Girls' Early Puberty Raises Health Concerns
New evidence suggests that girls really are growing up too quickly. American girls are hitting puberty earlier than ever, developing breasts at ages 7 or 8 instead of the traditional 10 or 11 years old. That's worrisome because early puberty has been linked to an increased risk of breast and endometrial cancer, as well as a greater tendency toward low self-esteem and poor body image, according to a report published Monday in Pediatrics. Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center examined more than 1,200 girls and found that 15 percent showed signs of breast development at age 7. African-American and Hispanic girls were most likely to show breast growth by that age. Though it's unclear why the onset of puberty is shifting, obesity and exposure to environmental chemicals could be driving factors, The New York Times reports.
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Dry Pet Food: A Little-Known Salmonella Source
It may be time to send Fluffy's dish to the doghouse: Contaminated pet food can sicken people, not just animals, suggests a new government report detailing the first-ever human salmonella outbreak linked to pet food. During an outbreak between 2006 and 2008, 79 people in 21 states were sickened by a salmonella strain lurking in dry pet food; half the victims were children, who likely touched affected animals or their tainted food dishes and then put their hands in their mouths. Dry pet food has been deemed an "under-recognized source of salmonella infections in humans" and has likely caused other illnesses, too, study author Casey Barton Behravesh of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press. Wet pet food, however, has not been fingered in the outbreak, according to her team's report published Monday in Pediatrics. At least six unrelated pet food recalls have been issued this year because of possible salmonella contamination. Since 2008, however, no known salmonella illnesses have been linked to pet food, the Associated Press reports.
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Too Much Sun? How to Minimize Wrinkles and Cancer Risks
Once you have a tan, is there anything you can do to minimize the damage to your skin? Yes and no, says Jennifer Stein, an assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center. "The body can repair some of the DNA damage caused by excess sun exposure on its own," she says. That means you shouldn't be too concerned about elevated skin cancer risks from one bout of tanning. On the other hand, she adds, studies have linked habitual tanning to a greater risk of skin cancer, so take care to avoid prolonged sunbathing in the future. Ditto for tanning beds, which the World Health Organization has added to its list of carcinogens, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes.
To be on the safe side, she also recommends checking your skin every few months for new spots, moles that bleed, or growths that have changed in shape, color, or size. Not only do these checks help catch skin cancer early, but they can also help spot precancers, which can be removed before they turn malignant. "[Suspicious] growths tend to look rough, scaly, and pink," says Stein.
Minimizing wrinkles after a suntan is possible. "Use topical therapies daily consisting of retinol and other antioxidants," says Ariel Ostad, a New York City-based dermatologist. Antioxidant-laden wrinkle creams can help neutralize free radicals, harmful molecules produced by the sun's ultraviolet rays that damage skin cells and cause wrinkles. [Read more: Too Much Sun? How to Minimize Wrinkles and Cancer Risks.]
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