What You Should Know About Oral Cancer

healthy teeth

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Here’s what you should know about this all too common cancer and what can do to help reduce your risk.

According to the American Dental Association, approximately 39,000 Americans annually are affected by oral and pharyngeal cancer and about 8,000 people die per year. Men are about twice as likely to contract oral cancer as women, and one in 92 adults will be diagnosed at some point in their lifetime.

Some of the biggest risk factors for oral cancer are tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, or even worse — the combination of the two. Additionally, HPV 16, a strain of human papillomavirus that can be prevented with the HPV vaccine, can spread through oral sex and lead to oral cancer. Increased age, diet, and sun exposure are also believed to be factors.

It’s no surprise that research suggests gum disease also contributes to oral cancer, considering the many other health concerns it has been linked to. Research published in 2014 indicates that byproducts of the bacteria that cause gum disease may play a role in the development of Kaposi’s sarcoma in the mouth. Kaposi’s sarcoma is a type of cancer that can occur in several areas of the body, including the mouth. The results of the study suggest that the fatty acids produced by pathogenic oral bacteria can cause the Kaposi’s sarcoma herpes virus to switch from latency to expression. Yet another reason to take care of your gums! Read more  »

Poor Health for Some Means Problems for Us All

beautiful medical student close to becoming a doctor

One of the things that first drew me to medicine was that health problems touched all people. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old, black or white, college-educated or didn’t finish high school, everyone gets sick at some point. As a doctor, I focus more on diseases than demographics. But over the course of my career, I’ve come to see how much your income, race, and education can matter in determining whether you get sick and what treatment you get as a result. The perfectly equal care I dreamed of providing as a medical student isn’t the reality for most patients in most health systems. It’s National Minority Health Month and I want to spend a few minutes talking about why minority health is so important, even if you don’t fall within a minority group yourself. Read more  »

3 Food Ingredients to Avoid No Matter What

mom and daughter

My toddler likes “Blue Cookies” (so called because they’re fluorescent blue and likely have nothing remotely natural in them). And, she prefers them over my homemade peanut butter cookies (Seriously. Does she realize I used the blender for the first time, like, ever?).

Sometimes getting your kids to eat healthy food seems like an epic battle. Many times, it’s just not worth the fight —  but sometimes, it is. While letting your child eat Blue Cookies (or their equivalent) every once in a while won’t cause her to grow an extra ear or make you #World’sWorstMom, some ingredients are worse than others. Here are three worth the effort to minimize in your children’s diet — and your own.  Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: New Stem Cell Research on Alzheimer’s Disease, Why Vegetable Oils May Not Be Helping Your Heart, and When Thyroid Cancer Isn’t Cancer

Researchers from the University of Miami are set to begin a stem cell clinical trial for Alzheimer’s disease. The research trial is the first time the stem cells will be tested on humans to determine effectiveness. “[R]esearchers…are using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in an attempt to slow or reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The team is aiming to enroll 30 patients who will be tested and observed for cognitive function, memory, quality of life and brain volume over the course of a year. Baumel and his team began investigating MSCs because of their anti-inflammatory properties and because they have shown the ability to develop into many different types of cells. The cells are also thought to promote neurogenesis, which allows the brain to produce new cells in the hippocampus, which is where new memory forms and Alzheimer’s disease begins.” The point of this study is to prove that this stem cell therapy is safe for people and could potentially slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. (Fox)

While vegetable oil has been shown to lower cholesterol, it may not help extend your lifespan. Most advice in recent years has been to reduce saturated fat intake and replace it with unsaturated fats like vegetable oils in order to boost heart health. “The new report, which analyzed 40-year-old data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, found no association between lower cholesterol levels and longer life, suggesting that reducing the amount of saturated fat in the diet isn’t enough to reduce risk of death from heart disease. While the diet rich in vegetable oil did lower cholesterol levels over the 4-5 year study period, compared to a control group (who continued to eat saturated fat daily), the researchers found no change in the rate of death from heart-related ailments.”  Even though this particular study did not indicate that cholesterol and longevity are linked, “many studies show the benefit of statin medications to lower blood cholesterol, that are highly associated with a reduced risk of death.” (NBC)

A certain type of thyroid tumor is no longer considered cancerous. Doctors have renamed the tumor, “encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma” to “noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features, or Niftp” – a change that could help many patients today and in the future. “[Doctors] have officially downgraded the condition and thousands of patients will be spared removal of their thyroid, treatment with radioactive iodine and regular checkups for the rest of their lives, all to protect against a tumor that was never a threat…The reclassified tumor is a small lump in the thyroid that is completely surrounded by a capsule of fibrous tissue. Its nucleus looks like a cancer but the cells have not broken out of their capsule, and surgery to remove the entire thyroid followed by treatment with radioactive iodine is unnecessary and harmful, the panel said.” This adjustment is projected to “affect about 10,000 of the nearly 65,000 thyroid cancer patients a year in the United States.” (NYT)

Today’s Headlines: New Aspirin Guidelines, Updates on the Zika Virus, and Which Foods May Help You Lose Weight

Older adults with a risk for heart disease may want to add an aspirin regimen to their diets. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force released new guidelines for adults. “Adults aged 50 to 59 who have at least a 10 percent risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next decade can benefit the most from taking 81 milligrams of aspirin a day…” Daily aspirin past the age of 60 was not recommended for health reasons. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or any other indications of heart disease you may want to talk to your doctor about whether this new regimen may be for you. (NBC)

The Zika virus may be worse than previously thought. A representative from the CDC revealed that as they continue to learn about the virus, they grow more concerned. “A wider range of birth defects has been linked to the virus…And the mosquitoes that carry the virus could travel to more US states than previously thought…There were also reports of rare neurologic problems…” While more information was not provided at the time, the CDC said trials for a vaccine will likely start in 2017 and might be available to the public by 2018. (BBC)

Eating beans may help you lose weight. Analysis from many research trials showed that people who ate one serving of legumes a day lost weight. “…participants who ate about three quarters of a cup of legumes every day lost about three quarters of a pound more than those who didn’t eat legumes, regardless of whether the diets were geared to weight loss. Six of the trials also suggested that eating legumes was linked to slightly lower body fat, though there was no evidence of a difference in waist circumference.” Some of the trials were short and therefore not conclusive, but the correlation may still be substantial. (Reuters)

Do You Have Prediabetes?


Chances are you know someone with type 2 diabetes. In fact, 29 million Americans suffer from it, and if current trends continue, one in three adults will have type 2 diabetes by 2050. It’s one of the most dreaded chronic diseases we face. It results in elevated blood sugar because the body does not use insulin properly. Over time this elevated blood sugar can damage the eyes, kidneys, heart, nerves, and brain and even lead to amputations. Unfortunately, once you have type 2 diabetes you have it for life. It can be treated and well-controlled, but many people find that difficult.

Watch: Does Your Body Type Indicate Prediabetes? 

Luckily, there’s a way to tell if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes and change course before you get the disease. It’s called prediabetes and, unlike diabetes, it can be reversed. One in three Americans reading this may already have it and not even know it.


Sharecare Top 5: Dinners Under 600 Calories, Strength Training for Beginners, and More

women weights exercise happy

Find out what has Sharecare members buzzing this week:

1. If you’ve tried on your swimsuit lately (we have!) and are a bit concerned (um, yes) – here’s help: 8 delicious dinner recipes that are easy on the calories, easy on your waistline – and super easy to make.

2. Become a leaner, stronger you! Join this newbie-friendly, Strength Training Challenge with how-tos from celebrity trainer David Buer. You can even cut 13 days off your RealAge!

3. Ladies, did you know you could have worse complications following a heart attack than men? Discover more facts about heart attacks in women, plus ways to reduce your risk.

4. What can you do about puffy eyes? Try these quick fixes from a top derm doc and you’ll be out the door without the baggage in a flash.

5. Nobody likes to sweat – but it’s critical to our body’s ability to stay cool. Discover five down and dirty facts about sweat – what’s normal, what’s not, and what to do about it.

Higher Vitamin D Might Help Keep Cancer at Bay

Spoon full of colorful pills

Vitamin D has long been known to be a key player in the health of your bones, but in recent years research has also uncovered some of the other ways vitamin D affects your body. For example, vitamin D seems to play a significant role in the functioning of the immune system and there are some indications that it may have roles in the brain and heart. A new study published this week has added support to a growing base of data that vitamin D may also play as one of the body’s defenders against cancerous growth.

Watch: Dr. Oz Explains the Importance of Vitamin D

What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a vitamin made by your body with the help of sunlight. Its building blocks are made in your skin, where sunlight helps perform a needed step to turn those precursors together into a preliminary version of vitamin D. Unfortunately, that initial form isn’t ready to be used by the body. Instead, it circulates through the blood and is modified first by the liver and then by the kidneys. Once converted to its active form (called 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D or calcitriol), it can circulate to the bones, kidneys, and various other organs where it’s needed for healthy function. Vitamin D is uncommon in food, but can be found in fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. (Here’s a grocery list of foods that have vitamin D.) Some foods, like milk for example, also have vitamin D added to them.


Today’s Headlines: How Exercise May Help Insomnia, A Potential Way to Ease Anxiety, and Why Some Carbs Are Bad For You

Moderate aerobic exercise may help men with insomnia. A new study has found that exercise might help overweight or obese men fall asleep. “Regular aerobic exercise training reduces sedentary time, reduces appetite, improves cardiovascular performance and increases self-esteem and self-efficacy…It also increases sleep need for recovering and improving body tissues such as muscles, tendons, and organs related to respiration and blood flow, and it improves mood…After six months, the exercise group took less time to fall asleep and less often had difficulty falling asleep than the comparison group. Men in the exercise group also reported fewer occasions of waking up in the night, more efficient sleep and better sleep quality based on how they felt in the mornings, as reported in Sleep Medicine.” Between 40-80 percent of overweight and obese men have insomnia and these findings could benefit their overall health. (Reuters)

Random acts of kindness may help you overcome anxiety. Psychologists have found a correlation between being kind and lower stress levels in social situations. “The results: The first group, who engaged in acts of kindness, ‘experienced a greater overall reduction in avoidance goals.’ That is, they experienced fewer instances of avoiding social situations because of their fear of rejection or conflict. Trew and Alden concluded that ‘acts of kindness may help to strengthen social relationships, increase social engagement, and broaden social networks.’” The psychologists hope that “…cognitive therapies can be designed to boost optimism in particularly anxious people, thereby alleviating their emotional distress.” (Washington Post)

Some carbohydrates may increase your risk for cancer. Researchers have found another reason why you should avoid bad carbs like soda, pizza, and fast food. “They’ve presented their findings at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting, and note that the link is strongest to prostate cancer, which is nearly twice as common among men who eat ‘bad’ carbs over ‘good’ ones, such as legumes and whole grains.” While the study was done on mostly white volunteers, the results seem to be significant enough for continued study. (Fox)