News Roundup: More TV Means Less Brain Function, New Data on 'False Positive' Mammograms & More

Studies have shown that people who spend too much time as a couch potato in front of the TV are at higher risk of cancer and cardiac conditions. Now, diminished brain function is being added to that list.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco tracked the TV-watching habits of more than 3,000 people for 25 years, beginning when participants were in their 20s.

When the subjects reached their 40s and 50s, they took tests to measure their cognitive function. The results for those who watched more than three hours of TV a day for two-thirds of the time showed decreased memory, focus and physical quickness. The findings were published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry.

The research credits a static brain and lack of physical activity associated with sitting and watching TV as factors that can contribute to a decline in brain power.  Adults who had high levels of physical activity over the years fared better. Those with low physical activity levels performed two times more poorly on the cognitive tests.

The study is one of the first to identify unhealthy behaviors that can be targeted for improvement to help reduce cognitive aging before it starts in midlife.

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— Tanya Racoobian Walton


Women With a ‘False Positive’ Mammogram Result May Be at Higher Risk

New research findings suggest that women who have a false positive result on their mammogram may be at a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer over the following 10 years.

Researchers reviewed more than 2 million mammograms on women ages 40 to 74 at health clinics across the U. S. between 1994 and 2009. About 180,000 of the mammograms were “false positives.” These are tests in which a tissue abnormality is detected but additional imaging or a biopsy did not support a cancer diagnosis. These women did not develop breast cancer in the year after the mammogram.

The study, published this week in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that one woman out of 100 who had a false positive mammogram, and followed that test with another imaging procedure, developed breast cancer over the next decade — compared with women who did not have a false positive result. Among the women who had a false positive that was followed by a biopsy, an additional two out of 100 developed breast cancer over the same period of time.

“Women with a history of a false-positive screening mammogram or biopsy recommendation were at increased risk of developing breast cancer for at least a decade, suggesting that prior false-positive screening may be useful in risk prediction models,” the study concludes.

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— John Fernandez


High School Contact Sports Linked to Higher Risk of Brain Disorders, Study Says

Can contact sports played in high school lead to brain disorders later in life? Yes, according to a study in the December issue of Acta Neuropathologica, a medical journal.

Research points to a link between high school football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disorder created by multiple concussions or repetitive traumatic injuries to the brain. The study was led by a team of neuroscience researchers from Mayo Clinic.

As part of the study, researchers looked at the medical records and brain tissue from 1,721 men, including those who were athletes in high school. Brain tissue samples were also compared to women and men who had not participated in contact sports during their youth. The results showed that about 30 percent of the men who had played contact sports in their teens had brain tissue with signs of CTE, an illness that has been linked to suicides, depression, dementia and other medical conditions in former NFL players.

“CTE pathology was only detected in individuals with documented participation in contact sports. Exposure to contact sports was the greatest risk factor for CTE pathology,” the study said. “Future studies addressing clinical correlates of CTE pathology are needed.”

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— Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

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