Study Links Smartphone Apps for Gay and Bisexual Men to STI Risk

Smartphone app man
Tim Robberts—Getty Images

Apps like Grindr and SCRUFF can lead to riskier behavior, researchers say

Gay and bisexual men who use location-based smartphone apps like Grindr to meet sexual partners are at an increased risk for some sexually transmitted infections, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, says that men who used the apps were more likely to be diagnosed with gonorrhea and chlamydia than men who met partners in person or on browser-based dating sites. Men who used apps to meet other men were about 25% more likely to be diagnosed with gonorrhea compared to men who first met their partners in person. App users were also 37% more likely to test positive for chlamydia.

The study showed no difference in the rate of HIV or syphilis among men who met partners through apps, online, or in person. However, the study’s lead author, Matthew Beymer, told Reuters there may not have been enough cases of HIV or syphilis diagnosed during the study to establish a correlation.

The study’s researchers interviewed 7,184 self-identifying gay and bi-curious men who were tested for sexually transmitted infections at the Los Angeles LGBT Center between 2011 and 2013. The men provided information about drug use and using social networking to find potential sexual partners. About 34% said they only met sexual partners in person, at places such as bars and clubs. Another 22% said they only connected with men on browser-based dating sites, while 17% said they met men only through apps. The rest used a combination of methods.

Apps such as Grindr and SCRUFF have become increasingly popular among LGBT communities since they were first introduced several years ago. The apps allow users to find potential sexual partners currently nearby who are using the same programs.

Beymer told Reuters that the researchers would like to see the apps used as education tools to teach users about safe sex practices.

“Technological advances which improve the efficiency of meeting anonymous sexual partners may have the unintended effect of creating networks of individuals where users may be more likely to have sexually transmissible infections than other, relatively less efficient social networking methods,” the study’s researchers wrote.

Some apps already make efforts to remind users about sexual health — Grindr has a website (www.grindr.com/health) with information about STI testing options and says that it partners with HIV-prevention organizations to raise awareness about safe sex. SCRUFF has included a link to public health resources since 2011.

TIME Breast Cancer

Treating Cancer With A Malaria Drug

A drug that treats malaria may make breast cancer tumors more responsive to treatment

An inexpensive malaria could be the answer for some women who are not responding to their cancer treatment, according to a promising but preliminary animal study.

In a recent study published in Clinical Cancer Research, researchers discovered the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) can actually reverse drug resistance to the common breast cancer drug, tamoxifen. The researchers inserted cancerous tumors into mice with serious postmenopausal estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer. ER+ breast cancers are some of the most common, and are often treated with tamoxifen. However, about 50% of women who are treated with tamoxifen won’t respond to the drug or become resistant to it.

HCQ is a drug that was originally developed to treat malaria, but it’s also used to treat diseases like lupus and arthritis. The researchers added HCQ to the mice’s treatment with tamoxifen and discovered that the malaria did in fact increase tumor responsiveness to the breast cancer drug.

How does it work? The reason some woman become resistant to tamoxifen is that a “pro-survival” cell pathway in the breast cancer cells becomes switched. HCQ turns off the modified cell pathway, which helps prevent resistance to tamoxifen.

It’s still early to draw any conclusions on how HCQ could be used clinically for cancer, and so far, research has been reserved in mice. Still, the researchers think it’s encouraging that there may be a solution for women not responding to cancer drugs.

TIME human behavior

4 in 10 Teens Admit Texting While Driving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found kids are still engaging in a range of risky behaviors, despite a reported drop in cigarette use.

Today’s teens are distracted behind the wheel, according to a new survey. Though they aren’t smoking cigarettes in high rates, or regularly driving drunk, about 41% of America’s driving teens reported that they had texted or emailed while driving.

This is in spite of the often horrifying commercials and campaigns aimed at keeping teen drivers’ eyes on the road while behind the wheel. The findings, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, are especially daunting given the fact that the bulk of teen deaths are the result of motor vehicle crashes.

But texting and driving isn’t the only risky business teens are engaging in. Though teens aren’t watching as much TV as they were in 1999, more are using the computer for longer periods of time. About 41.3% said they’re using computers for more than 3 hours a day, up from 31.1% in 2011. About 14.8% of students said they had been bullied online, compared to 19.8% who had been bullied at school.

And sitting in front of screen does little to help the nearly 21% of adolescents considered obese.

Another risk that should have parents worried: sexually active teens are using condoms a bit less than they have in the past. About 47% of students said they had ever had sex, but of the 34% of teens that are sexually active, only about 59% are using condoms, down from 63% in 2003.

The annual survey of a nationally representative sample of ninth through 12th graders in the U.S. examines the unhealthy behaviors teens have engaged in over the past 12 months to gage what leads to the unintentional injury, obesity, and unplanned pregnancy within the group. About 13,500 surveys, which were administered at public and private high schools, were examined to determine results.

TIME health

World Cup Refs Run 6 Miles Per Game

Assistant referee Toshiyuki Nagi, referee Yuichi Nishimura and assistant referee Toru Sagara of Japan walk on the field at the end of the match during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo.
Assistant referee Toshiyuki Nagi, referee Yuichi Nishimura and assistant referee Toru Sagara of Japan walk on the field at the end of the match during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo. Elsa—Getty Images

Referees rack up the mileage when officiating a soccer match

Updated: June 13, 7:17 a.m. ET

With the FIFA World Cup 2014 now in play, pretty much all the attention is on the greats and the underdogs and the scandals. But what about the refs? In addition to making tough, often unpopular calls, they are undercover athletes, running as much as 6 miles per game to keep up with the ball, Runner’s World reports.

For the 90 minute games, a referee must stay at least 20 yards from the ball at all times, and with the best soccer players in the world on the field, that adds up to a lot of ball chasing. “The closer we are to the ball, the more credibility we have in our decisions,” Greiger, 39, told the running enthusiast website. He is the first American referee to officiate a World Cup game since 2002.

That means refs need to train—hard. The Professional Referee Organization (PRO), which Geiger is part of, has high standard for its refs, pairing them with trainers who lead them in high intensity interval workouts and analyze their “strength levels, explosive levels, [and] aerobic levels,” according to Runner’s World. And before referees even reach the World Cup pitch, they must complete FIFA’s required fitness test.

Maybe during this year’s World Cup, viewers will think about walking a mile in the referees shoes—or six.


Interactive Maps: See Where 4 STDs Are Most Rampant

Scroll over each state to see the rates of STDs per 100k people

Earlier this year, the CDC released a report on STDs in the U.S. that showed slight increases in nearly all strains.

The yearly report provides only a snapshot of the numbers, since many cases of STDs covered in the report like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis go unreported. Among all three STDs, only congenital syphilis (syphilis present at birth), have gone down. Research engine FindTheBest took the CDC numbers and created these interactive maps for TIME out of the data.

Scroll over your own state and check out the STD rate.






Inside the Changing American Diet

An interactive look at what Americans eat--and how much of it--from 1970 to today.

As Bryan Walsh notes in this week’s magazine, the decades-long vilification of fat has driven people to eat more sugar and carbohydrates, which new research suggests may be the chief drivers of rising obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Here’s a look at how what fills the American plate has evolved over the last 40 years.

Slide the year below to see how consumption patterns have changed. Select each food group to see the changing make up of each over the years.

The data shows that Americans have greatly increased their consumption of poultry in lieu of red meat. In 2004, chicken overtook beef as the most consumed meat in the country. Similarly, dairy products declined markedly in popularity as vegetable and grain consumption increased.

Data for food consumption is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database. Figures represent the “loss-adjusted availability” of a given type of food per capita, a measure of how much of that food is available per person. Data for change in rice consumption is unavailable for 2011, 2012, so 2010 figures are used.

TIME E-Cigarettes

Teen Smoking Is Way Down. But What About E-cigs?

Cigarette smoking among high school students has dropped to lowest level in two decades

Rates of cigarette smoking among high school students has dropped to lowest level in 22 years, the CDC reports.

In 2013, the smoking rate among high school students hit 15.7%, which means the U.S. government has already reached its goal of lowing the teen smoking rate to 16% of less by 2020. That’s according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which began in 1991. Another important data set on teen smoking and drug use—Monitoring the Future (MTF)—reports the rate is at 16.3%. Regardless, both surveys show fewer kids are smoking.

That’s good news, and it’s likely thanks to a combination of several factors, the most important being the rising costs of cigarettes. Others include the growing stigmatization of smoking, with half of states prohibiting smoking in places like bars and restaurants. The adult smoking rate is dropping too, which means teens have fewer smoking role models.

If teens are passing around fewer packs of cigarettes, does that mean they’re not smoking other things? Past data has shown a 123% increase in the consumption of other smokable tobacco products like cigars and pipes, though the recent numbers from the larger data sets show no change in smokeless tobacco use since 1999, and a drop in cigar use.


One question you’re likely going to see is whether teens are switching to e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes is a subject the public health community is uncharacteristically split on. On one side of the spectrum, you have critics arguing that it’s possible e-cigarettes serve as a gateway to regular cigarettes. One vocal critic being the head of the CDC himself. “The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in a statement about teen tobacco use going down. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”

Emerging data points to certain trends, but e-cigs are still so new. Earlier this fall, a CDC report showed that e-cig use among teens, while still low, had doubled in a year, from 3.3% in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012.

Dr. Kenneth Warner, a professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, looked back through the data and found that among kids who have never smoked a conventional cigarette, only 0.7% have ever tried an e-cigarette within the last 30 days. What this shows is that the same kids who are smoking regular cigarettes are smoking e-cigs.

“Everyone thinks they are right and the logical thing is that nobody knows,” says Warner. “This is a huge-stakes issue, because the proliferation of e-cigs has the potential to either reduce the cigarette problem or increase it over time among kids.”

The reality is we have a long way to go. It took 40 years to get the adult smoking rate down to around 20%, and it won’t be easy to cut it in half again. Warner and his colleague David Mendez have created a smoking-prevalence model that’s been used since the 1990s. Their predictions show that at the rate we are going, we might not be able to hit a 10% adult smoking rate until the middle of the century. But that’s if we don’t try anything radically different.

“I believe we will do better because I don’t think we’ll stick with just status quo tobacco control,” says Warner. “In my judgment, the future lies in how effectively FDA can regulate cigarettes and other [nicotine] products.”

The FDA announced it is expanding its regulatory powers to cover more tobacco products including e-cigs, but anti-smoking advocates are arguing it’s still not enough.

“The data on kids is great, but we have a long way to go before we can pack up and go home and say we solved the problem,” says Warner.

You can read more on the latest CDC numbers here.




TIME Research

Paralyzed Man in Robotic Body Suit Will Kick Off World Cup

The exoskeleton is controlled by brainwaves, and has the potential to replace wheelchairs for victims of paralysis

A paraplegic man in a state of the art brain-controlled body suit will make the first kick of the World Cup on Thursday in front of 1 billion people.

Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian neuroscientist at Duke University, led a team of 156 researchers to create an exoskeleton that could enable people who are paralyzed to walk, and the technology will be displayed in action during the World Cup’s opening ceremonies ahead of the first match, Brazil vs. Croatia, in Sao Paulo. The man taking the kick has asked not to be named.

The suit, controlled by a non-invasive cap that reads brainwaves, can also send signals from the “feet” to artificial skin on the user’s arm to convey a sense of moment. The technology has the potential to replace wheelchairs for victims of paralysis.

“Doing a demonstration in a stadium is something very much outside our routine in robotics,” Nicolelis told AFP, an epic understatement given the potential of the robot and given the expected television audience for the match of 1 billion people.

Here’s a video about the technology from the National Science Foundation:

TIME Research

Exercise Helps Your Gut Bacteria: Amazing, Overblown, or Plain Incorrect?

Debate over a new study looking at the difference in gut bacteria among athletes serves as a reminder of the delicacy of new fields of science

A new study out this week has experts in the field raising their eyebrows. After sampling the gut bacteria of 40 rugby players, researchers from the University College Cork in Ireland reported that exercise may improve the diversity of microbes that make up the microbiome. The microbiome is a relatively new area of scientific inquiry, and researchers think the bacteria that live in and on us may play a much larger role in our overall health that we currently have proof for. But even within the field, there’s concern that we might be getting a little ahead of ourselves.

In the latest research, scientists concluded this:

The results provide evidence for a beneficial impact of exercise on gut microbiota diversity but also indicate that the relationship is complex and is related to accompanying dietary extremes.

And in a section of their research explaining the significance of their findings, the authors write: “This is the first report that exercise increases gut microbial diversity in humans.”

The authors couch their finding by noting that diet is part of the relationship, but it’s the first part of their conclusion—that working out improves your gut bugs—that has skeptics taking to Twitter to express concern about the findings. At issue is the fact that diet likely plays a very large part in the findings, and it’s not news to scientists that what people eat affects their microbiome. When it comes to exercise, meanwhile, the connection was correlational—meaning the researchers found that rugby players both worked out a lot and happened to have diverse gut bugs when compared to a control group—but it did not in any way prove that one caused the other.

The backlash among science writers and researchers brings up an interesting debate about how we present many scientific findings, particularly in nascent fields like this one. “This is what I do. I love this type of work,” says Jonathan Eisen, a professor at University of California, Davis, focusing on evolution and ecology of microbes and genomes. “I just don’t want people to overstate what they are doing because I think that’s a longterm risk to the field.” Eisen runs a blog called “The Tree of Life” on which he fairly regularly gives out the “Overselling the Microbiome Award” (where TIME has been called out in the past). This week, that award went to the exercise study. Though he sees great promise in researching the microbiome, Eisen says it irks him when studies are blown out of portion both by scientists and the press.

Dr. Martin J. Blaser, author of the recent book ‘Missing Microbes’: How Antibiotics Can Do Harm, has a different take. “It’s kind of a brand new field,” says Blaser. “If you claim that the microbiome has cured cancer, that certainly would be hype,” he says. “But could it one day? Could our knowledge one day affect the treatments of many cancers and the preventions and diagnoses of many cancers? Yes.”

He adds: “Maybe nothing is ready for prime-time yet, but I won’t be surprised if research in this field changes medicine and healthcare dramatically.” Though Dr. Blaser does not hide his sincere excitement and optimism for the field, he acknowledges that we need to remember how new it is. “We are in the early stages of a scientific revolution. But it’s early stages,” he says. “We have to recognize that it’s all promise, but I think reasonable promise.”

I’m not sure how Eisen will rate this post, but as microbiome fervor continues to swell—and I expect it will—it’s worth taking a moment to be critical while still celebrating an area of science that’s honestly, pretty awesome.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Truth About Fat

When you want to lose weight or get healthy, what is the first thing you would normally cut from your diet? If you said fat, you’re not alone.

For years, the advice from the USDA has been to reduce the level of saturated fat in your diet, in order to lower your overall cholesterol. However, a new meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has thrown that whole approach in to question.

The removal of fats from our diet has led to an increase in consumption of carbohydrates and processed low-fat alternatives, which has contributed to record levels of diabetes and obesity.

When you consider that most low-fat or non-fat products are laden with salts, sugars and preservatives, continuing to seek out fat-free alternatives could be doing you more harm than good.

MORE: Give (Frozen) Peas a Chance–and Carrots Too

MORE: The Oz Diet

MORE: Further Reading On Fat

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