Roundup: In Update, U.S. Task Force Urges Mammograms Starting at Age 40 for Women at Average Risk, and More News

U.S. Task Force Finalizes Updated Guidance: Women Should Get Regular Mammograms Starting at 40

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) has finalized its updated recommendation that all women get screened for breast cancer starting at age 40. The most important screening test for breast cancer is an annual mammogram. 

The Task Force is an independent U.S. panel of experts that sets widely followed screening standards. Baptist Health South Florida already supports annual mammograms for women at average risk starting at age 40. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer, and the second most common cause of cancer death, for women in the U.S.

Under mounting criticism from medical organizations, the Task Force last year updated in draft form its previous guidance that women start mammograms at 50, and for women ages 40-49 to consider the screenings after consulting with their doctors about personal risks. Now, finalized guidelines released this week urge all women to get screened starting at age 40. The new guidance is based on findings from studies indicating that breast cancer is increasingly being diagnosed in younger women.

“More women in their 40s have been getting breast cancer, with rates increasing about 2 percent each year, so this recommendation will make a big difference for people across the country,” says Task Force chair Wanda Nicholson, M.D. “By starting to screen all women at age 40, we can save nearly 20 percent more lives from breast cancer overall. This new approach has even greater potential benefit for Black women, who are much more likely to die of breast cancer.”

While the influential Task Force recommends mammograms every other year starting at age 40, other medical groups, including the American College of Radiology and the American Cancer Society, suggest mammograms every year. Baptist Health supports annual mammograms for women at average risk starting at age 40, and encourages women to talk to their doctor about their specific risk factors.

Regular Low-Intensity Exercise linked to Reduced Depression, Better Overall Mental Health

New research has found a “significant association” between low to moderate intensity exercise, which can include gardening, golf and walking, to reduced rates of depression and overall improved mental health.

While countless studies have confirmed the benefits of regular exercise for weight management and overall physical health, this study marks the first global review of earlier studies to examine the potential of physical activity as a mental health intervention.

The analysis by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the United Kingdom, which is published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, found that physical activity reduced the risk of depression by 23 percent and anxiety by 26 percent.

“A particularly strong association was found between low and moderate physical activity, which included activities such as gardening, golf and walking, and reduced risk of depression. However, this was not strongly observed for high intensity exercise,” sates a news release on the study from ARU.

Regular physical activity was also “significantly associated with reduced risk of severe mental health conditions, including a reduction in psychosis/schizophrenia by 27 percent,” states the ARU. The results were consistent in both men and women, and across different age groups and across the world, researchers said.

Explains the study’s lead author, Lee Smith, professor of Public Health at ARU, in a statement: “These effects of physical activity intensity on depression highlight the need for precise exercise guidelines. Moderate exercise can improve mental health through biochemical reactions, whereas high-intensity exercise may worsen stress-related responses in some individuals. Acknowledging differences in people’s response to exercise is vital for effective mental health strategies, suggesting any activity recommendations should be tailored for the individual.”

NIH: Artificial Intelligence (AI)  Tool has Potential to More Precisely Match Cancer Drugs to Tumors

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say they have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that uses data from individual cells inside tumors to better determine if a patient’s cancer will respond to a specific drug.

Calling it a “proof-of-concept study,” at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of NIH, published their  findings in Nature Cancer. They indicate that such “single-cell RNA sequencing data” could one day be used to help doctors more precisely match cancer patients with drugs that will be effective for their cancer. Nonetheless, such AI approaches to cancer drug therapy are still in the research stages.

Current approaches to matching cancer patients to drugs rely on “bulk sequencing of tumor DNA and RNA,” which takes an average of all the cells in a tumor sample. However, tumors contain more than many different types of cells that are known as clones. “Researchers believe these subpopulations of cells may respond differently to specific drugs, which could explain why some patients do not respond to certain drugs or develop resistance to them,” the NIH states. .

In contrast to bulk sequencing, a newer technology known as single-cell RNA sequencing provides much higher resolution data, down to the single-cell level, the NIH explains.

In the new study, researchers investigated whether they could use a machine learning technique called “transfer learning” to train an AI model to predict drug responses using widely available bulk RNA sequencing data.  They then could fine-tune that model using single-cell RNA sequencing data.

According to the NIH: “Using this approach on published cell-line data from large-scale drug screens, the researchers built AI models for 44 U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved cancer drugs. The AI models accurately predicted how individual cells would respond to both single drugs and combinations of drugs.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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