Heath Bites

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 10:29am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 10:29am

Higher breast cancer risk

Women who recently used birth control pills containing high-dose estrogen and a few other formulations had an increased risk for breast cancer, but women using other formulations did not, according to data published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. "Our results suggest that use of contemporary oral contraceptives [birth control pills] in the past year is associated with an increased breast cancer risk relative to never or former oral contraceptive use, and that this risk may vary by oral contraceptive formulation," says Elisabeth Beaber, a staff scientist in the public health sciences division of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in the United States. "Our results require confirmation and should be interpreted cautiously," she says. In a nested case-control study of 1,102 women diagnosed with breast cancer and 21,952 controls, Beaber and her colleagues found that recent oral contraceptive use increased breast cancer risk by 50 per cent, compared with never or former use. All of the study participants were at the Group Health Cooperative in the Seattle-Puget Sound area. Patients received a cancer diagnosis between 1990 and 2009.

New data on mysterious disorder 

Researchers at UC San Francisco have found that children with sensory processing disorders have decreased structural brain connections in specific sensory regions different than those in autism, further establishing SPD as a clinically important neurodevelopmental disorder. The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first study to compare structural connectivity in the brains of children with an autism diagnosis versus those with an SPD diagnosis, and with a group of typically developing boys. This new research follows UC San Francisco's groundbreaking study published in 2013 that was the first to find that boys affected with SPD have quantifiable regional differences in brain structure when compared to typically developing boys. SPD can be hard to pinpoint, as more than 90 per cent of children with autism also are reported to have atypical sensory behaviour, and SPD has not been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists. "One of the most striking new findings is that children with SPD show even greater brain disconnection than the kids with a full autism diagnosis in some sensory-based tracts," says Dr Elysa Marco, cognitive and behavioural child neurologist and the study's corresponding author. Children with SPD struggle with how to process stimulation, which can cause a wide range of symptoms, including hypersensitivity to sound, sight and touch, poor fine motor skills and easy distractibility. The disease has been a source of much controversy for doctors who debate whether it constitutes its own disorder, according to the researchers.

Oral cancer test developed

Physicians at Johns Hopkins University have developed blood and saliva tests that help predict recurrences of HPV-linked oral cancers in a substantial number of patients. The tests screen for DNA fragments of the human papillomavirus (HPV) shed from cancer cells lingering in the mouth or other parts of the body. A description of the development is published in the July 31 issue of JAMA Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery. "There is a window of opportunity in the year after initial therapy to take an aggressive approach to spotting recurrences and intensively addressing them while they are still highly treatable," says Dr Joseph Califano, professor of otolaryngology - head and neck surgery, member of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre. "Until now, there has been no reliable biological way to identify which patients are at higher risk for recurrence, so these tests should greatly help do so," he adds.

Run for your life

Going for a quick, daily run may be just as effective as a long-distance jaunt when it comes to prolonging your life, according to a new study. Running as little as five to 10 minutes a day can significantly cut the risks of heart disease and dying young, findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology show. People who exercise by running show a 30 per cent lower risk of death and a 45 per cent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than people who did not run at all.

Runners could be expected to live about three years longer on average than non-runners. Even more, the benefits of running were the same for fast or slow runners.