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Weekly News Summary – 6th March 2017

Welcome back to the weekly news summary, keeping you up to date with all the latest stories in health news. This post will cover the key stories that occurred from 27th February to 5th March. This week, several groundbreaking research projects have been published. Research indicates sleep problems are increasing in children, a wide range of cancers are now linked to being overweight and a new blood test can read the body clock and be used to administer medication at the most effective time.

Smartphone at night
Hospital attendances in England for children under the age of 14 with sleep disorders has tripled in the last ten years.

NHS data was analysed this week by BBC Panorama and hospital attendances in England for children under the age of 14 with sleep disorders has tripled in the last ten years. This was coupled with the discovery that ten times more prescriptions of melatonin, a common sleep medication, have been prescribed for children. Poor sleep quality in children is linked to an increased risk of obesity, lower immunity, poor school performance and mental health issues. It is thought that aspects related to modern culture might be causing the increase in sleep disturbance. For instance, blue light emitted by technology is known to reduce the natural production of melatonin and children are consuming more fizzy drinks that are high in sugar and caffeine. Sleep research has also indicated a strong link between sleep deprivation and weight gain in teenagers.

A review of evidence published in the British Medical Journal has linked an increased risk of 11 types of cancer to being overweight. Most of the cancers linked to being overweight are digestive or hormonal related, such as bowel and breast cancer. The review was based on 200 studies that looked at the link between excess body fat and specific cancers. Researchers are concerned that obesity-related cancers will overtake lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The published study has highlighted the need for health professionals to raise awareness with their patients about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and staying within a recommended body mass index.

It has been known for several years that thousands of drugs work better at a particular times of day depending on when genes are turned on or off. For example, the kidney is most active after 6pm so drugs needed to affect the kidney should be administered at this time. However, not every patient’s body clock is set up the same. Scientists have developed a blood test which shows the time of the body clock by monitoring the activity of 15 “clock genes”. The idea of matching a patient’s body clock to the timing of medication is known as “chronotherapy” and it is hoped that it will influence medical treatment in the future.  

Words: Joelle

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