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Harvard Health Blog

Join the discussion with experts from Harvard Health Publishing and others like you on a variety of health topics, medical news, and views.


Synthetic biology: Really cool science not yet ready for prime time

Published September 22, 2010

One of the joys of working at Harvard Medical School, at least for those of us who are nerds, is the chance to attend free lectures by scientists who are pushing the boundaries of how we understand the world. So while we usually cover practical health-related topics in this blog, I thought I’d take a […]

Distinguishing depression from normal adolescent mood swings

Published September 13, 2010

Parents often wonder how to distinguish normal teenage mood swings and rebellions from actual symptoms of depression. I asked Dr. Nadja N. Reilly, a member of the editorial board of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, for some advice on this topic. Dr. Reilly has a particular interest in finding ways to identify and prevent youth […]

No big whoop: Adult pertussis may not produce the whooping cough

Published September 13, 2010

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified […]

Those biking Bankers: Active commuters to the World Bank

Published September 11, 2010

After the article on cycling in the August 2010 issue of the Health Letter, we heard from Gary Reid, a public sector management specialist at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Reid is impressive. He commutes by bicycle 14.5 miles one-way (29 miles round-trip) from his home in McLean, Virginia, to the Bank headquarters, which is a just couple […]

Eating for prostate health

Published September 09, 2010

Patients frequently ask for a list of foods they can eat to help shield them from prostate cancer. Although some foods have been linked with reduced risk of prostate cancer, the proof of their effectiveness is lacking.

Advice for dealing with school bullies

Published September 07, 2010

Although adults sometimes dismiss it as a childhood rite of passage, bullying in school is now recognized as a form of aggression that may have long-lasting psychological ramifications — for both victims and perpetrators. Most research on bullying has been done in Australia and Europe, where rates of frequent bullying range from 2% of youths […]

Prostate cancer vaccine approved by the FDA

Published September 06, 2010

Sipuleucel-T (Provenge), a “vaccine” that uses a patients immune system to fight advanced stage disease, was approved by the FDA in April 2010. The vaccine does not prevent cancer; rather, it helps men with advanced stage, hormone-resistant disease live longer.

Rethinking when to biopsy

Published September 04, 2010

A prostate cancer diagnosis may send a man to the operating room or drive him to get radiation therapy—even when the cancer is unlikely to spread or cause harm. That’s causing some to wonder when a biopsy should really be done.

Statins, aspirin may hide prostate cancer

Published September 01, 2010

Research suggests that these drugs could potentially mask changes in a man’s PSA and interfere with the detection of prostate cancer.

Degarelix approved for advanced prostate cancer

Published September 01, 2010

This injectable form of hormone therapy received FDA approval in December 2008.

HIFU controls recurrent cancer in short run

Published September 01, 2010

Researchers find that high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) may be effective in treating localized recurrent prostate cancer while also minimizing the chances of side effects.

Hormone therapy doesn’t seem to raise risk of cardiac death

Published September 01, 2010

Prostate cancer drug treatments that block the activity of hormones have been associated with a higher risk of heart attack and heart disease. But a 2009 study suggests that these drugs may not cause cardiovascular problems after all.

Statins show no effect on PSA levels

Published September 01, 2010

Ever since the FDA approved the first cholesterol-lowering statin in 1987, use of the drugs has steadily increased, with an estimated 13 million Americans taking them to ward off heart and vascular disease. Recently, statins have gained additional attention, thanks to studies showing the drugs might have anticancer properties. But researchers have inconsistent answers to […]

Stress and prostatitis

Published August 31, 2010

High levels of stress, poor emotional health, and a lack of social support seem to be linked to a history of prostatitis. Stress also seems to heighten pain associated with the condition.

Dental fear? Our readers suggest coping techniques.

Published August 25, 2010

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified […]

Hitch on Cancer

Published August 20, 2010

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Christopher Lovett, PhD, for alerting me to the vivid piece that Christopher Hitchens wrote about his cancer diagnosis. It appears in the September 2010 issue of Vanity Fair. Hitchens is a banality-basher. The value of his piece is in his detailed account — the particularity of his experience comes […]

Did Lou Gehrig have Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

Published August 18, 2010

Many brain disorders are syndromes where root causes and the neurobiology are poorly understood. Two people can have similar illnesses, but have very different underlying causes.

Alzheimer’s study on biomarkers generates debate

Published August 17, 2010

A study about a three-protein signature that might help identify people with Alzheimer’s,  published in the August issue of the Archives of Neurology, has generated quite a bit of discussion in the blogosphere.  I thought readers might want to follow the discussion, so I’ve shared some links to representative posts. (We will be covering the […]

Torn your ACL? Send us your story.

Published August 16, 2010

You may have heard or read about the Swedish study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found no difference between surgical repair of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and taking a rehab-only approach. Some of our favorite sports stars here in New England have torn their ACLs recently, including Wes Welker, a receiver for the Patriots, and […]

Concussions in Football

Published August 15, 2010

I have to applaud today’s editorial in the New York Times that anticipates a new football season. Here is the first paragraph — The millionaire players of professional football are suiting up for the new season with a startling caution on their locker room walls. A poster headlined “CONCUSSION” warns players that lifelong brain damage […]

Could too much calcium cause heart disease?

Published August 12, 2010

Get the calcium you need through dietary sources. Oh, the ruckus a single study raised many years ago. A report about calcium and cardiovascular disease had people from San Diego to Caribou, Maine worriedly calling their doctors worried about calcium supplements. Here’s what prompted the concern: New Zealand researchers pooled the results of 11 randomized, controlled trials—the […]

Mental illness affects the wallet as well as the brain

Published August 11, 2010

We often report about the psychological toll of mental illness, but while researching a story today I came across a study that documents the economic toll of psychiatric disorders–especially when they are not adequately treated. Researchers at Harvard collaborated with colleagues at the World Health Organization to survey individuals in 19 countries. They found that […]

Atul Gawande’s latest gem: Hospice care and our end-of-life wishes

Published August 11, 2010

Atul Gawande’s piece about end-of-life care in the Aug. 2 issue of The New Yorker is another gem by the surgeon-writer-health policy wonk and staff member at Harvard-affialiated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In an online chat after the article was published, Gawande said he had the usual preconceived notions about hospice before he started researching the article: Telling a patient […]

Are crabs and oysters good for your eyes?

Published August 08, 2010

Johns Hopkins researchers have a report in the the journal Opthalmology that sends a mixed  message about whether omega-3 fats protect the eyes. And if you like to eat crab and oysters, enjoy—and we’re with you. But don’t expect any special ophthmalic benefits. Fish and shellfish are natural sources of the omega-3 fats that are believed to pay all kinds […]