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Family of Four

Colorectal Cancer Screening: Just Do It

New research shows that a screening test called flexible sigmoidoscopy can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. It's different than a colonoscopy, which is considered the gold standard in screening. Sigmoidoscopy doesn't look at the entire colon, just the lower part. Patients don't have to be sedated. And, they don't have to go through quite as much preparation before the procedure. But they would likely follow up with a colonoscopy if something abnormal is found.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Studies show it can be prevented with screening, yet some people put that off. "Sigmoidoscopy is less invasive than colonoscopy and carries a lower risk of the colon being perforated, which may make it more acceptable as a screening test to some patients," says Barnett Kramer, MD, of NIH's National Cancer Institute, which funded the study. "There are several effective screening tests for colorectal cancer and the most effective screening test is the one that people choose to take."

Quitting Smoking: The Genetics Connection

Why can some people quit smoking on their own, while others need the help of medication? Scientists say that it's, at least in part, because of genes. Researchers focused on genetic variations already associated with a higher risk of nicotine dependence and found that smokers who carry those variants have a harder time quitting on their own and benefit more than smokers without those variants from taking medications, such as nicotine replacement. Scientists say this information puts health providers a step closer to one day coming up with individualized plans to help patients quit smoking. The study was funded by several parts of the NIH: the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Cancer Institute, and the Clinical and Translational Science Awards program administered by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Growing Up Bilingual

A new study finds that children who grow up speaking two languages are better at multi-tasking than children who speak one language. But bilingual children aren't as quick to build a vocabulary of words they understand. Researchers asked the children to switch between different tasks and found that bilingual children made the change faster than students who learn only one language. "Bilinguals have two sets of language rules in mind, and their brains apparently are wired to toggle back and forth between them, depending on the circumstances," says Peggy McCardle, PhD., of NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study. McCardle heads a branch in the Institute that supports studies in child development, learning, and learning disabilities, to help children become skilled at reading and writing.

Treating Young People with Type 2 Diabetes

The obesity epidemic is causing more children to develop type 2 diabetes. Because type 2 diabetes has primarily been an adult illness until recently, there's little information on how to treat it in young people. Now, a new study provides much-needed information for this emerging health problem. Researchers have found treating young people who recently developed diabetes with a combination of two drugs, metformin and rosiglitazone, worked better than giving them metformin alone.

Rosiglitazone is not recommended for use in practice, due to health risks found in adults. But the study shows the combination of two drugs worked better than single-drug therapy. The study also found type 2 diabetes progressed more quickly, and it was harder to treat, in youth than in adults. The study was funded by NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Summer 2012 Issue: Volume 7 Number 2 Page 28