Posted by on May 20, 2015 - 11:18am

It is almost summer, which means many of you may be thinking about laying outside on the beach, by the pool, or in your backyard to soak up some sun! While being outside in the sun can help make us happier and help our bodies produce Vitamin D, sunlight can also cause a lot of damage to our skin, so much so that the most common type of cancer in the United States is skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 73,800 people in the United States will be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2015.

Sunlight travels to the Earth in both long and short waves. While long waves are harmless to humans, short waves, such as ultraviolet light, are harmful to people. Sunburns are caused when the human body is exposed to too much ultraviolet light from the sun. There are two major affects that this can have on the human body. The first is that too much exposure to these rays makes your skin thicker, leading to wrinkled, aged skin. The other affect that sunlight has is much more dangerous and severe: it can cause skin cancer.

When ultraviolet light enters the skin, it causes a disruption in the growth process of skin cells. This damage causes changes to the cells that make them grow and divide uncontrollably, leading to the growth of tumors, just like other forms of cancer. These typically appear as a small spot on your skin and can be sometimes hard to notice. The spots, however small, reach deep and invade the surrounding tissue. This can eventually cause the cancer to spread to other parts of your body, making it harder to cure.

The best way to protect your skin and help prevent skin cancer is to first limit your exposure to the sun. This includes avoiding long periods of time in the direct sunlight, choosing to sit in the shade, and wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen when you will be in the sun. Sunscreen is especially important as it can protect every inch of skin if used properly. Different sunscreens can be found in every drugstore and they come labeled in different sun protection factor (SPF) levels, from as low as 15 to as high as 75. An SPF labeling of 30, for instance, means it will take you 30 times as long to burn from the sun than if you were not wearing sunscreen at all.

Remember to be safe in the sun and protect your skin from wrinkles and disease!



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


National Cancer Institute

Posted by on May 13, 2015 - 12:30pm

 Manicures and pedicures used to be reserved for special occasions but they have now become a staple for all ages of women across the economic spectrum.    

 Two recent articles in the New York Times, have exposed the harsh reality of the price nail workers pay so we can have those ‘pretty toes’

 The first, a May 7th NYT article explores how salon workers are underpaid, mistreated and even abused.   This exploitation by salon owners mainly focuses on Asian and Hispanic immigrant workers.  The majority of them are paid below the minimum wage---if they are even paid!    Some salons charge new employees a fee during their ‘training period’ and even when they are paid, many report wages as low at $1.50 an hour with no overtime pay.   Some salons skim tips and dock workers for mishaps that they may or may not have caused.

 The second NYT article,  focuses on the growing number of health problems reported by salon workers that may be due to the environmental dangers associated with the ingredients found in nail polishes and other beauty products.  There is more and more evidence showing a link between chemicals used by the industry to health problems including  miscarriages, respiratory diseases, cancer and abnormal fetal development.  Research on these issues is long overdue and organizations that work with immigrants are demanding more.  Laws that regulate the beauty industry are weak and outdated. Unfortunately, the beauty industry manufacturers are fighting more stringent regulations which may cut profits.

 Read the articles –they are truly enlightening and troublesome!   It is a classic example of exploiting the most vulnerable for the benefit of those with money to spend on personal pleasures.

 What can we do??    Ask a few questions about the salon you visit ---especially if it has really cheap prices (an indication that they DO NOT pay well).  If it looks like the workers are being exploited, report it and stop patronizing that place.    Give your tips in cash directly to your manicurist (not to a tip jar or on your credit card). 

 Well groomed nails are an important part of our personal hygiene plan and we all like a bargain.   But take a good look at the working conditions of your salon, ask a few questions, and only support salons that treat their staff well---even if it costs a few dollars more.  

Posted by on May 10, 2015 - 9:55am

This June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will release a revision to prescription guidelines--the first since 1979.   These new guidelines will provide  up-to-date and specific information to doctors about the risks and benefits of medication that pregnant women may need to control other conditions.   The rule of thumb over the years has just been to tough it out and not take any medicines that may (or may not) hurt the mother or the fetus. Research in this area is limited because pregnant women are excluded from most drug trials.  Dr. Katherine Wisner, WHRI Leadership Council Member and expert on mood disorders at Northwestern U, "Pregnant women get sick and sex women get pregnant.   But somehow we have created this myth of the medication-free pregnancy."   We've all heard stories about pregnant women who have serious depression and stop their meds---harming themselves or their baby because their condition is out of control. 

The old system used a scoring system of A, B, C, D, and X with ' X" being the most dangerous.  The new system will have three components:

  • Information on dosing and risks to the fetus
  • Known risks about the drug's impact on breast feeding (e.g. will it concentrate in the milk)
  • Drug's impact on fertility.

According to the CDC, about 90% of pregnant women are on at least one prescribed or OTC medication.  Providing doctors more labeling information with help them determine safe options for treatment and help women have a healthier pregnancy.. 

Read more in the Chicago Tribune.

Posted by on May 7, 2015 - 1:46pm

Spring finally came to the Midwest this weekend and like many homeowners, it was time to check out my garden and see what perennials survived the long winter.   As I washed up after clearing dead foliage, I ran my hand at the back of my head and felt a small "scab"...but soon found out it was a little reddish tick that had not yet embedded in my skin and was alive and well!!

So, all you outdoor types, it is time to start tick patrol!    Lyme disease--spread by tick bites,  is the most common occurring vector-borne disease in the United States.  An estimated 300,000 infections occur each year only about 10% get reported by state health departments.    The risk is greatest in New England, the mid- Atlantic states and the upper Midwest (my cottage is in the Indiana Dunes--- a hotbed for ticks!).

Here are a few ways to protect yourself:

  • Avoid tall grassy and wooded areas
  • Use a repellent with DEET (skin and clothing--up to 20% concentrate)  or permethrin (clothing and gear)
  • Perform daily tick checks then you come inside.  Be sure to check under the arms, around the ears, belly button, back of knees, around all body hair, between legs and around waist.
  • Remove any tick (
  • If you find a tick that has been attached to your skin for 24 hours or more, after removal, continue to check for any rashes especially one that looks like a bullet target and see a health provider if you do.
  • Check your family pets and if you are in a woody area, consider a tick collar.
  • Modify your landscape making it less desirable for ticks (remove litter, clear vegetation around your patio, etc.)
  • Don't encourage deer to hang out on your property...they are pretty, but adult ticks thrive on them!
  • Remember, they are very tiny and easy to miss!

 To learn more about Lyme disease visit:

With some precautions, enjoy the summer!






Posted by on May 5, 2015 - 12:32pm

An estimated 300 million people worldwide are living with asthma, a chronic disease that inflames and narrows the airways of the lungs, causing wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. Globally, an estimated 15 million years of life are lost each year due to asthma-related disability or early death. Asthma is a leading cause of hospitalization and missed school and work days in the United States, and managing the condition can be costly for families and health care systems.


To learn more about asthma, visit the CDC site:

Posted by on April 30, 2015 - 9:49am

Interesting in learning about men's health issues?   Join Northwestern Medicine Physicians as they discuss men's health at a free seminar.  Spouses and partners are welcome.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
5:15 pm - 8 pm
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Feinberg Pavilion, 3rd Floor
251 E. Huron Street

Space limited.   Register on line at or call 312-926-7975

Date & Time: 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - 5:15pm to 8:00pm
Posted by on April 27, 2015 - 8:52am

The percentage of women faculty at medical schools has greatly increased in the past two decades, but women are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions. This report provides a snapshot of the number of women in leadership positions at U.S. medical schools. The authors conclude by suggesting that institutions strive to increase representation of women in leadership positions, arguing that doing so would result in significant organizational and productivity benefits.

Posted by Diana Lautenbreger, Claudia Raezer, and Susan Bunton in February 2015 for the Association of American Medical Colleges

Posted by on April 24, 2015 - 9:39am

The Women's Health Research Institute has teamed up with North American leaders to advocate for sex inclusion in basic research.   Teresa K Woodruff, PhD, director of WHRI, and Melina R Kibbe, MD, WHRI Leadership Council member and vascular surgeon have joined nine other academic leaders in sex based medicine on an opinion piece entitled Sex inclusion in basic research drives discovery.  Published in the April 2015 edition of PNAS the article reinforces why sex inclusion is one of "most underappeciated differences in biomedical research".   It addresses the objections that have been made against inclusion of females in preclinical research by naysayers who are resisting a more equitable policy.  

While most of the discussion on this topic has revolved around biological sex differences, this article begins the discussion of the complex interdependency of sex and gender in animal research.

This article emerged from a workshop held at Stanford University in September 2014.  Besides Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, the other authors represent John Hopkins, Stanford U, U of California Irvine, U of Toronto, Georgia State, U of Maryland, McGill U, U of California Berkeley.

Posted by on April 22, 2015 - 8:43am

We need a certain amount of fat in our diets to stay healthy. Fats provide needed energy in the form of calories. Fats help our bodies absorb important vitamins—called fat-soluble vitamins—including vitamins A, D and E. Fats also make foods more flavorful and help us feel full. Fats are especially important for infants and toddlers, because dietary fat contributes to proper growth and development.

“Fats are really the most concentrated source of energy in the foods we eat, and our bodies need that energy,” says NIH nutritionist Dr. Margaret McDowell. “Fats are truly an essential nutrient.”

Problems arise, though, if we eat too much fat. Dietary fats have more than twice as many calories per gram as either proteins or carbohydrates like sugar and starch. Excess calories, of course, can pack on the pounds and raise your risk for diabetes, cancer and other conditions.

“Some fats are better for our bodies than others,” McDowell says. “We should really aim to eat the right types of fats.”

 Unsaturated fats are considered “good” fats. They’re sometimes listed as “monounsaturated” and “polyunsaturated” fat on Nutrition Facts labels. These can promote health if eaten in the right amounts. They are generally liquid at room temperature, and are known as oils. You’ll find healthful unsaturated fats in fish, nuts and most vegetable oils, including canola, corn, olive and safflower oils.

The so-called “bad” fats are saturated fats and trans fats. They tend to be solid at room temperature. Solid fats include butter, meat fats, stick margarine, shortening, and coconut and palm oils. They’re often found in chocolates, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods.

“When we eat too many solid fats, we put our bodies at risk. These fats tend to raise total blood cholesterol, as well as the part of cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol),” says McDowell.  LDL can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries and cardiovascular problems.

Experts say that the total fat intake for adults ages 19 and older should be 20% to 35% of the calories eaten each day. For children ages 4 to 18, it should be 25% to 35%.  Less that 10% of our fat calories should come from saturated fatty acids.

Other NIH-funded research found that, when it comes to weight loss, the source of calories—whether from fat, protein or carbohydrate—isn’t as important as the number of calories you consume. But when it comes to risk factors for heart disease, replacing some carbohydrates with protein or unsaturated fats can greatly improve blood cholesterol. In a specialized diet designed to lower blood pressure, using unsaturated fats in place of some carbohydrates boosted blood levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and caused a more healthful drop in blood pressure. 

Source:  National Institutes of Health

Posted by on April 20, 2015 - 8:09am

Current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). Findings from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that current e-cigarette use (use on at least 1 day in the past 30 days) among high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014, rising from approximately 660,000 to 2 million students. Among middle school students, current e-cigarette use more than tripled from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014—an increase from approximately 120,000 to 450,000 students.

This is the first time since the survey started collecting data on e-cigarettes in 2011 that current e-cigarette use has surpassed current use of every other tobacco product overall, including conventional cigarettes. E-cigarettes were the most used tobacco product for non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic other race while cigars were the most commonly used product among non-Hispanic blacks.

“We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.”

Hookah smoking roughly doubled for middle and high school students, while cigarette use declined among high school students and remained unchanged for middle school students. Among high school students, current hookah use rose from 5.2 percent in 2013 (about 770,000 students) to 9.4 percent in 2014 (about 1.3 million students).

The increases in e-cigarette and hookah use offset declines in use of more traditional products such as cigarettes and cigars. There was no decline in overall tobacco use between 2011 and 2014. Overall rates of any tobacco product use were 24.6 percent for high school students and 7.7 percent for middle school students in 2014.

“In today’s rapidly evolving tobacco marketplace, the surge in youth use of novel products like e-cigarettes forces us to confront the reality that the progress we have made in reducing youth cigarette smoking rates is being threatened,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “These staggering increases in such a short time underscore why FDA intends to regulate these additional products to protect public health.”

This report concludes that further reducing youth tobacco use and initiation is achievable through regulation of the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products coupled with proven strategies.  Several states have passed laws establishing a minimum age for purchase of e-cigarettes or extending smoke-free laws to include e-cigarettes, both of which could help further prevent youth use and initiation.

For broadcast-quality video and audio clips featuring FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products Director Mitch Zeller speaking about the findings from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, visit