Monday, April 04, 2011

Can counselling fix cancer?

That is the rather weird claim below. Psychological counselling is not much good at fixing psychological problems so the idea that it fixes physical problems is way-out. But the sample was too small and atypical to conclude anything anyway

Results of a study presented at the AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2011, held here April 2-6, lend credence to the idea that improving quality of life affects stress-related biological markers and possibly the health of people with cancer.

Researchers know that telomeres shorten and deteriorate with aging, but they are learning that stress also affects telomere length. "We are trying to understand the interconnections between the mind and the body; that is, how does the diagnosis and treatment of cancer impact patients not only psychologically, but also physiologically and how can we improve their outcome. Cancer drives a chronic stress response in some patients," said Edward Nelson, M.D., division chief of hematology/oncology at the University of California, Irvine.

Just as aglets prevent a shoelace from unraveling or fraying, telomeres are structures on the ends of chromosomes that protect the chromosome from deteriorating, breaking apart or joining with other chromosomes, which can lead to mutations. Chromosomal rearrangements are seen in cancers and provided a biological reason to investigate this link, according Nelson.

"For this study, we wanted to know if chronic stress was associated with accelerated telomere shortening in cancer patients, and if a psychosocial intervention that modulates the stress response could also modulate telomere length," he said.

In this retrospective study, the researchers took biological samples from 31 women with cervical cancer who had been randomized to one of two groups — those who received six counseling sessions by telephone and those who received usual care without counseling.

The six sessions consisted of a quality of life and psychosocial profile, managing stress and emotions, enhancing health and wellness, addressing relational and sexual concerns, and integrating and summarizing the information.

At enrollment and after four months, the researchers obtained biological samples from both groups and investigated changes over time to see if psychological counseling had any physical effects.
"Improved quality of life and reduced stress response was associated with changes in telomere length," Nelson said.

"It is important to recognize that this was an exploratory and preliminary analysis. We embarked on the first study of telomere length and chronic stress in a cancer population and the first longitudinal analysis in whether changes in quality of life and changes in the stress response would be associated with modulating the telomere length," he said.

Still, he added, "there is no doubt that offering psychological services has the potential to improve quality of life and outcomes of patients. After all, making patients feel better should be an outcome that a cancer team should want to have, but whether we can draw conclusions or make recommendations about the capacity of a behavioral intervention to modulate telomere length remains an open question."


That evil traffic pollution again -- episode 9387

Ho hum! The usual nonsense below. We get it with great frequency. Stock answer: It is mostly poor people who live near major roads and the poor have worse health generally.

I could not see the paper in Barnett's publication list at the time of writing so apparently has yet to undergo peer review. I would gladly review it! He and I both have a background in statistics and I have a background in social class research as well.

So his research is hard to evaluate at this stage but I am pleased to note that he undertook some control for socio-economic status. Social status and income are far from perfectly correlated, however. Plumbers and electricians, for instance, tend to have relatively low status but often have high incomes

Women who live near freeways and highways are more likely to give birth prematurely, new research suggests. The link between the concentration of major road routes around a woman's home and early birth is revealed in a study of 970 mothers and their newborn babies in Logan City, south of Brisbane.

The more freeways and highways around a pregnant woman's home, the higher the likelihood of an early delivery, says Associate Professor Adrian Barnett, from the Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical
Innovation. "The most striking result was the reduction in gestation time of 4.4 per cent - or almost two weeks - associated with an increase in freeways within 400 metres of the women's home," he said.

Prof Barnett has previously published a study that found a strong association between increased air pollution and small foetus size.

"Although the increased risks are relatively small, the public health implications are large because everyone living in an urban area gets exposed to air pollution," he said. "Pre-term and low-birth weight babies stay in hospital longer after birth, have an increased risk of death and are more likely to develop disabilities."

Prof Barnett said that while air pollution levels in southeast Queensland were low compared with industrial cities, people's exposure to the chemical toxins in vehicle emissions was relatively high because of our outdoor lifestyle and open houses.

The study counted the number of roads around the mothers' homes up to a 500-metre radius. "We examined the distance between the home and busy roads to find the distance at which most of the negative effects on birth outcomes occurred because this has implications for local governments planning expansions or new roads," he said.

Most of the effects were within a 200-metre radius but negative health effects were present up to 400 metres.

Prof Barnett said the study had also taken into account the effects of smoking levels and the socio-economic status of the mothers. The effects of noise pollution were considered to be a possible contributing factor but Prof Barnett said it was difficult to separate the effects of air and noise pollution.

"Vehicles braking and starting means that road junctions have some of the highest levels of noise and air pollution," he said. "Disturbed sleep during pregnancy may cause extra stress and be a risk factor for adverse birth outcomes.

"This study points to the fact that pregnant women should reduce their exposure to traffic. A reduction in traffic emissions through improved vehicles or increased public transport use would have immediate health benefits by giving children a better start to life."


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