Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2012, 1:04pm

Red alert for bowel cancer

A study published last week in Cell Reports could explain why red meat is linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer. Scientists at Cancer Research UK have found that high levels of iron - red meat being an excellent source - could raise the risk of bowel cancer by switching on a key pathway in people with faults in a critical anti-cancer gene. Mice with faulty APC genes that were fed high amounts of iron were two to three times likelier to develop the cancer than mice who still had working APC genes. In contrast, mice with faulty genes fed low-iron diets didn't develop the cancer at all. Study author Professor Owen Sansom of the charity, based in Scotland, says: "The APC gene is faulty in around eight out of 10 bowel cancers, but until now we didn't know how it causes the disease." The researchers plan to develop treatments that reduce the amount of iron in the bowel.

Snore point for behaviour

Loud and persistent snoring in preschool-age children has been linked with a higher rate of behavioural problems including hyperactivity, depression and inattention, according to a new study published in Pediatrics. Researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre surveyed the mothers of 249 children about their kids' sleep habits and behaviour. Children who snored loudly at least twice a week at the age of two and three had more behavioural problems than children who either don't snore or who snored at two or three but not at both ages. "The strongest predictors of persistent snoring were lower socioeconomic status and the absence or shorter duration of breastfeeding," says lead study author Dr Dean Beebe. He suggests doctors routinely screen for and track snoring, and avoid taking a wait-and-see approach.

Rethink on brain dots

A common condition in the elderly thought to be a harmless part of the ageing process has been shown by Mayo Clinic researchers to be a disease that alters brain function. Leukoaraiosis is a condition in which diseased blood vessels lead to small areas of damage in the brain's white matter. The lesions, which show up as bright white dots on brain scans, are common in the brains of people aged over 60, though its extent varies among individuals. Apart from ageing, it is believed high blood pressure may also be a risk factor. Participants in the Mayo Clinic study with moderate leukoaraiosis, though able to perform cognitive tests as well as the control group, showed atypical brain activation patterns, in brain areas involved in language processing and visual-spatial perception. "Our results add to a growing body of evidence that this is a disease we need to pay attention to," says researcher Dr Kirk Welker.

Happy trails for runners

If you're looking for a head start into the world of trail running, or just a seasoned runner seeking a fun weekend, consider the Raidlight Trail Running Festival. To be held on September 22 and 23, this novel training camp on Lantau will consist of three team races, four running clinics, and a beach barbecue and party. Friendly race distances (about four kilometres each) will make even newbies feel at home. So grab a partner, form a team and register at Early bird fees (until tomorrow) are HK$1,080 per team of two and exclude lunch and accommodation; participation is capped at 150 teams.