Thursday, June 12th, 2014
Men who routinely carry smartphones in their pants pockets may end up with a lowered sperm count and lessened sperm quality, according to a new British study that examines the effects of the phones’ low levels of electromagnetic radiation. More from Time.com:
Even while the debate over whether cell phones cause cancer rages on, researchers are starting to explore other potentially harmful effects that the ubiquitous devices may have on our health. Because they emit low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR), it’s possible that they can disturb normal cell functions and even sleep.
And with male infertility on the rise, Fiona Mathews at the University of Exeter, in England, and her colleagues decided to investigate what role cell phones might play in that trend. In their new research, they analyzed 10 previous studies, seven of which involved the study of sperm motility, concentration and viability in the lab, and three that included male patients at fertility clinics. Overall, among the 1,492 samples, exposure-to-cell-phone EMR lowered sperm motility by 8%, and viability by 9%.
Image: Man with phone in pocket, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Most children who get multiple X-ray and CT scans because of heart disease don’t face a significantly higher risk of developing cancer later in childhood because of the scans’ radiation, according to new research conducted by Duke University cardiologists. Some kids–especially girls–do face a higher risk of cancer than others, so doctors are urged to take steps to reduce the radiation exposure from the scans. More from NBC News:
It’s an issue because children are three to four times more likely to develop cancer from exposure to ionizing radiation like that given in an X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan. “Radiation exposure in childhood is of particular concern because children have immature developing organ and tissue structures,” Hill’s team wrote in their report, published in the journal Circulation.
These kids got an awful lot of imaging — 13,932 X-rays, CT scans and other procedures before, during and after surgery. The X-rays didn’t deliver much radiation at all, Hill’s team found.
The big culprits are cardiac catheterization exams and CT scans. They can deliver up to 1,800 times more radiation than a standard X-ray. Children who got many of these complicated and time-consuming scans did get enough radiation to triple their risk of cancer, Hill found.
On average, children don’t have a high risk of cancer, though, so even doubling or tripling that very low risk still doesn’t make them very likely to develop cancer.
“Even though their risk is threefold greater, it is not necessarily a high risk,” Hill said. “I think it is important for parents to understand that there is a small amount of risk.”
Doctors can and should do their best to minimize radiation exposure, Hill said. New technology can help with this, as can techniques that make it necessary to use the shortest possible burst of radiation.
Image: Chest X-ray, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
Mothers of young children may opt to forgo recommended radiation therapy for breast cancer, citing concerns over the amount of time the treatment involves. This is the finding of a new study that is one of the first to suggest a significant link between child care concerns and breast cancer treatment decisions. More from Reuters:
In particular, women who had a breast tumor removed were less likely to undergo radiation therapy afterwards if they had kids age seven or younger at home.
About 81 percent of women surveyed in the study who had younger kids received radiation therapy. The rates of radiation therapy for women with older kids or none at all ranged between 84 and 87 percent.
Put another way, one in five women with young kids in the study skipped potentially life-saving post-surgery treatment, said Ya-Chen Tina Shih, an economist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago in Illinois who co-led the study.
“We were surprised because women in the younger age range have the longest life expectancy, so we expected to see a higher compliance rate among them,” she told Reuters Health.
“Women may think, ‘I really need to take care of the kids at home,’ and they may act on what they believe is most important at that time,” Shih said.
“But they may not be aware of how important radiation therapy is.”
Women who have “lumpectomy” surgery to remove a breast tumor – the researchers did not include patients who had mastectomies – are usually advised to follow up with radiation therapy, which requires a serious time commitment. The radiation treatments take up to an hour, five days a week, for up to seven weeks, the researchers report.
Image: Young woman having MRI, via Shutterstock
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Monday, November 18th, 2013
Children who undergo treatment for cancer may be at greater risk of developing heart disease later in childhood, as well as in adulthood, according to a new study presented to the American Heart Association. Researchers recommended that pediatricians monitor heart health carefully in their patients who have undergone cancer treatments. More from The New York Times:
Scientists have known for some time that survivors of childhood cancer are several times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease as adults, a result of the toll that lifesaving radiation and chemotherapy treatments can have on the heart. But the new study, presented at an American Heart Association conference over the weekend, is among the first to show that the risk is elevated while the survivors are still children.
The research looked at 319 boys and girls under the age of 18 who underwent chemotherapy treatments for leukemia or cancerous tumors. At the time of the study, the participants were a minimum of five years past the time of their diagnosis.
When the children were compared with 208 siblings of similar ages, the researchers found a nearly 10 percent decrease in arterial health and other signs of premature heart disease.
Image: Baby undergoing treatment, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
Children who receive multiple CT scans, which expose them to radiation, are at a higher risk of developing cancer later in life, a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics. More from NBC News:
While CT scans provide “beautiful 3-D pictures of the inside of the body,” they also subject patients to a significant amount of radiation, which may boost the risk of future cancer, said the study’s lead author Diana Miglioretti, a professor of biostatistics at the University of California, Davis, and a senior investigator at the Group Health Research Institute.
Between 1996 and 2006 CT scans in children under age 5 nearly doubled, while they almost tripled in kids aged 5 to 14 years, according to the report in JAMA Pediatrics. While the number of scans in children has declined since 2006, it’s still much higher than in 1996.
While the researchers suspect many of those scans could be avoided, for some kids, like 5-year-old Dezhan Frajer, the clearer 3D images that come from CT are the only way to figure out what’s wrong. Dezhan has been suffering from some complicated ear and eye symptoms, and his mom, Tamika is hoping his scans will explain what’s going on.
CT scans are often used in kids when appendicitis is suspected or to rule out severe damage when children hit their heads hard or if there is concern that the spine has been injured. They are also used to diagnose brain tumors and other abnormalities.
CT scans became more popular because, “it is a great tool and is very sensitive and accurate,” Miglioretti said.
Miglioretti and her colleagues scrutinized data from six large HMOs. Included in the study were data from 152,419 to 371,095 children each year. They found CT scan use jumped between 1996 and 2005, remained stable until 2007, and then started to decline.
Even with the decline, in 2010 scans were still being done at nearly two and a half times the rate of 1996 in children aged 5 to 14 and one-and-a-half times the 1996 rate in children under age 5.
Image: Pediatric CT scan, via Shutterstock
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