Medical Notes this week…

Skin cancer death rates around the world have skyrocketed over the last 30 years… and almost all of the increase is among men. A study presented to the World Congress of Cancers of the Skin shows that among the world’s 18 richest nations, men’s skin cancer deaths have risen by at least 50 percent in eight of them. Among women, the increase is much more modest and in some countries, women’s skin cancer deaths are in decline. Researchers say it appears that men are much less likely to protect themselves against the sun.

People with autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, systemic lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis have a higher heart attack risk than others… and now doctors believe they’ve found one reason. A study in the journal Cell Metabolism finds that the culprit is an overabundance of an immune molecule called IL-17. Researchers say the molecule prompts the walls of the blood vessels to store too much collagen… trapping cholesterol and making the blood vessels stiff. A number of drugs which target the immune molecule are already on the market.

And finally… if you’ve ever been to the emergency room in a lot of pain, you’ve probably had to choose your pain level based on the “smiley face” scale. But now doctors are working on a more objective measure of pain. A study presented to the Society for Neuroscience shows that using scalp electrodes and an EEG to measure specific brain waves is much more accurate, and could help people to more quickly get the pain medication they need.

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