Suggested link between radon and skin cancer

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Public release date: 14-Nov-2011

A new study published this week suggests that a link may exist between radon exposure and non-melanoma skin cancer

Researchers from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health (part of the Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry) have detected a connection following analysis of data on radon exposure and skin cancer cases from across southwest England. The study, which looked at small geographical areas across Devon and Cornwall, builds upon a similar study conducted 15 years ago.

Radon Test

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas found in soil and bedrock common in parts of the southwest. It has been recognised as a minor contributor to cases of lung cancer, but so far there has been no firm evidence to suggest it has wider health implications.

Whilst both radon levels and skin cancer incidence in the southwest are amongst the highest in the UK, the study found no association between household radon levels and malignant melanoma, or the most common form of skin cancer basal cell carcinoma. However, a link was found between areas where high radon concentrations are found and a particular type of non-melanoma skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

The analysis took account of the way population characteristics, exposure to sunshine and proximity to the coast vary across the region. However, the researchers highlighted people’s exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun as a particularly difficult factor to account for, especially as this represents an important risk factor for developing skin cancer.

Despite the limitations of the study, researchers feel it is an important area needing further investigation. Lead author of the study, Dr Ben Wheeler said

“We know that naturally occurring radon is a contributing factor to a small proportion of lung cancers, but there is limited evidence of other health implications. These findings suggest that the issue of radon and skin cancer deserves a much closer look and we’re planning to develop a more detailed study capable of detecting a direct relationship, if one actually exists”.

Public release date: 14-Nov-2011

‘Stomach flu’ may be linked to food allergies

Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin have found a possible link between norovirus, a virus that causes “stomach flu” in humans, and food allergies. The findings are published in The Open Immunology Journal, Volume 4, 2011.

Mitchell H. Grayson, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, medicine, microbiology and molecular genetics at the Medical College, and a pediatric allergist practicing at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, is the corresponding author of the paper.

The researchers took mice infected with norovirus and fed them egg protein. They then examined the mice for signs of an immunoglobulin E, or IgE, response against the food protein; an IgE response is what leads to an allergic reaction. The team of researchers has previously shown an IgE response to an inhaled protein during a respiratory infection in another a mouse model, which suggests early respiratory infections in children could lead to allergic diseases like asthma later in childhood. Likewise, an IgE response to a gastrointestinal virus could signify a likelihood of developing a food allergy after the viral infection.

Six million children in the United States have food allergies, and the Centers for Disease Control reports an 18 percent increase in the prevalence of food allergies from 1997 to 2007. Every three minutes, a food allergy sends a child to the emergency room.

“Food allergies are a dangerous, costly health issue not only in the United States, but worldwide,” said Dr. Grayson. “This study provides additional support for the idea that allergic disease may be related to an antiviral immune response, and further studies are planned to continue exploring the exact series of events that connect the antiviral response with allergic diseases.”

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Categories: Environmental

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