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Health news and notables from around the world.

A study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention demonstrated that women who are getting tested for "breast cancer genes" don't seem concerned with risk factors. Researchers surveyed 119 women who signed up to be tested for mutations to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which have been linked to breast and ovarian cancer. They found that 8 percent of the women smoked; 27 percent did not engage in regular, moderate exercise; 46 percent did not regularly protect themselves from sun exposure; 39 percent did not eat the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day; and 9 percent drank at least one alcoholic drink a day.

Smoking is strongly linked to lung and other cancers, while prolonged sun exposure causes skin cancer. People who exercise and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables have a markedly lower risk of cancer.

Study leader Karen Emmons, of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, estimates that only 10 to 20 percent of women who get genetic tests also receive advice on how they can reduce their overall cancer risk. Inherited genetic mutations only cause 5 to 10 percent of all cancers, while behavioral factors have been linked to 70 to 80 percent.

Researchers from the department of sport and exercise science at Canterbury Christ Church University College in Kent, England, have concluded that a lengthy hike once a day delivers more health benefits than a series of shorter walks-even if the short walks add up to the same amount of time. After putting 56 participants through an 18-week course of daily walks, they discovered that longer walks produce the most beneficial changes to the composition of blood fats. However, they noted that walks of any length improve the fitness of the heart.

Writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a team of army doctors reported that physical therapy combined with a supervised exercise program can improve symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee and perhaps reduce the need for surgery. As part of a study, the doctors divided 83 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee into two groups. The first group received manual physical therapy and did knee exercises. The second group was a placebo. The doctors found that the treatment group showed significant improvements. In addition, only 5 percent of the group required knee arthroscopy, compared to 20 percent of the placebo group.

Researchers from Penn State University reported that healthy diets help women maintain their immune system as they age. The scientists compared the immune systems of 75 women, age 60 to 80, to women age 20 to 40. They discovered that older women's immune systems were nearly as strong as the younger women's immune systems. The researchers noted that vitamin and mineral deficiencies hurt the immune system, while healthy diets help fight off illness and infection in old age.

The Journal of American Geriatrics Society recently published a study suggesting that exercise can help seniors improve balance in older adults who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee. Researchers from Wake Forest University and the University of Tennessee studied a group of adults over 60 with osteoarthritis of the knee, separating the seniors into three groups. The first group took part in an aerobic walking program, the second group did strength training, and the final group participated in a health education program. After 18 months, the seniors from the walking and strength training groups did significantly better in a balance test.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health found that people who exercise live longer than those who don't, according to the American Journal Of Epidemiology. Going back to 1977, the researchers looked at the exercise habits for 13,500 men who participated in the Harvard Alumni Health Study. They discovered that men who burned the most calories also had the lowest death rate.

A report published recently in Preventive Medicine revealed that exercise can reduce depression, anger and stress. Researchers from Stockholm University found that men and women who exercised at least twice a week were less likely to experience depression, suppressed anger, stress and distrust of others than people who exercised with less frequency. Consistent exercisers also felt better about their health.

A team of researchers from the University of Maryland stated that even a little exercise can have a major effect on high blood pressure, a major cause of heart disease. Published in the American Journal of Hypertension, the study demonstrated that a 45-minute treadmill session-broken down into three 15-minute segments, with four minutes of rest in between-was enough to lower the blood pressure of 11 obese, sedentary, middle-aged men significantly.

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