Melanoma discovery could aid diagnosis, treatment

Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have identified a signaling pathway that is turned on when benign moles turn into early-stage malignant melanoma. The pathway could provide a new target for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the most lethal form of skin cancer. The research was reported in the December issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Bread as cause of acne?

Forget about chocolate and greasy foods. Eating too much refined bread and cereal may be the true culprit behind the pimples that plague many a youngster, reports Britain’s New Scientist magazine. That’s the theory of a team led by Loren Cordain, an evolutionary biologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Highly processed breads and cereals are easily digested. The resulting flood of sugars makes the body produce high levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). This in turn leads to an excess of male hormones. These encourage pores in the skin to ooze large amounts of sebum, the greasy goop that acne-promoting bacteria love. IGF-1 also encourages skin cells called keratinocytes to multiply, a hallmark of acne, the team say in a paper that will appear in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology.

Smoking reduction strategies show success

People who use nicotine replacement products like skin patches, gum and inhalers while continuing to smoke can cut their daily cigarette consumption almost in half, according to a new study. Using data from 11 previous studies of nicotine replacement products, Swedish researcher Karl Olov Fagerstr?m and colleagues calculated an approximate 50 percent drop in daily cigarette consumption among smokers across all the studies. The individuals also reduced their exposure to harmful carbon monoxide, a toxic smoking byproduct, by 30 percent.

The Mouse Genome And The Measure of Man

The international Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium today announced the publication of a high-quality draft sequence of the mouse genome – the genetic blueprint of a mouse – together with a comparative analysis of the mouse and human genomes describing insights gleaned from the two sequences. The paper appears in the Dec. 5 issue of the journal Nature. The achievement represents a landmark advance for the Human Genome Project. It is the first time that scientists have compared and contrasted the contents of the human genome with that of another mammal. This milestone is all the more significant given that the laboratory mouse is the most important animal model and is widely used in the study of human diseases.

Controlling Heart’s Irregular Rhythm No Better Than Controlling Rate

The preferred and most frequently used initial therapy for the common heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation (AF) is a strategy to restore and maintain a normal heart rhythm. However, a study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health found that this “heart rhythm” strategy prevents no more deaths than the alternative, often secondary, approach to treatment which merely controls the rate at which the heart beats – and may have some disadvantages, including more hospitalizations and adverse drug effects.

Patient Safety Study Documents Medication Errors in Hospitals

According to a new national report issued today by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP)’s Center for the Advancement of Patient Safety (CAPS), administering drugs using incorrect techniques continues to be a serious cause of injury to hospital patients, increasing costs to insurers. The study collected reported medication errors voluntarily provided by 368 health care facilities nationwide, including community, government, and teaching institutions. Of the 105,603 errors documented, the vast majority were corrected before causing harm to the patient. But 2.4 percent of the total errors were more serious, resulting in patient injury, prolonged hospitalization and even death.

Addicts’ Brains Work Harder to Control Behavior

A brain-imaging study conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory reveals that recently abstinent methamphetamine abusers who reported they avoided harmful situations had higher resting metabolic rates in a part of the brain responsible for making decisions and modifying behaviors than those with low harm-avoidance scores. In non-addicted, comparison subjects, there was no significant association between harm avoidance and metabolism in this brain region. The findings, reported in the December 3, 2002, issue of NeuroReport, suggest that this higher-level brain center — the orbitofrontal cortex — is involved in drug addiction, and might be working extra hard in addicts trying to stay off drugs.

Satellite Could Help Predict Hantaviral Transmission Risk

Researchers report that satellite imagery could be used to determine areas at high-risk for exposure to Sin Nombre virus (SNV), a rodent-born disease that causes the often fatal hantaviral pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in humans. According to the researchers, satellite imaging detects the distinct environmental conditions that may serve as a refuge for the disease-carrying deer mice. Higher populations of infected deer mice increase the risk of HPS to humans.

Study Identifies SIDS Risk Factors Among American Indian Infants

A study of Northern Plains Indians found that infants were less likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) if their mothers received visits from public health nurses before and after giving birth. The study also found that binge drinking (five or more drinks at a time) during the mother’s first trimester of pregnancy made it eight times more likely that her infant would die of SIDS. Any maternal alcohol use during the periconceptional period (three months before pregnancy or during the first trimester) was associated with a six-fold increased risk of SIDS. The study also found that infants were more likely to die of SIDS if they wore two or more layers of clothing while they slept.

Evidence Lacking on Use of Routine Prostate Cancer Screening

Although screening for prostate cancer is a common part of a routine checkup for American men, a new finding issued today from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concludes there is insufficient scientific evidence to promote routine screening for all men and inconclusive evidence that early detection improves health outcomes. The finding is published in the December 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Family lives with 2,000-plus brown recluse spiders without bites

Have you had a skin wound lately and did a physician tell you a brown recluse spider was the culprit? A California study, focusing on 2,055 brown recluse spiders in a Kansas home, notes that many skin lesions are misdiagnosed by doctors as “brown recluse spider bites.” The study finds that even where brown recluses can be very common, bites from these spiders are uncommon. Moreover, the study finds that in non-endemic areas, there aren’t enough brown recluses to account for skin conditions diagnosed as “brown recluse bites.”