Health News

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Cancer treatment response may be affected by gut bacteria

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 03/11/2017
"Gut bacteria 'boost' cancer therapy," BBC News reports. The news comes from research into whether people with cancer might respond differently to cancer treatment depending on the bacteria in their gut. Researchers specifically looked at a type of cancer treatment called immunotherapy. This involves stimulating the immune system to attack cancerous cells – in this case, by using specially engineered antibodies known as monoclonal antibodies.

Could a blood test in middle age predict dementia risk?

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 02/11/2017
"Tissue inflammation blood test points to dementia risk," is the headline in The Times. Researchers in the US say people who have higher measures of inflammation in middle age are likely to have less brain tissue in some parts of their brain in older age. The differences in brain volume, seen on MRI scans, were also accompanied by small differences in performance on memory tests.

Acid reflux drugs linked to increased stomach cancer risk

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 01/11/2017
"A drug commonly used to treat acid reflux is linked to a more than doubled risk of developing stomach cancer," reports The Guardian. Researchers wanted to investigate whether there's a link between medicines known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and stomach cancer. Widely used PPIs include esomeprazole, lansoprazole, omeprazole, pantoprazole and rabeprazole. PPIs are used to treat acid reflux and protect the stomach lining, have been linked to stomach cancer before.

Nutrient drink for Alzheimer's has disappointing result in trial

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 31/10/2017
A new study investigating the effects of a nutrient drink for Alzheimer's disease has led to very different headlines in the media. While BBC News tells us the "Alzheimer's nutrient drink falters in clinical trial", the Daily Mirror reports the drink "could help stave off Alzheimer's disease, according to scientists". The trial investigated the effects of Fortasyn Connect – a patented mix of vitamins and minerals, found in the drink Souvenaid – on memory in individuals showing early signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Marriage may help lower dementia risk

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 30/10/2017
"Marriage and having close friends may help protect against dementia, according to Loughborough University researchers," BBC News reports. The news comes from a study looking at the link between social relationships and the risk of developing dementia. The study included a large group of adults aged over 60 who didn't have dementia. They were asked about their marital status and the number of close relationships they had. Researchers then followed the participants for an average of 6 years to see how many developed dementia.

Afternoon open heart surgery 'leads to fewer complications'

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 27/10/2017
"Afternoon heart surgery has lower risk of complications, study suggests," says The Guardian. Researchers in France were interested in whether the time of day of the operation was carried out affected the rate of complications following a type of open heart surgery known as aortic valve replacement. This involves removing the aortic valve (which controls the flow of blood out of the heart) and replacing it with animal or synthetic tissue.

Report calls for better mental health support in the workplace

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 26/10/2017
"Up to 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems have to leave their jobs each year, a report says," writes BBC News. This was just one of the UK media outlets that published the findings of a report looking at the extent of mental ill health in the workplace, and the related economic and social costs. Most of the media led with headlines stating that 300,000 people with long-term mental health conditions leave work each year – twice the rate of those without mental health conditions.

Blood-thinning drugs may reduce dementia risk in people with irregular heartbeats

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 25/10/2017
"Common blood thinning drugs halve the risk of dementia for patients who have an irregular heartbeat," reports the Mail Online. Researchers in Sweden used the country's health registry data to assess whether people with a condition called atrial fibrillation were less likely to get dementia if they took drugs like warfarin. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heartbeat. This can make the blood more likely to clot, which can lead to a stroke.

New genetic variants associated with breast cancer identified

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 25/10/2017
"Do you have one of the 180 breast cancer genes? One in five women has a variant that raises her risk of the condition by a third" is the rather inaccurate headline in the Mail Online. The story covers 2 new studies looking for genetic variations known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These are small variations in our DNA, some of which are associated with an increased risk of developing a disease – in this case, breast cancer.

Eating mushrooms at breakfast may help you feel fuller

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 23/10/2017
"Starting the day with mushrooms could help you shed pounds from your waistline, new research has found," the Mail Online reports. US researchers wanted to see if regularly eating mushrooms for breakfast makes you feel fuller. Satiety or feeling full can be an important part of a successful weight loss plan, as regular snacking due to hunger pangs can make it harder to stick to a daily calorie allowance.

Men who perform oral sex on women 'more at risk of mouth and throat cancers'

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 20/10/2017
“Men who have performed oral sex on five or more women are at greater risk of developing head and neck cancer, especially if they smoke,” the Evening Standard reports. This story is based on a US study that looked at 9,425 people aged 20 to 59 who provided information about their number of oral sex partners and were tested for oral human papilloma virus (HPV).

Worrying rise in reports of self-harm among teenage girls in UK

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 20/10/2017
"Steep rise in self-harm among teenage girls,” BBC News reports. This follows a UK study that used reliable national databases to look at trends in reports of self-harm among young people aged 10 to 19 since 2001. It found annual rates of self-harm of 37 per 10,000 girls and 12.3 per 10,000 boys.

Thousands of studies could be flawed due to contaminated cells

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 19/10/2017
"More than 30,000 scientific studies could be wrong due to widespread cell contamination dating back 60 years," reports the Mail Online. The news is based on research that suggests incorrect identification of cells grown in the lab could have distorted information in tens of thousands of published research studies. These studies have in turn been mentioned by about another half a million research papers, as recently as 2017.

HIV prevention drug could save NHS £1 billion over 80 years

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 19/10/2017
"A drug to dramatically cut the risk of HIV infection during sex would save the UK around £1bn over the next 80 years," reports BBC News. A modelling study looking at the cost-effectiveness of providing pre-exposure prophylaxis, or Prep, for men at risk of HIV, found it would reduce infections – and hence treatment costs – in the long term.

'Magic mushrooms' may help 'reset' depressive brains, study claims

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 16/10/2017
"Magic mushrooms can 'reboot' brain to treat depression," reports the Daily Telegraph. The news is based on a small UK study that looked at the effects of psilocybin, a chemical found in magic mushrooms, on patients with severe depression. All 19 patients said their depression improved immediately after taking psilocybin and almost half said they still felt the benefits 5 weeks later. However, the study didn't include a comparison group, so it's hard to know whether this benefit can be attributed to the chemical.

Pregnant women 'should avoid sleeping on back in last trimester'

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 13/10/2017
"New warning to pregnant women: Do not sleep on your back in the last trimester as it could cause stillbirth, claim experts," the Mail Online reports. This rather overdramatic headline stems from a new study that investigated the effects of mothers' sleep positions on baby behaviour in 29 women in the final weeks of pregnancy.

Hormonal fertility tests 'waste of time and money'

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 12/10/2017
"'Fertility MOTs' are a waste of money," reports The Daily Telegraph after researchers in the US found hormones tested in "ovarian reserve" fertility test kits bear no relation to how likely women were to get pregnant – at least, in the early months of trying to conceive. These tests usually measure the levels of three hormones:

Childhood obesity soars worldwide

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 12/10/2017
"Shocking figures show there are now 124 million obese children worldwide," reports The Guardian. A pooling of records of height and weight in children from 200 countries found the numbers of children who are obese rose from less than 1% in 1975, to 5.6% of girls and 7.8% of boys in 2016.

Youngest children in school year 'more likely' to get ADHD diagnosis

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 10/10/2017
"Youngest children in class more likely to be labelled hyperactive," The Times reports. A Finnish study raises the possibility that some children may have been misdiagnosed with ADHD, when in fact their behaviour was age-appropriate. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Is schizophrenia risk 'around 80% genetic'?

Behind the Headlines (NHS, UK) - 09/10/2017
"Genetics account for almost 80 per cent of a person's risk of developing schizophrenia, according to new research," the Mail Online reports. That is the main finding of a study looking at how often schizophrenia affected both twins of a pair, looking at identical and non-identical twins. Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition that can cause delusions and hallucinations. There is no single "cause" of schizophrenia. It is thought to result from a complex combination of both genetic and environmental factors.