Tag Archives: University of Sheffield

More Sex May Help Damaged Sperm

For men with fertility problems, some doctors are prescribing a very conventional way to have a baby: more sex.

In a study of 118 Australian men with damaged sperm, doctors found that having sex every day for a week significantly reduced the amount of DNA damage in their patients’ sperm. Previous studies have linked better sperm quality to higher pregnancy rates.

The research was announced Tuesday at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Amsterdam.

Dr David Greening of Sydney IVF, a private fertility clinic in Australia, and colleagues looked at 118 men who had damaged sperm. Greening and colleagues told the men to have sex every day for a week. After seven days, the doctors found that in 81 percent of the men, there was a 12 percent decrease in the amount of damaged sperm.

Many fertility experts suggest men abstain from sex before their partners have in-vitro fertilization, to try to elevate their sperm counts.

Sperm quality can also be improved if men don’t smoke, drink moderately, exercise, or get more antioxidants.

Since concluding the study, Greening says he now instructs all couples seeking fertility advice to start by having more sex. “Some of the older men look a little concerned,” he said. “But the younger ones seem quite happy about it.”

Experts think sex helps reduce the DNA damage in sperm by getting it out of the body quickly; if sperm is in the body for too long, it has a higher chance of getting damaged.

Some experts said that while Greening’s research is promising, it doesn’t prove that daily sex for men with fertility problems will actually produce more babies.

Greening said he and his colleagues are still analyzing the study data to determine how many women got pregnant.

“Looking at sperm DNA is just one part of the puzzle,” said Bill Ledger, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Sheffield, who was not connected to the research. “Maybe this will improve pregnancy rates, but we still need to do more studies.”

Ledger said instructing couples with infertility problems to have more sex could stress their relationship. “This may add even more anxiety and do more harm than good,” he said. He said couples shouldn’t feel pressured to adjust their sex lives just for the sake of having a baby.

Greening said the study’s findings were ultimately very intuitive. “If you want to have a baby, our advice is to do it often.”

Source: The TimersOf India

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Bone Drug Can Fight Breast Cancer

SAN ANTONIO: New research adds fresh hope that a drug that strengthens bones might also fight breast cancer. Women who were given the drug, Zometa, as part of their initial treatment had greater tumor shrinkage and were less likely to need radical surgery, according to a preliminary study reported Thursday at a cancer conference in Texas.

In June, doctors were stunned when a big study found that Zometa — given to prevent bone loss caused by certain cancer treatments — also greatly cut the risk that cancer would recur in women who developed the disease before menopause.

Cancer specialists are eagerly awaiting the final results of a second, ongoing study testing Zometa in 3,360 women who had breast cancer after menopause — a much more common situation.

Its leaders gave a mini-report Thursday on 205 participants who had chemotherapy to try to shrink their tumors before surgery.

Those given infusions of Zometa along with chemo had a third more tumor shrinkage and as a result, were less likely to need their whole breast removed versus just the lump, said study leader Dr. Robert Coleman of the University of Sheffield in England.

Eleven percent of Zometa takers had a complete response to treatment — no evidence of cancer in their breasts or lymph nodes — versus 6 percent of women given chemo alone.

Partial studies like this are not enough to change practice, but these results are surprising and deserve further testing, said Dr. Eric Winer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston. Such significant benefits from the bone drug before surgery “is not something I would have expected,” he said.

Winer had no role in the work or financial ties to any breast cancer drugmakers. He also is a spokesman for the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the largest group of doctors who treat cancer.

The study was sponsored by Zometa’s maker, Swiss-based Novartis AG, and the study leader consults for the company. With doctor fees, a Zometa infusion can run more than $1,200. In the study it was given every three weeks for four to six months.

Known side effects of Zometa and other bone-building bisphosphonate drugs like Fosamax include bone, joint or muscle pain and in rare cases, jawbone decay. They are mainly used to treat osteoporosis.

Also at the conference, several reports strengthened evidence that newer hormone-blockers called aromatase inhibitors, or AIs, do a better job of preventing cancer recurrences and may give a slight survival advantage over the long-used drug tamoxifen.

These drugs work against estrogen, which helps most breast tumors grow, and are given for about five years after surgery for early stage breast cancer to prevent its return.

Tamoxifen has been used for decades and is sold in generic form for about $70 a month. The newer drugs cost around $300 and come in three brands: AstraZeneca PLC‘s Arimidex (anastrozole), Pfizer Inc.’s Aromasin (exemestane) and Novartis’ Femara (letrozole). They only work in women after menopause.

Doctors already know that women who take these newer drugs either as initial treatment or after a few years of tamoxifen have better chances of staying cancer-free. But which of these approaches is best is not known.

Results of a study led by Novartis consultant Dr. Henning Mouridsen of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark mostly were a draw. There were trends toward improved survival for women starting on Femara, but the differences were so small they could have occurred by chance alone.

Specialists took issue with a separate analysis of that study, which hinted at a bigger benefit from starting on Femara. And pooled results of prior studies involving 20,000 women suggest that any such advantage is very small.

“At this point in time, there is a slight increase in survival in patients treated with AIs but it is not statistically significant,” said that study’s leader, Dr. James Ingle of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“The only really fair interpretation is that all of these are the same,” and that women should include one at some point in their treatment as guidelines now recommend, Winer said.

About 90,000 women in the United States and many more worldwide each year face this decision, and key issues are cost and side effects.

Both drugs can cause hot flashes. Tamoxifen raises the risk of endometrial cancer and blood clots. The aromatase inhibitors can cause more bone loss, vaginal dryness, problems having sex, joint pain and muscle aches.

“Many of us think that overall, they’re drugs that are a little harder to take,” Winer said of the newer drugs.

“When you put it all together it’s almost a balancing act,” depending on each woman’s health history and risks, said Dr. C. Kent Osborne, a breast cancer specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium is sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research, Baylor and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio .

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Sources: The Times Of India

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A regular diet of even modest amounts of food containing soy may halve sperm concentrations, suggest scientists.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, found 41 million fewer sperm per millilitre of semen after just one portion every two days.

The authors said plant oestrogens in foods such as tofu, soy mince or milk may interfere with hormonal signals.

However, a UK expert stressed that most men in Asia eat more soy-based products with no fertility problems.

“Oestrogenic compounds in food or the environment have been of concern for a number of years, but we have mostly thought that it was boys exposed in the uterus before birth who were most at risk” says
Dr Allan Pacey,Sheffield University

Animal studies have suggested that large quantities of soy chemicals in food could affect fertility, but other studies looking at consumption in humans have had contradictory findings.

The Harvard School of Public Health study looked at the diets of 99 men who had attended a fertility clinic with their partners and provided a semen sample.

The men were divided into four groups depending on how much soy they ate, and when the sperm concentration of men eating the most soy was compared with those eating the least, there was a significant difference.

The “normal” sperm concentration for a man is between 80 and 120 million per millilitre, and the average of men who ate on average a portion of soy-based food every other day was 41 million fewer.

Dr Jorge Chavarro, who led the study, said that chemicals called isoflavones in the soy might be affecting sperm production.

These chemicals can have similar effects to the human hormone oestrogen.

Dr Chavarro noticed that overweight or obese men seemed even more prone to this effect, which may reflect the fact that higher levels of body fat can also lead to increased oestrogen production in men.

Worried men

However, the study pointed out that soy consumption in many parts of Asia was significantly higher than even the maximum found in these volunteers.

Dr Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology from the University of Sheffield, said that if soy genuinely had a detrimental effect on sperm production, fertility might well be affected in those regions, and there was no evidence that this was the case.

“Many men are obviously worried about whether their lifestyle or diet could affect their fertility by lowering their sperm count.

“Oestrogenic compounds in food or the environment have been of concern for a number of years, but we have mostly thought that it was boys exposed in the uterus before birth who were most at risk.

“We will have to look at adult diet more closely, although the fact that such large parts of the world have soy food as a major part of their diet and don’t appear to suffer any greater infertility rates than those on western diets suggests that any effect is quite small.”

Sources: BBC NEWS:July 24,’08

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Q&A: Obesity

Obesity is a major issue around the world, and as more and more people put on excess weight it is a problem that is only likely to get worse.

In the UK it is estimated that one in five men and a quarter of women are obese, and that as many as 30,000 people die prematurely every year from obesity-related conditions.

How do you know if you are obese?

Most doctors calculate obesity using a formula known as the Body Mass Index (BMI).

It is a measure based on height and weight that applies to both adult men and women.

To calculate your BMI divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres.

A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and one of 30 or above is considered obese.

Doctors have recently recognised a new category: those with a BMI above 40 are considered morbidly obese.

People with BMIs between 19 and 22 live longest. Death rates are noticeably higher for people with indexes 25 and above.

Underweight: less than 20
Normal weight: 20-25
Overweight: 25 – 29.9
Obese: over 30
Morbidly obese: over 40

Click to Calculate your BMI

The BMI is not infallible. For instance, it is possible for a healthy, muscular athlete with very low body fat to be classified obese using the BMI formula.

Why is obesity a problem?

Experts believe that obesity is responsible for more ill health even than smoking.

Being significantly overweight is linked to a wide range of health problems, including:

* Heart disease.
* High blood pressure.
* Arthritis.
* Diabetes.
* Indigestion.
* Gallstones.
* Some cancers (e.g. breast, prostate).
* Snoring and sleep apnoea. Stress, anxiety, and depression

What is the wider impact of obesity?

A study by the National Audit Office has estimated that obesity costs the NHS at least £500m a year – and the wider economy more than £2bn a year in lost productivity.

The problem is growing rapidly. Experts predict that if the current rate of growth continues, three-quarters of the population could suffer the ill effects of excess weight within 10 to 15 years.

Why is obesity on the increase?

It would be tempting to suggest that more people are seriously overweight than ever before because they eat too much.

Certainly, experts are worried about the high fat and sugar levels in many convenience and mass-produced foods. There is also concern about the advent of ‘super-sized’ portions, already popular in the US.

However, the reality is not as simple as that. A significant factor is that modern life is more sedentary than ever before.

A recent study showed that housewives in the 1950s actually ate more calories than their modern counterparts – but they were significantly slimmer because their daily lives involved far more physical activity.

What action do campaigners want?

The government has been accused of failing to implement “joined up thinking” in tackling obesity.

It has been criticised for focussing on cars in its transport policy, rather than advocating the healthier options of walking and cycling.

Parents have called for vending machines selling crisps and chocolate to be taken out of schools.

The government has also been urged to do more to persuade the food industry to promote healthy foods to consumers.

What is actually being done?

The government is due to publish a public health White Paper in the summer which will look at what can be done to tackle obesity.

It has already published consultation papers on diet and exercise in schools, how employers could help workers get fit and how manufacturers can reduce fat, sugar and salt in food, which will inform the White Paper.

Measures such as a ban on junk food ads to children are also being considered.

The Chief Medical Officer also published a report urging people to exercise five times a week in order to stay healthy.

How can you tackle obesity?

The best way to tackle the problem is by not getting fat in the first place. A combination of a healthy, balanced diet, and regular exercise should do the trick in most instances.

Experts recommend vigorous exercise such as brisk walking, swimming or cycling five times a week for 20-30 minutes.

For those who have been unable to avoid piling on the pounds, weight management clinics are available to provide expert help and advice.

In severe cases doctors may prescribe drug therapies, which have been shown to have some positive impact.

Among these are orlistat (brand name Xenical), which works by blocking the digestion of fat.

Another drug which has produced promising results is sibutramine (Reductil), which works by boosting the signal to stop eating so that patients feel fuller sooner and eat less.

Is surgery an option?

Yes, but it is usually only recommended for the most extreme cases, as the surgery itself can be risky, and the patients require lifelong monitoring for potential complications.

Two types of surgery are in use:

* Roux-en-Y: Staples or bands are used to make the stomach smaller and allow food to bypass part of the small intestine where many nutrients are absorbed.

* Extensive gastric bypass: A more complicated procedure, in which the lower portion of the stomach is bypassed. The small pouch that remains is connected directly to the final segment of the small intestine.

In theory both operations are reversible, but this can be difficult. Reversal is almost always accompanied by rapid regain of body weight.

An alternative is to wire up the jaw to prevent people chewing food. This can help people lose weight, but many doctors are concerned about the psychological impact. It also does little to encourage healthy eating.

Sources:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/medical_notes/3189930.stm

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Hot Baths May Cut Male Fertility

Soaking in the tub may reduce men’s fertility, say US researchers.

Findings from a three-year study support current advice that men should avoid ‘overheating’ their sperm.

Sperm counts in five of 11 men with fertility problems soared by 491% after they stopped having baths or using the hot tub for a few months.

Other research has shown heat from laptop use and wearing tight underwear can reduce fertility the Journal of the Brazilian Society of Urology reports.

The researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, said although it had been believed for decades that ‘wet heat’ could damage fertility, there had been very little research.

Men attending a fertility clinic who were exposed to more than 30 minutes per week of ‘wet heat’ through hot baths, Jacuzzis or hot tubs, were recruited to the study.

After three to six months of staying out of the bath, just under half the men showed dramatic five-fold improvement in sperm count.

Sperm motility increased from 12% to 34% in the men who responded to cutting out baths.

Five of the six men who showed no improvement were chronic smokers, which the researchers said could have influenced the lack of response.

Cool environment

Sperm are known to develop best in cool surroundings which is why the testicles are situated outside the man’s body within the scrotum.

Study leader, Dr Paul Turek, director of the UCSF Male Reproductive Health Center said: “These activities can be comfortably added to that list of lifestyle recommendations and ‘things to avoid’ as men attempt to conceive.”

He added that if men could improve their fertility through avoiding hot baths, couples may be able to avoid IVF or choose less invasive treatment.

“Couples really prefer having kids at home and not with technology. This is a way to help them do that.”

According to Dr Turek, the only other published study looking at the link between hot baths and fertility was done in 1965.

After exposing men to ‘wet heat’ for 30 minutes on alternating days, researchers found a temporary decline in sperm production but did not look at sperm quality before and after the study.

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield said it seemed intuitive that hot baths could contribute to reduced numbers of sperm but it was unclear whether it actually contributed to fertility.

“Ideally, this study needs to be repeated with a much larger number of patients, and with a clearly defined control group, before we can be certain that hot baths are a genuine risk factor for male sub-fertility

“Changes in sperm quality are one thing, but it is pregnancies that matter.

“However, it would do no harm for men who are concerned about their fertility to take a shower instead of a bath.”

Sources: BBC NEWS, march5,2007

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