- 30% of Cancer Deaths Are Due to Smoking
- The Fascinating Reason Why Liars Keep On Lying
- Parents Should Sleep in Same Room as Newborns to Prevent SIDS, Doctors Say
- How One Season of Football Affects a Child’s Brain
Posted: 24 Oct 2016 08:50 AM PDT
About a third of cancer deaths in American men and a quarter in women are linked to cigarette smoking, finds a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death from cancer and other diseases, yet there are still 40 million smokers in the U.S. Researchers from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta calculated the percentage of cancer deaths among Americans 35 years and older due to cigarette smoking in 2014, state by state. They found that nearly 29% of cancer deaths were because of smoking.
For men, the percentage of smoking-related cancer deaths in the U.S. ranged geographically, from about 22% in Utah to nearly 40% in Arkansas. In every state except for Utah, it was at least 30%. For women, it was much lower: at least 20% in all states except Utah, California and Hawaii. Women in Utah were the least affected by smoking-related cancer deaths, at 11%, and Kentucky women were the most, at 29%.
Men are more likely to smoke than women but their chromosomes may also be to blame for their higher cancer death rate; recent research has shown that smoking reduces the number of Y chromosomes in blood cells, which help contain tumors. In some states, however, female smokers are catching up to men. Recently a higher proportion of women were found to be smokers than men in South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas.
Rates are highest in the South—where nearly 40% of cancer deaths in men are linked to smoking—because of the region’s lax laws around smoking policies and relatively weak tobacco control programs, the study authors say.
They also caution that these estimates are probably low. The authors only considered 12 types of cancers, while many more are known to be affected by smoking, and they did not include other types of exposure to tobacco, like second-hand smoke, hookah, cigars and e-cigarettes, in the analysis.
Posted: 24 Oct 2016 08:00 AM PDT
Once a liar, always a liar, the old saying goes. Turns out there’s some scientific truth to that: researchers have tracked down how the brain makes lying easier as the untruths build up, providing some biological evidence for why small lies often balloon into ever larger ones.
In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, Tali Sharot from the department of experimental psychology at University College London and her colleagues devised a clever study to test people’s dishonest tendencies while scanning their brains in an fMRI machine. The 80 people in the study were shown pennies in a glass jar and given different incentives to guide whether they lied or told the truth to a fellow partner about how much money was contained in the jar. In some conditions, both the participant and the partner benefited if the participant lied; in others, just the participant benefited from his fib, or just the partner benefited (with no cost to either). In another set of scenarios, either the participant or partner benefited, but at the expense of the other if the participant lied. In each case, Sharot documented the changes in the people’s brains as they made their decisions.
They found that when people were dishonest, activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala—the hub of emotional processing and arousal—changed. With each scenario, the more dishonestly the participant advised his partner, the less activated the amygdala was on the fMRI. That may be because lying triggers emotional arousal and activates the amygdala, but with each additional lie, the arousal and conflict of telling an untruth diminishes, making it easier to lie.
Sharot also found that the amygdala became less active mostly when people lied to benefit themselves. In other words, self-interest seems to fuel dishonesty.
“Part of the emotional arousal we see when people lie is because of the conflict between how people see themselves and their actions,” Sharot said during a briefing discussing the results. “So I lie for self-benefit, but at the same time it doesn’t fit the way I want to view myself, which is as an honest person. It’s possible that we learn from the arousal signal…with less emotional arousal, perhaps I’m less likely to see the act as incongruent with my own self perception.”
The researchers were even able to map out how each lie led to less amygdala activation and found that the decrease could predict how much the person’s dishonesty would escalate in the next trial. Biology seems to back up the warnings parents give to their kids: that one lie just leads to another.
Posted: 24 Oct 2016 05:54 AM PDT
Infants should sleep in the same room as their parents for at least the first six months of their life to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to new pediatrics guidelines.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAS) on Monday announced new sleep recommendations, drawing from and updating a 2011 policy, calling for parents to sleep with their newborns in the same room preferably until the child turns one — but not in the same bed. It also recommends placing sleeping babes on their backs and on a firm surface, without pillows, crib bumpers, or soft toys, with a tight-fitted sheet.
“Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous” Rachel Moon, the lead author of the new guidelines and professor of pediatrics at University of Virginia School of Medicine, said in a statement.
It also acknowledges that parents may fall asleep while nursing their infants, but urged that they plan for it. “If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair,” Lori Feldman-Winter, co-author of the guidelines and member of the Task Force on SIDS, said.
According to the CDC, around 3,500 infants die in the U.S. each year from cot deaths, accidental suffocation or through unknown causes.
Posted: 23 Oct 2016 09:00 PM PDT
Research is mounting that concussions have devastating impacts on professional football players in the NFL—and the symptoms don’t happen overnight. The bad effects from concussions can continue years after the trauma, and brain experts say that damage to delicate neurons can also accumulate over time, even with repeated head injuries that don’t reach the level of concussion.
That’s why Dr. Christopher Whitlow, chief of neuroradiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, and his colleagues investigated brain changes in young players. Whitlow wanted to better understand how non-concussive trauma to the head, the kind caused by normal football play, affects the brain. In a study published in the journal Radiology, his team reports that although these changes are subtle, they are visible in the brains of young players.
The study involved 25 boys between ages eight and 13 years who played a single season of football. The players agreed to wear special helmets that tracked impacts to the head and had MRIs done at the beginning and end of the season to note any differences resulting from their season of play.
Whitlow found that the more impacts a player had to the head, the more changes in a part of the brain called white matter, which is made up of insulated neurons that form the basis of communication between different parts of the brain. Such changes are concerning since the white matter of the brain is still developing and evolving during this age, and changes to its normal trajectory might have lasting effects on many aspects of brain function, from cognition to personality to behavior.
For now, it’s not clear what these changes may mean, or whether they have any impact on thinking or development. “There’s a lot we don’t know about the changes,” says Whitlow. “We don’t know if they persist. We don’t know if a couple weeks after the season ends, they go away.”
The differences are so subtle that if a brain expert were to look at the MRIs of the players after the season ended, they would not necessarily identify them as having experienced brain trauma. The changes are only evident when compared to the original brain scans.
Whitlow is following some of the players for a longer period of time to see if continued play for additional seasons increases the changes, and whether these changes start to impact their cognitive functions. He’d like to follow more players for five years to better understand the impact of these white matter alterations.
For now, he says, the results shouldn’t discourage children from being physically active, or even from playing football. But, he says, “we should do simple things now to protect children, like knowing the signs and symptoms of concussion and teaching them to children, so if they are injured on the field, they can get help from health professionals right away.”
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