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Sedentary lifestyle linked to cancer mortality

A new study suggests that the total amount of time that people spend sitting is associated with a higher risk of death from cancer. Replacing some of this sedentary time with light physical activity appears to reduce the risk.Share on PinterestReducing the amount of time spent sitting may reduce the risk of death from cancer.Getting…

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Sedentary lifestyle linked to cancer mortality

A new study suggests that the total amount of time that people spend sitting is associated with a higher risk of death from cancer. Replacing some of this sedentary time with light physical activity appears to reduce the risk.Share on PinterestReducing the amount of time spent sitting may reduce the risk of death from cancer.Getting regular physical activity is a proven way for people to lower their chance of developing cancer and dying from it.The American Cancer Society recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week.However, research suggests that fewer than one-quarter of adults in the United States actually achieve this.A more attainable goal may be to reduce the amount of time that we spend sitting.An analysis of previous studies linked sedentary behavior to higher cardiovascular and cancer mortality. However, all these studies relied on people’s own reports of how much time they spent sitting.The new study, by scientists at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, drew on the data of 8,002 adults aged 45 years and older who joined the ongoing REGARDS study between 2003 and 2007.As part of that study, the researchers strapped accelerometers to participants’ hips to provide an objective measure of their activity levels over a period of 7 days.In the 5 years after this, 268 participants (3.3%) died of cancer. The researchers found that participants with the greatest total sedentary time had a 52% increased risk of dying from cancer compared with those who had the least sedentary time. However, there was notable uncertainty as to the exact size of the effect, with the best estimate ranging from a 1% to a 127% increased risk.Participants with the longest bouts of uninterrupted sedentary behavior had a 36% higher risk of cancer mortality compared with those with the shortest.The researchers adjusted both results to account for other variables that might have affected cancer mortality, including the participants’:overall physical activity levelsagesmoking statusalcohol consumption habitsbody mass index (BMI)preexisting conditions To get an insight into the potential benefits of becoming less sedentary, the researchers modeled the effects of replacing 30 minutes of sedentary time per day with physical activity. For moderate-to-vigorous exercise, such as cycling, this led to a 31% lower risk of dying from cancer. For light exercise, such as walking, this led to an 8% lower risk.The researchers have now published these findings in JAMA Oncology.“Conversations with my patients always begin with why they don’t have time to exercise,” says Dr. Susan Gilchrist, who led the study. “I tell them to consider standing up for 5 minutes every hour at work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It might not sound like a lot, but this study tells us even light activity has cancer survival benefits.”The results support the idea that persuading people to reduce their sedentary behavior, rather than just exercise more, could be an effective alternative way to reduce cancer deaths.“Our findings reinforce that it’s important to ‘sit less and move more’ and that incorporating 30 minutes of movement into your daily life can help reduce your risk of death from cancer,” says Dr. Gilchrist. In their paper, the authors conclude, “To mitigate the risks incurred from sedentary behavior, our results suggest that replacing sedentary time with either [light physical activity or moderate-to-vigorous activity] is associated with a lower cancer mortality risk.”“These findings add to growing evidence in cancer research on the importance of reducing sedentary behavior and support the public health message that adults should sit less and move more to promote health and longevity.”They also acknowledge that their work had some limitations. For example, they collected information about the participants’ other cancer mortality risk factors at the start of the REGARDS study. This took place 6 years before the researchers measured the participants’ activity levels. During this time, their cancer mortality risk could have changed to some extent. For example, this would be the case if they started or quit smoking.In addition, the study was unable to break down the risks of sedentary behavior according to the type of cancer. This is important because previous research using self-reported activity levels suggests that sedentary behavior affects the risk of some cancers more than others.“Our next step is to investigate how objectively measured sedentary behavior impacts site-specific cancer incidence and if gender and race play a role,” concludes Dr. Gilchrist.
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Lax gun laws in neighboring states may increase firearm deaths

A US study suggests strong gun control regulations reduce a state’s firearm deaths, but having neighbors with more lenient laws undermines their effect.Share on PinterestNew research suggests that one state’s lax gun laws could undo the effects of its neighbor’s stricter firearm regulations.In 2017, 39,773 people died from gun-related injuries in the United States, according…

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Lax gun laws in neighboring states may increase firearm deaths

A US study suggests strong gun control regulations reduce a state’s firearm deaths, but having neighbors with more lenient laws undermines their effect.Share on PinterestNew research suggests that one state’s lax gun laws could undo the effects of its neighbor’s stricter firearm regulations.In 2017, 39,773 people died from gun-related injuries in the United States, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.Overall, research indicates that stronger state laws governing the sale and ownership of firearms reduce firearm-related deaths. However, some states have relatively high rates of gun deaths despite strict regulations. To investigate why this might be the case, scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Boston University School of Public Health at Boston, MA, looked into the effects of firearm laws in neighboring states.They used the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System to obtain figures for firearm-related deaths in the 48 adjacent U.S. states from 2000 to 2017. There were 578,022 firearm deaths in total, including homicides and suicides, but excluding deaths due to shootings by police or other law enforcement agents. The scientists also searched the State Firearm Laws Database for laws in each state regarding:background checksgun dealer regulationsbuyer regulationsgun-trafficking lawsThe team used the number of these laws as a proxy for gun control strength in each state.If you would like to check your registration status or register to vote, we have added some useful links at the bottom of this article.Overall, stronger state gun laws were associated with reduced firearm deaths, but having a neighboring state with more permissive laws undermined this protective effect.Larger policy differences across state borders were associated with increased gun-related deaths, suicides, and homicides, though the results were statistically stronger for suicide than homicide.The authors conclude:“This study adds to the growing literature emphasizing the role played by neighboring states’ firearm regulations in addition to own-state firearm regulations in firearm deaths. Failing to account for neighboring states with weaker laws, in some instances, can make a state’s own regulations appear less effective in reducing firearm deaths.”The scientists calculate that, on average, failure to account for weaker firearm laws in neighboring states make it appear as though a state’s laws were about 20% less effective at reducing deaths than they really were.They report their findings in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.The researchers write that higher prices and strong marketing regulations can lead consumers to purchase firearms in adjacent, relatively unregulated markets. They say these are a frequent source of the guns used in crimes.They believe their work supports the case for more cooperative legislation between neighboring states and at the federal level.“I think the main message of this study is that to solve a nationwide problem we need to think of a nationwide or at least a regional-level (i.e. multistate) approach, like we may also need for the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dr. Ye Liu, who is a doctoral student in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy at the University of Alabama and the first author of the study. “An ‘each state on its own’ approach is ultimately inadequate to address one of the biggest public health challenges in this country,” Dr. Liu adds.The authors acknowledge the number of gun-control laws may not perfectly reflect the strictness of a state’s regulations. In addition, they note states may vary in how diligently they enforce these laws.They call for further studies that might use alternative measures of regulatory strength, focus on specific categories of law, or explore the effects of regulations in more distant states. To check your voter registration status, click here to visit VoteAmerica, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout. They can also help you register to vote, vote by mail, request an absentee ballot, or find your polling place.
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COVID-19 will eventually become seasonal, researchers predict

A new study argues that COVID-19 is likely to become a seasonal disease similar to influenza — but not before a vaccine and greater herd immunity are achieved.Share on PinterestResearchers warn that COVID-19 outbreaks may become a seasonal occurrence.New research published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health suggests that SARS-CoV-2 is likely to be…

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COVID-19 will eventually become seasonal, researchers predict

A new study argues that COVID-19 is likely to become a seasonal disease similar to influenza — but not before a vaccine and greater herd immunity are achieved.Share on PinterestResearchers warn that COVID-19 outbreaks may become a seasonal occurrence.New research published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health suggests that SARS-CoV-2 is likely to be affected by the changing seasons in a way similar to other human coronaviruses and influenza.In temperate regions, this would mean reduced infections in the summer and peaks in the winter. However, this seasonality is only likely to occur once a vaccine is developed and greater herd immunity is achieved.Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.The sudden emergence and rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19, have left scientists urgently attempting to develop vaccines to combat the virus and treatments for its disease.Another key area of research is how the virus is transmitted from one person to another.Understanding how the virus spreads is crucial, as it allows governments to enact policies that effectively limit viral transmission.While policies have varied from country to country, they have generally involved maintaining social distance, washing the hands regularly, and wearing face masks.This is because the virus can be transmitted on surfaces, through direct human contact, and via droplets expelled when a person sneezes, coughs, or talks.In addition to transmitting through droplets from the respiratory tract, the virus may also spread through aerosols: very small droplets that are expelled alongside larger ones or that form when larger droplets evaporate.Determining precisely how the virus transmits requires time and research. However, given the lethality of COVID-19, policy decisions need to be made urgently, based on the best evidence currently available. Making the best suggestions requires scientists to analyze emerging research on COVID-19 and past studies that have looked at similar viruses.Doing so may also allow researchers to better predict how the virus will react in the future.In the present study, the team pooled the latest research on COVID-19 and compared it with information about other viruses that affect the respiratory tract. They did this to predict whether the novel coronavirus is likely to become seasonal — particularly severe in the winter in temperate regions — or whether it will circulate throughout the year.The researchers noted that many other human coronaviruses are more prevalent in winter than in summer, as is the influenza virus thought to react to temperature similarly to SARS-CoV-2.They argue that this seasonal pattern will likely develop in SARS-CoV-2, due to the effects of the climate on the virus and on humans.First, the researchers point out, the climate can affect the stability of the virus. Previous research has suggested that enveloped viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, become more stable in cold weather. This means that they are able to survive for longer periods between hosts.Cold weather may also allow the virus to travel through the air more easily, while higher levels of ultraviolet radiation in the summer may be more likely to kill the virus.Second, cold weather may affect our physiology, making it easier for the virus to infect us. People also generally get less vitamin D in the winter, when sunlight is less intense, which has been linked to a weakened immune response to respiratory infections. In addition, people are more likely to stay indoors during the winter months, increasing the risk of viral transmission at home, work, and school, for example.While cold weather may increase the rate of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the prevalence of the virus in countries with significant heat and high levels of moisture suggest that climatic conditions alone are not enough to make the virus seasonal.Instead, the researchers argue that seasonality is only likely once an effective vaccine has been developed and deployed, and once a greater level of herd immunity comes about as more people develop the infection.That means that, in the meantime, emergency measures remain crucial for limiting the spread of the virus — no matter the time of year.As study co-author Hadi Yassine, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Qatar University, in Doha, notes: “The highest global COVID-19 infection rate per capita was recorded in the Gulf states, regardless of the hot summer season. Although this is majorly attributed to the rapid virus spread in closed communities, it affirms the need for rigorous control measures to limit virus spread until herd immunity is achieved.”As senior study author Hassan Zaraket, an assistant professor of virology at the American University of Beirut, in Lebanon, observes, “COVID-19 is here to stay, and it will continue to cause outbreaks year-round until herd immunity is achieved.”“Therefore, the public will need to learn to live with it and continue practicing the best prevention measures, including wearing of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoidance of gatherings,” he adds.The authors stress that their study is a “best guess” at how SARS-CoV-2 may react to changing weather conditions. Although it can behave similarly to previous viruses, the new virus is unique and may react in unexpected ways.“This remains a novel virus, and despite the fast-growing body of science about it, there are still things that are unknown. Whether our predictions hold true or not remains to be seen in the future. But we think it’s highly likely, given what we know so far, [that] COVID-19 will eventually become seasonal, like other coronaviruses.”– Hassan Zaraket, Ph.D.For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.
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COVID-19: Antibody fragment could prevent infection

Research suggests that an antibody fragment, or “nanobody,” can neutralize SARS-CoV-2. The authors also say that it is possible to produce the nanobody cheaply and at scale, making it a promising candidate for the widespread prevention of COVID-19.As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, the search for an effective vaccine against the disease continues. A…

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COVID-19: Antibody fragment could prevent infection

Research suggests that an antibody fragment, or “nanobody,” can neutralize SARS-CoV-2. The authors also say that it is possible to produce the nanobody cheaply and at scale, making it a promising candidate for the widespread prevention of COVID-19.As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, the search for an effective vaccine against the disease continues. A recent report provides encouraging results for a vaccine candidate under development in Russia, but there are still no data showing that any vaccine can prevent COVID-19. It could be months, if not years, before a vaccine reaches the general population.In the meantime, however, scientists are busy looking for an effective treatment to mitigate symptoms or, even better, to prevent infection from occurring in the first place.Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.In a new study in the journal Nature Communications, a group of researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden describe one such treatment.They outline the production of an antibody fragment that binds strongly to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to neutralize the virus. They also say that it is possible to produce the fragment cheaply and at scale, and that it has good potential as an antiviral agent against the new coronavirus.A nanobody, which is a fragment of an antibody, is less than one-tenth of the size of a normal antibody. Although much smaller, nanobodies are just as specific and effective as regular antibodies.Camelids — the family of animals including camels, llamas, and alpacas — naturally produce nanobodies. In this study, the nanobody came from an alpaca.To obtain the nanobody, the scientists injected the alpaca with the spike protein of the new coronavirus back in February. The virus uses the spike protein to enter cells, but by itself, it is harmless.After 60 days, the researchers took blood samples from the alpaca. The blood samples revealed that its immune system had responded to the spike protein by generating several nanobodies. The researchers then analyzed the sequences of these nanobodies to see if any had the potential to become a treatment option.They found one nanobody in particular, called Ty1, that binds strongly to the part of the spike protein that usually binds to its receptor, ACE2.Cells in the body express ACE2, and the virus uses it to access and infect cells. Stopping the interaction between the spike protein and the ACE2 receptor, as this nanobody does, can effectively prevent infection.“Using cryo-electron microscopy, we were able to see how the nanobody binds to the viral spike at an epitope [that] overlaps with the cellular receptor ACE2-binding site, providing a structural understanding for the potent neutralization activity,” explains first study author Dr. Leo Hanke.The scientists suggest that, if further development is successful, it may be possible to use the nanobody to prevent infection in those with the highest risk of COVID-19.It could also be usable on a bigger scale to allow larger sections of the population to safely return to work, school, and other currently restricted activities. The authors claim that such widespread use of the nanobody is viable because manufacturers can produce it cheaply and on a large scale. This is because nanobodies are smaller and easier to manufacture than regular antibodies and because bacteria can express them in large quantities. Scientists can also make the nanobodies safe for use in humans by using existing methods. Indeed, previous research has suggested that they can help prevent respiratory infections.The team is currently exploring strategies to improve the potency of the nanobody and planning preclinical studies in animals to assess whether or not the treatment can help prevent COVID-19. The researchers have also made the nanobody sequence freely available online to facilitate collaborative research efforts and enable rapid production.“We hope our findings can contribute to the amelioration of the COVID-19 pandemic by encouraging further examination of this nanobody as a therapeutic candidate against this viral infection.”– Senior study author Prof. Gerald McInerneyFor live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.
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