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Archive for April 9, 2013

Seared Steak Lettuce Cups

Seared Steak Lettuce Cups


    Asian sweet chili sauce is available at Asian markets, many supermarkets, and


  • Combine 1/4 cup finely chopped English hothouse or Persian cucumber, 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, and 1 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger in a medium bowl. Season to taste with kosher salt and set aside.
  • Heat a grill pan or a lightly oiled cast-iron skillet over high heat. Season an 8-ounce flank steak with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder. Grill steak, turning once, until charred on both sides, about 8 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Arrange 16 small crunchy inner leaves of butter lettuce, romaine, or endive on a large platter. Thinly slice steak against the grain, then cut slices crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Add steak to cucumber mixture and toss to mix. Season to taste with salt and more lime juice, if desired.
  • Divide steak salad among lettuce cups; garnish with 2 tablespoons chopped salted roasted peanuts and 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves. Drizzle with Asian sweet chili sauce.

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Welsh bee decline action plan to promote allotments

Ministers say the loss of bees is ‘real threat’ to wildlife and food production

Encouraging green spaces, gardens and allotments to boost Wales’ bee population is part of a new action plan to halt a fall in numbers.

Welsh ministers want to see more effort to link up flowering habitats across the countryside from gardens to farms.

The value of pollinators to the UK government is estimated to be £430m a year, but populations have been on the decline for 30 years.

Public consultation on the draft plan will last until 4 June.

The Welsh government said at the Royal Welsh Show in Powys in 2012 that it would produce an action plan to protect endangered insect pollinators – such as honey bees, bumble bees, hoverflies and butterflies.

The subsequent review has looked at the reasons for the insects’ decline.

Lampeter Allotment site
The draft proposals include ensuring the provision of allotments to encourage pollinating insects

The draft action plan announced on Tuesday proposes:

  • Ensuring farming schemes support land management practices that protect pollinators
  • Revising guidance to National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty so r land management better supports pollinator populations
  • Ensuring and supporting the provision of green spaces and allotments across Wales
  • Promoting pollinator-friendly gardening
  • Working with schools to raise awareness among pupils of the importance of pollinators
  • Issuing best practice guidance to councils

Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies said the decline in pollinators “poses a real threat to Wales’ wildlife” and could also affect the country’s capacity to produce food.

He said pollinators were vital but populations had been declining for 30 years, with the trend set to continue without prompt action.

“There has been a great deal of interest in our work to protect pollinator populations in Wales,” said Mr Davies.

“The draft action plan sets out our vision for the best way forward and I would urge anyone with an interest to consider the content of the plan and feed back their comments.

“Pollinators are vital to our future health and well being so it is important that we all work together to get this plan right.”

Friends of the Earth Cymru director Gareth Clubb welcomed the plan as forward-thinking but said ministers should press for powers to ban pesticides from Westminster.

“The Welsh government must discuss devolution of these controls immediately if we are to have decent protection for Welsh bees,” he said.


‘Aggressive’ prostate cancer gene find

Genetics appear to dictate how the cancer behaves


Men with prostate cancer and an inherited gene mutation have the worst form of the disease, research reveals.

The BRCA2 gene is linked to hereditary breast cancer, as well as prostate and ovarian cancer.

Now scientists say that as well as being more likely to get prostate cancer, men with BRCA2 are also more likely to develop aggressive tumours and have the poorest survival rates.

They say these men should be treated quickly to save lives.

This study shows that doctors need to consider treating men with prostate cancer and a faulty BRCA2 gene much sooner than they currently do, rather than waiting to see how the disease develops”

Prof Ros EelesLead researcher

Around one in every 100 men with prostate cancer will have the BRCA2 mutation.

These men might benefit from immediate surgery or radiotherapy, even if their disease is at an early stage and would normally be classified as low risk, according to the latest work in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Diverse disease

Prostate cancer can grow extremely slowly or very quickly, and this is something that is hard to predict early on.

Some men may live symptom-free for a lifetime, despite having this cancer.

For many, treatment is not immediately necessary.

But researchers say men with BRCA2 and prostate cancer should be treated early and aggressively because their tumour is more likely to spread.

Prof Ros Eeles and colleagues at The Institute of Cancer Research in London and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust found prostate cancers spread more quickly and were more often fatal in men who had inherited a faulty BRCA2 gene than in men without the faulty gene.

Prostate cancer

  • The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis found only in men. It’s job is to make the fluid part of semen that sperm swim in
  • Prostate cancer does not normally cause symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to affect surrounding structures like the urethra that carries urine from the bladder
  • This can lead to problems passing urine – needing to pee more often or difficulty starting to urinate
  • Prostate cancer can be diagnosed by taking a biopsy (a small tissue sample of the prostate gland)
  • Some men may be advised to delay having treatment if the tumour is very slow growing and not causing any problems
  • Others may want to have surgery to remove the entire prostate

They looked at the medical records of prostate cancer patients which included 61 men with BRCA2, 18 men with a similar gene mutation called BRCA1, and 1,940 men with neither mutations.

Patients with BRCA2-mutations were significantly less likely to survive their cancer, living an average of 6.5 years after diagnosis compared with 12.9 years for non-carriers. They were also more likely to have advanced disease at the time of diagnosis.

‘More deadly type’

Prof Eeles said: “It is clear from our study that prostate cancers linked to inheritance of the BRCA2 cancer gene are more deadly than other types.

“It must make sense to start offering affected men immediate surgery or radiotherapy, even for early-stage cases that would otherwise be classified as low-risk.

“We won’t be able to tell for certain that earlier treatment can benefit men with inherited cancer genes until we’ve tested it in a clinical trial, but the hope is that our study will ultimately save lives by directing treatment at those who most need it.”

More than 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.

Men with a significant family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer in addition to prostate cancer can be offered BRCA1/2 testing at diagnosis, but it is not routinely offered to all patients diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK.

Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK, said: “This study shows that doctors need to consider treating men with prostate cancer and a faulty BRCA2 gene much sooner than they currently do, rather than waiting to see how the disease develops.

“We knew that men who inherit a faulty BRCA2 gene are at a greater risk of developing prostate cancer but this is the largest study to show that the faulty gene also makes the disease more likely to develop quickly and spread.”


Scientists track leukaemia’s origins ‘back to the womb’

Cancerous white blood cells of ALL
Cancerous white blood cells


Scientists say they have traced the root genetic cause of leukaemia back to early life in the womb.

The Institute of Cancer Research experts analysed the entire three billion letter sequence of DNA-coding in identical twins to reveal what sets off the disease.

They hope the findings, published in PNAS journal, could lead to new drugs to fight the condition at source.

Leukaemia is the most common cancer diagnosed in children.

It affects a third of young cancer sufferers and kills 100 children a year in the UK.

It told us for the first time that this is the key mutation that starts the whole process of leukaemia”

Researcher Prof Mel Greaves

The twins studied by the researchers had the most common form of leukaemia that affects children – acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) which is a cancer of the white blood cells.

It is already known that multiple faulty genes are linked to the condition and that environmental factors probably act as triggers along the way. But the precise sequence of events leading up to a diagnosis of ALL is unclear.

Root cause

The researchers wanted to find out more about the disease so that, ultimately, a better treatment could be found.

Although ALL is often curable, the medicines used to treat it can cause unpleasant and sometimes severe side effects.

Prof Mel Greaves and his colleagues decided to study identical twins who shared the same DNA inherited from their parents.

Both twins developed ALL in early childhood, at around four years of age.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia

  • ALL is the most common type of leukaemia in children
  • It is very rare in adults
  • Experts still do not know what causes most cases but believe genetic and environmental factors combine to set off a cascade of events leading to ALL
  • This latest work suggests one common genetic mutation, ETV6-RUNX1, may be the initiating first step

By comparing blood and bone marrow samples of the twins in later childhood, the researchers found one genetic mutation identical in both twins – a common leukaemia-causing gene called ETV6-RUNX1.

The researchers reason that this mutation must have arisen in one of the twins while in the womb.

Cells carrying the mutation then spread to the other twin via their shared placental blood circulation.

The identical twins had a total of 22 other mutations, but none of these mutations was shared by both twins, and so they must have accumulated after birth as the disease progressed, say the researchers.

Study co-author Prof Greaves said: “We were able to sequence the entire human genome. It told us for the first time that this is the key mutation that starts the whole process of leukaemia. The other mutations must have happened after birth.”

Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK said: “This interesting research shows how studying the DNA of twins can shed light on the genetic mistakes that first initiate cancer in children and the subsequent faults that occur as the cancer evolves.

“Studies like this could reveal new ways to target the very roots of cancer and help us better understand how the disease develops over time. Survival rates have increased significantly over the past decades thanks to research, but there is still more to do to make treatments better with fewer side-effects.”


Measles: Swansea epidemic cases could exceed 600

11 month old baby boy held in his father's arms as they queue outside Morriston Hospital in Swansea
A baby boy waits in the queue for the MMR vaccination outside Morriston Hospital

Health officials are bracing themselves for the number of confirmed cases in the Swansea measles epidemic to rise.

On Friday the number of cases stood at 588 but officials say around 15-20 new cases are currently confirmed each day.

Parents across Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend are being urged to vaccinate children before they return to school after the Easter break.

Meanwhile, a Swansea newspaper has defended itself against claims that its 1990s anti-MMR campaign was to blame.

Jonathan Roberts, editor of the South Wales Evening Post, said the campaign was hard-hitting but reflected parents’ concerns at the time about the safety of the vaccine.

It is clear that there were genuine concerns in the mid-90s about MMR and the Post gave them full and responsible coverage”

Jonathan RobertsSouth Wales Evening Post Editor

It is the first time the newspaper has responded to claims that its campaign could have been responsible for a lower uptake of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in the Swansea area.

“It is clear that there were genuine concerns in the mid-90s about MMR and the Post gave them full and responsible coverage,” he said in the article on the Evening Post website.

He added that “with the benefit of hindsight” it is easy to be critical.

“To judge it honestly and fairly, one has to consider the fear which existed at the time, the fact that medical experts were publicly expressing concerns about the vaccine and the duty of this paper to reflect public opinion.”

Mr Roberts will host a live webchat at 14:30 BST on Tuesday on the paper’s website.

If the number of cases in the Swansea area reaches 622, it will exceed the figure in the north west of England in the year to February 2013, with most on Merseyside, in Greater Manchester and west Lancashire.

‘Not judging’

About 1,700 people were vaccinated at special hospital drop-in clinics at the weekend and health officials are urging others to get the jab.

Measles Q&A

  • How safe is it to take children to mainland Europe who have had two doses of the MMR vaccine?

It gives 99% protection against the measles virus.

  • What if they have had only one dose of MMR?

One dose is better than none, but two doses is better than one. If you are concerned about travelling to an outbreak area you can bring forward the second MMR dose. Speak to your GP about it.

  • What if my children are not vaccinated at all?

The advice is to go to your GP and arrange for them to be immunised as soon as possible before you travel. Measles is a dangerous viral illness that can be fatal.

BBC Health – Measles

‘Death risk’ in outbreak

Sara Hayes, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board’s director of public health, said: “Many children who missed the MMR jabs when they were little will be sitting exams once they go back to school.

“We are not in any way judgmental about why their children may have missed the MMR in the past. The important thing is that they get the jab now,” she added.

Before the introduction of the MMR in 1988, about half a million children caught measles and about 100 died from it each year in the UK.

Concerns over the jab’s safety were raised in the late 1990s when a surgeon published a since discredited paper in The Lancet suggesting MMR was linked to an increased risk of autism.

That paper, and subsequent media coverage, led to immunisation rates plummeting.

Although the epidemic is based in Swansea, cases continue to be reported across Wales.

Most are in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health region, which also includes Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend.

There are also cases in Powys and in the Hywel Dda Health Board area, which covers Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Officials have said it is “just a matter of time” before a child is left with serious and permanent complications, such as eye disorders, deafness or brain damage, or even dies.

Typical symptoms of measles include fever, cough, conjunctivitis and a rash. Complications are quite common even in healthy people, and about 20% of reported measles cases experience one or more complication.

These can include ear infections, vomiting and diarrhoea, pneumonia, meningitis and serious eye disorders.

Queues at Morriston Hospital on Saturday
Queues at Morriston Hospital on Saturday











































A Chinese health worker places a pigeon-trap at a park in Shanghai. Source: AFP via Getty Images











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