More evidence that coffee cuts skin cancer

MORE evidence that coffee, particularly among female drinkers, has a positive effect against the most common form of skin cancer worldwide has been released.

Women who drank more than three cups per day of caffeinated coffee saw a 20 percent lower risk of getting basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a slow-growing form of cancer, than those who drank less than a cup per month.

Men who drank the same amount saw a nine percent lower risk, said the research presented at the 10th American Association for Cancer Research International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research in Boston.

“Given the nearly one million new cases of BCC diagnosed each year in the United States, daily dietary factors with even small protective effects may have great public health impact,” said researcher Fengju Song, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
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“Our study indicates that coffee consumption may be an important option to help prevent BCC.”

The data was derived from the Nurses’ Health Study (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (Harvard School of Public Health).

The nurses study followed 72,921 participants from June 1984 to June 2008. The health professionals study tracked 39,976 participants from June 1986 to June 2008.

Basal cell carcinoma was the most frequently diagnosed skin cancer in the groups, totalling 22,786 cases.

The benefits of coffee drinking were not seen against the next two most prevalent types – squamous cell carcinoma (1953 cases) or melanoma (741 cases).

Basal cell carcinoma is a non-melanoma form of skin cancer, and is the most common cancer in the United States. Seventy-five percent of all skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas

Honeycreeper an Asian immigrant

Scientists from the Smithsonian using DNA data sets to outline the evolutionary family tree of the Hawaiian honeycreeper have determined that the 56 species of the native bird evolved from the Eurasian rosefinch.

In another important finding, the researchers linked the timing of the evolution of the honeycreeper to the formation of the four main Hawaiian Islands.

“It was fascinating to be able to tie a biological system to geological formation and allowed us to become the first to offer a full picture of these birds’ adaptive history,” said Helen James, a research zoologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and an author of a paper on the study.

Fern Duvall, state Forestry and Wildlife Division wildlife biologist, who was not involved with this study but is working with two of the authors of the paper, James and Rob Fleischer, on a similar project with shorebirds, called the findings “dynamic” and “unique.”

Putting the research in context, Duvall noted that many bird experts believed the honeycreepers to be descendants of the house finch of North America. Instead, the researchers say the Eurasian rosefinch from Asia is the mother bird of the species.

As for the evolutionary discoveries, Duvall said it had been theorized that there was a link between the biologic and geologic development of the birds to the islands. The scientific connection made in the study is new, he said.

“For them to show that that is the case is dynamic,” he said Wednesday. “I think it’s an excellent example that birds’ forms are tied to diverse habitat types.”

Review head defends decision not to make stunning of exported cattle mandatory

THE head of an independent review into live exports has backed the government’s decision not to make stunning mandatory in the slaughter of Australia animals overseas, saying the practice is not universal and can still be inhumane.

Former departmental secretary Bill Farmer released the report of his investigation into the industry today as Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig confirmed a series of reforms to the $1 billion a year trade, reported by The Australian today.

The new arrangements will see extra transparency measures in place for live cattle exports to Indonesia – introduced in the wake of graphic ABC Four Corners footage – extended to all markets, including Asia and the Middle East, and will also cover the live-sheep and goat export industries.

The changes, which represent an unprecedented shake-up of the industry, will be staggered over the next 14 months to avoid mass disruptions.

Mr Farmer said the review examined animal killing practices overseas – with and without stunning – that met animal welfare guidelines.

“We also saw practices, both stunning and non-stunning, that fell far short of the OIE guidelines. Stunning applied incorrectly is not a humane practice,” he said.

“There is not universal acceptance of stunning, including under our own guidelines in Australia.”

Mr Farmer said he did see a “very significant move in Indonesia” to introduce stunning and by August, 30 abattoirs there had introduced the practice.

Senator Ludwig said the government had accepted all 14 recommendations made by Mr Farmer.

US scientists closer to Hendra virus vaccine, new study reveals

US scientists say a human antibody has been shown to protect lab monkeys from the deadly Hendra virus, which has killed 20 horses in NSW and Queensland since June.

Scientists said there were promising signs for the treatment of the bat-borne virus after research was carried out at a highly protected lab in Montana.

The Hendra virus, which was discovered in Australia in 1994, was last week declared endemic in NSW and Queensland after a recent surge in outbreaks.

There have been 18 outbreaks across both states this year, including eight in NSW.

Although no humans have been affected, four of the seven people ever to have contracted the disease have died.

Before this year’s extraordinary cluster, 14 horses had died since 1994.

The research, described in the journal Science Translational Medicine, was done at a high-security lab in Montana, where 14 African green monkeys were injected with Hendra virus.

Twelve of the monkeys were then treated with a human antibody called m102.4, and they all survived while the untreated pair died.

Earlier experiments on smaller animals have also shown efficacy from the antibody against Hendra virus.

After the US study on monkeys concluded in 2010, the antibody was injected in a woman and her 12-year-old daughter in Australia last year as an emergency protection for exposure to Hendra.

While the two survived with no side effects from the treatment, scientists say more study needs to be done before the antibody can be used as a widespread remedy.

“I think this is a very promising therapy, especially when you consider that it was still strong three days later,” said lead author Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

GM crops promote superweeds, food insecurity and pesticides, say NGOs

Genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of “superweeds”, according to a report by 20 Indian, south-east Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people.

The so-called miracle crops, which were first sold in the US about 20 years ago and which are now grown in 29 countries on about 1.5bn hectares (3.7bn acres) of land, have been billed as potential solutions to food crises, climate change and soil erosion, but the assessment finds that they have not lived up to their promises.

The report claims that hunger has reached “epic proportions” since the technology was developed. Besides this, only two GM “traits” have been developed on any significant scale, despite investments of tens of billions of dollars, and benefits such as drought resistance and salt tolerance have yet to materialise on any scale.

Most worrisome, say the authors of the Global Citizens’ Report on the State of GMOs, is the greatly increased use of synthetic chemicals, used to control pests despite biotech companies’ justification that GM-engineered crops would reduce insecticide use.

In China, where insect-resistant Bt cotton is widely planted, populations of pests that previously posed only minor problems have increased 12-fold since 1997. A 2008 study in the International Journal of Biotechnology found that any benefits of planting Bt cotton have been eroded by the increasing use of pesticides needed to combat them.

Additionally, soya growers in Argentina and Brazil have been found to use twice as much herbicide on their GM as they do on conventional crops, and a survey by Navdanya International, in India, showed that pesticide use increased 13-fold since Bt cotton was introduced.

Funding approved to continue fight against Guam’s brown tree snake

It appears the effort to eradicate the notorious brown tree snake on Guam and keep it from infesting Hawaii will not fall victim to congressional budget tightening – at least for now.

The program was on the verge of being canceled this week because the fiscal year is ending and Congress has imposed a moratorium on the type of earmark funding that has kept it running for years.

At the last minute, the Defense and Interior departments agreed to pitch in $2.9 million to rescue the effort to secure ports and kill off the snakes for the next nine months, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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The brown tree snake was introduced on Guam following World War II and has since decimated native bird species and plagued the island with electrical blackouts caused by snakes infesting transformers. Meanwhile, scientists fear the pest could be accidentally imported to Hawaii and severely damage the island environment and cost hundreds of millions of dollars – or even billions – in economic losses.

“We don’t want a break in service, obviously, and so that’s why there was very much concern over the budget situation,”

Many egg producers still not complying with food-sanitation rules

Many egg producers still not complying with food-sanitation rules
By Mattea Kramer, Saturday, October 1, 8:51 AM

Two-tenths of a penny per dozen. That’s what it costs Pennsylvania farmers to make eggs safer. By disinfecting henhouses, trapping rodents and testing regularly for harmful bacteria, the state’s egg farmers have cut the presence of salmonella by more than half.

But egg producers in much of the rest of the country haven’t followed suit. Last summer, two large Iowa producers recalled 500 million salmonella-tainted eggs — the largest egg recall in history. More than 1,900 people nationwide grew sick, causing alarm for consumers.

Millions of Americans suffer from foodborne illness each year. Michael Batz, head of food safety programs at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, calculates the cost of salmonella-contaminated eggs at $370 million a year. Salmonellosis is an infection that causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Batz factors in missed work, medical bills, victims’ assessments of how their illness harmed them (called “quality-adjusted life”) and premature deaths.

The non-monetary loss is also substantial. An estimated 115,000 people suffer this type of food poisoning each year, resulting in 42 fatalities, according to his estimates.