Quicknotes

From the Winter 2015 edition of Vanderbilt Medicine Magazine

Skin cancer risks higher for soldiers serving abroad

Soldiers deployed to tropical and sunny climates are coming home with increased risk factors for a threat far from the battlefield: skin cancer.

In a retrospective study of about 200 veterans seen at the post-deployment clinic of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System found that 62 percent of military personnel reported getting sunburned while deployed abroad, including cases of skin blistering. In addition, 29 percent noted a change in the color, shape or size of their moles (a skin cancer risk factor) since being deployed to tropical zones, but only 4 percent reported receiving a skin examination from a physician since deployment.

Jennifer Powers, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Dermatology and lead researcher on the study, presented the results at the World Congress on Cancers of the Skin, held in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The study also found that only 22 percent of military personnel were made very aware of the risks of sun exposure, and while 77 percent reported being exposed to bright sunlight for more than four hours a day while working, only 27 percent had regular access to sunscreen. Just under one-third of respondents (32 percent) reported having no access to sunscreen at all while working.

 

Study finds college athletes more likely to harbor MRSA

College athletes who play contact sports are more than twice as likely to carry the deadly superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylocuccus aureus (MRSA) than peers who play non-contact sports, according to a Vanderbilt study.

Football, soccer and other contact sport athletes were found to have MRSA on their bodies, usually in their noses and throats, even if they didn’t show signs of infection. As MRSA carriers, they are at higher risk for infection and more likely to spread MRSA, which can cause serious and even fatal infections.

Colonization with MRSA ranged from 8 to 31 percent in contact sports athletes during the two-year study, compared to 0 to 23 percent of non-contact athletes.

Roughly 5 to 10 percent of the general population is colonized with MRSA.

 

Low-dose aspirin’s protective effect in cancer explained

For years, scientists have known that regular aspirin use may reduce the risk of cancer.

However, a Vanderbilt study shows that low-dose aspirin appears to work by inhibiting both cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and COX-2 pathways. The authors wanted to determine whether low-dose aspirin worked by blocking platelet function by inhibiting the COX-1 pathway, and if it also reduced levels of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), by inhibiting the COX-2 pathway.

The PGE2 molecule is linked to the spread of cancer, also known as metastasis.

The potency of low-dose aspirin in inhibiting COX-2 in the tumor cells is as great or greater than its potency of COX-1 in the platelet, indicating that at a cellular level, aspirin is not selective for the platelet but could also block COX-2 in cancers, the study authors said. The finding that aspirin also is important as a COX-2 inhibitor is likely surprising to most investigators, according to Pierre Massion, M.D., who presented the data at the 13th Annual AACR International Conference in Cancer Prevention Research, held last fall in New Orleans.