Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Reblog] Cancer Tracking Goes Mobile – Free UMSkinCheck Mobile App

[Reblog from Taubman Health Science Center Newsblog]

Cancer Tracking Goes Mobile

July 12, 2012 by irinazey

The sun is definitely shining brightly outside – do you know how your skin is affected?

University of Michigan Medical School and University of Michigan Health System have developed a free app to photograph your skin and monitor any suspicious moles or lesions in an effort to make skin cancer screening cheaper, faster, and more convenient for the average person.

Screenshots from UMSkinCheck

Under the supervision of lead developer Dr.  Michael Sabel, UMSkinCheck walks you through a full-body skin self-exam, lets you track moles/lesions for change over time, and set up notification reminders for recurring self-exams. It also comes loaded with information on sun safety and a risk calculator to help determine individual risk based on personalized data.

Read the full story from UMHS here or download the app free from the iTunes storehere.

On a related note, from A blog I follow ,As Our Parent Age- Timely Topics for Adult Children

“Yet another friend has skin cancer. She always used sun blocking lotions, but also enjoyed staying out in the sun for long periods. (I have her permission to write this much.)
My friend tells me that she now understands that sun blocks, no matter how effective or powerful, are only one piece of a skin protection puzzle. Staying out of direct sunlight during the the most intense times of the day is another large puzzle piece.”

This is a good blog to follow, I can’t express it any better than what the author states on the about page

 “As Our Parents Age is my effort to record the experiences of loving and living with aging parents, but it is also a vehicle to help my husband and me understand and learn more about aging parent caregiving. I am highlighting interesting issues, identifying high quality web resources, and sharing memories. Other posts are on topics that my husband and I would have liked to know more about at the beginning of our foray into the aging child – aging parent phase of life.”

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are All Fibers Created Equal?

Sapore High Barley Fibre Natural Barley Fettuccine

Sapore High Barley Fibre Natural Barley Fettuccine (Photo credit: avlxyz)

[Reblog from the 12 July 2012 post at


Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health]


Fiber can be classified as functional fiber, dietary fiber, and total fiber and all share the property of not being broken down by human digestive enzymes.  Dietary fiber like whole grains has many health benefits, like regulating blood glucose and decreasing blood cholesterol.  It also helps to create a feeling of fullness to aid in weight loss.   Dietary fiber comes in two forms — one form dissolves in water, the other doesn’t — and both are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains. “But these are foods that Americans just don’t eat enough of anymore”, says Mian Riaz, director of the Food Protein Research and Development Center at Texas A&M University in College Station.  Women and men younger than 50 need a total of about 25 grams or 38 grams, respectively of fiber per day.  People older than 50 need a few grams less.  But on average, American women get about 13 grams and men 17 grams, according to a 2005 report by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine.

Leave it to the food companies to come up with a solution with the functional fibers,  those added to foods by the manufacturer.   Every food producer seems to want to put some kind of fiber into their product these days, but there are some concerns and questions about whether some of the fibers added to foods have the same health effects on the body, as does dietary fiber.

A growing number of products, like Yoplait’s Fiber One yogurt,  are getting some or all of their fiber added with ingredients called inulin, maltodextrin and polydextrose.   Manufacturers add these to boost their product’s fiber content.  Inulin is commonly extracted from chicory root, so look for chicory root extract on the ingredient label.   Maltodextrin, are long chains of glucose strung together.

Polydextrose is synthesized from glucose and sorbitol.  These fibers are showing up products like yogurt or ice cream that never had any fiber in the first place. These fiber additives serve dual purposes—they can serve as bulking agents to make reduced-calorie products taste better, such as the case with Breyers fat-free ice cream, and carry an added appeal to consumers by showing up as dietary fiber on food labels. “They’re considered fiber because, like naturally occurring fiber, they’re resistant to digestion”, says Mary Ann Johnson, professor of foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia in Athens and a spokeswoman for the American Society for Nutrition.  “However, these functional fibers lack the array of vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants and plant chemicals found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables”, says Jennifer Anderson, professor of food science and human nutrition at Colorado State University in Fort Collin

“We just don’t know if they all act the same,” says Jennifer Nelson, director of clinical dietetics and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “They have not necessarily been studied to see if they’re beneficial.”

According to Food and Drug Administration guidelines, a food can be labeled a “good” source of fiber if a serving contains at least 2.5 grams of fiber and “high” in fiber if a serving contains at least 5 grams

“Don’t just look at the number [of fiber grams] or the health claims,” Nelson says. “Dig down into the ingredients.” Better yet, says Johnson, get as much dietary fiber as possible from whole foods.

There are some gastrointestinal drawbacks with the intake of some of these functional, added fibers.  See my previous post, entitled “Maybe It is Something You ate – Fructans”.

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , | Leave a comment

New Tech for Complex Micro Structures for Use in Sensors and Other Apps

John Fourkas, University of Maryland. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Maryland)

From the 13 July 2012 article at Science News Daily

University of Maryland Chemistry Professor John Fourkas and his research group have developed new materials and nanofabrication techniques for building miniaturized versions of components needed for medical diagnostics, sensors and other applications. These miniaturized components — many impossible to make with conventional techniques — would allow for rapid analysis at lower cost and with small sample volumes.

Fourkas and his team have created materials that allow the simultaneous 3D manipulation of microscopic objects using optical tweezers and a unique point-by-point method for lithography (the process of using light in etching silicon or other substrates to create chips and other electronic components). As they report in a research article published in the August issue of Chemical Science , the combination of these techniques allows them to assemble complex 3D structures from multiple microscopic components.

This work builds on earlier breakthroughs by Fourkas and his team in the use of visible light for making tiny structures for applications such as optical communications, controlling cell behavior and manufacturing integrated circuits.

“These materials have opened the door to a suite of new techniques for micro and nanofabrication,” says Fourkas. “For instance, we have been able to perform braiding and weaving with threads that have a diameter that is more than 100 times smaller than that of a human hair.” In the paper, Fourkas and his group also showcase 3D structures composed of glass microspheres, a microscopic tetherball pole, and a microscopic needle eye that has been threaded….

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

More than 16 million people with Medicare get free preventive services in 2012 Affordable Care Act made many preventive services no cost to beneficiaries (with link to a planning guide)

Affordable Care Act made many preventive services no cost to beneficiaries

From the 20 July 2012 article at the US Dept of Health and Human Services

The Affordable Care Act – the new health care law – helped over 16 million people with original Medicare get at least one preventive service at no cost to them during the first six months of 2012, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today.  This includes 1.35 million who have taken advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit provided by the Affordable Care Act.  In 2011, 32.5 million people in Medicare received one or more preventive benefits free of charge.

“Millions of Americans are getting cancer screenings, mammograms and other preventive services for free thanks to the health care law,” said Secretary Sebelius.  “These new benefits, made possible through the health care law, are helping people stay healthy by giving them the tools they need to prevent health problems before they happen.”

Prior to 2011, people with Medicare faced cost-sharing for many preventive benefits such as cancer screenings.  Through the Affordable Care Act, preventive benefits are offered free of charge to beneficiaries, with no deductible or co-pay, so that cost is no longer a barrier for seniors who want to stay healthy and treat problems early.

The law also added an important new service for people with Medicare — an Annual Wellness Visit with the doctor of their choice— at no cost to beneficiaries.

For more information on Medicare-covered preventive services, please visit:

To learn what screenings, vaccinations and other preventive services doctors recommend for you and those you care about, please visit the myhealthfinder tool at

Related articles

  • Half on Medicare in AZ use free preventive care (Rim Country Gazette)
  • Pennsylvania seniors with Medicare receive free screenings (Times-Tribune)
  • Michigan seniors strive to stay healthy (TheDailyReporter)
  • Ask Medicare Helps Caregivers Plan for the Future (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services)

    Baltimore, MD, June 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Now is an ideal time for caregivers to get organized, manage personal finances and plan for the future. Effective long-term planning can help bring peace of mind and is particularly important for the nation’s growing number of caregivers who must manage their own affairs while attending to the health and well-being of another. Nearly 66 million U.S. residents¹ provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aging family member or friend. This can involve:

    • Setting up doctor appointments for the many free, preventive services available to Medicare beneficiaries,
    • Reviewing drug plan coverage,
    • Planning for changes in in-home care needs, or
    • Preparing for a transition from the home to an assisted living or nursing home facility.

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services initiative, Ask Medicare, can help caregivers plan by offering a wealth of consumer-focused information, including personal stories from other caregivers on overcoming common challenges, a free e-newsletter, and decision-making tools addressing a range of health care issues. The “How Can you Plan for the Future?” checklist provides planning ideas.

July 14, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment


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