Medical News Today: Urea dysfunctions in the liver may signal cancer

The urea cycle is the main way that the human body disposes of nitrogen waste. New research suggests that disruptions in this process may be an early sign of cancer.
urine sample and blood samples
Blood measurements of urea and the presence of pyrimidine in urine may soon help diagnose cancer.

A new study, now published in the journal Cell, suggests that the way in which the human body processes nitrogen may be key to finding new ways of detecting and destroying cancer.

Nitrogen is a gas that is vital for all organisms. Both plants and animals need it in order to make proteins.

When our body processes nitrogen, it generates a substance called urea as waste; the body later eliminates this substance through urine.

This metabolizing process is called the urea cycle, and it takes place in the liver.

New research suggests that dysregulations in the urea cycle could be a marker of cancer. The new study was led by Dr. Ayelet Erez, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

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Studying urea dysregulations and tumors

Dr. Erez and colleagues altered the genetic expression of urea cycle enzymes in the colon cancer tumors of rodents and compared their urea levels with those of control mice.

The mice whose urea cycle had been interfered with had lower blood levels of urea and higher levels of a substance called pyrimidine in their urine.

The scientists also examined the medical records of 100 children who had been diagnosed with cancer at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.

“We found that on the day of their admission to the hospital,” explains the lead researcher, “children with cancer had significantly decreased urea levels in their blood, compared with documented levels of urea in healthy children of the same age.”

Finally, the researchers also analyzed large genomic sets in search of DNA mutations that could indicate disruptions in the urea cycle.

They found mutations in DNA, RNA, and proteins, which indicates an excess of pyrimidine. This is produced through the synthesis of nitrogen and can, in turn, promote the growth of cancer cells.

Overall, the findings suggest that dysfunctions in the urea cycle may be a good indicator of cancer.

“Standard laboratory tests check for high levels of urea in blood, but we are now showing that low levels can also signal a problem,” says Dr. Erez. “Cancerous cells don’t waste anything, they make use of as much nitrogen as possible instead of disposing of it in the form of urea, as do normal cells.”

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Making tumors vulnerable to immunotherapy

As the researchers explain, high levels of pyrimidine represent both good news and bad. The bad news is that it could make the cancer spread faster and more aggressively, but the good news is that the mutations that are related to excessive pyrimidine could make cancer cells more vulnerable to an attack from the immune system.

Therefore, malignancies characterized by a dysregulated urea cycle could be destroyed more easily with immunotherapy.

To test this hypothesis, Dr. Erez and colleagues examined melanoma tumors and found that the tumors that had dysregulated urea cycles responded better to immunotherapy. Dr. Erez and colleagues conclude:

“Taken together, our findings demonstrate that [urea cycle dysregulation] is a common feature of tumors that profoundly affects carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, and immunotherapy response.”

Moreover, say the researchers, the results could lead to better tools not only for diagnosing cancer, but also for treating it.

“Yet another possibility worth exploring,” Dr. Erez says, “is whether genetic manipulation of the tumor to induce such dysregulation prior to immunotherapy can increase the therapy’s effectiveness.”

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Medical News Today: How to treat peeling skin

Peeling is the body’s way of repairing damaged cells. Peeling skin is harmless and helps the healing process, but it can be itchy and uncomfortable.

Peeling skin is a common problem after a sunburn. In this article, we look at some simple steps that people can try to prevent or treat peeling skin.

How to stop skin from peeling

People can try the following methods to stop their skin from peeling:

1. Aloe vera and moisturizer

Aloe vera plant
Aloe vera can slow or reduce the skin’s peeling process.

Many people find that aloe vera is an effective moisturizer that helps to soothe irritated skin. It is particularly helpful after a sunburn when the skin is feeling hot and painful. Aloe vera gels or lotions can:

  • cool the skin
  • reduce inflammation
  • slow or reduce the skin’s peeling process

Gently apply the lotion with the fingertips. Leave the lotion on top of the sunburn instead of rubbing it in all the way into the skin. This will maximize moisturizing effects and minimize irritation.

Sunburn can dry the skin, and drier skin makes the peeling more intense. Anyone who wishes to stop their skin from peeling after a sunburn should apply moisturizer.

A study published in the International Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Chemistry recommend using an unscented moisturizer and applying as often as needed to protect the skin following a sunburn.

Some moisturizers may contain ingredients that are not suitable for sunburn. People who are unsure should check with a pharmacist or doctor.

Creams and lotions that contain aloe vera provide the benefits of both aloe vera and moisturizer.

People can find aloe vera gel in many health stores or online.

2. Stay hydrated

Moisturizing is essential for the outside of the body and hydration is important for the inside.

People should aim to drink eight, 8-ounce (oz) glasses of water (64 oz total, or about half a gallon) each day.

3. Use anti-inflammatories

Taking an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help with peeling skin that is sore or painful.

OTC anti-inflammatory creams, such as cortisone, can help reduce inflammation caused by sunburn. Low-dose cortisone creams are available in most drug stores or supermarkets, and also online.

4. Avoid irritation

Avoid anything that could irritate the burn. Irritation disrupts the healing process and increases damage from the burn.

Avoid the following sources of irritation for sunburn:

  • overly hot or cold water
  • scratching
  • vigorous rubbing or scrubbing

Staying out of the sun for a while keeps the burn from getting worse.

5. Try these home remedies

There is not a great deal of scientific evidence to back up any home or natural remedies for sunburn. But most home or natural remedies are safe to try unless someone misuses them or is allergic.


  • applying menthol shaving cream to the skin
  • adding baking soda to a cool bath
  • putting honey on the skin

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How to prevent skin from peeling

Woman applying sunscreen on the beach
A person can avoid sunburn by applying an appropriate sunscreen.

Preventing sunburn in the first place is the best way to prevent the skin from peeling due to sunburn.

One of the simplest ways to prevent sunburn is to apply an appropriate sunscreen before going outside, even on overcast days. Other tips include limiting the time spent in the sun and wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants.

If it is already too late, however, head indoors as soon as possible and grab the aloe vera. Apply liberally to any part of the skin that may be affected. Aloe vera not only slows but also helps prevent peeling.

If possible, take a cool shower and apply the aloe vera or another suitable moisturizer immediately after. Skin absorbs maximum moisture when it is damp.

How long does sunburn take to heal?

A mild-to-moderate burn heals in anywhere from 3 to 5 days. Peeling lasts up to a week, but small amounts of skin can continue to peel for days or even weeks after.

People should avoid pulling off any peeling skin after a sunburn, as the cells underneath may still be vulnerable to infection.

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Who is at risk?

Recent evidence published in JAMA Dermatology found that sunburn remains a widespread problem. The problem persists despite greater public awareness of the serious conditions, such as skin cancer, that sunburn can cause.

Anyone can get sunburnt. But, according to the study, younger adults, non-Hispanic white people, and those with sensitive skin are at highest risk of sunburn. People who use, tanning salons, spend lots of time in the sun, or have obesity are also at elevated risk.


Peeling is a natural part of the healing process after a sunburn. There are ways to minimize it or prevent it altogether.

The only surefire prevention method, however, is to avoid getting sunburnt in the first place.

If the pain is severe or there is sickness along with the sunburn, consult a doctor.

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Medical News Today: Diets ‘devoid of vegetable matter’ may cause colon cancer

A new study emphasizes the importance to gut health of eating plenty of vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale.
selection of greens
Eating brassicas such as collards, kale, and broccoli may protect against colon cancer.

Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute in London, United Kingdom, found that keeping mice on a diet rich in a compound known as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) — which comes from such vegetables — prevented the animals’ intestines from becoming inflamed and developing colon cancer.

They report the study in a paper now published in the journal Immunity.

“Seeing the profound effect,” says study senior author Dr. Brigitta Stockinger, a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, “of diet on gut inflammation and colon cancer was very striking.”

Our digestive system produces I3C when we eat vegetables from a “large and diverse group” of plants known as brassicas.

Brassicas include, but are not limited to: broccoli, cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, swede, turnip, bok choi, and mizuna.

Colon cancer typically starts as a growth, or polyp, in the lining of the colon or large intestine. It can take many years for the cancer to develop from a polyp and not all polyps become cancerous.

Cancer of the colon or rectum is the third most commonly diagnosed in both women and men in the United States, not counting skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimate that there will be 97,220 new cases of diagnosed colon cancer in the U.S. in 2018.

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‘Concrete evidence’ of hidden mechanism

Despite a lot of evidence about the benefits to our digestive system of a diet rich in vegetables, much of the underlying cell biology remains unknown.

The new findings are the first to give “concrete evidence” of how dietary I3C — through its effect on a cell protein known as aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) — protects the gut from inflammation and cancer.

AhR has several roles, and for it to work properly, it has to be activated by a compound that binds to it uniquely. I3C is such a compound.

One of AhR’s jobs in the gut is to pick up environmental signals and pass them on to immune cells and other cells in the lining. These signals are important for protecting the digestive tract from inflammation-promoting signals that come from the “trillions of bacteria” that live in it.

Another important role that AhR plays is helping stem cells convert into specialized gut lining cells that produce protective mucus and help extract nutrients from food.

When AhR is absent or does not work properly, the stem cells do not convert into working cells in the gut lining but “divide uncontrollably.” Uncontrolled cell division may lead to abnormal growths that can become malignant, or cancerous.

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Importance of ‘plant matter’ in diet

Dr. Stockinger and her colleagues saw that normal laboratory mice that ate “purified control diets” developed colon tumors within 10 weeks, while those that ate standard “chow” containing grains and other ingredients did not develop any.

Purified control diets are tightly controlled to include precise amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. They are designed to exactly match nutritional requirements without including germs, allergens, and other substances that might introduce spurious variables in experiments.

The new study suggests that because purified control diets contain less plant matter, they have fewer compounds that activate AhR, compared with standard chow diets or diets enriched with I3C.

Dr. Chris Schiering, of Imperial College London, remarks that “even without genetic risk factors,” it would seem that “a diet devoid of vegetable matter can lead to colon cancer.”

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‘Significantly fewer tumors’

The researchers used mice and organoids, or “mini guts,” grown from mouse stem cells, in their experiments. These revealed that the ability of intestinal epithelial cells to replenish themselves and repair the gut lining after infection or chemical damage was “profoundly influenced” by AhR.

The team also found that genetically engineered mice whose intestinal epithelial cells had no AhR — or could not activate the protein — failed to control an infection from a gut bacterium called Citrobacter rodentium. The animals developed gut inflammation and then colon cancer.

“However, when we fed them a diet enriched with I3C, they did not develop inflammation or cancer,” remarks first author Dr. Amina Metidji, also of the Francis Crick Institute.

Additionally, notes Dr. Metidji, when they switched mice that were already developing colon cancer to a diet rich in I3C, they found that those animals developed “significantly fewer tumors” and that those tumors were less likely to be malignant.

In discussing their results, the researchers raise the issue of whether it is the high fat content or the low consumption of vegetables in high-fat diets that explains the link to colon cancer.

The scientists now expect to continue the work on I3C and AhR with organoids grown from human gut tissue extracted in biopsies. Eventually, they expect the work to lead to human trials.

These findings are a cause for optimism; while we can’t change the genetic factors that increase our risk of cancer, we can probably mitigate these risks by adopting an appropriate diet with plenty of vegetables.”

Dr. Brigitta Stockinger

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Medical News Today: Migraines are more common in women, but why?

Migraines are not typical headaches; they are extremely painful events and are often accompanied by nausea, blurred vision, or ultrasensitivity to smells, light, or sounds. These episodes can be debilitating and highly disruptive to day-to-day life. More women than men tend to experience them, and researchers ask why.
woman experiencing a migraine
New research looks to hormones to understand why women are more predisposed to migraines.

Scientists at the Universitas Miguel Hernández in Elche, Spain, believe that the answer as to why migraines are more common among women may lie with the activity of sex hormones.

“We can observe significant differences in our experimental migraine model between males and females and are trying to understand the molecular correlates responsible for these differences,” says Prof. Antonio Ferrer-Montiel.

Although this is a complex process, we believe that modulation of the trigeminovascular system by sex hormones plays an important role that has not been properly addressed.”

Prof. Antonio Ferrer-Montiel

The trigeminovascular system is made up of neurons that are found in a cranial nerve known as the trigeminovascular nerve. Researchers have suggested that this system is involved in migraine mechanisms.

In the new study, Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and his team argue that the activity of sex-specific hormones interact with the trigeminal system in a way that renders its nerve cells more sensitive to migraine triggers.

These findings now appear in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, as part of a special issue focusing on the importance of targeting proteins in cell membranes as an effective therapeutic approach in medicine.

In the future, Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and colleagues hope that their findings may lead to a better, more personalized approach to migraine management.

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Does estrogen hold the answer?

The researchers conducted a review of existing studies about sex hormones, what drives migraine sensitivity, and how nerves react to migraine triggers. In doing so, they were looking to understand how specific sex hormones might facilitate the development of migraines.

Soon enough, they found that certain sex hormones — such as testosterone — actually appear to play a protective role. However, other hormones — such as prolactin — seem to intensify the severity of migraines, according to the scientists.

These hormones, the authors say, either boost cells’ sensitivity to migraine triggers or desensitize them, by interacting with the cells’ ion channels. These are a type of membrane protein that allow ions (charged particles) to pass through and influence the cells’ sensitivity to various stimuli.

Through their research, Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and team identified the hormone estrogen as a key player in the development of migraines.

At first, the team saw that estrogen was tied to higher migraine prevalence in women experiencing menstruation. Moreover, they also found that certain types of migraine were linked to changes in hormone levels around menstruation.

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Specifically, Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and colleagues noticed that changes in estrogen levels means that trigeminal nerve cells may become more sensitive to external stimuli, which can lead to a migraine episode.

At the same time, the researchers warn that nobody should jump to any conclusions based on the evidence gathered so far. This study, they say, is preliminary, and much more research is needed to determine the exact roles that hormones play in the development and prevention of migraine.

Also, the new study has focused on findings from research conducted in vitro, or on animal models, so Prof. Ferrer-Montiel and colleagues advise that in the future, it will be important to conduct longitudinal studies with human participants.

If their findings are confirmed and consolidated, the scientists believe they could lead to improved strategies for the management of migraines.

“If successful, we will contribute to better personalized medicine for migraine therapy,” concludes Prof. Ferrer-Montiel.

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Medical News Today: Why cannabis relieves IBD symptoms

New research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, reveals the molecular mechanism that explains why cannabis could help treat inflammatory bowel disease.
marijuana leaf
Marijuana may hold the key to future anti-inflammatory treatments.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that describes inflammatory conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

In the United States, approximately 1.6 million people are living with such disorders. Almost 70,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

The chronic inflammation in IBD leads to often debilitating symptoms, such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, fatigue, and diarrhea.

Older studies and anecdotal reports have shown that people who use cannabis experience and maintain remission of the condition. Cannabis users say that the drug helps them to successfully manage “abdominal pain, joint pain, cramping, diarrhea, poor appetite, weight loss, and nausea.”

What could explain this therapeutic effect? For the first time, researchers were able to find a biological mechanism that shows how cannabis relieves intestinal inflammation in IBD.

The scientists were led by Beth A. McCormick, vice chair and a professor of microbiology and physiological systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

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How cannabinoids stop the inflammation

Prof. McCormick and her colleagues started their research by acknowledging an already known inflammation process that occurs when the body is infected with a pathogen.

The so-called neutrophil influx is a normal reaction of the immune system that sends neutrophils — a type of white blood cell — to fight against foreign microorganisms such as viruses or bacteria.

However, if the immune cells react disproportionately, they can also destroy the epithelium, which is the protective layer of cells that lines the inside of the intestine.

So, in order to stop the overreaction of the immune response, special molecules are “dispatched” and transported across the epithelium to stop the inflammation.

The team found that the second process requires endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), which are naturally produced by our bodies and have a similar effect to the cannabinoids in cannabis.

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By performing experiments in mice and human cell lines, the team found that if endocannabinoids are lacking or are insufficient, the body cannot control the inflammation process anymore and the neutrophils attack the protective intestinal layer.

The scientists believe that cannabis makes up for the natural cannabinoids, inducing the same anti-inflammatory effect that endocannabinoids would have.

Prof. McCormick comments on the findings, saying, “There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of medical marijuana, but there hasn’t been a lot of science to back it up.”

For the first time, we have an understanding of the molecules involved in the process and how endocannabinoids and cannabinoids control inflammation. This gives clinical researchers a new drug target to explore to treat patients [with IBD].”

Prof. Beth A. McCormick

Study co-author Randy Mrsny, a professor in the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, also weighs in with a clarification.

According to him, “We need to be clear that while this is a plausible explanation for why marijuana users have reported cannabis relieves symptoms of IBD, we have thus far only evaluated this in mice and have not proven this experimentally in humans.”

“We hope, however, that these findings will help us develop new ways to treat bowel diseases in humans,” Prof. Mrsny concludes.

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Medical News Today: Why can the birth control pill make your breasts bigger?

Birth control pills contain hormones, and they can increase a person’s breast size. However, the effect is usually temporary.

The two primary hormones present in most types of birth control pill are:

  • estrogen, a female sex hormone
  • progestin, a synthetic version of progesterone, which is another female sex hormone

The body produces estrogen and progesterone. During the menstrual cycle, levels fluctuate, and this can cause a change in breast tissue.

Estrogen is also the hormone primarily responsible for the development of breasts during puberty.

When a person starts taking the birth control pill, their levels of these hormones rise, and this can result in an increase in breast size.

However, the size of the breasts may return to normal after a few monthly cycles or after a person stops taking the pill.

Can birth control affect breast size and how?

does birth control make your boobs bigger
Birth control pills contain hormones that can increase the size of a person’s breasts.

Birth control pills can increase the size of a person’s breasts.

Estrogen and progesterone levels change during the menstrual cycle, and this can cause changes in the breast tissue. A person may feel that their breasts are tender or sore, as a result.

Many birth control pills contain the same hormones, estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic form of progesterone. Starting to take the pill can stimulate the breasts to grow. However, any increase in size is typically slight.

Within a few months of taking the pill, the breasts generally return to their regular size. This usually also happens if a person stops taking the pill.

There is another link between the birth control pill and breast enlargement. When a person starts taking birth control, the changes to hormone levels can cause the body to retain fluid. This can make the breasts feel engorged.

When fluid retention, or edema, is responsible for breasts that feel bigger, a person may notice that their breast size returns to normal during the week that they are not taking an active pill. During this week, they will get a period.

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Can birth control make people gain weight?

Weight gain is a side effect of many birth control pills. Like the possible increase in breast size, any associated weight gain is typically slight.

In 2014, researchers published a review of 49 trials. They had tried to find a causal link between weight gain and types of birth control that contained both estrogen and progestin. The researchers found that these pills tended to have no significant impact on weight.

If a person who starts taking the birth control pill does experience minor weight gain, it is because hormonal changes have caused the body to retain fluid.

Other side effects of birth control

does taking birth control make your boobs bigger
Potential side effects of birth control pills include nausea, headaches, and changes in menstruation.

In general, doctors consider the pill to be safe. However, a person should be aware of some possible side effects, which include:

  • changes in mood
  • changes in menstruation, involving either more or less bleeding
  • tenderness in the breasts
  • nausea
  • headaches

The increase in hormones, particularly estrogen, can also cause more serious side effects. Birth control pills that only contain progestin are less likely to cause these effects.

Serious, though rare, side effects of birth control include:

Before starting or changing a method of birth control, discuss the risks with a doctor.

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When to see a doctor

does birth control make your boobs bigger doctor consultation
A person should see a doctor before taking the birth control pill.

A person must see a doctor before they can start taking the birth control pill and before switching pills.

It is essential for each person to discuss the potential side effects and risk factors with a medical professional.

Some risk factors to consider include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • smoking
  • being over the age of 35
  • having a history of migraines with auras
  • having a history of high blood pressure
  • the presence of a clotting disorder
  • having high cholesterol

If a person has any of these risk factors, a doctor may recommend a different type of birth control. The doctor should be able to provide additional options.


When taking a birth control pill, a person should be aware of the potential risks and side effects.

One of the milder side effects is a slight, temporary increase in breast size. Though rare, some other side effects are more severe, and they can even be life-threatening.

Before a person starts using hormone-based birth control, it is essential to discuss the advantages and disadvantages with a doctor.

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Medical News Today: Which fruits should you eat during pregnancy?

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Medical News Today: What is the outlook for chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Survival rates for chronic lymphocytic leukemia are good compared to many other cancers. Although doctors cannot often cure the disease, a person can live with this form of leukemia for many years with treatment.

In this article, we talk about survival rates for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and the factors that can influence a person’s life expectancy. We also discuss how to achieve a good quality of life with CLL.

CLL overview

Anxious senior lady
CLL does not usually present symptoms, and older adults are more likely to be affected by it.

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow and blood. Lymphocytic leukemia begins in the white blood cells, known as lymphocytes. These cells originate in the bone marrow.

When a person has lymphocytic leukemia, white blood cells become leukemia cells, which can spread into the blood and other parts of the body.

CLL happens when white blood cells do not fully mature. They cannot fight infection properly, and they build up in the bone marrow. This means healthy white blood cells do not have as much room to thrive. Healthy white blood cells are crucial for fighting disease.

CLL does not usually have any symptoms, and someone may only discover they have it when they have a routine blood test. If a person does have symptoms, they may include the following:

  • swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, under the arms, or in the groin
  • weight loss without an obvious cause
  • extreme tiredness
  • fever or high temperature, often due to an infection

There are two forms of CLL. The cells for each form are slightly different, but doctors can only tell the cells apart by testing them in a laboratory.

One form of CLL progresses very slowly, and a person may not need treatment for some time. The second form progresses more quickly and is considered to be more severe.

Doctors can only very rarely cure CLL. This means that a person must live with the disease, and is likely to need ongoing treatment. Often, people do not require treatment for a while.

Older adults are more likely than others to be affected by CLL, with 70 years being the average age of diagnosis. Those under the age of 40 years old are very unlikely to experience this type of cancer.

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Survival rates

Survival rates can give a person more information about the outlook for their illness and help them to plan treatment and care. However, survival rates are only ever an estimate.

To find survival rates, researchers look at information about a group of people with a recent CLL diagnosis. Five years later, they look at data on the same group of people. The percentage of people in that group who are still living with the disease 5 years on is the survival rate.

This does not mean that life expectancy for a person with CLL is 5 years. Researchers typically collect data for survival rates at 1, 5, or 10 years after diagnosis.

Someone may live significantly longer than 5 years after a diagnosis of CLL. Researchers base survival rates on information from people who had a diagnosis of CLL 5 years before. So, if better treatments have become available in the following 5 years, people who have had a recent diagnosis may find the survival rates have improved.

In the United States, survival rates for leukemia have improved significantly over the past 40 years. The current survival rate for CLL is 83 percent. This means that about 83 out of every 100 people with CLL will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.

Factors that influence life expectancy

couple sitting down holding hands
A person’s life expectancy may shorten with a higher CLL stage.

Doctors talk about stages to indicate how far cancer has progressed in a person’s body. Because leukemia affects the blood, doctors cannot stage it in this way.

There are two systems for staging leukemia: the Rai system and the Binet system. In the U.S., doctors use the Rai system more commonly.

In the Rai system, a person will have blood tests to check for cancer cells and to find out how many white blood cells are in the blood and bone marrow. Alongside a physical exam, this information can give one of five stages for CLL:

  • Stage 0: Increased number of white blood cells.
  • Stage 1: Increased number of white blood cells, enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Stage 2: Increased number of white blood cells, enlarged spleen, lymph nodes may be enlarged, liver may be enlarged.
  • Stage 3: Increased number of white blood cells, low number of red blood cells, lymph nodes, liver, or spleen may be enlarged.
  • Stage 4: Increased number of white blood cells, low number of platelets, number of red blood cells may be low, enlarged lymph nodes, liver, or spleen.

A higher stage number means that CLL is impacting more of the body. A higher stage will often shorten a person’s life expectancy.

Other factors that can affect survival rates include:

  • whether CLL has come back or improved with treatment
  • how cancer cells have spread in the bone marrow
  • if there are changes to a person’s DNA and what they are
  • a person’s general health

People often feel better and live for longer when they receive treatment for CLL. Treatment focuses on stopping or slowing down the spread of CLL. If the condition is at an early stage, it may not need treatment.

Treatment options for CLL include:

After treatment, a person is likely to have periods of time when they have few or no symptoms of CLL. This is often known as remission. At the current time, medical professionals do not know if a person can reduce their risk of CLL coming back.

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Living with CLL

Although there is no cure for CLL, ongoing treatment can help a person to live with the condition for a long time. There are several ways that someone who has CLL can support their health and wellbeing.

Going to all medical appointments is an essential part of managing any side effects of medication and treatment. When a doctor sees an individual at regular appointments, they have the chance to check for signs that CLL may be returning and treat it quickly.

Staying as healthy as possible can help with general health and wellbeing. People with CLL may find benefit from doing gentle exercise and eating a healthful diet.

Many people find living with a lifelong condition challenging. Getting emotional support and expressing feelings can help. A listening shoulder may be from friends, family, or community groups. In the U.S., the American Cancer Society offers information on local support groups and information services.

Having correct information can give a person more control and understanding. Finding out as much as possible about CLL and consulting with a doctor on how to lead a healthy lifestyle can help with decisions about treatment and care.


Doctors can very rarely cure CLL. However, survival rates for this cancer are good, particularly with early diagnosis and treatment. People can live with CLL for many years after diagnosis, and some can live for years without the need for treatment.

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Medical News Today: What is labial hypertrophy and is it normal?

Labial hypertrophy is the medical term for when one or both of the vaginal lips or labia is larger than usual.

Having enlarged labia is normal and not a cause for concern. Many people are born with large and often asymmetrical labia and experience no negative side effects.

People can have surgery to safely change the shape of the labia, though this is not usually necessary.

Is labial hypertrophy normal?

Young woman at gynecologists office.
The labia varies in shape and size from person to person.

Labial hypertrophy describes the enlargement of the vaginal lips. The labia help cushion the inner vagina and clitoris from friction, impact, and damage.

The size and shape of people’s genitals vary significantly from person-to-person. The vaginal lips, or labia, are often asymmetrical, and it is normal for each side to have its own shape.

The outside of the vagina, which is called the vulva, contains:

  • the labia majora or outer lips or skin folds
  • the labia minora or inner lips or skin folds

Labial hypertrophy can affect both sets of labia, but it is more likely to change the labia minora or inner lips.

Hypertrophy in the labia majora may cause them to appear enlarged. Hypertrophy in the labia minora may cause them to stick out past the labia majora.

Labial hypertrophy is harmless. It does not impact a person’s sexual health and does not mean they have an underlying medical condition.

Many people have labial hypertrophy without knowing it, and most do not experience adverse symptoms.

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Side effects of labial hypertrophy

Most people with labial hypertrophy will not have any additional symptoms or side effects.

In others, enlarged labia may cause discomfort or put them at risk for other issues. Possible side effects include:

Discomfort or irritation

Woman outdoors cycling on a book wearing a helmet
An enlarged labia may cause discomfort when cycling.

The labia are a sensitive area, and longer labia may become irritated more easily.

Some people with enlarged labia may feel discomfort when doing physical activities that add friction or pressure to the vaginal area, such as horseback riding or cycling. They may also notice pain from friction during sexual activity.

Enlarged labia may rub against a person’s underwear, causing persistent irritation to this sensitive area.

Keeping clean

A person who has labial hypertrophy will often have additional areas of folded skin around the vulva. This makes it especially important to thoroughly clean the area when washing, as there are more areas for bacteria to become trapped.

People should always wash their hands before touching the sensitive vaginal area to prevent the transfer of bacteria. It is essential to wash the area well if it becomes itchy or irritated.

Incorrect vaginal hygiene can make people more susceptible to bacterial growths and yeast infections.


There is no known direct reason for labial hypertrophy. Doctors see it as a natural fluctuation in the human body. Just as one breast may be larger than the other, differences in the labia are usual.

Some people are born with enlarged labia, while it may develop over time due to hormonal fluctuations in others. In some people, the labia become larger as they go through puberty.

Some people also notice that their labia grow after pregnancy, while others see changes in their vulva with age.

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Diagnosing labial hypertrophy is simple. A physical examination by a doctor or gynecologist is usually all that is required. There is no standard of measurement for how large labia should be.


In most cases, people do not need treatment. However, if labial hypertrophy causes physical or psychological discomfort, there are treatment options, as follows:

Lifestyle changes

Woman holding a pair of cotton underwear pants next to washing machine.
Wearing loose cotton underwear may help to prevent discomfort around the labia.

Some people with labial hypertrophy may notice that their discomfort goes away if they stop wearing tight clothing or underwear. Wearing loose-fitting underwear, shorts, and pants may help prevent unnecessary friction in the area.

Wearing natural materials, such as cotton or linen, may also help improve airflow around the vulva.

Doctors may also be able to provide women with topical ointments to reduce irritation or manage symptoms.

Other tips to help manage possible symptoms include:

Choose natural, unscented tampons or menstrual pads, avoiding any additional ingredients or chemicals.

Wear a protective pad or use a cushioned seat when doing physical activities that may irritate the labia, such as cycling.

Practice good hygiene and wash with a hypoallergenic soap that is free from harsh chemicals or perfumes.


Some people may choose to have surgery to reduce the size of their labia. This involves a procedure called a labioplasty.

A labioplasty is typically done for cosmetic reasons and involves removing excess skin and reshaping the labia to be more symmetrical. The surgery usually requires general anesthesia.

The surgery may cause bruising or swelling in the vulva, as it heals. The vulva will also be very delicate during the healing process. People will need to take extra care to keep the area clean and dry to avoid infections or bleeding.

Doctors may also advise people to avoid friction and wear loose clothing while the labia recover.

Surgery always carries risks, such as having a reaction to anesthesia or developing scar tissue. Doctors will discuss these risks and a person’s other options before continuing with any treatment.

Doctors will give specific instructions to people about when they can resume physical and sexual activity.

Is labioplasty safe in teens?

Surgeons may also perform a labioplasty on teenagers going through puberty who may be developing enlarged labia. However, because the labia may still be growing, doctors usually advise people to wait until after puberty before having surgery.

Doctors will talk through labial hypertrophy with teens to help them understand that it is a normal change in the body. They will also talk about the emotional and mental health factors involved in cosmetic surgery.


Labial hypertrophy is usual in individuals and, in many cases, causes no adverse side effects. Surgery is an option in severe cases or cases that cause emotional discomfort. The outlook for surgery is generally good and has a very high satisfaction rate.

Doctors may have additional tips about soothing irritation or managing effects of hypertrophy, and many people find they can relieve any discomfort by making a few lifestyle changes.

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Medical News Today: Is it safe to skip your period using birth control?

According to doctors, using the birth control pill to skip a period is generally safe, and it poses very few risks. However, there are a few things to consider, including the possible side effects.

Keep reading for more information about how to skip a period, birth control options that reduce the frequency of periods, and other factors to consider.

Is it safe to skip or delay a period?

Calendar showing when a period is due
Before skipping a period, a person should check with a doctor.

According to the National Women’s Health Network, skipping a period is just as safe as having a regular menstrual cycle. In fact, people can safely skip periods for several months in a row.

Still, it is best to check with a doctor before skipping a period. If a person has an underlying medical condition or health issue, it may be a good idea to allow the period to occur naturally.

Skipping a period once or several times in a row will not affect the overall effectiveness of taking birth control.

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A person may wish to skip their period for many reasons, including to:

  • avoid mood swings
  • avoid painful menstruation
  • avoid cramps
  • help prevent complications from bleeding disorders
  • avoid migraines

Having fewer periods may also mean spending less money on personal hygiene products.

Some people try to skip periods to avoid inconvenience, while traveling, for example.

How to skip or delay a period using birth control

To skip a period using a traditional combined pill, a person must take active pills every day without interruption.

If a pack contains active pills and placebo pills, they are usually clearly labeled. Or, the placebo pills may be a different color from the active pills.

A person can continue taking active pills until they are ready to have a period. Taking no active pills for 1 week will trigger menstruation.

Some types of birth control pill suppress periods for a set amount of time.

Pill brands that suppress menstruation for 3 months at a time include:

  • Quartette
  • Jolessa
  • Seasonique
  • Camrese
  • Seasonale
  • Quasense

Other methods of birth control also reduce the frequency of periods. Some examples include:

  • NuvaRing, a type of contraceptive vaginal insert
  • an intrauterine device, or IUD, that releases progestin
  • a progestin implant or injection, such as the Depo-Provera shot

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Risks and side effects

woman holding a tampon
Breakthrough bleeding may look like spotting.

It is generally safe to use birth control pills to skip a period. However, there can be a few risks and side effects.

One risk is breakthrough bleeding.

Breakthrough or withdrawal bleeding can occur after a person misses a few periods or more. The bleeding may look like spotting, but it can resemble a regular period. The timing of breakthrough bleeding is variable, and it may not happen in some people.

Some brands of pill are more likely to causing breakthrough bleeding than others. If this type of bleeding occurs frequently, a person should speak to a doctor about alternatives.

Anyone interested in switching types of birth control should also check with their insurance provider about which brands their policy covers.

Another risk involves accidental pregnancy. A woman may not realize that she is pregnant for weeks or even months if she does not expect her period.


If a person wants to skip a period, the birth control pill provides a safe and effective method. There are little or no risks associated with skipping one or more periods this way.

However, a person should check with a doctor before skipping a period and if withdrawal or breakthrough bleeding occurs.

A doctor may also be able to recommend a type of birth control that either delays periods or has fewer side effects.


Is it safe to skip your period? What are the benefits and risks?


Skipping periods using a hormonal contraceptive is generally considered safe. The hormones protect your uterus and keep the inner lining thin so that you do not have periods as often. One drawback that some people experience is unexpected bleeding. If this happens often, people may have to schedule their period to occur every 2–3 months, rather than spacing out the cycle longer. Other people never have issues with breakthrough bleeding and can space out periods so that they only have a couple a year. These are things to discuss with your doctor when deciding which approach is right for you. People who are not using hormonal contraception and not having regular periods should see their doctor, as there may be an underlying health concern.

Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

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