December 13th, 2013
03:49 PM ET
Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.
This week kicked off the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, at which researchers presented information about the treatment, diagnosis, prevention and biology of this condition. There were several important studies presented there.
Drug that may reduce breast cancer risk
The conference brought good news for preventing breast cancer in some women. Researchers found that an antihormone therapy called anastrozole cuts the likelihood of breast cancer by about half among postmenopausal women at high risk of breast cancer.
About 80% of U.S. women with breast cancer each year suffer tumors with high levels of hormone receptors, fueled by estrogen. Anastrozole stops the body from making estrogen. It has been used in the past as a treatment for breast cancer of the hormone receptor positive kind.
The study involved 3,864 postmenopausal women at increased risk for developing breast cancer. This was a double-blind, randomized controlled trial, which is the gold standard for drug research.
Women who took anastrozole were 53% less likely to develop breast cancer compared with those who took the placebo. This was after a follow-up time period of more than five years. Few side effects were reported.
About half of patients on breast cancer drugs called aromatase inhibitors say that they feel joint pain and stiffness. That’s the most common reason that patients stop taking the drug.
But a new study shows that exercise during treatment can reduce the unpleasant side effect.
Participants included 121 postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancers in stages 1, 2 or 3. All of them were taking an aromatase inhibitor, had at least mild joint pain, and did not exercise before beginning the study.
Researchers are interested in investigating how exercise helps with the pain and at what point during the intervention such improvements occurred.
Metastatic breast cancer patients may not benefit from surgery and radiation, post-chemotherapy
Retrospective analyses of metastatic breast cancer patient outcomes have given conflicting views over the value of surgery or radiation after chemotherapy.
A new study found no difference in overall survival between patients with metastatic breast cancer who had surgery or radiation after chemotherapy, and those who did not. This was a prospective, randomized, controlled trial.
"Loco-regional treatment" is the name for radiation and removal of the breast tumor and nearby lymph nodes.
“I’m sure a lot of oncologists who believe in conventional wisdom and don’t provide loco-regional treatment will feel a lot more comfortable looking at these results,” study author Dr. Rajendra Badwe, director of the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India, said in a statement.
And here are two other recent studies, which are on the lighter side:
Liars really lie
Knowing whom to trust is tricky business. Interestingly, a new study suggests that liars are more honest about their dishonesty than you might think.
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam and Ben-Gurion University gave participants a variety of psychological tests and asked them how often they'd said something untrue in the past 24 hours. They also did some follow-up experiments where participants rolled a die and reported their scores, and another activity involving word puzzles - some of which are not solvable.
Statistically, some people had to have lied, the researchers determined, because there's no way that all of the high scores reported were real.
“The interesting thing was,” study co-author Shaul Shalvi, a psychology professor at the University of the Negev told TIME.com, “that the more people reported they lied in the last 24 hours, the higher their reported die roll outcomes were."
Sugar, not fat, drives cravings
This sounds like a fun study to participate in: More than 100 high school students drank chocolate-flavored milkshakes, all with the same calorie count. Some were high in sugar and low in fat, and some were low in sugar and high in fat.
Researchers wanted to know whether we're more drawn to the sugar or to the fat during cravings. So they did functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the students while they drank the milkshakes.
It appears that the pleasure center of the brain responded to both milkshakes tested in the study, but it was the high-sugar, low-fat version that tended to be a more powerful stimulus.
“We do a lot of work on the prevention of obesity, and what is really clear not only from this study but from the broader literature over all is that the more sugar you eat, the more you want to consume it,” Eric Stice, a senior research scientist at the Oregon Research Institute, told the New York Times. “As far as the ability to engage brain reward regions and drive compulsive intake, sugar seems to be doing a much better job than fat.”
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.