Health Front: How to Reduce Colon Cancer Risk
By DR. JERRY DeCAPUA, TRT Contributing Writer
• By boosting older adults’ participation in colon screening, colon cancer would kill 21,000 fewer people each year. Colon cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Yet, in 2013, only 58 percent of American adults aged 50 to 75 underwent the recommended screening for it. A study published March 12 in the journal Cancer said that lack of screening is responsible for a substantial percentage of colon cancer deaths.
Researchers used a computer model to estimate the potential benefits of having an 80 percent screening rate among adults, and found that if four out of five people got screened, the cancer rates would start dropping fast. Death rates would decrease by 19 percent by 2020. Over the long term, greater gains were predicted, with new colon cancer cases declining by 22 percent and deaths declining by 33 percent by 2030.
• Preliminary research with mice raises the possibility that an ultrasound-based treatment might help eliminate plaque buildup in the brain that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists do not know if this approach is feasible for humans, but the research appears promising. The mice with Alzheimer’s disease performed better on three memory tests, noted researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia.
The ultrasound treatment targets nerve-cell clogging material known as amyloid plaque. The researchers applied ultrasound to the mice with Alzheimer’s disease after injecting them with microbubbles that vibrate when they encounter the super-sound frequency. The microbubbles expand and contract in the blood vessels of the brain, allowing one’s own white blood cells to actively eat amyloid plaque.
The technique appeared to reduce levels of amyloid plaque in the treated mice, and nearly eliminate it in 75 percent of the animals without damaging brain tissue. However, what the technique might do to more complex brains is unknown. James Hendrix, Ph.D., director of the Global Science Initiatives of the Alzheimer’s Association, stated that the research is “intriguing” but “still very preliminary.”
• Genes believed to increase the risk of autism may also be linked with higher intelligence, a new study suggests. Researchers analyzed the DNA of nearly 10,000 people in Scotland and also tested their thinking ability. On average, those who had genes associated with autism scored slightly higher on the tests. Having autism-linked genes doesn’t mean that people will develop the disorder, the researchers noted.
Similar evidence of an association between autism-linked genes and intelligence was found in previous testing of 921 teens in Australia. “Our findings show that genetic variation which increases risk for autism is associated with better cognitive ability in non-autistic individuals,” said Toni-Kim Clark of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
The study suggests genes for autism may actually confer, on average, a small intellectual advantage in those who carry them, provided that they are not affected by autism. While 70 percent of people with autism have intellectual disabilities, some people with the disorder have higher-than-average nonverbal intelligence, noted researchers.
• Raising the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 in the United States would save hundreds of thousands of lives, a new report finds. Such a change would result in 249,000 fewer deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, and twelve percent fewer smokers by 2100, according to the a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). According to the report, increasing the minimum age to 21 would delay 15- to 17-year-olds from taking up the smoking habit. Younger teens often get older teens to buy cigarettes for them. However, they are more unlikely to have as many 21-year-old friends. Considering this, the IOM committee thought that raising the age to 21 has better value. The committee found that there would be about 3 percent fewer smokers by 2100 if the age were raised by only one year to 19. But there would be 16 percent fewer smokers if the age of purchase was increased to 25.
In addition, The IOM stated that if the age were raised to 21 now, by 2100 there would be some 286,000 fewer preterm births, 438,000 fewer cases of low birth weight, and about 4,000 fewer sudden infant death cases. The American Lung Association said in a statement that it supports the IOM findings.