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Study: Aspirin after mini-stroke dramatically reduces chances of major stroke


A new study suggests that taking aspirin immediately following a mini-stroke significantly reduces a person's chances of suffering a major stroke. Using data from around 56,000 individuals, the study researchers found that if aspirin is taken after a mini-stroke - also called a transient ischemic attack, or TIA - the risk of experiencing a disabling or fatal stroke over the coming days and weeks is reduced, in some cases, by as much as 80 percent. Immediately following a mini-stroke, a person's risk of a major stroke is 1,000 times higher than that of the general population, the researchers noted. Lead researcher Peter Rothwell, a professor and stroke expert at the University of Oxford in England, said: "Our findings confirm the effectiveness of urgent treatment after TIA and minor stroke, and show that aspirin is the most important component. Immediate treatment with aspirin can substantially reduce the risk and severity of early recurrent stroke." He added that the findings have implications for doctors, who should give aspirin whenever a TIA or minor stroke is suspected. Mini-strokes and major strokes often exhibit similar symptoms, which include: Numbness or muscle weakness that usually affects one side of the body Difficulty speaking or understanding speech Dizziness or loss of balance Double vision or difficulty seeing in one or both eyes The study was published on May 18 in The Lancet.

France Surgery wins again at IMTJ Medical Travel Awards


France Surgery was extremely proud and pleased to be named 'Medical Travel Agency of the Year' in 2015 at the International Medical Travel Journal's (IMTJ, annual awards ceremony. This year's IMTJ Medical Travel Awards recently took place at the Hotel Melia Avenida America in Madrid, and coincided with the larger IMTJ Medical Travel Summit. France Surgery was competing this year in the 'Best Marketing Initiative' category, so a small team made the short journey to Madrid to attend the awards ceremony. The Best Marketing Initiative category recognises companies that use marketing to effectively promote medical tourism to prospective medical travellers. France Surgery was being judged on its latest initiative “Your Recovery Path", and it's with much happiness that we can reveal we were 'highly commended' in the category (first runners up). It's a fantastic achievement, which highlights all the hard work that everyone here has undertaken over the past year, and being recognised by such a prestigious organisation is reward enough for us.

Low-salt diets could be bad for your heart, says study


It's been widely accepted for some time that a high-salt diet may increase a person's risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. But now a new study has found that a low-salt diet may also be just as dangerous. Published in The Lancet, the findings of the study suggest that people who have a low salt or sodium intake may be increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, compared to those who have an average intake. In fact, the study, which was conducted by researchers at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, says that the only people who should look to reduce their salt consumption are those with high blood pressure. Furthermore, the researchers say that current salt consumption guidelines may be too low, and should be reviewed going forward. At present, it is recommended that Americans consume no more than 2,300mg of salt each day, which is about 1 teaspoon. However, around 90% of US adults exceed this recommendation on a regular basis, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released earlier this year. On the other hand, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends people eat between 5 and 6g of salt each day. The lead author of the study, Andrew Mente, said: "While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension, it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels." Despite the study focusing on 130,000 people across 49 countries, its methods have been criticised by experts, while others have questioned the study's findings. The bottom line? Salt should be consumed in moderation, and people with high blood pressure should seek specific medical advice to find out what is best for them.

Superbugs could kill more than 10 million by 2050


By 2050, superbugs will kill someone every three seconds unless the world acts now. That's the stark warning to come out of a highly-influential new report from the UK. According to the British government-commissioned review, medicine risks "being cast back into the dark ages", and only billions of dollars of investment can save the world from these so-called "superbugs". The global review sets out a plan to prevent this from happening, and calls for a massive campaign to revolutionise the way in which people use antibiotics. At present, the problem is two-fold: we are not developing enough new antibiotics and we are currently misusing the ones we do have. Since mid-2014, when the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance started, more than one million people have died from infections that are resistant to drugs. What's more worrying is that the review predicts that the situation will only get worse, with 10 million people per year predicted to die from resistant infections by 2050. Jim O'Neill, the economist who led the review, said: "If we don't do something, we're heading towards a world where there will be no antibiotics available to treat people who need them." Last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron asked O'Neill to conduct a full review of the problem and suggest ways to combat it. O'Neill's final report - which you can access here - identifies 10 areas that require action from world leaders. Infections that shouldn't be treated with antibiotics include: colds, flu, most coughs and bronchitis, some sore throats, many sinus infections and many ear infections.

Alcohol and high blood pressure not a good mix for you heart


For someone with high blood pressure, drinking alcohol - even just small amounts - can impact how the lower left chamber of the heart functions, according to a new study from Italy. Researchers found that if a person has high blood pressure, even consuming as little as an ounce of alcohol a day can affect the chamber of the heart that pumps blood to the rest of the body. Lead researcher Dr. Leonardo Sechi said: "Because even moderate alcohol consumption increases occurrence of early functional cardiac changes in patients with [high blood pressure], reduction of use of alcoholic beverages might be beneficial for prevention of cardiac complications in these patients." At present, the cause of this heart damage remains unknown, and further studies will be needed to uncover the exact cause-and-effect relationship, said Sechi. A staggering one-third of US adults have high blood pressure (also referred to as hypertension) today, and it accounts for approximately 1,000 deaths per day in the country. The researchers discovered that the study participants who consumed the most alcohol had thicker left ventricular walls, which stiffened the chamber making it function less effectively. Basically, the more people drank the more difficulty their hearts had filling with blood in between each heartbeat. It should be noted that until the results are published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be considered preliminary.

More obese people in the UK should undergo weight loss surgery, say surgeons


Surgeons in the UK have said that the number of weight loss operations performed on the NHS each year needs to rise dramatically, so that people become healthier and the health service itself saves money. Writing recently in the British Medical Journal, the bariatric surgeons said that less than 1% of people who could benefit from weight loss surgery are getting treatment, and the numbers are actually dropping, despite rising rates of obesity and diabetes. [Related article: Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes] The surgeons also highlighted that the UK is lagging behind its European counterparts when it comes to weight loss surgery, and that there are 2.6 million people in the country who stand to benefit from surgery. According to the surgeons, people who have stomach shrinking operations lose 25-35% of their body weight, on average, in just a year. In comparison, the average loss through diets and weight loss drugs is just 7% a year. It's thought that a quarter of adults in the UK are now classified as obese - the second highest rate in Europe behind Hungary - and this reality is putting a huge strain on NHS resources and funds. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has previously indicated that surgery should be considered for severely obese people who have unsuccessfully tried all other means to lose weight. Find out more about bariatric surgery with us in France here.

Manmade 'second skin' can hide wrinkles


Skin wrinkles, eye bags and other physical signs of aging are inevitable parts of life. But now scientists say they have developed an invisible elastic film which can be applied to a person's skin to reduce the appearance of such aging signs. According to an article published on Nature Materials, the "second skin" dries to form a film which "mimics the properties of youthful skin". At present, the scientists say the skin-like film is being explored for commercial cosmetic applications. However, they are not ruling out the possibility that it could be used in the future for delivering medication and sun protection. The team, comprising scientists from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, say their prototype product has been tested on the forearms, legs and under-eye bags of a number of volunteers. As people age, their skin becomes less elastic and less firm, so doesn't appear as taut or youthful as it once did. The second skin effectively locks in moisture and helps boost the elasticity of a person's skin, making it appear firmer, smoother and less wrinkly. Dr Tamara Griffiths from the British Association of Dermatologists, said: "The results [with the polymer film] appear to be comparable to surgery, without the associated risks. Further research is needed, but this is a novel and very promising approach to a common problem. I will follow its development with interest."

Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes


Last year, we told you about the benefits to your gut of following a Mediterranean diet. Now, research published in the European Heart Journal says that a Mediterranean diet is better for people with heart disease than avoiding what's considered unhealthy in the so-called 'Western diet'. The new research shows that a Mediterranean diet, which includes large amounts of fruit, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods, can decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack in people who already have heart disease. Likewise, the study found that avoiding the unhealthy aspects of a Western diet, such as sweets, sugary drinks and deep-fried foods, also reduced a person's risk of cardiac issues. For the study, researchers from Auckland City Hospital at the University of Auckland in New Zealand analysed the dietary data of some 15,482 people with stable coronary artery disease across 39 countries globally. They found that fewer heart attacks and strokes were witnessed among those people who eat Mediterranean foods. In fact, for every 100 people eating Mediterranean foods, there were three fewer strokes, heart attacks or deaths than seen among the 100 people who consumed the least amount of healthy foods. Lead researcher Prof. Ralph Stewart said: "The research suggests we should place more emphasis on encouraging people with heart disease to eat more healthy foods, and perhaps focus less on avoiding unhealthy foods."

Scientists hail 'milestone' breast cancer breakthrough


A team of international scientists has managed to produce a near-perfect picture of the genetic events that precede and cause breast cancer in women. The study, which was published in the journal Nature, has been described by the study leader as a "milestone", which could potentially lead the way for new treatments and therapies to be developed to combat the disease. Cancer Research UK said that the findings of the study were an important stepping stone for developing new drugs for the treatment of breast cancer. In what has so far been the largest study of its kind - in which researchers analysed all 3 billion letters of people's genetic code, in 560 breast cancers - all of the errors which result in otherwise healthy breast tissue turning rogue were successfully unpicked. Prof Sir Mike Stratton, director of the Sanger Institute in Cambridge (which led the study), said it was a "milestone" in cancer research. He added the study's findings would allow universities, biotech and pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that target the mutated genes and their proteins that cause breast cancer. "There are now many drugs that have been developed over the last 15 years against such targets which we know work," he said. One of the downsides of the study is that while the scientists have identified the mutations that cause breast cancer, the origins of many are still very much unknown. Nevertheless, many experts believe the study is a step closer to the development of personalised health care for breast cancer.

Study: Childhood obesity in US remains high


From 1999 to 2014, rates of severe obesity among kids in the US climbed, highlighting that the issue still very much continues to plague American children today. Examining national data over the 15-year period, researchers found that a third of children in the US aged between two and 19 were overweight. They also found, more worryingly, that nearly a quarter were obese and two per cent severely obese. Lead researcher Asheley Skinner, from the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, N.C., said: "Despite other recent reports, all categories of obesity have increased from 1999 to 2014, and there is no evidence of a decline in the last few years." Skinner added that there are currently 4.5 million obese kids in the US who urgently need treatment because they have a heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, compared with children their age who are not obese. "Unless we make big changes on a national level, we're not going to see huge changes in obesity," Skinner said. By changing school lunches; increasing opportunities for physical activity, and allowing parents access to more healthy food options, the problem of childhood obesity can be tackled head-on, according to Skinner. The study, the results of which were published in the journal Obesity, also found that rates of obesity were higher in black and hispanic children, suggesting these groups need particular help going forward to combat the problem.

France Surgery confirmed as finalist at 2016 IMTJ awards


Last year, at the International Medical Travel Journal's (IMTJ) annual awards ceremony, France Surgery was named ‘Medical Travel Agency of the Year 2015’. It was a huge honour for us and fantastic recognition for all the hard work we've been doing over the years to help people benefit from the world-class healthcare facilities in France. And now it's with great pleasure that we can announce that France Surgery has once again been nominated for an award at the IMTJ's awards dinner and ceremony on May 24th 2016 in Madrid. This year, France Surgery is being recognised for its unique recovery offer and that has seen us become finalists in the 'Best Marketing Initiative' category. Introducing... De-Light concept at the Sofitel Quiberon Diététique.                Image credit: Sofitel Quiberon Diététique- © Eric Cuvillier et STramier Nestled opposite Belle-Ile-en-Mer Island in beautiful Brittany, Sofitel Quiberon Diététique features a unique combination of treatments delivered in a pioneering Thalassotherapy Institute, which is world-renowned for its specialised gourmet diet cuisine. Being the only five-star hotel in France totally dedicated to slimming, this resort offers treatment programs for every type of weight loss project, combining a large range of expertise, innovative treatments and state-of-the-art techniques. At Le Delight restaurant, Head Chef Patrick Jarno, the expert of diet gastronomy, creates sensory, gourmet, yet light dishes. Working with a team of dietitians, he has spent over 30 years proving that healthy eating can be truly delicious and satisfying. Surrounded by care and attention, you will discover a totally unique approach: the 5Ps of slimming: The Pleasure of a sensory and gourmet gastronomy Personalised support The Preventive and curative properties of seawater Predictive care through tests and check-ups in order to better take care of your vitality, sleep and beauty A Participative stay to take control of your weight loss and overall health Wait no more and join us for a wonderful voyage to a peaceful peninsula; hugged by wild beaches and the Atlantic Ocean, where you can detox and tone your body with personalised treatments and support.

Nuts linked to reduction in colon cancer risk


New research from South Korea shows that a nut-rich diet can reduce a person's risk of developing colon cancer. It adds to the list of health benefits already associated with nuts, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and obesity. According to the findings of the research, which was conducted by a team at Seoul National University College of Medicine, eating a serving of nuts three or more times per week appeared to have a big impact on risk. This reduction was noted in both men and women. For the study, a serving of nuts was considered to be 15g, which is actually significantly smaller than serving sizes found across the world. And while many types of nuts were used for the study, the majority of participants consumed peanuts - presumably because of their availability in South Korea. Men who ate three or more servings of nuts every week were found to have a 69% lower risk of colon cancer than those who didn't. The risk reduction in women was even greater, with 81% found to have a lower risk. Also worthy of note is the fact that the researchers discovered that nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk across all of the different areas where colon cancer is seen and different types of colon cancer. So if nuts aren't a part of your regular diet, perhaps they should be...

New e-skin can monitor heart rate and blood oxygen level


Scientists have developed an ultra-thin electronic skin that can monitor a person's oxygen levels when it is stuck on their body. Researchers in Japan say that the new "e-skin" could be developed further to monitor how much oxygen individual organs have during surgery. The device itself contains micro-electronic components, which illuminate light-emitting diodes on the person's body in red, blue or green depending on the blood oxygen level and heart rate. However, the scientists behind the innovation at the University of Tokyo are hoping to adapt this going forward, so that numbers and letters can be displayed on the e-skin too. Just 2 micrometres thick, the e-skin is constructed from alternating layers of silicon oxynitrite and parylene. According to the researchers, special electrodes placed between the layers allow the polymer light-emitting diodes and organic photodetectors to be attached to the skin. Medical research is pinning a lot on the future of wearable technology, and the e-skin is proof that serious advances are being made. "The device unobtrusively measures the oxygen concentration of blood when laminated on a finger," said lead researcher Tomoyuki Yokota and colleagues. He added: "Ultimately, flexible organic optical sensors may be directly laminated on organs to monitor the blood oxygen level during and after surgery." For more information about this staggering innovation, read the full paper in the journal Science Advances.

Womb cancer rise likely due to obesity


Cancer Research UK has warned that rising levels of obesity could be fuelling an increase in the number of women diagnosed with cancer of the womb. According to figures released by the charity, 19 in every 100,000 women in the UK were found to have the disease in the 1990s. However, this figure had risen to 29 in 100,000 by 2013. It's thought that hormones associated with carrying extra fat could be playing a part in this rise, but researchers have acknowledged that this still remains unclear and that more studies are needed. Each year in the UK, approximately 9,000 women are diagnosed with womb cancer and 2,000 die from the disease. Nevertheless, treatments are improving and higher survival rates today reflect this. But researchers are still concerned why more women are getting the disease nowadays than before. Cancer Research UK's Prof Jonathan Lederman said: "It is worrying that womb cancer cases are going up so sharply. "We don't know all the reasons why, but we do know that about a third of cases are linked to being overweight - so it is no surprise to see the increases in womb cancer cases echo rising obesity levels." The exact causes of womb cancer remain unclear, but experts believe that extra fat may produce hormones which could increase the chances of tumours forming. Other risk factors include: lack of exercise, age and genetics. Being overweight increases a person's risk of developing some cancers, which is why it's important to get regular exercise and keep an eye on portion sizes, as well as sugar and fat intake.

People with 'superhero DNA' are resistant to severe inherited diseases


A study of almost 600,000 people has found that some individuals are born with "superhero DNA", which has the ability to cancel out certain diseases such as cystic fibrosis. According to the findings of the US research, 13 people from the study group were found to be resistant to severe inherited diseases. The hope is that there could be more people across the world and that their DNA could lead to life-changing new treatments being developed. The 13 unnamed individuals were found to carry genetic mutations which are linked to a number of childhood diseases. However, against the odds, they all remained healthy. But the researchers do not know who these people are because of the anonymity issues associated with studying DNA stored in data banks. Each one of the 13 should have been susceptible to so-called Mendelian disorders, which usually begin in early childhood and are the result of defects in a single gene. Cystic fibrosis is an example of a Mendelian disorder. "Millions of years of evolution have produced far more protective mechanisms than we currently understand," said Dr Eric Schadt from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The findings of the study were recently published in Nature Biotechnology.

Walnuts can keep age-related health issues at bay


People have long lauded the health benefits of eating walnuts, but now a new study has found that consuming them on a daily basis can help keep age-related health issues at bay. This week, at a health conference in San Diego, the initial findings of the two-year Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study were presented. Involving some 707 healthy adults - who were split into two groups - the clinical trial saw one group eating walnuts for 15% of their daily calorific intake, while the other group ate none. After a year, both groups were found to have gained a similar amount of weight and have similar levels of triglycerides and HDL (otherwise known as 'good' cholesterol). However, the walnut-eating group experienced significant LDL (or 'bad') cholesterol reductions. Dr Emilio Ros, the director of the Lipid clinic, Endocrinology & Nutrition Service at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, which carried out the research in conjunction with Loma Linda University, said: "Acquiring the good fats and other nutrients from walnuts while keeping adiposity at bay and reducing blood cholesterol levels are important to overall nutritional well-being of ageing adults. "It’s encouraging to see that eating walnuts may benefit this particular population." The researchers now want to see whether walnuts have a positive impact on other age-related health issues, such as macular degeneration and cognitive decline.

April is testicular cancer awareness month


April is testicular cancer awareness month, so there really is no better time to talk about two of a man's most important assets than right now. Testicular cancer is actually quite different to other cancers in that it is particularly common in younger people, affecting men aged between 15 and 35. This year alone in the US, the American Cancer Society estimates that 8,720 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed and just over 4% (380) of these individuals will die as a result. Advice from medical professionals is simple: men should check themselves for anything abnormal every month. The most common symptom is a painless lump the testicle, but other symptoms can include discomfort; a dull ache; and or an unusually heavy feeling in the scrotum. Of course, if you're not quite sure whether a lump is normal or not, consult your medical professional as soon as possible. And it really is important that men check on a regular basis because the good news is that the rate of survival for testicular cancer - if the disease is found early - is around 95%. Did you know that a man's testicles can create upwards of 200 million sperm every single day? That's why men should take the time to look after these amazing organs.

Fruit Juices and Healthy smoothies have 'unacceptably high' levels of sugar


Many parents try to prevent their kids from consuming too many soft drinks and opt instead for 'healthy' smoothies and natural fruit juices. But new research published in the online journal BMJ Open, shows that many of these so-called healthy options can contain as much as 13mg/100ml of sugar, which is the equivalent of 2.5 tsps in a 3.5oz serving - roughly two-thirds of a child's recommended daily intake. In fact, the research paper goes so far as to describe the sugar levels found in some natural juices, smoothies and fruit drinks as "unacceptably high". The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 3-4 tsps of sugar per day for children and 5 tsps for teenagers. It's a similar story in the UK, where NHS guidelines state no more than 4 tsps for children (aged 4-6) and 5 tsps at age 7-1o. However, according to Yale Health, the average American consumes a whopping 22 tsps of added sugar every single day. For teenagers, this figure is even higher at 34 tsps. Is it any surprise, though, when you consider that a single can of soda contains around 10 tsps alone. The researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and London in the UK found that 40% of the 203 products they analysed contained more than 4 tsps of sugar; made up largely of "free" sugars - those added by the drink producer and not occurring naturally. However, when quizzed about his team's findings, Dr. Simon Capewell's advice was that people shouldn't reduce their fruit intake. "No. Fruit is very good for the health. Vegetables likewise. Indeed, we would recommend unlimited fruit and vegetables," he said. The team does recommend consuming fruit whole, though, and not just in juice form.

Study: American heart attack victims now younger and fatter


A new study has revealed that heart attack victims in the United States are becoming younger and fatter. Over the past two decades alone, the average age of people suffering the deadliest heart attacks has fallen from 64 to 60, and obesity has been implicated in 40% of the most severe, according to researchers at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. In addition, heart attack sufferers nowadays are more likely to be smokers and people with high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), compared to 20 years ago. It's a reality that is raising alarm bells. "Lifestyle changes to reduce weight, eat right, exercise and quit smoking are critical for prevention of heart attack," said senior researcher Dr. Samir Kapadia, an an interventional cardiologist in the Cleveland Clinic Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Kapadia added that the responsibility for making these lifestyle changes should be shared between the patient and their medical doctor, and the issue discussed at routine checkups. The study focused on analysing heart disease risk factors among more than 3,900 patients; all of whom had been treated for an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). One of the most severe types of heart attack, STEMIs often result in disability or death and occur when the heart's main artery is completely blocked by plaque. The results of the study are scheduled to be presented on April 4 at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in Chicago.

Cancer scans offer safer alternative to surgery


A new study suggests that hundreds of thousands of cancer patients could be spared from risky surgery if scanners rather than scalpels are used to check tumours. At present, head and neck tumours are treated using chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, once treatment has finished, surgery is required to visually check whether the growth has disappeared. This involves an operation that can take up to three hours and sees patients needing at least a week in hospital to recover. Furthermore, the operation can leave patients disfigured and/or risk nerve damage, which can lead to movement problems in the arms. A study of 564 patients, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 80% of patients could be spared surgery by undergoing cancer scans instead. Even more intriguing is the fact that survival rates remained the same. Using a radioactive dye, which is picked up by rapidly-dividing cancer cells, Positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) can see if cancer in the head or neck is still active following treatment. Speaking to the BBC, Prof Hisham Mehanna, from the University of Birmingham, said: "We can now use this new technology to save patients having a debilitating operation and identify those that need the operation rather than give it to everybody." The scanning approach is also good news for the NHS as it saves around £1,492 per patient.

Alcohol linked to breast cancer-causing gene


Every year, tens of thousands of breast cancer cases diagnosed in the US and Europe are linked to alcohol consumption. Moreover, alcohol has also frequently been linked to an increased risk of cancer recurrence in women with early-stage breast cancer. But now a new study has found that a direct link exists between alcohol, estrogen and a cancer-causing gene. Researchers from the University of Houston in Texas, led by cancer biologist Chin-Yo Lin, say that despite breast cancer being one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for women and alcohol consumption already identified as a modifiable risk factor, 50% of women with the disease still drink some alcoholic beverages. Lin's team discovered that alcohol promotes the expression of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF. Furthermore, it mimic and enhances the effects of estrogen, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Finally, the team also found that alcohol weakened the ability of cancer drug tamoxifen to suppress cancer cell growth. "Alcohol consumption is prevalent among women in the US and is a risk factor for breast cancer. Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of estrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug tamoxifen on blocking estrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF," said Lin. The team's findings were published in the journal PLOS One.

Study: Cold turkey best way to quit smoking


Mention the words 'cold turkey' to anyone who's trying to give up smoking and they'll likely tell you that a gradual approach, which includes nicotine patches, gum and/or mouth spray, is the best way to go. But a new study has now added support to the camp that believes quitting smoking is more successful if you stop altogether (cold turkey) and don't try doing it gradually over a period of time. For the research, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, 700 long-term heavy smokers in England - who wanted to kick the habit - were split into two groups. Half were told to pick a day when they would give up smoking entirely and the other half were told to quit smoking gradually. The researchers found that after six months, the 15.5% of the gradual-cessation group had managed to abstain from cigarettes, compared to 22% of the cold turkey group. Lead researcher Dr Nicola Lindson-Hawley, from Oxford University, said: "The difference in quit attempts seemed to arise because people struggled to cut down. It provided them with an extra thing to do, which may have put them off quitting altogether." Advice from the NHS says that people who want to give up smoking should pick a convenient date to quit and stick to it. Furthermore, the NHS says that sticking to the "not a drag" rule can also really help.

Drug Combination Found to Eradicate Breast Cancer Tumours in Just 11 Days


A new breast cancer combination drug treatment, which eradicated tumours in just 11 days, has been hailed as "staggering" by doctors, after it was recently reported at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam. Furthermore, experts say that the new two-pronged technique could mean that thousands of women do not need to undergo gruelling chemotherapy going forward. The drugs were tested on 257 women across 23 hospitals in the UK and target a specific weakness found in one-in-10 breast cancers. And despite the team behind the study not expecting such striking results, many experts are lauding the results as a potential stepping stone towards the development of a tailored cure for cancer. Specifically, the research team wanted to investigate how drugs could affect a tumour from the time it was discovered to the operation to remove it. In some cases (approximately 11%), when they went to operate, there was no sign at all that any tumour had even existed. In others, the tumours were found to have significantly shrunk. The drugs used were Tyverb and Herceptin, which both target a protein - known as HER2 - that fuels breast tumour growth in some women. Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, the UK's largest breast cancer charity, said: "We hope this particularly impressive combination trial will serve as a stepping stone to an era of more personalised treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer."

Scientists Use Stem Cells to Successfully Cure Cataracts


Cataracts account for more than half of all cases of blindness across the world. But now scientists have shown that a person's own stem cells can be used to regrow a 'living lens' in their eye. Published in the journal Nature, the research has been described as 'remarkable' by experts and is being lauded as one of the finest achievements in regenerative medicine. Surgeons successfully reversed blindness in 12 children born with congenital cataracts by activating stem cells in the eye to grow a new lens, negating the need for an implanted one. Within just three months, a clear, cataract-free lens had developed in all of the patients' eyes. "The success of this work represents a new approach in how new human tissue or organ can be regenerated and human disease can be treated, and may have a broad impact on regenerative therapies by harnessing the regenerative power of our own body," said Dr Kang Zhang, one of the researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Dr Dusko Ilic, a reader in Stem Cell Science at King's College London, said: "This is one of the finest achievements in the field of regenerative medicine until now." The hope now is that the technique can be used to develop a way of treating older patients who are suffering with poor sight because of age-related cataracts. Cataract surgery is the most common procedure carried out in England, with around 300,000 patients operated on every single year.

Study: Drinking More Water Reduces Sugar, Sodium and Fat Intake


When you consider that two-thirds of our bodies are comprised of water, it makes sense that drinking enough of it each day is extremely important for our health. But a new study has now discovered that we can control our weight, and reduce our sugar, sodium and saturated fat intake by simply drinking more plain water. Led by Prof. Ruopeng An, from the University of Illinois, the study used National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2012 information to analyse how water intake affected the health of some 18,300 adults living in the US. The researchers found that people who increased their water consumption - even by just one to three cups daily - lowered their total energy intake by 68-205 calories and their sodium intake by 78-235g a day. Furthermore, they consumed 5-18g less sugar and 7-21g less cholesterol. Professor An said: "This finding indicates that it might be sufficient to design and deliver universal nutrition interventions and education campaigns that promote plain water consumption in replacement of beverages with calories in diverse population subgroups without profound concerns about message and strategy customisation." The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.  So if you're trying to lose weight or improve your overall health, it might be as simple as drinking more water on a day-to-day basis.

New study finds being happy can break your heart


A new study from Switzerland suggests that chest pains and breathlessness caused by emotional stress do not only occur as a result of being angry, fearful or grief stricken and also happen when we are happy. It's a discovery that has led many to question the "broken heart syndrome" moniker that is often associated with takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Characterised by shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, takotsubo cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart's left ventricle changes shape and can sometimes be fatal. The Swiss research, which was conducted by the University Hospital Zurich, found that while three-quarters of cases are caused by stress, around one in 20 is caused by joy. Luckily, the condition is normally only temporary and people tend to be generally fine afterwards. The study of 1,750 individuals found that takotsubo cardiomyopathy was caused by an array of different occasions, including a birthday party; a son's wedding; becoming a grandmother; meeting a friend after 50 years and winning a casino jackpot. Dr Jelena Ghadri, who was involved in the study, said: "We have shown that the triggers for takotsubo syndrome can be more varied than previously thought. "A takotsubo syndrome patient is no longer the classic 'broken-hearted' patient, and the disease can be preceded by positive emotions too." Don't worry too much though. The medical director of the British Heart Foundation, Prof Peter Weissberg, said: "Takotsubo syndrome is a rare event" and in only a very few cases is it triggered by a sudden happiness.

Survey: wellbeing improves as people approach 70


According to a new survey, people are generally happier in their 60s as they approach the end of their seventh decade, despite many of them having at least one chronic disease. Researchers at University College London, on behalf of the Medical Research Council in the UK, followed more than 3,000 Britons since birth and monitored their health and wellbeing over the years. They found that a person's average wellbeing improved as they approached the age of 70, even though many of them were suffering from diseases such as arthritis, diabetes or hypertension. For the study, participants were asked how confident, cheerful, relaxed and useful they felt while still in their early 60s. They were then asked again aged 68 to 69. Dr Mai Stafford, programme leader at the Medical Research Council's unit for lifelong health and ageing, said that people's wellbeing definitely improved as they neared the end of their 60s, but the reasons were still unclear. She said: "We found that one in five experienced a substantial increase in wellbeing in later life, although we also found a smaller group who experienced a substantial decline. "The benefit of using a cohort study like this is that we can look at how individuals change over time. "We hope this will allow us to pinpoint which common experiences may be linked to an improvement in wellbeing in later life." So while many of us will be anxious about growing older, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel as we approach 70.

Gum Disease Found to be Associated with Kidney Disease Deaths


A new study has uncovered further evidence that a close link exists between oral health and chronic diseases; specifically that patients with chronic kidney disease and severe gum disease have a greater risk of death than those with healthy gums. Led by the University of Birmingham in the UK, the study, the results of which were published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, found that oral health definitely isn’t just about teeth, again highlighting the importance of good oral hygiene. Iain Chapple, senior author of the study and a professor in periodontology, said: "The mouth is the doorway to the body, rather than a separate organ, and is the access point for bacteria to enter the bloodstream via the gums." For the research, Chapple and his colleagues analysed data from some 13,734 individuals in the US, of which 6% were found to have chronic kidney disease. The team then assessed the link between severe gum disease and mortality in people with chronic kidney disease. They found that over 10 years, the risk of death for people with chronic kidney disease was increased by 9% if they also had periodontitis (severe gum disease). Professor Chapple said that the most worrying fact is that people with periodontitis often don’t know they have it. A little bit of blood when they brush their teeth is often dismissed as normal, but if they don’t have it checked out further they could be risking problems in the rest of their bodies.

Flu Vaccine May Protect Against Common Heart Condition


Flu vaccinations may do a lot more than just reduce your flu risk, if the findings of a new study in Taiwan are anything to go by. That’s because the researchers responsible say that a flu shot can also protect people from a common heart rhythm disorder, which significantly increases the risk of stroke. The study of around 57,000 people in Taiwan found a significant association between the flu and atrial fibrillation (AF or A-fib); a condition that causes a person’s heart to be faster and more irregular. Research has shown in the past that AF increases a person’s risk of stroke by five times. During the study, the researchers discovered that people who had not had a flu shot and got the flu had an 18% greater risk of developing AF than those who did not have the flu. Published in the Heart Rhythm journal, the findings of the research showed that a person’s risk of developing AF was consistently lower when they had received a flu jab. Dr. Tze-Fan Chao and Dr. Su-Jung Chen, of Taipei Veterans General Hospital, who lead the research, said: "Influenza vaccination should be encouraged for patients, especially those who have a high risk of atrial fibrillation, to try to prevent the occurrence of atrial fibrillation and subsequent stroke. However, a further prospective study is necessary to confirm our findings.”  

Exciting News from France Surgery


January is just over and we’ve already got two big pieces of news to tell you about. Last year, France Surgery was bought by DMI Ortho Diffusion, another company based in Toulouse. DMI Ortho Diffusion is a very successful business which was founded in 2009 and specialises in the sale of orthopaedic products, such as prostheses. It also provides medical consultancy services in the form of advice and guidance for patients. France Surgery will continue to operate under the same name and nothing about any of the services we provide will change. In fact, rest assured that the services we provided will only continue to get better as we grow under our new owner. In addition to having a new owner, France Surgery will also be opening an office in London. Medical France, as it will be known, will enable us to strengthen our existing relationships with patients in the UK, as well as allowing our clients to benefit from a more intimate experience with us right from the start of their medical journeys. We’ll announce more about our London connection in due course and provide contact details when our UK branch is fully operational. In the meantime, you can contact us, as always, via our website:  

Eating Fish Good for Brain Health, says Study


People could reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by eating at least one serving of seafood per week, according to new study, which set out to further explore the link between seafood, fatty acids, mercury and dementia. The role of Omega-3 fatty acids in combatting Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia has been lauded by many people for quite some time now. But many sceptics questioned whether the mercury found in fish could cancel out its benefits for protecting against dementia. For the study, researchers surveyed a group of older adults living in the Chicago area. They quizzed them about their diets and, in a subset of almost 300 who died between 2004 and 2013, they carried out brain autopsies to check the levels of mercury present and see if any neurological damage had occurred as a result. The researchers found that while higher levels of mercury were seen in participants who reported eating seafood regularly, they did not appear to have suffered neurological damage as a result. In fact, those participants were found to be less likely to have hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Martha Clare Morris, director of nutrition and nutritional epidemiology at Rush University Medical Centre, who is the lead author of the study, said: "Our hypothesis was that seafood consumption would be associated with less neuropathology, but that if there were higher levels of mercury in the brain, that would work against that. But we didn't find that at all.” The only catch is that the study only observed this benefit among the participants who carried the APOE-4 gene, which is associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Nevertheless, it is possible that eating seafood regularly could also benefit individuals who do not carry the gene. This particular study, however, wasn’t large enough to detect if that is indeed the case.  

Sorry Sun Worshippers, NICE says No Safe Way to Suntan


It’s one of the telltale signs that someone’s recently been on holiday, but according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK, there is no safe or healthy way to get a suntan from sunlight. NICE also said that having an existing tan provides little protection against harmful UV rays and advises adults to use at least 6-8 teaspoons of factor 15 sun cream per application. Many adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D and NICE says that these can be build up through exposure to sunlight. However, the benefits of increased levels of vitamin D need to be weighed up against the risks associated with skin cancer. The NICE guidelines specifically state that babies and children; people with fair skin or hair; people with lots of moles or freckles; and people with a family history of skin cancer should take extra care in the sun. Professor Gillian Leng, director of health and social care at NICE, said: "How much time we should spend in the sun depends on a number of factors including geographical location, time of day and year, weather conditions and natural skin colour. "People with lighter skin, people who work outside and those of us who enjoy holidays in sunny countries all have a higher risk of experiencing skin damage and developing skin cancer. "On the other hand, people who cover up for cultural reasons, are housebound or otherwise confined indoors for long periods of time are all at higher risk of low vitamin D levels." The full NICE guidelines can be found on the organisation’s website here.



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Toulouse Onco Week: February 3-5 2016


This month, the capital of France’s southern Midi-Pyrénées region, Toulouse, will host the Toulouse Onco Week (TOW) – a three day event dedicated to the fight against cancer. Toulouse Onco Week will be held on the 3rd, 4th and 5th February under the high patronage of the President of France, Mr. François Hollande. One of TOW’s biggest highlights will be the inauguration of the first international meeting of the Cancer Research Centre of Toulouse. This focal point will see sixteen international oncology experts (researchers and clinicians) come together with two Nobel Prize winning professors - Pr. Jules Hoffmann and Pr. Gerd Binnig – to advance oncology research and therapeutic care development. A series of one-to-one meetings, technology presentations, public sessions and charity events will round off what is going to be one of the most important occasions in the oncology calendar this year. More information about Toulouse Onco Week can be found on the official website. France Surgery will be supporting the event and we hope you will be too…  

Cervical Health Awareness Month


The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, which is why we have decided to do a short piece on the disease. According to American Cancer Society research, cervical cancer used to be the number one cause of cancer death in the United States for women. However, thanks to increased awareness and regular screening campaigns, the number of deaths from cervical cancer has dropped by more than 50% over the past 30 years. But despite all the good work that’s been done so far to combat the disease, some 12,900 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed in the US alone last year and over 4,000 women died because of the disease, which suggests that there is possibly more that could still be done to tackle this particular form of cancer. Cervical cancer is most common in women under the age of 50, yet very rarely occurs in women under the age of 20. Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause almost all cases of cervical cancer and 40% of these HPVs can be transmitted during sexual intercourse. Two specific types – HPV-16 and HPV-18 – are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases globally. Other risks factors for cervical cancer include: having a family history of the disease; a weakened immune system; long-term mental stress; and smoking. Taking contraceptive pills has also been found to increase a woman’s risk of cervical cancer. The importance of regular cervical cancer screening is highlighted by the fact that the disease presents very few symptoms in its early stages. Only when it becomes invasive do more noticeable symptoms start to occur, such as abnormal bleeding between periods and after sexual intercourse; heavy or prolonged periods; unusual vaginal discharge; and/or pain during sex. Official guidance from the US Preventative Services Task Force (UPSTF) says that women aged between 21 and 65 years old should undergo a Pap test every three years. So if you’re a woman you haven’t had a Pap test within the last three years, you should make an appointment with your appropriate medical physician as soon as possible.       Photo via:

Cancer Stem Cell Treatment Gives Renewed Hope to MS Patients


Doctors in the UK say that multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who have received a treatment that is usually used for treating cancer are showing “remarkable” improvements. Some 20 MS patients have now received bone marrow transplants using their own stem cells and in some cases the treatment has enabled people who were paralysed to walk once more. Prof Basil Sharrack, of Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: "To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement." MS is a neurological condition for which there is no known cure and affects around 100,000 people in the UK alone. It causes the body’s immune system to attack the lining of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The treatment, which is known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), attempts to destroy the faulty immune system with chemotherapy before a new immune system is built using the patient’s own stem cells. The cells are so young that they haven’t yet developed the flaws which cause MS. Prof John Snowden, consultant haematologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: "The immune system is being reset or rebooted back to a time point before it caused MS." One patient who received the treatment said that MS had completely changed his entire life. He went from running marathons one day to losing the sensation in his entire body the next. The new treatment, however, has allowed him to stand unaided once more. "It's been incredible. I was in a dire place, but now I can swim and cycle and I am determined to walk,” Steven Storey said.

Study: Mental Health Conditions Common Before Bariatric Surgery, but Fall Afterwards


Patients who are seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery commonly suffer from mental health conditions, such as depression and binge eating disorders. However, following successful bariatric surgery, the rates of these conditions fall, according to a study published in JAMA. Bariatric surgery is a highly accepted method of promoting weight loss in obese individuals and can also serve to reduce their risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain kinds of cancer. Dr. Aaron J. Dawes, from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, led a research team which wanted to discover how common mental health conditions were in people seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery. The findings of their research show that 23% of bariatric surgery patients were affected by a current mental health disorder, with depression (19%); a binge-eating disorder (17%); and anxiety (12%) the most common. Following surgery, a fall in the rate of depression was observed. Of the 27 studies analysed by the research team, seven revealed an 8-74% drop in the rate of depression after surgery, while six reflected a 40-70% reduction in the rate of depressive symptoms. The report authors noted: "Previous reviews have suggested that self-esteem, mental image, cognitive function, temperament, support networks and socioeconomic stability play major roles in determining outcomes after bariatric surgery." They suggest incorporating these factors into future studies, which would help form part of "an optimal strategy for evaluating patients' mental health prior to bariatric surgery."   Photo via: Bassett Healthcare Network 

New UK Guidelines Say Reduce Alcohol Consumption


  The UK Department of Health has published new guidelines regarding the consumption of alcohol and they make for sobering reading if you’re fond of a regular daily tipple. According to the tough new guidelines, which are based on the findings of worldwide research, any amount of alcohol can increase a person’s risk of cancer and, as a result, men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week. That’s roughly equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or seven glasses of wine. The advice for pregnant women is simple: no alcohol at all until after baby has been born. Furthermore, if people drink, they should do so moderately over three or more days and have some days that are totally alcohol-free. The guidelines also state that people shouldn’t “save up” their units and drink them all over a short space of time, like a weekend. Heavy drinking sessions, it says, increase the risk of accidents and injury. Talking about the revised guidelines, Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: "Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week, it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low." The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK says that alcohol contributes to over 60 medical conditions, including some cancers, stroke and heart disease. It is thought that approximately one in 20 of all new cancer diagnoses in the UK are linked to a person’s alcohol consumption.

Colistin-Resistant Bacteria Discovered in the UK


When all other antibiotics fail, doctors resort to colistin. This important drug has been somewhat of a safety net in medicine over the years, but that could all be about to change now that bacteria that can resist it have been found in the UK. It’s a discovery that adds further weight to the warning from scientists that we are on the cusp of a post-antibiotic era, especially as similar resistance was found in China just last month. Doctors in the UK thought they had around three years before colistin-resistant bacteria spread from China to the UK, but checks carried out by Public Health England and the Animal and Plant Health Agency have now confirmed similar resistance on three farms and even in some human infections. Public Health England analysed all of the 24,000 bacteria samples it keeps on record and found that 15 of them, including some Salmonella and E. coli samples, were resistant to colistin. In separate tests, the Animal and Plant Health Agency found that colistin-resistant bacteria on three pig farms in the UK. While the discoveries actually aren’t that surprising, especially for scientists, they do highlight how very real the threat of untreatable infections is. The biggest concern is that the resistance to colistin will now find its way into other superbugs, which could make treating them virtually impossible. Professor Alan Johnson, from Public Health England, said: "Our assessment is that the public health risk posed by this gene is currently considered very low, but is subject to ongoing review as more information becomes available. "The organisms identified can be killed by cooking your food properly and all the bacteria we identified with this gene were responsive to other antibiotics, called carbapenems. "We will monitor this closely, and will provide any further public advice as needed."

Study finds most cancers caused by environmental factors, not bad luck


Is whether you’ll get cancer predominantly determined by bad luck, or do environmental factors play a significant part also? That’s the question that a new study by a team of researchers from the Stony Brook Cancer Centre in New York, the results of which were published in the journal Nature, set out to answer. The team used four approaches to conclude that only 10-30% of cancers are simply down to “luck” and that environmental factors have an overwhelming affect. Cancer is caused by one of the body’s own stem cells going rogue and dividing out of control. This can be caused by natural factors, but the team discovered that extrinsic factors, such as smoking and being exposed to UV radiation, play a bigger part than many people think. Experts have said that the team’s analysis is “pretty convincing” and highlights the relative importance of extrinsic factors. Talking about the findings of the study, Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: "While healthy habits like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol are not a guarantee against cancer, they do dramatically reduce the risk of developing the disease." While a person who smokes is not necessarily guaranteed to get cancer, by doing so they are stacking the odds against them. An element of chance will always be involved, but people can reduce their own risk by eliminating some of these extrinsic factors from their lives.