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Health Capsules: March 6

Watching a lot of TV linked to higher colorectal cancer risk

Sedentary habits like daily TV watching may increase adults’ risk of getting colorectal cancer at younger ages.

As the nation marks Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, Washington University School of Medicine researchers have just published a new study showing that younger people who spend a lot of time on their couches watching TV may be at increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancers. 

While the incidence of colorectal cancer has decreased dramatically among adults over 50 in recent years, largely due to better screening, it is on the rise among younger Americans – and the medical community does not yet understand why. Earlier onset colorectal cancers also tend to be more aggressive and found at later stages than those in older patients, resulting in less favorable outcomes and more loss of life.

The Wash U researchers specifically compared data on average daily TV viewing time with diagnoses of colorectal cancers in under-50 adults, using information from more than 89,000 American women participating in the long-term Nurses’ Health Study II. They found that more than one hour of sedentary TV viewing time every day was associated with a 12 percent increased risk of cancer, compared with those who watched less than an hour. The results were far more dramatic for those who watched more than two hours each day, who had a nearly 70 percent increase in risk.

The relationship between time spent watching TV and early cancer held regardless of individual exercise levels and body mass index [BMI], and was consistently seen among women with no family history of colorectal cancer. The association was also more pronounced for rectal cancer compared to colon cancer.

“This study may help identify those at high risk and who might benefit more from early screening,” said Yin Cao, assistant professor of surgery and a study co-author. “The fact that these results were independent of BMI and physical activity suggests that being sedentary may be an altogether distinct risk factor for young-onset colorectal cancer.”

Health officials on alert as measles outbreak grows

Measles is emerging as a threat in the U.S. once again in 2019, with spread of the disease among unvaccinated children as the primary cause.

As of mid-February, more than 125 cases of measles have already been diagnosed among Americans in 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] recently reported. The largest cluster of cases to date this year is in the state of Washington, where the number of confirmed cases now exceeds 60. 

Because measles can spread quickly when it reaches a community where groups of people are unvaccinated, the potential for a larger U.S. outbreak is prompting warning calls from health officials. Children who receive the required two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella [MMR] vaccine receive 97 percent protection against the disease.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through the air via coughing and sneezing. Symptoms such as high fever, rash all over the body, stuffy nose and reddened eyes usually disappear without treatment within two or three weeks. However, complications such as ear infections, diarrhea and pneumonia do commonly occur, especially among children younger than 5 years old. One of every four measles victims will require hospitalization, and one or two out of every 1,000 children who get measles will die from complications, according to the CDC.

Although measles was declared eradicated from the U.S. in 2000, outbreaks have re-emerged in recent years. The CDC believes these cases have originated with international travelers who have either visited or returned to the U.S. after being exposed. In 2018, 349 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 26 states, including Missouri – marking the second largest number of annual cases reported since measles was officially eliminated.

On the calendar

St. Louis Children’s Hospital offers a Young Athlete Center Bridge Program on Thursday, March 14 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at its Young Athlete Center located in the Children’s Specialty Care Center, 13001 N. Outer Forty Road in Town & Country, Suite 350. This workout class is designed to target muscle groups commonly associated with injuries among younger athletes, and train neuromuscular responses to coordinate movement and strengthen muscles in proper alignment. The class is led by expert physical therapists and athletic trainers from the Young Athlete Center. The fee is $25 per child; please register using the child’s name. Register online at https://classes-events.bjc.org.

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BJC St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors Babysitting 101 on Saturday, March 16 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Children’s Specialty Care Center, 13001 N. Outer Forty Road in Town & Country, in the third floor conference room. This class is a great introduction to the basics of babysitting; kids learn how to entertain the children in their care while attending to their needs. Topics covered include the business of babysitting, child development, safety and first aid, and fun and games. A snack will be served. The course fee is $30. Registration is required and is available online at https://classes-events.bjc.org. 

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St. Luke’s Hospital sponsors You Can Manage It – Prevent Diabetes From Controlling Your Life on Tuesday, March 19 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Desloge Outpatient Center, 11 St. Luke’s Center Drive in Chesterfield, in Building A. The goal of this program is to empower people living with diabetes to take charge of their health, by providing the information and resources needed for a successful diabetes self-management plan. Attendance is free. Register online at stlukes-stl.com.

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St. Luke’s Hospital and Dierbergs Markets co-sponsor Learn to Shop for a Healthier You on Wednesday, March 27 from 10-11:30 a.m. at Dierbergs Des Peres, 1080 Lindemann Road. Join a St. Luke’s dietitian for a store tour that will focus on how to make better choices, read labels and plan meals. Tour will meet at the store’s School of Cooking. The cost is $5, but all participants will receive a $5 Dierbergs gift card at the end of the tour. To register, visit Dierbergs.com or call (314) 238-0440.

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