News in brief

Aging: How grey hair may save skin

Researchers are studying the mechanism that kills hair-pigmenting cells to see if they can be used to kill the cells that cause skin cancer. Most cells are programmed to turn themselves off when they are exposed to harmful stresses, but the cells in the skin and in the hair are tougher. This study, published in the journal Science, found that hair turns grey when the stem cells that give hair colouring lose the hardiness and shut down. Doctors from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute think that if the gene is blocked and a signal is sent to a melanoma cell, maybe the cell’s death could be emulated, and cancer growth stopped. Source: The Associated Press.

Genetics may play a role in lung cancer

While smoking is still the main cause of lung cancer, some people may be more genetically inclined to get the disease. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with a family history of lung cancer were at a higher risk than the general population. The relatives of those who developed lung cancer at 60 years old or younger had the strongest genetic connection to the disease. Source: Los Angeles Times

Study links kids’ lower test scores to second hand smoke

A study published in the January issue of Environmental Health Perspectives reports that children who are exposed to second hand smoke have lower test scores in reading, math and problem solving. In the study of 4,400 children, those kids with less exposure to smoke scored about seven points higher in math, reading and two kinds of reasoning tests. Kimberly Yolton, a researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre, measured exposure to second hand smoke by testing a by-product in the blood called cotinine. This contains 200 poisons, 69 that cause cancer. These findings give states another reason to ban tobacco in public places and for insurers to pay for programs to help smokers quit. Tobacco is as harmful to children’s brains as lead. Source: USA Today.