Folks who smoke weed along with cigarettes are doing serious damage to their lungs, a new study warns. People who do both are 12 times more likely to develop emphysema than nonsmokers, due to the damage they’re doing to the lung’s air sacs, researchers report. “There is a common public misconception that marijuana smoking is not harmful,” said researcher Dr. Jessie Kang, a cardiothoracic radiologist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. “With our study, we show that there are physical effects of marijuana smoking on the lungs and that cigarette smoking and marijuana smoking may have a combined damaging effect on the lungs,” Kang added. Even though weed is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances in the world, little is known about the effects of smoking cannabis on a person’s lung health, researchers noted. Tons of research has linked cigarette smoking to lung cancer, emphysema and COPD, but “currently not much research exists on the effects of marijuana smoking on the lungs,” Kang noted. For their study, Kang and her colleagues examined chest CT images of four patient groups – nonsmokers, cigarette smokers, marijuana smokers and combined tobacco and weed smokers. Weed smokers included in the study had toked at least four times a month for at least two years, researchers said. In addition to increased risk of emphysema, combined weed and…  read on >  read on >

Environmental contaminants may be driving higher rates of breast cancer in urban areas compared to rural locales, a new North Carolina study finds. “Our analyses indicate significant associations between environmental quality and breast cancer incidence,” said lead author Larisa Gearhart-Serna, who led the research as a Ph.D. candidate at the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C.  The findings, published Nov. 20 in Scientific Reports, were based on data from the Environmental Quality Index (EQI) for North Carolina residents. The EQI is “a county-by-county assessment of air, water, land, built environment, as well as the sociodemographic environment,” study senior author Gayathri Devi explained in a Duke news release. She’s a professor of surgery and pathology and director of the Duke Consortium for Inflammatory Breast Cancer at the institute. Devi and Gearhart-Serna compared EQI data against information on breast cancer case incidence (and cancer stage upon diagnosis) across North Carolina. The team believe the state is a good model for disparities in breast cancer risk, with 10 million people spread across 100 rural and urban counties. Some counties have better “environmental quality” than others, and the Duke team found that folks living in counties with poor environmental quality had about 11 more cases of breast cancer per 100,000 residents, compared to counties with good environmental quality.   That was especially true for cases of early (localized) breast cancer,…  read on >  read on >

Abandoned animals, kids with cancer, disabled veterans:  These and other pitches for charity can move your emotions and have you reaching for your credit card.  But beware: Especially around the holidays, fake charity scammers are hard at work trying to part you from your hard-earned cash.   Katalin Parti is an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.  She specializes in the study of cybercrime and says there are easy ways to sort out real charity appeals from false ones.  But scammers also know how to build trust, she warned. “They may call you using a local phone number,” Parti said in a Virginia Tech news release. “That tactic can give you a false sense of security.”  You then start listening to their pitch, expertly designed to play on your emotions and often confusingly misleading. “It will be a good one. It will tug at your heart-strings,” Parti said. “But listen closely because they will never actually specify how they will help. They may even claim that you’ve donated before and ask you to do it again.” Is this a real charity or a scammer?  To quickly find out, check databases like the search tool for tax-exempt organizations at the Internal Revenue Service or watchdog groups such as Charity Watch to see if the group being pitched is legit, Parti said. And…  read on >  read on >

TUESDAY, Nov. 21, 2023 (HealthDay News) —Traffic, crowds and unforeseen delays and disruptions can turn holiday travel from celebratory to chaos in a flash — especially if you’re prone to anxiety. Being aware of your triggers can help you be ready for any glitches that arise. “Triggers might include uncertainty of traffic, flight delays, being in public places, or seeing friends and family for the holidays,” said Dr. Asim Shah, a professor and executive vice chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Based on your triggers, you can make a plan.” A good plan starts with getting plenty of rest the night before your trip, eating healthy, and avoiding alcohol and drugs, which can make anxiety worse, Shah said in a Baylor news release. He suggests working out before you head out the door, because the endorphins released during exercise help ease anxiety and nervous energy. “Have a plan, distract yourself and reassure yourself that you are safe,” he said. If flying makes you anxious and time permits, take the car instead of a plane, but try to stay off the road during rush hour, Shah suggested. If you are traveling by air, consider booking your trip so you can arrive a day early. Shah also recommends leaving in the morning and having a backup plan in case your…  read on >  read on >

If you belong to one of the 46 million American households with a cat, you already know how stressful a trip to the vet can be for your feline — and you. Rescue might be on the way: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a new medicine to help calm cat anxiety. The pill is called Bonqat, and it’s designed “for the alleviation of acute anxiety and fear associated with transportation and veterinary visits in cats,” the FDA said in a news release announcing the approval. “The drug is administered orally approximately 1.5 hours before the start of the transportation or veterinary visit and can be given on two consecutive days,” the agency added. Bonqat contains pregabalin, a drug that calms overactive nerves. Bonqat is the first FDA-approved drug to contain pregabalin. According to information from the VCA Animal Hospitals, some cats can develop severe anxiety and motion sickness being transported to the vet’s office (or anywhere). Symptoms can range from lots of meowing, lip smacking and drooling, to stress-induced motion sickness that can trigger urination and defecation in anxious cats. Medications given before a vet trip might help. The FDA approval of Bonqat was based on real-world trials conducted by the drug’s Finnish maker, Orion Corp. People whose cats had a history of fear and anxiety during veterinary visits were asked…  read on >  read on >

A year after suffering a concussion, teens, especially boys, are more likely than their peers to think about, plan and even attempt suicide, new research finds. With more concussions, the risk grows.  Teen boys who reported two or more concussions in the past year were two times more likely to report a suicide attempt than those who had one concussion. Girls’ odds for suicidal behaviors were similar regardless of concussion history. “This type of research is never easy to discuss, but it is vitally important to understand who is at risk and why,” study co-author Steve Broglio, director of the University of Michigan Concussion Center, said in a university news release. The findings were published Nov.16 in the Journal of Athletic Training. Researchers believe it to be the first study to look at the relationship between concussion frequency and suicidal behaviors in a representative sample of U.S. high schoolers. Lead author Jacob Kay, a research affiliate at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, said it was already known that brain injuries can touch off or worsen mental health challenges. “Our study further highlights the importance of evaluating mental health among both male and female youth that have sustained a concussion,” he said in the news release. “This is particularly true for those who have sustained multiple concussions in a short time.”…  read on >  read on >

Nearly half of Americans have never heard of health-threatening PFAS “forever chemicals,” a new survey has found. PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a category of thousands of manufactured chemicals that have become an emerging concern to environmental and human health, researchers from Texas A&M University said. Nonetheless, 45% of survey participants had never heard of PFAS and did not know what they are, according to findings published Nov. 16 in the journal PLOS One. “This is the first survey of its kind, and what we found is that the vast majority of people do not have a clear understanding of PFAS,” said lead researcher Allen Berthold, interim director of the university’s Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI). PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they combine carbon and fluorine molecules, one of the strongest chemical bonds possible, researchers explained. This makes PFAS removal and breakdown very difficult. PFAS compounds have been used in consumer products since the 1940s, including fire extinguishing foam, nonstick cookware and food wrappers, researchers said. PFAS also has been detected in food and water supplies. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that at least 45% of the nation’s tap water contains one or more PFAS chemicals, and in March the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a national standard for PFAS in drinking water. “Research has come out in the last year showing that many…  read on >  read on >

Biologic drugs to treat asthma have been around for two decades, but a surprising number of family doctors still aren’t prescribing them to kids and adults. A new survey found that more than two in five primary care docs (42%) are unfamiliar with asthma biologics, according to findings presented at this month’s American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. The doctors didn’t know the criteria for prescribing the drugs — including essential lab work — and often waited until a patient had experienced two or more asthma attacks in a year before referring them to an asthma specialist, the survey found. “We know that many people who suffer from asthma are regularly seen by PCPs, and we wanted to know if PCPs were familiar with biologics to treat asthma,” said lead researcher Dr. Bijalben Patel, a resident at the University of South Florida (USF).  “We also wanted to explore at what point PCPs were referring asthma patients with uncontrolled symptoms to asthma specialists, and whether they were aware of eligibility requirements for a patient to start biologic treatment,” Patel added in a meeting news release. The researchers surveyed 85 primary care physicians via e-mail, including internists, family medicine specialists and pediatricians. They found that 82% do not get the labs needed to prescribe biologics, including 90% who do not test…  read on >  read on >

The song says ‘tis the season to be jolly, but many Americans find it to be more the season of stress and worry, a new survey reports. The strain of inflation and world affairs this year are adding to the other holiday-time stressors to create a toxic mental health cocktail, according to findings from Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine. Survey results show that: 81% of Americans are stressing out over national issues and world affairs 75% are stressed about rising prices and holiday spending 53% are stressed from increasing cases of flu, COVID and other respiratory illnesses 44% are stressed from memories of last year’s holiday travel meltdown These findings run counter to the notion that holidays are supposed to be a time for families and friends to connect, recharge and enter the new year with a fresh outlook, said researcher Nicole Hollingshead, a psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the Wexner Medical Center. “The holidays kind of bring on this feeling of sadness and struggle when we really want it to be more of a joyous time,” Hollingshead said in a university news release. “I encourage people to reflect on what the holidays meant for you growing up. And most of the time I don’t hear people reflect on, ‘I loved having all the presents,…  read on >  read on >

It’s been around for a century, and electroconvulsive therapy — formerly known as electroshock therapy — has helped countless people with psychiatric conditions feel better. But even the physicians who’ve used it have had little clue as to how it works. Now, a team the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) believe they’ve unraveled that mystery. “We’re solving a puzzle that’s stumped scientists and doctors since electroconvulsive therapy [ECT] was first developed nearly a century ago,” said study first author Sydney Smith, a PhD candidate in the Voytek Lab at UCSD. “On top of that, we’re also helping to demystify one of the most effective, yet stigmatized, treatments for severe depression.”  After decades of harrowing depictions in TV shows and movies, the treatment probably does need to improve its image. “A lot of people are surprised to learn that we still use electroconvulsive therapy, but the modern procedure uses highly controlled dosages of electricity and is done under anesthesia,” Smith said in a university news release. “It really doesn’t look like what you see in movies or television.”  And ECT has a remarkable success rate: It’s effective in easing serious mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and severe depression up to 80% of the time, the team said. There are some downsides: ECT requires multiple outpatient visits, and post-treatment side effects can include…  read on >  read on >