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This Week in Health: Finances play a role in breast cancer diagnosis

Plus: The order in which you see food at a buffet could determine what you eat.

Financial difficulties may lead some women away from the doctor. Credit: Metro File Financial difficulties may lead some women away from the doctor.
Credit: Metro File

Financial status may lead to breast cancer diagnosis delays

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: 585 women aged 40 and under recently diagnosed with breast cancer

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Results:Women with poorer financial status were more likely to experience a delay between detecting an breast abnormality and visiting a health care provider, according to a study published in the American Cancer Society’s journal, Cancer.

Significance: “It appears that economic disparity may be an important consideration in future development of interventions to reduce delays,” say researchers Drs. Kathryn J. Ruddy and Ann H. Partridge, who led this multicenter study at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Don’t kill broccoli's cancer-fighting ingredients

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: Lab study

Results: A study comparing boiling, microwaving and steaming broccoli found that boiling or microwaving the vegetable for one minute or less destroys most of the vegetable's cancer-fighting enzyme, according to a new study presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research’s annual conference. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are a good source of sulforaphane, a naturally occurring compound with cancer-preventive actions in the body, and the enzyme myrosinase, which is needed for sulforaphane to form. The study found that boiling and microwaving destroyed the majority of the enzyme, but that steaming broccoli for up to five minutes didn’t destroy it.

Significance: “Past food processing has tended to focus on improving taste, visuals and microbiological safety,” says Elizabeth Jeffery, a researcher at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Now our task is to go further. Processing can ensure that the bioactives — the cancer-protective compounds — arrive in your digestive system in a form the body can use.”

Take care of your body to take care of your looks

Location of study: Netherlands

Study subjects: 670 men and women over age 89

Results: Researchers have perhaps discovered new links between youthful appearance and long life, according to a new study led by scientists from Unilever and Leiden University Medical Center. The Leiden Longevity Study found that men and women who look younger than their years tend to have lower blood pressure and therefore less risk of heart disease and stroke. Blood pressure rates were particularly linked to facial skin sagging.


Significance: People more motivated by good looks than good health may now have incentive to reach for that apple. “It is hoped the results of the study will encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Diana Van-Heemst from Leiden University Medical Center, "and to regularly monitor important health parameters.”

Buffet dish placement prompts healthier choices

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: 124 people

Results: The order in which food is presented on buffet tables affects diners choices, says a new Cornell University behavioral study. Using two breakfast buffets on which diners saw healthy food like fruit, low-fat yogurt and low-fat granola first and then, on the other, more high-calorie dishes like cheesy eggs, fried potatoes and bacon, researchers found that 86 percent of diners took fruit when it was offered first, but only 54 percent took fruit when it was offered last. About 75 percent of diners took cheesy eggs when they were offered first, compared with only 29 percent who were offered them last. Also, people who chose the cheesy eggs first then automatically paired them with potatoes and bacon.

Significance: “The first three food items a person encountered in the buffet comprised 66 percent of their total plate, regardless of whether the items were high- or low-calorie foods,” says study co-author professor Brian Wansink. “There’s an easy takeaway here for us: Always start at the healthier end of the buffet. Two-thirds of your plate will be the good stuff.”