowing that I would never bleach my hair back to its original natural color and that the forces of nature will forever prevent me from removing the curl that today looked somewhat like what frames a lion's face.

So, no, I can't get my hair back. And I can't get my grandma back. But I am thankful for the video that captures us together, talking and laughing and remembering. And should my own grandchildren ever wish to interview me when I am 83 years old, I will definitely tell them about my sweet and spunky grandma and all of her touching stories. And I will tell them about the great blond hair I had the privilege of wearing for the first 34 years of my life.
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A different perspective on the big news of cancer death decline

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A mom of a daughter who has died of a cancer related illness has expressed on her blog how angry she is after seeing the broadcast on the news about cancer death rates declining....I think these are valid points that need to be addressed.

This week has been kind of emotional for me. I'm not going to spend a lot of time writing about me, because I am kind of angry right now. Yesterday, as I was watching the news while getting ready for work, there was a spot that they were talking about how excited they were that deaths from cancer showed a tremendous decrease last year. I agree, it is good news - however, the only cancers they talked about and showed the figures for were ADULT cancers (breast cancer, colon cancer, prostrate cancer, etc). Where are the numbers on childhood cancers? And - until the number is 0, I see no reason to get really excited.

According to the Lance Armstrong Foundation - With every second of 2006 two Americans were diagnosed with cancer and one died. Think about that! That is like re-living the horror of 9/11 every two days for the entire year. As a nation we have become too complacent about this disease (last year, for the first time in 35 years, governmental funding for cancer decreased) and that can no longer be tolerated.

After spending hours on the computer doing some research - I found this:

  • Leukemia, which is the most common childhood cancer, INCREASED by more than15% over the past 20 years. Most of the increase in leukemia rates in the past 20 years has been in a kind of cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL. A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health reported an association between household chemicals and ALL. In the study, the researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the University of Minnesota found children were more likely to develop ALL if they lived in households where family hobbies involved the use of solvents (such as refinishing furniture, or building models). They were also more likely to develop ALL if more than 4 rooms in the house had been painted while their mothers were pregnant. According to the Children's Cancer Group Epidemiology Program, a network of pediatric epidemiologists, children are 5 to 6 times more likely to develop leukemia and brain cancer if their families use pes ticides at home.

    It is difficult to find current information and statistics on childhood cancers. And, I guess one of my questions is, where does Courtney fit in these statistics. Did she fit in the "cured" survival rate because she was considered cancer free for over 5 years? Is her death considered in the cancer death statistic for 2006 - the cause of death was not cancer, but necrotizing faciitis - however, she would not have contracted this deadly bacteria or been immune compromised if not for cancer.

    I guess my point is - where are the priorities of our health care leaders and our nation. How can we pay someone $250 million dollars to come to the US and play soccer (Dave Beckham) , when there is such a tremendous need for not only medical research, but children without insurance that are being denied medical treatment (transplants) because they don't have the money. How many children have to die? What is it going to take?

    I have been following about 12 online journals written by mothers of cancer patients. I began reading the journals while in the hospital with Courtney - it was what filled the long nights of no sleep. It breaks my heart to tell you that 5 of those children have now passed away and 2 more are home on hospice. I have written before about how mothers of children with cancer are members of a club that we never wanted to join. I now find myself in a new club - mothers who have lost a child to cancer. How big does this club have to get before something more is done? How many broken hearts? How many shattered families?

    I have been trying to get through the paperwork to get Courtney's Angel Foundation off the ground - however, it is extremely difficult without the aid of a lawyer. I have not given up - it is just going to take some time and money to get things going. I appreciate all of you who have written to let me know that you want to be part of it and so I ask for you to continue to bear with me. I am still dreaming BIG - I am determined to do it for Court -I am determined to do it for all of the children who are spending their days in the hospital instead of living the life that they deserve.

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