We’ve reported on how dogs can sniff out a variety of diseases in people with scientists trying to create a mechanical nose to do the same thing. Now a study presented to the American Chemical Society shows they’re making progress. Researchers have identified a signature odor in 90% of cases of prostate cancer and have developed a chemical test to detect it. Doctors are looking for an alternative to the PSA test to detect prostate cancer because of the high proportion of false positives.
People who are depressed have a surprisingly high risk for heart disease. A new study in the journal Atherosclerosis shows that depression is just as much of a cardiovascular risk as obesity and high cholesterol. The 10-year study finds that depression is to blame for about 15% of all heart disease deaths, a rate exceeded only by smoking and high blood pressure. About 350 million people around the world suffer from depression.
It might be easier to get into an argument when you’re tired because you’re misreading the emotions of other people. A study in the journal Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms shows that sleepy people have trouble interpreting some emotions in the faces of others compared to those who are well rested. Tired people can read fear and anger in others’ faces but more subtle emotions are misinterpreted far more often.
And finally, slightly more than half of parents give sports the green light for their kids but about one in every six completely rule them out. The reason? Concussions. The rest of parents, about a third of them, allow participation on a sport by sport basis, according to a Harris survey for the American Osteopathic Association. About two thirds of parents say basketball and baseball are ok for kids. But less than 20% approve of their children playing football.
Most of the attention on concussions in sports has centered on football, but a new study presented to the American Academy of Neurology shows that female athletes are more likely than men to suffer a concussion, even when football is considered. A study of 228 college athletes shows that 23% of women and 17% of men suffered concussions during their careers. Symptoms were similar except that men suffered more amnesia and women suffered more insomnia.
People who live extremely healthy lifestyles and have no family history, yet still develop cancer may wonder, “why me?” The answer? It’s a typo. A study in the journal Science finds that DNA typos are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the genetic changes that cause cancer, far more than those triggered by heredity or the environment. Researchers say overall, 66% of cancer mutations result from copying errors, 29% are due to lifestyle or the environment, and 5% are inherited.
And finally, firstborn children get all of their parents’ attention, at least for awhile, and don’t have to wear hand-me-downs. Now a study in the Journal of Human Resources finds that firstborns are also typically smarter than their younger siblings. Researchers say the results show up as early as age 1 and result from more parental engagement with the first-born child.
Some people will do almost anything to relieve their allergy symptoms but here’s an idea that works according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It’s a probiotic combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria sold in stores under the name kidophilus. Allergy suffers taking the supplement reported few or no symptoms and a higher quality of life compared to those who took a placebo. Researchers think the probiotics work by increasing the immune symptoms T cells.
Millions of people rely on inhalers for medication for their lungs, but a new study finds that between 70% and 90% of the time patients make mistakes using them. The result is that those patients receive as little as 7% of the medicine they need. The study in the journal Chest shows that the biggest mistake is in coordination of breathing with the activation of the inhaler. Many patients inhale too late.
And finally, there’s a reason you feel better when you sit out in a grove of green trees. A study in the journal Pain shows that green light helps mitigate chronic pain. A group of rats with neuropathic pain were bathed in green light and for the next four days they tolerated more thermal and touch stimulus than a control group. Another group of rats fitted with green contact lenses showed the same benefit compared to a group getting opaque lenses. Scientists have no idea how green light works or whether the same effect holds for humans.
A blood test to diagnose cancer is a little bit closer. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has identified certain proteins in blood plasma, which if elevated indicate the patient has cancer. Scientists have found that nearly 2,400 so called phosphoproteins in plasma and have identified 144 that are significantly greater in people with cancer compared to healthy controls. Researchers hope that eventually blood tests can replace biopsies in cancer diagnosis and in monitoring patients after treatment.
With the arrival of baseball come pitching injuries, but an osteopathic manipulation may help prevent some of them. A study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association studied college players whose range of shoulder motion was decreased as a result of pitching. Researchers say a single administration of a manipulative treatment called the Spencer technique restored 85% of their rotation.
And finally a good sex life makes you much more productive at work. A study in the Journal of Management shows that employees have much more job satisfaction and engagement in their work the day after having sex. Researchers say the effect is just as strong for both men and women, and lasts for at least 24 hours. And that’s Medical Notes this week.
People who’ve gone to the hospital for treatment of a mental health disorder have an increased risk of stroke for months afterward. A study presented to the International Stroke Conference in Houston shows that people going to the hospital for psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety and PTSD have triple the risk of a stroke in the next month and double the risk for the next year or more. Scientists speculate that mental illness may provoke the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism which can raise blood pressure and stroke risk.
Early risers may be healthier than people who sleep in. A study in the journal Obesity shows that early birds tend to eat more balanced diets than night owls. They also eat earlier in the day, which helps with weight loss and lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
And finally, many Americans are working from home at least part of the time and a new poll shows we like it that way. However, a little bit of office camaraderie is a good thing. The Gallup survey finds that 43 percent of employees work remotely at least part of the time and that the most engaged workers are those who spend three to four days a week working from home. People who work in the office all the time or at home all the time are the least engaged employees.
Government statistics are now quantifying the huge increase in drug overdose deaths. A report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that the drug death rate in 2015 was between two and three times what it was in 1999. During those 16 years, overdose deaths rose an average of 5.5 percent per year. Researchers say heroin deaths tripled and now make up a quarter of the total, while deaths from prescription pain medications declined slightly.
Millions of people take vitamin C to ward off colds and infections, but a new study finds that vitamin D is also important. The study in the journal BMJ shows that getting enough vitamin D cuts the proportion of people who get an acute respiratory infection by about 12 percent. Researchers say the study supports public health measures such as fortifying foods to increase vitamin D at least in locations where deficiency is common.
And finally, are pharmaceutical companies “getting away with murder” in relation to high drug prices? The president thinks so and about 75 percent of people agree. The Zogby poll for the organization Prescription Justice shows that 45 percent of people think the prescription drug supply system needs a major overhaul to reduce prices. About 30 percent of respondents say they’ve failed to get a prescription filled at some time in their life because it cost too much.
We reported last week on the opioid epidemic. Now a new study finds yet another symptom of opioid addiction—amnesia. The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report describes a group of 14 patients—almost all opioid addicts–who couldn’t remember things they’d just been told. Along with short-term memory loss, the patients had abnormal MRI scans as well. Doctors are concerned the patients represent a new condition triggered by substance abuse that they were not previously aware of. Researchers say most of the patients recovered their normal memory after several months substance free.
Sitting in traffic is a sure way to increase your stress level and a new study shows it also increases domestic violence. A study at Louisiana State University correlated 25 million traffic observations and two million police reports over four years and found that extreme traffic jams increase the likelihood of domestic violence when people get home by about 6 percent.
People who’ve suffered concussions are held out of sports and school until they’re considered recovered but a new study shows that even then, they may have trouble driving. The study in the Journal of Neurotrauma tested the driving skills of 14 people who’d had a concussion but felt they were now over it. Researchers say that at times they drove as if they were drunk.
And finally…parents who use threats and raised voices to get their kids to behave often end up doing the opposite. A study in the journal Child Development shows that kids parented harshly as ‘tweens are more likely to drop out of school, engage in early sex, and commit theft a few years later. Researchers say those kids reject their domineering parents and seek approval from their peers instead.