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How reliable is the drug info you find online?
June 26th, 2014
08:04 AM ET

How reliable is the drug info you find online?

When people want to learn more about a new drug warning, they turn to the internet - that’s no surprise. But is the information they find there accurate and up-to-date? Not always, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

“Despite debates over its credibility, Wikipedia is reportedly the most frequently consulted online health care resource globally,” the authors write. “Wikipedia pages typically appear among the top few Google search results and are among the references most likely to be checked by internet users.”

Wikipedia, along with Google and WebMD, is where more than half of all Americans turn to for health information, according to the report.

Researchers found that when the FDA issues a drug safety warning, Google searches about that drug increase 82% on average in the following week. Wikipedia pages about the drug see a 175% increase in views on the day of the announcement.

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June 24th, 2014
06:14 PM ET

Do I need a 3-D mammogram?

Digital breast tomosynthesis, better known as 3-D mammography, can find more invasive, and in some cases more dangerous, cancers than a traditional digital mammogram, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week concludes.

But do you need one?

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011 as a supplement to digital mammography, tomosynthesis creates a 3-D reconstruction of the breast tissue, giving radiologists a clearer view of overlapping slices. This new study found using the combination of digital and 3-D mammography reduces false alarms and unnecessary call backs by 15% in all groups of patients, including younger women and women with dense breast tissue.

The study was funded by Hologic, the manufacturer of the 3-D imaging machine, and the National Cancer Institute.
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Pesticide exposure during pregnancy may increase autism risk
June 24th, 2014
02:36 PM ET

Pesticide exposure during pregnancy may increase autism risk

Scientists have long hypothesized that chemicals found in our environment play a role in causing autism. Research published this week in Environmental Health Perspectives supports that theory, finding children whose mothers are exposed to agricultural pesticides during pregnancy may be at increased risk for autism spectrum disorders, or ASD.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, looked at the medical records of 970 participants. They found pregnant women who lived within a mile of an area treated with three different types of pesticides were at a two-thirds higher risk of having a child with ASD or developmental delays. These pesticide-treated areas included parks, golf courses, pastures and roadsides.

The study investigated the use of three classes of pesticides: organophosphates, which include the widely used insecticide chlorpyrifos, as well as pyrtheroids and carbamates.
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Filed under: Autism • Conditions • Environment • Pregnancy

5 studies you may have missed
Food trucks are generally as safe or safer than restaurants, a new study found.
June 20th, 2014
03:05 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.

You are the (Facebook) company you keep
Journal: PNAS

It may be time to think twice before accepting that friend request on Facebook. A new study by scientists at Cornell University and Facebook suggests that emotions can be spread via Facebook and other social networks. Yes, you read that right: Your Facebook posts are contagious. The scientists looked at 3 million Facebook posts from a group of 155,000 randomly selected users.

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Depression a 'powerful' risk factor for heart disease in young women
June 19th, 2014
08:54 AM ET

Depression a 'powerful' risk factor for heart disease in young women

Young women are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or die of heart disease if they suffer from depression, a new study suggests.

Researchers looked at 3,237 patients with suspected or established heart disease who were undergoing coronary angiography – a medical procedure used to diagnose narrowing in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. On the same day of the procedure, the patients answered nine questions assessing their state of mind.

If the patient was experiencing moderate to severe depression, and was under 55 years old, researchers found she had double the chance of experiencing a heart attack in the next few years. Depressed women under 55 were also twice as likely to have heart disease or to die from any cause during that time period than those who were not depressed. Men and those women older than 55 with depression did not show the same increased risk.

Depression is as powerful a risk factor for heart disease as diabetes and smoking, study author Dr. Amit Shah, a cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta, concluded.
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Filed under: Conditions • Depression • Heart • Mental Health

Sitting too long may increase your cancer risk
June 17th, 2014
10:49 AM ET

Sitting too long may increase your cancer risk

If you’re spending a lot of time sitting every day, either in front of the TV or at work, you may be at higher risk for developing certain types of cancer, according to new research published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study found an additional two hours a day of sedentary behavior was linked to an 8% increase in colon cancer risk, a 10% increase in endometrial cancer risk and a 6% increase in risk for lung cancer. It did not find the same connection for breast, rectum, ovary and prostate cancers or for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Researchers came to these conclusions by analyzing 43 existing studies that included more than 4 million study participants and 68,936 cancer cases to measure the relationship between hours spent sitting and certain types of cancers.
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June 13th, 2014
12:01 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.

Keep your phone out of your pocket – your sperm will thank you
Journal: Environmental International

Since guys don’t usually carry handbags, they tend to keep mobile phones in their pants pockets. A recent study from the University of Exeter suggests this may not be a great idea.

That cell phone could actually have a negative effect on your sperm quality.
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Filed under: Aging • Brain • Cell Phones • Conditions • Dental health • Diet and Fitness • Fertility • Heart • Living Well • Men's Health • Mental Health

Moles may predict breast cancer risk
June 10th, 2014
05:01 PM ET

Moles may predict breast cancer risk

Skin moles may indicate a woman's risk for breast cancer, according to two studies coming out this week in the journal PLOS Medicine. More moles could mean a slightly higher risk, particularly in middle-aged women, researchers say.

Scientists stress that this does not mean people with moles should panic.  The studies do not say if you have moles you will get breast cancer; researchers are still trying to figure out the link between the two.

A study in the United States and another in France followed almost 175,000 middle age women for about 20 years. They looked at women with few or no moles and compared their breast cancer risk to women who had lots of moles – defined in one study as more than 15 on one arm. The studies did not look at cancerous moles but moles in general.

"Women with a lot of moles are a little more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than were women with very few moles," said Dr. Ted Gansler, director of medical content for the American Cancer Society, who was not affiliated with the study.
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Teaming up with Google to find autism cause
June 10th, 2014
04:52 PM ET

Teaming up with Google to find autism cause

The cause of autism is still unknown, but researchers hope harnessing the power of Google will help them solve this neurodevelopmental puzzle.

The research and advocacy group Autism Speaks announced Tuesday they are collaborating with the Google Cloud Platform to build the largest autism genome database to date. The collaboration, known as The Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K), will combine extensive DNA databases with cloud storage technology, in hopes of moving mountains in autism research, according to a press release.

Autism Speaks believes the AUT10K program holds the potential to radically transform ASD genomics research. “Working with Google is a game-changer,” said Rob Ring, who is the organization’s chief science officer.

This collaboration is part of a larger movement in the medical field to use big data to speed research efforts. IBM's supercomputer Watson, for instance, is helping oncologists find treatments for a rare aggressive brain cancer in partnership with the New York Genome Center.

Autism Speaks has already donated 12,000 DNA samples, which members describe as the “the largest private collection” with diagnostic and specific genetic information. The organization says the collaboration with Google will allow them to provide researchers access to what will eventually be huge amounts of data. This, in turn, should help researchers find connections between patients faster.

Zachary Warren, director of Vanderbilt University’s autism research institute,  says in order to understand the vast developmental and behavioral differences linked to ASD, more powerful platforms to analyze genetic data are needed.

“Only by understanding autism risk can we begin to develop treatments that target not just the symptoms but the root causes of autism spectrum disorder," his colleague and genetic autism researcher Dr. Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele said in agreement.

The number of children with autism has continued to go up over the past decades, as have the costs for caring for someone with ASD.

Earlier this year, the CDC reported that 1 in 68 children in the United States has autism.  A new study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, estimates the lifetime cost of supporting an individual with ASD can be up to $2.4 million.


June 10th, 2014
12:30 PM ET

1 in 4 Americans living with diabetes don't know

The number of Americans with diabetes continues to rise - there are now more than 29 million adults living with the disease, according to the latest data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. That’s 3 million more than the last time the CDC released diabetes statistics in 2011.

The CDC estimates that a quarter of these adults living with diabetes in the United States don’t even know they are sick, meaning they haven't been diagnosed.

An additional 86 million American adults have what’s called “pre-diabetes,” which means that their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet on the level of diabetes. And nearly all – 90% - of these Americans do not know they are headed down a dangerous road. The CDC estimates that 15 to 30% of people with pre-diabetes will develop diabetes within five years if they don't exercise and lose weight.

“These new numbers are alarming and underscore the need for an increased focus on reducing the burden of diabetes in our country,” Ann Albright, the CDC’s director of the division of diabetes translation, said in a press release. “It’s urgent that we take swift action to effectively treat and prevent this serious disease.”

People with diabetes are at increased risk for blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. The disease is usually linked to obesity, lack of physical activity and/or a family history of the disease.


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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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