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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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Is diabetes shrinking my brain?
April 29th, 2014
08:51 AM ET

Is diabetes shrinking my brain?

It's not a secret that some diabetics also have memory issues, but a new study suggests it's not just due to clogging of blood vessels - your brain may actually be shrinking.

When the brain shrinks, it's often because valuable brain cells that help us think and remember are dying. A loss of brain cells is a hallmark for Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.

In this new study, published in the journal Radiology, researchers looked at brain scans from a little more than 600 people age 55 and older with type 2 diabetes.  They found that patients who lived with diabetes the longest had smaller brain volumes. FULL POST


Marriage is good for your heart and other new research
March 31st, 2014
02:13 PM ET

Marriage is good for your heart and other new research

More than 13,000 cardiovascular experts met in Washington over the past few days for the Annual American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions, where more than 2,000 studies are being presented so doctors and researchers can learn about the latest research in diagnosing, treating and preventing heart disease.  Here's a small sample of the studies presented:

Married people have healthier hearts

You might have heard it before; being married may be good for your health.

In a new study, researchers screened 3.5 million adults for cardiovascular problems and found that those who were married had less heart disease and healthier blood vessels throughout the body than people who were single, divorced or widowed.

Dr. Jeffrey Kuvin, spokesperson for the American College of Cardiology, says the findings may be linked in part to the effects of stress and the strength of a marriage. In a healthy marriage, there may be less conflict and less stress. FULL POST


Stroke:  Knowing the warning signs in women
February 6th, 2014
04:03 PM ET

Stroke: Knowing the warning signs in women

It wasn't supposed to happen to her. Just 32 and pregnant, Holly Carson woke with a crushing headache.

"It was ... like if somebody had a baseball bat taken to (my) head," says Carson.  Having some medical training, she immediately suspected she was having a stroke.

At 26, med student Lauren Barnes' migraine took a turn for the worse. Then, "I had a rush of pins and needles sensation and tingling throughout the entire right side of my body," she says.

Stroke isn't just for the elderly, as Carson and Barnes can attest.  Scientists have known for some time that women have some risk factors for stroke that are unique to them and others that are more commonly seen in women than men.

To make women more aware, the American Heart Association released the first guidelines for the prevention of stroke in women on Thursday.  FULL POST


The last word on hormone therapy?
Hot flashes? Trouble sleeping? Hormone replacement therapy may be the best short-term option.
October 1st, 2013
06:01 PM ET

The last word on hormone therapy?

When Janice hit menopause, she had terrible night sweats and hot flashes, but she was scared to undergo hormone replacement therapy.

Janice (who asked that her full name not be used for privacy reasons) had heard this treatment might be dangerous to her heart, and worried about risking her health.

It's a concern many American women have shared over the past decade since the benefits of hormone replacement therapy have been called into question. A large study called the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) was instrumental in casting doubt on these hormones.

Tuesday, scientists from the WHI released what they say is the definitive study on the safety of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  The bottom line: It's OK for most healthy women who have just entered menopause to take hormones for a short period of time, but the researchers do not recommend it for long-term use. The results are published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Fatty fish may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis
August 12th, 2013
06:35 PM ET

Fatty fish may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis

Numerous medical studies have shown that fatty fish is healthy for the heart. Now researchers say it may also help prevent a debilitating type of arthritis.

Just one serving a week of a fatty fish such as salmon, or four servings a week of a leaner fish such as cod, may cut your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by half, according to a study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The study

Researchers reviewed the diets of 32,000 Swedish women who filled out two food questionnaires, one in the late 1980s and another a decade later.
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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

Study finds baby's spit-cleaned pacifier is OK
May 6th, 2013
01:15 PM ET

Study finds baby's spit-cleaned pacifier is OK

As a parent, there are undoubtedly a few things you do now that before you had children you thought were gross: Changing diapers, wiping up vomit and using your own spit to clean off a child's pacifier, just to name a few.

Though it's hard to admit, most parents have done the latter. You're out at the mall when your kid drops his pacifier and there's not a place to clean it nearby. So you pick it up, suck on it a bit and hand it back to your baby.

What's the harm?

Turns out cleaning a recently dropped pacifier with your saliva - meaning you put it in your mouth before inserting it back into your baby's - may actually help strengthen your child's immune system and keep him from developing certain allergies, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. When parents cleaned pacifiers in this way their children were significantly less likely to develop eczema, a skin condition considered to be the most common early form of allergies.
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ADHD reaches beyond childhood
March 4th, 2013
01:47 PM ET

ADHD reaches beyond childhood

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is often considered something children outgrow. But researchers say the disorder can carry over into adulthood.

A new study published in this week's Pediatrics journal finds that about a third of those diagnosed as children continue to have ADHD as adults, and more than half of those adults have another psychiatric disorder as well.

Suicide rates were nearly five times higher in adults who had childhood ADHD compared to those who did not, according to the study. Researchers aren't exactly sure why; they speculate that problems associated with childhood ADHD, such as lower academic achievement and social isolation, make people more prone to life issues as adults.
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February 18th, 2013
03:56 PM ET

TV may improve behavior in kids

For years, pediatricians have recommended that young children watch no TV, or as little as possible, because it can lead to problems in school and behavior issues.  Now a new study concedes children are sitting in front of the TV a lot longer.  However, controlling what they watch can improve how they behave.

When preschoolers watch educational programs instead of violent TV shows, they tend to be more compassionate and less aggressive, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The study

About 600 families were recruited and assigned to one of two groups. Parents in the first group were encouraged to substitute violent shows with educational and pro-social ones - shows that stressed compassion and cooperation.

Families were given monthly TV guides listing educational programming for their area: shows such as "Dora the Explorer," "Super WHY," "Sesame Street" and "It's a Big, Big World." Parents were also encouraged to watch TV with their kids.

The children went from watching a half-hour of violent programming a day to 23 minutes. Parents then increased educational viewing from about 30 to 43 minutes a day.

Families in the second group did not change their viewing habits.

"This is the first study to try to modify the viewing habits of preschool kids," says Dr. Vic Strasburger, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "That's one of the significances of this study."

The results

After a year, researchers found that children watching less violent and more child-appropriate shows scored better on tests that measured cooperation, a willingness to share or compromise. They also had fewer incidents of aggressive behavior such as yelling and hitting.

"Although television is frequently implicated as a cause of many problems in children, our research indicates that it may also be part of the solution," the study notes.

The scientists saw the greatest improvements in boys raised in disadvantaged homes where children tends to watch more TV.

Experts know that children mimic what they see, whether it's in real life or what's on the screen. And this is of particular concern when children watch TV or movies riddled with violence.

"Children learn their attitudes about violence at a very young age, before age 8 and once they learn those attitudes it's very difficult to unlearn them," says Strasburger.

"It doesn't mean that children who watch violence are going to become murderers, but it does mean that they are desensitized to violence in the real world and they are more likely to be aggressive themselves," says study author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute.

Better shows, better kids

But on the flip side, when children watch shows with positive social messages, it helps them get along better with others and gives them the tools to become better communicators, the study suggests.

"They will imitate the good things too," says Christakis. "We should take more advantage of the fact that you can demonstrate good behaviors on-screen and that children will emulate them in real life."

Right now, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschoolers and older children get only one to two  hours of TV or screen time a day.  But in reality, they're really watching much more.  According to this study, preschoolers see an average of about four and a half hours daily at home and in daycare settings.  Parents struggle with guilt, researchers say, because they allow so much TV time.

"Parents need to get this message that it's not just about how much TV your children watch, it's about what they watch," says Christakis. "It's not just about turning off the set; it's about changing the channel."


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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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