Week in Review: July 29


The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

Industry News

As Opioid Epidemic Surges, Medical Schools Must Change to Keep Pace

Those who believe in the value of medical treatment for addiction say it can no longer be an afterthought in medical education. Because the current opioid epidemic is largely linked to prescribed opioid painkillers, many doctors are being forced to grapple with addicted patients in their practices. In March, the American Board of Medical Specialties officially recognized addiction medicine as a subspecialty. In a March report, the California Health Care Foundation cited inadequate medical school training as one of the challenges in treating patients addicted to opioids. Via NPR.

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Alcohol is a Direct Cause of Seven Forms of Cancer

Alcohol causes seven forms of cancer, and people consuming even low to moderate amounts are at risk, according to new analysis. The study, published in the scientific journal Addiction, concludes that there is more than simply a link or statistical association between alcohol and cancer that could be explained by something else. There is now enough credible evidence to say conclusively that drinking is a direct cause of the disease, according to Jennie Connor, of the preventive and social medicine department at Otago University in New Zealand. “There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others,” Connor said. “Even without complete knowledge of biological mechanisms [of how alcohol causes cancer], the epidemiological evidence can support the judgment that alcohol causes cancer of the oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast.” Via The Guardian. 

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How the Government Supports Your Junk Food Habit

At a time when almost three-quarters of the country is overweight or obese, it comes as no surprise that junk foods are the largest source of calories in the American diet. Topping the list are grain-based desserts like cookies, doughnuts, and granola bars. (Yes, granola bars are dessert.) That’s according to data from the federal government, which says that breads, sugary drinks, pizza, pasta dishes, and “dairy desserts” like ice cream are also among Americans’ top 10 sources of calories. What do these foods have in common? They are largely the products of seven crops and farm food —corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, milk, and meat—that are heavily subsidized by the federal government, ensuring that junk foods are cheap and plentiful, experts say. Via NY Times.

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Many Well-Known Hospitals Fail to Score High in Medicare Rankings

The federal government released its first overall hospital quality rating, slapping average or below average scores on many of the nation's best-known hospitals while awarding top scores to many unheralded ones. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rated 3,617 hospitals on a one- to five-star scale, angering the hospital industry, which has been pressing the Obama administration and Congress to block the ratings. Hospitals argue that the government's ratings will make teaching hospitals and other institutions that treat many tough cases look bad. They argue that their patients are often poorer and sicker when admitted, and so are more likely to suffer further complications or die, than at institutions where the patients aren't as sick. Via NPR.

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Scientists Find a New Antibiotic Right Under Our Noses

Scientists hunting for ways to treat hard-to-beat bacterial infections have found a new antibiotic hiding right under our noses. In the past, most new antibiotics have been discovered by sifting through soil samples. But researchers in Germany chose to look at the germs that already inhabit the human body. They found Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in the noses of about 30 percent of people, raising the question why the other 70 percent weren't beset by this staph bacterium. Via CBS News.

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Mayo Clinic News

1 in 5 Alzheimer's Cases May Be Misdiagnosed

A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., led by Melissa Murray, Ph.D., found that men may be misdiagnosed more often. One reason may be that men in the study seemed to develop Alzheimer's at a younger age than women and had a more aggressive form of the disease. Men tended to develop Alzheimer's in their 60s, while women developed it in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, said Dr. Murray, an assistant professor of neuroscience. Men also seemed to have Alzheimer's in different areas of the brain than women. This may account for the misdiagnosis among men, because their symptoms can be different than those of women, Dr. Murray said. She said men's symptoms may be behavioral, or there may be language difficulty or motor problems instead of the memory problems usually associated with Alzheimer's. Via CBS News.

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Some Brain Cancer Patients Have Radiation Options

Stereotactic radiosurgery is nonsurgical radiation that precisely targets tumor areas. When just a few lesions exist, this directed type of radiation appears to provide a better quality of life by not altering short-term memory and thinking skills, the study found. "We now have a better understanding of the toxicity of whole brain radiation, and we know that the toxicity of whole brain radiation is worse for patients than the recurrence of their cancer," said lead researcher Paul Brown, M.D.,  from the department of radiation oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "With the results of this trial, we expect that practice will change and we will be reserving whole brain radiation for later in the patient's disease course—for salvage treatment or end-stage palliative care," he said. Via HealthDay.

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Liquid biopsy Speeds Up Ovarian Cancer Detection

New research published in the journal Scientific Reports shows a new way to detect the return of ovarian cancer earlier than previously possible. The study’s lead author, George Vasmatzis, Ph.D., said in a statement he feels positively about the research results. “With liquid biopsies, we don’t have to wait for tumor growth to get a DNA sample. This important discovery makes it possible for us detect recurrence of the disease earlier than other diagnostic methods. We can repeat liquid biopsies to monitor the progression of the cancer. That gives hope of a better treatment plan over time.” Via Health Imaging.

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Mayo Clinic: Pokemon Go is a 'Health Opportunity'

Amine Issa, Ph.D., is a world-class gamer with a unique perspective on Pokemon Go. The 32-year-old Mayo Clinic human physiology researcher finds himself in the strange position: He's largely avoiding Pokemon Go—it's not his favored style of game—while at the same time he is extolling its health virtues. Since its introduction on July 6, Pokemon Go has motivated millions of players of all ages to get off the couch and follow the augmented reality on their smartphones in search of virtual gyms, Poke Stops, and more Nintendo-created vernacular that might have sounded crazy—well, more crazy—only a month ago. Via Post-Bulletin.

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Updated Breast Cancer Testing Guidelines Have Increased the Number of Women Who Test HER2-Positive

Changes to HER2 testing guidelines for breast cancer in 2013 significantly increased the number of patients who test HER2-positive, according to a new study by Mayo Clinic researchers published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Cancers that have an excess of HER2 protein or extra copies of the HER2 gene are called HER2-positive and can be treated with drugs like Herceptin that target HER2. HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.

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Gina Chiri-Osmond

Gina Chiri-Osmond is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She manages public relations and media outreach. Gina has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2011. Outside of work, Gina is going for gold in volleyball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo . . . or at small-town summer festivals.