Friday, July 29, 2011

Daily aspirin may protect against melanoma

Long-term use cut risk of deadly skin cancer by almost half, study finds

By contributor
updated 6/23/2011 8:58:48 AM ET

An aspirin a day may keep melanoma at bay, a new study suggests.

After scrutinizing the medical records of 1,000 people, an international team of researchers have determined that the risk of melanoma was cut by almost half when people took a daily dose of aspirin for at least five years.

“Our data at least support the hypothesis that long-term steady aspirin use has an effect,” said study co-author Dr. Robert Stern, a professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and chief of dermatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston.

Previously, the only melanoma prevention advice cancer experts could give was for people to stay out of the sun and get their skin checked for early warning signs of the disease. If melanoma isn’t detected early, it can be deadly.

Stern and his colleagues compared data from 400 melanoma patients to that from 600 healthy volunteers. The healthy volunteers were matched in age and gender to the cancer patients, some of whom ended up with more than one matched group.

The 1,000 study participants were interviewed and asked about lifestyle habits and known risk factors for melanoma, such as light skin color and history of sunburns. They were also questioned about medication use.

While melanoma is not as common as other types of skin cancer, it is the most dangerous and most likely to spread to other parts of the body. It killed nearly 9,000 people in the U.S. last year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The researchers focused on usage of anti-cholesterol statins and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or NSAIDs, because some earlier population studies had suggested that these medications might have an impact on melanoma development.

Although the study found no beneficial effect associated with statin use, it did find a substantial reduction in risk associated with the use of aspirin, which is an anti-inflammatory. There was also a hint that other NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (marketed as Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), might reduce melanoma risk if taken regularly over a long period of time. But the data on these drugs wasn’t as strong.

Stern suspects that may be because far fewer people take these NSAIDs on a daily basis. Many middle-aged people take a daily baby aspirin to protect their hearts, he said. The use of other NSAID painkillers tends to be more sporadic.

Melanoma isn’t the only cancer that appears to be affected by NSAIDs. Other research has shown that the medications can lower the risk of colorectal cancer .

Nobody knows why NSAIDs might prevent cancer, but there are theories. Some researchers suspect that cancers like melanoma hijack the body’s inflammatory response to a growing tumor to bring more blood to the site and to help cancer cells slip past the body’s defenses and attach elsewhere, said Dr. John Kirkwood, director of the Melanoma Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

Kirkwood hopes that the new study will spur researchers to do a long-term study to look at the impact of NSAIDs prospectively, since the protective effect seen here might not be the result of the medication, but rather something that people who take daily aspirin have in common.

Until that happens, doctors can’t counsel patients to take aspirin to protect against melanoma. Still, this is one more possible benefit to consider if you’re advised to take aspirin to prevent heart disease, he said.

For now, this is the first piece of good news on the melanoma prevention front.

“The hope,” Kirkwood said, “is to stop the disease before it gets out of the starting blocks.”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Testimonial From a Very Happy Patient!

To the Bedford Eye Care Team,

I remember being 16 years old and walking into the Bedford Eye Care Centre. My senses at the time didn’t pick up specifics… just general faces, people’s voices and another optometrist. After a few normal appointments (and years) I switched over to Dr. Avila Cox. I was taken aback by her subtle quiet manner that made me feel comfortable as a patient. Without a lecture like a dentist, she quietly but subtly reminded me of proper eye care and how it was important for my well being. Perhaps a bizarre thing to say but I’ve been wearing glasses my whole life and she by far was the first people to ever make me feel proud to wear them!

The years go by, life happens and at 25 years of age I make the decision to travel across Canada. It was a breathtaking adventure with experiences and joys that every Canadian would be proud of. Through this journey I discovered the capital city of Ottawa. Beautiful, clean, economically sound and so much more to offer, I made the decision to be move there.

I have spent the last 5 years of my life in Ottawa. I have made a few trips back to Bedford but always for occasions like Christmas or a family graduation. In the recent months I had noticed that there was a change in my eye sight. The thought of hunting down another optometrist gave me a sick feeling. I’m not a big fan of any type of doctor, dentist or optometrist. I put it off for months. A recent trip back to Bedford due to a family emergency gave me a one day window. I arrived in to town on Tuesday, had to fly elsewhere for Wed and Thursday and was headed back to Ottawa Saturday. I had Friday free that was it. When I arrived on Tuesday I decided to pick up the phone. Weirdly enough I still knew the number. I called and simply asked “Hi, I have a weird question… I moved to Ottawa 5 years ago and I am wondering if there was any way I could get an appointment on Friday.” The lady that answered the phone pleasantly took my name and confirmed that I was with Dr. Cox and that it was no problem to get an appointment Friday morning.

June 17th, 2011 - I am 30 years old; I opened the door to the Bedford Eye Care Centre. I pleasantly smiled and recognized the face smiling back at me. Forgive me for not remembering her name - but I know her face, and she would know who she is - greeting the customers. I looked over in the middle chair (behind the counter) and also recognized the face sitting there. I made a comment to the ladies that it was funny that I hadn’t been there in probably 6 years or more but the faces hadn’t changed. That said something good about where they worked and the dedication they had. After some paperwork and a few more smiles it was my ticket in. Two fabulous ladies helped me through 2 of the main exams. Again pardon me for not remembering your names; I know you both took the time to introduce yourselves to me. Both of you ladies made my tests relaxing and almost pleasurable. I enjoyed being there and believe you me you both made an impact on me. Then in walks Dr. Cox. Once again I really had a good time at my appointment. Just an extremely comfortable atmosphere that relaxed me and made my appointment enjoyable. Understanding my eyes and what I need to do to protect them are again the focus of my time with Dr. Cox and let me tell you I made that first leap for the first time by purchasing myself a pair of prescription sunglasses….My whole life I thought that buying glasses from the optometrist was so overpriced. I didn’t see any value and by passed that section every time before. This time I even had a solid excuse… I didn’t live here. I had a plane to catch in the morning. Dr. Cox has said it was possible for sunglasses to be mailed to me. My scapegoat is now gone.

Enter Judy.

Judy I don’t know how much time we spent together, maybe an hour - I think it was definitely around 30 to 45 minutes - either way it didn’t matter. My time with you was awesome. Through your own experience and stories of your husband :) which I know you haven’t told him you tell, it really encouraged me to buy a pair from someone that spoke from experience and satisfaction. The option to have my glasses mailed to me was suitable. Through trial and tribulation Judy nailed a nice set of Nike sunglasses for me. She walked me through picking out the frames, deciding on tint and polarization - I was shocked that she was willing to spend that much time with a client. After phone calls to the Alberta lab over what could be done I was sold on the Nike sunglasses. I declined on the polarization due to cost but was super excited about owning my first pair of prescription sunglasses. Judy then takes me over to the counter. She again confirms my order and reminds me it will be a few weeks. After ringing through my appointment and my glasses I left the Bedford Eye Care almost speechless. I’m back in Ottawa now and I haven’t stopped talking about the customer service I got from your wonderful team. The decision to keep my eye doctor in a different province is simple. The team is a cut above the rest.

Since departing Bedford I had received a message from Judy indicating that after I had left, the Alberta lab informed her in order to do my glasses they had to polarize them, but she wasn’t going to charge me. I couldn’t believe the good news. I appreciate the very kind gesture as I am aware the fundamentals of business and understand giving items away for free does not keep you in business. It was an excellent customer service decision and just made me very happy and even more excited. The next business day I received my sunglasses in the mail and let me tell you I am beyond happy. I don’t squint anymore while I’m riding my bike in the sun. Weekends at the cottage and my day at the water park have been experiences that are almost new again as for the first time I can see at the same time as wearing proper sunglasses.
Since the day I have gotten these sunglasses I have been ecstatic about them. I love my bike ride that much more and even a simple beer in the back yard on in the summer is now different. I can’t say thank you enough. Every penny I spent at the Bedford Eye Care Centre Team was a proud penny spent. Thank you to the whole team for your outstanding customer service, your infinite wisdom, knowledge and experiences. I honestly and truly am shocked by the level of service you have provided on all levels. The whole team, from answering the phones, greeting at the door, testing, selling glasses - WOW! I’m not sure what your secret is but I know the rest of the customer service world would use it. My only regret… Not buying my regular every day glasses there.

Thank you for your fantastic work,

Stacey Paul

P.S. Judy I also got your thank you card in the mail today. Again words can’t say enough about your fantastic service.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In Eyes, a Clock Calibrated by Wavelengths of Light

Just as the ear has two purposes — hearing and telling you which way is up — so does the eye. It receives the input necessary for vision, but the retina also houses a network of sensors that detect the rise and fall of daylight. With light, the body sets its internal clock to a 24-hour cycle regulating an estimated 10 percent of our genes.

The workhorse of this system is the light-sensitive hormone melatonin, which is produced by the body every evening and during the night. Melatonin promotes sleep and alerts a variety of biological processes to the approximate hour of the day.

Light hitting the retina suppresses the production of melatonin — and there lies the rub. In this modern world, our eyes are flooded with light well after dusk, contrary to our evolutionary programming. Scientists are just beginning to understand the potential health consequences. The disruption of circadian cycles may not just be shortchanging our sleep, they have found, but also contributing to a host of diseases.

“Light works as if it’s a drug, except it’s not a drug at all,” said George Brainard, a neurologist at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and one of the first researchers to study light’s effects on the body’s hormones and circadian rhythms.

Any sort of light can suppress melatonin, but recent experiments have raised novel questions about one type in particular: the blue wavelengths produced by many kinds of energy-efficient light bulbs and electronic gadgets.

Dr. Brainard and other researchers have found that light composed of blue wavelengths slows the release of melatonin with particular effectiveness. Until recently, though, few studies had directly examined how blue-emitting electronics might affect the brain.

So scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland tried a simple experiment: They asked 13 men to sit before a computer each evening for two weeks before going to bed.

During one week, for five hours every night, the volunteers sat before an old-style fluorescent monitor emitting light composed of several colors from the visible spectrum, though very little blue. Another week, the men sat at screens backlighted by light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. This screen was twice as blue.

“To our surprise, we saw huge differences,” said Christian Cajochen, who heads the Center for Chronobiology at the University of Basel. Melatonin levels in volunteers watching the LED screens took longer to rise at night, compared with when the participants were watching the fluorescent screens, and the deficit persisted throughout the evening.

The subjects also scored higher on tests of memory and cognition after exposure to blue light, Dr. Cajochen and his team reported in the May issue of The Journal of Applied Physiology. While men were able to recall pairs of words flashed across the fluorescent screen about half the time, some scores rose to almost 70 percent when they stared at the LED monitors.

The finding adds to a series of others suggesting, though certainly not proving, that exposure to blue light may keep us more awake and alert, partly by suppressing production of melatonin. An LED screen bright enough and big enough “could be giving you an alert stimulus at a time that will frustrate your body’s ability to go to sleep later,” said Dr. Brainard. “When you turn it off, it doesn’t mean that instantly the alerting effects go away. There’s an underlying biology that’s stimulated.”

Still, nobody is suggesting that we all turn off the lights at dusk and sit in the dark; research into this area is in its infancy. “We are only beginning to understand what really happens under natural conditions,” said Mark Rea of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

Artificial light has been around for more than 120 years. But the light emitted by older sources, like incandescent bulbs, contains more red wavelengths. The problem now, Dr. Brainard and other researchers fear, is that our world is increasingly illuminated in blue. By one estimate, 1.6 billion new computers, televisions and cellphones were sold last year alone, and incandescent lights are being replaced by more energy-efficient, and often bluer, bulbs.

In January in the journal PLoS One, the University of Basel team also compared the effects of incandescent bulbs to fluorescents modified to emit more blue light. Men exposed to the fluorescent lights produced 40 percent less melatonin than when they were exposed to incandescent bulbs, and they reported feeling more awake an hour after the lights went off.

In addition, the quantity of light necessary to affect melatonin may be much smaller than once thought. In research published in March in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, a team at the Harvard Medical School reported that ordinary indoor lighting before bedtime suppressed melatonin in the brain, even delaying production of the hormone for 90 minutes after the lights were off, compared with people exposed to only dim light.

What do these findings mean to everyday life? Some experts believe that any kind of light too late into the evening could have broad health effects, independent of any effect on sleep. For example, a report published last year in the journal PNAS found that mice exposed to light at night gained more weight than those housed in normal light, even though both groups consumed the same number of calories.

Light at night has been examined as a contributor to breast cancer for two decades. While there is still no consensus, enough laboratory and epidemiological studies have supported the idea that in 2007, the World Health Organization declared shift work a probable carcinogen. Body clock disruptions “can alter sleep-activity patterns, suppress melatonin production and disregulate genes involved in tumor development,” the agency concluded.

Blue light’s effects might be particularly pronounced for shift workers and others who get little natural daylight, some researchers say. Consider one small trial that appears the June issue of The Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. Among 28 elderly nursing home residents, those exposed to just 30 minutes of blue light on weekdays for four weeks showed improvement in cognitive abilities, compared with patients exposed only to red.

Researchers like Dr. Brainard hope the science may lead to a new generation of lights and screens designed with wavelengths that adjust according to the hour of the day.

Among those interested are officials at NASA, who have approached the neurologist about designing light on the International Space Station in a way that promotes alertness during waking hours and encourages sleep during times of rest.

“I think we’re on the verge of a lighting revolution,” said Dr. Brainard. If the hormone-sparing lights can be made to work during spaceflight, he said, “people will use it here on the ground.”

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Buying 'cheap' sunglasses can be hazardous to your health.

Seizure of 560,000 pairs of unsafe sunglasses

Allegedly hazardous eyewear made in China was confiscated in Venice
As part of an operation that involved numerous provinces in Italy, the Venice Guardia di Finanza (Italian tax police) seized about 560,000 pairs of sunglasses made in China and valued at 10 million Euro: the lenses were considered to be an extreme health hazard.
The operation was triggered by a display of eyeglasses in a Venice store with price tags that were well below market prices: a subsequent check of the goods revealed that the labels and CE markings had been illegally applied.
Technical analyses of the material demonstrated that in addition to not having UV filters, the lenses also released nickel on contact with perspiration. Also seized were 3.2 million labels that would have been applied to products imported from China to Italy.
Nickel can cause nasty rashes and allergic reactions if it comes into contact with skin and nickel dust is a carcinogen if inhaled. Sunglasses that do not have proper UV protection actually expose you to higher levels of UV light since your pupils remain dilated behind the sunglass lens and allow even more light and UV rays to enter the eye. Excessive exposure to UV can lead to earlier development of cataracts and macular degeneration.
The seven Chinese and Italian importers involved paid less than ten Eurocents a pair for the seized eyewear, which was placed on the market at prices ranging from 8 to 15 Euro.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Giant Weed Can Cause Blisters, Even Blindness

Officials urge people to steer clear of the giant hogweed

Note**** This is a US post, but this weed IS present in Nova Scotia and the Halifax area... beware!!

THURSDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- Call it the import that nobody wants.

Experts are urging residents of several states to beware of the "giant hogweed," a tall plant native to Central Asia with umbrella-size flowers containing toxic sap that can cause burns, blisters and, in some cases, even blindness.

"Avoid it at all cost," Jodi Holt, a professor of plant physiology at University of California, Riverside, toldABC News.

"The sap causes something called phytophotodermatitis when it touches humans," causing scars and potentially blindness if it comes into contact with the eyes, Holt said. Some cases of blindness occurred after children used the hollow stalks as telescopes.

Heracleum Mantegazzianum, as hogweed is botanically known, is already a concern in the Northeast and spreading fast. Patches of giant hogweed have also been sighted in the Pacific Northwest.

With white blossoms a foot or larger in diameter, giant hogweed towers up to 15 feet tall and thrives in wet, cool places. It is often spotted near homes, roadways, railroad beds and streams, ABC News said.

Crews in several states, including New York, have been charged with seeking out and destroying the invasive species. New York has also set up a giant hogweed hotline -- 845-256-3111-- for people to identify sightings.

Typically, large quantities of herbicides are needed to vanquish the plant when found in large patches. Smaller patches can be controlled by hand-cutting the roots, according to published reports.

Giant hogweed has been found and destroyed in three counties of Vermont -- Bennington, Washington and Windsor, state plant pathologists reported. And officials in Washington, D.C., are asking residents to be on the lookout for giant hogweed so they can weed out the botanical terrorist, according to news reports.

According to the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation, reactions can occur within 15 minutes when skin contact occurs in conjunction with sunlight. The sap contains a photosensitizing chemical that accelerates sun damage and can result in a serious sunburn. Perspiration can increase the reaction, officials said.

If you spot giant hogweed, don't try to remove it yourself, experts said. Instead, report the sighting to your state or local department of invasive species control.

"The importance of learning what the plant looks like cannot be overstated," Holt told ABC News.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put the giant hogweed near the top of its Federal Noxious Weed list. The agency said the plant has been reported in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Vermont.

More information

To learn more about poisonous plants, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

-- HealthDay staff

SOURCES: New York state Department of Environmental Conservation; ABC News

Last Updated: July 07, 2011

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