Non Melanoma Skin Cancer On The Rise

Another troubling statistic… the number of people diagnosed with a non melanoma skin cancer is still going up, with an estimated 3.7 million cases in the U.S. during 2009 according to the latest figures from researchers who reported last year that 2 million Americans were treated for 3.5 million nonmelanoma (mainly basal cell or squamous cell) skin cancers.

These cancers can be treated easily if they’re found early, however, the highly entrenched view of tanning as healthy looking and beautiful has created a significant public health problem according to Brett M. Coldiron, MD, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Cincinnati.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in humans, and recently rising rates have brought both attention and concern from the medical community.

The new findings, presented at the recent 69th annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), showed that these procedures among Medicare patients went up an extra 2.4% from 2006 to 2007; 2.5% from 2007 to 2008 and an additional 1.6 in 2009.

The number of treatment procedures for nonmelanoma skin cancers is considered a good gauge of the actual number of cancers. This, according to the researchers, allows their work to provide the most accurate figures we’ve had thus far on skin cancers.

To arrive at their final estimate, Coldiron and his team used Medicare claims data to get the number of skin cancer removal procedures among Medicare recipients, and then calculated figures for the general population.

The earlier report, published in the Archives of Dermatology, found skin cancer removals increased about 4% a year from 1992 to 2006. If things continue on as they have been, Coldiron believes there will be a doubling of nonmelanoma skin cancers in the next 15 to 20 years.

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Skin Cancer Cases At 3.7 Million In U.S. And Rising – Are You At Risk..? Continued…

The cost, in terms of money alone, is huge. Diagnosis and treatment of each cancer costs over $2,000. This brings the total cost of the 3.7 million cases from 2009 to over $8.5 billion.

One of the most worrisome parts of the skin cancer problem is that the numbers are likely to continue to rise according to AAD President Ronald L. Moy, MD, a professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles. The reason? There’s often a lag time of 20 years (or more) between sun damage and the manifestation of a skin cancer. That means, for many of us, the damage has already been done.

So what can we do to reduce our skin cancer risk now?

- Always use a broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 on all exposed skin when going outside.

- Wear protective clothing (long sleeved shirt, pants, wide brimmed hat, sunglasses) when you are out in the sun.

- Try to get in the shade whenever you can, especially between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

- Be careful near reflective surfaces like water, snow and sand as this can increase your chance of sunburn.

- Avoid tanning beds as this type of light can cause not only skin cancer but also wrinkling. Self tanners are far better choices for a sun kissed look.

- Anything that changes, grows or bleeds on your skin should be checked by a dermatologist in case it’s non melanoma skin cancer or worse, a melanoma.

Processed Food Diet Lowers IQ

We all do it sometimes, but if you routinely feed your kids a processed food diet full of lots of sugary and fatty foods you might be doing more than encouraging them to put on weight, you might also be lowering their IQ. This is the finding of a British study that also saw kids who ate vitamin and nutrient rich diets actually brought their IQ number up.

It’s very likely that good nutrition promotes healthy brain growth and cognitive development according to lead researcher Kate Northstone, a research fellow at the University of Bristol.

This is particularly true during the first three years of life when the brain is growing most rapidly. And while doctors (and others) will tell you that eating healthy from an early age is important; this is the first study to suggest a direct link between diet and brainpower later on.

The work is based on data collected from a major investigation of childhood development known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children that included 3,966 children born between 1991 and 1992. The subject’s parents answered detailed questions about what their children ate and drank at ages 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years. When they were eight and a half years old the children’s IQs were measured using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.

The team identified three basic diets -

1. A processed diet, which was full of fats, sugar and good tasting convenience foods
2. A traditional diet, high in meats, potatoes, bread and veggies
3. A health conscious diet that had lots of good for you foods, things like fruit, veggies, salads, fish, rice and pasta.

They then rated the diets on a point scale from most healthy to most unhealthy.

Children who ate a diet high in processed foods at 3 had a lower IQ at 8.5 years old than did those who ate a healthy diet.

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Study: Processed, Fatty Foods Dumb Down Our Kids… Continued…

In fact, for every one-point increase in processed food consumption, there was a 1.67-point loss in IQ. What’s more, every one-point increase in healthy eating translated into a 1.2-point raise in IQ according to the researchers. The link held even after adjustments were made for factors like socioeconomic status, breastfeeding, home environment and the education of parents.

The key appears to be what the child was eating at age 3. Diet at ages 4 and 7 didn’t have an effect on IQ.

The experts believe that when a child’s diet consists mostly of high calorie foods that are low in needed nutrients, their brains don’t get the compounds they need to develop and work properly.

We’re not talking about occasional intake – a slice of pizza on the weekend for instance, but rather a steady, regular diet of these types of foods. This can impact cognitive ability as well as cause poor behavior and impaired social skills.

Other experts agree that most of us don’t give much thought to the foods we (or our kids) eat and their consequences to our bodies, let alone our brains.

Moving forward the best advice is to start paying more attention to what your young children are eating… stay away from a processed food diet that is high in sugar and fat, and opt for fresh fruits and veggies as much as you can. A snack here in there isn’t forbidden… a steady diet of such foods is another matter.

Eating 5 A Day of Fruit and Vegetables No Longer Enough

You’ve heard the message for eating 5 a day of fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet, but few of us seem able to actually do this. In fact, most Americans get about three servings of fruits/veggies a day, even though more and more science backs up how good these foods are for our heart.

Now new research finds that the recommended five servings might be far too low… eating eight servings a day is what’s needed to really cut the risk of death from heart disease. The CDC points out that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in both the U.S. and the world over.

Recent work from both the British Heart Foundation and the University of Oxford estimates that over 15,000 lives a year could be saved if all of us tried to meet the five-a-day minimum.

Data for this latest study comes from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Heart Study and examined the diet and lifestyle of over 300,000 adult subjects, aged 40 to 85 years old, in eight different European countries. The participants answered questions about diet, health, socio-economic status and lifestyle (smoking, drinking, exercise). They were followed for almost eight and a half years, during which there were 1,636 deaths from heart disease.

The research found that those who consumed at least 8 portions of fruits/veggies a day had a 22% lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate a paltry three portions each day. Each added portion was associated with a 4% lower risk of death. A portion was 80 grams – a small banana, medium apple or small carrot.

The average intake of fruits and veggies of the research subjects was five servings per day. Spain, Greece and Italy were tops in fruit and veggie eating. Italian men ate 7.5 portions each day, while Spanish women had 6.7 portions of fruits/veggies.

The further north the researchers looked, the less healthy the diets were – U.K. men ate just 4.1 portions a day; women 4.8 portions. The Swedish men and women were the worst in terms of fruit/veggie consumption.

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Five-A-Day Not Enough To Cut Risk Of Death From Heart Disease… Continued…

Researcher Francesca Crowe does point out that participants with a higher intake of fruits and veggies were slightly healthier overall, and this may play a role in the findings of the work. It may be that those who eat lots of fruits and veggies live an overall healthier lifestyle. Or there may be something (yet undiscovered) in these foods that helps the heart.

Living healthy overall, as well as getting enough fruits and veggies, is so important. You need to stop smoking, control high blood pressure or cholesterol, and keep yourself at a healthy weight to be making all the moves necessary to keep your body, and your heart, healthy. And while adding three more servings of fruits/veggies a day might seem daunting, adding one, for now, is certainly a goal most of us can achieve.

The take home message from the research is that eating fruits and veggies is good for your heart, and your whole body. Eating 5 a day of these tasty treats should really be considered the starting point – a minimum that all of us should reach each day.

Hidden Dangers of Trans Fats In Favorite Foods

Sure they taste good… but many of our favorite foods come complete with the dangers of trans fats, which, beyond being bad for your heart have been shown in some new research to increase your risk for depression as well.

Today the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 15 million Americans live with depression. Depression is a common, misunderstood, but still very serious illness that almost always needs treatment. You can’t “tough it out” on your own, though many people dealing with depression think they must and therefore don’t go for help. A shame since psychotherapies, medications and many other methods are now available to treat this type of illness.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that experts began to see what trouble trans fats, a major part of our most treasured comfort foods, can be to the body. Since then, we’ve all been reading labels to avoid these dietary bad guys, though that “0 Trans Fat” claim allowed by the U.S. FDA, isn’t so helpful since an item can have 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving and still qualify. And sometimes the partially hydrogenated oil is buried on an ingredient list presented in impossibly small type. And then those “servings” are usually decidedly smaller than what we all typically eat.

This latest Spanish study examined the link between depression and diet in over 12,000 men and women (average age 37) who were depression free at the start of the research. The subjects regularly completed a food frequency questionnaire that covered their intake of different types of fat as well as other lifestyle factors. After a follow up of 6 years, 657 new cases of depression had been diagnosed.

The team then examined fat intake in those diets – types of fat and just how much the subjects were eating. Those who ate a lot of trans fats had an increased depression risk. And not too surprisingly the opposite was also seen – those who ate foods like fish, vegetable oils and olive oil had a lower risk of depression than did those who ate none or very little of these foods.

A heart healthy diet including lots of olive oil can work to lower the risk of depression according to researcher Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, PhD, an associate professor of preventive medicine at Spain’s University of Las Palmas de Gran Canario. Participants with olive oil consumption higher than 20 grams a day (0.7 ounces) had a 30% lower risk of depression than those who didn’t consume (or consumed very little) olive oil.

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Comfort Food: Not So Comforting After All… Continued…

When it came to trans fats, those who consumed the most had a 48% higher risk of depression. The trans fat intake was fairly low, only about 1.5 grams a day, far lower than the amount here in the U.S. – packaged conveniently in cookies, cakes, crackers, French fries and the like. In Spain, where the study was done, milk and cheese are the main source of trans fat in the diet.

The researchers theorize that unhealthy fats are likely to lead to biological changes in the body that are involved in both depression and heart disease. Beyond the upheaval in good and bad cholesterol, bad fats bring on inflammatory changes, and these changes can also be associated with depression. Inflammation might just cause problems for the brain’s neurotransmitters (serotonin is one) and this can impact mood.

Interesting that both good fats and bad fats showed what researchers call a dose response relationship. The more you eat… the more protection you get, or in the case of the dangers of trans fats, the more damage you do to your body. You should remember that this type of study doesn’t conclusively prove a link between trans fat intake and depression, but the results certainly give you something to think about… especially if you’re already feeling down and prone to indulging in some good tasting comfort food.

Reduce High Blood Pressure Risk With These Berries

Delicious news! A new study finds that eating a cup of strawberries or blueberries a week can reduce high blood pressure risk, which is a key factor for both heart disease and stroke.

The work, intent on investigating the role regular intake of dietary flavonoids might have on the risk of high blood pressure, included 133,914 women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study (I and II) and 23,043 men who were part of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

The subjects supplied information about their diet by food frequency questionnaires. Besides tasting naturally sweet and delicious, berries like strawberries and blueberries are low in fat, carbs and calories, but have loads of fiber, vitamins, minerals and those powerhouse antioxidants we’ve all heard so much about. Anthocyanins are only one such nutrient, but there are others.

During the 14-year follow up, the team found that 29,018 women and 5,629 men developed hypertension. But men and women with the highest levels of anthocyanins (a key part of both blueberries and strawberries) had an 8% lower risk for high blood pressure compared to those who ate the least amounts of these nutrient rich fruits.

Anthocyanin is a rather impressive antioxidant that gives these two delicious berries their incredible color. But it might also open blood vessels, which helps blood flow more smoothly and lowers the risk for high blood pressure.

The finding even held after experts controlled for other things we know are tied to high blood pressure risk. Family history, body mass index, how active a patient might be, and other dietary factors all play a part.

The risk reduction was most pronounced in those who were under 60 years old. Why?

The research team speculates that the cumulative damage done over many decades exceeds the capacity for flavonoids to help the blood vessel function in older people. The team points out that this suggests how important it is to eat well before middle age, so you give your body a chance to get the good for you benefits, while they still are beneficial.

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Lower High Blood Pressure Risk With These Berries… Continued…

Estimates from the American Heart Association have one in three adults in the U.S. being affected by high blood pressure. Another 2 million teens and children are also affected. The causes of 90-95% of high blood pressures aren’t known… even though a doctor can measure your blood pressure quickly and easily in the office. Seems strange that such a potentially dangerous thing could be uncovered with such a simple, pain free test.

Research purists will point out that this new work did have some limitations. No one measured food intake or blood pressure levels; these measures were self reported by the study participants. This doesn’t allow for the type of control that researchers like to have in experiments. The next steps will be to test optimal doses of anthocyanins rich foods to judge the prevention of high blood pressure… to set guidelines.

In the meantime, if you’re at risk and want to reduce high blood pressure risk, do something to help yourself. Prevention is the best treatment, and this comes from a healthy lifestyle… eating a nutritious diet (lots of berries/veggies, no processed foods) and not smoking. Keep those cholesterol numbers under control and do all you can to keep them that way.

Heart Disease Risks: Myths Busted

Even though the heart is one of the most important organs in the body, most of us make assumptions about heart disease risks, sometimes founded on only a morsel of truth, that are dangerous to that oh-so-vital organ.

As with anything that concerns your health, knowledge is power… getting to the bottom of those popular myths, and understanding the truth, is a key to keeping your heart healthy, or recognizing signs of danger, before it’s too late.

Here are six well-worn myths along with the facts to set you straight.

MYTH #1: You’d “know” if you had high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Because, after all, you do have supernatural powers, right?

Truth is, unless you get a blood pressure reading or a cholesterol test you won’t know where you stand. Risks for heart disease are usually silent and symptomless… they don’t call hypertension the “silent” killer for nothing. It is silent, and deadly. And even those who are thin and in shape can (and do) have high cholesterol numbers… quietly damaging the body you think is in the best of health.

MYTH #2: Heart disease treats men and women alike. We all have hearts, after all, don’t we? Unfortunately heart disease affects men and women very differently; women are more likely to have less traditional heart attack symptoms than men.

In 2003, a study appearing in the journal Circulation examined the symptoms that 515 women had before a heart attack. The study found that at least a month before the attack, the women felt unusual fatigue (70%), weakness, sleep disturbances or shortness of breath (50%), and a surprising percentage (43% to be exact) had no chest pain at the time of their heart attack.

This doesn’t mean you need to worry over unusual symptoms, but if you have risk factors for heart trouble, you need to pay attention to how you feel. Anything new needs to be brought to your doctor’s attention.

MYTH #3: Younger women aren’t at risk for heart disease. Women may think they’re not vulnerable to heart problems, believing this is a problem for older people… those in their 40s and 50s also think they’re safe. Yet heart disease is the number one killer of U.S. women, and not all of those patients are elderly.

What’s more, risk factors like obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are showing up earlier in females, and heart disease might well follow suit. According to Rita Redberg, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, men are likely to get heart attack in their mid 50s, while women are more prone to heart attack in their mid 60s.

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Busted! 6 Common Heart Health Myths… Continued…

MYTH #4: Once I have heart disease, that’s it. So not true. You can make changes today that have been shown in studies to undo the damage.

It’s your lifestyle, choices you make every day, that’s a critical part of turning things around. Exercising, eating right (healthy, balanced meals with lots of fruits/veggies) and not smoking (and avoiding second hand smoke) are all things you can do, today, to restore your heart and keep it healthy.

MYTH #5: Exercise is too risky if you have heart disease. Nice try, but this is almost always false.

Within 2 weeks of a heart attack, patients are usually encouraged to get into rehab and start working out; very few patients have significant restrictions. And we know exercise reduces the progression of heart disease, and makes it less likely these patients will have another heart attack. Start with 10 minutes a day and work up from there, by 10 minutes a week until you’re getting at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise on most days.

MYTH #6: Aspirin and omega-3 fatty acids do nothing but good. For the most part this is true, but there are some important caveats to the heart healthy benefits. For example, aspirin can exacerbate stomach issues and some are even allergic. In some cases the risks outweigh the potential benefit.

The American Heart Association (AHA) does recommend eating fatty fish at least two times a week, or taking up to 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids in a daily supplement to reduce heart disease risks. However, it’s important to note that higher doses are not better, and can cause problems, so don’t over do it.

Over 100 Million Living With Diabetes or Prediabetes

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has just released estimates that show almost 26 million Americans are living with diabetes, with another 79 million people having what is known as prediabetes.

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. As the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, people who have diabetes are also at higher risk of heart events (heart attack, stroke), high blood pressure kidney failure, blindness and the loss, via amputation, of feet or legs.

According to the experts, there’s one major reason type 2 diabetes is on the rise; weight gain. The numbers of American adults who are overweight (or obese) has gone up dramatically over the years, and there’s little doubt that rising rates of obesity are linked to the rise in diabetes according to Dr. Christine Resta, an expert on diabetes at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City.

But there’s more to the story.

Recently the American Diabetes Association (ADA) lowered the guidelines for diabetes diagnosis, and this may be part of the reason behind the increased incidence according to Dr. Jacob Warman, chief of endocrinology at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. The change in ADA criteria from last year brought a big increase in the number of patients considered diabetic. The change remains controversial.

As part of their report, the CDC agreed that the switch to the ADA supported hemoglobin A1c testing that measures blood glucose over 2 to 3 months could be responsible for some of the rise in the numbers. The obesity epidemic has also certainly played a part, but the experts point out that improvements in diabetes management mean that more patients are living longer, and this raises the total numbers affected.

Important to understand in terms of costs – newer diabetes medications are far more expensive, often as much as 10 times the cost of older medications. When patients are diagnosed at a young age, it’s more likely that they’ll eventually need multiple medications (which drives up costs) or to deal with complications from the disease.

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105 Million In U.S. At Risk For This Chronic Disease… Continued…

Another startling diabetes fact comes via the CDC’s National Diabetes Fact Sheet -27% of Americans don’t even know they have diabetes. This is troubling because doctors are aware that to escape some of the nasty complications of untreated diabetes, including kidney damage and blindness, managing the disease is so critical.

Your doctor will also tell you that to prevent diabetes you need to take a serious look at your weight and lose what you should to get you into a healthier category. Being more active is also key.

According to the CDC, if things continue on trend, one in three American adults could have diabetes by 2050. How can you be sure you’re not one of that number?

1. Watch your weight

2. Eat a healthy diet

3. Be active

4. Control your blood pressure and/or cholesterol

All well within your control. But you have to start now to avoid becoming one of those living with diabetes.

New Breast Cancer Risk Factor: Women Who Smoke

Here’s an important “I told you so” moment for women who smoke. If you smoked early in life… before you got pregnant, your breast cancer risk factor may be modestly higher according to research that adds new evidence to the case against smoking and cancer of the breast.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among all women of the world, and in the United States, it is the second most common cause of death in women. Lung cancer is first. The work appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

For this research, the experts examined the effects of personal smoking history, as well as any passive smoke exposure on the risk of breast cancer using data from 111,140 female subjects taking part in the Nurses Health Study who were followed from 1976 to 2006; along with another 26,017 women who provided information from 1982 to 2006 on secondhand smoke exposure. Clearly there is a very large study group here.

The analysis found that breast cancer risk was 18% higher among those women who started smoking before they had their first baby, and 4% higher for those who started smoking after the first birth or sometime before menopause. Unexpectedly, smoking after menopause was associated with a slight decrease in risk.

During the follow up period, 8,772 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed. The risk of this type of cancer was higher for the following groups:

- Heavy current, or past, smokers (25 or more cigarettes/day).

- Those who started smoking before age 17.

- Women who smoked for at least 20 years.

- Current or past smokers with a history of 20 or more pack-years

(number of packs smoked per day multiplied by number of years smoked).

As you might expect, the women who were heavy smokers who started early and kept the habit for a long time were at the highest risk of breast cancer according to study leader Fei Xue, MD. ScD of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University.

The good news for non smokers?

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This Can Increase Breast Cancer Risk… Continued…

Never smoking and passive smoke exposure (in childhood) were not linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Living with parents who smoked, or secondhand exposures at work or school were also not associated with a higher breast cancer risk, even after adjusting for other known risk factors.

Experts have known for some time that cigarette smoke contains several cancer causing substances, yet the link between smoking and breast cancer has been elusive, some studies offering findings that were inconsistent or controversial. One of the difficulties is that lifetime smoking comes from many places – active and passive (secondhand) smoke – and these aren’t so easy to measure.

Breast cancer is a disease that is expected to strike one in seven American women sometime during their lifetime. This year alone, there will be 207,090 new cases of breast cancer among women in the United Sates according to the National Cancer Institute numbers.

More work in this area is needed to further clarify the breast cancer risk factor, and what can be done to help women resist smoking at an early age, when they can do damage to their bodies that can’t be undone.

Too Much TV Ups Heart Attack Risk

Spending time watching too much TV or at the computer might increase your risk of heart disease according to a recent British study conducted by a group of international researchers.

In fact, if you spent 4 hours a day or more of your time sitting you’re more than two times as likely to suffer a heart related (heart attack, stroke, heart failure, death) event.

Lead researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis, a senior research associate at University College London believes that screen time can be very detrimental to health.

We spend so much time in work, or commuting to and from work, it’s even more important than ever that our leisure time doesn’t involve as much sitting, and calls for more motion.

The report appears in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

For the study, the team collected data on 4,542 adults who took part in the 2003 Scottish Health Survey. Work and recreation in Scotland are very close to the habits of the rest of the Western world. Among other questions, the survey asked about leisure time activities. During 4.3 years of follow up, 325 of the subjects died and 205 had a heart event according to the report.

The researchers found that compared to those who spent less than 2 hours a day in front of a screen, those who spent 4 or more hours there had a 48% increased risk of dying from any cause, and a 125% upped risk for having a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. This remained even after accounting for factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, weight, social class and exercise.

Important to note, exercising didn’t mitigate the harm linked with all the time spent in front of the screen… TV or computer.

Biology also plays a part. One fourth of the link between screen time and heart attack was linked to levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) along with weight and cholesterol. This suggests that inflammation and high cholesterol, along with sitting for longer periods, might increase the risk for heart events say researchers.

What can you do if your work involves the computer? Or you unwind in front of the TV or computer screen?

Limit the time you spend sitting in front of the screen to two hours a day. If sitting is an unavoidable part of your workday, be sure to take breaks, even as short as a minute or two, as often as you can. Stand up, move around, climb stairs… whatever gets your heart pumping. And consider spending your leisure time doing something that gets you moving… stretch, take up yoga, lift weights, challenge others to see who can do the most push ups or some other exercise during TV commercial breaks.

You might also want to try these ways to limit screen time in your house…

- Keeping a TV or computer out of the bedroom. Kids who have a TV in their bedrooms spend about 1.5 hours more watching a day than kids who don’t.

Continues below…


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Too Much TV Linked To Heart Attack and Increased Death Risk… Continued…

- Turn off the TV during meals, and talk instead. Families who eat together eat more nutritious meals according to research. Eating together at least two to three times a week is a smart start.

- Keep track of how much time you actually spend in front of the TV or computer.

- Give ideas about the alternatives to TV and the computer, playing outside, working on a hobby or practicing a sport. After all, the TV/computer can be a habit that can be broken, or curtailed.

- Don’t use TV as reward/punishment, especially for kids. This makes TV or the computer seem more important to young people.

Other experts agree that the current study helps people understand the role that a sedentary lifestyle has on the risks to your heart. To help yourself, make a determined effort to sit less and move more… work on perfecting skills like playing basketball, riding a bike, hiking with friends or other activities rather than watching too much TV.

Warning: Average Life Expectancy Falling

Americans are in for a surprise… we might assume our much-discussed health care system would ensure us a long life, yet a new report suggests average life expectancy is dropping.

Lifespan isn’t increasing as fast in the U.S. as it is in other developed nations according to the report from the National Research Council, a branch of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

It appears that both obesity and smoking can be blamed for the decrease. For 25 years, life expectancy at age 50 has been going up, but more slowly in the U.S. than in most of the other 21 developed countries, including Japan and Australia.

Yet the United States spends more money on health care than any other nation.

Something doesn’t make sense, and this decreasing longevity is worrisome to medical professionals according to report co-author Samuel H. Preston, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Fifty years ago, more Americans smoked than either the Europeans or Japanese, and this still impacts life expectancy today. The effects of smoking on life span can take up to 30 years to be seen, so the numbers will likely improve as fewer U.S. men are smoking over the last two decades.

Smoking, especially by American women, is a continuing problem. This habit in women peaked later than for men, so lifespan increases from stop smoking efforts won’t show up for another decade.

Obesity is also a factor, but the researchers are less certain of the role carrying too much weight has on how long you will live. It might be responsible for as much as one fifth to one third of the life expectancy gap between the U.S. and other developed nations according to the report. Any years gained by less smoking are likely to be erased by the extra pounds we’re all carrying.

For U.S. women at 50, life expectancy is 33.1 years, while in Japan, Australia, Sweden and Switzerland, its 35.5 years on average. Hormone replacement therapy didn’t appear to have an impact on a woman’s life expectancy, nor did social ties have any bearing on how long a woman may live.

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New Report Reveals Slowing U.S. Life Expectancy… Continued…

Researchers agree that our current behaviors are not likely to lead to optimal health. So while we are a wealthy nation, with all kinds of technology, we tolerate and even encourage enormous economic disparities that create disparities in health. Our health care system is essentially a disease management system that’s focused on treating a condition after it develops rather than preventing it in the first place. Preventive medicine appears to be a lesser priority.

The experts suggest that keeping healthy has more to do with what happens out in the community and in your home, school, store, restaurants and churches.

Among aging Americans, heart disease and cancer are the main causes of death. Interestingly, diagnoses and survival rates from these conditions appear to be better in the U.S. than in most other nations. Another indication of our treatment oriented healthcare system.

The report also suggests that gaps in research make it hard to draw conclusions about how things like diet, exercise and social life might affect average life expectancy.