Today’s Headlines: Breast Biopsies, Diet Soda and Loneliness

Breast biopsies found less reliable for subtle abnormalities. If you’ve ever had a positive mammogram, you may have gone on to have a breast biopsy to either confirm or refute the presence of cancer. A new study has found that works well for obvious cases, but may not be as good when the cancer is harder to detect. “The team asked pathologists to examine biopsy slides, then compared their diagnoses with those given by a panel of leading experts who had seen the same slides. There was good news and bad news. When it came to invasive cancer — cancer that has begun growing beyond the layer of tissue in which it started, into nearby healthy tissue — the outside pathologists agreed with the experts in 96 percent of the interpretations. They found the vast majority of the cancers.” But in the case of DCIS and cellular atypia, two findings that could indicate cancer, the disagreement was larger. For atypia, the experts agreed in only 48 percent of the interpretations. The outside pathologists diagnosed atypia in 17 percent of the readings where the experts had not, and missed it in 35 percent where the experts saw it.” The researchers say that if a biopsy is positive, the most helpful next step is just to get a second opinion before going forward with further treatment. (New York Times)

Drinking diet sodas may be linked to more belly fat. Recent research has pinned all sorts of problems on the consumption of artificial sweeteners and it looks like belly fat might be another. “The researchers looked at findings from a previous study of more than 700 white and Latino people. They were all 65 or older when they entered the study from 1992 to 1996. Researchers tracked them for an average of just over nine years to see what happened as they aged. The study ended in 2004. The researchers found that the waistlines of people who never drank diet sodas increased by 0.8 inches for the length of the study. By comparison, occasional diet soda drinkers’ abdominal girth grew by 1.8 inches during the same time. Waistlines expanded by more than 3 inches in those who consumed the drinks every day, according to the study.” The team is quick to caution that correlation doesn’t mean the diet sodas are behind the weight gain. People might switch to diet soda after gaining weight, for example, making those with bigger waistlines more likely to drink diet soda. To be safe, the researchers recommend switching to tea or coffee for the caffeine or having seltzer water if you want carbonation. (CBS)

Loneliness may significantly increase your risk of dying. You’ve probably experience the psychological toll of feeling lonely at one point or another in your life, but you probably didn’t think about the effects that loneliness might have on your health. “The researchers analyzed data collected from 70 studies and more than 3.4 million people from 1980 to 2014. The studies, which followed people for about seven years on average, showed that people who were socially isolated, lonely or living alone had about a 30 percent higher chance of dying during a given study period than those who had regular social contact.” The researchers point out that loneliness may show up in different situations for different people. “Some people with strong social networks may still feel lonely, even when surrounded by loved ones. Others choose social isolation and even prefer it.” The effect was larger for those who were under 65 than for those over 65. The researchers hope that the findings show the importance of social ties in maintaining good overall health. “Although living alone can offer conveniences and advantages for an individual physical health is not among them.” (Fox)