Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we learn about a new blood test that could detect breast cancer five years earlier, how sleep helps clear our brains of neurodegenerative toxins, and why even one run a week could help you live a longer life.

Could a simple blood test help women detect breast cancer earlier?

Currently, mammograms are the best tool doctors have in detecting breast cancer early, when treatment can be most successful. But now scientists are developing a new, more cost-effective, less uncomfortable screening tool that might be able to detect breast cancer—the most common type of cancer in women—five years before physical symptoms are present, according to this piece in Medical News Today.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham hypothesized that a blood test that screens for certain antibodies produced as an immune response to cancer could predict the presence of the disease years before other screenings.

Researchers developed panels of tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) specific to breast cancer, which allowed them to screen blood samples for the presence of autoantibodies that are produced by the immune system in response to these antigens. Ninety blood samples from people with breast cancer and 90 blood samples from cancer-free women were collected.

Three separate panels of TAAs were developed to screen for these autoantibodies, with the group that included the most TAAs providing the most accurate results.

Study co-author Daniyah Alfattani, a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, presented the findings at the recent 2019 National Cancer Research Institute Conference. She said that with the blood test, they “were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood.” 

However, experts say even the more comprehensive panel is a long way from being ready for general use, as it only detected 37 percent of the 90 cases of cancer.  But broader tests are underway to improve and perhaps validate this tool, not only as a screening for breast cancer, but lung, pancreatic, colorectal and liver cancers as well.

Deep sleep equals a clean, healthy brain

The brain waves generated during deep sleep appear to trigger a cleaning system in the brain that flushes out toxins related to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, according to a new report in Science covered by NPR.

In deep sleep, electrical signals known as slow waves, appear just before a rush of cerebrospinal fluid or CSF washes through the brain, cleansing it of waste products.  Think of it as a washing machine, says study co-author Laura Lewis, an assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at Boston University, with oscillations happening about once every 20 seconds.

The findings could help explain the link between sleep and Alzheimer’s; with sleep disruption contributing to the decline in brain health. It also suggests, experts say, that people might be able to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s by ensuring that they get a good night’s sleep.

Want to live a longer life? Start running

Any amount of regular running—even 50 minutes once a week—was correlated with greater longevity, according to a study conducted by researchers from Australia’s Victoria University and published in the Journal of Sports Medicine.

The university’s research, reviewing data of 14 earlier studies of 232, 149 British adults followed for anywhere from five to 35 years, found that among those studied, running was associated with a 30 percent lower chance of death from cardiovascular disease and 23 percent reduction in death from cancer. Runners were 27 percent less likely to die of any cause, according to the Newsweek article.

Compared with sedentary non-runners (those who ran less than 2.5 hours a week, or less than four times a week), those who ran at a slow or average pace had “significantly lower risks of all-cause mortality.”

However, greater amounts of running did not necessarily correlate with greater “mortality benefits,” researchers said. Still, the study’s authors said this shouldn’t discourage avid runners from getting those miles in, given running’s broad range of health benefits.

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