Young children are naturally inclined to help others, revealed a new study that also underscored the one exception when they stop showing compassion.
When kindness came at a personal cost, it reduced compassionate responding, researchers also found.
The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, assessed the nature of over 280 four- and five-year-old children to help others.
Scientists, including James Kirby from The University of Queensland in Australia, conducted experiments to determine what factors facilitated and inhibited compassionate behaviour in them.
Compassion is a widely studied behaviour that is strongly linked to how people help and comfort others.
The trait comes with a complex motive and sensitivity to one’s own suffering as well as to others, along with a commitment to alleviate or prevent it.
Previous studies have shown that children tend to have a natural tendency to show compassion whenever they can.
It has, however, remained unclear under what conditions they can drop out of helping others.
In the new study, scientists sought to examine what factors may facilitate greater compassionate behaviour in young children and what conditions may lead to them being less helpful to others.
Researchers asked children to play a puzzle game, on the completion of which they received a sticker as a reward.
Before being introduced to the games, the children picked their three favourite stickers from a large selection.
They played the games alongside adults or puppets – Millie the Monkey, Ellie the Elephant and George the Giraffe – who did not have sufficient pieces to finish the task.
The children became visibly distressed in three different ways after being unable to receive stickers.
“This allowed three opportunities for the child to help,” scientists explained in the study.
“If the child helped after the suffering was shown by the puppet, it was operationalised as compassionate behaviour,” they added.
The tasks were ended either when the child helped or after three prompts when the child did not help.
Researchers found the children helped across all the studies whenever they had extra puzzle pieces.
But when they had only enough pieces to complete the puzzle themselves, they were found to not help others.
“We found strong evidence that cost reduces compassionate responding,” researchers explained.
Scientists also found that the recipient of compassion did not influence the children’s behaviour as they were equally likely to help a human adult and a puppet.
The findings suggested that in children who are four and five years of age, personal cost could be a “greater inhibitor” to responding compassionately than to who the compassion is directed.
Researchers also tried to vary study conditions to understand what factors may increase the chances of children giving up the puzzle piece and forgoing their sticker reward.
They did this by telling the children in a separate experiment that they could share pieces, adding that they were on the same team with the puppet or adult. However, this too was without success, researchers said.
“It is possible that children saw the ‘finite’ amount of resources available in the shared bucket and realised they had to get the pieces they needed before the puppet,” researchers added.
Taken together, the results of the experiments suggest that personal cost is a key inhibitor to compassionate behaviour in children, implying that reducing this cost may facilitate compassion.
The findings, according to the scientists, can help facilitate compassionate behaviour in young children.
Consuming small, sequential doses of boiled peanuts help overcome children’s allergic reactions, according to a new study.
The research, published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy, found that 80 per cent of children with peanut allergy become desensitised to eating peanuts following the trial.
Since up to three per cent of children in Western countries are grappling with peanut allergies, scientists, including those from Flinders University in the US, say the new clinical trial can help develop a novel treatment to reduce the risk of accidental peanut exposure and Excellerate quality of life for peanut-allergic children.
Their new study is based on previous findings that heat affects the protein structure and allergic properties of peanuts, making them potentially less likely to cause severe allergic reactions.
Scientists tested whether a therapy delivering small, increasing doses of boiled peanuts, followed by roasted peanuts, may help children overcome their peanut allergies.
“Small and increasing doses of boiled nuts were first given to children to partially desensitise them, and when they showed no signs of an allergic reaction, increasing doses of roasted peanuts were then provided to increase their tolerance in the next stage of treatment,” study co-author Tim Chataway said in a statement.
Researchers asked 70 peanut-allergic children of ages six to 18 to consume peanuts boiled for 12 hours for 12 weeks, 2 hour boiled peanuts for 20 weeks, and roasted peanuts for 20 weeks.
Scientists found that 56 of the 70 (80 per cent) participants became desensitized to a daily target dose of consuming 12 roasted peanuts without allergic reactions.
While treatment-related adverse events were reported in over 60 per cent of the participants, only 3 withdrew from the trial as a result, the study noted.
“Our clinical trial shows promising early signs in demonstrating that boiling peanuts may provide a safe and effective method for treating peanut-allergic children with sequential doses of boiled and roasted peanuts over an extended period of time,” says Luke Grzeskowiak, another author of the study, said.
However, scientists caution that this method of therapy may not work for everyone, but add that they are in the process of better understanding what factors can influence how people respond to treatment.
While these findings hold “great promise”, researchers add that the results also require confirmation in a larger definitive clinical trial.
A medication that is already on the market may help people who binge drink, new research shows.
The medication, naltrexone, is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat alcohol use disorder as well as opioid use disorder, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA.
When taken for alcohol use disorder, naltrexone is taken daily in pill form.
A new study published in December in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that taking naltrexone prior to an expected episode of binge drinking, as opposed to taking it daily, can help curb the amount of alcohol consumed.
Binge drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a "pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above."
That typically means consuming five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men and four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women, according to the CDC.
The new research, first reported by The New York Times, looked at young men who took the pill one hour before they expected to drink.
In addition to the medication, the participants also received education on reducing alcohol use.
After 12 weeks, participants who took naltrexone prior to drinking reported consuming less alcohol than the participants who received a placebo.
The participants who took naltrexone also reported its effect lasting up to six months, according to the study.
The medication works by binding endorphin receptors in the body, which helps block the "effects and feelings of alcohol," according to SAMHSA.
"Naltrexone reduces alcohol cravings and the amount of alcohol consumed," the agency states on its website, adding that with alcohol use disorder, the treatment typically lasts for three to four months. "Once a patient stops drinking, taking naltrexone helps patients maintain their sobriety."
The new research on naltrexone for helping to curb excessive alcohol use comes amid an increase in binge drinking in the United States.
The annual number of binge drinks among adults who reported binge drinking jumped on average from 472 in 2011 to 529 in 2017, a 12% increase, according to a CDC study published in 2020.
Increases in binge drinking were most prominent in people 35 or older and those with lower educational levels and household incomes, according to the CDC data.
One in 6 adults in the U.S. binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge, and binge drinking is twice as common among men than among women, according to the CDC.
Drinking a steady amount of alcohol in a short amount of time has a different impact on your body than drinking, for example, one glass of wine each night over the course of one week, according to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OBGYN.
For women, a moderate alcohol intake per week is defined as seven servings of alcohol or less. For men, it is 14 servings of alcohol or less per week, according to the CDC.
One serving of alcohol is defined as 5 ounces for wine and just 1 1/2 ounces for hard alcohol, far less than what is typically served in bars, restaurants and people's homes.
Dr. Darien Sutton, a board-certified emergency medicine physician and ABC News medical contributor, said people who are concerned about their alcohol use should speak with their medical provider.
"The first step, I always want to advise patients, is acknowledging to yourself that you might have a problem," he said. "Talk to your physician about your symptoms so that you can get a good gauge on what the issue is and the other possible treatments."
SAMHSA also has a 24/7 free and confidential helpline available at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), and online at samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.
Peer-to-peer support platforms like TalkLife can help people struggling with their mental health connect to others who have had similar experiences and receive support. While well-intentioned, supporters on these platforms aren’t trained therapists — and researchers at the University of Washington found that their responses to those seeking help often lacked the level of empathy critical to a supportive interaction.
To address this, researchers developed an artificial intelligence system that suggests changes to supporters’ messages to make them more empathetic. They found that almost 70 percent of supporters felt more confident in writing helpful responses after participating in the study.
Tim Althoff, an assistant professor in the University of Washington’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, led the study. He joins us to talk about the nuances of empathy and the challenges of bringing AI into mental health spaces.
If you’d like to comment on any of the courses in this show, or suggest a Topic of your own, please get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter, send an email to email@example.com, or you can leave a voicemail for us at 503-293-1983. The call-in phone number during the noon hour is 888-665-5865.
A new study published on Wednesday suggested that a deep-space umbrella of&nbsp;lunar dust could help&nbsp;slow&nbsp;the effects of climate change.
The&nbsp;study, published in the PLoS science journal, explains how a cloud of lunar dust launched between the Earth and the sun could block some of the solar radiation that warms the Earth.
This research&nbsp;offers new support for a lesser-known corner of solar&nbsp;geoengineering, a field that seeks to&nbsp;scatter or reflect&nbsp;solar&nbsp;rays&nbsp;before they&nbsp;hit the Earth.&nbsp;
The European Union&nbsp;is&nbsp;actively studying&nbsp;this idea, and the Biden administration has also started looking into it.
The White House Office of Science and Technology&nbsp;Policy has been reviewing&nbsp;comments&nbsp;on a five-year research project aimed at a &ldquo;scientific assessment of solar and other rapid climate interventions&rdquo; to curb global warming.
Solar geoengineering &mdash; like many other prospective planet-scale techniques to partially slow climate change &mdash; strikes many climate scientists as an enormous and unnecessary risk.
A group of 380 scientists signed an open letter last year calling on world governments&nbsp;to pledge to take solar geoengineering off the table.
The scientists&rsquo; concerns fell into three categories.
First, they argued that the risks of climate engineering are poorly understood and&nbsp;could&nbsp;destabilize&nbsp;weather patterns,&nbsp;with unknown impacts on global agriculture and the water cycle.
Next are&nbsp;the&nbsp;&ldquo;moral hazard&rdquo; objections: the&nbsp;scientists warned that&nbsp;hope for future moonshots like solar geoengineering could distract or disincentivize&nbsp;from far cheaper and more practical decarbonization efforts.
Finally, they contended that the current global governance system is not able to regulate the deployment of solar geoengineering technologies.
Geoengineering is particularly thorny because any country, corporation or private individual could theoretically launch an independent project &mdash; dragging the rest of the world behind them into experimental territory.
Last month, Mexico&nbsp;banned&nbsp;the controversial earth-based experimentation by startup Make Sunsets, which had been&nbsp;experimenting with releasing sulfur dioxide&nbsp;into the atmosphere above Baja California as an experimental means of reflecting heat.
However, advocates of the space-based approach hope it could sidestep some of the potential environmental consequences posed by Earth-based initiatives, which generally involve seeding the atmosphere with reflective particles.
According to experts, the idea of solar geoengineering has long been discussed but neglected by U.S. policymakers.
&ldquo;These are old ideas, [but] I am glad they are getting more traction,&rdquo; David Keith, who leads a solar geoengineering lab at Harvard, told The Hill in a statement.
Keith&rsquo;s team&nbsp;wrote about this prospect&nbsp;in 2020, where he noted that such an effort would be &ldquo;more ambitious than anything previously attempted in space.&rdquo;&nbsp;
The Harvard research group wrote that such projects would require breakthroughs in space technologies, from asteroid mining to in-space fabrication and new, energy-efficient methods of launching rockets, research shows.
But the research team also argued that these technologies were far more accessible &mdash; and, therefore, more deserving of immediate attention &mdash; than ones often suggested by space boosters, like Jeff Bezos&rsquo; proposed space industries or Elon Musk&rsquo;s Mars settlements.
He estimated that with a price of approximately $1 trillion, designing a program to cut solar radiation by just one percent would cost about as much as developing an American F-35 fighter jet &mdash; and far less than the economic cost of climate change.
The PLoS study, conducted by a team from the University of Utah, suggested a means of dropping costs&nbsp;further&nbsp;by using the moon as both a launch pad and&nbsp;a source&nbsp;of soil.&nbsp;The lunar launch site&nbsp;would eliminate the need for repeated flights out of Earth&rsquo;s far-larger gravity well.
Researchers proposed that lunar dust would be a far more cost-effective strategy than launching dust from Earth.&nbsp;Their simulations found that blasting dust from Earth to the Lagrange Point &mdash; a point between the Earth and the sun where the gravitational forces are balanced &mdash; would rapidly drift out of place.
They found that lunar dust, by contrast, would be cheaper to put in place and would stay there longer.
According to the team, the big question&nbsp;was&nbsp;how effective the dust shield&nbsp;would&nbsp;be.
The answer&nbsp;was highly complex, because it depended on keeping a cloud of dust nearly a million miles away floating in a sufficiently steady position to cast a consistent&nbsp;shadow on the Earth. The study considers this further, indicating that setting up a shield at a stable Lagrange Point would be the best bet.&nbsp;
&ldquo;It is astounding that the sun, Earth, and moon are in just the right&nbsp;configuration to enable this kind of climate mitigation strategy,&rdquo; said Scott Kenyon, a Harvard&rsquo;s Center for Astrophysics researcher.
The authors stressed that their study explored&nbsp;whether it was possible to use lunar dust particles&nbsp;as a sun shield &mdash;&nbsp;rather than whether doing so was feasible or even advisable.
Dr. Michael Mann, a climate scientist from the University of Pennsylvania, argued that&nbsp;geoengineering was a very risky fix to a problem with much easier answers.
Mann explained that the term &ldquo;solar engineering&rdquo; is misleading, as&nbsp;human society doesn&rsquo;t&nbsp;have control over the sun. Instead, these&nbsp;frontier&nbsp;ideas are ways to manipulate our planetary environment in&nbsp;deep and fundamental ways.
Such interventions could produce more harm than good, he argued.
&ldquo;While it is certainly true that reducing sunlight can cause cooling, it acts on a very different part of the climate system than carbon dioxide,&rdquo; he told The Hill.
&ldquo;And efforts to offset carbon dioxide-caused warming with sunlight reduction&nbsp;would yield&nbsp;a very different climate, perhaps one unlike any seen before in Earth&rsquo;s history, with massive shifts in atmospheric circulation and rainfall patterns and possible worsening of droughts,&rdquo; Mann added.
Then there is the possibility that more and more solar dimming will be required as the Earth continues to heat.
That could lead to the risk of &ldquo;a catastrophic &lsquo;termination shock&rsquo; wherein a century of pent-up global heating emerges within a decade,&rdquo; Mann said.
&ldquo;Some proponents insist we can always stop if we don&rsquo;t like the result,&rdquo; he continued. &ldquo;Well yes, we can stop. Just like if you&rsquo;re being kept alive by a ventilator with no hope of a cure, you can turn it off.&rdquo;
He argued that there is a far simpler solution: reduce or eliminate the reliance on fossil fuels.
A recent study suggests that moon dust might help slow the rise in Earth’s temperature caused by climate change.
Scientists at the University of Utah explored the potential of using the lunar particles to shield sunlight before it reaches our planet.
For decades, researchers have considered using screens, objects or dust particles to block just enough of the sun’s radiation – between 1% and 2% – to mitigate the effects of global warming, a journal published Wednesday in PLOS Climate stated. Now, they have analyzed different properties of dust particles, quantities of dust and the orbits that would be best suited for shading Earth.
Ben Bromley, professor of physics and astronomy and lead author of the study, joined a team of astronomers who applied a technique to study planet formation around distant stars.
LOOK OUT FOR THESE ASTRONOMICAL EVENTS IN FEBRUARY
Planet formation is a "messy process that kicks up lots of astronomical dust that can form rings around the host star," the journal stated.
"These rings intercept light from the central star and re-radiate it in a way that we can detect it on Earth," the journal added. "One way to discover stars that are forming new planets is to look for these dusty rings."
That was the seed of the idea, according to Bromley.
"If we took a small amount of material and put it on a special orbit between the Earth and the sun and broke it up, we could block out a lot of sunlight with a little amount of mass," he said.
There were two scenarios promising to scientists.
WHAT CAUSED THIS COLORFUL HALO AROUND THE MOON?
The authors found that launching dust from Earth to a way station at the Lagrange point 1 (L1) between Earth and the sun would be most effective but would require astronomical cost and effort. According to the study's authors, L1 is the closest point between Earth and the sun where the gravitational forces are balanced.
"It was rather difficult to get the shield to stay at L1 long enough to cast a meaningful shadow," said Sameer Khan, an undergraduate student and the study’s co-author. "This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, since L1 is an unstable equilibrium point. Even the slightest deviation in the sunshield’s orbit can cause it to rapidly drift out of place, so our simulations had to be extremely precise."
'BEAR' ON MARS CAPTURES INTERNET'S IMAGINATION
An alternative is to launch dust from our moon as a cheap and effective way to shade the Earth.
"We aren’t experts in climate change, or the rocket science needed to move mass from one place to the other," Bromley said. "We’re just exploring different kinds of dust on a variety of orbits to see how effective this approach might be. We do not want to miss a game changer for such a critical problem."
Raising a dog is a lot like raising a baby: both have a predilection for eating food off of the floor, lack the fine motor coordination to avoid making a mess when they eat, and speak in nonsensical sounds. The two of them also seem to share another bond, too: evidently, some innate tendency to communicate and empathize with dogs exists in human children. The findings have intriguing suggestions for how empathy is hard-wired in human children.
Between 2015 and 2020, researchers at the University of Michigan studied the way toddlers react to unfamiliar dogs when those canine companions communicate distress. Among a group of 97 children (including 51 girls and 46 boys) aged 2 or 3 years — 44 of whom had dogs as pets — scientists found that, half of the time, they would assist a dog if the animal indicated that it wanted a toy or treat which had been placed out of reach. This conclusion is important because it reveals that children are capable of empathy and altruism toward animals outside of their own species.
"It's been known for a long time that toddlers will go out of their way to help struggling humans, even strangers," study co-author Henry Wellman, the Harold W. Stevenson Collegiate Professor Emeritus of Psychology at University of Michigan, said in a statement. "But perhaps such altruism is specially evolved for and targeted toward other humans (who after all might help them back). But no, it applies to other animals too, like dogs they will never see again."
"It's been known for a long time that toddlers will go out of their way to help struggling humans, even strangers."
The study raises provocative questions about children's capacity for empathy toward other other animals, too, including cats, horses, sheep, ducks and pigs.
"These findings lend support to our hypothesis that children's early-developing proclivities for goal-reading and prosociality extend beyond humans to other animals," Michigan alumna Rachna Reddy, the study's lead author and postdoctoral fellow in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, added in a statement.
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Regardless of the bond between children and other animals, however, human beings as a species have a special connections to dogs — and this is not the only research to underscore the unique relationship. Human beings have an ancient relationship with dogs, tracing back largely to Eurasia, and as each species has co-evolved they have picked up on intuitive ways of understanding one another. A 2018 study in the scientific journal Learning & Behavior concluded that dogs are capable of understanding human facial expressions. Bunny, a labradoodle who has learned how to "talk" to humans by pushing a series of buttons, seems to communicate that she misses friends of hers when they are no longer around. A study in August even found that dogs shed tears of joy when they are in situations where they feel happy. Human beings feel an instinctive bond with canines that goes back to the prehistoric era, and which has been quantified by scientists in numerous ways.
"We know for a fact that when dogs and their pet parents look into each other's eyes, it feels good to the canine as their oxytocin levels rise — a hormone that makes us feel good," Renee Alsarraf, a veterinarian and author of "Sit, Stay, Heal: What Dogs Can Teach Us About Living Well," told Salon by email at the time about the tears study.
Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa
Two of the largest unions in western Washington came together for a panel discussion to talk about work in aviation and how to ensure the state stays competitive.
WASHINGTON, USA — A new study by the company AeroDynamic Advisory said Washington has the most competitive business environment for the manufacture and assembly of aircraft.
“Using identifiable and clearly-laid-out metrics. Everything from the cost of labor on a productivity basis to infrastructure and energy costs,” said Richard Aboulafia, the managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory.
The 2022 Aerospace Competitive Economics Study (ACES) found that the state scored highest in labor and education, aerospace industry and research and innovation.
“We want to make sure that it’s really clear that our workforce is second to none,” said John Holden, the president of Machinist Union District 751.
The state has more than 78,000 aerospace workers. The International Association of Machinists and The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace say western Washington workers have the skills, labor and legacy that are the best in the county.
“We have more people training to be aerospace workers than other states actually have aerospace workers and that’s a critical piece moving forward. Who is going to fill these jobs in the next generation?” said Holden.
States such as Texas and Arizona are quickly gaining speed. It brings into question what the future of Washington aviation holds.
“Decisions made now have really, really long-term consequences,” said panelist Ron Epstein, the managing director for Aerospace & Defense.
Boeing has said the company won’t introduce a new plane until at least the mid 2030’s, which is a concern for the workforce.
"It’s catastrophic to the workforce and what’s even worse is that when CEO David Calhoun made that comment, it didn’t appear to take into account the risk of workforce atrophy,” said Aboulafia.
With a loss in market shares and an aging workforce, this is one in a line of conversations to keep Washington No. 1.
The panel made it clear that the next few years will be telling for Washington’s future. In the ACES study, Washington scored lowest in infrastructure and labor costs.
Loyalty card data on over-the-counter medicine purchases could help spot ovarian cancer cases earlier according to a pioneering study funded by Cancer Research UK.
The first-of-its-kind Cancer Loyalty Card Study (CLOCS) study looked at whether there is a link between a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and a history of buying over-the-counter pain and indigestion medications, such as pain killers and digestive aids like antacids.
The study of almost 300 women found that pain and indigestion medication purchases were higher in women who were subsequently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, compared to women who did not have ovarian cancer.
This change in purchases could be seen eight months before diagnosis.
The findings could help to identify people who may have ovarian cancer at an earlier stage, which is one of the most effective ways to Excellerate survival.
93% of people diagnosed with ovarian cancer survive their disease for 5 years or more if diagnosed at the earliest stage (stage 1) compared to just 13% when diagnosed at the latest stage (stage 4).
Dr Yasemin Hirst, formerly of University College London and now at Lancaster University’s Medical School, led the preliminary study which paved the way for this latest research – published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance - where she is a co-investigator.
Dr Hirst said: “Self-care is about individuals’ capability to manage illnesses, keeping healthy without the support from healthcare providers as well as the appropriate use of healthcare when it is required. Self-care is an important part of recognizing and managing the early signs and symptoms of cancer which could resemble common illnesses and can be cared for without the guidance from healthcare providers. It is therefore crucial to understand to what extent this process may influence timely presentation in healthcare.
“The Cancer Loyalty Card Study (CLOCS) is one of the leading projects showing that our health behaviours can be measured beyond healthcare records using transactional data. This data is very exciting for behavioural scientists to further explore life-style changes, dietary behaviours and perhaps exploring other datasets (e.g. biosensors) that can provide more information about self-care and health outcomes.”
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be unclear in the early stages of the disease, which leads to some people buying medication from a local pharmacy to alleviate their symptoms instead of visiting a GP, because they do not think their condition is serious. These early symptoms can include loss of appetite, stomach pain and bloating. This results in many people with ovarian cancer being diagnosed late, often when the cancer has already spread, and when their likelihood of survival has greatly reduced.
Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the UK, with around 7400 people diagnosed each year and more than 4000 deaths each year from the disease. One in 5 women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in A&E and many do not receive any treatment for their disease, often because they are too unwell by the time they are diagnosed.
Dr James Flanagan, lead author for the study, from Imperial College’s Department of Surgery & Cancer, said: “The cancer symptoms we are looking for are very common, but for some women, they could be the first signs of something more serious.
“Using shopping data, our study found a noticeable increase in purchases of pain and indigestion medications among women with ovarian cancer up to 8 months before diagnosis, compared with women without ovarian cancer. This suggests that long before women have recognised their symptoms as alarming enough to go to the GP, they may be treating them at home.
“As we know early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is key to improving chances of survival, we hope this research can lead to ovarian cancer symptoms being picked up earlier and Excellerate patients’ options for treatment.”
The study included loyalty card data from two UK-based high street retailers of 283 women. Of these participants, 153 were women who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 120 were women who had not. The researchers studied six years' worth of purchase histories from the women.
Participants were also asked to complete a short questionnaire about ovarian cancer risk factors, along with the symptoms they experienced (if any) and the number of visits to their GP in the year leading up to cancer referral or diagnosis for cases.
On average, participants with ovarian cancer began to recognise their symptoms about 4 and a half months before diagnosis. Of those who visited a GP to check their symptoms, the first visit occurred, on average, about 3 and a half months before diagnosis.
The researchers note that more research is needed to confirm their findings, and hope that larger studies with patients diagnosed at different stages will be able to support and strengthen these results.
It is also hoped that this research could lead to the future development of an alert system for individuals to help them to seek medical attention for symptoms of cancer, or other diseases, sooner than they might otherwise do.
Dr David Crosby, Head of Prevention and Early Detection Research at Cancer Research UK, said: "Today, in the digital age, we live with a wealth of data at our fingertips. Studies like this are a great example of how we can harness this information for good and help us detect cancer earlier.
“It's incredible to think that this innovative study using loyalty cards, something most of us carry in our wallets, could help women with ovarian cancer which is often diagnosed late and mimics the symptoms of other, more benign conditions.
"Whilst further research with more patients is needed, this study indicates exciting potential for a new way to detect cancer earlier and save lives."
The research team have been funded by Cancer Research UK to continue this work by investigating whether purchases of over-the-counter products could be used in a similar way for other cancers, such as stomach, liver, and bladder cancers - all of which also commonly have non-specific symptoms.
Fiona Murphy, an ovarian cancer patient representative who helped develop the study, said: “I lived on Gaviscon for 18 months prior to my ovarian cancer diagnosis, it went everywhere with me due to severe acid reflux. Had this been associated with ovarian cancer, I would have had a faster diagnosis, far less surgeries and better fertility options.
"I wanted to help with developing this study because I had the wrong diagnosis for nearly two years. If there is a way to get an earlier diagnosis, I want to help people who are in the same position I was in."
Fiona was diagnosed with mucinous ovarian cancer in 2008 after being symptomatic for nearly 2 years. She was not one of the 283 participants whose loyalty card data was used for the study.
JMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Association between purchase of over-the-counter medications and ovarian cancer diagnosis in the Cancer Loyalty Card Study (CLOCS): results from an observational case-control study
Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Nearly half of American women report taking days off from work due to menstrual symptoms, according to a new study that found digital health apps could help workplace productivity.
The University of Virginia School of Medicine Health survey found that 45.2% of women reported menstrual symptoms that impacted their work. Those symptoms included reduced energy, mood and lack of concentration.
"This study demonstrates that menstrual symptoms have a significant effect on women's lives," Dr. Jennifer Payne, the study's senior author and director of the Reproductive Psychiatry Research Program at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, said in a statement.
"I think these results demonstrate just how resilient women are -- they are able to continue to work and be productive despite the significant impact that menstrual symptoms have," Payne added.
Researchers tracked responses from 1,867 women who used the Flo app, which helps women track their menstrual cycle and symptoms, as 91% of the women reported cramps, 85% reported fatigue and 81% reported bloating.
According to the study, many of the women who reported menstrual symptoms said they did not feel supported by their workplace, with 49.7% saying they did not feel comfortable talking freely about their cycle with their manager.
Researchers found those women, who used digital health interventions such as the Flo app, were better equipped to manage their period symptoms. More than half of the women surveyed in the study said the app helped them prepare for and be aware of their body's signals.
According to the study, the app users said they were 18% to 25% less likely to report that their menstrual symptoms affected their work productivity. They were also 12% to 16% less likely to take days off.
"Organizations would do well to pay attention to this study and promote environments where women can feel comfortable in addressing needs surrounding the menstrual cycle," Payne said.
"Women are already doing the hard work of coping with menstrual symptoms on a monthly basis. Digital interventions geared toward minimizing women's symptoms and maximizing coping skills are one way organizations can support their women employees."