Your Friday 5: The week in health

March 24, 2017 Mike Francis

Health takes no holidays, even at spring break. So, too, with the Friday 5. We start this week with a provocative question that causes arguments among health experts: Why do people get cancer?

Cancer and the bad luck factor

You know that some behaviors, such as smoking, increase your risk of cancer. And you know that some forms of cancer, such as breast cancer, run in families. A third way cancer develops is through random errors in the way DNA is copied in your cells. Now a team of Johns Hopkins researchers say that such genetic mistakes account for as much as 95 percent of some types of cancer, including prostate, brain and bone cancers. “Many people will develop cancer no matter how perfect their behaviors are because of random copying errors,” the researchers write. “These people should not feel guilty about getting cancer—there is nothing they could have done to avoid it.” Getting the news of cancer can be overwhelming. To help patients navigate the journey, the Providence Oregon Cancer Center team put together a guide to help you live well through cancer and beyond. 

Kids are better off when their moms are older

A Danish study says children have fewer emotional, social and behavioral problems when they are reared by older moms. And one of the reasons, researchers say, is that older moms are more emotionally mature than younger moms. “Psychological maturity may explain why older mothers do not scold and physically discipline their children as much,” said Aarhus University professor Dion Sommer. “This style of parenting can thereby contribute to a positive psycho-social environment which affects the children’s upbringing.” At the time of the study, the average age at which Danish mothers gave birth was 30.9 years, while the number of children born to mothers aged 40 and older had quadrupled since 1985. In the U.S., the average age of mothers giving birth for the first time was 26.3 years in 2014.

Promising new treatment for severe depression

Researchers from Germany’s University of Freiburg say a treatment called deep brain stimulation – which delivers electrical stimulation to certain brain regions with pinpoint accuracy – appears to bring lasting relief to people suffering from depression so severe it was considered untreatable. “The remarkable thing is that the effect is also lasting,” said principal investigator Thomas Schläpfer. The study focused on eight people who hadn’t responded to treatment for severe depression for three to 11 years. Researchers said the improvement was immediate and continued for up to four years.

People who eat vegetables lower their stress

A study of more than 60,000 Australians ages 45 and older found that people who eat fruit and vegetables daily lower their risk of psychological stress, and the effect becomes more pronounced the more vegetables they eat. People who eat three to four servings of vegetables a day had a 12 percent lower risk of stress than people who ate none or just one serving, and people who ate five to seven daily servings lowered their risk of stress 14 percent. The effect was most pronounced for women. Women who ate five to seven servings of vegetables a day had a 23 percent lower risk of stress than women who none or one serving. “Fruit and vegetables,” researchers said, are “more protective for women than men.”

Mixing energy drinks and alcohol is a recipe for injuries

Here’s a spring break-themed finding that probably won’t shock you: People who drink energy drinks along with alcoholic drinks are more likely to suffer an injury than people who drink only alcoholic drinks. The lead author of a review of earlier studies, Audra Roemer of the University of Victoria succinctly explains why: “Usually when you’re drinking alcohol, you get tired and you go home. Energy drinks mask that, so people may underestimate how intoxicated they are, end up staying out later, consume more alcohol, and engage in risky behavior and more hazardous drinking practices.” Mixing highly caffeinated drinks with alcohol is a growing trend, according to the researchers. They cite Red Bull and vodka as a common example. The review was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

What’s on your mind?

Is there a health topic you’d like us to explore? Let us know by commenting below.

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