Cancer

Thanks to advanced medical treatments, women diagnosed with breast cancer today will likely survive the disease. However, some treatment options put these women at greater risk for a number of other health problems.

A new study out of Brazil shows that postmenopausal women with breast cancer are at greater risk for developing heart disease. Results are published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Cardiovascular disease remains the main cause of death in postmenopausal women, and women treated for breast cancer are at greater risk of developing heart disease than those not diagnosed with breast cancer. These cardiovascular effects may occur more than five years after radiation exposure, with the risk persisting for up to 30 years.

The goal of the new study was to compare and evaluate risk factors for cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women who are survivors of breast cancer and women without breast cancer. The researchers found that postmenopausal women who are survivors of breast cancer showed a markedly stronger association with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertriglyceridemia, and abdominal obesity, which are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The risk of cardiovascular mortality similarly increased to match death rates from the cancer itself.

Findings were published in the article “High risk for cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors.”

“Heart disease appears more commonly in women treated for breast cancer because of the toxicities of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and use of aromatase inhibitors, which lower estrogen. Heart-healthy lifestyle modifications will decrease both the risk of recurrent breast cancer and the risk of developing heart disease,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. “Women should schedule a cardiology consultation when breast cancer is diagnosed and continue with ongoing follow-up after cancer treatments are completed.”

The quantity of chemicals in preserved beans sold across the country is unsafe for consumers, as its long term effects could lead to cancer and kidney-related diseases among others, Daily Trust investigation reveals.

Checks also show that some of the pesticides have been banned in other countries but are freely used in Nigeria despite the fact that they portend grave danger to consumers.

Many farmers and grain merchants in Nigeria employ various insects control measures, including the use of chemicals, Daily Trust reports.

It was gathered that grain merchants resorted to pesticide control measures in order to mitigate losses as beans (cowpea) are highly susceptible to pest infestation, leading to huge post-harvest losses, lower food quality, and poor food safety.

Laboratory analysis carried out by Daily Trust shows that consumers of grains preserved with pesticides, including beans are at risk due to their harmful effects.

Further checks show that aside from acute effects, which include abdominal pain, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting, long term effects of consuming grains preserved with pesticides could lead to cancer and kidney diseases.

Samples of beans were randomly obtained from markets in six states across the geopolitical zones, including Abuja, and tested in a laboratory at the University of Agriculture Makurdi, Benue State.

The laboratory analysis revealed that the amount of pesticide residue on preserved beans sold in the markets is high and therefore harmful to humans.

An alarm on the availability of beans preserved with poisonous substances and sold to unsuspecting buyers in Nigerian markets was earlier raised in September last year by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Daily Trust reports.

It followed the information that had gone viral on social media about some retailers reported to be using a particular insecticide, sniper, to preserve beans.

The CPC’s Director-General, Babatunde Irukera, was quoted as saying: “CPC has confirmed credible information that retailers, mostly in the open markets, are using pesticides to preserve beans. They use 2.2 Dichlorovinyl Dimethyl Phosphate (DDVP) compound otherwise marketed and known as sniper, to preserve beans.”

The CPC had advised consumers to extensively parboil their beans before consuming them and to make sufficient inquiries before buying beans.

But the advice seems unheeded as Daily Trust checks revealed that farmers and marketers still use pesticides to protect beans from attacks, particularly from weevils, a sub-family of beetles that typically infest various kinds of beans or seeds, living most of their juvenile lives inside a single seed.

It was gathered that by their composition some of the chemicals used in cowpea preservation are potentially injurious when human beings are unduly exposed to them by inhalation, absorption, direct skin contact, or ingestion.

Experts lamented that sometimes the right amount of pesticide is not used. They also noted that some traders take their beans to the market even before the expiry date of the chemical used in preserving it. Actions they maintained could result in serious health hazards such as abdominal pain, dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting. According to them, long term health risks associated with the consumption of pesticides through stored food or other means include diseases of the kidney, prostate, breast, pancreas, liver, lungs, and skin cancer.

Among the harmful chemicals used in preserving the beans samples analysed by Daily Trust are; Permethrin, Malathion, a-Endosulfan, b-Endosulfan, Aldrin, Dieldrin, Lindane, and Heptachlor.

The laboratory analysis based on Gas Chromatography (GC) shows that the highest concentration of recovered chemical residue on preserved beans (amounting to 0.047mg/kg) was found in Permethrin followed by a-Endosulfan and b-Endosulfan with a recovered chemical residue of 0.44 mg/kg. Malathion had a recovered chemical residue of 0.01mg/kg.

Pesticides with Maximum Residue Limits (MRL) were found in Aldrin and Dieldrin (0.014mg/kg) each Lindane (0.009mg/kg and Heptachlor (0.004mg/kg).

Harmful pesticides analysed

Checks by Daily Trust show that one of the harmful pesticides used for beans preservation in Nigeria, Permethrin, is listed as a “restricted use” substance by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to its high toxicity to aquatic organisms.

It is used both as a medication and insecticide. As a medication, it is used to treat scabies and lice while as an insecticide, it can be sprayed on clothing or mosquito nets to kill the insects that touch them.

Another pesticide, Malathion, an insecticide in the chemical family known as organophosphates kills insects by preventing their nervous system from working properly. When healthy nerves send signals to each other, a special chemical messenger travels from one nerve to another to continue the message.

The nerve signal stops when an enzyme is released into the space between the nerves. Malathion binds to the enzyme and prevents the nerve signal from stopping. This causes the nerves to signal each other without stopping. The constant nerve signals make it so the insects cannot move or breathe normally and they die.

Checks show that humans, pets, and other animals can be affected the same way as insects if they are exposed to enough Malathion as the same amount will be taken into the body whether one breathes or swallows it. Malathion is also said to be readily taken into the body through the skin, though the amount absorbed depends on where the exposure occurs on the body. Malathion can become more toxic if it has been sitting for a long time, especially in a hot place.

Humans could also be exposed to residues of Malathion, if they consume food that had been treated with this pesticide, Daily Trust checks show.

Another analysed pesticide, Endosulfan is a chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide of the cyclodiene subgroup, which acts as a contact poison in a wide variety of insects and mites. It is used primarily on food crops like tea, fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Endosulfan is said to be a highly toxic substance and carries the signal word ‘DANGER’ on the label while its toxicity is said to be partly dependent on the manner with which the pesticide is administered.

While several chronic effects are said to have been noted for animals exposed to endosulfan, checks also show that the pesticide is most likely to affect kidneys, liver, blood chemistry, and the parathyroid gland.

Experts speak on implications

An Associate Professor in the Faculty of Agriculture at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Dr. Nafiu Abdu, who carried out an independent analysis of the sampled test result, said pesticides applied in the sampled beans were more than the acceptable limit for human consumption.

Dr. Abdul explained that pesticides generally have direct and indirect effects on human health.

“These effects may be acute effects that occur immediately, which include skin rashes, blisters, blindness, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea and sometimes death or chronic adverse effects that occur years after exposure. These include cancer, reproductive disorders, including sterility, still birth, abortion and infertility as well as distortion of the central nervous system et cetera,” he said.

He, however, said pesticides application could be above the acceptable limit for human consumption, but that may not necessarily translate to being harmful.

“What determines the harmful effects of crops mixed with pesticides for storage is Health Risk Assessment. Therefore, health risk assessment has to be conducted before we can categorically say that the crops are harmful.

“The health risk assessment demands a long procedure that involves a lot of calculations. Parameters such as hazard quotient, average daily intake et cetera must be determined before concluding that such crops are risky for humans’ health,” he said.

On his part, a Consultant at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Dr. Abdulazeez Umar, said the major issue is the failure of farmers and traders to respect the guidelines of using such pesticides.

“Every pesticide has a duration that must expire before humans can safely consume crops preserved with it. Failure to respect this largely brings about the health hazard. For example, crops preserved with some pesticides must take one or two or more years before they can be safely consumed. However, because some people are desperate to make money, they bring such crops to market sometimes in less than three months.

“This brings about instant death after consumption on many occasions. Again, this is why you hear stories that many people have died after consuming beans at a party, for example. Similarly, chronic exposure can result in Neurodegenerative disorders, kidney failure, autoimmune diseases et cetera,” he said.

Why I avoid inorganic chemicals in preserving beans- Farmer

A Makurdi based large scale cowpea (beans) farmer, Vitalis Tarnongo said he uses organic resources in preserving his beans due to the harmful effects of using inorganic items (chemicals).

“I am very much aware of the harmful effect of preserving beans with chemicals such as sniper and rat poison. These can cause several health challenges to consumers such as cancer, heart failure, low sperm count and infertility.

“This is why I personally avoid those harmful chemicals and go for organic resources in preserving my beans. I am also aware that some of these chemicals are banned elsewhere but are freely used in Nigeria,” Tarnongo said, adding that he also partners with the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, on the use of organic chemicals in beans preservation.

Chemicals pose grave danger – Consumer Protection Council

The Federal Consumer and Competition Protection Commission (FCCPC) confirmed that beans preserved with sniper and other harmful chemicals pose grave danger to consumers.

In response to Daily Trust inquiry, the Head of the Public Relations Unit of FCCPC, Mr. Ondaje Ijagwu, said the Commission had been mounting regulatory measures to protect consumers from badly preserved beans.

“FCCPC recognises the grave danger posed to consumers by the use of sniper and other harmful chemicals to preserve beans. As such the Commission strongly advocates for a joint regulatory initiative to find a lasting solution to the menace,” he said.

Doctor talking to senior patient in medical practice

For World Hepatitis Day, Medical News Today spoke with Dr. Alexandra Buzea about hepatitis C — how the infection manifests, what treatments are available, and how to fight harmful stereotypes and misinformation about this illness.

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, the yearly day of awareness of hepatitis, a viral infection that affects the liver. It can result from different strains of the hepatitis virus: A, B, C, D, or E.

Hepatitis C infections are some of the most common that affect the liver. They are caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Globally, HCV affected an estimated 71 million people in 2015, and between 2013 and 2016, about 2.4 million people in the United States were living with HCV infections.

If a person does not receive a diagnosis and treatment, an HCV infection can become chronic, leading to a risk of cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver.

Because initial symptoms of an HCV infection can go undiagnosed for a long time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now advise “one-time hepatitis C testing of all adults (18 years and older) and all pregnant women during every pregnancy.”

To better understand how HCV infections manifest, what treatment options there are, and how to combat harmful stereotypes about the condition, MNT has spoken with Dr. Alexandra Buzea.

Dr. Buzea is a vascular surgeon with additional experience in liver, or hepatic, transplantation affiliated with the Ponderas Academic Hospital, in Bucharest, Romania.

We have lightly edited the interview transcript for clarity.

HCV cannot be contracted through hugging, ‘so hug away!’

MNT: What is hepatitis C, and what are its effects on health?

Dr. Alexandra Buzea: HCV is a well-known virus that can affect the liver, both in an acute form and in chronic form. HCV can lead to hepatitis — characterized by inflammation of the liver cells — ranging from a mild form lasting a few weeks to a lifelong disease.

What people need to understand is that this virus, although highly curable, if left untreated, becomes one of the main causes of cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Most people do not exhibit any symptoms, but a few “unlucky” ones may experience fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and even jaundice.

MNT: How can a person contract HCV?

Dr. Alexandra Buzea: The most common way of becoming infected is through exposure to infected blood. A small quantity of it is enough for someone to contract the virus.

Although the most cited means of infection are through intravenous drug use, unsafe injection practices, contaminated blood transfusions or blood products, or inadequate sterilization of medical equipment, sometimes a small cut on the finger will suffice.

We should also mention other, less common ways of contracting HCV, like unsafe sexual practices or through birth. A mother who has contracted HCV can pass it on to her baby, but not through breast milk.

Hepatitis C is also not transmitted through sharing food or water with an infected person or through hugging them, but small gestures such as these can help them feel loved and safe in their community and help them recover faster — so hug away!

MNT: What are some therapeutic options?

Dr. Alexandra Buzea: Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available at the moment, but there are a few treatment options, and, of course, prevention plays a key role in medical practice.

Antiviral medication, pangenotypic direct-acting antivirals, can cure up to 95% of patients. We have to be aware that only about 30% of patients clear the virus spontaneously in 6 months and do not require treatment.

The rest will develop a chronic infection and will need antiviral medication, usually over 12–24 weeks, depending on the presence or absence of cirrhosis.

For people already infected with HCV, immunization with the hepatitis A and B vaccines is crucial in preventing co-infection and protecting the liver.

‘People need to be more empathetic and minimize the stigma’

MNT: Studies such as this one, published in Public Health Reports in 2016, suggest that baby boomers are the generation with the highest rate of HCV infections. Why is that?

Dr. Alexandra Buzea: HCV infections occur worldwide, but depending on the country, the virus can be concentrated in certain populations and, yes, even in certain age groups.

A few factors to blame could be infection control practices that were historically insufficient in HCV infection, the generation’s low compliance with screening, misinformation, the fear of disease — any disease — and the fact that, in many countries, the genotype distribution remains unknown.

Also, approximately 80% of people do not exhibit any symptoms after infection, or [they] experience general ones, such as fatigue, fever, or nausea, that do not prompt them to seek medical attention right away.

MNT: There are many harmful myths about HCV infections, such as the belief that they are incurable. How might the media and healthcare organisations fight such disinformation and encourage people to seek treatment and support?

Dr. Alexandra Buzea: Healthcare organizations can fight disinformation only through the help of mass media. Any means of communication is encouraged — newspapers, TV, radio, social media apps… even smoke signals, if that leads to a higher understanding of diseases.

However, the information sources must be reliable. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC are trustworthy and offer helpful explanations.

Taking the advice of a neighbor who recommends a tea because they used it and it “helped with liver problems” is not the best idea, because it can delay access to a treatment plan and affect the patient’s general health status.

Our collaborators in public relations carry the burden of developing informative campaigns that reach a broad spectrum of audiences.

I believe that understanding the implications of HCV infections motivates people to seek medical attention and screening, even in the absence of any symptoms.

MNT: Is there anything else you would like to mention to our readers, as we draw to a close?

Dr. Alexandra Buzea: I just want to point out that having an HCV infection is not a death sentence.

It is highly curable, as long as people know about it and seek care from healthcare specialists. As soon as we can diagnose it, we can treat it.

There are therapy options, even in more advanced phases of the disease — hepatic transplant is becoming more and more accessible, and antiviral treatments are increasingly affordable.

People need to be more empathetic with those who have HCV infections and minimize the stigma — if society would stop seeing it as a “shameful” disease, maybe more people would seek help for it without the fear of becoming outcasts.

Medical experts have warned that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for the majority of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) deaths in the country.

President, NCD Alliance Nigeria, Olorogun Dr. Sonny F. Kuku, in his opening remarks during a webinar on, “Non-communicable Diseases and COVID-19 in Nigeria – The response”, held Tuesday, July 21, 2020, said: “… We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and unfortunately, people with NCDs are at greater risk. It is impacting the poorest people and most vulnerable. People with hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are the most vulnerable. We are now seeing stroke as symptom. This means COVID-19, which is an infectious disease is manifesting as an NCD in the form of stroke…”

Vice President, Scientific Affairs, NCDs Alliance Nigeria, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, has said blamed the situation on the nation’s years of lack of commitment to the course of NCDs. The cardiologist said NCDs account for 29 per cent of deaths in Nigeria.

Akinroye, at the launch of the New Civil Society Solidarity Fund on NCDs in response to COVID-19, harped on the need to strengthen the healthcare system, intensify awareness, increase access to care and treatment, and vote more money for NCDs care and management.

However, the NCD Alliance Nigeria and 19 other global and national NCD Alliances have been awarded $300,000.

Akinroye added that regional and national NCD Alliance including NCD Alliance Nigeria would get $15,000 to address the critical needs of people living with NCDs during the pandemic through advocacy and communication activities that would support stronger organisational stability and resilience

According to the cardiologist, COVID-19 shows many connections between it and NCDs stating that people living with NCDs are more vulnerable to COVID-19 with a substantially higher risk o becoming severely ill or dying from the virus.

The expert said that actions taken to control NCDs in Nigeria include the launch o the First Multi-Sectoral Action Plan or Prevention and Control o NCDs by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the NCD Alliance Nigeria Publication of the Handbook on Civil Society Organisation in NCDs.

“Activities in Nigeria will include the development of a database of people living with NCDs in Lagos, Osun, and Federal Capital Territory and by NCD area of focus. Also, establishment and support for people living with NCDs with skills and knowledge, and connect them to NCD Alliance Nigeria, federal Ministry o Health, World Health Organisation and State Ministry of Health in the four states,” he added.

Akinroye further stated that they would build capacity for people living with NCDs on advocacy for their rights to health, prevention, access to treatment and care; provision of support and empowerment

He explained that NCD Alliance Nigeria would develop a directory and a database in the states by area of focus cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, sickle cell disease, respiratory diseases and mental health and also develop advocacy communication materials targeting Lawmakers, Policymakers and opinion leaders that are persuasive and effective to improve prevention, care and access to treatment for people living with NCDs.

The expert, however, tasked the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to mobilise for more testing and awareness amongst the grassroots and also provide free hypertensive and diabetic drugs or the vulnerable population.

Executive Director, NCD Alliance Nigeria, Prof. Akin Osibogun, also presented a paper on “NCDs in Nigeria and COVID-19: The Nigerian experience.”

Osibogun is a consultant public health physician/epidemiologist, a member of Lagos State COVID-19 Response Team and former Chief Medical Director (CMD), Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi Araba.

Member, Nutrition Committee, Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) and Food Scientist, Prof. Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi, spoke on “COVID-19 and Nutrition: Gathering evidence.”

Akinroye delivered a paper on “People Living with NCDs in Nigeria and COVID-19.”

Adeyemi, who is Vice chancellor of Bells University of Technology Ota, Ogun State, and the pioneer Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State, said functional foods are important to boost the immune system.

Adeyemi said that a well functioning immune system is key to providing robust defence against pathogenic organisms. Adeyemi noted that mortality in people living with NCDs is likely the result of immune decline or impaired immune response.

The expert said that energy is required to fight the virus likewise, protein to produce essential antibodies.

He encouraged intake of Phytochemicals like quercetin from onions, phloretin and also Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) as well as conventional foods containing bioactive food compounds like vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, fish and meat.

“Eat fresh and unprocessed food every day like fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains and animal products. Eat a moderate amount o fats and oils. Eat at home to reduce your rate of contact with other people,” he added.

Adeyemi urged the consumption of plant food such as grains, legumes and oilseeds, fruits and vegetables containing vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals.

He, however, stressed on the need to avoid the intake of caffeine, trans fat while also limiting the intake of salt because they are predisposing factors that contribute to morbidity o patients with COVID-19.

According to a study published in Scholars Journal of Applied Medical Sciences and titled “COVID-19 and Nutrition: Review of Available Evidence”, nutritional support is indicated for depleted patients with respiratory diseases because it provides not only supportive care, but direct intervention through improvement in respiratory and peripheral skeletal muscle function and in exercise performance.

The researchers noted: “A combination of oral nutritional supplements and exercise or anabolic stimulus appears to be the best approach to obtaining significant functional improvement. Patients responding to this treatment even demonstrated a decreased mortality. Furthermore, weight loss and malnutrition opens the door of infection reoccurrence. Poor response was related to the effects of systemic inflammation on dietary intake and catabolism.

“Dietary management of pre-existing diseases has been suggested as a strategy to minimise the potential risk of COVID-19 infection in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s and Colitis. WHO, dietetic associations and dietitians have been calling for patients with pre-existing conditions to continue abiding by their dietary advice and nutritional therapy steps received from their dietician if tested positive for COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) survey, prevention and treatment services for NCDs have been severely disrupted since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The survey, which was completed by 155 countries during a three-week period in May, confirmed that the impact is global, but that low-income countries are most affected.

This situation is of significant concern because people living with NCDs are at higher risk of severe COVID-19-related illness and death.

Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “The results of this survey confirm what we have been hearing from countries for a number of weeks now.

“Many people who need treatment for diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes have not been receiving the health services and medicines they need since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It’s vital that countries find innovative ways to ensure that essential services for NCDs continue, even as they fight COVID-19.”

The main finding is that health services have been partially or completely disrupted in many countries. More than half (53 per cent) of the countries surveyed have partially or completely disrupted services for hypertension treatment; 49 per cent for treatment for diabetes and diabetes-related complications; 42 per cent for cancer treatment, and 31 per cent for cardiovascular emergencies.

Rehabilitation services have been disrupted in almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of countries, even though rehabilitation is key to a healthy recovery following a severe illness from COVID-19.

In the majority (94 per cent) of countries responding, ministries of health staff working in the area of NCDs were partially or fully reassigned to support COVID-19.

The postponement of public screening programmes (for example for breast and cervical cancer) was also widespread, reported by more than 50 per cent of countries. This was consistent with initial WHO recommendations to minimize non-urgent facility-based care whilst tackling the pandemic.

But the most common reasons for discontinuing or reducing services were cancellations of planned treatments, a decrease in public transport available and a lack of staff because health workers had been reassigned to support COVID19 services. In one in five countries (20 per cent) reporting disruptions, one of the main reasons for discontinuing services was a shortage of medicines, diagnostics and other technologies.

Unsurprisingly, there appears to be a correlation between levels of disruption to services for treating NCDs and the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak in a country. Services become increasingly disrupted as a country moves from sporadic cases to community transmission of the coronavirus.

Globally, two-thirds of countries reported that they had included NCD services in their national COVID-19 preparedness and response plans; 72 per cent of high-income countries reported inclusion compared to 42 per cent of low-income countries. Services to address cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease were the most frequently included. Dental services, rehabilitation and tobacco cessation activities were not as widely included in response plans according to country reports.

Seventeen percent of countries reporting have started to allocate additional funding from the government budget to include the provision of NCD services in their national COVID-19 plan.

Encouraging findings of the survey were that alternative strategies have been established in most countries to support the people at the highest risk to continue receiving treatment for NCDs. Among the countries reporting service disruptions, globally 58 per cent of countries are now using telemedicine (advice by telephone or online means) to replace in-person consultations; in low-income countries, this figure is 42 per cent. Triaging to determine priorities has also been widely used, in two-thirds of countries reporting.

Also encouraging is that more than 70 per cent of countries reported collecting data on the number of COVID-19 patients who also have an NCD.

Director of the Department of NCDs at WHO, Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, said: “It will be some time before we know the full extent of the impact of disruptions to health care during COVID-19 on people with NCDs.

“What we know now, however, is that not only are people with NCDs more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus, but many are unable to access the treatment they need to manage their illnesses. It is very important not only that care for people living with NCDs is included in national response and preparedness plans for COVID-19 – but that innovative ways are found to implement those plans. We must be ready to ‘build back better’- strengthening health services so that they are better equipped to prevent, diagnose and provide care for NCDs in the future, in any circumstances.”

According to the WHO, NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71 per cent of all deaths globally. Each year, 15 million people die from an NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; more than 85 per cent of these “premature” deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

You might have probably come across someone just scratching a part of the body. Or met someone with red patches or rashes all over. That could be as a result of skin reaction or infections.

It is quite common for some people to react to certain skin care products such as body creams, cosmetics, soaps, deodorants and antiperspirants, among others. The symptoms of allergy include, skin rashes, itchiness, swellings and pus.

To avoid this situation, health experts have advised that consumers take precautions when selecting products and pick only those with few ingredients, as they are unlikely to cause contact dermatitis.

The immediate past National Chairman of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Young Pharmacists Group (PSN-YPG), Olagunju Muyiwa, said the term used to refer to itchiness, redness or irritation of the skin is called dermatitis. When caused by something that touches the skin, it is called contact dermatitis.

Several factors, Muyiwa explained could trigger contact dermatitis through skin care products, such as creams, cosmetics, soaps, deodorants and antiperspirants. They include the type of fragrance used, preservatives and colourants among others. Some natural products, particularly, essential oils, are known to produce nice fragrance, but if used superfluously are likely to cause contact dermatitis, which lead to itchy and bumpy rash on the skin at the site of contact with the oil. “Most times, when people purchase new skin products, it’s probably based on recommendation or the intrinsic desire to try new things. All could go well with the new product and desired outcomes achieved. But there is tendency for the body not to tolerate some of these products. In this situation, the product causing the irritation should be identified, which can only be achieved by narrowing down the problematic product.

“If there is a mild reaction and the person has not started any new product, one product should be removed from the regimen at a time to see if the skin condition improves. It may take up to two to four weeks before a difference is observed. Overtime, such individuals may come to realise what kind of products they are sensitive to, either in the form of preservatives or fragrance and then know how to best avoid them.”

Trigger factors, he said, differ from one individual to another. “What may be acceptable to person A may pose irritation risk to person B and vice versa. So, it depends on compatibility of the skin with the ingredients of the cosmetic product. For safety sake, chronic administration of these products are discouraged. One of such example is a facial cleanser that makes your skin squeaky-clean. Over time, the cleanser may no longer “clean” the skin. Instead, it may compromise the exterior barrier of cells known as the stratum corneum.

“Some of the major components of bleaching creams are hydroquinone and alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs), among others, including citric acid. Prolonged administration of products containing these substances increases risk of photosensitivity and subsequent skin burn and in worst-case scenario, cancer.”

He, therefore, warned: “Be careful with cosmetic products with such preservatives as parabens, formaldehyde, formalin, imadazolidinyl urea, isothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, and quaternium-15, as they are likely to cause contact dermatitis.”

A Consultant Physician and Dermatologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Dr. Olufolakemi Cole-Adeife said some people may have sensitive skin or skin conditions, which could make them react to some skincare products.

Examples of such skin conditions are atopic dermatitis, rosacea and seborrhoeic dermatitis. Also, some people may be allergic to certain chemicals in some skin care products that other people use without any issue. This condition is called allergic contact dermatitis. “The symptoms of infections may include skin rashes, dryness or scaliness of the skin, itchiness, tingling or peppery sensations on the skin, as well as swelling, redness or darkening of the skin,” she explained, adding: “In severe cases, the skin may become weepy and develop sores. These symptoms are usually most pronounced after the use of the skincare product”.

Cole-Adeife explained that harmful cosmetic products could cause skin irritation and damage, which may initially be reversible or temporary, but can become irreversible or permanent, if the product is continuously used.

She said: “The regular use of antiseptic liquids and soaps can remove the normal bacteria flora, meant to stimulate healthy skin. This normal flora is protective and beneficial to the skin and its absence may result in some skin abnormalities like dryness. It can also expose the skin to colonisation by harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses resulting in skin, hair or nail infections. The use of skin lightening or bleaching agents can result in a myriad of complications such as thinning of the skin, stretch marks, skin discolouration like redness and hyperpigmentation, excessive hair growth, malodour, poor wound healing and a propensity to skin infections.

According to Cole-Adeife, mercury-containing creams and soaps could also result in kidney damage and ultimately kidney failure. “It is important to note that children are more vulnerable to harmful skin care products. This is because their skin is much thinner than adults’ and they are likely to absorb a higher amount of harmful chemicals from creams and soaps. Children should never be exposed to mercury-containing soaps. They should also not be exposed to any steroid containing cream without a doctor’s prescription and prescribed creams should not be used beyond the duration specified by the doctor.

“These steroid-containing creams should certainly never be mixed into the children’s daily body creams, as is being done by many mothers nowadays. This practice is very harmful to the child’s skin and whole body and should be strongly discouraged.”

The treatment of these skin infections she asserted, involves stopping the use of these products. “The skin can be quite forgiving, and when the products are stopped early enough, many of the complications are reversible. As treatment, a person is often advised to switch to plain, gentle skin care products and encouraged to eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Sunscreen creams to shield exposed skin from UV rays is often recommended.”

Chairperson of Public Relations, Young Pharmacists Group (YPG), International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), Pharm. Funmbi Okoya, said: “Cosmetics can be classified as drugs, when they contain substances that have a physiological effect on the body. Therefore, antifungal creams, steroid-containing creams, antidandruff shampoo and Sun Protection Factor (SPF) creams, among others are cosmetic drugs. Cosmetics counterfeit, especially those containing drug substances, can cause a wide range of localised side effects, depending on where they are applied, as well as systemic side effects, depending on the quantity that enters the blood.

“Common local side effects include allergies. Harmful cosmetics are even more likely to cause severe side effects, depending on what dangerous substances are used and its respective quantities. To avoid harmful or counterfeit cosmetic products and their side effects, make sure to use only NAFDAC registered products purchased from a credible store. Also, consult your pharmacist or dermatologist before trying any new cosmetic products.”

Okoya advised that people should not bleach their skin, as skin whitening is the same as skin bleaching and skin lightening is often a milder form of skin bleaching. Meanwhile, studies have shown that skin toning has no serious side effects.”

A study in mice has found that scientists can switch off a gene responsible for an aggressive form of breast cancer. Silencing the gene not only shrinks tumors but also prevents their spread around the body.

Around one in eight females in the United States will develop breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

In 2019, doctors diagnosed an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer in females in the U.S., while around 41,760 individuals died from the disease.

Up to a fifth of breast cancers are a more aggressive form known as triple-negative breast cancer that is difficult to treat.

Unlike the majority of breast cancers, estrogen and progesterone do not fuel the growth of triple-negative tumors, so drugs, such as tamoxifen, that block these hormones are ineffective.

A molecule that switches off a particular gene in triple-negative tumors could be a promising alternative treatment, according to research at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA.

The scientists report their discovery in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

The effect of gene silencing

The research combined in vitro studies of cells growing in dishes with in vivo studies involving mice.

The team began by working with cultures of a triple-negative cancer cell line that originally came from a patient treated in 1973 at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.

The researchers compared the effects of switching off two known breast cancer genes, one called Rab27a and the other TRAF3IP2.

To deactivate or “silence” the genes, they targeted them with molecules of short hairpin RNAs called lentiviral-TRAF3IP2-shRNA. These are strands of RNA twisted back on themselves like a hairpin that prevent a specific gene from being read or “transcribed” to make a protein.

The researchers discovered that switching off TRAF3IP2 had a more disruptive effect on cancer-associated metabolic pathways in the cells than switching off Rab27a.

They confirmed this by switching off the genes individually in a mouse model of breast cancer.

Switching off Rab27a did slow down tumor growth in the mice, but a very small number of cancer cells spread, or “micrometastasized.”

When the researchers switched off TRAF3IP2, however, this not only suppressed new tumor growth but also prevented metastasis for up to 1 year. Better still, the treatment shrank existing tumors until they were undetectable.

“This exciting discovery has revealed that TRAF3IP2 can play a role as a novel therapeutic target in breast cancer treatment,” says Dr. Reza Izadpanah, assistant professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine, who led the research.

Future studies ‘to further validate’ findings

The scientists are now seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start clinical trials as soon as possible.

They write that, first, they will need to confirm their results by transplanting breast cancer cells from human patients into mice, in a process known as ‘xenotransplantation.’

“A limitation of the present study is that we used a single breast cancer cell line to investigate potential roles of silencing Rab27a and TRAF3IP2 on tumor growth. Our future studies will involve the use of patient-derived xenotransplants to further validate these fundamental first in vivo and in vitro results.”

– Eckhard U. Alt et al.

Silencing TRAF3IP2 may turn out to be an effective treatment in several cancers and even heart failure.

The gene is known to activate various cellular pathways that promote inflammation, which plays an important role not only in cancer but also in heart failure.

In their breast cancer research, the team at Tulane School of Medicine collaborated with Dr. Chandrasekar Bysani at the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia, who identified the part played by TRAF3IP2 in promoting inflammation in heart failure.

Dr. Bysani also took part in recent research that found that switching off TRAF3IP2 could be an effective strategy for treating glioblastoma, a malignant type of brain cancer.

Two recent but separate studies have demonstrated how bitter melon and turmeric could be used to prevent, treat and reduce the progression of cancers.

Commonly called bitter melon, bitter gourd, African cucumber or balsam pear, Momordica charantia belongs to the plant family Cucurbitaceae. In Nigeria, bitter melon is called ndakdi in Dera; dagdaggi in Fula-Fulfulde; hashinashiap in Goemai; daddagu in Hausa; iliahia in Igala; akban ndene in Igbo (Ibuzo in Delta State); dagdagoo in Kanuri; akara aj, ejinrin nla, ejinrin weeri, ejirin-weewe or igbole aja in Yoruba.

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family, Zingaberaceae. In traditional medicine, turmeric has been used for its medicinal properties for various indications and through different routes of administration, including topically, orally, and by inhalation.

In Nigeria, it is called atale pupa in Yoruba; gangamau in Hausa; nwandumo in Ebonyi; ohu boboch in Enugu (Nkanu East); gigir in Tiv; magina in Kaduna; turi in Niger State; onjonigho in Cross River (Meo tribe).

Turmeric, also known as curcuma, produces a root that is used to produce the vibrant yellow spice used as a culinary spice so often used in curry dishes. Though native to India and parts of Asia, and is a relative of cardamom and ginger, turmeric has been domesticated in Nigeria. In Asia, turmeric is used to treat many health conditions and it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and perhaps even anticancer properties.

Meanwhile, Prof. Ratna Ray from Saint Louis University in Missouri, United States (U.S.), and her colleagues, in a recent study on bitter melon, made an intriguing find. In experiments using mouse models, bitter melon extract appeared to be effective in preventing cancer tumours from growing and spreading.

The researchers report their findings in a study paper that now appears in the journal Cell Communication and Signaling. Ray grew up in India, so she was familiar not just with the culinary qualities of bitter melon, but also with its alleged medicinal properties.

This made her curious as to whether or not the plant also harbored properties that would make it an effective aid to anticancer treatments. She and her colleagues decided to put this to the test in a preliminary study by using bitter melon extract on various types of cancer cells — including breast, prostate, and head and neck cancer cells.

Laboratory tests showed that the extract stopped those cells from replicating, suggesting that it might be effective in preventing the spread of cancer. In further experiments using mouse models, the researchers found that the plant extract was able to reduce the incidence of tongue cancer.

So, in their new study, Prof. Ray and team tried to find out what might give bitter melon compounds an edge against cancer cells. This time, they used mouse models to study the mechanism through which bitter melon extract interacted with tumors of cancer of the mouth and tongue.

They saw that the extract interacted with molecules that allow glucose (simple sugar) and fat to travel around the body, in some cases “feeding” cancer cells and allowing them to thrive.

By interfering with those pathways, the bitter melon extract essentially stopped cancer tumors from growing, and it even led to the death of some of the cancer cells. Ray said: “All animal model studies that we’ve conducted are giving us similar results, an approximately 50 per cent reduction in tumor growth.”

Ray and colleagues explained that it remains unclear whether or not bitter melon would have the same effect in humans, but Prof., going forward, this is what they are aiming to find out.

“Our next step is to conduct a pilot study in [people with cancer] to see if bitter melon has clinical benefits and is a promising additional therapy to current treatments,” she noted.

Ray seemed convinced that the plant is, if nothing else, at least a positive contributor to personal health.“Some people take an apple a day, and I’d eat a bitter melon a day. I enjoy the taste,” she said.“Natural products play a critical role in the discovery and development of numerous drugs for the treatment of various types of deadly diseases, including cancer. Therefore, the use of natural products as preventive medicine is becoming increasingly important.”

Meanwhile, a recent literature review investigated whether turmeric may be useful for treating cancer. The authors concluded that it might be but noted that there are many challenges to overcome before it makes it to the clinic. The chemical in turmeric that most interests medical researchers is a polyphenol called diferuloylmethane, which is more commonly called curcumin. Most of the research into turmeric’s potential powers has focused on this chemical.

Over the years, researchers have pitted curcumin against a number of symptoms and conditions, including inflammation, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, liver disease, obesity, and neurodegenerative diseases, with varying levels of success.
Above all, though, scientists have focused on cancer. According to the authors of the recent review, of the 12,595 papers that researchers published on curcumin between 1924 and 2018, 37 per cent focus on cancer.

In the current review, which features in the journal Nutrients, the authors mainly focused on cell signaling pathways that play a role in cancer’s growth and development and how turmeric might influence them. Treatment for cancer has improved vastly over recent decades, but there is still a long path to tread before we can beat cancer. As the authors note, “the search for innovative and more effective drugs” is still vital work.

In their review, the scientists paid particular attention to research involving breast cancer, lung cancer, cancers of the blood, and cancers of the digestive system. The authors concluded: “Curcumin represents a promising candidate as an effective anticancer drug to be used alone or in combination with other drugs.”

According to the review, curcumin can influence a wide range of molecules that play a role in cancer, including transcription factors, which are vital for Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material replication; growth factors; cytokines, which are important for cell signaling; and apoptotic proteins, which help control cell death.

Alongside the discussions surrounding curcumin’s molecular influence over cancer pathways, the authors also addressed the possible issues with using curcumin as a drug. For instance, they explain that if a person takes curcumin orally — in a turmeric latte, for example — the body rapidly breaks it down into metabolites. As a result, any active ingredients are unlikely to reach the site of a tumour.

With this in mind, some researchers are trying to design ways of delivering curcumin into the body and protecting it from undergoing metabolisation. For instance, researchers who encapsulated the chemical within a protein nanoparticle noted promising results in the laboratory and in rats.

Although scientists have published a great many papers on curcumin and cancer, there is a need for more work. Many of the studies in the current review are in vitro studies, which means that the researchers conducted them in laboratories using cells or tissues. Although this type of research is vital for understanding which interventions may or may not influence cancer, not all in vitro studies translate to humans.

Relatively few studies have tested turmeric’s or curcumin’s anticancer properties in humans, and the human studies that have taken place have been small-scale. However, aside from the difficulties and limited data, curcumin still has potential as an anticancer treatment.

Scientists are continuing to work on the problem. For instance, the authors mention two clinical trials that are underway, both of which aim to “evaluate the therapeutic effect of curcumin on the development of primary and metastatic breast cancer, as well as to estimate the risk of adverse events.”

They also refer to other ongoing studies in humans that are evaluating curcumin as a treatment for prostate cancer, cervical cancer, and lung nodules, among other diseases. The authors believe that curcumin belongs to “the most promising group of bioactive natural compounds, especially in the treatment of several cancer types.”

However, their praise for curcumin as an anticancer hero is tempered by the realities that their review has unearthed, and they end their paper on a low note: “Curcumin is not immune from side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, headache, and yellow stool. Moreover, it showed poor bioavailability due to the fact of low absorption, rapid metabolism, and systemic elimination that limit its efficacy in diseases treatment. Further studies and clinical trials in humans are needed to validate curcumin as an effective anticancer agent.”

Meanwhile, an earlier study published in journal Current Pharmacology Reports established that besides diabetes, bitter melon is effective in treating other chronic diseases such as cancer and Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

The study is titled “Bitter Melon as a Therapy for Diabetes, Inflammation, and Cancer: a Panacea?” The researchers noted: “Over the last few decades, multiple well-structured scientific studies have been performed to study the effects of bitter melon in various diseases. Some of the properties for which bitter melon has been studied include: antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-HIV, anthelmintic, hypotensive, anti-obesity, immuno-modulatory, anti-hyperlipidemic, hepato-protective, and neuro-protective activities. This review attempts to summarize the various literature findings regarding medicinal properties of bitter melon. With such strong scientific support on so many medicinal claims, bitter melon comes close to being considered a panacea.”

According to Food as Medicine: Functional Food Plants of Africa published 2017 by CRC Press, “…Dietary use of bitter melon or its juice decreases blood glucose levels, increases High Density Lipo-protein (HDL)/good cholesterol, and decreases triglyceride levels, thus exhibiting antiatherogenic qualities. Extract of bitter melon in supplement form has been widely used as a traditional medicine for diabetic patients.

When administered alone, it has a modest hypoglycemic effect at doses of at least 2000 mg/day. This botanical supplement enhances the cellular uptake of glucose and promotes insulin release, potentiating its effect, and in animal studies has been shown to increase the number of insulin-producing beta cells in diabetic animals. Bitter melon has also been found to reduce adiposity and oxidative stress in addition to reducing blood triglycerides and Low Density Lipo-proteins (LDL)/bad cholesterol.”

Tap water may be the cause of one in 20 cases of bladder cancer in Europe each year, a major study suggests. Researchers have linked drinking, showering and bathing in the water to more than 6,500 cases of the disease in 26 countries across the continent.

They estimate 1,356 bladder cancer diagnoses in Britain since 2005 were caused by contaminated water, making up a fifth of all cases in the European Union (EU).

Long-term exposure to a group of chemicals called trihalomethanes (THMs) is thought to be the cause. The chemicals, shown to be carcinogenic in animal studies, are formed as an unintended byproduct when water is disinfected with chlorine at supply plants.

As well as being drunk, steam given off in the shower can allow tap water to seep into people’s pores, and so too can prolonged periods in the bath. Earlier research has found an association between THMs and bladder cancer, but this is the first to estimate the scale of the problem. Some 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year in the United Kingdom (UK), making it the tenth most common form of the disease.

The latest study estimates nine per cent of them are caused by exposure to water contaminated with THMs.The findings are published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Scientists from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) set out to analyse the presence of the chemicals in drinking water in all 28 EU states between 2005 and 2018.

They did this by sending questionnaires to bodies responsible for the national water quality. Data was obtained for 26 countries – all except Bulgaria and Romania. The scientists probed levels of THMs in water at the tap, in the distribution network and at water treatment plants.

To make estimates as accurate as possible, the researchers also used other sources including open data online, reports and scientific literature. The findings revealed considerable differences between countries. Average THM levels were above legal levels in nine countries – Britain (24.2ug/l) , Spain, Portugal, Poland, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland and Italy.

The European Union has said the maximum limit is 11.7 micrograms per litre (ug/L). The European Union has said the maximum limit of THMs in water should be 11.7 micrograms per litre (ug/L). Researchers estimated the number of attributable bladder cancer cases using incidence rates and levels of THMs.

Analysis suggested Cyprus had highest percentage, with a quarter of diagnoses linked to the chemicals. Joint second-wort were Ireland and Malta, where one in six bladder cancer patients (17 per cent) are thought to have developed it from exposure to tap water.

Spain (11 per cent) and Greece (10 per cent) were not much better. At the opposite extreme was Denmark, where less than 0.1 per cent of cases were caused by THM water contamination. In Holland it was just 0.1 per cent of cases and Germany 0.2 per cent. THMs could be blamed for 0.4 per cent of cases in Austria and Lithuania. In total, the researchers estimated that 6,561 bladder cancer cases per year are attributable to THM exposure in the European Union.

The study authors say if the 13 countries with the highest averages were to reduce their THM levels to the EU average, 2,868 annual bladder cancer cases could be avoided.

Chloroform is the most infamous type of THM, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) describes as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’.Co-study author Manolis Kogevinas, a researcher from ISGlobal, said: “Over the past 20 years, major efforts have been made to reduce trihalomethanes levels in several countries of the European Union, including Spain.

“However, the current levels in certain countries could still lead to considerable bladder cancer burden, which could be prevented by optimising water treatment, disinfection and distribution practices and other measures.”

A spokesperson for Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “This Government takes the safety of our drinking water extremely seriously, and have a robust monitoring regime in place which tests for a wide range of chemicals, including trihalomethanes, to ensure the public can have absolute faith in the water coming from their taps.

“The latest figures from 2018 found only four samples out of 11,900 exceeded the legal limits, and firm action was taken in each of these four cases.”

A study in September last year discovered 22 carcinogenic substances in water across the United States (U.S.).Despite the fact that most of the water systems they tested were within federal limits on each of these toxins, the scientists estimated that their cumulative effects could be dire over the course of Americans’ lifetimes.

Exposure to arsenic, products of disinfectant chemicals and traces of radioactive chemicals like uranium and radium had the most substantial effects on cancer risks. Over 1.7 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the US each year. In the same time period, over 600,000 people die of the disease.

Better prevention strategies, earlier detection and better treatments – like the immunotherapies that are revolutionizing the disease’s future – have driven cancer mortality down dramatically. Yet the disease’s elimination is no where in sight. In part, this is because its roots are many, and difficult to control.

Rather than being triggered by any one thing, genetics, what you eat, where you live, how you eat and, of course, the water you drink all play roles in raising or lowering cancer risks.

Some chemicals, like arsenic are nearly impossible to keep out of water in certain places. For example, in some areas of Illinois, the soil is rich in arsenic, a toxic, carcinogenic heavy metal, linked to liver and bladder cancers.

Arsenic seeps into the ground water, and winds up in our bodies. It also leaks into the water supply from many types of manufacturing plants.US water systems treat drinking water with chlorine – a non-carcinogenic cleaning chemical – in an attempt to reduce or eliminate the metal.

Previous research has suggested that there is a link between depression and tea drinking. Now, a new study is investigating this relationship further.

Depression is common among older adults, with 7% of those over the age of 60 years reporting “major depressive disorder.”

Accordingly, research is underway to identify possible causes, which include genetic predisposition, socioeconomic status, and relationships with family, living partners, and the community at large.

A study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Fudan University in Shanghai raises another possibility. It finds a statistically significant link between regular tea drinking and lower levels of depression in seniors.

While the researchers have not yet established a causal relationship between tea and mental health, their findings — which appear in BMC Geriatrics — show a strong association.

Reading the tea leaves

Tea is popular among older adults, and various researchers have recently been investigating the potential beneficial effects of the beverage.

A separate study from the NUS that appeared in Aging last June, for example, found that tea may have properties that help brain areas maintain healthy cognitive function.

“Our study offers the first evidence of the positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggests a protective effect on age-related decline in brain organization.”

Junhua Li, lead author

That earlier paper also cites research showing that tea and its ingredients — catechin, L-theanine, and caffeine — can produce positive effects on mood, cognitive ability, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and mortality.

However, defining the exact role of tea in preventing depression is difficult, especially due to the social context in which people often consume it. Particularly in countries such as China, social interaction may itself account for some or even all of the drink’s benefits.

Feng Qiushi and Shen Ke led the new study, which tracks this covariate and others, including gender, education, and residence, as well as marital and pension status.

The team also factored in lifestyle habits and health details, including smoking, drinking alcohol, daily activities, level of cognitive function, and degree of social engagement.

In addition, the authors write, “The study has major methodological strength,” citing a few of its attributes.

Firstly, they note, it could more accurately track an individual’s tea-drinking history because “instead of examining tea-drinking habit [only] at the time of survey or in the preceding month/year, we combined the information on frequency and consistency of tea consumption at age 60 and at the time of assessment.”

Once the researchers had classified each person as one of four types of tea drinker according to how often they drank the beverage, they concluded:

“[O]nly consistent daily drinkers, those who had drunk tea almost every day since age 60, could significantly benefit in mental health.”

13,000 study participants

The researchers analyzed the data of 13,000 individuals who took part in the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) between 2005 and 2014.

They discovered a virtually universal link between tea drinking and lower reports of depression.

Other factors seemed to reduce depression as well, including living in an urban setting and being educated, married, financially comfortable, in better health, and socially engaged.

The data also suggested that the benefits of tea drinking are strongest for males aged 65 to 79 years. Feng Qiushi suggests an explanation: “It is likely that the benefit of tea drinking is more evident for the early stage of health deterioration. More studies are surely needed in regard to this issue.”

Looking at the connection the other way around, tea drinkers appeared to share certain characteristics.

Higher proportions of tea drinkers were older, male, and urban residents. In addition, they were more likely to be educated, married, and receiving pensions.

Tea drinkers also exhibited higher cognitive and physical function and were more socially involved. On the other hand, they were also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke.

Qiushi previously published the results of the effect of tea drinking on a different population, Singaporeans, finding a similar link to lower rates of depression. The new study, while more detailed, supports this earlier work.

Currently exploring new CLHLS data regarding tea drinking, Qiushi wishes to understand more about what tea can do, saying, “This new round of data collection has distinguished different types of tea, such as green tea, black tea, and oolong tea so that we could see which type of tea really works for alleviating depressive symptoms.”

A blemish is the term for any mark on the skin. There are many different types of blemish.

Most blemishes are harmless, but some people may wish to treat them for cosmetic reasons.

Certain blemishes may indicate an underlying condition, such as skin cancer, which requires prompt medical treatment.

In this article, we outline the different types of blemish that people may have and the treatment options available in each case.

Types

There are many different types of skin blemish. Some examples include those below.

Acne

Acne is a skin condition that occurs as a result of the skin producing too much oil. Different factors can cause excess oil production, including:

  • overactive oil glands
  • hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, or the menopause
  • stress, anxiety, or depression, which can also affect hormones

There are several different types of acne, which vary in their appearance. Some examples include:

Blackheads

Blackheads are small, dark spots on the surface of the skin. They resemble trapped dirt but actually consist of oil that has become stuck inside the pore. When this oil reacts with air, it becomes black.

Whiteheads

Whiteheads are small, round blemishes that are white or skin-colored. They develop as a result of oil and dead skin cells blocking the pores.

Papules

Papules are small, hard, red bumps on the skin. These develop when excess oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells travel deeper into the skin, causing inflammation.

When lots of papules cluster together, this can give the skin a rough, sandpaper-like texture.

Pustules

Pustules are raised, red spots that contain yellow or white pus. They occur when oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells collect under the skin, causing infection.

Nodules

Nodules are large skin blemishes that develop when a pore becomes clogged. Oils mix with dead skin cells and bacteria that then become trapped deep in the skin. The excess oil and bacteria lead to infection and inflammation inside the skin.

This type of skin blemish can cause acne scarring.

Acne cysts

A break in the lining of a pore can cause oil and bacteria to spread to the surrounding skin. An acne cyst is a membrane that has formed around the infected area.

Cysts appear as large, swollen, red blemishes. They may be very painful to the touch.

Like nodules, cysts can cause permanent acne scarring.

Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is a type of blemish that appears darker than other areas of skin. It is common and usually harmless.

Hyperpigmentation can occur as a result of genetic factors, sun damage, or acne scarring.

Freckles are a type of hyperpigmentation that a person can inherit the tendency to develop. They are small, flat spots that may be red, brown, tan, or black. They can appear anywhere on the body.

Sunspots or “age spots” are another type of hyperpigmentation. These small spots or patches can develop on areas of the skin that get a lot of sun exposure.

Acne scarring can also cause dark spots to remain on the skin once the acne has cleared.

Melasma

Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that can develop during pregnancy or when a person takes birth control pills.

The hormonal changes that take place lead to an increase in melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its coloring. The overproduction of melanin can make the skin darker.

Ingrown hair

Sometimes, hairs can curl back on themselves or grow sideways into the skin, which can result in red, itchy bumps forming. Doctors refer to these skin blemishes as ingrown hairs.

Hair removal techniques, such as waxing, shaving, or plucking, can all cause ingrown hairs.

Birthmarks

Birthmarks are blemishes that appear on the skin of a newborn baby. They can appear either at birth or shortly afterward. Some birthmarks disappear over time, while others may be permanent.

Experts are still not sure what causes birthmarks to form. However, these skin blemishes can sometimes develop as a result of:

  • blood vessels not forming properly
  • skin pigment cells clumping together, creating moles or patches of darker skin
  • an overgrowth of skin that creates raised patches of thickened skin

A birthmark will look different than the skin surrounding it. These types of skin blemish can be any size and may vary greatly in appearance. They may be:

  • flat or raised
  • similar to a bruise or stain
  • any color, including pink, red, brown, or tan

Birthmarks are generally harmless, but some marks that appear on a baby’s skin can signal an underlying condition. It is best to have a dermatologist check any birthmarks just to be sure.

Some harmless birthmarks can also get larger quickly, which can be alarming. Talking with a dermatologist can help people know what to expect regarding birthmark growth.

Cold sores

Cold sores are painful, red, fluid-filled blisters that form on the lips or around the mouth. They occur as a result of infection with the herpes simplex virus.

Cold sores are highly contagious, so people should avoid intimate contact with others until the sores have healed to avoid passing the virus on.

Skin cancer

Some types of blemish can be a sign of skin cancer. Being aware of the signs to look out for can help people spot skin cancer early.

Some potential signs of skin cancer include:

  • a new mole or mark that grows quickly
  • a mole or mark that bleeds or itches
  • a blemish that changes in shape, size, or color
  • a mole that is asymmetrical or has rough, irregular edges
  • a mole that is larger than 6 millimeters

A person should see a doctor if they develop a new or unusual skin blemish that has any of the above characteristics.

Treatments

Although many types of skin blemish do not require treatment, some people may wish to treat them for cosmetic reasons. The type of skin blemish will determine the treatment options.

Acne treatment

People may be able to treat acne blemishes with topical creams, such as benzoyl peroxide.

These products can help dry out the skin and get rid of acne-causing bacteria.

Washing the face twice daily with a cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can help treat certain types of acne. In addition, medications called retinoids may help unclog the pores.

Acne treatments can take time to have a noticeable effect. People may need to wait 6–8 weeks for them to work.

For persistent acne, a dermatologist may suggest a topical or oral prescription medication. Some prescription treatments for acne and hyperpigmentation can cause side effects.

People should discuss any potential side effects with their dermatologist before starting treatment.

Some people may also find that certain dietary and lifestyle changes can help reduce stress levels and balance hormones.

Hyperpigmentation and melasma treatment

The following treatments may help reduce hyperpigmentation and melasma:

  • over-the-counter or prescription medicine containing hydroquinone, which works by lightening darker patches of skin
  • prescription cortisone or tretinoin cream
  • laser treatment

In some cases, melasma disappears after a woman has given birth or is no longer taking hormonal contraception.

Ingrown hair treatment

Some tips for preventing ingrown hairs include:

  • shaving only in the direction of hair growth
  • using a shaving gel
  • using only clean, sharp razors

For existing ingrown hairs, an exfoliating scrub can help release trapped hairs from under the skin.

Birthmark treatment

If people want to treat a birthmark, they may consider the following options:

  • laser therapy
  • medications, such as propranolol, timolol, or corticosteroids, which can shrink certain birthmarks
  • surgery to remove a birthmark that may be harmful

People may also use makeup to cover any blemishes or discolored skin that they wish to disguise.

Cold sore treatment

Cold sores tend to clear up on their own within 2 weeks. A dermatologist may also prescribe an oral or topical antiviral medicine to treat cold sores.

Skin cancer treatment

Skin cancer is very treatable if a person begins treatment in the early stages of the disease. The treatment that a person receives will depend on the type of skin cancer. Some possible treatment options include:

  • surgical removal of cancerous cells
  • topical medication to kill cancerous cells
  • radiation therapy

When to see a dermatologist

Some people may choose to see a dermatologist if they wish to treat a blemish for cosmetic reasons or if the blemish is causing them psychological distress.

A person should see their dermatologist immediately if they have a skin blemish that takes on any of the following characteristics:

  • grows quickly
  • changes in size, shape, or color
  • bleeds or itches

These could be signs of skin cancer or another serious skin condition that requires immediate treatment.

Summary

A blemish is any type of mark on the skin. Most blemishes are harmless, but people may choose to treat them for cosmetic reasons.

Certain types of skin blemish may be more serious. People should see a doctor or dermatologist if they develop a blemish that has any of the characteristic signs of skin cancer. This type of cancer is highly treatable if a person begins treatment during the early stages of the disease.

People should see a doctor or dermatologist if they have any concerns about a skin blemish or skin condition. These healthcare professionals can diagnose the condition and then recommend appropriate treatments.