June 22, 2017

Health Roundup: Anesthesia, white teeth, sleeping pills, cancer clinical trials, oral sunscreens and BPA

Anesthesia: what we still don't know about the 'gift of oblivion'

Halting, almost apologetic, I explained to the receptionist that I had spent some years researching the process known as anesthesia, and that I was now rather nervous about what was going to happen to me. "I think I know too much," I said.

"Oh dear," they said. "That's not good."

Some Americans spend billions to get their teeth whiter.  Some wait in line to get them pulled.

Teeth generally are treated separately from the rest of the body, a tradition that dates to dentistry’s origins as a specialty of barbers, who performed oral surgery and pulled teeth. Today, many public health officials view that division as a mistake. Poor oral health can lead to heart disease and other serious medical problems, and tooth loss can lead to depression and difficulty eating and speaking.

Sleeping pills are as dangerous as smoking a packet of cigarettes a day, expert claims

Recent studies have seen them linked to cancer, falls and even heart attacks.  Over recent years, scientists have conducted various studies to assess the true side-effects and risks of taking sleeping pills.  They have found an increased risk of: heart attacks, broken bones, dementia and infections. 

Why cancer patients must look for their own clinical trials

"Oncologists can barely keep up. My sister found a trial I was a perfect candidate for, and my doctors didn’t even know it existed.”...She was referring to the rapidly changing landscape of clinical trials for immunotherapy drugs. These medicines are not working for all advanced cancer patients but they are proving effective for some like her – even if sometimes only briefly. Researchers are racing to figure out for whom they work and why.

‘This is not the end’: Using immunotherapy and a genetic glitch to give cancer patients hope

The oncologist was blunt: Stefanie Joho’s colon cancer was raging out of control and there was nothing more she could do....But her sister couldn’t accept that... Jess opened her laptop and began searching frantically for clinical trials, using medical words she’d heard but not fully understood. An hour later, she came into her sister’s room and showed her what she’d found. “I’m not letting you give up,” she told Stefanie. “This is not the end.”

That search led to a contact at Johns Hopkins University, and a few days later, Joho got a call from a cancer geneticist co-leading a study there. “Get down here as fast as you can!” Luis Diaz said. “We are having tremendous success with patients like you.”

What followed is an illuminating tale of how one woman’s intersection with experimental research helped open a new frontier in cancer treatment — with approval of a drug that, for the first time, capitalizes on a genetic feature in a tumor rather than on the disease’s location in the body.
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The breakthrough, made official last week by the Food and Drug Administration, immediately could benefit some patients with certain kinds of advanced cancer that aren’t responding to chemotherapy. Each should be tested for that genetic signature, scientists stress....In August 2014, Joho stumbled into Hopkins for her first infusion of the immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

The new pills that promise protection from UV rays

Heliocare and Sunsafe Rx offer 'sun protection' in the form of oral capsules. Heliocare claims to 'maintain skin's ability to protect against sun-related effects'. Sunsafe Rx, on the other hand, promises to 'defend against UVA and UVB rays'. Neither of these products have been approved by the FDA.

BPA, the'gender bending' chemical used in a wide range of plastics is finally named as a 'substance of very high concern' by European health officials

BPA is used to make plastics, including materials that come into contact with food, toys and cosmetics. It is most widely found in refillable drinks bottles and food storage containers, as well as the protective coatings and linings for food and drinks cans. Bisphenol A has been widely linked to cancer, birth defects and male infertility.

The new ruling on the chemical was made by the European Chemicals Agency based on 'its endocrine disrupting properties' that harm human health. Experts warn the chemical must now be phased out across the continent. However, the Food Standards Agency and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have said the chemical is not a safety concern.  The most recent statement from EFSA, in January 2015, said there is no risk posed to human health at current exposure levels. It said the highest estimates for exposure in the diet and from other sources are three to five times lower than the maximum recommended level.  In the US, the Food and Drug Administration's most recent ruling on the chemical was that it was 'safe at current levels'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at June 22, 2017 8:23 AM | Permalink