The Troubling Trend of Baby Boomers

suicideOne of the major health issues affecting aging men has nothing to do with cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, or any of the usual suspects you hear so much about. It’s something many deal with privately until it’s too late.

A troubling trend has emerged in the past decade that’s affecting Continue reading

The Foods That Can Kill Bad Breath

Bad breath can be a common and frustrating problem that nearly everyone experiences from time to time. For some, it’s worse than others. It can be the cause of social isolation and self-consciousness, lowering one’s confidence and ability to interact with others. Getting close to people, Continue reading

Study: Being Only Child, No Social Handicap

Growing up as an only child doesn’t put teenagers at a disadvantage when it comes to social skills, U.S. researchers say.

An Ohio State University study found that schoolmates selected “only children” as friends just as frequently as they did peers who grew up with siblings, a university release said Monday.

A study of more than 13,000 middle and high school students across the country examined the concern that a lack of siblings might hurt children’s social skills.

 “As family sizes get smaller in industrialized countries, there is concern about what it might mean for society as more children grow up without brothers and sisters,” said Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

 “The fear is that they may be losing something by not learning social skills through interacting with siblings.”

 The study suggests that is not the case, she said.

 “I don’t think anyone has to be concerned that if you don’t have siblings you won’t learn the social skills you need to get along with other students in high school,” Bobbitt-Zeher said.

 “Kids interact in school, they’re participating in extracurricular activities, and they’re socializing in and out of school,” she said.

 “Anyone who didn’t have that peer interaction at home with siblings gets a lot of opportunities to develop social skills as they go through school.”

Social Isolation Speeds Up Breast Cancer Growth

CHICAGO – A socially isolated, stressful environment can speed up breast cancer growth, says a new study.

Using mice as a model to study human breast cancer, researchers have demonstrated that a negative social environment causes increased tumor growth. The work shows-for the first time-that social isolation is associated with altered gene expression in mouse mammary glands, and that these changes are accompanied by larger tumors.

“This interdisciplinary research illustrates that the social environment, and a social animal’s response to that environment, can indeed alter the level of gene expression in a wide variety of tissues, not only the brain,” said Suzanne D. Conzen, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study, to be published on September 30, 2009, in Cancer Prevention Research.

“This is a novel finding and may begin to explain how the environment affects human susceptibility to other chronic diseases such as central obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, etc,” the expert added.

The research began six years ago when cancer specialist Conzen joined forces with biobehavioral psychologist Martha McClintock, PhD, professor of psychology and founder of the Institute for Mind and Biology at the University of Chicago.

The University of Chicago scientists took mice that were genetically predisposed to develop mammary gland (breast) cancer and raised them in two environments: in groups of mice and isolated. After the same amount of time, the isolated mice grew larger mammary gland tumors. They were also found to have developed a disrupted stress hormone response.

“I doubted there would be a difference in the growth of the tumors in such a strong model of genetically inherited cancer simply based on chronic stress in their environments, so I was surprised to see a clear, measurable difference both in mammary gland tumor growth and interestingly in accompanying behavior and stress hormone levels,” Conzen said.

The researchers then turned their attention to how the chronic social environment affected the biology of cancer growth. In other words, they sought to discover the precise molecular consequences of the stressful environment.

To do this, they studied gene expression in the mouse mammary tissue over time. Conzen and her colleagues found altered expression levels of metabolic pathway genes (which are expected to favor increased tumor growth) in the isolated mice. This was the case even before tumor size differences were measurable.

These altered gene expression patterns suggest potential molecular biomarkers and/or targets for preventive intervention in human breast cancer.

“Given the increased knowledge of the human genome, we can begin to identify and analyze the specific alterations that take place in caner-prone tissues of individuals living in at-risk environments,” Conzen said.

“That will help us to better understand and implement cancer prevention strategies,” the expert added.