Published on 25th August 2015 by Site Editor

Welcome to this week’s latest edition of the medical news summary. This week’s edition will cover recent medical and health research news that occurred between the 16th to the 23rd of August.

A study published this week in the British Medical Journal has suggested that having one drink a day increases the risk of breast cancer by 15% in women. The study was led by Harvard University and suggests that women with a family history of breast cancer should reduce their alcohol intake to below that recommended currently by the government. The study which included 88,000 women and 47,000 men also found that those who were heavy drinkers on drank no alcohol were less likely to have regular physical examinations by their GP than those who drank a moderate amount. These physical examinations include screenings for prostate, colorectal and breast cancer. Colorectal cancer was found to be the major alcohol-associated cancer for men in comparison to women who were more likely to develop breast cancer as a result of drinking.

Researchers at Harvard collaborated with MIT and have hypothesised that they can cure obesity by cutting out a section of DNA in those with a faulty gene. Research has previously shown that people with a higher body mass index carry a variant of the FTO gene which has been nicknamed the “obesity gene”. Researchers have found that it is possible to cut out the faulty DNA code and replace it with a correct sequence. It is hoped that this will allow fat to be burnt as heat in a process known as thermogenesis.

Data published in the Lancet medical journal has indicated that the chance of having a stroke increases with longer hours spent at work. The reason behind the link however remains uncertain but it is believed that it could be due to the impact long working hours has on lifestyle and stress levels. The figures show that those who worked up to 54 hours per week were at a 27% increased risk of having stroke compared to those who worked a 35-40 hour week. This risk increased to 33% for those who worked over a 55 hour week.

Government health officials have suggested that e-cigarettes should be available on the NHS. The suggestion comes after Government health officials published a review stating that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco. Currently, around 80,000 deaths a year in England are caused by smoking. No vaporising products are licensed for medicinal purposes but Public Health England are hoping to make this the case in the near future. Final approval would have to be given by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Oxford University and Harvard Medical School compared 24 studies on the drug modafinil and have found that modafinil does improve thinking skills especially those over a long period. The drug modafinil is currently available on the NHS as a treatment for narcolepsy however it is suggested that a fifth of university students take the drug to enhance their academic performance. Scientists have said that the results raise serious ethical questions about whether Modafinil should be “classified, condoned or condemned”. However, the drug is known to cause disturbances in sleep patterns and comes with side effects.

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