Sunday, 31 July 2016

Cancer: Thousands surviving in UK decades after diagnosis

More than 170,000 people in the UK who were diagnosed with cancer up to 40 years ago are still alive, although many face lifelong side-effects, a report says. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Education Linked to Brain Tumor Risk

Education and socioeconomic status have been linked with cancer outcomes, but a new study now links higher education with the development of certain types of cancer.

The large observational study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, reports that a high level of education is associated with an increased risk of brain tumors. The study is based on data from 4.3 million Swedish adults who were monitored between 1993 and 2010. Overall, 5,735 men and 7,101 women developed a brain tumor during the observation period.

Men with at least three years of university-level education had a 19% greater risk of developing gliomas than men with only a compulsory level of education (nine years). Women with the same level of education had a 23% increased risk of gliomas and a 16% increased risk of meningiomas. Marital status and amount of disposable income only slightly affected the risk among men but not among women. Single men had a lower risk of glioma but a higher risk of meningiomas. Occupation also influenced brain tumor risks among men and women: men in professional and management roles had a 20% increased risk of gliomas and a 50% increased risk of acoustic neuromas; women in these roles had a 26% increased risk of gliomas and a 14% increased risk of meningiomas.

Socioeconomic status has been associated with prognosis and outcomes in many types of cancer, as well as the development of breast cancer, childhood leukemia, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Socioeconomic status and education level also affect attitudes toward cancer screening and treatment and timeliness of disease presentation. Age, military service record, and insurance coverage have also been associated with cancer risks and outcomes. The reasons behind the associations are unclear, but some risk factors have been hypothesized such as rates of atopy and allergies, cell phone use, and body measurements.

While no firm cause-and-effect conclusions can be drawn from an observational study, the authors of the new study claim that the results are consistent and that examining a large population gives strength to the results. More evidence is needed to confirm if education is, in fact, a true risk factor for developing brain tumors.


Borugian MJ, Spinelli JJ, Mezei G, Wilkins R, Abanto Z, & McBride ML (2005). Childhood leukemia and socioeconomic status in Canada. Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.), 16 (4), 526-31 PMID: 15951671

Clarke CA, Glaser SL, Keegan TH, & Stroup A (2005). Neighborhood socioeconomic status and Hodgkin’s lymphoma incidence in California. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 14 (6), 1441-7 PMID: 15941953

Kasl RA, Brinson PR, & Chambless LB (2016). Socioeconomic status does not affect prognosis in patients with glioblastoma multiforme. Surgical neurology international, 7 (Suppl 11) PMID: 27217966

Lehrer S, Green S, & Rosenzweig KE (2016). Affluence and Breast Cancer. The breast journal PMID: 27296617

Mezei G, Borugian MJ, Spinelli JJ, Wilkins R, Abanto Z, & McBride ML (2006). Socioeconomic status and childhood solid tumor and lymphoma incidence in Canada. American journal of epidemiology, 164 (2), 170-5 PMID: 16524952

Porter AB, Lachance DH, & Johnson DR (2015). Socioeconomic status and glioblastoma risk: a population-based analysis. Cancer causes & control : CCC, 26 (2), 179-85 PMID: 25421378

Quaife SL, Winstanley K, Robb KA, Simon AE, Ramirez AJ, Forbes LJ, Brain KE, Gavin A, & Wardle J (2015). Socioeconomic inequalities in attitudes towards cancer: an international cancer benchmarking partnership study. European journal of cancer prevention : the official journal of the European Cancer Prevention Organisation (ECP), 24 (3), 253-60 PMID: 25734238

Image via kaboompics / Pixabay.

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Friday, 29 July 2016


Young women with type 1 diabetes talk about the misunderstanding around the disease. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

We’re on the cusp of a gene editing revolution, are we ready?

Beware the backlash, if fast-moving technologies for editing rogue genes outpace public acceptance via New Scientist - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

First locally transmitted Zika case confirmed in continental US

Four people have been infected with the virus from mosquitoes in Florida, near Miami. It's the first time that Zika has been spread in the US by local mosquitoes, rather than by travel via New Scientist - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Zika virus: Florida cases 'highly likely' to be first US-based infections

Four people suffering from the Zika virus in Florida are probably the first cases contracted within the US, state health officials say. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Stop Procrastinating Before You Even Start using Emotional Control

For readers looking to jump into the deep end of understanding procrastination, I highly recommend the recent volume edited by James Gross, Handbook of Emotion Regulation. This collection of chapters provides the most current and thorough review of the research literature in the area. Because I have put such emphasis in my own writing on the role of emotions in understanding procrastination, I thought I would summarize aspects of just one of the many chapters of this excellent book. The reference to the chapter written by Dylan Wagner and Todd Heatherton is below.

I was amused and delighted by the metaphor and image that these authors used to depict the role of negative emotions (also called negative affect) in the self-regulation process. In a very typical, academic-style diagram of a model of self-regulation, they first depict a high-level theoretical perspective.

The essential components conceptually look something like this:


(food, drugs, media use, etc.)    Monitoring Capacity        Failure

At the center of the model are our goals and standards. In other words, central to self-regulation is monitoring our progress towards our goals and our capacity to do this. What they depict as directly influencing our goals and standards are temptations and desires. You know, other more fun stuff. Finally, the model makes it clear that depending on how well we can ignore the temptations while maintaining our goal pursuit predicts whether we succeed or fail. In sum, it’s a common, simple model of self-regulation that is typical of a scholarly paper.

The amusing bit is how they chose to depict the effects of negative affect (negative emotions). They have the same diagram but with a giant black hole underneath the model out of which evil tendrils emerge. These tendrils, as tendrils will, grab on to every component of the model. This model now emphasizes a failure outcome, and the final piece of the model is how failure now feeds back down to the hole from which the tendrils emerge and feed the negative affect.

[Note: While I am tempted to add a photo of their diagram here, there are copyright laws that prevent usage in this way, so I hope that this description allowed you to imagine this quite vivid depiction of a psychological model.]

As they note in the caption to this figure:

Negative affect spreads poison tendrils into every aspect of self-regulation, amplifying desires, decreasing monitoring, depleting limited capacity, and encouraging misregulation strategies [e.g., mood repair and escape from aversive self-awareness], which can relieve negative affect in the short term but often lead to further negative affect upon failure to meet one’s goals”

Well done! That’s certainly the lived experience of the effects of negative emotions on our self-regulation. The tendrils pull us down.

These negative emotions seem to emerge from a dark place within us, grabbing on to every aspect of our self, and undermine our ability to self-regulate. And, of course, as we fail in our attempts to self-regulate, the self-blame begins, as does the downward spiral of self-esteem and self-efficacy.

In the bulk of the chapter, Wagner and Heatherton summarize numerous studies related to the different ways that negative emotions, emotion regulation and self-regulation interact. It’s important to remember that these are interactive effects, or as I like to say, it’s a sort of dance between these processes that undermine our success. As the authors summarize this interaction, we learn the following:

  • Negative affect (emotions) leads to a desire to “feel good now,” escaping the negative state by engaging in pleasurable activities and reducing self-awareness (to lower any potential feelings of guilt; a process I have described previously);
  • These choices related to mood repair serve to increase the pull or attractiveness of immediately available rewards and temptations grow;
  • With a focus on pleasure and lower self-awareness, the ability to self-monitor is diminished; and at the same time,
  • Negative affect, which is related to rumination, puts an increased load on working memory that further weakens the ability to self-monitor and further undermines goal pursuit, or any further attempt at self-regulation (i.e., no monitoring, no self-control).

It’s not a pretty picture, is it? But it’s certainly one that I think every human being knows. It’s that downward spiral we experience when “we don’t feel like it” and negative emotions begin to “weave their tendrils” (as these authors depict) throughout our self-regulatory process.

Interestingly, Wagner and Heatherton paint this despairing picture even a little darker, writing:

“Throw in the fact that prior self-regulatory effort may leave the individual in a depleted state in which both resources for further self-control are lacking and the strength of impulses and temptations are increased, and it is a small miracle that people are not constantly acting out their fantasies, drinking, smoking, or indulging in every gastronomic desire.

This is indeed a pretty dire picture, and it’s not helped by the fact that there is very little research documenting how positive emotions might reverse this. Although there is some evidence to suggest that positive emotions might buffer against ego-depletion and enhance self-regulation, positive emotions are not simply the antidote. In fact, positive emotions might feed further off-task behaviors if this becomes the new focus of attention; a sort of carpe diem or even “what the hell” effect where we give in and decide it’s time to eat, drink and be merry.

The authors end with this sentence:

“Negative affect is thus a particularly potent threat to self-regulation, because it not only reduces the capacity for control (increased working memory load, reduced self-awareness and monitoring) but it may also lead to increases in the strength of experienced desires and emotions, rendering them all the more difficult to resist.”

So, you might ask as you join me in this dark place, “what are we to do?” How do we manage to self-regulate? Well, this has been the focus of most of my blog writing over the past years, with all sorts of strategies derived from a variety of different studies.

In my last blog post, I re-emphasized the importance of not paying attention to these emotions when they arise. Not a simple thing, I understand, as I noted above that negative emotions (affect) are related to and even seem to cause rumination. This rumination is the antithesis of “not paying attention.” But you get my point, right? The research summarized in this chapter makes it clear that negative emotions really do undermine self-regulation through processes like rumination that puts too much load on working memory (which derails monitoring our goal pursuit), or by provoking a hedonic response to feel good now.

Gross offers some potential points of intervention in his own process model of emotion. And, although it’s simply not possible to go much further in a single blog post, I will note that one effective strategy that is incorporated into many successful procrastination interventions is learning to modify appraisals of our situation to alter its emotional significance (I’ll come back to this at some other time, as this was part of the work we did in our recent book Procrastination, Health and Well-Being). In any case, the focus here is on cognitive change, the kind emphasized in cognitive behavioral therapies, for example.

I hope that you can see that despite the “poison tendrils” of negative emotions depicted so vividly by Wagner and Heatherton, there are routes to self-regulatory success. For some of us, this is certainly made more difficult by personality traits such as low emotional stability, as we are more chronically attuned to negative emotions. However, we can learn to act out of character as we learn new strategies to cope. Strategies that are much more effective than avoidance, self-blame and behavioral disengagement, each of which has been demonstrated to be risks not only to our success, but to our health.

This guest article originally appeared on The Poison Tendrils of Negative Emotions


Pychyl, T.A., & Sirois, F.M. (2016). Procrastination, emotion-regulation and well-being. In F.M. Sirois & T.A. Pychyl, (Eds.), Procrastination, health and well-being (pp. 163-188). New York: Elsevier.

Sirois, F.M. (2015). Is procrastination a vulnerability factor for hypertension and cardiovascular disease? Testing an extension of the procrastination-health model. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 38, 578-589. DOI: 10.1007/s10865-015-9629-2

Wagner, D.D. & Heatherton, T.F. (2014). Emotion and self-regulation failure. In J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. 613-628). New York: The Guilford Press.

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Sweden to investigate sex lives

Sweden is launching a three-year official study of its citizens' sex lives - the first for 20 years. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

NHS England boosts GP retained doctor scheme

GP retainer rate increases to £76.92 per session in a bid to keep more GPs in the workforce

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Ocean-cleaning sea bins will gobble up plastic waste to recycle

Bins designed to suck up debris floating on the sea are in the final stages of testing, shame they won’t make it to Rio in time to clean up dirty waters at the Olympics via New Scientist - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

NHS England acts on rising GP indemnity costs

NHS England introduces funding and a package of measures to tackle the rising cost of GP indemnity

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NHS England offers GP practices millions in practice development support

Practices are being invited to apply for £30m training and development support

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£40m fund to support struggling practices available

NHS England says funding will begin to be released this week

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Autoimmune diseases may be side effect of a strong immune system

We finally have evidence from human studies that disorders like lupus could be a by-product of being well protected against other diseases via New Scientist - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Multispecialty community provider contract options unveiled

GPs will not have to drop their standard contract under two of the three options

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'We want women to feel safe'

The UK's first maternity service for victims of rape and sexual abuse, which opens today at the Royal London Hospital. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Thursday, 28 July 2016

On The Pulse - July 2016

Exercise is as effective as arthroscopic menisectomy for patients with knee pain
via OnMedica Blogs Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Inbreeding has destroyed the English bulldog’s genetic diversity

Decades of extreme selection and inbreeding mean there is little genetic variation left to save the English bulldog from its many severe health problems via New Scientist - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Fossil tumour is oldest evidence of human cancer discovered yet

A 1.7 million year-old ancient human foot bone found in South Africa shows signs of osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer via New Scientist - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Complaining and the Brain – How “Bad Karma” Is Created

It is intuitive that a negative attitude and constant complaining are bad for us – but can it really affect our brain? It turns out that there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that negativity can alter our perception of life by changing the connection of the neurons in our brain. This would then result in increased stress levels, which is linked to chronic diseases and mental health problems.

A common perception of complaining, or “venting”, is that people feel better after getting their emotions out. Contrary to popular belief, however, studies have shown that expressing negativity can be bad for the mood of both the complainer and the listener, and here we briefly discuss a few findings on how negativity can impact our well-being.

Do negative thoughts affect the wiring of synapses in our brains?

The synapses in our brain are separated by spaces known as synaptic clefts. When we think, synapses “fire” and send signals across these clefts to other synapses. This forms a bridge by which signals and information and transferred. The exciting thing here is that upon each trigger of an electrical charge, the synapses involved are actually brought closer in proximity to each other. This increases the likelihood that the correct synapses will share the appropriate link and fire together. Consequently, it becomes easier for that particular thought to be triggered.

What all this means is that thinking about something initially makes it easier to think about it again in the future. As such, if a person is constantly unhappy, it makes it more likely that he or she will continue to have negative thoughts if nothing is done about it. On the bright side, though, this also suggests that if we make a conscious effort to think positive thoughts, the positive feedback cycle helps us to become a more optimistic personality as well.

By repeating pessimistic thought processes, synapses that represent these negative inclinations gradually grow closer. Given that the thought that is most likely to surface is the one which can form a bridge between synapses in the shortest period of time, it is unsurprising then that in this case a pessimist would be more likely to remain the way he or she was.

Who we spend time with can change our thinking subconsciously

In view of how negativity can change our behaviour, it is perhaps not all that surprising that who we spend our time with influences our brain as well. The basis of this is primarily linked to how we empathize with others. For instance, when we see another person experiencing some emotion such as joy, sorrow or anger, our brain attempts to fire the same synapses to relate to the observed emotion.

By trying to imagine what the other person is going through, this rewiring of our brain (or the phenomena of “mirror neurons”) can in fact contribute to our patterns of thought without us realizing it – in fact, the activation of this mirror neuron system has been shown in a study to be altered in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These findings were reported based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data on how brain activation differs between the ASD group and the control group when inferring the intention of an action. Therefore, it would then be logical that if we surround ourselves with people who are generally optimistic, our inclinations towards happy interactions would be greatly enhanced.

Stress can affect our health more directly than we think

In addition to hurting our mental well-being, the act of venting can be detrimental to our physical health as well. For example, anger-related synaptic firing can be bad for our immune system when coupled with an increase in blood pressure, as well as a higher risk of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart problems.

The main contributing factor to all the negative effects of stress is a hormone in our body known as cortisol. This has been dubbed a “stress hormone”, as the levels of this hormone in our body are drastically elevated when we feel stressed out. In this regard, the release of cortisol by our adrenal glands in response to stressors such as fear is an integral component of our fight-or-flight mechanism. However, prolonged release leads to impaired learning and memory, higher cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.

To date, there are numerous studies which demonstrate the profound negative effects of stress on our physical and mental health. For example, it has been shown that cortisol production induced by social aggression and isolation can be a powerful trigger for mental disorders and reduced resilience, particularly for adolescents. To this end, scientists subjected mice that were genetically predisposed to mental illness to social isolation during adolescence. This triggered marked behavioural abnormalities that persisted even when the mice were returned to the group. More importantly, the effects of isolation stretched all the way into adulthood, implying that adolescent stress can cause long-term damage to mental health.

In another study, scientists specifically bred mice to be “bullies”, and then subjected other mice to aggression from these bullies. They found that the “bullied” mice would release cortisol that subsequently led to increased social aversion to other mice. Moreover, this “scared” behaviour in bullied mice disappeared when the cortisol receptors were blocked, indicating that excessive cortisol could lead to decreased resilience.

Taken together, the aforementioned findings highlight the negative effects of stress and could be implicated in the development of treatments for depression and other devastating psychiatric disorders. Additionally, they also suggest that in adolescents predisposed to mental illnesses, efforts to protect them from social stressors such as bullying and neglect could go a long way in reducing the risk of getting these diseases.


Barik, J., Marti, F., Morel, C., Fernandez, S., Lanteri, C., Godeheu, G., Tassin, J., Mombereau, C., Faure, P., & Tronche, F. (2013). Chronic Stress Triggers Social Aversion via Glucocorticoid Receptor in Dopaminoceptive Neurons Science, 339 (6117), 332-335 DOI: 10.1126/science.1226767

Libero, L., Maximo, J., Deshpande, H., Klinger, L., Klinger, M., & Kana, R. (2014). The role of mirroring and mentalizing networks in mediating action intentions in autism Molecular Autism, 5 (1) DOI: 10.1186/2040-2392-5-50

Markram, H. (2011). A history of spike-timing-dependent plasticity Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience, 3 DOI: 10.3389/fnsyn.2011.00004

Niwa, M., Jaaro-Peled, H., Tankou, S., Seshadri, S., Hikida, T., Matsumoto, Y., Cascella, N., Kano, S., Ozaki, N., Nabeshima, T., & Sawa, A. (2013). Adolescent Stress-Induced Epigenetic Control of Dopaminergic Neurons via Glucocorticoids Science, 339 (6117), 335-339 DOI: 10.1126/science.1226931

Image via novelrobinson / Pixabay.

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Cheat's guide

Scientists say that having just an hour of exercise a day may help undo the damage of sitting at a desk all day. Here are five tips on how to be more active without having to go anywhere near a gym. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Cancer found in ancient human ancestor's foot

The earliest evidence of cancer in the human fossil record has been discovered in South Africa, say researchers. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Exercises you can do at your desk to counter sedentary job

Exercise can counter the dangers of an office job - if you're short of time, here are some moves you can do at your desk. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Hour of Exercise a Day May Offset Sitting's Toll on Health

Study found risk of early death dropped when physical activity levels went up

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Exercise May Keep Diabetes in Check During Pregnancy

Short walks and some strength training each week made a difference for obese women, researchers say

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Lack of Fitness Second Only to Smoking as Predictor of Early Death

Increases in fitness levels were associated with greater longevity

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Source: HealthDay via Exercise and Physical Fitness New Links: MedlinePlus RSS Feed Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

CRISPR genome editing could save sight by tweaking DNA

A test of the CRISPR technique in mice shows that it has real promise for treating hereditary eye diseases, although several hurdles remain via New Scientist - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

EEG scans could help determine awareness in vegetative states

Study suggests diagnosis by EEG could be used instead of functional magnetic resonance imaging

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Timing of menstruation linked to longevity in women

Women who start menstruation and menopause later more likely to live to 90

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One hour of exercise can undo the damage from sitting all day

Increased death rates linked to prolonged sitting are cancelled out by one hour of moderate activity daily

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Huge rise in hospital admissions for illicit drug poisoning

Hospital admissions for poisoning by illicit drugs up by more than 50% in a decade

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Weight loss surgery linked with increased fracture risk

Severely obese patients undergoing weight loss surgery are at risk of fractures

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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Human nose study yields new antibiotics

A new class of antibiotics has been discovered by analysing the bacterial warfare taking place up people's noses, scientists report. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Hour's activity 'offsets sedentary day'

An hour's "brisk exercise" each day offsets the risks of early death linked to a desk-bound working life, scientists suggest. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Desk job death risk is eliminated by an hour’s walk or cycle

People who spend eight or more hours sitting a day are 60 per cent more likely to die prematurely – but doing moderate exercise counteracts this risk via New Scientist - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness

Florida investigates four mysterious Zika infections

Health officials in Florida investigate four cases of Zika that do not appear related to travel, raising fears US mosquitoes may be carrying the virus. via BBC News - Health Read More Here.. Lake forest health and fitness