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January 7th, 2014
04:27 PM ET

Anti-smoking efforts have saved 8 million lives

Fifty years ago, Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry made a bombshell announcement: "The strongest relationship between cigarette smoking and health is in the field of lung cancer. There is a very strong relationship, and probably a causal relationship, between heart disease and cigarette smoking."

It was the first time a surgeon general said that smokers had a 70% greater chance of death and that heavy smokers were 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers.

The landmark report launched one of the biggest public health campaigns in U.S. history, including warning labels on cigarettes, cigarette advertising banned on TV and radio, graphic public service announcements, and anti-smoking laws.

Now a new study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association - which has devoted its entire issue to tobacco and smoking - estimates that tobacco control efforts since the first Surgeon General's report have added 20 years of life for 8 million Americans. Without tobacco control, half of those Americans would have died before the age of 65.
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5 studies you may have missed
Researchers found a connection between head trauma and brain plaques linked to Alzheimer's.
December 27th, 2013
08:29 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

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.

1. A shock to make you forget
Journal: Nature Neuroscience

We all have memories of experiences we'd rather not look back on, which trigger strong emotions when we reflect on them. Scientists demonstrated in a small study that electricity may be able to manipulate what we remember, although it's not clear if the technique would work with personal memories.

In this experiment, 42 people with severe depression watched two narrated slideshows describing unpleasant stories. A week later, they had to remember one of the stories after viewing part of a relevant slide they had seen before. Then, some participants received electroconvulsive therapy and had to recall both stories when they woke up from anesthesia. Others got tested 24 hours later, and a third group did not receive electroconvulsive therapy.

Those tested 24 hours after the shock treatment showed a curious pattern: They could not remember the story they had been prompted to recall right before the electroconvulsive therapy.

“I think it’s interesting as a proof of concept, but I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be a robust treatment because it’s so invasive,” psychologist Elizabeth Phelps told TIME.com.

Read more from TIME.com FULL POST


5 studies you may have missed
December 13th, 2013
03:49 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

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. FULL POST


A single dose of HPV vaccine may be enough
November 4th, 2013
10:27 AM ET

A single dose of HPV vaccine may be enough

Just one dose of the HPV vaccine Cervarix appears to provide enough of an immune response to protect women from two strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) and ultimately cervical cancer, according to a new study published Monday.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The infection, transmitted through genital contact, is the primary cause of cervical cancer, which affects about 10,300 women in the United States each year.  It causes about 275,000 deaths annually worldwide and is a leading cause of cancer deaths among women in low-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.

“Cervical cancer is a major cause of public health concern, especially in less developed countries where about 85% of cervical cancer occurs,” says study author Mahboobeh Safaeian. “The reason for that is mainly because of lack of screening infrastructure offered.” FULL POST

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Filed under: Cancer • HPV • Living Well • Sex

5 studies you may have missed
A slow metabolism may indeed be linked to obesity in some cases, a new study finds.
October 25th, 2013
02:08 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published recently 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.

Some obesity may be related to slow metabolism, really
Journal: Cell

"Slow metabolism" as an explanation for obesity has been largely knocked down by doctors as inaccurate. But University of Cambridge researchers showed in a new study that mutations on a particular gene slow metabolism, which may be linked to obesity in some people.

Previous research had shown that mice without the gene KSR2 tended to become overweight.

In this study, researchers sequenced the DNA of 2,101 people with severe early-onset obesity and 1,536 people who were not obese. They saw that mutations in KSR2 were associated with "hyperphagia (increased appetite) in childhood, low heart rate, reduced basal metabolic rate and severe insulin resistance."

Fewer than one in 100 people have KSR2 mutations, and some of those do have normal weight, BBC News reports.

This genetics research could have implications for developing drugs that help people with obesity and type 2 diabetes, the study said.

High blood sugar linked to memory problems
Journal: Neurology

Past studies have suggested that diabetes raises the risk for Alzheimer's disease although it's not entirely clear why. New research finds that even in people who don't have diabetes, chronically higher blood glucose levels are associated with poorer outcomes in the brain.

This study looked at 141 people, average age 63, without diabetes or pre-diabetes. No participants were overweight or had memory and thinking impairment.

On cognitive tests, participants with lower blood glucose levels performed better in terms of delayed recall, learning ability and memory consolidation than those with higher levels. What's more, those with higher levels tended to have smaller volumes in the hippocampus, a sea horse-shaped brain structure crucial for memory.

“These results suggest that even for people within the normal range of blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could be a promising strategy for preventing memory problems and cognitive decline as they age,” study author Dr. Agnes Flöel of Charité University Medicine in Berlin said in a statement. “Strategies such as lowering calorie intake and increasing physical activity should be tested.”

This study received significant media attention, but Dr. Jane Chiang, the American Diabetes Association's Senior vice president of medical affairs and community information, said she has a lot of concerns about the way it was conducted. The participants weren't entirely "healthy," according to their blood glucose levels in fact, they may have diabetes and not know it, she said.

A bigger concern, Chiang said, is that older adults aren't recommended to have a strictly regulated "normal" blood glucose in the first place. Low blood sugar presents dangerous risks of falls and seizures, so the American Diabetes Association discourages tight blood sugar control in older adults.

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Being married may help cancer survival
September 23rd, 2013
05:32 PM ET

Being married may help cancer survival

Being married may significantly improve the likelihood of surviving cancer, researchers say.

In a new study of more than 700,000 people with diagnoses of the most deadly cancers in the United States, patients who were married were more likely to detect their disease early, receive potentially curable treatments and live longer. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The researchers observed a 20% reduction in deaths among the patients who were married compared to unmarried patients - a benefit bigger than several kinds of chemotherapy used for treating cancer.

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July 29th, 2013
05:01 PM ET

Task force: Screen smokers for lung cancer

Editors note: This story was initially published in July. We're republishing because the final USPSTF recommendation was issued Monday.

For the first time the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending lung cancer screening for people who have a high risk of developing the disease. People who have a "30 pack year history of smoking" (for instance, at least 2 packs a year for 15 years), who are between the ages of 55 and 79, and who have smoked their last cigarette within the last 15 years are considered high risk.

The USPSTF's recommendations were published Monday. When it last looked at this in 2004, the group said the data was insufficient to recommend screening for lung cancer.

The task force's new recommendations are based on a review of seven clinical trials where researchers found Low-Dose Computed Tomography (CT) scanning was an effective way to detect lung cancer before patients began to show symptoms.

"Close to 160,000 people in the U.S. die from lung cancer every year," says Dr. Michael LeFevre, co-vice chair of USPSTF. That's more than breast, prostate and colon cancer deaths combined. LeFevre estimates that screening the right people may prevent up to 20,000 deaths each year.

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Filed under: Cancer • Conditions • Smoking

Aspirin every other day may prevent colon cancer
July 15th, 2013
05:01 PM ET

Aspirin every other day may prevent colon cancer

Many studies have touted the benefits of aspirin, and the latest one has good news for women.

This new research shows that low-dose aspirin may serve as a protection against colorectal cancer. The study was based on a long-term trial in a large group of women, who have been underrepresented in studies on this topic, said lead author Nancy R. Cook, associate biostatistician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School. The study is being published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
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HPV rates down more than expected
June 19th, 2013
02:53 PM ET

HPV rates down more than expected

Cases of human papillomavirus (HPV) have significantly decreased since the advent of the HPV vaccine in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and numbers have outpaced even their greatest predictions.

"The prevalence of the types of HPV that commonly cause cervical cancer in women has dropped by about half in girls ages 14 to 19," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director. "That decline is even better than we had hoped for." FULL POST

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Filed under: Cancer • CDC • Conditions • HPV

Blood test may predict HPV-related throat cancer
June 18th, 2013
08:36 AM ET

Blood test may predict HPV-related throat cancer

Scientists may be able to predict throat cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) more than 10 years before patients get diagnosed, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Using a blood test that is still in the research stage, experts were able to detect blood markers indicating early signs of the disease.

Actor Michael Douglas recently made headlines when The Guardian reported he said his throat cancer may have been caused in part by HPV transmitted through oral sex. Douglas later said he simply was stating that oral sex can lead to cancer.

HPV: What you need to know

HPV is the most common type of sexually transmitted virus in the United States and is passed on through sexual contact – genital or oral. There are more than 40 types of HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nearly all sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV during their lifetime. FULL POST

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Filed under: Cancer • Conditions • HPV • Living Well

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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.

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