A study published in the journal BMJ Open suggests that a simple drawing test may help predict the risk of older men dying after a first stroke.
Taken while healthy, the test involves drawing lines between numbers in ascending order as fast as possible.
Men who scored in the bottom third were about three times as likely to die after a stroke compared with those who were in the highest third.
The study looked at 1,000 men between the ages of 67 and 75 over 14 years.
Of the 155 men who had a stroke, 22 died within a month and more than half within an average of two- and-a-half years.
Taken while healthy, the test involves drawing lines between numbers in ascending order as fast as possible
The researchers think that tests are able to pick up hidden damage to brain blood vessels when there are no other obvious signs or symptoms.
Dr. Clare Walton, from the Stroke Association in UK, said: “This is an interesting study because it suggests there may be early changes in the brain that puts someone at a greater risk of having a fatal stroke.
“This is a small study and the causes of poor ability on the drawing task is not known. Although much more research is needed, this task has the potential to screen for those most at risk of a severe or fatal stroke before it occurs so that they can benefit from preventative treatments.”
Dr. Bernice Wiberg, lead author from Uppsala University in Sweden, said: “As the tests are very simple, cheap and easily accessible for clinical use, they could be a valuable tool – alongside traditional methods like measuring blood pressure (and) asking about smoking – for identifying risk of stroke, but also as a possible important predictor of post-stroke mortality.”
She also suggested it could help improve information given to patients and their family.
A Canadian study published in British Medical Journal Open says that increasing use of the contraceptive pill is being linked with the rise of prostate cancer in men.
According to researchers, the Pill has soared in popularity over the past 40 years, and at the same time prostate cancer has become the most common form of the disease in men.
There is a statistical relationship between the two trends, possibly driven by men’s greater exposure to the oestrogen hormone contained in the Pill.
Widespread use of the Pill has led to more of the hormone finding its way into the water supply and food chain, with implications for human health, says the study in BMJ Open.
A Canadian study published in British Medical Journal Open says that increasing use of the contraceptive pill is being linked with the rise of prostate cancer in men
Using data from 87 countries, researchers found that where the proportion of women using the contraceptive pill is higher, rates of prostate cancer are higher.
Other contraceptives such as intrauterine devices or condoms were not linked to a higher incidence of prostate cancer.
A team of researchers from Canada used two sets of data to pinpoint rates of prostate cancer and associated deaths and the proportion of women using common methods of contraception for 2007.
Use of the contraceptive pill was significantly associated with the number of new cases of prostate cancer around the world, in findings which were not affected by a nation’s wealth and therefore probably not influenced by better detection through screening and health services.
“The research is speculative and definitive conclusions cannot be drawn,” said research leader Dr. David Margel, of the Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto University.
Excess exposure to oestrogen is known to cause cancer and the study suggests that widespread use of the Pill has resulted in by-products called endocrine disruptors being deposited in the environment.
These do not break down easily in the body so can be passed into urine and end up in the water supply or the food chain, thus exposing the general population.
Dr. Kate Holmes, of The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: “This study does not present a strong evidence case for an association between the use of the contraceptive pill and prostate cancer, nor does it intend to.
“It is intended to explore the possibility that release of endocrine disruptive chemicals (EDCs) into the environment, a process which is not unique to the Pill, might impact on the incidence of the disease.
“However, for all of the 87 countries in the study, there is no information on the level of these chemicals in the environment, with the focus on the contraceptive pill as the sole source, which we know is not the case.”
Eating plenty of cereals and whole grains could reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer, a study published in British Medical Journal says.
Scientists from Imperial College London found that for every 10 g a day increase in fibre intake, there was a 10% drop in the risk of bowel cancer.
Researchers’ analysis of 25 previous studies found that fruit and vegetable fibre did not reduce risk.
A cancer charity called for more detailed research on the quantity and type of fibre to eat.
Eating fibre and whole grains is known to help protect against cardiovascular disease, but experts say that any link with colorectal cancer is less clear because studies have not had consistent results.
Reviewing the results of all previous observational studies in this area, researchers in London, Leeds and the Netherlands analysed data provided by almost 2 million people.
Eating plenty of cereals and whole grains could reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer, a study published in British Medical Journal says
Researchers’ conclusion, published in the BMJ, is that increasing fibre intake, particularly cereal fibre and whole grains, helps prevent colorectal cancer.
Whole grains include foods such as whole grain breads, brown rice, cereals, oatmeal and porridge.
Dagfinn Aune, lead study author and research associate in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at Imperial College London, said their analysis found a linear association between dietary fibre and colorectal cancer.
“The more of this fibre you eat the better it is. Even moderate amounts have some effect.”
Adding 3 servings (90 g per day) of whole grains to diets was linked to a 20% reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer, researchers said.
Cancer Research UK data shows that the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the UK is estimated to be one in 14 (6.9%) for men, and one in 19 for women (5.4%).
However, the study said there was no evidence that fibre in fruit and vegetables played a part in reducing risk.
A previous study which showed a reduction in risk with high intake of fruit and vegetables suggests that compounds other than fibre in fruit and vegetables could account for this result, said the authors.
The researchers also said that the health benefits of increasing fibre and whole grains intake was not restricted to colorectal cancer.
“It is also likely to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity, and possibly overall mortality,” they said.
Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said the research supported the charity’s current advice.
“These results support what we already know about the link between dietary fibre and a reduced risk of bowel cancer, although more work is needed to clarify the quantity and types of fibre we should be eating to reduce risk.
“We recommend that people eat a healthy balanced diet that includes plenty of dietary fibre, such as grains, cereals, fruit and vegetables to reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer.
“It is encouraging to know that simple changes to your diet and lifestyle could help protect you from the UK’s second biggest cancer killer.”
Yinka Ebo, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said the review added weight to the evidence that fibre protects against bowel cancer.
“It shows that certain sources of fibre, such as cereal and whole grains, are particularly important.
“Eating plenty of fibre is just one of many things you can do to lower your risk of developing the disease, along with keeping a healthy weight, being physically active, cutting down on alcohol, red and processed meat, and not smoking.”
In an accompanying editorial in the BMJ, Professor Anne Tjonneland from the Danish Cancer Society, said whole grain products should be made more appealing to shoppers.
“To increase the intake of these foods in Western countries, the health benefits must be actively communicated and the accessibility of whole grain products greatly improved, preferably with a simple labelling system that helps consumers to choose products with high whole grain contents.”
Cancer of the large bowel, also known as colorectal cancer, is a common form of cancer in developed countries – but occurs much less frequently in the developing world.