HEALTH

James Roosevelt Jr. named to Inverness board

BY Michael Johnsen

WALTHAM, Mass. Inverness Medical Innovations on Monday named James Roosevelt, Jr., president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan, to the company’s board.

Roosevelt was recently selected by President Barack Obama as part of the administration’s transition team to co-chair a review of the Social Security Administration. He serves as chairman for Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, and as a member of the board at America’s Health Insurance Plans, Emmanuel College and the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center.

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HEALTH

Study finds no cancer risks from hormone replacement therapy within first two years

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The American Cancer Society last week announced that there may be a two-year “safe period” for the use of hormone replacement therapies estrogen and progesterone.

According to a recently published study, new findings on the role of hormone use on the risk of breast cancer confirmed that the use of estrogen plus progesterone increases the risk of both ductal and lobular breast cancer by far more than estrogen-only, but found that the increased risk for ductal cancers observed in long-term past users of hormone replacement therapy drops off substantially two years after hormone use is stopped. They also found the risk associated with use of estrogen and progesterone increases significantly and substantially within three years of beginning hormone use. The data showed no increased risk for women who used estrogen and progesterone for less than two years, potentially identifying a “safe” period for estrogen and progesterone use.

The study appears in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Previous studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer and that use of a regimen that includes both estrogen and progesterone is more detrimental for the breast than the use of estrogen alone. But more data from large prospective studies are needed to fully characterize the impact of exogenous hormones on breast cancer incidence by type of hormone preparation and histology of the cancer.

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HEALTH

Research finds vitamin D helps prevent multiple sclerosis

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN FRANCISCO Researchers have found evidence that a direct interaction between vitamin D and a common genetic variant alters the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. The research, published Friday in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, suggests that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and the early years may increase the risk of the offspring developing MS later in life.

“Our study implies that taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and the early years may reduce the risk of a child developing MS in later life,” stated lead author Sreeram Ramagopalan. “Vitamin D is a safe and relatively cheap supplement with substantial potential health benefits. There is accumulating evidence that it can reduce the risk of developing cancer and offer protection from other autoimmune diseases.”

The researchers found that proteins activated by vitamin D in the body bind to a particular DNA sequence lying next to the DRB1*1501 variant, in effect switching the gene on.

“In people with the DRB1 variant associated with MS, it seems that vitamin D may play a critical role,” stated co-author Julian Knight. “If too little of the vitamin is available, the gene may not function properly.”

“We have known for a long time that genes and environment determine MS risk,” stated Professor George Ebers, University of Oxford. “Here we show that the main environmental risk candidate – vitamin D – and the main gene region are directly linked and interact.”

MS is the most common disabling neurological condition affecting young adults. More than 85,000 people in the United Kingdom and 2.5 million worldwide are thought to suffer from the condition, which results from the loss of nerve fibres and their protective myelin sheath in the brain and spinal cord, causing neurological damage.

The causes of MS are unclear, but it has become evident that both environmental and genetic factors play a role. Previous studies have shown that populations from Northern Europe have increased MS risk if they live in areas receiving less sunshine. This supports a direct link between deficiency in vitamin D, which is produced in the body through the action of sunlight, and increased risk of developing the disease.PLoS Genetics is published by the Public Library of Science, a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource.

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