TIME Cancer

Most Women Should Not Get Yearly Mammograms, Group Says

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A U.S. panel of experts reaffirms its recommendations

Six years ago, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) caused a stir when it changed long-held breast cancer screening recommendations and advised women to wait until age 50 rather than 40 to start getting mammograms. The task force also said women should do it every other year, and women under age 50 were told the choice to get mammograms at their age was an individual one.

In the intervening years, that’s become a less controversial opinion, partially because of growing evidence that too much screening can lead to anxiety-ridden false positive results, overdiagnosis and overtreatment. On Monday, the USPSTF released its updated recommendations which look very similar to the recommendations released in 2009.

The new draft guidelines suggest women ages 50 to 74 get a mammogram every two years and women ages 40 to 49 should make their own decision on whether to start screening in consultation with their doctors. The task force also concluded that there was not enough evidence to make a recommendation for or against mammograms for women ages 75 and older, 3D mammography or additional screening besides mammograms for women who have dense breasts. The guidelines will now undergo a public commenting period, and you can send in comments here.

“In 2009, to suggest that mammography has limitations and that it has harms and that we need to look at the balance was not the way most people were thinking about it,” says Dr. Michael L. LeFevre, past chair of the USPSTF. “Much has been written about mammography in the last five years. I think people understand that it is a good test, it’s not a perfect test, and that there may be some significant harms associated with it.”

The task force added a nuance in the new guidelines that highlights which women might want to consider mammography more strongly, saying women in their 40s who have had a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer are at a higher risk, and may benefit from mammography at a younger age than women who are at an average risk.

MORE: Diagnosed With Breast Cancer? Get a Second Opinion

In the last year, there’s been compelling evidence in support of the 3D mammogram as an accurate—and perhaps better—screening tool. One June study showed 3D mammograms can pick up more breast cancers and lead to fewer callbacks for more testing than 2D mammography. LeFevre says that while it’s a promising technology, he doesn’t think there is enough evidence to prove if it will result in improved health. “We are going to have to see more than just detection. There have to be more studies that look specifically at the outcomes in order for us to be certain,” he says.

Despite the fact that the mammogram recommendations happened over six years ago, many doctors still insist on yearly mammograms for their patients over age 40. The American Cancer Society also continues to recommend that women age 40 and up get yearly mammograms.

“There are plenty of women in the position with people just telling them you need to have a mammogram every year. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that is still going on,” says LeFevre. “On the other hand, I think women are being more proactive about their discussions of mammography and I think that’s reflective of the environment change we are in.”

The task force guidelines are intended for women age 40 and up who do not show signs of breast cancer, have never had breast cancer and do not have risk factors like a genetic mutation that put them at higher risk. High-risk patients should consult with their doctor for an individualized screening plan.

“Mammography helps. We can reduce women’s likelihood of dying of breast cancer by undergoing some regular screening at some interval during certain ages. That’s a common theme across almost all organizations that look at this,” says LeFevre. “We think we should be doing it in a way where we maximize the balance of benefits and harms. That’s our topline message and that’s what I hope women hear.”

TIME Cancer

New Trials Show Promise For Future Skin Cancer Treatment

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In some cases, the results were even better than the current frontline treatment for the cancer

Drugs that spur the immune system to target cancer cells may prove an effective skin cancer treatment, according to two clinical trials published Monday.

The drugs, called immune checkpoint inhibitors, had impressive results in treating advanced melanoma, according to the trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In some cases, the results were even better than the current frontline treatment for the cancer.

One trial showed the drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) had better outcomes compared to the commonly used treatment for skin cancer, Yervoy (ipilimumab). The other trial showed patients’ tumors responded better to a combination of the drugs Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy than just Yervoy on its own. However, around half of patients getting the combination therapy experienced moderate to serious side effects.

Such treatments could also prove expensive. According to the Wall Street Journal, the drugs used in the combination treatment study, for instance, come at a hefty price with a four-treatment course of Yervoy costing $120,000 and Opdivo costing $12,500 a month.

The study results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. The trial with the combination drugs was funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb and the other trial was funded by Merck.

[Health Day]

TIME movies

Watch The New Jurassic World Trailer

The movie hits theaters June 12

Jurassic Park fans rejoice, the new trailer for Jurassic World was released on Monday.

The latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise focuses on the Jurassic World theme park, which, amid drops in visitors, creates a genetically modified dinosaur designed to be bigger than the T-Rex. As you might expect, things don’t go exactly as planned.

The film stars Chris Pratt, and hits theaters in 3D on June 12.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

This Adam Sandler Movie Has Inspired a Method of Dementia Care

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One facility is using a technique from "50 First Dates"

One home for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is using a method inspired by an Adam Sandler movie to help jog residents’ memories at the start of each day.

In the 2004 film 50 First Dates, actor Adam Sandler’s character creates a video that actress Drew Barrymore (whose character loses her memory each day) plays each morning to remind her who she is and what happened to her. The Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York City has family members of its residents doing the same thing as Sandler’s character, the Associated Press reports, recording videos of themselves providing messages and anecdotes for the patients to watch every morning.

“[The film] was fluff, but it made me think,`How could that translate to our residents with memory loss?'” Charlotte Dell, director of social services at the home told the AP.

The Associated Press notes that people with Alzheimer’s present differently and that one technique may not work for everyone.

[AP]

 

TIME medicine

Most Americans Think Medical Marijuana Shouldn’t Be Used By Kids, Poll Says

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And 80% think adults shouldn't use medical marijuana in front of children

While most Americans think medical marijuana should be allowed for adults, a majority says the drug shouldn’t be used by or in the presence of children, a new poll shows.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that 63% of American adults think their state should allow the use of medical marijuana among adults. But only 36% think it should be allowed for children and teenagers under age 18. The poll also found that 80% think adults should not use medical marijuana in front of children. Ten percent know someone with a medical marijuana card or they have their own.

Close to half of the states currently allow the use of medical marijuana.

“Our findings suggest that not only is the public concerned about the use of medical marijuana among children, but that the majority of Americans worry that even exposure to it may be harmful to kids’ health,” Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and a professor at University of Michigan Medical School, said in a statement. “As is typical with anything involving health, the public’s standards are much higher when it comes to protecting children’s health.”

 

TIME Research

Here’s Why Our Knuckles Crack

Scientists say they've finally figured out what happens when we pop our fingers

Scientists have answered the puzzling question of why our knuckles make that “pop” sound when we crack them.

A team of University of Alberta researchers had a volunteer crack his knuckles inside an MRI scanner so the researchers could figure out what was going on. They published their findings on Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers have concluded that the crack comes from a gas-filled cavity or “bubble” that forms in the fluid between the joint.

“It’s a little bit like forming a vacuum,” said lead study author Greg Kawchuk, a professor in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine in a statement. “As the joint surfaces suddenly separate, there is no more fluid available to fill the increasing joint volume, so a cavity is created and that event is what’s associated with the sound.”

MORE: You Asked: Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad?

The study supports an original theory from the 1940s, the researchers say. But in the 1970s, other researchers believed that the sound came from a bubble collapsing in the joint instead.

But is cracking your knuckles bad for you? That little bubble appears to be benign; there’s no evidence to suggest that people who crack their knuckles are more likely to suffer from arthritis than those who don’t.

TIME Addiction

E-Cig Use Triples Among Middle and High Schoolers in One Year

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

More students use e-cigarettes than the conventional kind

E-cigarette use among middle school and high school students tripled in one year, reported the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. The new data shows that e-cigarette use has surpassed the use of all tobacco products, including regular cigarettes, among young people.

The data, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that e-cigarette use among high schoolers increased from 4.5% in 2013 to 13.4% in 2014. That’s a rise from about 660,000 students to 2 million, the CDC says. Use among middle schoolers rose from 1.1% to 3.9% in the same time period.

MORE: E-Cig Flavors May Be Dangerous, Study Says

The study looked at all forms of tobacco use and found that hookah use doubled for middle and high schoolers, and other smoking methods like cigarettes and cigars declined.

“We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar,” said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden in a statement. “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction and lead to sustained tobacco use.”

Tobacco sources like cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are regulated by the FDA, and the agency is currently in the process of finalizing rules that would give it jurisdiction over other products including e-cigarettes. In hopes of discouraging use among kids and teens, several states have passed laws that enlist a minimum age for purchasing e-cigarettes, and many states have extended traditional cigarette bans to include e-cigarettes.

TIME TIME 100

Meet the Women Scientists of TIME 100

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These five most influential women are pioneers in the field of science and medicine

It will surprise no one to learn that women are vastly underrepresented in the field of science. But in this year’s TIME 100, five outstanding women who are making huge strides in the fields of medicine, genetics, and infectious disease, made the list.

Read more about these five influential scientists.

Dr. Joanne Liu, International president of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
Liu and her team at MSF were the first to respond to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea. Liu has become a leader in the outbreak, and has fiercely and publicly criticized the international community for its slow response to the outbreak.

Emmanuelle Charpentier & Jennifer Doudna, Creators of gene-editing technology
Charpentier and Doudna developed a groundbreaking gene-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9, which allows scientists to add or remove genetic material as they please. The process has major implications for a variety of health problems from HIV to sickle cell anemia to cancer. In theory, CRISPR-Cas9 could be used to edit any human gene.

Dr. Pardis Sabeti, Geneticist who sequenced the Ebola genome from the most recent outbreak
Sabeti and her team are responsible for quickly sequencing the genome of the Ebola virus that has ravaged Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The task was important, since it determined that the disease was indeed spreading from person to person. Many of her collaborators and fellow researchers died during the outbreak. When she’s out of the lab, Sabeti sings in a rock band.

Elizabeth Holmes, Health technology entrepreneur
Holmes is the CEO of Theranos, a blood testing company that has challenged the traditional lab testing model. She studied chemistry before dropping out of Stanford University her sophomore year to start her company, and at age 31 she made Forbes’ Billionaires List as the youngest self-made woman billionaire.

TIME Addiction

E-Cig Flavors May Be Dangerous, Study Says

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Why you might want to reconsider that cotton candy e-cig

The chemicals used to flavor e-cigarettes may surpass safe levels, a new study says.

The study, which is published in the journal Tobacco Control, reveals that high exposure levels of these chemicals could spur respiratory irritation. The chemicals used to flavor e-cigarettes are the same flavors often added to foods, so the FDA has determined them to be generally recognized as safe in food. However, the authors of the new study say the high levels raise concern for safety and need for regulation and that these chemicals may be more dangerous when inhaled than when they are ingested in food.

“Chronic inhalation of these ingredients has not really been studied much at all,” says study author James F. Pankow, a professor of chemistry and civil & environmental engineering at Portland State University.

In the study, Pankow and his colleagues assessed the levels and types of flavor chemicals used in 30 different e-cigarette refill bottles, including a wide variety of flavors like tobacco, menthol, vanilla, cherry, coffee, chocolate, grape, apple, cotton candy and bubble gum. In 13 of the 30 products, the flavor chemicals made up more than 1% of the refill liquid volume, the researchers found, and the chemical levels were higher than 2% in seven of the liquids. Two of the liquids had levels of flavor chemicals higher than 3%.

The researchers found that some of the flavor chemicals used were benzaldehyde and vanillin, which are known to be respiratory irritants and have exposure limits for the workplace. However, when Pankow and his colleagues estimated consumption rates, they found that an e-cigarette liquid consumption rate of about 5 ml per day puts users at an exposure of twice the recommended occupational limits. “That’s probably not a good thing,” says Pankow.

The study authors point out several concerns about flavoring, including the fear that flavored e-cigarettes might attract young people and the fact that flavored e-cigarettes don’t usually list the levels of specific chemicals that are present in the liquids.

“The point is that when e-cigarettes manufacturers talk about these things as being food grade or food-like, they are sort of suggesting that use of flavors is equivalent to using them in foods,” says Pankow. “Never mind the fact that these things have not really been tested for safety, but in food FDA requires labeling ingredients. If they are going to say these are food-like, then why don’t they list the ingredients? It’s also not food-like product because you are inhaling it not ingesting.”

The researchers note that the small sample size doesn’t necessarily represent the entirety of the growing e-cigarette market. But they conclude that the results are likely what a broad survey would have revealed and that their findings suggest high levels of certain chemicals are likely present in many products.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

There’s a Record Number of Organic Farms and Processing Facilities in the U.S.

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The number of organic producers in the U.S. has risen more than 5% in a year

There are nearly 20,000 certified organic operations in the U.S., which is a new record, officials announced on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) counted 19,474 organic farms, ranches and processing facilities, up more than 5% from last year and 250% from 2002, when officials began tracking certified organic producers. Worldwide, there are more than 27,800 organic producers.

“As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “USDA tools and resources have created opportunities for organic farmers and more options for organic consumers. Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country’s rural economy will be.”

Recently, the USDA put forward $66.5 million in funding to support specialty crops and organic food production. The USDA is also creating an organic operations database that will streamline organic certification processes, and keep updated information about certificated facilities in the U.S. The USDA says the database will likely roll out in September.

Other recent data shows that U.S. consumers are continuing to buy organic produce even despite rising prices, which is good news for producers.

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