Roundup: Parental Smoking Linked to Higher Risk of Childhood Cancer; Men, More Gray Hair May Increase Heart Disease Risk

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April 14, 2017


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Previous studies have already looked at the dangers of secondhand smoke to growing children, but new research adds another level of concern. Parents who smoke before or during pregnancy may contribute to genetic “deletions” in children that are associated with the most common type of childhood cancer.

This is believed to be the first time that smoking by both parents has been linked to specific genetic changes in tumor cells of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The study was published in this month’s edition of Cancer Research.

ALL is the most common cancer in children, but the causes are unknown in most cases. Cure rates for childhood ALL are very high, up to 90 percent or greater. However, survivors may be hindered later on as adults with elevated risks of secondary cancers, heart disease and other illnesses because of the lingering effects of chemotherapy treatment.

Researchers looked at data on tumor samples from 559 ALL patients in a study of childhood leukemia cases in California. The tumors examined had yet to be treated. About two-thirds of the tumors were missing at least one of the eight genes commonly “deleted” in ALL patients. These deletions were more frequent in children whose mothers had smoked during pregnancy and after birth.

The researchers found a 22 percent increase in the number of deletions for each five cigarettes smoked daily during pregnancy. That figure soared to 74 percent when the mother was smoking five cigarettes daily while breastfeeding. The study also found that smoking five cigarettes daily by either parent before conception was associated with a 7 percent to 8 percent higher number of deletions.

“Large-scale sequencing studies to identify genetic changes in tumor cells will be important for investigating other risk factors for childhood cancers,” Lead study author Adam de Smith, a researcher at the University of California San Francisco’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, told CBS News.

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Men, More Gray Hair May Increase Your Heart Disease Risk

Graying hair is a part of growing older for most adults. But men may have a higher risk of developing heart disease depending on how much gray is in their hair, according to a new observational study.

The higher amount of graying or whitening hair was linked to atherosclerosis, or coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For the study, researchers analyzed the prevalence of coronary artery disease in 545 men, and divided them into subgroups based on whether they had the disease, and their amount of gray or white hair. The research findings were presented this month at the European Society of Cardiology conference: EuroPrevent 2017. Researchers came up with a scoring system, grading hair based on its darkness or lightness, with pure black hair being a 1 and pure

white being a 5. They also collected data on the participants’ common heart disease risk factors, such as family history, hypertension, smoking, diabetes, and dyslipidemia (high cholesterol).

The results indicated that those with a score of 3 or more, indicating higher hair graying or whitening, was linked with a greater risk of atherosclerosis — even after considering each participant’s age and traditional heart disease risk factors. Moreover, they observed that those with a higher hair graying or whitening score had more plaque buildup in their arteries.

“If our findings are confirmed, standardization of the scoring system for evaluation of hair graying could be used as a predictor for coronary artery disease,” study author Irini Samuel, M.D., a cardiologist at Cairo University in Egypt, said in a news release.

The study’s authors acknowledged that further study is needed on a larger group of participants. They also said that feedback is needed from dermatologists to analyze how environmental factors may influence graying or whitening of hair.

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Wrist-Worn Heart Rate Trackers Not So Reliable During Exercise

Wrist-worn fitness trackers such as Fitbit are becoming more widespread as “smart watches” continue gaining popularity. But can you rely on them to accurately record your heart rate during exercise? Not really, says a new study.

While these digital devices are mostly reflective of your true heart rate while at rest, they can be unreliable at the height of exercising when your pulse can experience sharp swings upward or downward, researchers say.

Evaluating four wearable activity trackers from Fitbit, Basis and Mio, the researchers compared their heart-rate monitoring capabilities with those of an electrocardiograph (EKG), commonly used at doctors’ offices. They found results varied among the different models and were much less accurate during exercise than at rest.

However, the study’s lead author cautions against being discouraged by the discrepancies in heart-rate readings.

“At any moment, the tracker could be off by a fair bit. But at most moments, it won’t be,” said Lisa Cadmus-Bertram, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

A separate study released last month at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology found that wrist devices were up to 34 beats per minute off, depending on the type of exercise or activity.

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