Tag Archives: health

Difficult Online Game Supports Cancer Patients

video game imageMiniclip and Teenage Cancer Trust have designed a game that turns a difficult subject into a fun and fresh experience.

The game, called “Funky Nurse,” is short but surprisingly hard to win. The player takes on the role of nurse in a cancer care unit and must manage patients’ happiness by bringing them to entertainment rooms, keeping them fed and providing medical care while scrounging for hospital upgrades. The game was developed with input from three former teen cancer patients.

Eye-opening stats on teenagers with cancer in the UK are displayed at the end of every level. “Every day in the UK, six young people aged 13 to 24 are told they have cancer,” reveals one. “That’s about 2,100 a year.” Another points out that one in 312 males and one in 361 females will get cancer before they are 20. You can also learn more about Teenage Cancer Trust, upgrade your ward or proceed to the next level.

Teenage Cancer Trust is a charity aimed at caring for youths with cancer. The charity says most teens diagnosed with cancer are placed in kids’ wards or in elderly wards, leaving them isolated. Teenage Cancer Trust builds special wards in hospitals to provide a friendly, effective area for teens to get better together.

funky nurse image

Funky Nurse promotes the charity to more than 65 million monthly players on gaming site Miniclip.

Miniclip has supported the charity since 2009, including free online advertising and fundraising events. Teenage Cancer Trust has 17 units in the UK with another 16 planned for the near future. The organization helps young people fight cancer by also funding clinical and research staff, an education program for schools, family support networks and an annual conference for patients.

What do you think of supporting a charity through a video game? And how far did you get?

Mashable, 92Y and the UN Foundation present the second annual Social Good Summit. The Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders to discuss the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve our greatest challenges. The most innovative technologists, influential minds and passionate activists will come together this September with one shared goal: to unlock the potential of new media and technology to make the world a better place.  


Date: Monday, September 19 to Thursday, September 22

Time: 1 to 5 p.m. ET each day

92Y, New York City





Image courtesy of Flickr, Ken-ichi

Futurity.org – For sun protection, slather on caffeine?

When caffeine was topically applied to mice, they developed 72 percent fewer squamos cell carcinomas, a form of skin cancer. (Credit: iStockphoto)

RUTGERS (US) — Coffee may be more than a great morning pick-me-up. Suntan lotion laden with caffeine might be an effective way to prevent harmful sun damage or skin cancer.

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The text of this article by Futurity is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives License.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds weight to the theory that caffeine guards against certain skin cancers at the molecular level by inhibiting ATR, a protein enzyme in the skin. Scientists believe, based on what they have learned studying mice, caffeine applied directly to the skin might help prevent damaging ultraviolet light from causing skin cancer.

Earlier research indicated that mice that were fed caffeinated water and exposed to lamps that generated UVB radiation that damaged the DNA in their skin cells were able to kill off a greater percentage of their badly damaged cells and reduce the risk of cells becoming cancerous.

Straight from the Source

Read the original study

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1111378108

“Although it is known that coffee drinking is associated with a decreased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, there now needs to be studies to determine whether topical caffeine inhibits sunlight-induced skin cancer,” says Allan Conney, professor of chemical biology at Rutgers and director of the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research.

Instead of inhibiting ATR with caffeinated water, Conney and colleagues in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington, genetically modified and diminished the levels of ATR in one group of mice.

The genetically modified mice developed tumors more slowly than the unmodified mice, had 69 percent fewer tumors than regular mice, and developed four times fewer invasive tumors. When caffeine was topically applied to the regular mice, they had 72 percent fewer squamos cell carcinomas, a form of skin cancer.

But when both groups of mice were exposed to chronic ultraviolet rays for an extended period of time, tumor development occurred in both the genetically modified and regular mice. This seems to indicate inhibiting the ATR enzyme works best at the pre-cancerous stage before UV-induced skin cancers are fully developed.

Sunlight-induced skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States with more than 1 million new cases each year. Although multiple human epidemiologic studies link caffeinated beverage intake with significant decreases in several different types of cancer, including skin cancer, just how and why coffee protects against the disease is unknown, Conney says.

“Caffeine might become a weapon in prevention because it inhibits ATR and also acts as a sunscreen and directly absorbs damaging UV light.”

More news from Rutgers: http://news.rutgers.edu/medrel/

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Some Medical Tests, Procedures Do More Harm Than Good

My vote is still out on this one but it’s an important read, nonetheless. I know there probably are unnecessary tests done in the medical field but I’d hate for people to just stop because of an article like this or generalize to vaccinations, where one could have stemmed off an epidemic.

In my opinion, always get a second opinion.

New research shows how some common tests and procedures aren’t just expensive, but can do more harm than good.

Aug 14, 2011 10:00 AM EDT

Dr. Stephen Smith, Professor emeritus of family medicine at Brown University School of Medicine, tells his physician not to order a PSA blood test for prostate cancer or an annual electrocardiogram to screen for heart irregularities, since neither test has been shown to save lives. Rather, both tests frequently find innocuous quirks that can lead to a dangerous odyssey of tests and procedures. Dr. Rita Redberg, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and editor of the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine, has no intention of having a screening mammogram even though her 50th birthday has come and gone. That’s the age at which women are advised to get one. But, says Redberg, they detect too many false positives (suspicious spots that turn out, upon biopsy, to be nothing) and tumors that might regress on their own, and there is little if any evidence that they save lives.

These physicians are not anti-medicine. They are not trying to save money on their copayments or deductibles. And they are not trying to rein in the nation’s soaring health-care costs, which at $2.7 trillion account for fully one sixth of every dollar spent in the U.S. They are applying to their personal lives a message they have become increasingly vocal about in their roles as biomedical researchers and doctors: more health care often means worse health. “There are many areas of medicine where not testing, not imaging, and not treating actually result in better health outcomes,” Redberg says. In other words, “less is more.” Archives, which is owned by the American Medical Association, has been publishing study after study about tests and treatments that do more harm than good.

Continue reading here: thedailybeast.com

Are Your Co-Workers Killing You? #in

A new study led by Arie Shirom at Tel Aviv University reveals the powerful impact of the workplace on longevity. The researchers tracked 820 adults for twenty years, starting with a routine health examination in 1988. The subjects worked in various professions, from finance to manufacturing to health care. They were interviewed repeatedly about conditions at their workplace, from the behavior of the boss to the niceness of their colleagues. Over the ensuing decades, their health was closely monitored, allowing the scientists to control for various medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, smoking and depression.

The first thing the researchers discovered is that office conditions matter. A lot. In particular, the risk of death seemed to be correlated with the perceived niceness of co-workers, as less friendly colleagues were associated with a higher risk of dying. (What’s troubling is that such workplaces seem incredibly common.) While this correlation might not be surprising – friendly people help reduce stress, and stress is deadly – the magnitude of the “friendly colleague effect” is a bit unsettling: people with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study, especially if they began the study between the ages of 38 and 43. In contrast, the niceness of the boss had little impact on mortality.

What’s driving this effect? Why are caustic co-workers so unhealthy? One interesting factor influencing the correlation between peer social support and mortality was the perception of control. This makes sense: the only thing worse than an office full of assholes is an office full of assholes telling us what to do. Furthermore, this model of workplace stress being driven by the absence of control has plenty of empirical support. The most impressive support comes from the Whitehall study, an exhaustive longitudinal survey launched in 1967 that tracked some 28,000 British men and women working in central London. What makes the study so compelling is its uniformity. Every subject is a British civil servant, a cog in the vast governmental bureaucracy. They all have access to the same health care system, don’t have to worry about getting laid off, and spend most of their workdays shuffling papers.

Read the rest here at wired.com

The real reason hypochondriacs drive doctors crazy – PopRX

The real reason hypochondriacs drive doctors crazy


Hypochondriacs often provide comic relief in TV and film (see stubbornly bedridden Cameron at the beginning of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” or Melman the anxious pill-popping giraffe in “Madagascar”). The doctor-patient relationship itself is also played for laughs: “Scrubs,” for instance, featured a recurring character named Harvey Corman whom an irritated Dr. Cox greets in one episode with his incurable bite: “And what imaginary disease is ailing you this time, my friend?” For a physician, these sorts of patients are frustrating to deal with, but not because their problem is a joke.

Real hypochondria, which today we believe is a form of extreme anxiety connected to depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, is serious, costly and debilitating. A brief perusal of hypochondria message boards will show you how terrifying the disorder really is. Driven by the frightening and unwavering conviction that every twinge, tingle and ache is a mortal threat, these patients can’t stop calling 911, making doctor’s appointments and demanding test upon test, drug upon drug. It adds up: Collectively, hypochondriacs cost our health system some $20 billion a year.

Read the rest at salon.com

Hackers can kill Diabetics with Insulin Pumps from a half mile away – Um, no. Facts vs. Journalistic Fear mongering

There’s a story making the rounds on Twitter right now. Engadget “reports” researcher sees security issue with wireless insulin pumps, hackers could cause lethal doses.

Wait till you see what researcher and diabetic Jay Radcliffe cooked up for the Black Hat Technical Security Conference. Radcliffe figures an attacker could hack an insulin pump connected to a wireless glucose monitor and deliver lethal doses of the sugar-regulating hormone.

First, a little on my background. I’ve been Type 1 diabetic for 17 years. I’ve worn an insulin pump 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over 11 years and a continuous glucose meter non-stop for over 5 years. I also wrote one of the first portable glucoses management systems for the original PalmPilot over 10 years ago and successfully sold it to a health management company. (Archive.org link) I also interfaced it (albeit with wires) to a number of portable glucose meters, also a first.

Engadget’s is a mostly reasonable headline and accurate explanation as they say he “figures an attacker could…” However, Computerworld really goes all out with the scare tactics with Black Hat: Lethal Hack and wireless attack on insulin pumps to kill people.

Like something straight out of science fiction, an attacker with a powerful antenna could be up to a half mile away from a victim yet launch a wireless hack to remotely control an insulin pump and potentially kill the victim.

The only thing that saves this initial paragraph is “potentially.” The link that is getting the most Tweets is VentureBeat’s “Excuse me while I turn off your insulin pump,” a blog post that is rife with inaccuracies (not to mention a lot of misspellings). Here’s just a few.

Continue reading at hanselman.com

Suicide Victims Found to Have Abnormal Brain Cells | Astrocytes | LiveScience

CT scans of a human brain.
CT scans of a human brain.

CREDIT: Dreamstime

Changes to some of the star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes may play a role in depression, a new study finds.

The findings are based on the postmortem examination of brains of depressed individuals who committed suicide.

The researchers focused on a part of the brain involved in mood regulation and decision making, called the anterior cingulate cortex. In depressed people, some astrocytes were larger and more branched than those of people with no history of psychiatric illness who died suddenly, the researchers said.

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These differences showed up only in the brains’ white matter, not gray matter. White matter, found deep inside the brain, consists mostly of “cables” that allow different brain areas to communicate.

The study adds to a growing body of research linking changes in white matter to depression. It is the first study to “zoom in” and observe changes occurring at a cellular level, said study researcher Naguib Mechawar of McGill University in Quebec.

The researchers said they don’t know whether these alterations are a cause or effect of depression and can only speculate on how the changes would contribute to the mood disorder. It’s likely they would affect communication between the anterior cingulate cortex and other parts of the brain, Mechawar added.

Different matter

Astrocytes belong to a group of brain cells known as glial cells. (Glia is Greek for “glue.”) For most of the previous century, glial cells were thought to be minor players in brain activity, providing structural and nutritional support for neurons, which were thought to do the heavy lifting.

But recently scientists have come to realize these cells play an important role in brain function, and they have been implicated in diseases such as depression. “They’re not just innocent bystanders,” Mechawar said.

Mechawar and colleagues obtained brain samples from 10 people who had committed suicide while suffering depressive episodes, and from 10 other deceased people, which served as a control group. The researchers stained the brain cells so they could distinguish the cells’ individual features.

There was virtually no difference in astrocytes in the gray matter of the two groups. However, in the white matter, astrocytes were bigger, and had about twice as many branches, in the people who had committed suicide. Furthermore, the branches were about twice as long.

Inflammation in the brain

The researchers said the astrocytes may have changed in reaction to a change in their environment – specifically, inflammation in the brain. Chronically high levels of inflammation have been linked to stress and are known to be bad for health.

The immune system produces inflammation as a reaction to foreign invaders, but it also can occur independent of infection. Astrocytes are known to swell up when they sense inflammation.

The new study adds weight to what is called the neuroinflammatory theory of depression. This theory posits that molecules involved in inflammation play a role in the development of depressive symptoms. Several independent studies have found elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the blood of depressed people. And treatments that include molecules that promote inflammation can induce depressive-like symptoms, the researchers said.

If inflammation in the brain is indeed tied to depression, treatment to reduce inflammation may one day help ameliorate the mental condition, Mechawar said.

The results were published this week in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Pass it on: Astrocytes in the brain’s white matter are abnormal in depressed subjects who have committed suicide.

This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, sister site to LiveScience.

The GOOD 30-Day Challenge: Unplug at 8

Sifting through the risks and benefits of coffee

Cappucino. Click image to expand.

Photograph of coffee by Jupiterimages/Thinkstock.

Coffee is one of those things that make curmudgeons like Andy Rooney throw up their hands. They used to tell us coffee is bad for us, he complains. Now they say it’s good. Why should we believe any of it?

Rooney’s complaint about the back and forth nature of coffee studies is no exaggeration. An analysis published last year concluded that coffee consumption may increase the risk of lung cancer. Yet a study published in June found that heavy coffee drinking was associated with a 60 percent decrease in the risk of advanced prostate cancer, and another out this month shows that coffee drinkers are less likely than abstainers to harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their nasal passages.

In the last decade alone, scientists have published hundreds of papers attributing both harms and health benefits to coffee. What gives?

Article continues here: slate.com

Test Tells Viral And Bacterial Infections Apart: Scientific American Podcast

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Antibiotics don’t work against viruses. But doctors sometimes give antibiotics to patients who have what turns out to be a viral infection. Which adds to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Tests to tell a bacterial infection from a viral one take one to two days and don’t always return a clear prognosis. So researchers in Israel have developed a rapid test – using a CSI tool.

The chemical Luminol is used at crime scenes because it fluoresces in the presence of blood. When we get an infection, white blood cells called phagocytes leap into action. In the process, they consume oxygen and produce what are called Reactive Oxygen Species, or ROS. Luminol makes the ROS glow.

But bacterial and viral infections produce different ROS’s and so have different types of glows. By evaluating the infections of 69 patients, the researchers were able to create different Luminol signatures for bacterial versus viral infections. In blind tests, the scientists achieved 89 percent accuracy. The research was published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. [Daria Prilutsky et al, Differentiation between Viral and Bacterial Acute Infections Using Chemiluminescent Signatures of Circulating Phagocytes]

The scientists hope to fine-tune the test to make it more accurate. Which could help doctors make better diagnoses—and reduce the use of unnecessary antibiotics.

—Cynthia Graber

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast]