Today’s Headlines: Memory Boosters, Cancer Screening and Toxic Waste

Learning new skill beats puzzles for boosting seniors’ memory: Put down your crossword puzzle. A new study suggests “learning new skills may be a more effective way to keep your mind sharp” as you age. The small study looked at people between the ages of 60 and 90, and found that people who spent time learning a new skill such as digital photography or quilting had more improvement in memory than those who did familiar brain-teasers, such as crossword puzzles or listening to classical music. (CBS News)

Doctors rarely discuss risks of cancer screening: The results of a small new study suggest that “doctors seldom tell patients about the possible harms of getting screened for cancer.” All cancer screening tests carry the risk of “overdiagnosis,” misleading or inconclusive results that could lead to unnecessary biopsies, surgeries, radiation or medications. Researchers surveyed 317 Americans who had been offered cancer screening by their doctors, and found that fewer than one in 10 reported that “their doctor had brought up the chance of overdiagnosis and overtreatment when talking about screening.” (BBC)

Brains flush toxic waste in sleep, including Alzheimer’s-linked protein, study of mice finds: Your brain needs sleep to clear out harmful toxic waste generated by brain cells during the day, new research suggests. The study, published in Science, found that brain cells even appear to “shrink in size to make for easier cleaning of the spaces around them.” Such waste may include “beta-amyloid protein, clumps of which form plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.” Though further study is required, the researchers suggest that failure to clean this waste during sleep may play a role in brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. (The Washington Post)