Tuesday, April 13, 2010

News Briefs: April 13, 2010

Dealing with Smoking at Home
Paulina Zheng

As evidence continues to demonstrate that any level of exposure to cigarette smoke may result in future health problems in children, public health advocates are confronted with the challenge of limiting such exposure. Public spaces have become largely smoke-free as of late and experts must now focus on the home. Since children spend most of their time at home and remain considerably more susceptible to both the influence and effects of smoking, experts are justified in their change of attention. However, difficulties remain in regulating the effects of so-called, “passive smoking” in such environments. Even after active smoking has stopped, children remain exposed to the heavy metals and carcinogens that may remain on furniture, carpets, and clothing. The tobacco advisory group of the Royal College of Physicians in England’s report suggests that children can be indirectly protected by encouraging adults to not smoke through various strategies. Direct attempts to protect children – by banning smoking in homes with children, for example – remain woefully impractical. Such measures would be difficult to implement and enforce, regardless of public support. As such, it is suggested that further discussion is required in order to decide the best possible way to protect society’s most vulnerable members.

Reference: BMJ 2010;340:c1680
Image: Available here.

How Much Exercise is Necessary to Lose Weight?
Kristin Bradley

In a recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Harvard researchers investigated the long-standing question of how much exercise is needed for middle aged women to prevent age-related weight gain. Over 34,000 women were followed for fifteen years, and the results show that both the starting weight of the individual and the level and amount of physical activity they engaged in per day affected weight gain. Women within the normal weight bracket who got an average of hour of moderate exercise or a half hour of vigorous exercise per day were able to avoid weight gain, whereas women who weighed more to begin with or received less than the equivalent of an hour of moderate exercise per day tended to gain more weight.

Reference: Rabin, Roni Caryn. (2010, March 31). How Much Exercise Prevents Weight Gain? The New York Times. Retrieved April 13, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/06/health/06regi.html.

Understanding the Correlation between Socioeconomic Status and Health Outcomes
Alex Sakers
Many studies reveal a correlation between socioeconomic status and potential health outcomes and potential health risk behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, certain dietary patterns, etc...); with those of a lower socioeconomic status more likely to have poorer outcomes and engage in more risk behaviors. A recent study by Stringhini et al attempted to determine whether the socioeconomic differences in health outcomes can be attributed to socioeconomic differences in health risk behaviors. Although the study found a strong correlation between health outcomes and health risk behaviors, it found that socioeconomic differences in health outcomes cannot be explained solely with socioeconomic differences in health risk behaviors. Thus simply trying to reduce the amount of health risk behaviors in which people of low socioeconomic status engage will not necessarily result in better health outcomes. There are social and economic determinants of health that together with health risk behaviors determine health outcomes. Thus the study found that it is important not to view socioeconomic differences in health outcomes as a function of socioeconomic differences in health risk behaviors. There are more pieces to the puzzle that anyone wishing to change this trend must sort out.

Reference: JAMA. 2010;303(12):1199-1200

Diabetics at Greater Risk, Post Cancer Surgery
Sangita Keshavan

According to a recent study, the mortality risk of cancer surgery increases significantly if a person has pre-existing diabetes. Hsin-Chieh “Jessica” Yeh, PhD, conducted a study at John Hopkins that suggested that the likeliness of death is significantly higher (51-85%) if there is a preexisting condition of diabetes and that nonsurgical options may be preferable cancer treatment options for diabetics. Patients who have diabetes are more at-risk for infection. Furthermore, after surgery, a diabetic is more likely to have a heart attack.
Yeh stressed that it is important for diabetics to continue to manage and to pay attention to that condition, despite the cancer diagnosis. She said that some patients neglect to control their diabetes after cancer detection because cancer seems much more threatening. Ultimately, cancer diagnosis can come with more and different risks if a person is diabetic, and thus the patient should be aware of other treatments where their risk may be lowered.

Reference: Phend, Crystal. (2010, March 29). Diabetes May Elevate Risk of Cancer. MedPage Today. Retrieved April 13, 2010 from http://www.medpagetoday.com/Endocrinology/Diabetes/19264.

Eriene-Heidi Sidhom is the 2009-2010 News and Analysis Editor.
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