Study Examines Sunlight, Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis Link

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CANBERRA, Australia) -- Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects about 250,000 adults in the United States.  Previous studies have shown that MS is less common in those who live closer to the equator and in those who have higher levels of vitamin D.

A study in the journal Neurology evaluated 216 adults aged 18-56 who showed early symptoms of MS but were not yet diagnosed, as well as 395 adults with no history of the disease.  They reported their previous sun exposure while researchers measured their sun-related skin damage and the vitamin D levels in their blood.

The results of the evaluation concluded that people who had more sun exposure were sixty percent less likely to develop the first symptoms of MS. However, vitamin D levels did not show a similar significance, researchers reported.

The authors conclude that sun exposure and vitamin D status may have a role in the risk of developing MS. 

Experts, however, note that those already suffering from MS have shown no benefit from sun exposure, and caution that the line between sunlight and skin cancer is well-established.  As such, individuals should continue to limit exposure to sun.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rising PSA Levels Also Not the Best Indicator of Prostate Cancer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- More than 200,000 men in the U.S. were diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, many of them through the use of a PSA test.

A PSA test measures the level of a certain protein in the blood produced by the prostate gland.  The higher the PSA, the more likely the presence of cancer.  Men whose PSA levels climb quickly are recommended to have a biopsy.

But a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute claims rising PSA levels aren't the the best indicator of prostate cancer.

The authors assessed how accurately PSA level changes predicted prostate cancer in more than 5,500 men.  They found almost no difference in the rate of prostate cancer among men who had a spike in PSA levels and those who did not.

The study suggests changes in PSA level are not good predictors of prostate cancer and may even lead to unnecessary biopsies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Says Stress Doesn't Reduce Female Fertility

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CARDIFF, United Kingdom) -- A new study published in the British Medical Journal brings good news for women having trouble conceiving children.

Analyzing data from more than a dozen previous studies, it casts doubt on the idea that stress undermines the effectiveness of fertility treatments.

Over 3,500 women undergoing fertility treatments were tested for pre-treatment anxiety or depression.  The authors found that women who were more anxious or depressed before treatment were just as likely to become pregnant as emotionally unstressed women.

The researchers concluded that "feelings of tension, worry or depression experiences as a result of their fertility problem or other co-occurring life events are unlikely to further reduce chances of pregnancy."

The study's findings, however, do not answer whether or not emotional distress lowers pregnancy rates in women who are not undergoing fertility treatments.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Report on Validity of PSA Screenings

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One of the most common cancers among American men is prostate cancer. Doctors often recommend a PSA screening, along with other tests, to detect the disease. However, a new study is challenging the value of these PSA screenings.

A PSA test measures the level of a certain protein in the blood produced by the prostate gland. The higher the PSA, the more likely the presence of cancer. Men whose PSA levels climb quickly are recommended to have a biopsy, but a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute claims rising PSA levels are not the best indicator of prostate cancer. 

The authors assessed how accurately PSA level changes predicted prostate cancer in more than 55-hundred men. They found almost no difference in the rate of prostate cancer among men who had a spike in PSA levels and those who did not. 

The study suggests changes in PSA level are not good predictors of prostate cancer and may even lead to unnecessary biopsies.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ladyporn Day! Women Speak Out About Porn

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- "I love porn, the more hardcore the better. Costumed, stylized, fake, major genital zoom-ins…"

"I want porn with some dang romance! I want to watch 'The Notebook' with just a lot more skin involved!"

"I have a love/hate relationship with porn. Sometimes it makes me nauseous and other times makes me feel inadequate about my own sex practices. I have to find specific stories…in order to enjoy."

These are just a few of the perspectives women are sharing on their relationship with porn, thanks to the first annual Ladyporn Day.

For decades, pornography has been thought of mostly as a man's game. But Rachel Rabbit White, sex journalist and blogger, has set out to change that with an online movement/forum/twitter debate on how women experience pornography. Technically falling on Feb. 22, but celebrated all week-long on White's blog, Rabbit Write, Ladyporn day was created to "open up a dialogue about women and porn," White, 26, says.

The "day" has included a Twitter discussion organized at #ladypornday, a series of "porn secrets" ( like those above), where women's anonymous thoughts about pornography have been overlaid on vintage soft core porn photos, and something White has deemed the Jilling Hall of Fame, where women share their favorite porn sites.

"It can be a really daunting place to think you have to start [looking for porn] on Google. To think we have to be ok with just that kind of porn is daunting. It's important to know that there is porn for women being made out there," White, who is pictured below, says.

But Ladyporn Day isn't necessarily about female-friendly porn appreciation. It's about discussing how women feel about porn. Whether they love it, whether they wished it were more geared towards their desires, whether they feel it's de facto degrading -- all views are welcome within the Ladyporn Day discussion, White says.

The Porn Secrets aspect of Ladyporn Day involves sharing an array of viewpoints on women and porn. One woman writes on how porn helped her realize that "men truly don't only want skinny girls. In porn there are girls of literally every body type, and the men seem to think they're all beautiful." Another woman feels the opposite, writing: "porn makes me feel inadequate, ugly, and unsexy."

"We're socialized as women not to own our own desires, to not like porn. There's also a lot of anti-porn feminists from the second wave of feminism in the 1970s who say that porn is wrong and porn is degrading. While I want to totally empower women who already like porn or want to find porn they like, I don't want to erase the voices of women who don't like it. That's an important push-back to have as well. Ideally, this day is for people who do and do not like porn…because it's about the discussion."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Doctors Remove Part of Cheerleader's Brain to Stop Seizures

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(DENVER) -- It was a stunt that Whitney Henry would never forget. During the summer before her junior year of high school, Henry and her cheerleading teammates were practicing a routine that involved tossing one girl, the flyer, into the air. The stunt quickly went awry when the flyer strayed in mid-flight, slamming her head into Henry's face, knocking out Henry's two front teeth.

While the dental debacle was damaging to her smile, Henry would only learn later how much of an impact this accident would have on her life, and that it would eventually lead surgeons to remove a chunk of her brain.

Henry suffered her first episode six months after the accident. She recalled that she could not speak for about two minutes and experienced intense déjà vu.

"I didn't know if I was just different or if I was having a seizure or what," said the now 20-year-old Henry.

It turned out that it was a seizure and after the first episode, the seizures became more intense and frequent. She experienced 30 to 50 per day. And as a junior in high school, Henry would often have seizures while in school.

The frustrations continued when Henry sought medical help for her mysterious condition. She went through six neurologists and 13 anticonvulsant medications without any improvement.

"It was maddening," said Henry. "I had no quality of life at all."

Between debilitating seizures, and the memory loss and paranoia that came along with the regular episodes, Henry's grades plummeted her junior year.

But after one and a half years of attacks, Dr. Michael Handler, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital in Denver, Colo., finally pinpointed the cheerleading accident as the cause of her condition and suggested surgery to treat it.

"This is not a step we take lightly," Handler told ABC News affiliate, ABC7 in Denver. "It's a step that's hard for some doctors to accept and some patients to accept."

The accident caused a traumatic brain injury that instead of a concussion, caused a contusion -- a big bruise on the brain -- that caused permanent damage. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy and seizures affect almost 3 million Americans, and about 300,000 of those affected have difficulty controlling seizures despite medical management.

"Medications are the first line of treatment," said Dr. Brian Greenwald, medical director of Brain Injury Rehabilitation at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "With one or two medications, most people [about 80 percent] can get control of their seizures."

"This injury occurs when [the temporal lobe] slides up against the bony projections that form the base of the skull cavity," said Dr. Gregory O'Shanick, medical director emeritus of the Brain Injury Association of America. "This follows either a direct blow to the head or an acceleration-deceleration of the head that then causes the brain to shift in the skull."

After surgery became an option on the table for Henry's condition, she did not hesitate for even a moment. "My reaction was, 'Can we do it tomorrow?'" said Henry. "I was relieved and anxious to get through surgery and have a new life."

Doctors conducted four week-long studies on Henry before she went into surgery, where doctors removed a golf ball size portion of Henry's temporal lobe.

Dr. Atif Haque, a neurosurgeon at the Fort Worth Brain and Spine Institute, said that most people get brain surgery because of the interference that strokes have on their lives.

Henry has now been seizure free for two years and four months. She is a senior at University of Northern Colorado, and plans on getting her master's degree and Ph.D. in psychology.

"I guess that part of my brain was holding me back," said Henry. "I'm excited to have a fresh start." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Concussion Leaves 14-Year-Old Amnesic, Left-Handed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SPANGLE, Wash.) -- After hitting her head during a high school basketball game, Mikayla Wilson lost her memory -- and became a leftie.

The 14-year-old from Spangle, Wash., was shoved to the ground after snatching a rebound during a high school basketball game.

"She didn't black out, she didn't grab her head in obvious injury," Wilson's dad, Michael, told ABC News affiliate KXLY 4. "She just got up and noticed her head hurt a little bit on the back. But basketball these days is a very physical game, and there's lots of contact."

After a fouled Wilson shot her free throws, she played two more quarters for the Liberty High Lancers. It wasn't until the team gathered after the game when Wilson asked her mom, Lorie, "Who are those girls dressed just like I am and why are they looking at me?" that anyone noticed anything wrong.

Wilson was taken to a hospital in nearby Colfax, where a CT scan ruled out skull fractures and bleeding inside the brain. The amnesia, doctors said, was a lingering symptom of a mild traumatic brain injury, better known as concussion.

"The brain has consistency of Jell-O and sits inside the skull, which is nature's helmet. When you hit your head, the brain can shift back and forth, causing injury at the site of impact and distant from it," said Dr. Alan Cohen, chief of pediatric neurosurgery and surgeon-in-chief at UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.

Concussions are a growing cause of worry in both childhood and professional sports. In December 2009, the National Football League cracked down on when players could return to a game after suffering a blow to the head.

"More and more, we're realizing that there are biochemical changes that go on in the brain during concussion, and that symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, like amnesia, can last for weeks or even months."

It has been nearly three weeks since the injury, and Wilson still can't remember the names of her friends and teammates. She has also switched from writing with her right hand to using her left -- a tweak that even her doctor had never seen.

"She had to sign something, and she grabbed the pen with her left hand," her father said, adding that she didn't notice until he pointed it out. "She said it felt more natural to use her left."

Wilson was ambidextrous as a young child, according to her dad. And although her new left-handed scrawl is imperfect, it's impressive. She has also used chopsticks with her left hand since the injury.

"It's unusual that someone should switch hands after a mild traumatic brain injury," Cohen said, adding that usually people switch hands after developing weakness in the dominant one. "Maybe there's something causing her to be weaker in her right hand. But the fact that she switched without realizing is interesting." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: PCBs May Affect In Vitro Fertilization

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- A new study suggests polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may affect in vitro fertilization (IVF), according to HealthDay.

Congress banned PCBs in 1979, although the toxic chemicals can still be found in the United States, particularly in seafood and dairy. Environmental Health Perspectives published a report by the University of Michigan School of Public Health in their Feb. 24 issue, which indicated that PCBs could be the cause of a significantly lower IVF birth rate.

765 women were involved in the study. Scientists analyzed blood samples for PCBs, and found that the 530 cases who lost their babies, either by implantation failure or miscarriage, tended to have higher a PCB content.

The analysts said the findings do not necessarily apply to all infertility problems.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Epidemiologists Insist Speed is Vital in Contamination Outbreaks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Epidemiologists say that officials need to be prepared to catch food-borne illnesses quickly, otherwise the results could be fatal and epidemic, HealthDay reports.

Dr. Casey Behravesh, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicated that the sooner authorities interview sick people, and determine what contaminated food they consumed, the sooner the source of the outbreak can be seized.

The difficulty of catching these potentially deadly outbreaks quickly is obtaining sufficient federal funding. The Food Safety Modernization Act was designed for U.S. Food and Drug Administration prevention of food-borne illnesses, but Congress still needs to rubber-stamp grants.

A salmonella outbreak in 2008 made 1,500 people ill and left two people dead.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cattle Vaccine Could Reduce E. Coli Outbreaks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) -- The battle against E. Coli contamination in the nation's food supply has a new weapon, but consumers are not likely to see its benefit anytime soon.

Epitopix, a Minnesota-based veterinary vaccine company, recently released a vaccine that promises to help prevent cattle from carrying E. coli O157 -- a bacteria strain that, although harmless to livestock, can be deadly to humans.

Yet critical barriers stand in the way of implementation -- the need for additional research and a high price tag.

Labeled as "E. Coli Bacterial Extract," the vaccine is now available under a conditional license from the USDA, but beef industry leaders want to perform their own independent studies before moving forward with wide-scale implementation -- a common practice for newly released vaccines.

"A lot of basic research needs to occur before a technology like this is developed," said Michelle Rossman, senior director of beef safety research at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

At least 63,000 Americans acquire the foodborne pathogen every year after consuming contaminated foods such as ground beef or raw vegetables, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, the CDC estimates 2,138 require hospitalization and 20 will die.

A separate CDC study found that a third of all known E. Coli outbreaks from 1998-2002 were traced back to beef products, and 35 percent were from an unknown origin.

Cargill Meat Solutions, one of the nation's largest beef producers, ran a large-scale test with the vaccine last summer on more than 85,000 animals. Initial results of the study showed promise, but the findings were ultimately thrown out.

As it turned out, that summer was an exceptional year for E. Coli. The cattle carried an unusually low amount of the bacteria, even those that did not receive the vaccine. In fact, so few cattle carried the bacteria that it invalidated the entire study.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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