New Recommendations for Ovarian Cancer Prevention

Two womenAccording to new recommendations from the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, women with a strong family history of ovarian cancer or BRCA mutations should have prophylactic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy after completing childbearing, to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer .

A bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is a surgical procedure that removes both sets of fallopian tubes and ovaries. 

Read about Ovarian Cancer

Source: “Individualize Decisions about Prophylactic Oophorectomy“, MedPage Today, September 26, 2010

More Information about Prophylactic Oophorectomy from the Mayo Clinic

Excess Weight Linked to Poor Memory in Older Women

The brainIf you want to keep your mind as healthy as possible as you age, pay attention to your waistline.  Evidence is accumulating that excess weight is linked to mental decline in older years. 

A recent study found that postmenopausal women lost one point from their scores on a standard memory test for every point increase in their body mass index, indicating that obesity is linked to a decline in  memory and brain function with aging. 

A 2008 study found similar results. People with the greatest central fat accumulation had almost a three-fold higher rate of dementia 36 years later than those with the least amount.

More Information:

Source: Neurology, March 26, 2008

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, online  July 14, 2010 

Volunteer Activities May Help Mental Decline

Two men playing chessSenior citizens can preserve their memory and cognitive abilities longer if they keep their minds and bodies active, according to a number of experts and researchers. 

A recent study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that volunteer activities appears to delay or reverse declining brain function in older people. Although this study was small, it adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that mentally stimulating lifestyles may help maintain or improve cognitive function in aging people.

Another study has found that people who were free of Alzheimer’s disease in later life were more likely to have engaged in mentally stimulating leisure activities when they were younger. These activities included playing chess, reading books, playing a musical instrument, or learning a foreign language.

An active social schedule also appears to be key to healthy mental stimulation.   A 2008 study from Harvard found that elderly people in the U.S. who have an active social life have a slower rate of memory decline.

SOURCE: “Volunteering Keeps Older Minds Sharp”, MedPage Today, December 18, 2009

SOURCE:  Carlson M, et al “Evidence for neurocognitive plasticity in at-risk older adults: The Experience Corps Program” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2009: 64; 1275–82. 


Skip the Highly Processed, Refined Grains in Your Diet

Whole grain foodsWhite is bad, at least when it comes to weight control and a healthy diet.  White bread, white, flour, white rice, white sugar, and even white pasta are all highly refined, have less fiber, and are thought to contribute to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

The more you substitute whole grain carbohydrates for the white, highly processed foods, the easier it’ll be to control weight and avoid such diseases as Type 2 Diabetes.

A recent study from Harvard found that having more than five servings a week was associated with a 17% higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes, whereas having two servings of brown rice a week was associated with a decreased risk of developing diabetes.

In an article by MedPage Today, Carl J. Lavie, MD, who was not involved in the study, cautioned that the data is “not strong enough to suggest to patients to increase their consumption of brown rice. Rather, the data is stronger to suggest that instead of consuming high quantities of white rice, it would be preferable to replace this with either brown rice and even better to replace white rice with other whole grains that have even lower glycemic indices.”  Another obesity researcher added that “whole grains are likely more important than brown rice alone”.

More Information:

SOURCE: Sun Q, et al “White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. men and women” Arch Intern Med 2010; 170(11): 961-69.

SOURCE: “Brown Rice over White to Cut Diabetes Risk”, MedPage Today, June 14, 2010

Animal Protein Associated with Irritable Bowel Disease

Beef burgersA diet heavy in animal protein appears to increase women’s risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to researchers from Paris.

This study adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that diet might play a role in inflammatory bowel disease.  

Also there have been several studies linking vitamin D deficiency to IBD.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a general term for diseases that are marked by severe inflammation in the digestive system such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Meat could contribute to inflammatory bowel disease risk because digestion of animal protein produces many potentially toxic “end products,” such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, the lead researcher said in an interview with Reuters Health. Also, a high-protein diet could alter the mix of healthy bacteria that live in the colon.

More Information:

SOURCE: American Journal of Gastroenterology, online May 11, 2010
SOURCE: “Meat, fish protein linked to women’s bowel disease”, Reuter’s Health, June 7, 2010

Breast Cancer Vaccine on the Horizon

Women over 40Cleveland Clinic researchers report promising results with the development of a vaccine that may not only treat, but prevent breast cancer. Dr. Vincent Tuohy and his team have worked for the last eight years, testing a potential vaccine for breast cancer.

The single vaccination prevents breast cancer tumors from forming and also stops the growth of existing tumors, according to the researchers.  The drug makes the immune system attack a particular protein found in most breast cancer cells and in the mammary tissues of breastfeeding women.

To date the treatment has only been tested on mice, but these results have been ”overwhelmingly favorable”  according to Dr. Tuohy,  an immunologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, in an article by Fox News.  “If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental,” he said.

Clinical trials on women are planned to begin next year, but it may be as long as 10 years before the vaccine is available.

More Information:

SOURCE: “U.S.-Developed Vaccine ‘Could Eliminate’ Breast Cancer”,, June 1, 2010
SOURCE: “Breast cancer vaccine successful in mice” CNN Health, May 31, 2010 

Weight-Loss Drug Linked with Rare Cases of Liver Damage

Bathroom scalesThirteen cases of severe liver damage have occurred in association with taking the widely-used weight-loss drug Orlistat, according to the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Orlistat is sold by prescription under the trade name Xenical and available over-the-counter as Alli.

The FDA estimates that some 40 million people worldwide are taking the drug, so the incidence of liver damage is rare.  Nonetheless those who take the drug should be advised to stop the use of Orlistat and see their doctor if they develop itching, yellow eyes or skin, dark urine, light-colored stools, right-upper quadrant abdominal pain, fever, weakness, vomiting, fatigue, or loss of appetite. Orlistat therapy should be immediately discontinued if liver injury is suspected. 

Although a rare side effect, the bottom line is that all medications that you put in your body have potential for side effects.  This includes over-the-counter medications and herbal products.  Weight-loss drugs, in particular, have a bad track record so far.  Most people remember the disasterous Fen-Phen combination drug which swept the diet market in the early 1990s.  The popularity of Fen-Phen fell as fast as it rose when fenfluramine, which was the “Fen” in Fen-Phen, was linked to the life-threatening diseases, pulmonary hypertension and serious heart valve problems.  

Since 1980, obesity rates have risen three-fold and have reached epidemic proportions globally.   In the U.S., 66 percent of adults are either overweight or obese, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.   We need to solve this growing problem, but taking a pill has not proven to work very well.  The side effects are often difficult to tolerate or even dangerous at times, and once the pill is stopped, the weight piles back on, often more quickly than it was lost.  

There’s no easy solution for weight control–like so many things on this planet that are worthwhile, you have to work at it.  Permanent lifestyle changes which include eating right and exercising regularly remain the only true cure for obesity.     

More Information:


SOURCE: “Rare Cases of Liver Damage Tied to Weight-Loss Drug”, HealthDay News, May 26, 2010

Liquid Infant’s and Children’s Over-the-Counter Products Recalled

Liquid medicine for infants and children are included in the recallAmid a number of FDA concerns over quality control, McNeil Consumer Products has voluntarily recalled over 40 infant’s and children’s over-the-counter products.

Products included in the recall are Tylenol Infants’ Drops, Children’s Tylenol Suspensions, Children’s Tylenol Plus Suspensions, Motrin Infants’ Drops, Children’s Motrin Suspensions, Children’s Motrin Cold Suspensions, Children’s Zyrtec liquids in bottles, and Children’s Benadryl Allergy liquids in bottles.

The FDA has recently discovered that some of the “products included in the recall may contain a higher concentration of active ingredient than specified; others contain inactive ingredients that may not meet internal testing requirements; and others may contain tiny particles.”

The agency says that there have been no reports of adverse side effects and the potential for serious medical evens is remote.  

Experts urge parents to immediately discontinue use and throw out any of these products that they may currently have in their medicine cabinets.

In an article by MedPage today, “McNeil recalled several varieties of Children’s Tylenol last September because of possible contamination with a Gram-negative bacteria, Burkholderia cepacia, and earlier this year the manufacturer recalled a wide variety of products, including Children’s Tylenol, because of consumer complaints of an unusual, moldy, musty, or mildew-like odor.”

SOURCE: “FDA provides consumer advice following recall of products for infants and children”, FDA, May 1, 2010

SOURCE: “Children’s Cold, Pain, and Allergy Medicines Recalled”, MedPage Today, May 1, 2010 

Smoking Linked with Multiple Sclerosis

CigaretteSmoking appears to increase the chances of developing multiple sclerosis in people who already have one of the established risk factors for the disease,  according to a large recent study from Harvard School of Public Health.

The Epstein-Barr virus is known to increase the risk of MS, and in this study, smoking nearly doubled the chances of developing MS in those who also had high antibody levels against Epstein-Barr virus. 

MORE INFORMATION: Smoking Cessation

SOURCE: Simon KC, et al “Combined effects of smoking, anti-EBNA antibodies, and HLA-DRB1*1501 on multiple sclerosis risk” Neurology 2010; 74: 1-1. 

SOURCE: “MS Risk Linked to Smoking and Viral Antibodies”, MedPage Today, April 7, 2010 

Fibromyalgia Associated with Inactivity and Poor Weight Control

Bathroom scalesWomen who are overweight appear to be at higher risk of developing fibromyalgia than those who have a healthy body weight, say Norwegian researchers.  And those who are also sedentary have an even greater risk, according to their recent study published in the May issue of Arthritis Care & Research.


SOURCE: “Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay”, HealthDay News, April 30, 2010