Bad Habits

UV Exposure: Why Do We Ignore the Health Risks?

Misc.SunExposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation – from the sun, tanning beds, lamps or booths – is the main cause of skin cancer, accounting for around 86% of non-melanoma and 90% of melanoma skin cancers. In addition, excessive UV exposure can increase the risk of eye diseases, such as cataract and eye cancers.

The health risks associated with exposure to UV radiation have certainly been well documented, so much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) have now officially classed UV radiation as a human carcinogen.

UV radiation consists of three different wavebands: UVA, UVB and UVC. The UVC waveband is the highest-energy UV but has the shortest wavelength, meaning it does not reach the earth’s surface and does not cause skin damage to humans.

Both UVA and UVB radiation can damage the skin by penetrating its layers and destroying cellular DNA. UVA radiation tends to penetrate deeper layers of skin, known as the dermis, aging the skin cells and causing wrinkles. UVB radiation is the main cause of skin reddening or sunburn, as it damages the outer layers of the skin, known as the epidermis.

Excessive UV exposure can cause genetic mutations that can lead to the development of skin cancer. The browning of the skin, or a tan, is the skin’s way of trying to stop further DNA damage from occurring.

But regardless of the numerous studies and health warnings associated with UV exposure, it seems many of us refuse to take note.

A 2012 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 50.1% of all adults and 65.6% of white adults ages 18-29 reported suffering sunburn in the past 12 months, indicating that sun protection measures are not followed correctly, if at all.

Read the full story.

Source: Medical News Today.


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Want to Quit Smoking? New Study Says Try ‘Self-Expanding’ Activities

Habit.Smoking3If you are trying to quit smoking, one method to incorporate is to do new, exciting “self-expanding” activities that can help with nicotine craving. This is the take-home message from a new study. “Our study reveals for the first time using brain imaging that engaging in exciting or what we call ‘self-expanding’ activities, such as puzzle-solving, games, or hobbies with one’s partner, appears to reduce craving for nicotine,” said one researcher.

Check the full article.

Source: Stony Brook University. “Want to quit smoking? New study says try ‘self-expanding’ activities.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 April 2014.

Indoor Tanning Leads to Early Skin Cancer, Study Says

Body.Disease.Cancer4Teens and young adults who engage in indoor tanning risk developing skin cancer at an early age, a new study finds.

Once thought safer than outdoor sunbathing, indoor tanning can produce 10 to 15 times as much ultraviolet (UV) radiation as the midday sun, the study authors noted.

“Our findings suggest that children and young adults who seek indoor tanning may be especially vulnerable to developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, at a young age,” said lead researcher Margaret Karagas, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H.

The study looked at people aged 50 and younger who were diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer. While usually treatable, this type of skin cancer can be highly disfiguring if not caught early, and basal cell tumors have a high rate of recurrence. Until recently, basal cell skin cancer was considered a cancer of later life, the researchers said.

The investigators found that indoor tanning was associated with developing skin cancer at an early age. Moreover, the strongest link was seen among those whose first exposure to indoor tanning occurred when they were teens or young adults.

Read the full story.

Source: MedicineNet.

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Smoking Cessation Counseling During Hospitalization Could Be Cost-Effective

Habit.Smoking1In a recent study published in Tobacco Control, researchers at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute have demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation (OMSC), an intervention that includes in-hospital counseling, pharmacotherapy and post-hospital follow-up, compared to usual care among smokers hospitalized with acute myocardial infarction, unstable angina, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In the first year, the researchers calculated that provision of the OMSC to 15,326 smokers would generate 4,689 quitters, and would prevent 116 re-hospitalizations, 923 hospital days, and 119 deaths. Results were robust within numerous sensitivity analyses. An important consideration is the relatively low intervention cost compared to the reduction in costs related to readmissions for illnesses associated with continued smoking.

An estimated $547 million is spent each year in Ontario on hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction, unstable angina, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) alone. The study estimates that provision of the OMSC intervention to smokers admitted with these issues would represent 0.20% of this cost, yet could result in several individual and health system benefits and, in the case of COPD patients, could result in actual cost savings.

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Source: Medical News Today.

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How Does Stress Increase Your Risk for Stroke and Heart Attack?

Body.Disease.Heart1It is thought that persisting stress increases the risk for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease by evoking negative emotions that, in turn, raise the levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body.

Researchers have now investigated the underlying neural circuitry of this process, and report their findings in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry. “Drawing upon the observation that many of the same brain areas involved in emotion are also involved in sensing and regulating levels of inflammation in the body, we hypothesized that brain activity linked to negative emotions – specifically efforts to regulate negative emotions – would relate to physical signs of risk for heart disease,” explained Dr. Peter Gianaros, Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and first author on the study.

They found that individuals who show greater brain activation when regulating their negative emotions also exhibit elevated blood levels of interleukin-6, one of the body’s pro-inflammatory cytokines, and increased thickness of the carotid artery wall, a marker of atherosclerosis.

The inflammation levels accounted for the link between signs of atherosclerosis and brain activity patterns seen during emotion regulation. Importantly, the findings were significant even after controlling for a number of different factors, like age, gender, smoking, and other conventional heart disease risk factors.

Check the full article.

Source: Medical News Today.

Why It’s Hard to Kick the Smoking Habit

Habit.Smoking1Nicotine withdrawal triggers changes to the brain that help explain why smokers have such a tough time quitting, a new study suggests. Up to 80 percent of smokers who try to quit eventually start smoking again. This latest finding might lead to new ways to identify smokers who are at high risk for failure when they try to quit, the researchers said. The study might also lead to more intensive treatment to help smokers quit for good.

The researchers discovered that nicotine withdrawal weakens brain connections associated with the ability to control cravings for cigarettes.

Symptoms of withdrawal are related to changes in smokers’ brains, as they adjust to being off of nicotine,” study co-leader Caryn Lerman, head of the Brain and Behavior Change Program at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a university news release. “This study validates those experiences as having a biological basis.”

“The next step will be to identify in advance those smokers who will have more difficultly quitting and target [them with] more intensive treatments, based on brain activity and network connectivity,” she added.

Check the full article.

Source: MedicineNet.

Heart Attack Risk Rises After Anger Outbursts

Body.Disease.Heart1Harvard researchers who analyzed decades of evidence on links between anger and cardiovascular events, concluded that in the 2 hours following an outburst of anger, there is a higher risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event.

The systematic review and meta-analysis – thought to be the first to examine links between anger and cardiovascular outcomes – is published in the European Heart Journal.

First author Dr. Elizabeth Mostofsky and colleagues found that – compared with when they are not angry – a person’s risk of heart attack rises nearly five-fold, and the risk of stroke more than three-fold, in the 2 hours following an outburst of anger. Their risk of abnormal heartbeat or ventricular arrhythmia also goes up.

The absolute risk of heart attack, stroke or arrhythmia increased in people who already had a previous history of heart problems, and it also increased the more frequently they were angry.

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Source: Medical News Today.

Large Waist Linked to Poor Health, Even Among Those in Healthy Body Mass Index Ranges

Body.Overweight.Obese2Having a big belly has consequences beyond trouble squeezing into your pants. It’s detrimental to your health, even if you have a healthy body mass index (BMI), a new international collaborative study has found. Men and women with large waist circumferences were more likely to die younger, and were more likely to die from illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems, and cancer after accounting for body mass index, smoking, alcohol use and physical activity.

Importantly, risk increased in a linear fashion such that for every 2 inches of greater circumference, mortality risk went up about 7 percent in men and about 9 percent in women. Thus, there was not one natural “cutpoint” for waist circumference that could be used in the clinic, as risk increased across the spectrum of circumferences.

Another key finding was that elevated mortality risk with increasing waist circumference was observed at all levels of BMI, even among people who had normal BMI levels. Because of the large size of this pooled study, researchers were able to clearly show the independent contribution of waist circumference after accounting for BMI, says James Cerhan, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist and lead author of the study.

“The primary goal should be preventing both a high BMI and a large waist circumference,” Dr. Cerhan says. “For those patients who have a large waist, trimming down even a few inches – through exercise and diet – could have important health benefits.”

Source: Mayo Clinic. “Large waist linked to poor health, even among those in healthy body mass index ranges.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 March 2014.

Binge drinking is harmful to older drinkers, may be hidden by weekly average


Many studies of moderate drinking have delved into how it affects health and mortality, but most haven’t looked at patterns of drinking, explained study author Charles Holahan, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Holahan said while regular moderate drinking, such as sipping a glass of wine with dinner, may offer health perks for some people, binge drinking is always unhealthy.

Check the full article.

Source: MedicineNet.