“A stitch in time saves nine” – Francis Baily, English Astronomer, 1797

Much is heard daily, of new scientific and medical advances. All are important but oft times there is no further talk of them, they are replaced by new information or are years away from practical application. As our year winds down and we celebrate and look to a new year, let us review some recent information that can serve us all.

Keeping in mind, if we are advancing in birthdays, we are surviving. In regards to health that means we are staying well. The data reveals to us that between the ages of 15 and 35, injury leads the major causes of demise. From 35 to 65 years of age cancer is the leading cause, followed by cardiovascular disease. After 65, cardiovascular disease takes first place in years lost.

If we examine cancer, in Women the number one diagnosed cancer is breast, however it is in second place as cause of premature death. The top five causes of premature cancer deaths in women in 2015 are, in order: lung, breast, colon, pancreas and ovary.

For Men the most diagnosed cancer is prostate, however the top five causes of premature cancer death in men in 2015 are, in order: lung, prostate, colon, pancreas and liver.

All of these conditions can be minimized by lifestyle, knowing your family medical history and early detection through appropriate screening.

Let’s review some notable clinical medical news of the past year:

Screening for Lung Cancer: The National Lung Screening Trial including 50,000 patients at 33 centers showed a 20% reduction in lung cancer mortality by getting a low dose CT scan of the chest as regular screening for adults 55-80 years of age who have smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes daily for 30 years, even if they have quit in the last 15 years.

Updated Screening Recommendations for Breast Cancer: The American Cancer Society has recently revised their advice for screening mammograms in average risk individuals. This currently has created a lack of cohesion on the part of treating physicians on fully accepting the latest recommendation. They now state that women should start getting mammograms at 45 years of age annually until 55 and then every other year. They state women should have the option to begin screening at 40, as has been the case for years. Women at high risk for breast cancer such as a positive family history or an early history of cancer in the family must speak with their doctors regarding appropriate screening procedures specific to their individual case. The chair of the guideline panel stated “These recommendations are made with the intent of maximizing reductions in breast cancer mortality…while being attentive to the need to minimize harm associated with screening.

Dose of Jogging and Long Term Mortality: A Journal of the American College of Cardiology study evaluated 1100 healthy joggers and 4000 healthy non joggers to assess intensity of activity to risk of death. The lowest mortality was found in light joggers (1-2.5 hours weekly) with strenuous joggers being found to have no greater benefit than sedentary non joggers. Take home point is moderation is the key here.

Cologuard: is a non invasive screening stool test for colon cancer. It is indicated for average risk individuals 50 years or older. It is a stool collection test found to be more sensitive than the routine stool screening. It uses DNA technology to test for precancerous and cancerous cells in the stool. It however, does not replace the physical exam or the need for colonoscopy. The test is covered by some insurances and is not inexpensive. Speak with your doctor regarding your individual case.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening: It is indicated that people between 65 and 75 who have ever smoked, should get a one-time ultrasound of the abdominal aorta. Anyone 60 or older with a family history of aneurysm should undergo physical exam and ultrasound screening, as well. It is common that CT scans and other ultrasounds previously done on the patient have already analyzed the aorta. Discuss your specific case with your doctor.

The Mediterranean Diet Reveals More: Researchers at Columbia University reveal in the October edition of Neurology results that individuals following a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, olive oil and mild use of alcohol had larger brain volume than the similar group who did not follow the diet. The addition of fish in place of meat was additionally beneficial. The researchers stated “… a diet containing relatively less meat and perhaps more fish is good…the results are tentative, but it’s the strongest preventive approach we have promoting brain health together with exercise.

And we leave you with the findings of the US Preventive Services Task Force suggesting that “high blood pressure readings in the doctor’s office be confirmed by home or ambulatory blood pressure monitoring before committing to long term blood pressure medication.” This too is case specific and merits discussion with the doctor.

Enjoy the rest of the year and the holidays.

Be Well,

Dr. Rick Levine