New Breast Cancer Guidelines Recommend Later Screening Less Often

Middle Aged Woman Getting Mammogram

When to get screened for breast cancer with a mammogram has been under debate for years, with some professional organizations recommending the early and often approach and others questioning the usefulness of mammograms all together. Now the American Cancer Society (ACS) has weighed in with new guidelines about when to get screened. The recommendations could affect the way women across the United States get screened. Read more  »

The Latest Guidelines for Prostate Cancer Screening

Female doctor talking with patient.

This blog has been updated to reflect the U.S. Preventive Services 2018 Final Prostate Cancer Screening Guidelines.

Today the United States Preventive Services Task Force released its final guidelines for prostate cancer screening. The release of cancer screening guidelines like these, especially for prostate cancer, always generate a lot of headlines and also controversy. But just how different are the new guidelines from the previous recommendations? Here is everything you need to know about what is actually going on.

Read more  »

In the News: Impact of Marijuana on Teenagers Revealed, Very Moderate Exercise Can Decrease Dementia Chance, Caffeine During Pregnancy Contributes to Childhood Obesity

A new study reveals the impact of marijuana on teenagers. This JAMA Psychiatry study analyzed 69 different studies on young cannabis users in the hope of establishing overall patterns and more concrete conclusions to inform the continuing changes in marijuana laws. Overall, young people who were frequent marijuana users showed lower scores for memory, learning and retaining new information, and higher-level problem-solving. However, the shocking part was that while there are biological factors that would suggest marijuana would affect the brain long-term, all of the most credible studies on young users indicated that those negative effects on brain function actually went away after three or more days of abstinence. The most frustrating part for marijuana researchers is the near impossibility of proving causality, and this group was only looking at information on recreational users, not medical users, but this newest indication that marijuana only has short-term negative brain effects is encouraging to those hoping to expand its credibility for medical use. (TIME)

Even a small amount of exercise can significantly decrease your chance of developing Alzheimer’s. There has been an influx of research linking exercise to brain health, but a recent study conducted in Sweden (on 191 women over 44 years) suggests that being just “moderately fit” made women a lot less likely to develop dementia later on than the women who could barely exercise at all. The fittest women participating were 90 percent less likely to develop the disease than those who could not complete any fitness test. Though they could not show cause and effect, the findings indicate that improving fitness levels at middle age has hugely positive effects on mental health later. Best of all, that means that middle age is not too late to start in order to make a difference. Laura Baker of Wake Forest University conducts similar research and says that moderate exercise is if “you can hear yourself breathing and you are starting to sweat and your heart rate is just getting up.” You do not have to be at athlete-level training – just become active enough to fit those criteria each day. The research shows that exercise has had a far greater impact on positive memory and cognitive function than any existing medicine. To further prevent Alzheimer’s, try this meal plan. (NBC)

Caffeine intake in pregnant mothers has been linked to excessive childhood weight gain. In a new study, over 50,000 women reported their daily caffeine intake once during their pregnancy and their children’s weights were monitored intermittently for six months to eight years. Women with a “very high” intake had a 66 percent higher chance of their child being overweight in the first year of life than those with a low intake; women with “high” or “average” intake had a 30 percent higher chance. This is significant because 75 percent of pregnant women drink coffee and our obesity epidemic is only rising. For reference, an eight-ounce cup of coffee has around 150 mg, the “average” level for this study was 50-200 mg a day, and the current guidelines for pregnant women suggests not surpassing 200 mg a day. The good news is that only the children who had been exposed to “very high” levels of caffeine during pregnancy still had a greater chance of being overweight at eight years old, which is when other factors like diet and exercise being to have a much greater effect in utero. However, researchers are pushing for the official caffeine intake guidelines for women to be lowered and recommend as little as possible for your baby’s optimal health. If you are trying to cut back your caffeine intake, watch out for these foods as well. (CNN)

In the News: Music Shown to Enhance Effects of Hypertension Medication, Morning People Appear to Live Longer, Depressed Mothers May Have Children with Lower IQs

A new study shows that certain music enhances the effects of hypertensive medication. New research has proven that music lowers heart rate and blood pressure on its own without any medication. However, a study conducted at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil has recently demonstrated that the effects of music go even further to augment the effects of medications for this condition. Thirty-seven participants who had been taking hypertension medication for six months to a year listened to music for 60 minutes after taking their normal daily dose, and researchers took their vitals at the 20, 40, and 60-minute marks. The heart rates of the participants dropped significantly after an hour when listening to music, and not at all on the days that they sat without music. Researchers believe this could be due to music activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that slows heart rate, or the gastrointestinal system, causing the drug to be digested and absorbed faster. The study must be replicated with more participants with varying degrees of severity in their hypertension, but these results suggest that some musical intervention is worth a shot for anyone wishing to see more improvement without changing their prescription. If you have high blood pressure, here are five surprising reasons why. (MNT)

Night people are shown to have a 10% higher risk of death from any cause than morning people. This conclusion was formed after researchers controlled for age, sex, smoking, body mass index, sleep duration, and other variables presumed to affect life expectancy, in a sample of 433,268 people aged 38 to 73. Participants classified themselves as “definite morning”, “moderate morning”, “moderate evening”, and “definite evening” people and the researchers followed each of them for about six years. Not only did “definite evening” show a 10 percent increased risk of death than the “definite morning” group, each of these intervals between the two types in classification saw a significantly increased risk of disease. Night owls were 30 percent more likely to have diabetes and twice as likely to have a psychological disorder than morning people. The size, length, and statistically significant results of this study make it credible; night people can decrease risk by gradually making their bedtime earlier and not bringing smartphones to bed with them to make it more likely that they fall asleep right away. Want to become a morning person? Try these six tips. (NYT)

A new study suggests a mother’s depression has long-term effects on her children’s learning and development. The study spanned from birth to adolescence, tracking the mother’s depressive symptoms, the child’s cognitive development, and aspects of the home life to indicate the level of engagement between the two. The results showed that if the mother had depression when the child was one, it led to decreased developmental levels in the child through the age of 16, coupled with the fact that depressed mothers were less likely to engage and provide learning materials. Researchers also found the opposite to hold true: Early signs of low IQ in a child made mothers become less likely to engage, and actually increased the mother’s depressive symptoms after the child entered adolescence. The study was done in Chile, and researchers worry that the results may not be applicable across nationalities and cultures, but they do stress the importance of early enrichment programs for kids to reach their full potential regardless of home life. (ABC)

In the News: Updated Alzheimer’s Definition Could Lead to Faster Diagnosis, Yoga in School Helps Young Children with Anxiety, One Gene Can Make You Increase Sugar Intake While Decreasing Body Fat

Scientists are leaning towards using biological methods to diagnosis Alzheimer’s 15-20 years sooner. Rather than waiting until cognitive decline reveals itself in a patient to start testing and diagnosing Alzheimer’s, doctors can diagnose the disease using objective and biological evaluations from brain scans. Dr. Clifford R. Jack Jr. of the Mayo Clinic led a few of his fellow experts to change the guidelines in The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association to include these objective brain characteristics in the signs of the disease, meaning that a lot more people will be correctly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 20 years sooner than they otherwise would have been. These brain scans haven’t been approved in the mainstream treatment of Alzheimer’s, only in studying it, but this evaluation tactic has huge implications. This disease currently has no cure, only treatments that temporarily and slightly ease symptoms, and experts believe it is because the disease is often caught too late, similarly to cancer. Because doctors can now use this improved, objective definition of the disease to identify it and study patients before symptoms develop, they may be able to develop treatments to prevent the eventual cognitive decline. Stock up on these anti-Alzheimer’s foods to further stave off this condition. (NBC)

Study finds yoga and mindfulness activities greatly improves well-being in third-graders. Researchers from Tulane University worked with a public school in New Orleans to add yoga and mindfulness activities to the curriculum for an experimental group of children, while a control group continued regular care such as counseling and interaction with the school social worker. The researchers chose to do the study with third-graders because previous child studies have already found this to be a significant year for increased academic challenges and related increased stress and anxiety for kids. Before and after the changed curriculum, researchers evaluated the children’s quality of life; kids who underwent the intervention using yoga and mindfulness while at school saw significantly improved psychosocial and emotional quality of life scores after eight weeks, and teachers confirmed a noticed difference in the well-being of students in this group. The larger implications are that mindfulness and related activities are extremely valuable at any age for improving quality of life and that the stress or anxiety in young people in your life should not be underestimated. Check out Dr. Oz’s favorite yoga moves here. (SD)

In an enormous UK study, researchers find one gene that makes people eat more sugar without increased body fat. Researchers in the UK recently studied the biological data of 451,099 people; this size study lends itself to concrete confidence in their findings, which included the conclusion that there is one gene that many of us may call the “lucky gene.” Called FGF21, it makes people who have it want and need to intake a higher level of sugar than anyone else, while also increasing metabolic rate, resulting in lower body fat levels than most people. However, they also looked at the effects of this gene on people’s diets, body compositions, and blood pressures, concluding that people with this gene aren’t entirely lucky: their bodies hold more fat in their upper body, which increases the risk of high blood pressure and compromised heart health. They also are more likely to drink more alcohol, due to their taste for sugar. Researchers hope to use this information to explore potentially treating diabetes with the manipulation of this gene. However, the largest takeaway is that, while you likely don’t know if you have this gene, a healthy diet is important for anyone, regardless of whether there is evidence of risk on the scale! (MNT)

In the News: Study Explains Why Insomniacs Sleep Without Realizing, Weight Loss Surgery Linked to Divorce and Marriage, Synthetic Cannabinoids Linked With Deaths

New study explains why some insomniacs sleep without realizing it. Labeled as “sleep misperception”, there is a phenomenon where people with insomnia are clearly asleep but do not experience it, reporting the next morning that they did not sleep at all. To find out more, Professor Daniel Kay of Brigham Young University and his team studied 32 people with insomnia and 30 people without the condition – their sleep patterns, brain wave, and activity patterns during sleep, and participants’ own reports of their sleep experience the next morning. Those with insomnia who reported not being asleep when the polysomnography (technology to track sleep) reported them to be so were confirmed to be experiencing conscious-level activity in their brain during non-REM stages. This suggests that those who suffer from this condition are not receiving the inhibitory neurons that your brain sends out gradually until you eventually lose consciousness and go to sleep. This, in turn, has great implications for the treatment of insomnia, involving a new goal of helping those people experience greater inhibitory activity, and Professor Kay recommends that these people engage in lengthy mindful meditation before sleeping in the meantime. If you’re struggling to sleep, here are the five best snacks for you to choose from. (MNT)

Weight loss surgery correlated to both divorces and marriages. According to a new study from a university in Sweden, weight loss surgery can have a huge impact on interpersonal relationships. The first part of the study compared about 2,000 obese individuals who had weight loss surgery with the same amount of people who had not; the second part compared over 29,000 obese individuals who had weight loss surgery with over 283,000 people in the general population. Interestingly, while unmarried participants who had the surgery were about 35 percent more likely to get married than their general population counterparts, the married participants who underwent surgery were also 41 percent more likely to get divorced. The researchers explained this trend by saying that the surgery makes people more likely to re-evaluate current relationships, and feel that they actually can either begin one or end an unhealthy one. They also speculated that feelings of jealousy or inadequacy in the other partner may play a part. This is an interesting pattern to note as bariatric surgery is becoming only more popular, following revelations that undergoing this treatment option carries fewer health risks than being obese. If you’re trying to lose weight, here are six surprising foods to help you along the way. (REUTERS)

Hospitalizations and deaths across Illinois linked with synthetic cannabinoids. Synthetic cannabinoids are manmade drugs designed to produce the same mind-altering effects as marijuana, but they are much more powerful – and much more dangerous, as has been proven in Illinois. More than 70 cases of severe bleeding from many different body parts have been reported, as well as the two deaths of healthy men in their 20s after they used synthetic cannabinoids. Nine of these cases tested positive for rat poison. Though these products are toxic, people are tempted to use them because they are conveniently sold in stores and do not show up in a drug test; this argument has been used for the legalization of the far less dangerous real marijuana plant, which would prevent people from resorting to these manmade products to feel the pain relief and mental effects of marijuana. Though the synthetic products are not fully regulated, government and law enforcement officials urge the public to never experiment with them, particularly not in the wake of this outbreak. Three people have been arrested in connection with these hospitalizations and deaths. (CNN)

In the News: Slight Calorie Restriction Shown to Slow Effects of Aging, Hormone Therapy May Fight Belly Fat, Full Social Life as a Child Linked to Better Adult Health

Calorie restriction reduces adverse effects of aging. Scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research conducted the first study on calorie restriction in non-obese humans. Fifty-three healthy people between the ages of 21 and 50 cut their calorie intake by 15 percent over the course of two years. On average, the participants lost about 9 kg, but there was no prescribed diet and the goal was not weight loss, but rather to study the effect on aging. No adverse effects were noted, and instead, participants reported improved mood and health-related quality of life. Furthermore, and perhaps most revealing, the decreased calorie intake led to lowered oxidative stress, something that has been proven to lead to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Take a look at seven foods that are linked to premature aging to learn more. (SD)

Hormone therapy may fight post-menopausal belly fat. One of the most common conditions accompanying a loss of estrogen production is increased belly fat, and it can be frustrating that it crops up with no changes to your diet or exercise regimen and causes such severe health risks, such as heart disease and diabetes risks. However, a new study of over 1,000 post-menopausal women found that women using hormone therapy had significantly less belly fat and other distressing side effects of menopause. This research comes after years of women fearing hormone intervention to combat menopausal symptoms due to previous reports that it may increase a woman’s risk for heart disease, stroke, or breast cancer. However, these studies did not take into account the ages of the women they studied, and it now appears with this new comprehensive study that women 50 to 60, transitioning into menopause, can benefit greatly from this therapy without the added risk of disease. The study also found an immediate increase in belly fat after the hormone therapy had been discontinued, and everybody is different, so all options are worth discussing with your physician. Take this quiz to find out your belly fat type. (CNN)

A healthy social life as a young person is linked to better physical health in adulthood. It has long been suspected that a healthy social life has both current and lasting effects on one’s physical health, but a recent study published by the Association of Psychological Science confirms this and suggests that more quality time spent with friends in childhood has the most significant effect on physical health in adulthood. The more time young boys spent with friends in childhood (as reported by their parents at the time, beginning at age 6), the lower their blood pressure and BMI as 32-year-old adults. The findings were consistent among 267 participants, across races and social classes, and this longitudinal study controlled for other factors such as personality or weight in childhood and adulthood. However, the study must be repeated with females, a larger sample, and more physiological measures to be certain of the link between time spent with friends in childhood and better physical health in adulthood. (SD)

In the News: Brain Function Impaired Even After One Alcoholic Drink, Any Amount of Light While Sleeping Increases Depression Risk, The Color of Your Face Reveals Your Emotions

A new study shows that even “just one drink” affects your brain, even if you’re not aware of it. The recently-published study was performed by researchers at San Diego State University on 18 healthy social drinkers. Under one condition, the participants completed a computer-based task after drinking one drink, and under the other condition, they completed the same task after drinking orange juice that acted as a placebo for an alcoholic beverage, while their beta (movement control) and theta (decision-making) brain waves were measured. After just one drink, the decision-making brain waves of those who had had a drink decreased to about half the frequency of those who had ingested orange juice, though these effects were below the conscious level, meaning that the subjects “felt” fine. This study needs a bit more follow-up given the small number of participants, but it does suggest an inhibited driving capability after less alcohol than most people believe will affect them. If you want to cut back on your drinking, try these tips. (MNT)

Even a little light exposure at night has suggested an increased risk of depression. It has been well-documented that light during sleeping hours can interrupt your internal clock that regulates sleeping and waking, leading to poor sleep quality, but a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology measured the effect of very low levels of light in relation to symptoms of depression. Other variables such as weight, smoking and drinking, income, medication use, and physical ailments were accounted for when they made conclusions. The group of participants who slept with more than 5 lux of light in their bedroom (for scale, 1 lux is the light of a candle, whereas a typically-lit living room is 50 lux) showed a 65 percent higher chance of being depressed. During a time where many people check phones or tablets as they fall asleep, or sleep with the television on all night, making sure that you are in a truly dark environment is an easy way to improve your mental health while you sleep. Learn more about other factors disrupting sleep here. (ABC)

Research shows we communicate emotions with our complexion colors. In fact, this change seems to be even more reliable in guessing someone’s emotions than their actual facial expressions. In 75 percent of cases, the color of someone’s face was enough for participants in a cognitive science study at the Ohio State University to correctly guess their emotions when the color was placed on a face with a fully neutral expression. The patterns of color change for different emotions were almost identical across humans, regardless of gender, base skin color, or ethnicity. What’s more, our inherent adeptness to emotion detection based on color was such that participants could tell that something was “off” if the colors were superimposed on a facial expression that did not match. It is a process we do subconsciously, which explains why we are able to pick up disgust for example, without consciously knowing it is related to a blue-yellow hue around the mouth. (MNT)

In the News: The Best Diet for Your Brain, How Lack of Sleep Can Increase Your Alzheimer’s Risk, and the Powers of Chicken Soup

A low-fat diet may be what’s best for your brain. An animal study out of the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands found that eating a low-fat diet in addition to limiting calories was more effective than exercise in terms of reducing inflammation in the brain. The study took a look at inflammation that causes microglia which is “a type of immune cell whose dysfunction has been linked to development problems and diseases of the brain and central nervous system.” This study is not conclusive and needs more research to observe factors such as the impact of changing diet to low-fat if that’s not something that had been done since birth. For more information, check out this anti-inflammatory grocery list. (MNT)

If you’re frequently sleepy during the day you might have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. A study published in JAMA Neurology looked at almost 3,000 older people and 22 percent had problems with being tired during the day. The lead in the study found that “people who reported excessive daytime sleepiness at the start of the study were more likely to show increases in amyloid in their brains as the study progressed. These people also tended to show faster deposition of the protein than those who did not report daytime drowsiness. What’s more, the amyloid was heaviest in two regions of the brain: the anterior cingulate and cingulate precuneus, which typically show high levels of amyloid in people with Alzheimer’s.” While more research needs to be done, getting a good night’s sleep is never a bad idea. (TIME)

Evidence finds that you should have chicken soup when you’re sick. While there aren’t concrete studies that have definitively proven chicken soup is a cure-all, certain research has shown that the elements that make up the soup could be helpful in fighting illness. One study found that the soup may have anti-inflammatory properties, another observed that spices used and steam from the soup can help clear congestion, and the ingredients have beneficial vitamins and minerals that can help your whole body. It’s not completely proven yet, but next time you feel under the weather make sure to eat chicken soup. (CNN)

In the News: Sun Exposure Associated With Lower Risk of the Flu, Holding Hands With a Partner Reduces Physical Pain, Exercise More Effective Than Weight Loss for Heart Disease Patients

Getting more sunlight could help flu prevention. Besides all the well-known, tried and true flu prevention methods such as getting your annual vaccination, washing your hands, and eating a healthy, vitamin-rich diet, there is a new strategy being circulated among researchers that you can practice all year round. A study suggests that getting more vitamin D through sunshine exposure throughout the year and particularly in August through October, can reduce your chance of catching the flu during peak season. Researchers offered further support for this by synthesizing weather data and data from the CDC to note a 10 percent increase in sunny days during September also saw around 29,500 fewer cases of the flu. September and October are the sweetest times for this method because they are the best months to get outside without getting sunburned (though you should still wear sunscreen every day), and vitamin D stays in your fat stores for up to two months at a time, preparing you perfectly for the typical flu season. It’s not a replacement for the more heavily proven methods mentioned above, but with the frightening numbers of this year’s flu season, it’s helpful to know that there are preventive steps you can take all year. While you’re at it, try these six foods to beat the flu too. (TIME)

Study finds that hand-holding reduces pain. Pavel Goldstein of the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder, recently set out to find the effects of physical touch between couples when one was in pain – ultimately supporting both the idea that couples hearts may “beat as one” and that physical touch can increase empathy and reduce pain. Goldstein’s team measured the brain activity of 22 heterosexual couples while they were in different rooms, the same room, and touching, and then all three conditions once again while the female partner experienced mild pain on her arms. It was revealed that just being in each other’s presence made their brain wavelength activity correlate, but this synchronization was interrupted when one partner experienced pain, and only resumed when they began to hold hands. The study also looked at the male partners’ empathy levels, discovering that they correlated with more intense brain synchronization and lower physical pain in the females. While all the other findings were supported by brain activity data, it was unclear in the experiment report how they measured empathy. However, the significance of this report is clear; as Goldstein put it, “We have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world and we have fewer physical interactions. This paper illustrates the power and importance of human touch.” (MNT)

Exercise more important than weight loss for heart disease patients. A study conducted by Norwegian researchers and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology followed 3,307 heart disease patients for about 16 years each, making it a fairly large study of its kind. To their surprise, people with coronary heart disease who lost weight did not see a prolonged life expectancy. On the other hand, patients who did about 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week saw a 19 percent lower risk of death, and a 36 percent reduction if they did more exercise than that. Furthermore, all of the heart disease patients of normal weight who lost weight in an attempt to remedy their condition actually increased their rate of mortality. This was an observational study, meaning that extraneous variables such as how sick exactly each patient was at the beginning were not accounted for, but the size of the study and the significance of the numbers associated suggest that being active is the most important step one can take in reducing mortality while living with a heart disease. You can also check out this article to find out how to improve your heart numbers. (NYT)