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Tobacco, alcohol raises risk of head and neck cancers by 35-fold: Experts

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New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) Tobacco and alcohol are the two major reasons behind the rising cases of head and neck cancers (HNC) in India, accounting for a 35-times higher risk, experts said on Sunday.

HNC typically consists of anatomical sub-sites like tongue, mouth, other parts of the pharynx like oropharynx, nasopharynx, hypopharynx, salivary glands, nasal cavity, larynx (voice box), etc.

“India is considered the head and neck cancer capital of the world. Head and neck cancer (HNC) accounts for about 17 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancer cases in India of which mouth cancer in males is most common in India. The lifestyle of people, particularly in the northern regions, where smoking or chewing tobacco is common, is a significant cause of the high burden of head and neck cancer,” Dr. Mudit Agarwal, Unit Head & Senior Consultant, Head & Neck Oncology, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre (RGCIRC), told IANS.

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“Compared to the Western countries (with a prevalence of 4 per cent), HNC accounts for 27.5 per cent of all cancers in India. These cancers are most common in our male population and are fourth in incidence among females,” added Dr Ashish Gupta, Chief Oncologist, Unique Hospital Cancer Centre, Delhi who is heading Cancer Mukt Bharat Campaign in India.

The experts blamed changing lifestyles, increased longevity, and addiction to tobacco and alcohol. “Tobacco (smoked or chewable forms), alcohol, areca nut (pan masala), and dietary malnutrition are common etiological factors which are also important downstream social determinants. Heavy users of both tobacco and alcohol have a 35-fold higher risk of head and neck cancers,” Dr Ashish told IANS.

In India, unfortunately, 60-70 per cent of patients come at an advanced stage, as a consequence of which most receive radical treatment which may be disfiguring to some extent.

However, with medical advancements like jaw reconstruction surgery, computer-assisted 3D designing technology, and facial reanimation techniques, the treatment now emphasises patient rehabilitation, Mudit said.

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–IANS

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Researchers use diabetes medication as effective drug therapy for sleep-related disorder

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London, June 22 (IANS) A team of researchers have demonstrated the potential of tirzepatide, known to manage type 2 diabetes, as the first effective drug therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a sleep-related condition characterised by repeated episodes of irregular breathing due to complete or partial blockage of the upper airway, a new study has said.

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted the treatment’s potential to enhance the quality of life for millions worldwide affected by OSA.

“This study marks a significant milestone in the treatment of OSA, offering a promising new therapeutic option that addresses both respiratory and metabolic complications,” said Atul Malhotra, MD, lead author of the study, professor at UC San Diego Health.

OSA can cause low blood oxygen levels and raise the risk of cardiovascular problems such as hypertension and heart failure. Recent research, also led by Malhotra, suggests that there are approximately 936 million OSA patients globally.

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The study involved 469 participants diagnosed with clinical obesity and living with moderate-to-severe OSA.

The participants were administered either 10 or 15 mg of the drug by injection or a placebo. The impact of tirzepatide was assessed over 52 weeks.

Researchers found that tirzepatide led to a significant drop in the number of breathing interruptions during sleep, a key indicator used to measure the severity of OSA.

“This improvement was much greater than what was seen in participants that were given a placebo,” the study mentioned.

In addition, the researchers noted that some participants who took the drug reached a point where CPAP therapy might not be necessary.

The therapy also improved other factors related to OSA, such as reducing the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases and improving body weight.

“This new drug treatment offers a more accessible alternative for individuals who cannot tolerate or adhere to existing therapies. We believe that the combination of CPAP therapy with weight loss will be optimal for improving cardiometabolic risk and symptoms,” said Malhotra.

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–IANS

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Weight loss linked with reduced cancer risk in people with obesity: Study

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San Francisco, June 22 (IANS) Real-world weight loss is linked with a decreased risk of obesity-related cancers, a new study has said.

The study published in the journal American Diabetes Association comprised 172 patients including 100,143 in the control arm and 5,329 cases.

The median body mass index (BMI at censoring (kg/m2.) was 34.2 for cases and 34.5 for controls, which are considered to have obesity according to the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For each cancer endpoint, logistic regression models were used to assess the association of body mass index (BMI) change with three, five, and 10-year intervals before cancer diagnosis (for cases) versus controls.

The study found that the risk was reduced for renal cell carcinoma (three years), multiple myeloma (10 years), and endometrial cancer (three and five years) among primary cancer endpoints.

“This study reinforces how crucial it is to treat obesity as a chronic disease,” said Kenda Alkwatli, MD, Clinical Fellow at Cleveland Clinic, and author of the study.

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“We are hopeful that these results can help us better understand how we can use weight loss to address comorbidities including cancer in patients with obesity,” she added.

As per the researchers, obesity is linked to higher risks of at least 13 types of cancer due to excess estrogen and elevated insulin, including breast, kidney, ovary, liver, and pancreatic cancer.

–IANS

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Bird flu outbreak at US dairy farms cause public health concerns

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Los Angeles, June 22 (IANS) The ongoing bird flu outbreak at US dairy farms has heightened concerns among public health experts as more dairy herds have tested positive for the virus in recent months.

The influenza A (H5N1) virus, commonly known as bird flu, is widespread in wild birds worldwide and has been circulating in US poultry since 2022, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, the situation escalated in late 2023 when the virus is believed to have jumped from birds to dairy cows at a Texas farm.

This was followed by a human infection in April linked to exposure to infected cattle. To date, three human cases of infection have been reported, bringing the total number of US H5N1 cases to four, including one case in 2022 linked to poultry exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The virus had been confirmed in at least 115 dairy herds across 12 states as of Thursday, according to the latest tally posted on the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.

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In a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers found “small, detectable amounts of infectious (H5N1) virus remained in raw milk samples with high virus levels” when treated at 72 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds — one of the standard pasteurisation methods used by the dairy industry, according to an NIH press release last week.

The CDC noted that while the current public health risk is low, it is watching the situation carefully and working with states to monitor people with animal exposures.

But public health experts have paid attention to the government’s slow response and inadequate testing.

“Failures in testing continued. This was a serious problem in the early months of COVID-19, in mpox, and now with H5N1. There will be future disease emergencies — we have to do better,” wrote Gigi Gronvall, an immunologist, on social media X on Thursday.

Gronvall, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, called for a public-private partnership between the government, test developers, and clinical laboratories to streamline testing rollout and information sharing at the beginning of an event.

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The World Health Organization considers bird flu a public health concern, as these viruses, including the H5N1 strain, can result in mild to severe illness and death and have the potential to mutate to become more contagious, says the organisation on its website.

While infections have been confirmed in cattle across the country, only 45 individuals have been tested for novel influenza A since March, with 550 under monitoring, according to the CDC’s latest update on June 14.

Aside from the limited availability of bird flu tests, experts said the low trust of farm owners and farm workers towards the government also makes it difficult to detect potential cases.

“The United States’ response to H5N1 — ‘bird flu’ — has taken too long, showing how risky gaps in coordination and trust can be,” wrote Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC, in an analysis published by CNN on Tuesday.

“Trust toward the United States government is low, especially among rural Americans who are on the front line of these outbreaks,” added Frieden, president and chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives.

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Many dairy farm workers in the United States are undocumented immigrants or migrants who may distrust the government or be hesitant to miss work if they test positive, CDC Principal Deputy Director Nirav Shah told Axios in a Tuesday report.

Despite the allocation of federal funds to incentivise farm cooperation, no farms have enrolled in the voluntary on-site milk testing program, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

–IANS

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'Yoga symbolises UN's strivings for world unity'

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United Nations, June 22 (IANS) Yoga symbolises the strivings of the world organisation for global unity, according to its leaders celebrating the International Day recognising the ancient discipline.

UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis said on Friday that Yoga is “a powerful metaphor for the United Nations itself”.

“Just as yoga brings together various aspects of the human experience to create a balanced whole, the United Nations unites diverse nations and cultures to work towards common goals,” he said in a video message to the 10th International Day of Yoga celebrations here.

“In this unity distinct parts come together to form a unified sum greater than its parts, symbolising peace and harmony as we unite today in this celebration,” he added.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who attended the event, said yoga’s power to unify is visible at the celebrations at the UN.

“Yoga is about unity, the unity of mind, of body, and spirit. It is about you, it is about me and it’s about us, and at the UN today, we see how it unites people across cultures and countries,” she added.

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She recalled last year’s celebration with Prime Minister Narendra Modi which made the Guinness Book of World Records for the most nationalities practicing yoga together.

“That achievement was a wonderful and powerful symbol of yoga’s global popularity, its universal appeal, and its power to bring people together in their shared interests and their shared humanity,” she said.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a written message, “This year’s theme — ‘Yoga for Self and Society’ — reminds us of yoga’s important role in enhancing people’s lives and wider community.”

“Now embraced worldwide by people of all faiths and cultures, yoga unites people with its values of balance, mindfulness and peace with people and planet alike,” he added.

As a gentle breeze from the East River wafted across the UN Headquarters North Lawn on a blistering hot day, the celebration featured a mass yoga exercise with the participation of diplomats and UN staff from across the world and invitees from the Indian diaspora clad in white and blue T-shirts emblazoned with the Yoga Day logo.

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Denise Scotto, the Chair of the UN’s International Day of Yoga Committee, said that it was “remarkable” that 177 countries co-sponsored the 2014 General Assembly resolution declaring June 21 the International Day of Yoga.

“It demonstrates the unity from across the globe,” she added.

The UN Chamber Music Society performed Rabindranath Tagore’s “Streams of Light” in Bengali.

The Indian Raga dance troupe performed classical dances, one of them incorporating “yoga postures”.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

–IANS

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Yoga Day marks importance of yoga in maintaining a balanced lifestyle: CJI Chandrachud

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New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud on Friday said that International Yoga Day is not only a day of celebration and observance but marks the importance of yoga in maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

CJI Chandrachud said that Yoga combines physical exercise with spirituality and narrated the importance of humility in conducting yogic practices.

In his speech in Hindi, the Chief Justice emphasised the four ‘S’s – (i) ‘Siddhant’ or principles which underlie the discipline of yoga like the discipline of law; (ii) ‘Samanvay’ or inclusion; (iii) ‘Sadbhavana’ or fraternity and compassion; and (iv) ‘Sashaktikaran’ which is a movement from the individual towards society, from society to the nation and from the nation towards global humanity.

On the occasion of International Yoga Day, CJI Chandrachud and other judges of the apex court along with the officials and staff of the registry and the members of the Executive Committee of the Bar associations participated in the special yoga session held at the Supreme Court Complex.

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In the event, advocate Tejaswi Kumar Sharma, specially-abled, three-time International Champion in yoga-asanas, performed a spectacular set of asanas and a team of doctors and staff belonging to the All India Institute of Ayurveda performed a yoga fusion dance combining rhythmic movements set to music in yoga-asanas.

The day was observed with a special cleanliness drive on the Supreme Court premises.

–IANS

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