Roundup: Skin Cancer, Kratom and Childhood Obesity

U.S. Health Experts Urge Skin Cancer Counseling for Kids, Young Adults

Doctors should advise families early on about skin cancer prevention for their children, particularly when young patients are light-skinned, according to new guidelines.

This recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updates 2012 guidance that advised doctors to begin educating kids at the age 10. The updated guidelines have lowered to the minimum age substantially – to babies under 1 year.

The USPSTF says it now “recommends counseling young adults, adolescents, children, and parents of young children about minimizing exposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation for persons aged 6 months to 24 years with fair skin types to reduce their risk of skin cancer.”

For adults 24 and older, the task force recommends doctors assess each patient’s risk for skin cancer and provide advice on how to prevent the disease on an individual basis.

Children and teens who are exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation are at increased risk for developing skin cancer in adulthood, the task force says. This exposure is much riskier for people with fair skin who burn easily, and those with freckles and light-colored hair and eyes. Young people who use tanning beds or have a history of skin cancer or sunburns are also at higher risk for the skin cancer.

Several studies have pointed to significant increases of skin cancer cases among young people. Overall, more Americans than ever are being diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, according to recent data from the American Medical Association. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are not as dangerous as melanoma, but they are much more common. Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer, but it’s also one of the most preventable.

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FDA Issues First ‘Mandatory Recall’ of Kratom Products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a mandatory recall of all food products containing powdered kratom “manufactured, processed, packed, or held by Triangle Pharmanaturals LLC.” The FDA said it is taking action after several of these products were found to contain salmonella.

This is the first time the agency has issued a mandatory recall order to protect Americans from contaminated food products. The FDA said it is doing so “after the company failed to cooperate with the FDA’s request to conduct a voluntary recall.”

Kratom is a plant supplement sold to treat pain or to help people stop using opioids. The FDA has been warning against its use and had issued a large voluntary recall notice after some samples were found to be contaminated with salmonella and sickened 87 people.

The FDA is advising consumers to throw away the products that are part of the mandatory recall, which include, but are not limited to: Raw Form Organics Maeng Da Kratom Emerald Green; Raw Form Organics Maeng Da Kratom Ivory White; and Raw Form Organics Maeng Da Kratom Ruby Red.

“This action is based on the imminent health risk posed by the contamination of this product with salmonella, and the refusal of this company to voluntarily act to protect its customers and issue a recall, despite our repeated requests and actions,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “We continue to have serious concerns about the safety of any kratom-containing product and we are pursuing these concerns separately. But the action today is based on the risks posed by the contamination of this particular product with a potentially dangerous pathogen.”

Mitragyna speciosa, commonly known as kratom, is a plant that grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.


Childhood Obesity Linked to Liver Damage by Age 8

A study published this week in the Journal of Pediatrics found overweight kids can develop nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NFLD), a condition often associated with obesity, as early as age 8.

NFLD affects an estimated 80 million people in the U.S. and is the most common chronic liver condition in children and adolescents. It occurs when too much fat accumulates in the liver, causing inflammation, which leads to liver damage.

The study found the larger a child’s waist circumference is at the age of 3, the more likely that by the age of 8 that child will have indicators of NFLD.

Dr. Jennifer Woo Baidal, lead author of the study and professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians, said in the press release there is little awareness of the link between obesity and liver disease.

“With the rise in childhood obesity, more kids are developing the disease, and we’re seeing more in our practice,” Woo Baidal said. “Many parents are aware that obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes and other serious metabolic conditions, but there is far less awareness of the link between obesity and liver disease.”

The study measured levels of an enzyme called ALT. Higher-than-normal levels of ALT can signal liver damage. Researchers measured the waist circumference of 635 children at 3 years old and again at about 8 years old. By age 8, 23 percent of children had elevated ALT levels. Children with a larger waist circumference at age 3, as well as those who had greater weight gain between the ages of 3 and 8, were more likely to have elevated ALT levels at age 8.

Thirty-five percent of obese 8-year-olds had elevated ALT, compared with 20 percent of those with normal weight, the study found.

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