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Australian scientists have uncovered a quality control mechanism that must take place for our immune system to destroy harmful viruses and bacteria. The finding could have implications for the future diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as childhood leukaemias.

Prohibition of cannabis in the United States may be counter-productive, with a new study showing that a period of increased law enforcement against the drug coincided with an increase in the number of young adult cannabis users smoking cheaper and more potent produce.

Excessive pressure at work is costing Australia’s economy $730 million a year due to job-stress related depression, a University of Melbourne and VicHealth report has revealed.
 
The Estimating the Economic Benefits of Eliminating Job Strain as a Risk Factor for Depression report was funded by VicHealth and led by Associate Professor Tony LaMontagne from the University of Melbourne School of Population Health and Dr Kristy Sanderson from the Menzies Research Institute  Tasmania.
 
A/Prof LaMontagne has previously found that “job strain”, where workers have little control over their job, but who are under high pressure to perform, accounts for 17 per cent of depression in working women and 13 per cent in working men.

The $730 million job strain price tag includes lost productive time, employee replacement costs, government-subsidised mental health services and medications for depression. It equates to $11.8 billion over the average working lifetime, with the biggest loss accruing to employers.
 
The report also revealed an $85 million cost of absences for depressed workers who do not have access to paid sick leave, which also represents a significant cost to employees.

However A/Prof LaMontagne said the figures underestimated the true costs of depression in the workplace, as other factors that increase the risk of depression such as bullying, sexual harassment and job insecurity were not included in the study.  In addition, the study did not include the costs of mental health related WorkCover claims.
 
“These figures represent a significant burden on the Australian economy that is preventable by improving job quality,” A/Prof LaMontagne said.
 
“There has always been legal and ethical reasons for employers to address poor working conditions and to support staff, but these new findings add an economic incentive as well. Employers would be the major beneficiaries of reducing job strain over the long term, because the greatest costs fall on employers due to lost productivity and employee replacement.”
 
Todd Harper, VicHealth CEO, added:  “This report raises questions about the current workplace culture in Australia. We need to develop strategies that can be applied in all workplaces to make them healthier, happier and more productive environments that nurture good health rather than cause ill-health.” 
 
For more information visit http://newsroom.melbourne.edu/news/n-386

Excessive pressure at work is costing Australia’s economy $730 million a year due to job-stress related depression, a University of Melbourne and VicHealth report has revealed.

Parents who delay giving their babies allergenic foods could be doing more harm than good, with a new Australian study showing the rate of egg allergy significantly increases among toddlers who are introduced to the food after 12 months of age.

The world-first research involving University of Melbourne researchers in a Murdoch Childrens Research Institute led study found babies given egg after 12 months of age were up to five times more likely to develop egg allergy as they grew older than infants introduced to egg at four to six months of age.

Lead authors A/Professor Katie Allen and Jennifer Koplin said the study added to growing evidence showing early introduction of allergenic foods could be the best way to protect children against allergies.

“Until recently, Australian and international guidelines recommended that infants with a family history of allergy delay introducing allergenic foods such as egg, peanut and nuts until up to two to three years of age,” Ms Koplin said.

“Our study suggests that babies who ingest these foods at an earlier age may be less likely to develop food allergies as they grow older. It seems that early introduction of egg may protect against egg allergy, while delaying its introduction may put the child at increased risk of developing an allergy.”

The study, published online today by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, involved more than 2500 Victorian infants to assess whether timing of egg introduction was associated with increased or decreased risk of egg allergy.

Egg allergy is the most common food allergy in infants and toddlers and can result in hives, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some circumstances, anaphylaxis.

Infants who were introduced to egg after 12 months of age had triple the risk of egg allergy at 14-18 months of age than those given egg at four to six months of age, irrespective of whether they had a family history of allergy.

Giving babies cooked egg (boiled, scrambled, fried or poached) proved more protective against allergy than egg in the baked form (cakes, biscuits and similar products). Of babies aged four to six months who were introduced to cooked egg, just 5.6 per cent developed egg allergy compared with 27.6 per cent of those introduced to cooked egg after 12 months.

The study found no link between egg allergy and the duration of breastfeeding or timing of introduction of first solids. A/Professor Allen said further research was needed to determine if the study findings could also be true for other allergenic foods.

“Confirmation that early introduction is protective for other allergenic foods may help better inform parents in the future and could have the potential to reverse the epidemic of childhood food allergy,” A/Professor Allen said.

“Food allergies often develop in early childhood and can have a significant impact on quality of life for the child and their family.

“Although children normally outgrow egg allergy, they remain at increased risk of related conditions such as asthma and allergic rhinitis in later life, as well as other food allergies such as peanut and tree nut allergy which persist into adult life.”

The research forms part of a wider study led by Professor Allen at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute to track food allergy prevalence and causes among Victorian infants.

*A/Professor Katie Allen is a leading allergy researcher at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and a paediatrician at The Royal Children’s Hospital. Jennifer Koplin is a PhD scholar at  University of Melbourne based at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

 

 

Parents who delay giving their babies allergenic foods could be doing more harm than good, with a new Australian study showing the rate of egg allergy significantly increases among toddlers who are introduced to the food after 12 months of age.

A study of identical twins shows that a rare genetic form of epilepsy can be caused by a genetic mutation that occurs in the embryo, and not necessarily passed down from parents.

Close relatives of women diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 35 years are at an increased risk of developing other cancers, according to a University of Melbourne led study, published in the British Journal of Cancer today.

Professor John Hopper, Director of Research from the Centre for Molecular, Environmental, Genetic and Analytic Epidemiology at the University of Melbourne, a lead investigator in the study, said these are surprising and novel findings which could be pointing to the existence of a new cancer genetic syndrome.

“The results suggest there could possibly be undiscovered genes causing breast cancer in these young women, and perhaps other cancers in their families,” Professor Hopper said.

Every year in Australia, more than 300 women are diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 35 years.  This is approximately one in 40 of all breast cancers.

In the largest population based study of its kind, scientists studied 2200 parents and siblings of 500 women diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 35 from across three countries, Australia, Canada and the United States.

After excluding families with mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, the two known major breast cancer susceptibility genes, they found that close relatives were at increased risk of not only breast cancer, but also of cancers of the prostate, lung, brain and urinary tract.

The results showed:
• Fathers and brothers had a 5-fold increased risk of prostate cancer.
• Mothers and sisters had a 2-fold increased risk of ovarian cancer as well as a 4-fold increased risk of breast cancer
• Close relatives also had a 3-fold increased risk for brain cancer, an 8-fold increased risk for lung cancer, and a 4-fold increased risk for urinary tract cancers.    

"We wanted to find out what caused the early onset of breast cancer in these women and found some results we weren’t expecting regarding their relatives,” Professor Hopper said.

 “The results of this study could help scientists discover new cancer susceptibility genes that explain the risk of early-onset and other cancers within some families,” he said.

 “Our next step is to conduct larger studies to further clarify these results.”

Women aged in their 20s and 30s who have breast cancer, or anyone with a family history of early onset breast cancer, can call 1800 090 990 for further information and/or if they wish to participate in this research

For confidential cancer information and support call Cancer Council Helpline 131120

 

 

Health professionals’ fears about the legal consequences of discussing medical errors with patients are stifling their willingness to have these conversations, a University of Melbourne study has found.

Health professionals’ fears about the legal consequences of discussing medical errors with patients are stifling their willingness to have these conversations, a University of Melbourne study has found.

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