Taller people are under greater risk of getting cancer because they are bigger and have more cells in their bodies, thus making them more susceptible to dangerous mutations.
A number of studies previously found links between height and a cancer risk, with research suggesting that for every 10cm of height within the typical range for humans, the risk increases by about 10%. A similar link has also been found in dogs, with bigger breeds having a greater risk of such diseases.
Some of the explanations scientists have offered include certain growth hormones that could play a role in both height and cancer, or that environmental factors such as childhood nutrition or illness.
“One of the major hypotheses was that something was happening early in life that was making your cells more susceptible to cancer and, sort of incidentally, causing you to be tall,” said Leonard Nunney, professor of biology at the University of California Riverside.
However,after crunching numbers, Nunney says it could be a simple matter of size: tall people simply have more cells for something to go wrong in.
His work, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is based on the fundamental model of how cancer develops, whereby individuals accumulate mutations in their cells (other than sperm or eggs) over their life. If a particular set of mutations arise then a certain cancer will initiate. The theory suggests that having more cells, or more divisions per cell, would therefore increase cancer risk.
When comparing the overall risk of men and women developing any type of cancer with increasing height, results reveal that his predictions are in tune with the real-life observations, giving a 13% increased risk for women for every additional 10cm in height compared with 12% from observations, and an 11% predicted increase in men for every 10cm taller compared with 9% seen in real life.
Overall, an increased risk with height was seen for 18 out of 23 cancers considered. Nunney says some cancers may have shown no link because the effect of height was masked by other drivers such as HPV infection for cervical cancer.
“Whether that comes from a better diet or the fact that your parents happen to be tall doesn’t matter … it is purely a number of cells, however that comes about,” Nunney explains, although he admits height differences only appear to partly explain why men are at greater risk of many cancers than women.
Skin cancer melanoma shows a much stronger link to height than expected, possible due to taller people having slightly higher levels of a growth hormone called IGF-1.
Nunney said a slight boost in the rate of cell division, as a result of higher levels of IGF-1, might have a stronger effect on these cells than it does in other tissues, possibly because melanoma might need a larger set of mutations to develop than other cancers.
Prof Dorothy Bennett, director of the Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute at St George’s, University of London, welcomed the research, although she said Nunney’s calculations involved a number of assumptions, including that cancer risk increases in direct proportion to adult height.
“The simplifications seem reasonable, and therefore the main study conclusion is probably going to be the best-supported one available at present, namely that for most cancer types, cell number can predict sufficiently well the numerical relations between height and cancer, with no need to suggest additional factors.”
That said, Bennett said there was no obvious reason melanoma should have a particularly strong link to height.
Georgina Hill, from Cancer Research UK, said people should not be too concerned about their stature, as though the increased risk is small, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight can keep everything balanced and decrease any other possible causes of cancer.
Category: Features, Health alert
For the 11th Global Handwashing Day, Lifebuoy aims to change behaviours surrounding hand hygiene among children and adults. Since hands are responsible for the spread of 80% of common infectious diseases, effective hand hygiene continues to be universally recognised as the smartest, most cost-effective means of infection control.
A highly contagious, infectious diseases that can be passed through a simple touch is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD). When an infected person sneezes or coughs into their hands, germs are present. Without proper handwashing or disinfecting, these germs are passed on to people or things they come into contact with, causing the disease to spread.
Head & Senior Disease Consultant Physician at the Department of Medicine, Hospital Sungai Buloh, Datuk Dr. Christopher Lee said that unclean hands are considered the most significant medium to pathogen transfer. Of many of the recent pandemic outbreaks, good hand hygiene has been one of the key factors in restricting the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes from sources of contamination.
“Young children are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases, as they are more care-free and less cautious when it comes to rubbing their eyes, or noes after contact with other people or things. They have higher propensity to pick up disease-causing germs easily. Thus, it is crucial to educate children on proper hand hygiene by washing their hands regularly with soap and water. Together with proper techniques, this simple act of handwashing can effectively reduce pathogens that cause diseases in most situations. Proper hand hygiene also includes washing hands on key occasions – for example, after going to the toilet, and before eating which can significantly reduce the transmission of infectious diseases,” he added.
HMFD has become an important public health disease in Malaysia due to its tendency to cause large outbreaks and deaths among children and infants. A recent 28% spike in Malaysian HMFD cases has been recorded as of June 30, 2018, compared to the same period last year. To combat this, Lifebuoy advocates for education on the importance of handwashing with soap and the impact that unclean hands have on the transmission of diseases.
Over the years, Lifebuoy has invested over RM1 million to teach the practice of proper hand hygiene in proper hand hygiene in both primary school and kindergarten through its School of 5 Handwashing Programme. This programme facilitates behavioural change to encourage children and families to adopt proper hand washing habits using soap. Since it started in 2015, Lifebuoy’s School of 5 Programme has reached out to 223,258 children in Malaysia.
Lifebuoy has also collaborated with the Ministry of Health to initiated a pilot project in Sarawak to measure the impact of behavioural change through hand hygiene education among mothers and pre-school children. Through the Sarawak Programme, Lifebuoy aims to reinforce that consistent education can positively impact behavioural change among children.
A survey was conducted with over 2,000 parents to understand and identify their basic hygiene habits, as well as knowledge around infectious diseases like HFMD. There are two components the survey – a pre-survey to ascertain their hygiene habits and HMFD knowledge prior to conducting School of 5 Programme with the children’s’ schools, and a post-survey 21 days after concluding the programme.
The programme has demonstrated a positive increase in the children’s behaviour. A 2% increase was recorded in their handwashing behaviour across notable occasions such as before and after eating, as well as after using the toilet. The respondents have also shown an increase in the use of soap during handwashing post the Lifebuoy programme, with a 13% increase in the use of soap after visiting the toilet, a 12%and 6% increase in the use of soap before and after meals respectively.
“These results prove that our efforts in cultivating good hand hygiene are successful and impactful. We believe that habit forming starts from young, thus our focus on educating pre-schoolers and primary school children. Lifebuoy is fully committed towards building a healthier Malaysia through the simple yet effective act of handwashing with soap. Driven by a larger purpose, Lifebuoy has been on a mission to touch as many people as possible to drive the formation of this very habit. Our vision is to instil proper handwashing behaviour in 1 billion people globally by 2020,” said Vincent Chong, Beauty, Personal Care, and Home Care Director, Unilever Malaysia.
The behaviour of parents and teachers are extremely influential to kids. Paul Jambunathan, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at Monash University, said that attitudes and behaviours that children learn during their school years could have impact on their life-long health.
“Parents must be empowered to become actively involved in their children’s overall development including health-related behaviours, as habits are ingrained when they are developed at an early age. As parents, teaching children good handwashing techniques and habits can keep them healthier by protecting themselves against touch-related infections and this safeguard their future.”
A medical centre in New Jersey recently suffered an adenovirus outbreak that saw the deaths of six children and left a dozen more infected. The inspection team found minor handwashing deficiencies at the centre, which could be attributed to the spread of the virus.
By enhancing the understanding of the importance of handwashing and taking a proactive role in our personal hygiene, Lifebuoy aspires to curb the spread of infectious disease.
Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies
Caesarean sections around the world are rising at a rapid rate, according to a report by an international team of doctors and scientists.
Since 1990, C-sections have jumped from about 6% to 21%of all births, three studies report in medical journal, The Lancet. And there are no “signs of slowing down,” the researchers write in a commentary about the studies.
C-sections have overtaken vaginal deliveries in parts of southeast Europe, Latin America, and China. Even in poor countries, the rates can be extremely high at clinics. In Bangladesh, less than 60% of births occur at a clinic, but when they do, about 65% of them are C-sections.
Private clinics have even higher rates. In Brazil, 80-90% of births in private clinics are C-sections, compared to about 30-40% of births in public hospitals.
“Such high rates are due mainly to an increase of elective C-sections”, says Salimah Walani, the vice president of global programs at March of Dimes, a U.S. maternal and child health organization.
“The procedure is done when it is not really necessary or indicated,” she says.
Walani stresses that the surgical procedure can do more harm than good for moms and babies.
For a mom, an elected C-section can raise the chance of death by at least 60%, and in some circumstances as much as 700%. It also increases a woman’s risk of life-threatening complications during childbirth, such as bleeding, uterine rupture, hysterectomy, and cardiac arrest by up to 500%, and extends to subsequent deliveries.
For babies, C-sections increase the risk of obesity and autoimmune diseases later in life. When the procedure occurs before 39 weeks, an early birth increases the infant’s risk of respiratory problems.
Three factors have been hypothsised to fuel the increase in global c-section rates: financial, legal and technical.
“As an obstetrician told me … ‘You’re going to pay me more [to do a C-section], you’re not going to sue me and I’ll be done in a hour,’ says Holly Kennedy, a professor of midwifery at the Yale School of Nursing and contributed to one of the studies.
When it comes to C-sections, there seems to be an undecided optimal rate that provides the most benefit to women and babies, a rate that probably depends on the location. The World Health Organization suggests it lies between 10 and 15%, while a more recent study found it is a little higher, around 19%.
North America and Western Europe are well above this optimal rate, with 3% and 27% of babies in 2015 delivered by C-section, respectively. The only region with a higher rate than North America is Latin America and the Caribbean, where 44% of all deliveries were C-sections in 2015.
To bring these rates down, hospitals need to pay doctors equally for vaginal births, a team of researchers write in a commentary.
At the other end of the spectrum, sub-Saharan Africa is still struggling to give moms access to C-sections when required. Across this region, the C-section rate has changed very little since 2000, plateauing at around 5%.
Category: Features, Health alert
After years of decline, the past three years have seen an uptake in the number of people suffering from world hunger, the UN reports.
According to the analysis, 821 million people globally were undernourished in 2017 – about one out of nine people, whilenearly 151 million under-fives – 22% of the global total – have stunted growth due to poor nutrition.
The authors say extreme climate events are partly to blame for the rise, and call for urgent global action.
The report, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, also says difficulties accessing nutritious food is contributing to the growing problem of obesity in the world, with one in eight adults – more than 672 million – being classified as obese.
The authors address the frequency of extreme climate events – floods, heat, storms, and droughts –that have doubled since the early 1990s.It goes on to add that climate variability and exposure to more complex, frequent, and intense climate extremes are threatening to erode and even reverse the gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition.
Climate extremes have a direct impact on crop yields and food availability but can also reduce the number of fit and healthy people available to grow and harvest crops, and the time and money people have to find nutritious and safe food.
Hunger is significantly worse in countries where agricultural systems are sensitive to variations in rainfall and temperature and where agriculture is part of the community’s livelihood.
According to the report, climate variability and extremes – in addition to conflict and violence in parts of the world – are a key driver behind the recent rises in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe food crises. It calls for global action so countries become more aware and resilient towards climate-related disasters.
Commenting on the report, Robin Willoughby, from Oxfam, said: “It is shocking that after a prolonged decline, this is the third consecutive year of rising hunger.
“The inescapable fact is that climate change is now leaving people around the world without enough to eat.Hunger is significantly worse in countries hit by severe droughts and flooding. A hotter world is proving to be a hungrier world.”
“The people behind these stark statistics need urgent help. Our political leaders must redouble efforts to cut the use of fossil fuels and commit funds to help poor countries adapt to climate crises,” he adds.
The report was carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Food Programme, Unicef, the World Health Organization, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Category: Features, Health alert
More than a billion adults around the world are at risk of serious disease through lack of exercise, a study has shown.
Investigators found that in 2016 more than a quarter of the global population – 1.4 billion people – were insufficiently active.
As a result, they faced an increased risk of heart and artery disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers.
The research conducted by the World Health Organisation shows there was little progress in improving physical activity levels between 2001 and 2016.
If current trends continue, the global target of reducing sedentary lifestyle by 10 per cent by 2025 will not be met, said the scientists.
Study leader Dr Regina Guthold, from the WHO in Switzerland, said: “Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health.”
The study was based on self-reported activity levels both at work and at home and during travel and leisure time.
Researchers analysed information from 1.9 million men and women who participated in 358 population surveys.
They found that in 2016, around one in three women (32 per cent) and 23 per cent of men worldwide were not attaining recommended healthy levels of physical activity – at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.
High-income Western countries displayed the greatest increase in the proportion of people taking insufficient exercise over the study period, a rise from 31 per cent in 2001 to 37 per cent in 2016.
The study found 30.4 per cent of Australian adults didn’t reach the recommended level of physical activity for staying healthy in 2016.
Australia ranked 97the out of 168 countries in the study for the number of people being sufficiently active.
In the UK, 40 per cent of women and 32 per cent of men were insufficiently active in 2016.
Countries with the worst physical activity record included Kuwait, American Samoa, a US territory in the South Pacific, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. In each of these countries, more than half the adult population was insufficiently active.
The findings appear in The Lancet Global Health journal.
Category: Features, Health alert