WEDNESDAY, Aug. 8, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Most people seeking romantic partners online try for someone “out of their league.”
That’s the conclusion of researchers who analyzed data from online dating networks in Boston, Chicago, New York and Seattle. They found most of the people contacted prospects who were considered 25 percent more desirable than the seeker.
The study, published Aug. 8 in the journal Science Advances, also found that people sent longer messages to those considered more desirable.
“I think a common complaint when people use online dating websites is they feel like they never get any replies,” lead author Elizabeth Bruch said in a Santa Fe Institute news release.
“This can be dispiriting. But even though the response rate is low, our analysis shows that 21 percent of people who engage in this aspirational behavior do get replies from a mate who is out of their league, so perseverance pays off,” she added.
To rate users’ desirability, the researchers used an algorithm based on the number of messages a person received and the desirability of the senders.
“If you are contacted by people who are themselves desirable, then you are presumably more desirable yourself,” the study authors wrote.
When the researchers compared desirability scores against user attributes, they found correlations between age, education level and ethnicity. And, they noted, up to age 50, older men tended to have higher desirability scores than younger men, while women’s desirability scores tended to decline from ages 18 to 60.
Bruch and her co-author Mark Newman study complex systems at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and belong to the external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute.
“We have so many folk theories about how dating works that have not been scientifically tested,” Bruch said. “Data from online dating gives us a window on the strategies that people use to find partners.”
The FBI explains how to protect yourself from online dating scams.
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 8, 2018 (HealthDay News) — More genes associated with an increased risk of triple-negative breast cancer have been identified by researchers.
Until now, only mutations in the BRCA1 gene have been linked with this type of breast cancer.
“Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive type of cancer that cannot be treated using targeted therapies,” study leader Fergus Couch, a geneticist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., explained in a clinic news release.
“It accounts for 15 percent of breast cancer in the Caucasian population and 35 percent in the African-American population. It is also associated with a high risk of recurrence and a poor five-year survival rate. Our findings provide the basis for better risk management,” Couch said.
The researchers conducted genetic tests on nearly 11,000 patients with triple-negative breast cancer and found that mutations in the BARD1, BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2 and RAD51D genes were associated with a high risk for triple-negative breast cancer and a greater than 20 percent lifetime risk of any type of breast cancer among whites. Similar findings were made among blacks.
The team also found that mutations in the BRIP1 and RAD51C genes were associated with a more moderate risk of triple-negative breast cancer.
The findings were published Aug. 6 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
“This study is the first to establish which genes are associated with high lifetime risks of triple-negative breast cancer,” Couch said. “While previous studies have found genetic variants in BARD1, BRIP1, PALB2 and RAD51C triple-negative breast cancer patients, the current study shows this in more detail, and identifies new specific and strong associations between the susceptibility genes RAD51D and BARD1, and triple-negative breast cancer risk.”
The findings may result in expanded genetic testing to identify women at risk for triple-negative breast cancer and could lead to improved prevention, Couch added.
U.S. National Comprehensive Cancer Network screening guidelines recommend BRCA testing only for patients with a family history of breast cancer or those who are diagnosed at age 60 or younger, the researchers said.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer has more on triple-negative breast cancer.
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 8, 2018 (HealthDay News) — If you’re in your early 60s, becoming more active may reduce your risk of heart disease, researchers report.
That’s especially true for women, they added.
“The 60 to 64 age range represents an important transition between work and retirement, when lifestyle behaviors tend to change. It may, therefore, be an opportunity to promote increased physical activity,” said study author Ahmed Elhakeem.
“In addition, cardiovascular disease risk is higher in older adults. It’s important to understand how activity might influence risk in this age group,” Elhakeem said. “We found it’s important to replace time spent sedentary with any intensity level of activity.”
Elhakeem is a senior research associate in epidemiology at the University of Bristol Medical School in England.
The study, published Aug. 8 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, included more than 1,600 British people in their early 60s who wore heart rate and movement sensors for five days.
Their blood was analyzed for key signs of heart disease: inflammatory markers C-reactive protein and interleukin 6 (IL-6); blood vessel function markers tissue-plasminogen activator (t-PA) and E-Selectin (a molecule that plays an important part in inflammation); and cholesterol markers leptin and adiponectin.
“We focused on these atherosclerosis biomarkers as they are less studied and have been shown to predict risk of cardiovascular events and death,” Elhakeem said in a journal news release.
The study found:
- Each additional 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity was associated with leptin levels that were 3.7 percent lower in men and 6.6 percent lower in women.
- Each additional 10 minutes of inactivity was associated with 0.6 percent higher IL-6 levels in men and 1.4 percent higher IL-6 levels in women.
- Each additional 10 minutes of light intensity activity was associated with 0.8 percent lower t-PA levels in both men and women.
- Overall, more time in low-intensity activity and less time inactive were associated with better IL-6 and t-PA levels, regardless of the amount of higher intensity activity.
The researchers said the findings suggest physical activity might lower heart disease risk among people in their early 60s by improving blood vessel function.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (or a combination of the two), as well as muscle-strengthening exercises two or more days a week.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on physical activity and your heart.
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 8, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations are effective for teen girls who didn’t get the recommended shots when they were 11 or 12, researchers report.
The Kaiser Permanente study of more than 25,000 women aged 26 and younger found that those who got all three doses of the vaccinations between ages 14 and 20 were protected against the virus that is spread through sexual contact and could lead to cervical cancer.
In the United States, HPV vaccination is recommended for girls aged 11-12. For those who did not receive the vaccine at this age, catch-up vaccination has been recommended between ages 13 and 26.
However, less than half of girls aged 13 to 17 are up to date with the HPV vaccine series.
The latest findings suggest that getting the full three-dose series between ages 14 and 20 is effective. But, the researchers added, further study is needed to confirm the effectiveness of catch-up vaccination in women between the ages of 21 and 26.
The study was published Aug. 7 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
“The evidence suggests that protection is strongest the earlier the vaccine is initiated, and after the age of 21, the evidence of effectiveness is unclear. Further research in other settings, and using the recently introduced nonavalent vaccine, will now be needed to assess the effectiveness of vaccinating women aged 21 to 26,” study author Michael Silverberg said in a journal news release. He is a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Division of Research in Oakland.
“The results of this study confirm existing research, which showed that the HPV vaccine is most effective when given at younger ages, but no benefit was found in patients older than 21 years,” Sarah Dilley and Warner Huh, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
“Efforts towards increasing HPV vaccine uptake should be focused on younger adolescents — with a priority on vaccinating children aged 11-12 years — and providing catch-up dosing for older adolescents,” they added.
“However, in the setting of low rates of HPV vaccination in the USA, the importance of catch-up dosing in young women should not be ignored. Given that prospective efficacy studies have shown benefits for catch-up vaccination up to at least age 26 years, more data is needed before abandoning this practice,” they concluded.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on HPV.
TUESDAY, Aug. 7, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Photo-editing tools that make people look more perfect online than in real life may be a health threat, medical experts warn.
The tidal wave of altered photos on social media is changing perceptions of beauty. And that can trigger a preoccupation with appearance that leads to risky efforts to hide perceived flaws, researchers suggest. Those efforts include behaviors like skin altering and even plastic surgery.
This condition — called body dysmorphic disorder — affects about 2 percent of people, research shows.
Studies have found that teen girls who alter their social media photos tend to be more concerned with their body appearance, and those with dysmorphic body image use social media for validation, according to the authors of a report published Aug. 2 in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.
Other studies have found that 55 percent of plastic surgeons have seen patients who want to look better in selfies.
“A new phenomenon called ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ has popped up, where patients are seeking out surgery to help them appear like the filtered versions of themselves,” said the new report’s co-author, Dr. Neelam Vashi. She’s director of the Ethnic Skin Center at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine.
The authors of the report warn that surgery may worsen, not improve, body dysmorphic disorder in such patients. Mental health treatment is a better remedy, they advised.
“Filtered selfies can make people lose touch with reality, creating the expectation that we are supposed to look perfectly primped all the time,” Vashi said in a medical center news release.
“This can be especially harmful for teens and those with body dysmorphic disorder, and it is important for providers to understand the implications of social media on body image to better treat and counsel our patients,” she said.
The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more about body image.
TUESDAY, Aug. 7, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The widely used chemotherapy drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) can be life-saving for women with HER2-positive breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of the disease.
But new research now adds to mounting evidence that the treatment can take a toll on the heart, increasing the risk for heart failure.
The complication is uncommon, and in many cases, the benefits of the chemotherapy still outweigh the risks. But the study authors stressed that regular heart monitoring of these high-risk patients, including younger women, should be a priority during treatment.
“This is an important finding, as to the best of our knowledge this is the first study to calculate the rates of cardiotoxicity in younger women using insurance claim data,” said the study’s lead author, Mariana Henry. She’s a graduate student at the Yale School of Public Health.
The study used diagnoses and insurance billing codes for nearly 16,500 women with non-metastatic invasive breast cancer who were a median age of 56 years old, and were treated with chemotherapy within six months of diagnosis. Of these patients, 4,325 of the participants received Herceptin, or trastuzumab-based chemotherapy.
The researchers found that 4.2 percent of the study patients developed heart failure. But rates of the condition were higher among those treated with Herceptin: 8.3 percent of these patients developed heart failure compared with 2.7 percent of those who did not receive this type of chemotherapy.
And the risk of heart failure increased with age.
Taking other chemotherapy drugs, known as anthracyclines, could also increase the likelihood of heart problems, the investigators found.
“While we were unable to directly look at obesity, comorbidities such as diabetes, which tend to be associated with obesity, were associated with a higher risk of heart failure,” Henry noted.
The researchers concluded that breast cancer patients treated with Herceptin require regular heart monitoring. Heart disease is the second leading cause of death among breast cancer survivors mainly due to the toxic effects of some cancer treatments, the study authors pointed out.
According to Dr. William Hundley, a cardiology professor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, N.C., “There is a surveillance program with echocardiograms during receipt of trastuzumab for this very purpose.”
This usually involves undergoing an echocardiogram, a procedure that uses ultrasound waves to assess heart function, every three months during treatment, explained Hundley, who was not involved in the new study. He added that treatment discussions between breast cancer patients and their oncologist should cover both the risks and benefits of any appropriate therapies.
In their study, Henry and her colleagues also analyzed the rate of heart-monitoring adherence among the chemotherapy patients.
Only 46 percent of those treated with Herceptin or trastuzumab-based chemotherapy had their heart function assessed before starting chemotherapy and received the recommended heart monitoring during treatment, the findings showed.
It’s unclear why rates of heart monitoring were low among these patients. The study authors suggested that some doctors may view it as unnecessary, particularly for younger women with fewer underlying health issues or other heart-related risks.
The researchers pointed out that younger women with long life expectancies may receive more aggressive treatment, which could increase their need for more careful heart monitoring.
If heart changes are detected, patients can talk to their doctor and make informed decisions about their treatment. In some cases, heart medications can help improve heart health during treatment, according to the American Heart Association.
Hundley added that scientists are also actively investigating if lifestyle adjustments — such as diet and exercise — could also help reduce the risk for heart problems among high-risk chemotherapy patients.
The study was published Aug. 6 in a special Imaging in Cardio-oncology issue of JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about heart health during cancer treatment.
MONDAY, Aug. 6, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Women are significantly more likely to survive a heart attack if their emergency physician is a woman, new research reveals.
The finding comes from a study of two decades of data on almost 582,000 heart attack patients admitted to hospitals across the state of Florida between 1991 and 2010.
And the research showed that the gender gap for patients treated by female physicians was only about 0.2 percent: 11.8 percent of men died, versus about 12 percent of women. But treatment by male physicians tripled the gap to 0.7 percent: 12.6 percent of men died compared to 13.3 percent of women.
“There’s been a lot of prior work suggesting that women are more likely to pass during [a heart attack] for a variety of reasons,” noted Brad Greenwood, the study’s lead author.
Why that is is not exactly clear, he added.
Prior research suggests that patients generally communicate better with caregivers of the same gender. That could mean that “female patients are more comfortable advocating for themselves with a female physician” or that “male physicians aren’t getting all the cues they need to make the diagnosis” when dealing with female patients, he said.
Another possible factor could be that female heart attack patients are entering hospitals with gender-specific symptoms that are more readily recognized by female physicians, Greenwood added. Or that male doctors are simply less quick to diagnose heart attacks among women because they think of a heart attack as “a prototypical ‘male’ condition.”
Greenwood is an associate professor of information and decision sciences with the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, in Minneapolis.
His team’s findings were published online Aug. 6 in the journal PNAS.
During the nearly two-decade study timeframe, roughly 1.3 million heart attacks occurred among Florida’s 20 million residents. Heart attacks are currently the leading cause of death among both American men and women across the economic spectrum, and now account for about a quarter of all fatalities in the United States, the researchers noted.
And because heart attacks come about suddenly, patients are rarely able to choose their doctor — or his or her gender — when entering an emergency department.
The study did find two factors that seemed to “protect” patients from a poorer prognosis when treated by a male doctor. For one, survival rates rose in emergency departments that had a higher overall percentage of female doctors, even if the attending doctor was male. And investigators also found that the more experience a male doctor had in treating female heart attack patients, the better the treatment outcomes.
Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, noted that a number of factors might be at play. For one thing, doctors may not be spending the time to realize that men and women may have different symptoms, and women may have more subtle symptoms, she said.
Goldberg also said gender affects communication style, “and communication — getting the medical history — is very important in leading to an accurate diagnosis.”
In addition, she suggested, “There may be some unconscious bias, or that women physicians spend more time with their patients. This needs to be studied.”
Goldberg is director of the NYU Center for Women’s Health in New York City.
There’s more on gender and heart disease at the American Heart Association.
FRIDAY, Aug. 3, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Don’t kid yourself that using a sunless tanning product will prevent skin cancer.
Unless you’re willing to stop sunbathing altogether, you’re still at risk for skin damage, researchers report.
“For the most part, adults who use sunless tanning products continue to engage in risky tanning behaviors,” said study leader Matthew Mansh, a dermatology resident at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Sunless tanners include sprays, ointments, creams, foams or lotions. They’re touted as a safe alternative to outdoor sunbathing or indoor tanning. But before recommending them to his patients, Mansh wanted to know if people who use such products avoid activities that increase skin cancer risk.
Apparently not, he concluded.
The researchers looked at more than 27,000 adults. About 6.4 percent said they used sunless tanning products.
These people were more likely to use indoor tanning beds and to have had a recent sunburn than those who didn’t buy tanning creams and lotions. They were also less likely to wear protective clothing or seek shade when outdoors, according to the study.
When they zeroed in on use of indoor tanning beds, the researchers found those who applied sunless tanning products visited tanning salons more often than those who did not use the products.
“Most evidence supports that sunless tanning products are safe to use and do not cause skin cancer. However, these products can only be effective at reducing skin cancer rates if they are able to help people disengage in risky behaviors such as indoor tanning or outdoor sunbathing,” Mansh said in a medical school news release.
“Our study casts doubt on whether that assumption is true and suggests that sunless tanning products could inadvertently reinforce desires to achieve tanned skin,” he added.
Young, white, college-educated women and gay and bisexual men were most likely to self-tan. The products were also more popular among people in the western United States and those with a family history of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. About one in five Americans will develop the disease in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
The study was published July 25 in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on skin cancer.
THURSDAY, Aug. 2, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Heart disease is a leading cause of death in patients with the autoimmune illness lupus. Now, research suggests high-tech scans can spot cardiac issues early.
The scans can detect heart abnormalities even before patients have any symptoms, Chinese researchers say.
“Our findings may affect current lupus diagnostics and treatment — meaning more patients with silent cardiac [damage] could be identified and receive proper treatment,” explained study co-leader Dr. Jun Pu, of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
One U.S. physician who cares for lupus patients agreed the finding could be an advance.
Dr. Rachel Bond said it’s well-known that heart disease can be deadly for many lupus patients, so healthy living and routine screening for heart disease is recommended.
“Unfortunately, there is no clear consensus on what the best screening options are,” said Bond, who helps direct Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Our hope is to find a way to detect heart disease or the risks for heart disease, earlier on, to improve overall outcomes.”
In the new study, Pu’s team focused on a newer type of imaging called cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR), to see if it might improve screening. The study included 50 recently diagnosed lupus patients, 60 patients with longstanding lupus, and 50 people without lupus.
As hoped, CMR was able to show structural and functional changes in the hearts of patients with lupus. And the degree of the changes — including signs of scarring (fibrosis) — was associated with the stage of lupus.
As the researchers explained, current tests to assess lupus patients’ hearts often miss changes that are visible with CMR. The new findings suggest that CMR can detect heart problems at an earlier stage, meaning patients can receive treatment to protect their hearts from further damage.
The longer-term benefit of the scans remains unclear, however. “Whether these treatments will improve a patient’s prognosis still needs to be evaluated by further clinical studies,” Pu said in a news release from the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology. Her team published their findings in the journal on Aug. 2.
Bond believes more physicians may need to be educated about CMR, however.
“This is an incredibly interesting study which highlights the importance and underutilization of CMR. Many cardiologists are not using this [technology] due to either lack of exposure or experience with advanced imaging. But this is yet another tool to identify potential heart disease before it becomes catastrophic,” Bond explained.
“I personally believe that we should be using CMR in patients with inflammatory disorders as well as any other disorder which predisposes to accelerated heart disease,” Bond said.
The Lupus Foundation of America has more on lupus.
THURSDAY, Aug. 2, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Middle-aged people who drink moderately — no more than a glass of wine a day — may have a relatively lower risk of developing dementia later in life, researchers report.
The study, which followed 9,000 British adults for over two decades, found that both heavier drinkers and abstainers had a higher dementia risk than moderate drinkers.
Moderate drinking was defined according to the recommended drinking limits in the United Kingdom: no more than 14 “units” of alcohol per week. That translates to one medium-sized glass of wine, or roughly a pint of beer, each day.
People who were nondrinkers in middle age were 47 percent more likely to eventually be diagnosed with dementia, versus moderate drinkers, the findings showed.
Meanwhile, when people drank beyond moderate levels, their risk of dementia rose in tandem with their alcohol intake.
Among people who had more than a drink per day, dementia risk rose by 17 percent with every additional 7 units of alcohol they downed per week. That’s equivalent to three to four glasses of wine.
None of that, however, proves there is something directly protective about moderate drinking, experts stressed.
“No one is saying that if you don’t drink, you should start,” said Dr. Sevil Yasar, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.
She wrote an editorial published with the study Aug. 1 in the BMJ.
“Why does abstaining appear detrimental when it comes to dementia risk?” Yasar said. “We don’t know.”
The researchers tried to account for other health and lifestyle factors. But it’s still possible that there’s something else about the average nondrinker that explains the higher dementia risk, Yasar said.
What does seem clear, she added, is that people should limit their drinking — possibly to levels even lower than those currently recommended in the United States.
U.S. guidelines differ from the U.K.’s — suggesting that men can safely have up to two drinks per day. Women are advised to limit themselves to one per day.
Severine Sabia, the lead researcher on the study, said that advice to men may need to be revisited.
“It is possible that in countries like the U.S., there needs to be a downward revision of the threshold that carries harm,” said Sabia, a researcher with the French national research institute Inserm.
As for nondrinkers, she echoed what Yasar said: “Our finding on abstainers should not motivate people to start drinking alcohol.”
That is partly because of the many health risks tied to drinking — from liver disease to several cancers, including breast, liver and throat cancers, she explained.
The findings are based on 9,087 British adults who were 50, on average, at the study’s start in the 1980s. Over the next couple of decades, 397 were diagnosed with dementia.
In general, middle-aged adults who were either teetotalers or relatively heavier drinkers were more likely to develop dementia, the researchers said.
The risk appeared most clear among the heaviest drinkers: People who ended up in the hospital for alcohol-related diseases were over three times more likely to develop dementia than other study participants were.
According to Sabia, that suggests heavy drinking can contribute to dementia by directly harming the brain.
On the other hand, abstainers in this study tended to have more risk factors for heart disease: They were heavier, exercised less and had a higher rate of type 2 diabetes, for instance. And those differences explained part of the link to dementia — though not all of it.
Research suggests that many of the same factors that raise the risk of heart disease may also boost the risk of dementia — possibly due to poorer blood flow to the brain.
Yasar pointed out that “what’s good for your heart seems to also be good for your brain.”
Many studies have found that moderate drinkers tend to have better heart health than nondrinkers or heavy drinkers. However, it’s not clear that the alcohol, per se, is the reason.
So, Yasar said, it cannot be assumed that light drinking helps thwart dementia by boosting a person’s heart health.
“Luckily,” she added, “there are many ways to improve your cardiovascular health — like regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and not smoking.”
The Alzheimer’s Association has advice on lifestyle and brain health.