Medical News Today: Can service dogs help with anxiety?

People with anxiety-related issues can gain tremendous benefit from having a specially trained service dog.

Service dogs are companion animals that help people who have physical or mental health conditions.

A service dog for anxiety can provide a sense of calm, anticipate anxiety attacks, and even fetch medication for their owner.

In this article, we look at the benefits of service dogs for people with anxiety. We discuss how to get an anxiety service dog, which breeds make the most successful anxiety service dogs, and how much they cost.

What are service dogs?

Service dog for anxiety
Service dogs help people with physical or mental conditions.

Service dogs offer practical and emotional support to people with a physical or mental health difficulty.

The most well-known service dogs are guide dogs, which assist people who have visual impairments.

However, people can train dogs to help with a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, diabetes, and depression.

Psychiatric service dogs

A psychiatric service dog is a dog that helps someone with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, or other mental health conditions.

All service dogs have completed specialized training and are legally recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

These dogs can go anywhere with their owner, from restaurants to airplanes.


Benefits of anxiety service dogs

People can train service dogs to perform specific tasks depending on an individual’s needs.

Roles carried out by service dogs for anxiety include:

  • detecting signs of an anxiety attack before it happens
  • fetching medication or water during an anxiety attack
  • bringing someone to help the person in distress
  • preventing strangers from approaching the person in distress
  • calming a person down during an anxiety attack through distraction, such as licking their face or providing a paw
  • providing deep pressure therapy to soothe their owner
  • retrieving a phone during an anxiety attack
  • reminding a person to take their medication at certain times of the day
  • performing safety checks of rooms or turning the lights on for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Merely being around dogs provides many benefits, including:

  • Exercise. Having a dog is a great way to encourage those with anxiety to exercise. Physical activity can improve symptoms of anxiety and other mental health conditions. It is also vital for physical health.
  • Time outdoors. Walking a dog means spending time outdoors, which can sometimes be difficult for people who experience anxiety or depression. Spending time outdoors can boost people’s mental health and increase their vitamin D intake, which can improve a person’s mood.
  • Company. Dogs provide love and friendship. Having a pet can reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation.
  • Stress relief. Spending time with pets can reduce stress and anxiety and boost happiness. According to a 2015 study, having a pet dog may reduce the risk of anxiety in children.

A 2012 review suggests that interacting with animals may:

  • reduce depression and improve mood
  • encourage more positive interactions with other people
  • lower cortisol levels, which is one of the body’s primary stress hormones
  • lower heart rate and blood pressure
  • lower reported fear and anxiety


How to get a service dog

Image of a service dog for anxiety
A person must meet specific criteria if they want a service dog.

People can get anxiety service dogs from specialist organizations. In some cases, people can register their own dog as a service dog with the help of the National Service Animal Registry.

However, to get a service dog from an organization, a person must meet specific criteria. Criteria may include having:

  • a physical disability or debilitating psychiatric condition
  • a recommendation letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional
  • strong communication skills and patience
  • the ability to consistently care for and train a service dog
  • the ability to attend a handler training program
  • a love of dogs
  • a stable home environment
  • the finances to care for and maintain a dog for 12 years or more

Many people with anxiety issues may not qualify for getting a service dog. However, some of these people may benefit from having an emotional support animal.

Emotional support animals (ESA) differ from service dogs. While trained service animals perform specific tasks, the law considers ESAs as pets. However, people can still experience tremendous benefits from living with an ESA.

ESAs are companion animals that a medical professional thinks will provide support to a person with a mental or physical health difficulty.

ESAs do not have the same legal protections that service animals do. However, they do have some protections, such as an exemption from no-pet housing rules.

Those who would like an ESA must get a letter from a licensed mental health professional to say that an animal improves at least one characteristic of their condition.


How much does a service dog cost?

Service dogs can be expensive because of the high cost of all the training that is involved.

According to Little Angels Service Dogs, many service dog organizations throughout the United States spend between $30,000 and $40,000 per trained dog.

Each dog receives an average of more than 600 hours of training, along with veterinary care, boarding, and grooming.

Some people choose to train the dog themselves, with the help of a certified trainer. This option is less expensive, but it can still involve high costs.

However, some organizations can help people find service dogs at little or no cost. This is because they meet some or all the expenses through fundraising.

Service dog breeds

Any breed of dog can become a service dog. The most important factors are the individual dog’s temperament, and its ability to complete training.

Some of the breeds that work well as service dogs include:

  • boxers
  • German shepherds
  • golden retrievers
  • huskies
  • Labrador retrievers
  • poodles


Coping with anxiety

Woman doing yoga
People with anxiety can consider regular exercise to help manage symptoms.

Service dogs are not the only option for people with an anxiety disorder. The most common ways to cope with the condition are psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy helps people to reduce their anxiety symptoms. A common type of therapy for anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

People may use medications alone or alongside psychotherapy. These may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or sedatives.

People with anxiety might consider making some lifestyle changes to help manage their symptoms. These include:

  • getting regular exercise
  • eating a healthful diet
  • quitting smoking
  • reducing caffeine intake
  • avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • reducing stress through meditation, yoga, and deep breathing activities
  • establishing a regular sleep schedule

Outlook

Having a service dog can provide a range of benefits to those with anxiety. But it is not always easy to get a service dog, and people must adhere to some strict criteria.

Those who wish to get a psychiatric service dog should speak with a licensed mental health professional to see if a service dog would be appropriate for them.

Individuals who experience anxiety but are not eligible for a service dog may instead get an emotional support animal. Other treatments for the condition include talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

With treatment, people can recover from their anxiety disorder and enjoy a good quality of life.

Medical News Today: What to know about a watermelon allergy

A watermelon allergy is rare. However, if a person reacts to watermelon, there may be additional foods to avoid.

If a person with an allergy does not eat watermelon often, they may not know what has caused their symptoms. It could be an allergy to a different food, or an unrelated illness.

The symptoms of a watermelon allergy are similar to those of other food allergies. A doctor can perform tests to identify the problematic food.

A watermelon allergy usually develops during childhood, but some people develop it as adults.

What are the symptoms?

Watermelon slices to represent allergy
A person with a watermelon allergy may experience hives or stomach pain.

Watermelon allergies share symptoms with other food allergies. Symptoms usually occur within a few minutes of contact with the melon.

Some of the most common watermelon allergy symptoms include:

  • persistent coughing
  • hives
  • an itchy tongue or throat
  • stomach cramps
  • stomach pain
  • nausea or vomiting

A severe allergic reaction can trigger anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.

Anyone experiencing a severe reaction to watermelon should receive immediate medical attention. They may require an injection from an epinephrine auto-injector, such as an EpiPen, before help arrives.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • trouble breathing
  • trouble swallowing
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the throat, face, or tongue
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • wheezing
  • shock (from low blood pressure)
  • vertigo (a feeling of dizziness)

Anyone experiencing a watermelon allergy for the first time should talk to a doctor. The doctor can confirm the diagnosis and provide suggestions about treating and preventing future reactions.


Diagnosis

A skin prick test is the most common way to diagnose a watermelon allergy.

The test involves pricking the skin and placing a small sample of watermelon on the area. If a person is allergic, a raised bump is likely to appear on the skin after a few minutes.

Results of a blood test can also indicate an allergy. However, it can take a few days or weeks to receive them.

However, some people may test positive for an allergy but experience no symptoms from the food, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

A doctor may request a challenge test, which requires a person to eat a small amount of the food in a clinical setting to see if a reaction occurs.


How to treat an allergic reaction to watermelon

epipen allergy injector
An epinephrine pen can treat a severe allergic reaction.

An individual can usually treat a mild allergic reaction with over-the-counter medication.

If a person knows that they have a severe allergy to watermelon, they should carry an epinephrine auto-injector, in case of accidental exposure.

Anyone who witnesses someone experiencing anaphylaxis should:

  • call emergency medical services
  • assist in using an epinephrine auto-injector
  • help the person remain calm
  • remove restricting clothes, particularly those around the throat
  • lay the person flat with their feet elevated
  • if the person starts to vomit, turn their head without raising it
  • if needed, administer CPR

Do not offer food or drink to a person experiencing anaphylaxis.

If a person has a severe allergic reaction, they should talk to a doctor right away about prescribing an epinephrine auto-injector.


When to see a doctor

A person should see a doctor after their first allergic reaction, particularly if the reaction was severe.

The doctor will take a medical history and discuss symptoms. They may be able to diagnose an allergy, which will be especially helpful for people who are unsure of the cause of their symptoms.

If necessary, the doctor may refer a person to an allergist. They can test for various triggers, prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector, and offer advice.

Watermelon allergies in children and babies

Young children are more likely to develop watermelon allergies than adults.

A doctor will need to diagnose the allergy in a child, and the treatments are similar for children and adults.

Though uncommon, it is possible for babies to be allergic to watermelon. Follow a pediatrician’s advice, and introduce new foods gradually. This can make identifying allergies easier.


Foods to avoid if you have a watermelon allergy

White melon or cantaloupe
A person with a watermelon allergy should avoid other types of melon.

Anyone allergic to watermelon should avoid similar foods and vegetables, such as:

  • honeydew melons
  • cucumbers
  • cantaloupes

A person may also want to avoid foods that cause similar reactions in the body, including:

  • kiwis
  • celery
  • peaches
  • bananas
  • oranges
  • avocados
  • zucchini
  • tomatoes
  • papayas

Ragweed pollen can also trigger reactions during the summer months.

Before ordering a restaurant in a meal, inform the server about any food allergies.

Takeaway

Watermelon allergies are uncommon, but they can trigger reactions ranging from mild to severe. The allergy is most common in children.

Most people can control or prevent allergic reactions by taking over-the-counter medications and avoiding triggers.

A doctor can help a person with a severe allergy to prepare for accidental exposure.

What to do about vaginal cysts, sores, and bumps

Sometimes, lumps and bumps develop on the vagina. These lumps and bumps can occur for a variety of reasons and can cause pain and discomfort.

They can appear on the internal part of the vagina or the external area, known as the vulva, which includes the labia.

What are the causes?

The following are the most common causes of vaginal lumps:

1. Vaginal cysts

Lumps on vagina
When cysts form on the vaginal wall, they can cause pain and discomfort.

Vaginal cysts are pocket or pouch-like projections on the vaginal wall.

There are a variety of different types of vaginal cysts.

Some cysts contain pus and others contain air or scar tissue.

The types of vaginal cyst include:

  • Bartholin’s cysts: These are lumps on one or both sides of the vaginal opening.
  • Endometriosis cysts: Lumps of tissue form small cysts in the vagina.
  • Gartner’s duct cysts: These cysts typically only form during pregnancy.
  • Vaginal inclusion cysts: These often result after trauma to the vaginal walls, such as after giving birth. Injury causes tissue to become trapped under the skin’s surface, resulting in a cyst.

Some cysts may be large and painful, but most vaginal cysts are small and have no symptoms.

2. Vaginal polyps

Vaginal polyps are outgrowths of skin that doctors may also refer to as skin tags.

They usually do not require treatment unless they are painful or cause significant bleeding.

3. Vaginal warts

Vaginal warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection. HPV is also a risk factor for cancer.

It is not usually possible to feel warts inside the vagina, but it is possible to notice growths just outside the vaginal opening. Vaginal warts typically feel like small, irregular growths. It may be possible to see the warts by holding a mirror under the vagina.

The sexually transmitted infection herpes can also cause genital blisters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sometimes, herpes lesions may resemble an ingrown hair or a pimple. Other times, they may have a sore or blister-like appearance.

4. Vaginal cancer

Rarely, vaginal cancer can cause lumps on the vagina. These lumps can grow due to the excess development of cancerous cells in the lining of the vagina’s skin cells or the glandular cells located in the vagina.

Other symptoms of vaginal cancer include unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge. If cancer becomes advanced, symptoms may include constipation, pelvic pain, back pain, or leg swelling.

However, these symptoms do not necessarily mean a person has cancer; they are much more likely to be caused by another condition, such as an infection.


When to see a doctor

Lumps on vagina doctor appointment
A person should see a doctor if they notice any physical changes in the vaginal area.

Anyone that notices any changes in the vaginal area, such as lumps or bumps, should see a doctor.

It is especially important to see a doctor for lumps if they:

  • are bleeding
  • cause an unusual or foul-smelling discharge
  • are painful

Most lumps on the vagina do not require invasive treatments.

A doctor can evaluate vaginal bumps to determine if they need further treatment.

How are lumps on the vagina diagnosed?

To diagnose vaginal lumps or bumps, a doctor will likley examine the outside of the vagina as well as perform a physical examination.

A doctor may also take a swab from the lump and send it to a laboratory to test for the presence of any harmful cells.

To help with diagnosis, a doctor may request some imaging tests to see how large the lump or lumps may be. Imaging tests may include transvaginal ultrasound imaging or abdominal imaging.

What are the treatment options?

Treatments for vaginal lumps depend upon the underlying cause:

Cysts

Lumps on vagina tampon
Using tampons may increase discomfort and disrupt healing.

If a vaginal cyst becomes infected, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the effects of the infection.

A doctor may also recommend at-home treatments and lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Having a sitz bath: A sitz bath involves sitting in a few inches of warm water. A person can either sit in shallow water in their bathtub or buy a special type of sitz bath that fits into the toilet bowl.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain (OTC) relievers: These include medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
  • Avoiding tight and non-breathable clothing: Wear underwear made with natural cotton fibers.
  • Avoiding sex and tampons: When a person has a painful or infected vaginal cyst, inserting a tampon or having sex may worsen symptoms and disrupt healing.

Lumps caused by HPV

A doctor cannot cure the HPV infection, but they can remove the warts if they are causing symptoms. Treatment includes freezing or using laser surgery to remove the warts.

Vaginal cancer

Doctors treat vaginal cancer in a variety of ways, depending on how far the cancer has progressed.

According to the American Cancer Society, if a person has pre-cancerous cells on their vagina, a doctor may recommend topical treatments to destroy the pre-cancerous cells or laser surgery to remove the pre-cancerous cells.

Invasive or more advanced vaginal cancers may require surgical removal.

Treatment may also include:

A doctor can also recommend individual treatments based on the underlying cause of lumps on the vagina.


Takeaway

Lumps on the vagina can be a normal occurrence.

Vaginal lumps are not usually painful. However, when lumps on the vagina grow too large, cause bleeding or pain, or result in infection, they might require treatment.

Anyone who develops vaginal lumps or experiences any other symptoms should see a doctor.

Medical News Today: Technology has driven us into a cognition crisis. Is there anything we can do about it?

Remember those few minutes you spent on Instagram during your lunch break? They might make you less productive. The blue light reflecting from your television? It’ll prevent you from falling asleep. The slew of angry rants you read on Twitter? They’ll nearly drive you crazy.
iPhone and charger
‘The cognition crisis is a major concern for our generation.’

There’s no question that as technologies evolve and our devices become more embedded in our lives, we start entering dangerous territory.

“It’s called the cognition crisis,” says Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Ph.D., professor of Neurology and Psychiatry Physiology at University of California, San Francisco.

“There is strong evidence of the negative toll technology can take — from emotional regulation; the association with depression, anxiety, and attention deficit; and the impact on productivity, performance, relationships, compassion, empathy, and a number of other aspects.”

Gazzaley, the author of The Distracted Mind, has spent much of his career researching the link between human nature and how we interact with technology. “From an evolutionary perspective, we are information-seeking creatures,” he tells Thrive Global. “Evidence suggests that we essentially forage for information the same way other animals forage for food. We have a driving force to be informed.”

Gazzaley says technology has challenged us, granting unprecedented access to information that is shifting the way we interact with the environment. His research looks at some of the underlying causes of why we are so susceptible to these negative consequences.

“It’s not black and white,” says Gazzaley. “This story is complex and it’s timely. It’s concerning and it’s real.”

The question we must ask is not how to eliminate, but how to fix, according to Gazzaley. “We are not putting the tech genie back in the bottle,” he says. “[Technology is] not going away, especially for our children… That’s why we need to recognize the full extent of its influence  —  and explore creative approaches to addressing it.” Instead of asking ourselves how to stay away from our devices, we need to reframe the question. As Gazzaley puts it, “How can we use technology to create powerful experiences that maximally harness our brain’s plasticity and elevate our minds?”

According to Gazzaley’s research, there are three pathways we can take when it comes to solving the problem that isn’t going away. The first action is in our control. “Use technology in a better way,” he suggests. “Make smart decisions about when and where and how you use technology.” The second is up to the companies behind the addictive products:

We need a call for accountability through the tech world itself. Instead of asking how many eyeballs are on a product, companies should be asking if the product has potential to hurt people.”

These solutions aren’t impossible, and some are even starting to form in the broader tech industry conversation. Whether it’s the screen time rules we try to set in our homes, the phone-free dinners that are so difficult to implement, or the new Apple iOS features that try to convince users to spend less time online, we’re beginning to see a cultural shift surrounding our devices — specifically, setting boundaries with them.

But the third solution comes down to the root of the technology’s development — and Gazzaley is optimistic about a new potential chapter in tech. “There is an exciting opportunity for all the new tech and artificial intelligence we have now,” he told me. “We should be developing new technology from scratch that is designed not to harm us, but to help us — to improve how we pay attention and regulate our emotions, how we make decisions, how we build empathy and compassion.”

The cognition crisis is a major concern for our generation, and without overgeneralizing, it is possible that those mindless minutes on Insta might end up hindering your productivity — but let’s remember the platforms themselves are not going anywhere, so it’s time we regroup. Gazzaley says if we continue to proceed without thought, we are more likely to wind up in a future where we are apologizing for the things we’ve created. Instead, let’s use our resources to start anew, Gazzaley suggests. “Let’s really start developing all of this new powerful technology so we can enhance what makes us human and not diminish it.”

Written by Rebecca Muller and originally published on Thrive Global.

Medical News Today: Cancer research: Zombie genes and elephants

An intriguing deep dive into elephant genetics helps explain why they are less susceptible to cancer than humans. The answer comes in the form of a reanimated “zombie gene.”
Elephant from the front
Elephants may hold clues to cancer prevention.

Around 17 percent of people die from cancer, but the disease is not a problem restricted to humans; it affects a wide range of species.

From cats and dogs to fish and Tasmanian devils — even duck-billed dinosaurs seem to have been afflicted.

Interestingly, under 5 percent of elephants in captivity die from cancer. This is surprising because they live for an average of 70 years and have roughly 100 times as many cells.

Living a long life and having more cells can make cancer more likely to appear. This is due to the fact that each time a cell divides, its DNA is copied, which increases the possibility of errors. As these errors mount up over a long life, cancer is more likely to develop.

The more cells you have, the more opportunities that cancer has. For instance, taller people have a slightly higher cancer risk than shorter people, and the overall number of cells in their body may be part of the reason why.

So, within a species, the number of cells correlates with a greater cancer risk, but between species, this correlation does not appear. This is referred to as Peto’s paradox, named after the cancer epidemiologist Richard Peto who first described this conundrum in the 1970s.

Understanding just what makes larger species more resilient to cancer is both interesting and important; if we can understand how elephant cells outfox tumors, perhaps we can use that knowledge to help reduce humanity’s odds of cancer.

Elephant DNA damage control

In 2015, scientists working independently at the University of Chicago in Illinois and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City made a breakthrough in understanding elephants’ resilience to cancer.

In humans and many other animals, a gene called p53 works as a tumor suppressor; it identifies DNA damage that has not been repaired and triggers cell death. In this way, cells that have the potential to turn rogue are nipped in the bud.

When scientists looked at elephant genomes, they found that they carry at least 20 copies of p53. In comparison, most animals, including us, carry just one copy. The elephant’s extra copies mean that cells with damaged DNA are identified and destroyed more swiftly and efficiently.

Wanting to build on this surprising finding, a team from the University of Chicago recently published a new paper in the journal Cell Reports. The study outlines a second part to the puzzle, explaining further how elephants appear to be able to prevent the development of cancer.

Its authors describe an anticancer gene that has come back from the dead. As senior study author Vincent Lynch, Ph.D., an assistant professor of human genetics, explains, “Genes duplicate all the time. Sometimes they make mistakes, producing nonfunctional versions known as pseudogenes. We often refer to these dismissively as dead genes.”

The rise of the zombie gene

When investigating p53 in elephants, they found that a pseudogene known as leukemia inhibitory factor 6 (LIF6) was no longer a pseudogene and had “come back to life;” it had “evolved a new on-switch.”

The revived function of LIF6 provided another piece of the puzzle; once activated by p53, LIF6 can respond to damaged DNA by attacking and killing the cell. It does this by producing a protein that punctures mitochondrial membranes, thereby destroying the cell’s power supply and swiftly killing it.

This dead gene came back to life. […] This is beneficial because it acts in response to genetic mistakes, errors made when the DNA is being repaired. Getting rid of that cell can prevent a subsequent cancer.”

Vincent Lynch, Ph.D.

This zombie gene appears to have been helping elephants evade cancer for a long time: from 25–30 million years ago. “We can use the tricks of evolution to try to figure out when this defunct gene became functional again,” Lynch explains.

They surmised that the LIF6 gene got turned back on at roughly the same time that the elephant’s groundhog-sized distant relatives started growing in stature. Genetic mutations such as this may have helped elephants evolve into the behemoths they are today.

“Large, long-lived animals must have evolved robust mechanisms to either suppress or eliminate cancerous cells in order to live as long as they do and reach their adult sizes,” explains study co-author Juan Manuel Vazquez.

The findings are intriguing; not only do they provide new insight into cancer, they also give us a glimpse into the evolution of the elephant. Next, the team plans to investigate LIF6, focusing on exactly how it triggers apoptosis.

Medical News Today: Foods to eat for better sex

Humans have looked for ways to improve their sexual experience for thousands of years, including trying to discover the best foods for sex.

Scientists have linked a variety of foods with better sex. In this article, learn about which foods to eat to boost libido, improve stamina, and enhance your sex life.

Foods for circulation and stamina

Man and woman in a kitchen wondering what are the best foods for sex
Following a heart-healthy diet may improve sexual health.

Keeping the circulatory system in good working order is essential for sexual health. Better circulation can lead to an improved sexual response in men and women. This is especially true for the erectile response. Cardiac health is also vital for stamina.

In other words, if it is good for the heart, it is good for a person’s sex life.

The American Heart Association recommend a diet that includes:

  • a wide range of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains and plenty of fiber
  • healthful oils, such as olive oil and sunflower oil
  • seafood, nuts, and legumes

Research suggests that following this heart-healthy diet can improve certain aspects of sexual health.

Researchers studying the Mediterranean Diet, which follows similar lines to the American Heart Association’s, found that people with metabolic syndrome who followed the diet had fewer problems with erectile dysfunction, otherwise known as ED.

Also, many of the foods featured in a heart-healthy diet, such as avocados, asparagus, nuts, seafood, and fruit, have associations with better sex in both traditional medicine and scientific research.

For example, in Nahuatl — the language once used by the Aztecs — the term for avocados was the same as the term for testicles.

Also, researchers found that people who ate avocados had a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a risk factor for ED.

Men with metabolic syndrome are almost twice as likely as men without it to experience ED, so adding healthful fats, such as those in avocados, to a varied diet may help.


Foods to boost libido

Foods that can help people improve their libido are commonly called aphrodisiacs, after Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love.

Oysters are among the most famous aphrodisiacs in history. Their effects may be due to their zinc content.

Zinc is a mineral the body needs every day for many vital functions, such as cell metabolism, stamina, and regulating levels of testosterone. Testosterone is the most important male sex hormone.

One older study found that zinc might be helpful for treating ED in people with chronic kidney disease.

Oysters have more zinc than any other food per serving. Some examples of other foods that are high in zinc are:

  • crab
  • lobster
  • red meat
  • fortified breakfast cereal
  • pine nuts

However, sexual desire is complex and has to do with many more factors than just nutrition, including an individual’s relationships, stress levels, and personal preference.

It is natural for people to experience ups and downs in their interest in sex. Many alternative healthcare practitioners claim diet can help.

While more scientific research is needed, the following foods are possible libido-boosters:


Foods to help maintain an erection

a variety of citrus fruits
Citrus fruits are rich in flavonoids.

When a person has difficulty getting and maintaining an erection, doctors refer to it as ED. According to the Urology Care Foundation, ED affects up to 30 million men in the United States.

Understanding the physical, mental, and emotional factors that contribute to ED can help people choose a diet that promotes better sex.

Factors that contribute to ED include:

  • problems with blood flowing into and staying in the penis
  • damage to nerve centers in the penis
  • side effects of medication, radiation, and other medical treatments
  • depression, anxiety, and stress

Tackling the underlying cause is the best way to treat ED. But another thing people can do is eat more fruit.

In one study, researchers linked a higher fruit intake to a 14 percent reduction in the risk of ED. The flavonoid content of many fruits may be responsible for this improvement.

Foods rich in flavonoids include:

  • berries
  • citrus fruits
  • grapes
  • apples
  • hot peppers
  • cocoa products
  • red wine
  • tea (green, white, and black)

Research in an animal model has also shown that watermelon may be effective against ED. The melon’s content of the amino acid l-citrulline may explain this positive action.

Also, nitric oxide may be beneficial to prevent ED by increasing blood flow and vasodilation.

Beets also contain nitrates, which convert to nitric oxide and may be beneficial for blood flow.


Takeaway

Many people look to their diet to increase their sexual desire, improve their ability to have sex, and increase the pleasure they get from sex.

While research indicates possible links between particular foods and better sex, those seeking the best food for sex should ensure they are eating a balanced, heart-healthy diet.

Medical News Today: Is it safe to reheat rice?

There is a common belief that you should never reheat rice. However, this is not true. It is possible to reheat rice, but people must take precautions to ensure it is safe to eat.

Rice is more problematic than some other leftover foods as it may contain bacteria called Bacillus cereus, which survive some cooking processes.

This bacterium is often the cause of food poisoning from reheated or cooked rice. Food poisoning usually causes diarrhea and vomiting and can cause severe complications in people with other health issues.

If people do not follow food safety guidelines correctly, the bacteria may grow on leftover rice and make people sick. However, handling food correctly can prevent illness.

How to prepare, store, and reheat rice safely

Uncooked rice on a cloth on a table
If a person follows food safety guidelines, they can reheat rice without risk.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) outline the safest ways to cook, store, and reheat food, including rice, properly.

Each of the following steps will ensure that reheated rice has a low risk of making people sick:

1. Wash hands well

Always wash hands thoroughly before preparing and cooking food. Keep utensils that have touched raw animal products separate.

2. Cook the rice properly

When cooking rice, make sure that it reaches a high temperature. Keep it out of the danger zone — between 40°F and 140°F — where bacteria grow rapidly.

Serve rice immediately after cooking.

3. Cool the leftovers quickly

To further reduce bacteria growth, cool food quickly by:

  • Dividing the food into shallow food containers and sealing them with a lid.
  • Placing hot food directly into the fridge or freezer. Risottos or paellas will freeze better than plain rice.
  • Do not leave rice or any hot food sitting out for more than 1 hour.

4. Store leftovers properly

The USDA recommend only storing leftovers for set periods:

  • Dispose of fridge leftovers after 3 to 4 days.
  • Dispose of freezer leftovers after 3 to 4 months.

Store foods at a safe temperature. According to the USDA, room temperature is 90°F, which is the ideal temperature for bacteria to grow. Bacteria grow rapidly between 40°F and 140°F.

  • Store foods at 40°F and below. Make sure the fridge is at this temperature or lower.
  • Throw away any leftovers kept at room temperature for over 2 hours.

5. Reheating

When reheating rice, make sure it is piping hot throughout.

To microwave leftover rice:

  • Open the storage container and remove the lid. For each cup of rice, add 1–2 tablespoons of water. Place the lid lightly back on top to allow the rice to re-steam.
  • Place in the microwave and heat for 3–4 minutes, or until piping hot throughout.
  • Make sure the internal temperature of the rice is at 165°F or higher. If unsure, use a food thermometer.
  • Serve immediately.

To stir-fry leftover rice:

  • Place the rice in a wok or sauté pan with your choice of oil.
  • Turn the stove to medium heat, stirring the rice continuously. Make sure to break up the clumps of rice.
  • Stir continuously to cover the rice evenly in oil.
  • Use a thermometer to make sure internal temperature is at least 165°F.
  • Serve immediately when piping hot.

To steam leftover rice:

  • Place the rice in a saucepan with 1–2 tablespoons of butter or oil.
  • Add 1–2 tablespoons of water for each cup of rice and bring to a simmer. Keep the lid on the saucepan.
  • Stir occasionally. Once the water has boiled off, check that the internal temperature is above 165°F.
  • Serve immediately if piping hot.

It is safe to eat the rice cold as long as it has been cooled and stored correctly. Do not leave reheated rice sitting on the counter.

Following these steps will reduce the risk of food poisoning. Do not reheat the rice more than once as this further increase the risk of food poisoning.

Early symptoms of food poisoning

Woman holding stomach due to nausea
Abdominal pain can be a symptom of food poisoning.

Food poisoning symptoms typically include:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • fever
  • chills

The symptoms will come on quickly and should only last a short time. According to one report, there may be up to 84,000 cases of food poisoning caused by Bacillus cereus each year in the U.S.

Most people will recover quickly with no complications. Speak to a doctor if:

  • symptoms persist longer than 48 hours
  • symptoms worsen
  • new symptoms appear

Conclusion

Reheating rice is safe when done correctly. It is essential to practice food safety and hygiene whenever cooking.

Following specific steps will reduce bacteria growth and limit the risk of food poisoning from eating reheated rice.

Ten tips to prevent stretch marks

Stretch marks appear on men and women of all ages, sizes, and skin types. They do not cause pain or health problems, but some people are bothered by their appearance. People often wonder how to prevent stretch marks from forming.

Skin can stretch to accommodate size changes, including those due to weight fluctuations, puberty, muscle gain, and pregnancy. If the skin stretches too quickly, the collagen and elastic tissues in the skin may break, resulting in stretch marks.

Stretch marks typically first appear as red, pink, or purple lines. Over time, the blood vessels heal, and the lines often fade and become less noticeable. However, they may not disappear entirely.

According to some estimates, up to 80 percent of the population get stretch marks. They are particularly common during and after pregnancy due to the rapid changes in the body.

Teenagers who experience fast growth and body changes during puberty may also develop stretch marks. Some people who gain muscle quickly, such as weightlifters, may get stretch marks on their arms, shoulders, and legs.


How to prevent stretch marks

While there is no way to guarantee that a person will not develop stretch marks, the following tips may help reduce the likelihood:

1. Eat omega-3s

Chia seeds on wooden spoon next to oil.
Chia seeds are a plant-based source of omega-3.

Omega-3 fatty acids help the skin stay supple. Many cold-water fish contain omega-3, including:

  • salmon
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • sardines

Vegetarian sources of omega-3 include:

  • chia seeds
  • flaxseed
  • walnuts
  • algae
  • soybeans

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 8 ounces (oz) of seafood per week. Pregnant women should talk with a doctor to confirm how much fish it is safe for them to eat. They should also avoid fish that is high in mercury.

2. Get vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for healthy skin. A person can often get vitamin D from sun exposure.

However, too much sun exposure also raises the risk of skin aging and cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation state that eating fortified foods and taking supplements when necessary is a safe way to get vitamin D without exposing skin to the sun.

3. Gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend 25–35 pounds (lb) of total weight gain for pregnant women who are already at a healthy weight.

Women who are overweight before pregnancy should gain 15–25 lb, while underweight women should gain up to 40 lb.

Pregnant women should talk to their doctor about how much weight to gain during pregnancy because underlying health conditions can also affect the range.

4. Use a moisturizer

Body lotion or cream in a moisturizer pot containing honey and flower oil.
Moisturizing the skin regularly may help prevent stretch marks.

There are no creams or oils proven to prevent stretch marks. However, keeping the skin supple may be helpful for reducing the risk in some people.

Moisturizers can often help reduce itching that happens as the skin stretches. One review found that creams and oils may also help prevent stretch marks, but more recent research is necessary to confirm this.

5. Avoid anabolic steroid usage

Anabolic steroids weaken the skin’s structure, so people who use them, such as some athletes, may be more prone to stretch marks.

Anabolic steroids are not the same as corticosteroids, which are medications that people use to treat asthma, allergies, lupus, arthritis, and many other conditions.

6. Limit or avoid steroid creams for itching

Steroid creams or corticosteroids, which usually contain cortisone, may weaken skin’s collagen and result in stretch marks. However, people concerned about this should speak to a doctor before discontinuing them.

People can try anti-itch creams that do not contain cortisone for minor bug bites and rashes. They can also ask a doctor about nonsteroidal creams for conditions such as eczema.

If a person must use creams containing cortisone, it is best to use them only for as long as necessary before switching to a milder cream.

7. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

Researchers have not been able to prove that any specific vitamins prevent stretch marks, but evidence shows that skin needs a variety of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E, and zinc, to stay healthy. Fruits and vegetables are rich in these and other vitamins and minerals.

8. Get regular exercise

Exercising regularly can help a person lose weight and avoid weight gain in the future. Remaining at a healthy weight can reduce the risk of excessive skin stretching.

Exercise also increases blood flow to the skin, which can help the skin rebuild itself.

9. Wear sunscreen and avoid direct sun

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damage the skin’s collagen and elastin, which can make stretch marks more likely to form.

People should seek shade, wear UV-protective clothing, and apply sunscreen daily. It is essential to allow the sunscreen to absorb for 30 minutes before sun exposure and to reapply it at least every 2 hours while spending time in the sun.

10. Avoid smoking

Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin, which deprives it of the oxygen it needs to repair itself. In addition, smoking depletes nutrients in the body that the skin needs to stay healthy.

Smoking also releases damaging free radicals, which can break down the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin.


Risk factors

Pregnant woman sitting side profile holding baby bump
A woman may be more likely to have stretch marks from pregnancy if her mother had them.

Rapid growth and weight gain are the most common causes of stretch marks. However, not everyone who gains weight quickly or has a growth spurt as a teenager will develop them.

Experts believe that genetics may play a role in whether or not a person gets stretch marks. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery say that if a woman’s mother had stretch marks after pregnancy, she is more likely to get them as well.

Researchers also recently identified specific genes that may predispose people to stretch marks.

Other research indicates that women who are younger and have a higher body weight during pregnancy are more likely to get stretch marks than older pregnant women who weigh less.

Treatment

There is no proven way to get rid of stretch marks once they appear. However, some new treatments look promising, including:


Takeaway

A healthful lifestyle can help keep the skin looking supple and smooth and may help prevent stretch marks.

However, genetics also contributes to a person’s likelihood of developing stretch marks, so it may not be possible for everyone to prevent them.

People who are bothered by their stretch marks may wish to talk to a doctor about clinical treatment options.

What happens at each stage of breast cancer?

Breast cancer stages range from 0-4. Each stage has different symptoms and treatment options.

Breast cancer has four stages, and a doctor uses the TNM staging system to identify which of these four stages the breast cancer has reached.

The letters TNM mean the following:

  • T stands for tumor and indicates how much of the breast tissue is involved.
  • N stands for nodes and indicates whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
  • M stands for metastasis and indicates whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

The TNM staging system also uses numbers. The numbers from 0-4 determine how advanced the cancer is.

The system is overseen by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). This means all cancer doctors describe and classify the stages of cancer in the same way.

To determine which stage a person’s breast cancer has reached, a doctor will perform tests. Tests include blood tests, CT and PET scans, MRI’s, X-rays, including a mammogram, and ultrasounds.

Stage 0 breast cancer

woman wearing breast cancer awareness ribbons
The TNM staging system helps identify the stage of breast cancer and the appropriate treatment.

A person with stage 0 breast cancer has a noninvasive cancer type.

This means that cancer has not spread anywhere else in the body and that the cancerous cells remain in the breast where they started growing.

Noninvasive breast cancer is also known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). It means cancer remains in the milk ducts.

Early diagnosis of stage 0 breast cancer means that a person can receive prompt treatment.

This might prevent cancer from turning into an invasive breast cancer type.

Treatment for stage 0 breast cancer

There is a variety of treatment options for stage 0 breast cancer, including:

Surgery

A lumpectomy involves removing cancerous cells from the breast. It is an option when the cells remain in one area. This is a relatively short and simple procedure, and a person should be able to go home after the surgery on the same day.

If cancerous cells appear throughout the breast, the doctor may recommend a mastectomy, which involves removing the entire breast. Plastic surgeons can rebuild the breast at the same time or a later date.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy can help kill cancer cells and inhibit them from spreading. A person will typically undergo radiation therapy once the breast surgery site has healed. This is usually 4-6 weeks after surgery.

Hormone treatment

The hormone estrogen, found naturally in the body, can impact some types of breast cancer. If a person has estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) or progesterone receptor-positive (PR+) breast cancer, a doctor may suggest hormone treatment in addition to surgery.

The person may also require radiation therapy to manage the levels of these hormones in the body.


Stage 1 breast cancer

Stage 1 breast cancer means the cancerous cells are invading the surrounding breast tissue. Stage 1 breast cancer has two subcategories – 1A and 1B.

People with stage 1A breast cancer have breast cancer with:

  • A tumor measuring no more than 2 centimeters (cm) in diameter that has not spread outside the breast.

People with stage 1B breast cancer have invasive breast cancer that can present as:

  • No tumor in the breast, but the cancerous cells have formed into clusters that are between 0.2–2 (millimeters) mm in diameter and may also be in the lymph nodes.
  • A tumor no larger than 2 cm growing in the breast alongside small groups of cancer cells measuring between 0.2–2 mm developing in the lymph nodes.

If this is the case and the cancer is ER+ or PR+, a doctor is still likely to classify it as stage 1A cancer.

Microscopic invasion is where cancer cells have begun to spread outside the milk duct lining or lobule. If microscopic invasion is present, doctors may still classify cancer as stage 1 breast cancer, providing these cells do not measure more than 1mm.

Treatment for stage 1 breast cancer

Doctors can offer a variety of treatment options for stage 1 breast cancer, although surgery is the primary treatment.

Surgery

A lumpectomy or mastectomy are both viable surgical options for people with stage 1 breast cancer. A doctor will decide what surgery is most appropriate depending on the location of the primary tumor, how large it is, the size of the breast, family history, genetics, and the person’s preference.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a standard treatment for stage 1 breast cancer. However, a doctor may not recommend radiation therapy for people over 70 years old, particularly if hormone therapy is suitable.

Hormone therapy

If the breast cancer is ER+ or PR+, hormone therapy may be effective. Hormone therapy works by preventing the growth of estrogen, which helps cancer grow. Hormone therapy can reach cancer cells in the breast as well as other areas of the body and reduces the risk of the cancer coming back.

Chemotherapy

Before recommending chemotherapy, a doctor will test to see whether the cancer is hormone receptive.

If the test results show that the cancer is not receptive to estrogen and progesterone or to another protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), it is known as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

Hormone therapy is ineffective against this cancer type, and people who have TNBC will usually need chemotherapy.

However, some people who do have ER+ or PR+ breast cancer may still undergo chemotherapy. A doctor may need to run a test on the tumor to help decide whether chemotherapy is appropriate.

Sometimes, doctors will recommend that people who have HER2+ breast cancer use Herceptin, which is a targeted therapy, alongside chemotherapy.


Stage 2 breast cancer

Stage 2 breast cancer also has subcategories known as 2A and 2B.

Stage 2A breast cancer is an invasive cancer where:

  • There is no tumor growth in the breast itself, but cancerous masses that are over 2 mm in diameter are growing in up to three axillary lymph nodes (in and around the armpit) or lymph nodes near the breastbone.
  • There is a tumor in the breast that is under 2 cm in diameter that has spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
  • The tumor is 2–5 cm in diameter but has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage 2B breast cancer is an invasive breast cancer where:

  • A tumor that measures 2–5 cm in diameter is growing in the lymph nodes alongside clusters of cancerous cells. These cancerous cells form groups between 0.2 mm–2 mm in size.
  • There is a tumor that is 2–5 cm in diameter, and cancerous cells have spread to one to three axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes by the breastbone.
  • The tumor is larger than 5 cm, but cancerous cells have not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Treatment for stage 2 breast cancer

The most common type of treatment for stage 2 breast cancer is surgery.

Surgery

In most cases, treatment involves removing the cancer.

A person with stage 2A or 2B breast cancer may undergo a lumpectomy or mastectomy. The doctors and the individual can decide based on the size and location of the tumor.

Combination therapy

A doctor may recommend a combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy (if the cancer is hormone receptive) to people with stage 2A or 2B breast cancer.


Stage 3 breast cancer

woman having chemotherapy accompanied by partner
Chemotherapy will generally be the first phase of treatment for stage 3 breast cancer.

The subcategories for stage 3 breast cancer are 3A, 3B, and 3C.

3A breast cancer is an invasive breast cancer where:

  • There is no tumor in the breast, or a tumor of any size is growing alongside cancer found in four to nine axillary lymph nodes or the lymph nodes by the breastbone.
  • A person has a tumor greater than 5 cm, as well as clusters of breast cancer cells in the lymph nodes that are between 0.2–2 mm in diameter.
  • The tumor is larger than 5 cm, and cancer has also spread to one to three axillary lymph nodes or the lymph nodes near the breastbone.

Stage 3B breast cancer is invasive breast cancer where:

  • A tumor of any size has spread into the chest wall or skin of the breast, causing swelling or an ulcer to develop. It could also have spread to up to nine axillary lymph nodes or may have spread to lymph nodes by the breastbone.

If cancer spreads to the skin of the breast, a person may have inflammatory cancer.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • the skin of the breast turning red
  • swelling of the breast
  • the breast feeling unnaturally warm

Stage 3C breast cancer is an invasive breast cancer where:

  • There is no actual tumor in the breast, or the tumor may be any size and has spread into the wall of the chest or the skin of the breast. Cancer may also be present in 10 or more axillary lymph nodes.
  • Cancer has spread to a person’s lymph nodes above or below the collarbone or axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes located close the breastbone.

Treatment for stage 3 breast cancer

Treatment for people with stage 3 breast cancer includes chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Typically, doctors administer the chemotherapy before performing the surgery in an attempt to shrink a tumor.

People with stage 3 breast cancer will probably need radiation therapy to kill off any remaining cancer cells. Doctors may also recommend hormone therapy, as well as additional targeted therapies, if necessary.

Stage 4 breast cancer

A person with stage 4 breast cancer has cancer that has spread not only to the nearby lymph nodes but also to more distant lymph nodes and other organs in the body.

Stage 4 breast cancer is the most advanced stage. It is also known as secondary or metastatic breast cancer. Stage 4 breast cancer may be recurrent breast cancer that has now spread to other parts of a person’s body.

Treatment for stage 4 breast cancer

Typically, treatment for stage 4 breast cancer includes a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy (if appropriate).

Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the protein that allows cancer cells to grow and this type of therapy may also be an option for people with stage 4 breast cancer.

Sometimes, surgeons will operate to try and remove tumors though this is not usually the first option for treatment.

Doctors, however, may recommend surgery to help with pain relief by treating some of the issues that may develop as a result of having stage 4 breast cancer. These include spinal cord compression, removing single masses caused by metastasis, and fixing any broken bones.

A doctor may also prescribe medication to treat related symptoms such as:

  • antidepressants to help mood
  • anticonvulsants to manage pain or neurologic conditions
  • local anesthetics to manage pain

New treatments and therapies are emerging all the time, and anyone who has breast cancer at any stage can volunteer to try out these new treatments. People considering this should talk to their doctor to see whether any trials are available in their area.

Trials for a new treatment called immunotherapy are currently taking place. Immunotherapy works by raising the body’s natural ability to fight off cancer and has fewer side effects than chemotherapy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not yet approved immunotherapy, but anyone who wishes to put themselves forward for these trials should discuss their options and suitability with their doctor.


More about the TNM staging system

As well as numbers, a zero or an ‘X’ often follow the letters T, N, and M. According to the AJCC, the meanings are as follows:

  • TX means doctors do not have information about the presence or size of the tumor
  • T0 means no evidence of an invasive primary tumor is present. This indicates that the cancer is “in situ” (which means that the tumor has not yet grown into healthy breast tissue).
  • NX means doctors do not have information about the lymph nodes
  • N0 means there is no evidence of cancer in the nearby lymph nodes
  • MX means doctors do not have information about metastasis
  • M0 means no evidence of distant metastasis is present

Breast cancer treatment considerations

female family members wearing breast cancer awareness ribbons
There is increased risk of breast cancer if a close family member has it.

The stages of breast cancer give a doctor an indication of how developed the breast cancer is and the kind of treatment options that may be effective.

There are, however, other factors that doctor’s take into consideration when determining how successful a specific type of breast cancer treatment might be.

These include:

  • Age: Those under 40 tend to have more aggressive breast cancers.
  • Pregnancy: Doctors may delay chemotherapy until the second or third trimester and delay hormone and radiation therapy until after the baby is born.
  • How fast cancer grows and spreads: More aggressive cancers require more aggressive treatments.
  • Family history: People whose close relatives have experienced breast cancer are more likely to experience it themselves.
  • Genetic mutation status: If someone tests positive for the breast cancer genes known as BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene one) and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene two), their risk of developing breast cancer increases significantly. Some people may require tests for other genes associated with breast cancer.


Outlook

A person’s outlook depends on early diagnosis and the stage of their cancer. The earlier a person receives treatment, the better the prognosis.

People should routinely check for any signs of breast cancer by performing monthly breast exams and should talk to their doctor about having regular mammograms.

Some people may need to begin screening earlier than others depending on their risk factors. Discuss this with the doctor. Other people may be candidates to start screening later, but it is a good idea to share the decision making with a doctor who will be able to advise on the best way forward.

Treatment depends on many factors, including the stage of breast cancer, family history, genetics and a person’s personal preferences. Doctors will tailor treatment to each individual and will adjust it depending on how well a person responds initially.

Medical News Today: How to treat peeling skin

Peeling is the body’s way of repairing damaged cells. Peeling skin is harmless and helps the healing process, but it can be itchy and uncomfortable.

Peeling skin is a common problem after a sunburn. In this article, we look at some simple steps that people can try to prevent or treat peeling skin.

How to stop skin from peeling

People can try the following methods to stop their skin from peeling:

1. Aloe vera and moisturizer

Aloe vera plant
Aloe vera can slow or reduce the skin’s peeling process.

Many people find that aloe vera is an effective moisturizer that helps to soothe irritated skin. It is particularly helpful after a sunburn when the skin is feeling hot and painful. Aloe vera gels or lotions can:

  • cool the skin
  • reduce inflammation
  • slow or reduce the skin’s peeling process

Gently apply the lotion with the fingertips. Leave the lotion on top of the sunburn instead of rubbing it in all the way into the skin. This will maximize moisturizing effects and minimize irritation.

Sunburn can dry the skin, and drier skin makes the peeling more intense. Anyone who wishes to stop their skin from peeling after a sunburn should apply moisturizer.

A study published in the International Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Chemistry recommend using an unscented moisturizer and applying as often as needed to protect the skin following a sunburn.

Some moisturizers may contain ingredients that are not suitable for sunburn. People who are unsure should check with a pharmacist or doctor.

Creams and lotions that contain aloe vera provide the benefits of both aloe vera and moisturizer.

People can find aloe vera gel in many health stores or online.

2. Stay hydrated

Moisturizing is essential for the outside of the body and hydration is important for the inside.

People should aim to drink eight, 8-ounce (oz) glasses of water (64 oz total, or about half a gallon) each day.

3. Use anti-inflammatories

Taking an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help with peeling skin that is sore or painful.

OTC anti-inflammatory creams, such as cortisone, can help reduce inflammation caused by sunburn. Low-dose cortisone creams are available in most drug stores or supermarkets, and also online.

4. Avoid irritation

Avoid anything that could irritate the burn. Irritation disrupts the healing process and increases damage from the burn.

Avoid the following sources of irritation for sunburn:

  • overly hot or cold water
  • scratching
  • vigorous rubbing or scrubbing

Staying out of the sun for a while keeps the burn from getting worse.

5. Try these home remedies

There is not a great deal of scientific evidence to back up any home or natural remedies for sunburn. But most home or natural remedies are safe to try unless someone misuses them or is allergic.

Try:

  • applying menthol shaving cream to the skin
  • adding baking soda to a cool bath
  • putting honey on the skin


How to prevent skin from peeling

Woman applying sunscreen on the beach
A person can avoid sunburn by applying an appropriate sunscreen.

Preventing sunburn in the first place is the best way to prevent the skin from peeling due to sunburn.

One of the simplest ways to prevent sunburn is to apply an appropriate sunscreen before going outside, even on overcast days. Other tips include limiting the time spent in the sun and wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants.

If it is already too late, however, head indoors as soon as possible and grab the aloe vera. Apply liberally to any part of the skin that may be affected. Aloe vera not only slows but also helps prevent peeling.

If possible, take a cool shower and apply the aloe vera or another suitable moisturizer immediately after. Skin absorbs maximum moisture when it is damp.


How long does sunburn take to heal?

A mild-to-moderate burn heals in anywhere from 3 to 5 days. Peeling lasts up to a week, but small amounts of skin can continue to peel for days or even weeks after.

People should avoid pulling off any peeling skin after a sunburn, as the cells underneath may still be vulnerable to infection.


Who is at risk?

Recent evidence published in JAMA Dermatology found that sunburn remains a widespread problem. The problem persists despite greater public awareness of the serious conditions, such as skin cancer, that sunburn can cause.

Anyone can get sunburnt. But, according to the study, younger adults, non-Hispanic white people, and those with sensitive skin are at highest risk of sunburn. People who use, tanning salons, spend lots of time in the sun, or have obesity are also at elevated risk.

Takeaway

Peeling is a natural part of the healing process after a sunburn. There are ways to minimize it or prevent it altogether.

The only surefire prevention method, however, is to avoid getting sunburnt in the first place.

If the pain is severe or there is sickness along with the sunburn, consult a doctor.

Medical News Today: Diets ‘devoid of vegetable matter’ may cause colon cancer

A new study emphasizes the importance to gut health of eating plenty of vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale.
selection of greens
Eating brassicas such as collards, kale, and broccoli may protect against colon cancer.

Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute in London, United Kingdom, found that keeping mice on a diet rich in a compound known as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) — which comes from such vegetables — prevented the animals’ intestines from becoming inflamed and developing colon cancer.

They report the study in a paper now published in the journal Immunity.

“Seeing the profound effect,” says study senior author Dr. Brigitta Stockinger, a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, “of diet on gut inflammation and colon cancer was very striking.”

Our digestive system produces I3C when we eat vegetables from a “large and diverse group” of plants known as brassicas.

Brassicas include, but are not limited to: broccoli, cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, swede, turnip, bok choi, and mizuna.

Colon cancer typically starts as a growth, or polyp, in the lining of the colon or large intestine. It can take many years for the cancer to develop from a polyp and not all polyps become cancerous.

Cancer of the colon or rectum is the third most commonly diagnosed in both women and men in the United States, not counting skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimate that there will be 97,220 new cases of diagnosed colon cancer in the U.S. in 2018.

‘Concrete evidence’ of hidden mechanism

Despite a lot of evidence about the benefits to our digestive system of a diet rich in vegetables, much of the underlying cell biology remains unknown.

The new findings are the first to give “concrete evidence” of how dietary I3C — through its effect on a cell protein known as aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) — protects the gut from inflammation and cancer.

AhR has several roles, and for it to work properly, it has to be activated by a compound that binds to it uniquely. I3C is such a compound.

One of AhR’s jobs in the gut is to pick up environmental signals and pass them on to immune cells and other cells in the lining. These signals are important for protecting the digestive tract from inflammation-promoting signals that come from the “trillions of bacteria” that live in it.

Another important role that AhR plays is helping stem cells convert into specialized gut lining cells that produce protective mucus and help extract nutrients from food.

When AhR is absent or does not work properly, the stem cells do not convert into working cells in the gut lining but “divide uncontrollably.” Uncontrolled cell division may lead to abnormal growths that can become malignant, or cancerous.

Importance of ‘plant matter’ in diet

Dr. Stockinger and her colleagues saw that normal laboratory mice that ate “purified control diets” developed colon tumors within 10 weeks, while those that ate standard “chow” containing grains and other ingredients did not develop any.

Purified control diets are tightly controlled to include precise amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. They are designed to exactly match nutritional requirements without including germs, allergens, and other substances that might introduce spurious variables in experiments.

The new study suggests that because purified control diets contain less plant matter, they have fewer compounds that activate AhR, compared with standard chow diets or diets enriched with I3C.

Dr. Chris Schiering, of Imperial College London, remarks that “even without genetic risk factors,” it would seem that “a diet devoid of vegetable matter can lead to colon cancer.”

‘Significantly fewer tumors’

The researchers used mice and organoids, or “mini guts,” grown from mouse stem cells, in their experiments. These revealed that the ability of intestinal epithelial cells to replenish themselves and repair the gut lining after infection or chemical damage was “profoundly influenced” by AhR.

The team also found that genetically engineered mice whose intestinal epithelial cells had no AhR — or could not activate the protein — failed to control an infection from a gut bacterium called Citrobacter rodentium. The animals developed gut inflammation and then colon cancer.

“However, when we fed them a diet enriched with I3C, they did not develop inflammation or cancer,” remarks first author Dr. Amina Metidji, also of the Francis Crick Institute.

Additionally, notes Dr. Metidji, when they switched mice that were already developing colon cancer to a diet rich in I3C, they found that those animals developed “significantly fewer tumors” and that those tumors were less likely to be malignant.

In discussing their results, the researchers raise the issue of whether it is the high fat content or the low consumption of vegetables in high-fat diets that explains the link to colon cancer.

The scientists now expect to continue the work on I3C and AhR with organoids grown from human gut tissue extracted in biopsies. Eventually, they expect the work to lead to human trials.

These findings are a cause for optimism; while we can’t change the genetic factors that increase our risk of cancer, we can probably mitigate these risks by adopting an appropriate diet with plenty of vegetables.”

Dr. Brigitta Stockinger

Migraines are more common in women, but why?

Migraines are not typical headaches; they are extremely painful events and are often accompanied by nausea, blurred vision, or ultrasensitivity to smells, light, or sounds. These episodes can be debilitating and highly disruptive to day-to-day life. More women than men tend to experience them, and researchers ask why.
woman experiencing a migraine
New research looks to hormones to understand why women are more predisposed to migraines.

Scientists at the Universitas Miguel Hernández in Elche, Spain, believe that the answer as to why migraines are more common among women may lie with the activity of sex hormones.

“We can observe significant differences in our experimental migraine model between males and females and are trying to understand the molecular correlates responsible for these differences,” says Prof. Antonio Ferrer-Montiel.

Although this is a complex process, we believe that modulation of the trigeminovascular system by sex hormones plays an important role that has not been properly addressed.”

Prof. Antonio Ferrer-Montiel

The trigeminovascular system is made up of neurons that are found in a cranial nerve known as the trigeminovascular nerve. Researchers have suggested that this system is involved in migraine mechanisms.

In the new study, Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and his team argue that the activity of sex-specific hormones interact with the trigeminal system in a way that renders its nerve cells more sensitive to migraine triggers.

These findings now appear in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, as part of a special issue focusing on the importance of targeting proteins in cell membranes as an effective therapeutic approach in medicine.

In the future, Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and colleagues hope that their findings may lead to a better, more personalized approach to migraine management.

Does estrogen hold the answer?

The researchers conducted a review of existing studies about sex hormones, what drives migraine sensitivity, and how nerves react to migraine triggers. In doing so, they were looking to understand how specific sex hormones might facilitate the development of migraines.

Soon enough, they found that certain sex hormones — such as testosterone — actually appear to play a protective role. However, other hormones — such as prolactin — seem to intensify the severity of migraines, according to the scientists.

These hormones, the authors say, either boost cells’ sensitivity to migraine triggers or desensitize them, by interacting with the cells’ ion channels. These are a type of membrane protein that allow ions (charged particles) to pass through and influence the cells’ sensitivity to various stimuli.

Through their research, Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and team identified the hormone estrogen as a key player in the development of migraines.

At first, the team saw that estrogen was tied to higher migraine prevalence in women experiencing menstruation. Moreover, they also found that certain types of migraine were linked to changes in hormone levels around menstruation.

Specifically, Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and colleagues noticed that changes in estrogen levels means that trigeminal nerve cells may become more sensitive to external stimuli, which can lead to a migraine episode.

At the same time, the researchers warn that nobody should jump to any conclusions based on the evidence gathered so far. This study, they say, is preliminary, and much more research is needed to determine the exact roles that hormones play in the development and prevention of migraine.

Also, the new study has focused on findings from research conducted in vitro, or on animal models, so Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and colleagues advise that in the future, it will be important to conduct longitudinal studies with human participants.

If their findings are confirmed and consolidated, the scientists believe they could lead to improved strategies for the management of migraines.

“If successful, we will contribute to better personalized medicine for migraine therapy,” concludes Prof. Ferrer-Montiel.

Medical News Today: Why cannabis relieves IBD symptoms

New research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, reveals the molecular mechanism that explains why cannabis could help treat inflammatory bowel disease.
marijuana leaf
Marijuana may hold the key to future anti-inflammatory treatments.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that describes inflammatory conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

In the United States, approximately 1.6 million people are living with such disorders. Almost 70,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

The chronic inflammation in IBD leads to often debilitating symptoms, such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, fatigue, and diarrhea.

Older studies and anecdotal reports have shown that people who use cannabis experience and maintain remission of the condition. Cannabis users say that the drug helps them to successfully manage “abdominal pain, joint pain, cramping, diarrhea, poor appetite, weight loss, and nausea.”

What could explain this therapeutic effect? For the first time, researchers were able to find a biological mechanism that shows how cannabis relieves intestinal inflammation in IBD.

The scientists were led by Beth A. McCormick, vice chair and a professor of microbiology and physiological systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

How cannabinoids stop the inflammation

Prof. McCormick and her colleagues started their research by acknowledging an already known inflammation process that occurs when the body is infected with a pathogen.

The so-called neutrophil influx is a normal reaction of the immune system that sends neutrophils — a type of white blood cell — to fight against foreign microorganisms such as viruses or bacteria.

However, if the immune cells react disproportionately, they can also destroy the epithelium, which is the protective layer of cells that lines the inside of the intestine.

So, in order to stop the overreaction of the immune response, special molecules are “dispatched” and transported across the epithelium to stop the inflammation.

The team found that the second process requires endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), which are naturally produced by our bodies and have a similar effect to the cannabinoids in cannabis.

By performing experiments in mice and human cell lines, the team found that if endocannabinoids are lacking or are insufficient, the body cannot control the inflammation process anymore and the neutrophils attack the protective intestinal layer.

The scientists believe that cannabis makes up for the natural cannabinoids, inducing the same anti-inflammatory effect that endocannabinoids would have.

Prof. McCormick comments on the findings, saying, “There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of medical marijuana, but there hasn’t been a lot of science to back it up.”

For the first time, we have an understanding of the molecules involved in the process and how endocannabinoids and cannabinoids control inflammation. This gives clinical researchers a new drug target to explore to treat patients [with IBD].”

Prof. Beth A. McCormick

Study co-author Randy Mrsny, a professor in the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, also weighs in with a clarification.

According to him, “We need to be clear that while this is a plausible explanation for why marijuana users have reported cannabis relieves symptoms of IBD, we have thus far only evaluated this in mice and have not proven this experimentally in humans.”

“We hope, however, that these findings will help us develop new ways to treat bowel diseases in humans,” Prof. Mrsny concludes.

Medical News Today: Stage 4 melanoma: What you need to know

Melanoma is a cancer of the skin cells. In stage 4 melanoma, the cancer is advanced and has spread from its place of origin to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain, or liver.

As it spreads, stage 4 melanoma can be challenging to treat. Advanced forms of melanoma are the third leading cause of cancer spreading to the brain, after lung and breast cancer.

Melanoma occurs when the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes mutate and become cancerous. It can develop on any part of the body but is more likely to affect the chest, neck, back, and face. Melanoma is also common on the legs in women.

Survival rate

Doctor in office speaking to senior male patient
A person’s response to treatment will affect their chance of survival.

According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for stage 4 melanoma is 15–20 percent. This means that an estimated 15–20 percent of people with stage 4 melanoma will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.

Many different factors influence an individual’s chance of survival. Survival rates are estimates that use data from large group studies and do not take individual circumstances into account.

People’s age and their response to treatment can affect survival rates, as well as the availability of new treatment options.

Doctors previously considered advanced melanoma to be untreatable, but today the outlook has significantly improved.


Recognizing the signs and symptoms

The most noticeable sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole or birthmark. People should be aware of any pigmented areas on the skin that appear abnormal in color, shape, size, or texture.

People with stage 4 melanoma may also have ulcerated skin, which is skin with tiny breaks on the surface. These ulcerations can bleed.

Another sign is swollen or hard lymph nodes, which a doctor can confirm by carrying out a physical examination. Other tests include blood tests and imaging scans to confirm the presence of cancer and check how much it has spread.

Pictures

Treatment

Doctors may use traditional methods to treat stage 4 melanoma. These include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Newer methods of treatment for stage 4 melanoma include immunotherapy and targeted therapy. These treatments specifically target and destroy the cancer cells, avoiding damage to surrounding healthy cells.

In about half of all melanoma cases, there are mutations or genetic changes in a gene called the BRAF gene.

People with melanoma who have this mutated gene can use targeted therapy drugs called BRAF inhibitors. These medicines attack the BRAF protein and shrink or slow the growth of the cancer cells.


Coping

Woman jogging or running on bridge
Physical activity can aid the recovery process.

People can do a few things to make it easier to cope with a stage 4 melanoma diagnosis, the treatment, and the post-treatment journey:

  • Keep all follow-up appointments: It is vital to see a doctor frequently to discuss any side effects and check for new signs of melanoma. People with advanced-stage melanomas should have physical exams every 3–6 months for several years, even after completing treatment.
  • Get emotional support: In addition to the physical burden of the disease, cancer can be stressful and emotionally distressing. Some people may have anxiety, while others experience feelings of denial, anger, and depression. It is crucial to speak openly about these feelings and seek help from loved ones, support groups, and therapists.
  • Consult a nutrition expert or lifestyle counselor: Eating a healthful diet and increasing physical activity levels can smooth a person’s recovery and improve their long-term health.

Treatment can completely cure melanoma in many cases, especially when it has not spread extensively. However, melanoma can also recur.

It is natural to have questions about the treatment, its side effects, and the chances of cancer recurring. People with concerns should discuss them with a doctor who can offer advice that takes their medical history and overall health into account.


Outlook

Stage 4 melanoma is much more treatable today than it was a few decades ago. Monitoring moles and skin changes can help a person catch melanoma in the early stages and reduce the risk of it spreading.

People who do not respond to current treatments can also consider enrolling in clinical trials. These studies continue to look for new targeted drugs and combinations of treatments that can improve anti-cancer care and quality of life.

Anyone dealing with a stage 4 melanoma diagnosis should talk to a doctor frequently about their symptoms and reach out to loved ones and professionals for emotional support.

What are the long-term side effects of birth control?

Hormonal methods of birth control are considered safe for most people. But is there a limit to how long you can safely use birth control?

Some people take the birth control pill for much of their adult lives without a break. Others use long-term hormonal contraception devices, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), that can stay in place for several years.

The safety of using long-term hormonal birth control may depend on a person’s risk factors, age, and medical history.

Read on to find out the short-term and long-term effects of birth control.

Short-term side effects

woman holding birth control and wondering about the long term effects of birth control
Short-term side effects of birth control may include headaches, nausea, weight gain, and mood swings.

Hormonal methods of birth control contain artificial progesterone or estrogen and progesterone. They affect the hormone levels in a person’s body, so many people experience side effects shortly after taking them.

Not all people will experience side effects. Some side effects will go away within several months as the body adjusts to the hormones. Other side effects may develop after taking hormones for some time.

Possible short-term side effects of birth control include:

  • bleeding between periods, or spotting
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • breast tenderness
  • weight gain
  • mood swings


Long-term side effects

For most people, using contraceptives for a long time does not cause significant problems.

Many people use hormonal birth control for contraception. But, others take hormonal birth control to manage long-term medical conditions. Conditions include heavy or painful periods, endometriosis, and menopause symptoms. Doctors approve the use of the pills for these conditions, so they should be okay to take.

A doctor can advise individuals about the safety and risks of using long-term birth control according to their medical history.

There are several factors and possible side effects to consider when taking long-term birth control:

Birth control and cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is mixed evidence that hormonal contraceptives may increase the risk of breast and cervical cancer but reduce the risk of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancers.

The hormones in birth control, including progesterone and estrogen, may stimulate the growth of some types of cancer cells and reduce the risk of others developing.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that people who have taken birth control pills are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than those who have never used them. However, this risk goes away when people have been off the pill for 10 or more years.

The ACS also report that taking birth control for more than 5 years may increase the risk of cervical cancer. The longer people take the pill, the higher their risk. However, the risk should go back down gradually when someone stops taking the pill.

A large-scale study published in 2018 looked at the cancer prevalence in over 100,000 women aged 50 to 71 who were currently taking birth control pills. The study indicated that long-term use of birth control decreased the risk of both ovarian and endometrial cancer.

Researchers are not sure why birth control pills may lower the risk of certain cancers. It may be because the pill decreases the number of ovulations a person has in their lifetime, which exposes them to less naturally occurring hormones.

Birth control and blood clots

A 2013 meta-analysis of 26 studies indicated that the use of oral contraceptives containing both progesterone and estrogen increased people’s risk of developing a blood clot.

Blood clots increase a person’s risk of a stroke and heart attack. People who smoke may be especially at risk for developing blood clots when using birth control pills.

Is it safe to use birth control indefinitely?

Most people can safely use hormonal contraceptives for many years, provided their doctor has recommended it.

However, many long-term birth control methods contain hormones. This can cause problems depending on a person’s medical history, age, and overall health. Doctors may advise some people to avoid using certain types of birth control.

If a birth control pill causes side effects, people can speak to their doctor and change pills until they find one that works for them.

People with a history of blood clots may prefer progesterone-only birth control pills or the hormone-free IUD.


Long-term contraception options

contraceptive pills iud and vaginal ring
Long-term contraception methods include birth control pills, intrauterine devices, and the vaginal ring.

There are several long-term birth control options. All hormonal methods of birth control, including the pill, patch or implant, may cause similar side effects and long-term risks.

There is no one “best” method of birth control. The best option depends on a person’s lifestyle and medical history.

Most long-term birth control options involve the use of hormones. The hormones work in two main ways: stopping ovulation and thickening the cervical mucus, which makes it difficult for the egg and sperm to meet.

Long-term non-hormonal options are also available, including the non-hormonal IUD.

Long-term contraception methods include the following:

  • Birth control pills: Contraceptive pills often contain both artificial progesterone and estrogen. People can also use progesterone-only pills.
  • Contraceptive shots: Contraceptive shots contain progesterone and prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. A doctor can give a contraceptive shot every 3 months.
  • Contraceptive implants: An implant is a small, thin rod that a doctor inserts under the skin in the arm. It releases hormones that prevent ovulation. The implant protects from pregnancy for up to 4 years.
  • Vaginal ring: A person inserts a vaginal ring inside their vagina. The person leaves the ring in for 3 weeks and then takes it out for 1 week. The ring releases hormones, which prevent ovulation.
  • Contraceptive patch: The patch contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. A person sticks the patch on their back, bottom, or arm. The person changes the patch weekly for 3 weeks then takes the fourth week off. They must repeat this every month.
  • Intrauterine device (IUD): An IUD is a small device that a doctor inserts in the cervix. Currently, IUDs last anywhere from 3 to 12 years. People can get hormonal or non-hormonal versions of the IUD.
  • Surgical Sterilization: Options are available for both sexes. However, these are permanent methods. They are completely hormone-free.

Outlook

Using hormonal birth control is safe for as long as you need, provided that a doctor has given the okay. People should discuss their individual needs and risk factors with a doctor when deciding whether to stay on hormonal contraception for an extended period.

Consider all the options and discuss all possible health risks and benefits with a healthcare provider.

Medical News Today: New technique treats prostate cancer in just five radiotherapy sessions

A new clinical trial shows the benefits of an innovative form of radiation therapy, which delivers the radiation in only five sessions instead of the usual 37.
blue ribbon
A new form of radiotherapy may significantly improve survival for people with prostate cancer.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimate that prostate cancer affects over 160,000 people in the United States. In 2018, almost 30,000 people will die from the disease.

As with most forms of cancer, treatment options range from surgery to radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy.

Usually, radiotherapy involves 37 sessions. That said, a new clinical trial tests a radical form of radiotherapy that could reduce that number down to just five.

The trial examined the effects of stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), a highly targeted form of radiotherapy that uses several beams of radiation at once.

The beams intersect at the tumor, delivering a high dose of radiation to the malignancy but a very low dose to the surrounding healthy tissue.

However, SABR may have some side effects, including tiredness, itchy or dry skin, and soreness or swelling where the treatment was applied. In the case of prostate cancer, radiation therapy may cause urinary problems, bowel problems, and even impotence.

In the new trial, however, the participants also benefited from SpaceOAR, which is a hydrogel previously shown to minimize the side effects of radiation therapy in prostate cancer.

The trial was jointly led by Suneil Jain, a clinical senior lecturer at Queen’s University in Belfast, United Kingdom, together with Ciaran Fairmichael, a clinical research fellow also at Queen’s University.

The researchers published the results of the trial in the British Journal of Radiology.

Spacer improves high-dose treatment

SpaceOAR is a minimally invasive hydrogel rectal spacer. Co-lead researcher Fairmichael explains, “One of the complications from using radiotherapy is the potential damage that can be inflicted on neighboring tissues.”

“In this trial,” he adds, “we are evaluating the performance of the SpaceOAR hydrogel which is inserted between the prostate gland and the rectum of the patient.”

“This creates a greater distance between the prostate tumor and other tissues, which allows us to concentrate the radiotherapy dosage provided to the tumor and thus reducing the chance of radiation harming other tissues close to the tumor such as the bowel.”

The trial tested the tolerability and toxicity of inserting this spacer in six people living with prostate cancer. The researchers used computed tomography (CT) scans to plan the insertion, delivered local anesthetic, and used CT scans again to assess the position of the spacer.

Inserting the spacer minimized the probability of side effects and reduced rectal bleeding. “This is one of the first studies to investigate the efficacy of a hydrogel spacer in prostate SABR treatments,” write the authors.

“Observed dose sparing of the rectum is predicted to result in meaningful clinical benefit,” they conclude.

The trial participants also comment on how the treatment benefited them. Gordon Robinson, who is 70 years old and took part in the trial, says, “If it wasn’t for this research, I simply would not be here. My family and I are so thankful to the doctors who have helped us. This treatment has allowed me to live my life again.”

Taking part in this trial meant I was offered a high-dose five-treatment course instead of enduring 2 months of treatment. The treatment was really successful in getting rid of my tumor.”

Gordon Robinson

“I knew about the side effects of treatment,” Robinson continues, “and they really frightened me, but this trial meant I had very little discomfort or complications and can return to normal life.”

Medical News Today: Vision loss in glaucoma may be due to immune response

In glaucoma, pressure builds up inside the eye and damages the optic nerve, which leads to vision loss. However, scientists note that even in some people treated for the pressure buildup, who regain regular intraocular pressure, vision loss still occurs. New research finds out why that is.
person undergoing eye exam
Scientists uncover a hidden culprit in glaucoma: the immune response.

Dr. Dong Feng Chen and his colleagues — at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge — were interested in learning why people with glaucoma who undergo treatments to lower their eye pressure are not always protected from progressive loss of eyesight.

Also, some people diagnosed with glaucoma do not, in fact, have abnormal pressure inside the eye.

So, the researchers suspected that the reason lay beyond the buildup of pressure on the optic nerve, and they turned their attention to the activity of immune cells in the eye.

Their findings — which appear in the journal Nature Communications — indicate that an immune response to bacterial exposure may actually drive loss of vision, and this discovery, the team hopes, could lead to better, more targeted treatments of this eye condition.

“Our work shows that there is hope for finding a cure for glaucoma, or even preventing its development entirely, if we can find a way to target this pathway,” explains Dr. Chen.

“Current glaucoma therapies,” the researcher goes on, “are designed solely to lower eye pressure; however, we’ve known that, even when patients with glaucoma are treated and their eye pressure returns to normal, they can still go on to have vision loss.”

Now, we know that stress from high eye pressure can initiate an immune response that triggers T cells to attack neurons in the eye.”

Dr. Dong Feng Chen

T cell response leads to vision loss

After some analyses of mouse models of glaucoma and blood samples from people diagnosed with a common type of glaucoma, the researchers identified the mechanism leading to progressive and permanent loss of eyesight.

The authors explain that when excessive pressure builds up in the eye, it stimulates the expression of a type of protein known as “heat shock proteins,” or “stress proteins,” which play a key role in certain immune responses.

When these proteins are released, memory T cells (a type of immune cell) promptly respond, and they do so by attacking the retinal ganglion cells, which are a type of neuron that receives visual impulses from photoreceptors and then transmits this information to the brain to be decoded.

As a result of the T cells’ attack, the optic nerve is damaged and loss of vision follows.

The researchers’ first step was to look at mouse models of glaucoma. They studied three different groups of mice with this eye condition: one that did not express T cells, one that did not express B cells (a type of white cell with a role in immunity), and one with neither T cells nor B cells.

Exposure to bacteria may be key

Dr. Chen and colleagues found that mice with glaucoma lost retinal neurons only if they expressed functional T cells. Additionally, in order for T cells to attack the retinal ganglion cells and damage the optic nerve, the mice had to have been exposed to bacteria in their environment.

The mice that grew up in an entirely germ-free environment did not develop signs of glaucoma, even when they had elevated eye pressure.

In addition to these in vivo experiments, the research team also looked at blood samples from people with the most common type of glaucoma — namely, primary open angle glaucoma.

The team noticed that in samples taken from people with glaucoma, T cell activity was more than five times higher than in blood samples collected from individuals without glaucoma.

Thanks to this discovery, Dr. Chen and team believe that, in the future, experts may be able to target T cell activity in the eye in order to prevent full loss of vision in people with glaucoma.

Moreover, the researchers note that since heat shock proteins play a role in other eye and brain conditions, their new findings may even have a wider application.

Why can the birth control pill make your breasts bigger?

Birth control pills contain hormones, and they can increase a person’s breast size. However, the effect is usually temporary.

The two primary hormones present in most types of birth control pill are:

  • estrogen, a female sex hormone
  • progestin, a synthetic version of progesterone, which is another female sex hormone

The body produces estrogen and progesterone. During the menstrual cycle, levels fluctuate, and this can cause a change in breast tissue.

Estrogen is also the hormone primarily responsible for the development of breasts during puberty.

When a person starts taking the birth control pill, their levels of these hormones rise, and this can result in an increase in breast size.

However, the size of the breasts may return to normal after a few monthly cycles or after a person stops taking the pill.

Can birth control affect breast size and how?

does birth control make your boobs bigger
Birth control pills contain hormones that can increase the size of a person’s breasts.

Birth control pills can increase the size of a person’s breasts.

Estrogen and progesterone levels change during the menstrual cycle, and this can cause changes in the breast tissue. A person may feel that their breasts are tender or sore, as a result.

Many birth control pills contain the same hormones, estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic form of progesterone. Starting to take the pill can stimulate the breasts to grow. However, any increase in size is typically slight.

Within a few months of taking the pill, the breasts generally return to their regular size. This usually also happens if a person stops taking the pill.

There is another link between the birth control pill and breast enlargement. When a person starts taking birth control, the changes to hormone levels can cause the body to retain fluid. This can make the breasts feel engorged.

When fluid retention, or edema, is responsible for breasts that feel bigger, a person may notice that their breast size returns to normal during the week that they are not taking an active pill. During this week, they will get a period.


Can birth control make people gain weight?

Weight gain is a side effect of many birth control pills. Like the possible increase in breast size, any associated weight gain is typically slight.

In 2014, researchers published a review of 49 trials. They had tried to find a causal link between weight gain and types of birth control that contained both estrogen and progestin. The researchers found that these pills tended to have no significant impact on weight.

If a person who starts taking the birth control pill does experience minor weight gain, it is because hormonal changes have caused the body to retain fluid.


Other side effects of birth control

does taking birth control make your boobs bigger
Potential side effects of birth control pills include nausea, headaches, and changes in menstruation.

In general, doctors consider the pill to be safe. However, a person should be aware of some possible side effects, which include:

  • changes in mood
  • changes in menstruation, involving either more or less bleeding
  • tenderness in the breasts
  • nausea
  • headaches

The increase in hormones, particularly estrogen, can also cause more serious side effects. Birth control pills that only contain progestin are less likely to cause these effects.

Serious, though rare, side effects of birth control include:

Before starting or changing a method of birth control, discuss the risks with a doctor.


When to see a doctor

does birth control make your boobs bigger doctor consultation
A person should see a doctor before taking the birth control pill.

A person must see a doctor before they can start taking the birth control pill and before switching pills.

It is essential for each person to discuss the potential side effects and risk factors with a medical professional.

Some risk factors to consider include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • smoking
  • being over the age of 35
  • having a history of migraines with auras
  • having a history of high blood pressure
  • the presence of a clotting disorder
  • having high cholesterol

If a person has any of these risk factors, a doctor may recommend a different type of birth control. The doctor should be able to provide additional options.


Takeaway

When taking a birth control pill, a person should be aware of the potential risks and side effects.

One of the milder side effects is a slight, temporary increase in breast size. Though rare, some other side effects are more severe, and they can even be life-threatening.

Before a person starts using hormone-based birth control, it is essential to discuss the advantages and disadvantages with a doctor.

Medical News Today: Which fruits should you eat during pregnancy?

Making healthful food choices is crucial for women when they are pregnant. Their diet will provide the fetus with the nutrients essential for growth and development.

A nutritious diet plays an essential role in a person’s overall health, helping the body to function effectively and reducing the risk of some diseases.

Most people are aware that a healthful diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthful fats. However, they may not realize that specific fruits are particularly beneficial during pregnancy.

In this article, we explain why it is important to eat fruit during pregnancy. We also cover which fruits are best to eat during this time, and which types of fruit pregnant women may wish to avoid.

What are the benefits of eating fruit during pregnancy?

Pregnant woman holding fruit including apples and oranges by tummy bump
Fruits provide vitamins and nutrients that are essential during pregnancy.

Eating a healthful, varied diet is particularly important during pregnancy as the right nutrients can help the fetus to develop and grow as it should.

In addition to supporting the growing baby, an increased intake of vitamins and minerals can help a pregnant woman keep her own body in the best condition possible.

Eating plenty of fresh fruit during pregnancy can help to ensure that both the woman and baby remain healthy. Fresh fruit contains lots of essential vitamins and nutrients and is a good source of fiber too.


The best fruits to eat during pregnancy

Snacking on fruit can be a great way to boost vitamin intake in addition to curbing sugar cravings.

Below, we list 12 of the best fruits to include in a healthful pregnancy diet.

1. Apricots

Apricots contain:

All of these nutrients help with the baby’s development and growth. Iron can prevent anemia and calcium helps bones and teeth grow strong.

2. Oranges

Oranges are an excellent source of:

Oranges are great for keeping a person hydrated and healthy. Vitamin C can help prevent cell damage and assist with iron absorption.

Folate can help prevent neural tube defects, which can cause brain and spinal cord abnormalities in a baby. Neural tube defects can cause conditions such as spina bifida, where the spinal cord does not develop properly, and anencephaly, in which a large part of the brain and skull is missing.

3. Mangoes

Mangoes are rich in vitamins A and C.

One cup of chopped mango provides 100 percent of a person’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C and more than a third of their RDA of vitamin A.

A baby born with vitamin A deficiency may have lower immunity and a higher risk of postnatal complications, such as respiratory infections.

4. Pears

Pears provide lots of the following nutrients:

  • fiber
  • potassium
  • folate

Getting plenty of fiber in a pregnancy diet can help ease constipation, a common pregnancy symptom.

Potassium can benefit heart health for both the woman and baby. It also stimulates cell regeneration.

5. Pomegranates

Pomegranates can provide pregnant women with plenty of:

  • vitamin K
  • calcium
  • folate
  • iron
  • protein
  • fiber

Nutrient-dense pomegranates are also a good source of energy, and their high iron content helps prevent iron-deficiency.

Vitamin K is also essential for maintaining healthy bones.

Research suggests that drinking pomegranate juice may help to decrease the risk of injury to the placenta.

6. Avocados

Avocados are an excellent source of:

  • vitamins C, E, and K
  • monounsaturated fatty acids
  • fiber
  • B vitamins
  • potassium
  • copper

Avocados contain healthful fats that provide energy and help to prevent neural tube defects. They also boost the cells responsible for building the skin and brain tissues of the developing baby.

The potassium in avocados can provide relief from leg cramps, another symptom that is common during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester.

7. Guava

Papaya fruit
Guava contains vitamin E and folate, making it an ideal fruit to eat during pregnancy.

Guava is an excellent choice of fruit for people wanting more of the following nutrients:

  • vitamins C and E
  • polyphenols
  • carotenoids
  • isoflavonoids
  • folate

Guava contains a varied combination of nutrients, making it ideal for pregnant women. Eating guava during pregnancy can help to relax muscles, aid digestion, and reduce constipation.

8. Bananas

Bananas contain high levels of:

  • vitamin C
  • potassium
  • vitamin B-6
  • fiber

The high fiber content of bananas can help with pregnancy-related constipation, and there is some evidence to suggest that vitamin B-6 can help relieve nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy.

9. Grapes

Eating plenty of grapes can boost people’s intake of:

  • vitamins C and K
  • folate
  • antioxidants
  • fiber
  • organic acids
  • pectin

The nutrients in grapes can help to aid the biological changes that occur during pregnancy.

They contain immune-boosting antioxidants, such as flavonol, tannin, linalool, anthocyanins, and geraniol, which also help prevent infections.

10. Berries

Berries are a good source of:

Berries also contain lots of water, so they are an excellent source of hydration. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption and boosts the body’s immune system.

11. Apples

Apples are packed with nutrients to help a growing fetus, including:

  • vitamins A and C
  • fiber
  • potassium

One study found that eating apples while pregnant may reduce the likelihood of the baby developing asthma and allergies over time.

12. Dried Fruit

The following nutrients occur in dried fruit:

  • fiber
  • vitamins and minerals
  • energy

Dried fruit contains all the same nutrients as fresh fruit. Therefore, pregnant women can get their RDA of vitamins and minerals by eating portions of dried fruits that are smaller than the equivalent amount of fresh fruits.

However, it is important to remember that dried fruit can be high in sugar and does not contain the water content that fresh fruit does. This means that it does not aid digestion. Pregnant women should only eat dried fruits in moderation and should avoid candied fruits altogether.

It is best to eat dried fruits in addition to fresh fruits, rather than instead of them.

How much fruit should someone eat during pregnancy?

The advice for pregnant women is to eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables each day and to vary these as much as possible. Fruit can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried.

As a general rule, a serving of fruit is:

  • one piece of fruit, for fruits that are larger than the size of a tennis ball
  • one cup of chopped fruit

Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables during pregnancy provides pregnant women with adequate nutrition to support their developing baby. It should also minimize the risk of certain diseases and defects and help to nourish the woman’s body.


Are there any fruits a person should avoid during pregnancy?

Bottles of fruit and vegetable juice
Fruit juice has a high sugar content.

There is no particular fruit that pregnant women should avoid. However, it is essential for women to be aware of portion size. Some fruits have a high sugar content, and certain forms of fruit, such as juices and dried fruits, are often significantly higher in sugar and calories than their fresh counterparts.

Buying organic fruit will ensure that it has not come into contact with fertilizers and pesticides that could damage its quality. However, if organic fruit is not an option, non-organic fruit is still better than eliminating fruit from the diet altogether.

It is important to remove any pesticides and bacteria that might be present on fruit by washing it thoroughly before eating it. People should take other safety precautions by:

  • removing areas of bruised fruit, which are more likely to contain bacteria
  • storing fruit in a separate area of the fridge to any raw meat products
  • avoiding precut melons
  • only drinking pasteurized or boiled fruit juice

Takeaway

Fruit is an excellent source of nutrients that are essential during pregnancy. Fruits can provide vitamins, folate, fiber, and more, which all help to keep the woman and baby healthy. These nutrients can also help to relieve some of the common symptoms of pregnancy.

Pregnant women should aim to consume at least five different portions of fruit and vegetables each day. The 12 fruits listed in this article are particularly good choices during pregnancy. Pregnant women should also limit their intake of dried fruits and fruit juices as these can be high in sugar and calories than fresh types.

Medical News Today: What is the outlook for chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Survival rates for chronic lymphocytic leukemia are good compared to many other cancers. Although doctors cannot often cure the disease, a person can live with this form of leukemia for many years with treatment.

In this article, we talk about survival rates for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and the factors that can influence a person’s life expectancy. We also discuss how to achieve a good quality of life with CLL.

CLL overview

Anxious senior lady
CLL does not usually present symptoms, and older adults are more likely to be affected by it.

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow and blood. Lymphocytic leukemia begins in the white blood cells, known as lymphocytes. These cells originate in the bone marrow.

When a person has lymphocytic leukemia, white blood cells become leukemia cells, which can spread into the blood and other parts of the body.

CLL happens when white blood cells do not fully mature. They cannot fight infection properly, and they build up in the bone marrow. This means healthy white blood cells do not have as much room to thrive. Healthy white blood cells are crucial for fighting disease.

CLL does not usually have any symptoms, and someone may only discover they have it when they have a routine blood test. If a person does have symptoms, they may include the following:

  • swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, under the arms, or in the groin
  • weight loss without an obvious cause
  • extreme tiredness
  • fever or high temperature, often due to an infection

There are two forms of CLL. The cells for each form are slightly different, but doctors can only tell the cells apart by testing them in a laboratory.

One form of CLL progresses very slowly, and a person may not need treatment for some time. The second form progresses more quickly and is considered to be more severe.

Doctors can only very rarely cure CLL. This means that a person must live with the disease, and is likely to need ongoing treatment. Often, people do not require treatment for a while.

Older adults are more likely than others to be affected by CLL, with 70 years being the average age of diagnosis. Those under the age of 40 years old are very unlikely to experience this type of cancer.


Survival rates

Survival rates can give a person more information about the outlook for their illness and help them to plan treatment and care. However, survival rates are only ever an estimate.

To find survival rates, researchers look at information about a group of people with a recent CLL diagnosis. Five years later, they look at data on the same group of people. The percentage of people in that group who are still living with the disease 5 years on is the survival rate.

This does not mean that life expectancy for a person with CLL is 5 years. Researchers typically collect data for survival rates at 1, 5, or 10 years after diagnosis.

Someone may live significantly longer than 5 years after a diagnosis of CLL. Researchers base survival rates on information from people who had a diagnosis of CLL 5 years before. So, if better treatments have become available in the following 5 years, people who have had a recent diagnosis may find the survival rates have improved.

In the United States, survival rates for leukemia have improved significantly over the past 40 years. The current survival rate for CLL is 83 percent. This means that about 83 out of every 100 people with CLL will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.


Factors that influence life expectancy

couple sitting down holding hands
A person’s life expectancy may shorten with a higher CLL stage.

Doctors talk about stages to indicate how far cancer has progressed in a person’s body. Because leukemia affects the blood, doctors cannot stage it in this way.

There are two systems for staging leukemia: the Rai system and the Binet system. In the U.S., doctors use the Rai system more commonly.

In the Rai system, a person will have blood tests to check for cancer cells and to find out how many white blood cells are in the blood and bone marrow. Alongside a physical exam, this information can give one of five stages for CLL:

  • Stage 0: Increased number of white blood cells.
  • Stage 1: Increased number of white blood cells, enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Stage 2: Increased number of white blood cells, enlarged spleen, lymph nodes may be enlarged, liver may be enlarged.
  • Stage 3: Increased number of white blood cells, low number of red blood cells, lymph nodes, liver, or spleen may be enlarged.
  • Stage 4: Increased number of white blood cells, low number of platelets, number of red blood cells may be low, enlarged lymph nodes, liver, or spleen.

A higher stage number means that CLL is impacting more of the body. A higher stage will often shorten a person’s life expectancy.

Other factors that can affect survival rates include:

  • whether CLL has come back or improved with treatment
  • how cancer cells have spread in the bone marrow
  • if there are changes to a person’s DNA and what they are
  • a person’s general health

People often feel better and live for longer when they receive treatment for CLL. Treatment focuses on stopping or slowing down the spread of CLL. If the condition is at an early stage, it may not need treatment.

Treatment options for CLL include:

After treatment, a person is likely to have periods of time when they have few or no symptoms of CLL. This is often known as remission. At the current time, medical professionals do not know if a person can reduce their risk of CLL coming back.


Living with CLL

Although there is no cure for CLL, ongoing treatment can help a person to live with the condition for a long time. There are several ways that someone who has CLL can support their health and wellbeing.

Going to all medical appointments is an essential part of managing any side effects of medication and treatment. When a doctor sees an individual at regular appointments, they have the chance to check for signs that CLL may be returning and treat it quickly.

Staying as healthy as possible can help with general health and wellbeing. People with CLL may find benefit from doing gentle exercise and eating a healthful diet.

Many people find living with a lifelong condition challenging. Getting emotional support and expressing feelings can help. A listening shoulder may be from friends, family, or community groups. In the U.S., the American Cancer Society offers information on local support groups and information services.

Having correct information can give a person more control and understanding. Finding out as much as possible about CLL and consulting with a doctor on how to lead a healthy lifestyle can help with decisions about treatment and care.


Takeaway

Doctors can very rarely cure CLL. However, survival rates for this cancer are good, particularly with early diagnosis and treatment. People can live with CLL for many years after diagnosis, and some can live for years without the need for treatment.