DiversityNursing Blog

Is Cancer Risk Mostly Affected By Genes, Lifestyle, Or Just Plain Bad Luck?

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, Jan 02, 2015 @ 11:24 AM

Jenna Birch

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While cancer can strike anyone — young or old, unhealthy and healthy — we do have some idea of what can affect risk. Genetics often play a role, for instance, as do lifestyle habits. But according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University researchers, much of cancer risk may actually be due to mere chance.

Cancer develops when stem cells of a given tissue make random mistakes, mutating unchecked after one chemical letter of DNA is incorrectly swapped for another — the equivalent of a cell “oops.” It happens without warning, like the body’s roll of the die. 

For the new study, published in the journal Science, researchers wanted to see how much of overall cancer risk was due to these unpreventable random mutations, independent of other factors like heredity and lifestyle. 

“There is this question that is fundamental in cancer research: How much of cancer is due to environmental factors, and how much is due to inherited factors?” Cristian Tomasetti, PhD, a biomathematician and assistant professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells Yahoo Health. “To answer that question, however, the idea came that it would be important to determine first how much of cancer was simply due to ‘replicative chance.’"

To measure this, the researchers plotted the number of stem cell divisions in 31 types of tissues over the course of a lifetime against the lifetime risk of developing cancer in the given tissue. From this chart, the scientists were able to see the correlation between number of divisions and cancer risk — and from that correlation, researchers were able to determine the incidence of cancer in a given tissue due to replicative chance.

Ultimately, researchers found that roughly two-thirds of the cancer incidence was due to this replicative chance, or simply “bad luck.” (However, it’s worth noting researchers did not examine some cancers, such as breast and prostate cancers, because of lack of reliable stem-cell turnover information.)

But don’t assume you’re simply doomed to the hand fate deals you. After additional analysis, researchers found that of the 31 cancers examined, 22 could be explained by “bad luck” — but for the other nine, there was another factor aside from simple chance that likely contributed to the cancer.

This is presumably because environmental and hereditary factors play a role in development. “There are many cancers where primary prevention has huge positive effects, such as vaccines against infectious agents, quitting smoking or other altered lifestyles,” says Tomasetti. 

Incidentally, the cancers where risk could be lowered by primary preventive practices were ones you may expect — diseases like skin cancer, where limiting sun exposure can lower your risk, as well as lung cancer, where avoiding smoking is key. 

Tomasetti says we can still lower our odds of developing cancer in any and all cases, though, especially as preventative research moves forward. Their analysis just indicates that, for many types of cancers, primary prevention like healthy lifestyle habits may not work as well. “This however does not imply at all that there is not much we can do to prevent those cancers,” he says. “It just highlights the importance of secondary prevention, like early detection.”

Since so much of risk is based on random cell division, identifying a mutation before replication goes unchecked throughout the body is, and will continue to be, essential. “It is still fundamental to do what we can in terms of primary prevention to avoid getting cancer, but now we understand better what causes cancer and how relevant the ‘bad luck’ component is, because we have a measure of it,” Tomasetti explains. “This work tells us that randomness plays an important role in cancer, possibly much larger than previously thought. And therefore early detection becomes even more important.”

You can also look at this new research another way, though, according to Tomasetti. “On one side, it actually strengthens the importance at the individual level to avoid risky lifestyles,” he explains. “If my parents smoked all their lives and did not get lung cancer, it is probably not because of good genes in the family, but simply because they were very lucky. 

“I would be playing a very dangerous game by smoking,” Tomasetti says. See? Healthy habits do count.

Source: www.yahoo.com

Topics: physician, science, genes, hereditary, health, healthcare, nurse, research, doctors, medical, cancer, hospital, treatment, lifestyle

'Easy-to-walk Communities' Linked To Better Cognition In Older Adults

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Nov 10, 2014 @ 01:42 PM

By Marie Ellis

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It is well known that exercise is good for the mind and body, but to what extent does the neighborhood or community in which we live affect our physical and mental health? New research from the University of Kansas suggests the walkability of a community has a great impact on cognition in older adults.

Previous studies have detailed the importance physical exercise has for executive function in older adults.

But how can the layout of a neighborhood encourage its residents to get out and walk? This is precisely what Amber Watts, assistant professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas, wanted to find out.

"Depending on which type of walking [leisure vs. walking to get somewhere] you're interested in, a neighborhood might have different characteristics," she says. "Features of a neighborhood that encourage walking for transportation require having someplace worth walking to, like neighbors' houses, stores and parks."

She adds that neighborhoods that encourage leisure walking have "pleasant things to look at," including walking trails and trees, and they should feel safe.

Her research, which she presented yesterday at the Gerontological Society of America's annual meeting in Washington, DC, suggests that neighborhoods that encourage walking can protect against cognitive decline in older adults.

To conduct her research, Watts used geographic information systems (GIS) to judge walkability. This involved maps that measure and analyze spatial data.

Better physical and mental health

Detailing how she collected her data, Watts explains:

"GIS data can tell us about roads, sidewalks, elevation, terrain, distances between locations and a variety of other pieces of information. We then use a process called space syntax to measure these features, including the number of intersections, distances between places or connections between a person's home and other possible destinations they might walk to."

She also looked at how complicated a route is from one location to another: "For example, is it a straight line from point A to point B, or does it require a lot of turns to get there?"

To conduct the study, Watts and colleagues tracked 25 people with mild Alzheimer's disease and 39 older adults without any cognitive impairment. Using the space syntax data, they created a "walkability score" for the participants' home addresses.

Then, they estimated the relationship between a person's neighborhood scores and how well they performed on cognitive tests over 2 years. The cognitive tests included three categories: attention, verbal memory and mental status. The team also factored in issues that might influence cognitive scores, including age, gender, education and wealth.

Results from the study suggest that communities that are easier to walk in are linked to better physical health outcomes - such as lower body mass and blood pressure - and cognition - including better memory.

Watts and her colleagues believe their findings could benefit older adults, health care professionals, caregivers and even architects and urban planners.

Do mentally complex neighborhoods act like a brain-training game?

Though elaborate community layouts may be expected to confuse older residents, Watts and her team found that they actually serve to keep cognition sharp.

"There seems to be a component of a person's mental representation of the spatial environment, for example, the ability to picture the streets like a mental map," Watts says.

She adds that complicated environments may demand more intricate mental processes in order to navigate them, which could keep the mind sharp. This is in line with previous studies, which have demonstrated how staying mentally active helps to preserve memory.

"Our findings suggest that people with neighborhoods that require more mental complexity actually experience less decline in their mental functioning over time," Watts adds.

She explains that a challenging environment keeps an individual's body and mind healthy:


"With regard to the complexity of neighborhood street layouts - for example, the number of turns required getting from point A to point B - our results demonstrate that more complex neighborhoods are associated with preserved cognitive performance over time.


We think this may be because mental challenges are good for us. They keep us active and working at that optimal level instead of choosing the path of least resistance."

A National Institute on Aging grant, KU Strategic Initiative Grant and Frontiers Clinical Translational Science award helped fund the study.

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: health, brain, health care, medicine, community, elderly, lifestyle, seniors, walking, neighborhoods, cognition, residents

What 30 Minutes a Day can do for Your Mind and Body

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Sep 24, 2014 @ 11:04 AM

By Felicity Dryer

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We live in a high-stress world. Between having to attend to work, kids, homes and run back and forth between meetings and all of the other demands of everyday life, to say that things can get stressful is an understatement. 

If your constant on-the-go lifestyle has left you feeling run down, beat down and just plain old exhausted, then you need to stop and smell the proverbial roses for a little bit.

Taking time to enjoy something that is peaceful and that is just for you can do wonders for your health, your mental clarity and for your happiness. You don’t have to invest much time in such activities, either; reserving just 30 minutes a day to something that you enjoy and that promotes a bit of peacefulness and tranquility can do wonders.

Here’s a look at some activities that you can do for just 30 minutes a day and that will provide you with some simply amazing benefits.

Yoga: It seems like yoga is all the rage in the fitness world as of late (well, not really as of late; it’s been a trend for quite a while) – and there’s a reason why; yoga provides some pretty amazing benefits.

Just 30 minutes of yoga a day will help to increase your strength and flexibility, as well as tone your body. In addition to physical benefits, yoga can also increase your brain function. A recent study conducted by the University of Illinois found that people who participated in just 20 minutes of yoga a day experienced an increase in the speed and accuracy of their brain functions. Yoga also helps to reduce stress levels and boosts mental clarity; talk about some pretty amazing benefits for just 30 minutes of your time each day.

Meditation: Another activity that can provide fantastic benefits in just 30 minutes a day is meditation. When you think of people meditating, what comes to mind? People who are more peaceful, more astute and have more clarity? If so, there’s a good reason why – Because meditation helps to promote all of these things.

In fact, just 30 minutes of meditating a day can boost your creative thinking abilities, heighten your energy levels, decrease your stress levels and even ease the feelings of depression.

A Long Walk: If someone tells you to ‘go take a walk’, take them up on it! There are so many wonderful benefits associated with walking, and the best part is, it is so easy to do. Walking for just 30 minutes a day improves your cardiovascular health, decreases stress and anxiety, helps to keep off excess weight, tones muscles, boosts energy levels and it can even help to decrease your risk of dementia. Walking also just makes you happy. So kick off those painfulwork shoes and dust off your sneakers, and get moving. There is nothing more therapeutic than soaking up the warm sunshine and observing the beauty of nature while walking on a nice day.

Reading: Everyone knows that reading is important, but do you know why? Reading for just 30 minutes each day can increase your vocabulary, boost your creative thinking and critical thinking skills, stimulate your mind, improve your memory and focus and decrease stress levels. So, when you’re feeling like you just need to escape for a little while, curl up with a book or a magazine and submerse yourself in reading.

No matter how crazy your lifestyle is, you can spare just 30 minutes a day to enjoy the benefits that one of these activities can provide. You’ll be amazed by how much happier you will feel – you owe it to yourself!

Source: http://www.interplayhealth.com

Topics: mental health, body, mind, meditation, relax, pressure, yoga, fitness, physical health, health, benefits, lifestyle, stress

The Anatomy of a Nursing Student

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 @ 12:35 PM

The Anatomy of a Nursing StudentSource: Nursing School Rankings

Topics: nursing student, funny, anatomy, lifestyle

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