What is Radon? and how does it impact health?

Biomedical Sciences, cancer

By Ross Keller, PhD candidate in Biomedical Sciences

You have probably heard vague notions about the health impacts of radon, but what is it exactly? And how does it impact health?

Currently, radon is believed to be the second leading cause of environmentally caused lung cancer, following smoking. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 15,000-22,000 lung cancer related deaths per year are attributable to radon exposure, with the majority of them occurring in smokers who are also exposed to radon (1).

radon-nuclear-sign

Radon is radioactive, making it a risk for lung cancer (Pixabay)

Evidence for an increased risk of cancer from radon exposure comes from epidemiological studies as well as animal studies. It was found that occupational exposure to high levels of radon in miners was strongly linked to an increased risk for lung cancer (2). Lower levels of residential radon exposure was also linked to an increased risk in combined analysis of case-control studies in North America (3) and Europe (4). Furthermore, animal studies conducted in the mid-to-late 20th century clearly demonstrated the ability of radon and its decay elements to cause lung carcinomas (5).

Why is Tanning Dangerous?

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

tanning-bed-165167_640

Do you use tanning beds? Image: Gerlach (Pixabay)

Summer will be here soon, and after being stuck inside all winter, it will be welcomed with open arms.

But as we plan trips to beaches and lakes around the country, a lot of us (including myself) will look at our pale arms and legs and think of ways to get that bronze glow to go along with the summer sun.

Millions of people will soon be soaking up the sun’s rays or purchasing a tanning membership in an effort to achieve a sun-kissed look, but take heed: there is one big reason to rethink lying in the sun or under the lamps of a tanning bed.

There are misconceptions that one way of tanning is less damaging than the other—some circles claim natural sunlight is good for your skin, while others believe the artificial lights of the tanning beds are actually better than sunlight.

In reality, both are dangerous, and the danger lies in the increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Why Do We Need Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins in our Diet?

Biomedical Sciences

By: Patrick Brown, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Program

USDA

USDA

There are an endless number of diet plans available today that purport to be the answer to all of our weight loss needs.

Most of them are based on calorie restriction or minimizing intake of one of the major macromolecules found in food – fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Probably the most famous example of this is the Atkins diet, which suggests you cut carbohydrates out of your diet and sustain yourself on protein and fat.

Although these diet systems have led to weight loss for many people, we should be careful about upsetting the balance of the macromolecules we ingest. After all, the body needs all of them to function properly.

How Does Animal Research Advance Medicine?

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Animal,Porkey Pig, Lobund-Wistar

A question was submitted to our blog asking: “How does animal research advance medicine?” It is an important question, and I will do my best to answer it.

The average human life expectancy has increased dramatically over the past 100 years. In 1900, most did not live past 50. Now, most will live to see their 75th birthday. This increase is largely due to advances in medicine that would not have been possible without animal research.

In fact, many scientific organizations as well as the World Health Organization and the United States Department of Health and Human Services estimate that animal research has played a part in almost every major medical advancement over the past century. This fact alone underscores the importance that animal research has played in medicine.

Despite all the benefits of animal research in advancing medicine, many opponents of animal research ask the question, “What gives humans the right to use another creature for our own advancement?” It’s true that this is not a question with an easy answer. Every person has his or her own values and is entitled to his or her own opinion on that question.

Goodbye Sun; Hello SAD

Neuroscience

By: Caitlin Millett, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Program

SAD_manIt’s that time of year again- the end of daylight savings and the beginning of the dark season. As is ominously stated in Game of Thrones: Winter. Is. Coming.

While the majority of us look forward to seasonal festivities, millions can also expect feelings of depression, fatigue, irritability and poor sleep.

This form of mental illness, commonly known as the winter blues, is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is disproportionately represented in populations furthest from the equator. It is estimated that 1-2% of North Americans have a mood disorder with a seasonal pattern, with 10% of New Englanders versus 2% of Floridians affected. Symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, low concentration, sluggishness, social withdrawal, unhappiness and irritability.

Decades of research has uncovered the culprit behind this debilitating illness: lack of sunlight and disruption of circadian rhythms.