Sunday, May 5, 2013

First Reader: Cancer



This post is a first reader to the article "Evolutionary foundations for cancer biology”. I found this article to be especially interesting, I feel that more and more people are beginning to understand the interconnectedness of their day-to-day decisions. Throughout my life I have been give the impression that individuals tend to consider “things” (as in any one thing e.g. food, television, cleaning supplies, clothing) to be separate from one-another. People seem to like to believe that life is simpler than science is revealing it is, most likely because this would then add a level of responsibility that many would not be willing to address. If people actively acknowledged the cleaning supplies they used were carcinogenic then they would have to put in extra effort to find a none harmful solution when it is much easier to deny their lethality in the first place. As we as a species have began to probe the reality that every action and decision we take and make there are both direct and indirect consequences that may effect us down the road, sometimes not for half a lifetime. As talked about in the reading, precancerous growths can be in existence many years before the cancer itself manifests and these growths could have been triggered by a simple infection or short exposure to a substance. If there is one thing this reading has taught me it is to avoid everything.


Aktipis, C. Athena, and Randolph M. Nesse. "Evolutionary Foundations for Cancer Biology." The Authors 6 (2013): 144-59. Print.

Responder: "Viruses and Us"

This post is in response to Nicholas's first readers post "Viruses and Us". Nicholas mentioned the relationship of gut flora and human health in his post and I thought I would explore it a little further. Virtually all multicellular organisms live in close association with surrounding microbes, and humans are no exception. The human body is inhabited by a vast number of bacteria, archaea, viruses, and unicellular eukaryotes. The collection of microorganisms that live in peaceful coexistence with their hosts has been referred to as the microbiota, microflora, or normal flora (Kunz et al, 2009). The composition and roles of the bacteria that are part of this community have been intensely studied in the past few years. However, the roles of viruses, archaea, and unicellular eukaryotes that inhabit the mammalian body are less well known. It is estimated that the human microbiota contains as many as 1014 bacterial cells, a number that is 10 times greater than the number of human cells present in our bodies (Kunz et al, 2009). The microbiota colonizes virtually every surface of the human body that is exposed to the external environment. Microbes flourish on our skin and in the genitourinary, gastrointestinal, and respiratory tracts (Neish, 2009). By far the most heavily colonized organ is the gastrointestinal tract (GIT); the colon alone is estimated to contain over 70% of all the microbes in the human body (Neish, 2009). The human gut has an estimated surface area of a tennis court (200 m2) and, as such a large organ, represents a major surface for microbial colonization. Additionally, the GIT is rich in molecules that can be used as nutrients by microbes, making it a preferred site for colonization (Neish, 2009).

·      Kunz C, Kuntz S, Rudloff, S.Intestinal flora”. Adv Exp Med Biol 639:67–79, 2009.

·      Neish, ASMicrobes in gastrointestinal health and disease”. Gastroenterology 136: 65–80, 2009.

Searcher: Aging


I found THIS article, which is relevant to this weeks discussion on aging. It explains the following information, however, in less detail than I liked. So, I found s journal article that went into more detail. Owing to increased lifespan and subdued fertility, the world population aged 60 and over is anticipated to increase to 21.8% of the total population by 2050 (Lutz et al, 2008). Many individuals in an aging population will be inflicted with aging-associated diseases, such as various neurodegenerative disorders (Lutz et al, 2008). This phenomenon is of public concern and has thus spurred research in this area. It is believed that healthy aging could be accomplished if mechanisms underlying human aging were to be elucidated. Modern biological theories of human aging are classified into programmed theories and error theories. The programmed theories demonstrate that aging is regulated by some intrinsic mechanisms; by altered switch genes, changed hormones or even a dysfunctional immune system. On the contrary, the error theories emphasize cumulative environment-caused damage, such as reactive oxygen species, cross-linked macromolecules, DNA damage, and broken energy machines (Lutz et al, 2008). However, neither of these theories alone can explain all the phenomena and mechanisms at the root of aging. To date, the fundamental mechanisms of human physiological aging remain largely unknown

·       W. Lutz, W. Sanderson, S. Scherbov. “The coming acceleration of global population ageing” Nature, 451 (2008), pp. 716–719


Friday, April 26, 2013

[Searcher] A few more notes on Chemoterapy

Chemotherapy is a very complex subject. Here are some quick notes that may further expand your perception of it.

Chemotherapy harms the heart
A research demonstrating one of the dangers of this medical treatment. Further proof of heart damage done.

Ovarian tissue cryopreservation
Cryopreservation (freezing) of ovaries may be a workaround over female fertility chemotherapy often causes.

An account of testicular cancer
A paper that may give you an idea about the medical procedures cancer patients go through - from chemo to surgical interaction.

Cannabinoids may worsen gastric dysmotility induced by chronic cisplatin in the rat.
Or, basically, medical marijuana may be counterproductive.





Thursday, April 25, 2013

Researcher: Advancements in Radiation Treatments


One of the things we talked about in class was about radiation and how now there is this new form of radiation that is basically giving radiation in small doses to patients. Aggressively fighting the cancer cells in someone’s body and trying to get all the cancer out as soon as possible isn’t the motive, but to live with cancer and control it and then fight it is the motive. Talking about this new form of radiation got me thinking about the other treatments for cancer, as well as the differences between similar treatments; as well as the current advancement in cancer. It turns up the 50% of patients who have cancer will have some form of radiation therapy. One of the new forms of radiation is a 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy which is to improve the precision with which radiation is delivered to tumors and leads to minimizing radiation dose to healthy tissues (1). The newest form of 3D conformal radiation therapy is Intensity-modulated radiation therapy. This form changes the shape of the beams and it varies the intensity of radiation within each beam. These two forms of radiation key points are that they are able to minimize the amount of radiation dose to healthy tissues, which sounds like a good thing and maybe a really big improvement. Even these new forms of radiation are to aggressively fight cancer and its reproduction. The fact that these little changes make such a big difference is huge and shows how things are changing for the better very rapidly.


Website used and additional websites about advancements:

[Searcher] Defeating Cancer

This week's topic of cancer and it's causes was particularly meaningful to me because many members of my family have had cancer or died from it. What was particularly interesting to me was the notion that cancer is constantly evolving. Although this seems obvious, it's implications are huge. Finding a cure has always been an issue because we appeared late in the game, so to speak. What makes things even more difficult is that cancer is not static and that it is different in every case. Cells work much like evolution in that natural selection and mutations are inevitable. A cell line that gains an advantage in the competition for resources will have accumulated mutations that will likely proliferate and possibly evolve into a cancerous tumor. This surprised me because I also never thought of cells as being in a competition either. Some possible surface-level solutions to this adapting cancer is to be checked routinely for cancer as the less time a cancerous cell has to evolve, the less diverse the population of cells will become. Another possible solution is to attack early cancer aggressively so that it doesn't have the chance to evolve and evade assaults. With how easily cancer tends to evade our advances, it's important to know as much about it's history and how it functions as possible.


More information about cells adapting and possible solutions: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/071001_cancer

Searcher: What Cancer Can Teach Us About Evolution

Cancer affects many people and it seems as if almost everybody now knows a person that is affected by cancer. While searching on the web for cancer related articles, I came upon a article titled Cancer Can Teach Us About Our Own Evolution by Paul Davies on The Guardian. This article talks about how researchers, while in the search for a cure for cancer, took a step back and asked the basic question of "why does cancer exist?" Davies talks about how "cancer, it seems, is embedded in the basic machinery of life, a type of default state that can be triggered by some kind of insult." Cancer does not only affect people, but is also widespread among mammals, fish, reptiles, and even plants. It is said that "scientists have identified genes implicated in cancer that we are thought to be hundreds of millions of years old"(Davies). The article focuses on two evolutionary stages that are relevant to cancer. The first is an occurrence that happened over 2 billion years ago, "when large, complex cells emerged containing mitochondria... Biologists think mitochondria are the remnants of ancient bacteria. Tellingly, they undergo systematic changes as cancer develops, profoundly altering their chemical and physical properties"(Davies). The second phase was when multicelluar organisms emerged. For most of the history of Earth, only single-celled organisms existed, however, through this drastic change, "ordinary cells have outsourced their immortality to specialized germ cells"(Davies). This has to do with cancer because "cancer involves a breakdown of the covenant between germ cells and the rest" (Davies). Even though this is difficult to understand, it shows us that cancer has existed even before the evolution of man.

Searcher: HRT Treatment


Since we are on the topic of cancer this week and especially focusing on breast cancer I felt as if it was important to find an article that would be resourceful in evolutionary medicine. During the beginning of the semester we covered some aspects of women going through menopause and why it happens. Natural selection has altered women’s reproductive system for the purpose of survival and energy conservation.  I thought it may be important to reevaluate the HRT treatment as a negative therapy treatment.  The article Hormone therapy may raise risk of aggressive breast cancer talks about HRT (hormone replacement theory) to treat the symptoms of menopause are increasing risk of developing aggressive breast cancer. This seems to be an issue because breast cancer is predominantly seen in older women and those older women are around the age at which menopause occurs. Since there has been some correlation in breast cancer and HRT treatment older women should refrain from doing so.  After all natural selection has lowered certain hormones in a women’s body past a certain age for a reason and adding more is adding to a mismatch in the bodies normal hormone levels. It may be used to caution women about thinking of theraputic ways to think about coping with menopause symptoms.
 

Searcher- Is Cancer Contagious?


Recently Hugo Chavez died of an unknown (at least to us) form of cancer.  Before he died, he blamed the United States for giving him cancer by insinuating that we had the technology to infect people with cancer.  This is of course not true, but it does bring up the question of can cancers be contagious?  The answer is yes.

In some non human species, such as dogs and Tasmanian devils, animals can infect each other with cancer.  Essentially Tasmanian devils are nasty and fight well.  They rip up each other's jaws and if one has cancer in its jaw caused by facial tumor disease, then some of the cancerous cells from its jaw may be able to transplant themselves into the ripped up jaw of the opposing Tasmanian devil.  Since there is very limited genetic diversity amongst that species, the cells go unnoticed and multiply, eventually killing the creature. The cells are unnoticed because the cancer cells are so similar to the other cells in the devil's body that the immune system does not identify it as foreign and mount an attack.  Even when faced with some genetic diversity, the cells have discovered how to produced fewer cell markers that would identify it as a threat to the immune system.  Dogs are very similar, however their's is a sexually transmitted disease called canine transmissible venereal tumor.

So why haven't we heard of this occurring in humans?  Essentially because there is so much genetic diversity amongst our species that it is harder for a cell to fly under the radar because our cells have a wider diversity of cell markers.  There have however been cases.  For instance, a mother can transmit melanoma to her fetus and people getting organ transplant can get cancer from the donor.  In the case of transplant, the donor already had undetected cancer and the recipient is generally on immunosupressants so the immune system is unable to recognize the threat.  In short, cancer can be contagious, however not in the same sense that viruses are contagious.  Hugo Chavez was not zapped with a cancer beam, he simply got cancer.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-cancer-contagious

Searcher - Adaptive Therapy?


In light of Professor Clancy’s lecture on Monday and a question raised on Wednesday, I was interested in the potential of Adaptive Therapy as opposed to the current way in which chemotherapy is used in the US. I read a brief article that discussed the findings of an experiment utilizing adaptive therapy among other forms chemotherapy. Adaptive therapy is a means of using chemotherapy that seeks to use the lowest dose of chemotherapy possible to sustain the existing tumors. This differs from the current usage of chemotherapy in which the maximum tolerable dose is used, hoping to most affect the tumor while keeping the patient alive. In the experiment a strain of breast cancer was exposed to a few forms of chemotherapy including adaptive therapy. The particular type of tumor cells surveyed was resistant to treatment when using the maximum tolerable dose (in this case to doxorubicin). The study showed that through adaptive therapy, the growth of the tumor cells could be prevented or sustained. In simulating the results of the study on breast cancer patients, it found that through adaptive therapy there was a potential for two to three fold increase over the use of the maximum tolerable dose. Further, the survival rate increased when combined with other forms of treatment, up to ten fold in one of the populations of the experiment. The author concludes questioning whether adaptive therapy could be used to prevent metastasis of the tumor given that the existing treatments, which utilize high doses, can in some cases drastically reduce the initial size. However, given that with increased chemoresistence the chances of metastasis increase, the author conjectures that if adaptive therapy were to be used with a chemo sensitive tumor, it may not promote metastasis.



Johanning, Gary L. "Chemotherapy: Too Much of a Good Thing." Chemotherapy: Open Access 1.5 (2012)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Searcher Post— Exploring the Evolution of Oral Cancer


Cancer is one of the more unfortunately diverse and broad issues the medical field has found itself dealing with. The intriguing characteristic about cancer is its ability to infect all parts of the human body. For this reason, I thought it would be of interest to myself, and hopefully the rest of the class, a closer look at oral cancer, and its evolution throughout time.

The origins of oral cancer, as we learned during lecture, are driven by both one’s genes and the environment. About 75% of oral cancers are linked to modifiable behaviors that include the excessive use of tobacco and alcohol consumption, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, ill-fitting dentures/ rough surfaces on the teeth, and chronic infections by bacteria (like HPV). When detected early, oral cancer can be prevented. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation however, “death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development”. Other concerning facts about oral cancer (oral and pharynx) include: 42,000 individuals will be diagnosed this year alone. Thus, about 1 person every hour is killed by this sub-type of cancer, because of the 57% survival rate. This survival rate is not limited to only the United States. The prevalence of oral cancer can be cross-culturally examined as in The Open Nutraceuticals Journal . This article explores the molecular biology of oral cancers—and the reason behind higher genetic risk factors found among South Asian individuals.

Therapy of oral cancer is not always effective. If detected early, “stage I and II and be cured by surgery or radiation therapy but later stages, like III and IV are treated with radiotherapy or chemotherapy with 20% and 12% survival rates respectively”, according to Advances inthe biology or oral cancer. These methods of treatment of adaptive therapy result in a cultural lifestyle trade-off of the quality of life versus the quantity of life. For example through low dose chemotherapy, there is less strong selection pressures made thus sensitive cells are not killed, whereas responsive chemo cells are maintained. This way, resistant cells are unable to grow in new spots. In other words, one can either survive cancer (living with cancer) or completely get rid of cancer (with a lower fitness and life quality) and risk a relapse of the cancer.

In short, the existence of oral cancer was almost if not completely nonexistent during the age of our ancestors. The increase use of processed foods, agriculture, and uses of technology has exposed more viral infections and bacteria to the human oral cavity than ever before. It is inevitable that cancer treatment will become more progressive throughout the future years, and only time will tell just how effective it will be. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Evolution of Cancer




This week reading allows the readers to take a visual scientific journey to learn about an evolutionary way to view cancer. We’ve learned about accumulation of cells and their mutations during our lifetime (Somatic evolution), reasons why individual develop cancer, ways to achieve longevity via chemotherapy, as well as a host of other far-reaching material about evolution and cancer. And as scientist, “attempt to understand the reason why the system of the body are limited in their capacities to protect us from disease”; humans are still developing cancer despite the idea that our body has the capacity to protect us.  But the way in which we view cancer is being exemplified in the article entitled, “Evolutionary Foundation for Cancer Biology”, and we learned about six evolutionary explanations, and why organisms are vulnerable in developing cancer.  This article also explains how cancer is a rarity.

Even after reading this article, it is hard to believe that cancer is rare, because I know so many people who has cancer, and six family members that was diagnosed with cancer (could be a genetically based). It was interesting to read about chemo resisting cells and treating cancer with a lower dose of chemotherapy. When my Aunt Susan had cancer (she unfortunately passes away in 2005) she received radiation (Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA), and Chemotherapy. She was receiving the therapy at the highest does available, and reading this article I realized that the high does not necessarily mean you will be cured faster. I have had the pleasure to meet so many wonderful individuals who happen to have cancer, or who had cancer that is and was dong/going through chemotherapy. And most of the individual die due to the fast replication of the cancer cell, and metastasis.

Overall, this week readings demonstrate that cancer is a perplex condition and can be caused by multiple factors. You can develop cancer from genetic factors, hormone imbalances, too much energy intake, less energy output, tobacco availability, HPV, cell mutation, inflammation, change in neighboring support cell, genetic modification, infection, and overall can’t be prevented. Even though we can't prevent cancer, we treat the disease. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

First Reader: Cancer and Its Causes



Before our class lectures, I was not too informed about what causes cancer, partially because I have not known anyone very close to me that has been diagnosed with cancer – my understanding was that it was caused by mostly environmental factors and genetics along with very little influence from other factors presented in the reading such as poor diet and energy expenditure, but some of the factors presented were new to me (i.e. co-evolution with pathogens, evolved capacities for defense). Upon reflection, none of the article’s claims are surprising or immediately questionable. The article mentions that cancer is a disease that is not new to our modern environment, however, sometimes due to mismatch, certain types of cancer are obviously more common within it. Since cancer is majorly influenced by culture or lifestyle, this means that developed nations such as the United States are plagued with cancer more easily and more often, another throwback to our lessons concerning the negative consequences of industrialization. I think the most interesting part of the article is when it mentions faster growth rates being linked to higher cancer rates; I also think it’s frightening, because it applies to me, and now that I have been presented these additional causes of cancer, I realize that there could be a higher risk for me than I’ve previously thought – of course, this is not meant to be hypochondriacal self-diagnosis but rather a smarter awareness. 

First Reader: Foundations for Understanding Cancer

First, according to the reading by Aktipis and Nesse - Evolutionary foundations for Cancer biology; they use ecology theories and methods for understanding why we are vulnerable to cancer. There are six types of evolutionary explanations for traits that leave organisms vulnerable to disease; Mismatch with novel environments, Co-evolution with  fast evolving pathogens, Constraints on what selection can do, and the Trade-offs, Reproductive successes, and defenses with costs as well as benefits.

Next, the life of a cell is affected by various threats and opportunities (predatory immune cells), limited growth factors, oxygen, glucose, physical constraints, adjacent cells, and membranes in which they are attached. In addition, the normal micro-environment of cells and aggression and stress plays a critical role in cancer susceptibility. Therefore, changes to micro-environments are key factors in how cancer is initiated, progressed, and responds to treatments.

Finally, normal cells do not become malignant due to race, gender, or class. Malignant tumors evolve from genetic instabilities and mutator phenotypes. Moreover, changes to neighboring cells can enhance the growth of cancer cells, and bacterial and inflammation damages tissues and makes them more vulnerable to cancers. The importance of an evolutionary understanding of cancer comes from how it progresses (somatic evolution), how cancer cells interact with environments (ecological approaches), why it is not more common (natural selection for cancer suppression mechanisms), and why cancer suppression mechanisms can never be perfect (constraints, trade offs, and other evolutionary reasons for vulnerability to diseases).

First Reader: Lifestyle Factors for Breast Cancer

The reading titled "Lifestyle, hormones, and risk of breast cancer" discusses lifestyle factors, mainly diet and exercise that impact hormone levels, and in turn, affect breast cancer rates. The paper begins by stating that breast cancer rates are higher in more developed countries, and that this has to do with differences in energy intake, energy expenditure, and energy balance. It is noted that higher hormone levels are generally associated with increased breast cancer rates. These hormones levels (progresterone and oestrogen) become higher with less energy expenditure and greater energy intake. They are directly related to nutritional intake. The paper concludes that more exercise and less caloric intake can reduce hormone levels, and therefore reduce breast cancer rates.

This information is not really new to me--we have discussed in class that higher hormone levels, especially in more industrialized nations, are correlated with greater cancer rates. The fact that lifestyle factors, especially nutrition, can influence hormone levels was not new to me either, but most Americans would likely be skeptical of this. It is an unfortunate fact that much of our effort to fight cancer focuses on treatment rather than prevention. Of course, treatment is extremely important and I am in no way devaluing cancer treatment efforts. However, as this article explains, cancer can be preventable to a degree by focusing on lifestyle factors. Knowing this, the difficult thing becomes convincing and educating people to modify their lifestyles with the hope of preventing cancer and other diseases. We have discussed this problem in class before, and come to the conclusion that the most difficult thing to do is get people to make personal lifestyle changes. Perhaps the best way to encourage people to improve their diet and exercise habits is through mroe systematic changes, such as more focus on these things in schools, helping people to develop healthier habits when they are younger.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Searcher: Early Impact of the HPV Vaccination Program


     This week's article on HPV vaccination basically looks into which U.S. groups are at high risk for cervical cancer and the different factors that may be contributing to the new cervical cancer cases that we're getting. It's upsetting to know that we have the resources to eventually rid the population of one type of cancer, and yet what's stopping this from happening have to do with the country's health system. While the U.S. struggles to target vaccination, especially to high-risk groups, I came across an article that was published yesterday on the NY Times and it discusses the accomplishments of the HPV vaccination campaign in Australia. This program began five years ago and it offers free HPV vaccination for girls and young women so it's not too surprising that there is a decrease in genital warts and cervical abnormalities among these young women. But what initially surprised me the most is that this program that's aimed for women is benefiting the Australian men as well! The genital wart rate is drastically decreasing among men who are under 30, and more specifically, it's estimated that rates decreased by about 82 percent among heterosexual men below 21. It's important to note that among girls who are under 21, the drop amounted to nearly 93 percent. It astonished me how close these numbers are to each other so I looked further into what the article describes as the 'herd immunity' and this is the phenomenon that explains how the high rate of immunization among young women is protecting young men. 

     A large group of people where the majority chooses to get vaccinated are referred to as the 'herd community'. But among this herd community are some unvaccinated people mingling around as well so when the infection spreads, the unvaccinated people basically have protection from all of the vaccinated people around them and they ultimately don't get sick. However, the people who chose not to get vaccinated and are located outside of the herd community do get sick. But there's another catch to this concept. If there aren't enough vaccinated people in the herd community, herd immunity will not succeed because there needs to be enough of the vaccinated people in the area to protect the non-vaccinated people who are mingling around them. This concept also explains how there's a 93 percent drop in genital warts in young women when only 85 percent were vaccinated. The herd immunity is protecting men as well as the unvaccinated women. 

     Although the study we read this week only focuses on the U.S., this really should be a priority for everyone because unlike other vaccines, this one has an extremely high potential of eradicating genital warts and it will get us one step closer to preventing cancers of the cervix, head and neck. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Searcher- Casual Sex


                I found an article on Google Scholar that explains the effects of casual sex among students in college. It relates to the topic we brought up about many different mating systems. Casual sex was described as sex without any commitments. The article constructed a survey and found that most people involved in casual sex are friends and also found that the friend aspect of casual sex leads to depression. Men were less likely to get depressed during casual sex than women. I was not sure if this is considered polygamy or serial monogamy. This kind of topic brings up another point that was brought up in class about pathogens. Casual sex with multiple partners may soon lead to STDs, for the more casual you become the less protection you use. A friend from my grammar school experienced the downside/upside (depending on how you look at it) of casual sex and ended up with a baby at 14. Luckily he had a baby instead of gaining a STD; however, it was life changing as you may imagine and he is struggling to make end meet as we speak. Casual sex and polygamy I think should not be ideal for most men and women for the after effects could be more negative than positive. It may lead to a baby with someone you never thought of be in a relationship with, but now you are bonded with that person forever whether you like it or not and it may also lead to the gain in pathogens. In the end it can also lead to emotional problems such as depression as mentioned before so better to me committed than not.

Searcher: Infectious Disease

Disease and illness are not cool. In fact, reading about epidemics and things shutting down my bodily functions has a tendency to terrify me. As an avid gamer, however, I've chanced upon these topics in a few rather unusual places. One such place is with the game Pandemic, which now has two sequels. Pandemic is a game in which you play as a virus, with the aim of infecting the entire globe. You can choose different evolutionary paths along the way, and each choice has varying trade offs for your survival. I personally have never beaten the game, but it has become an incredibly complex and fascinating simulation of how evolution and adaptability functions.
Another place I've seen talk of disease is in World of Warcraft. I don't personally play World of Warcraft, but I stumbled upon an article one day discussing an accidental plague which spread through the several million player online world, wreaking a great deal of havoc along the way. This virtual pandemic was so widespread and well documented that scientists decided to use it as a model for studying epidemics in the real world.
Unfortunately, the real world doesn't allow respawns, which alters the risk-taking behaviors of those involved. However, it turns out that scientists in Chicago (along with some from our very own campus!) set out to make their own virtual world, one with alterable parameters, allowing for control over variables in a large scale social science experiment. Their focus will be mainly on trade and economics, but they most certainly could move to introduce an epidemic similar to that of World of Warcrafts. I feel that studies such as these may provide much needed data on how people react to a pandemic, and as such, look forward to seeing what they will produce.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Searcher: Maintaining Sexual Health in Adolescents


          Sexual and reproductive health varies widely across the world, which Marilyn Rice describes in her article here. In a developed country, such as the United States, sexual education is often a part of school curriculum. Other countries do not have this as an option. Young women in particular are at particular risk, not just of becoming pregnant, but of contracting diseases and infections. As adolescents, these girls do not have the social status or power over their own bodies needed to take proper care of their bodies. If her condition is left untreated, it could mean more serious consequences in the future, such as dangerous pregnancy or infertility.
            Developing countries need access to the information necessary to make an informed decision when it comes to sexual health. In some African and Asian countries, the female fraction of the student body in schools is significantly less than for males. Even if sexual education is offered in some form in schools, girls may not be there to hear it. In these countries, females are lower on the social hierarchy than males. It may be more important to her family that she helps out around the house than receives an education. The author of this article cites a supportive family environment as an effective way to provide information to adolescents. In addition, she talks about how religious organizations should take part as well. I found this interesting because the data Professor Clancy showed in class demonstrated this as an ineffective method.
            There are many factors involved in maintaining sexual health in adolescents. It seems as though adolescents are experimenting sexually at a younger age than previous generations. As a result, it is important to keep them informed. Along with this comes creating an environment of gender equality, which can help women have the power they need to make decisions about their own bodies.

Responder: How to Heal

This is a response to Cara's post, "How to Heal." She discusses the extent to which she and people she knows use drugs as a method for treating symptoms of illness, and questions whether this is the best way to deal with disease. As someone who has never taken drugs for even a headache, I completely agree with her that while these types of drugs may have a place, they certainly should not be used as frequently as they are today.

Cara mentions the Black Death as an example of an epidemic similar to what the readings discussed. She compares this to current epidemics such as the flu, that are widespread today, and typically treated with symptom-managing drugs. As someone who wants to one day be a doctor, I have given this particular topic quite a bit of thought. It doesn't make sense to me to simply manage the symptoms of a disease rather than cure the problem itself. If someone is sick with the flu or even the common cold, the symptoms are their body's way of attempting to fight the infection, and make clear to others that they are sick. This allows the person to become healthy once again and helps prevent disease transmission. When drugs are used to mask symptoms, although the sick individual feels better able to function, they put others at risk of getting sick as well, because they are not actually free of the infection and are still contagious.

I also really liked that Cara mentioned the causes of infectious diseases today--contact between animals and people, settling in towns, and dietary changes. If we work to improve things such as sanitation and nutrition, we can prevent tons of disease. By taking care of ourselves, we provide our immune systems with the necessary nutrition and cleanliness to fight infections quicker and more effectively. In doing my 20% project on diet and nutrition, I have definitely noticed a correlation between this and illness. If more people were aware of ways in which they could prevent the causes of disease, less people would get sick and transmit disease to others, and people getting sick would recover more quickly by allowing their bodies to naturally heal.