Today’s Headlines: Personalized Medicine, Surgery Survival and Stress and Depression

Online personalized cancer treatments not backed by evidence. Those diagnosed with cancer may be desperate for any treatment that might help up their odds. But a new study has found that websites selling cancer treatments they claim are personalized are often over-hyped and rarely based on real evidence. “The researchers screened 4,910 websites and focused on the top 55 websites that matched their criteria. Most of the websites were commercially sponsored (56 percent), while others were promoted by academic institutions (20 percent), private institutions (15 percent) and individual doctors (2 percent). An expert panel helped determine whether the advertised tests had enough evidence to back-up claims of helping to treat cancer. For example, if large randomized controlled trials or large analyses of such trials found the tests effective, the panel considered the information trustworthy. The panel found that a minority of websites (28 percent) sold tests they would endorse. And while 85 percent of the websites described benefits of their products, only 27 percent specified potential limitations.” The researchers emphasize that patients and their physicians need to be careful about using treatments sold online and should work together to evaluate if a certain treatment is right for them. (Fox)

Where you get your surgery done matters. When going in for a procedure, it’s tempting to think that all hospitals are equal when it comes to the work they do. New findings out this week give reason to do a little research before deciding where to go under the knife. “The team asked 1,500 hospitals for 2013 data on four risky surgeries, including number of procedures and patient deaths. For pancreatectomy (removing all or part of the pancreas, usually to treat cancer), predicted survival rates ranged from 81 percent to 100 percent. Of 487 hospitals reporting data, 203 had rates of at least 91.3 percent, which the team chose as the benchmark for quality. For esophagectomy (removing all or part of the esophagus), expected survival ranged from 88 percent to 98 percent. Only 182 of 535 hospitals had rates of at least 91.7 percent. For repairs of abdominal aortic aneurysm, survival ranged from 86 percent to 99 percent; 268 of 792 hospitals met the benchmark of 97.3 percent. For replacing the heart’s aortic valve, survival ranged from 92 percent to 97 percent; only 95 of 544 hospitals hit 95.6 percent.” The team hopes making these numbers public will help patients make better choices about where to have surgeries done and push hospitals to improve their numbers. (Reuters)

Combining stress and depression dramatically ups your heart risk. You’ve probably heard a lot about how stress can damage your heart, but a new study has found that stress combined with depression may signal an increased the risk of having a heart attack. “Researchers looking at the effect of significant stress and deep depression on nearly 4,500 patients with heart disease called the pairing a ‘psychosocial perfect storm.’ The combination of high stress and high depression symptoms may be particularly harmful for adults with heart disease during an early vulnerability period. Those who reported both high stress and high depression were 48 percent more likely than those with low stress and low depression to have another heart attack or die in the first 2.5 years of follow-up.” Experts point out that the findings are an association and don’t show cause and effect. But the findings could help providers identify those individuals most at risk who may need extra attention. (CBS)

When It Comes to Salt, It’s Not All About Blood Pressure

salt sprinkled on tableIf you’ve been following the news about salt, you probably know that the debate has gone back and forth about how it affects blood pressure. Early studies indicated that eating a diet that contained a lot of salt increased both risk of high blood pressure and actual blood pressure numbers in those who already had high blood pressure. But subsequent studies found that the picture may not be so clear-cut and cast doubt on whether individuals should really worry about salt when it came to their pressure. Fortunately, a new review of all the research on the effects of high salt on the body has found that blood pressure isn’t the only factor when it comes to deciding how salt to eat. Read more  »

Why Checking Your Colon Could Save Your Life

488264177When I talk to audience members, a lot of them comment on the props we use on the show and the sometime “gross” topics we talk about together. No doubt you’ve seen a fan or two climb through a rarely discussed body part to illustrate how disease can affect that body part and why you should pay attention to it. That’s often been the case for colon health and I even went so far as to get a colonoscopy on television to show you how that it’s a straightforward procedure you shouldn’t be afraid of.

In spite of all those efforts, one in three adults still don’t get the lifesaving screening they need, and more than 50,000 people died from the disease last year alone. On top of that, many people are missing out on some of the things they could be doing to lower their risk overall. Since it’s Colon Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to spend a few moments talking about what colon cancer is, how you can lower your risk and who needs to get screened. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Breast Cancer, Hormone Replacement and Sexism

Prostate cancer in the family increases risk of breast cancer. Most people know that having breast cancer or ovarian cancer in the family can up your own breast cancer risk. But new research has found that prostate cancer in close relatives also matters. “The researchers used data for more than 78,000 women in the Women’s Health Initiative who were over age 50 and cancer-free when the study began in 1993. By 2009 there had been 3,506 new breast cancers in the original group. Twenty percent of women with breast cancer had first-degree relatives with the disease, compared with nearly 15 percent of those who did not develop breast cancer. There was a similar, but very slight, association with prostate cancer. More than 11 percent of women who developed breast cancer reported a first-degree relative with prostate cancer, compared to about 10 percent of women without the disease. Having a father, brother or son with prostate cancer increased the risk of breast cancer by about 14 percent.” The research supports similar findings in the past, but now on a larger scale. The data provides individuals and physicians with more information about who might be at highest risk and need closer surveillance for developing cancer. (Reuters)

The pros and cons of hormone replacement depend on age. Initial studies of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during and after menopause suggested it helped with symptoms while potentially lowering the risk of other diseases. But subsequent studies found a concerning clot and stroke risk. A new survey of those studies by the Cochrane Review suggests that risks and benefits aren’t so black and white. “While HRT pills can ease menopausal symptoms and may offer protection against heart disease, this must be weighed against other possible harms. Women facing the dilemma should discuss it with their doctor, experts say. The Cochrane Review only looked at women taking oral HRT tablets. It found HRT may: lower a woman’s risk of developing heart disease; increase her risk of blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis; possibly increase her risk of stroke. But the findings were not clear-cut. The effect varied according to a woman’s age, when she experienced the menopause and how long she had been taking HRT.” Overall, the reviewers point out that the risks are small overall for healthy women early in menopause and there can be significant benefits for women with severe menopausal symptoms. (BBC)

Sexism can be hidden from plain view. Most people probably think identifying sexists is easy. But new research has shown that the behavior and language sexist men use isn’t always as obvious as you might think. “A new study examining the nonverbal cues thrown out during interactions between men and women finds that men who have high ratings of ‘benevolent sexism’ – attitudes towards women that are well-intentioned but perpetuate inequality – finds that smiling and other positive cues increase when this kind of sexism is prevalent. The team had men rate their agreement with statements like ‘women are too easily offended’ (an example of hostile sexism) and ‘a good woman should be set on a pedestal by her man’ (an example of benevolent sexism). No matter how the women acted, men were more likely to show patience and friendly nonverbal cues the more highly they rated on the benevolent sexism scale.” The goal of the study was to show that sexism can result in very different types of behavior depending on the views held by the person being discriminatory. These kind of actions motivated by sexist ideas may make “benevolent sexists more likable at first blush than men who truly respect women.” (Washington Post)

Vision Troubles Could Be Overcome With Training

453540197 (1)It’s no secret that a number of body systems start to decline as you get older. Between aching knees and trouble hearing, aging can seem like a pretty raw deal. But new research is showing that the ravages of age aren’t always as permanent as we assumed them to be. New research released this week has found that some of the vision problems older adults experience may be reversible with the right kind of training. The findings give new hope that some of changes seen in the twilight years may be surmountable problems. Read more  »

Sharecare Top 5: The 411 on Salon Safety, How to Banish Bad Breath and an Easy Tip to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Woman at the hair salon

On Sharecare we’re sharing tips for fresher breath, filling you in on a quick trick to reduce hypertension – a.k.a. high blood pressure – and revealing ways to avoid a salon visit mishap.

1. If you missed Chocolate-Covered Nuts Day on February 25th, don’t worry: This delicious treat is good for you all year. Grab a handful and discover what this crunchy snack can do for your health.

2. Want to avoid the embarrassment of bad breath? Keep your breath fresh all the time with these simple tips from Dr. Mehmet Oz.

3. Test your knowledge of the dangers that lurk in salons, from unsterilized beauty tools to products that can cause fungus. Plus, find out what you can do to minimize these health hazards.

4. If you live with high blood pressure, every little bit counts toward living a healthier lifestyle. Find out how sipping tea on a daily basis can help your hypertension numbers fall.

5. Looking to lower your stress level? It helps to know how it gets activated in the first place. Dr. Michael Roizen, author of This Is YOUR Do-Over, explains the cycle that sets us off – and his no-fail way to ease the tension.