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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Medical News Today: How much salt does it really take to harm your heart?

Too much salt is bad for you, particulary because it is associated with an increased risk of heart problems — but how much is too much? A new study suggests that we may not have to worry so much about how salty we like our food to be.
salt shaker
A new international study suggests that we may want to rethink how much salt is actually harmful.

Table salt, which we commonly use to season our food, contains sodium.

Sodium, if often ingested in large quantities, can lead to a range of cardiovascular problems, including hypertension.

The World Health Organization (WHO) say that a person should not consume more than 2 grams of sodium per day, which is about 5 grams of salt per day.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend no more than 2.5 grams of sodium per day, though they state that the ideal intake is of no more than 1.5 grams per day for an adult.

However, researchers from a range of international institutions — including McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, both in Hamilton, Canada, as well institutions from 21 other countries — suggest that these limits are unnecessarily low.

Researcher Andrew Mente and colleagues conducted a study of 94,000 people aged 35–70, aiming to establish how much sodium really is too much for heart health.

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Current guidelines, the team notes, push for standards that are unrealistic for many, seeing as salt is often an almost invisible ingredient contained by numerous packaged foods.

“The [WHO recommend] consumption of less than 2 grams of sodium — that’s one teaspoon of salt — a day as a preventative measure against cardiovascular disease,” says Mente.

He also adds, however, that “there is little evidence in terms of improved health outcomes that individuals ever achieve at such a low level.”

The new study, whose results are now featured in The Lancet, now suggests that we can be more lenient about our salt consumption without fearing that it will harm our cardiovascular health.

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Slightly higher sodium intake is safe

The study followed the participants — who were based in communities across 18 different countries — for an average period of 8 years.

Mente and his colleagues revealed that a high intake of sodium did lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke — but only in communities where the average intake for an adult was greater than 5 grams per day.

This amounts to about 2.5 teaspoons of table salt, the researchers explain.

Encouragingly, the researchers also noticed that under 5 percent of the participants coming from developed countries exceeded the 5-gram cutoff point for sodium intake.

In most of the countries, the majority of the communities that the researchers observed had an average sodium intake of 3–5 grams of sodium — or 1.5 to 2.5 teaspoons of salt — per day.

In fact, of all the populations in the study, only those from China showed a consistently high intake of sodium. Specifically, 80 percent of the communities from China had a sodium intake that was higher than 5 grams per day.

“Only in the communities with the most sodium intake — those over 5 grams [per] day of sodium — which is mainly in China, did we find a direct link between sodium intake and major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke,” Mente explains.

On the other hand, he adds, “In communities that consumed less than 5 grams of sodium a day, the opposite was the case. Sodium consumption was inversely associated with myocardial infarction or heart attacks and total mortality, and [there was] no increase in stroke.”

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Community interventions can help

Even in the case of individuals who do consume too much table salt, however, the situation is not unsalvageable, the researchers say.

Mente notes that people can easily redress the balance and protect their heart health by making a few simple adjustments to their diets, such as adding more fruits, vegetables, and foods naturally rich in potassium.

“We found all major cardiovascular problems, including death, decreased in communities and countries where there is an increased consumption of potassium which is found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, potatoes, and nuts and beans,” says the study author.

Another one of the researches involved with the current study, Martin O’Donnell, notes that most of the studies looking at the relationship between sodium intake and cardiovascular risk so far have focused on individual data, rather than information collected from larger cohorts.

This, he suggests, may have skewed the best practice guidelines into a direction that is both unrealistic and perhaps too cautious.

Public health strategies should be based on best evidence. Our findings demonstrate that community-level interventions to reduce sodium intake should target communities with high sodium consumption, and should be embedded within approaches to improve overall dietary quality.”

Martin O’Donnell

“There is no convincing evidence that people with moderate or average sodium intake need to reduce their sodium intake for prevention of heart disease and stroke,” O’Donnell adds.

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Medical News Today: Poison or cure? Arsenic can help treat cancer, study finds

Arsenic is infamous for its harmful properties. However, some arsenic compounds — in carefully measured doses — can be used in medical treatments. One such compound might even help treat cancer, researchers say.
table of elements focus on arsenic
How can an arsenic oxide help treat cancer? A new study investigates.

Arsenic is often listed as a carcinogen, which is a substance whose presence in a person’s environment can lead to the development of cancer.

However, some arsenic-based compounds have been used throughout history to treat various medical conditions.

One such compound — called arsenic trioxide (ATO) — is still used today, and it actually gained Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval under the marketing name Trisenox in 2001.

Now, researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, MA, are investigating the potential of ATO in treating cancer.

Specifically, Drs. Kun Ping Lu, Xiao Zhen Zhou, and colleagues looked at how ATO in combination with another existing drug — all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) — can be used to actually cure promyelocytic leukemia, which is a type of blood cancer.

The mechanisms through which ATO in combination with ATRA can help cure this type of leukemia have been unclear, but this study sheds light on how these substances act at the cellular level, suggesting that their interaction may be useful in treating other kinds of cancer, as well.

Their findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.

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Blocking and destroying a key enzyme

The researchers worked with models of leukemia, breast, and liver cancer, and they were able to find that the ATO-ATRA combination destroyed an enzyme known as Pin1.

Pin1 plays a key role in regulating signaling networks in cancer; it activates over 40 proteins that feed cancer tumors, while also blocking over 20 proteins that would normally suppress tumor growth.

This enzyme is overactive in most types of cancer found in humans — particularly so in cancer stem cells, which drive tumor growth and can often be key to cancers’ resistance to traditional treatments.

In this study, the scientists observed that ATO binds to Pin1, blocking its action and eventually leading to the enzyme’s deterioration. At the same time, ATRA — which also binds to Pin1 and degrades it — facilitates and increases cells’ uptake of ATO.

This leads to the increased expression of a protein specific to cell membranes, which boosts the cells absorption of ATO.

When working with mice engineered not to express Pin1, the researchers also saw that the rodents were actually highly resistant to cancer.

These animals suffered no ill effects as a result of the blocked enzyme expression for about half of their lifespans, which suggests that targeting Pin1 at baseline can be a safe approach.

Our discovery strongly suggests an exciting new possibility of adding [ATO] to existing therapies in treating triple-negative breast cancer and many other cancer types, especially when patients’ cancers are found to be Pin1-positive. This might significantly improve the outcomes of cancer treatment.”

Dr. Xiao Zhen Zhou

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Future work to address shortcomings

Drs. Zhou, Lu, and colleagues emphasize that their new findings may lead to effective strategies for targeting Pin1, for which no inhibitors have so far been developed.

“It’s gratifying to see this combination of [ATRA] and [ATO] that my [laboratory] discovered to be curative in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia translate into possible approaches for the treatment of other cancers,” explains Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi, of BIDMC, who first found that a combined ATO-ATRA treatment was able to cure that type of blood cancer.

“Indeed,” he adds, “it is interesting to speculate that this combination may even prove curative in other tumor types yet to be discovered.”

Still, the team notes one shortcoming of the ATO-ATRA combination treatment — namely, that ATRA has a very short half-life in humans.

“We and others have confirmed the ability of [ATRA] to inhibit Pin1 function in breast cancer, liver cancer, and acute myeloid leukemia, as well as in lupus and asthma,” notes Dr. Lu.

To this, he adds the warning, “[H]owever, clinical uses of [ATRA], especially in solid tumors, have been severely limited by its very short half-life of 45 minutes in humans.”

The authors nevertheless hope that the results of the study will provide sufficient motivation for future studies to focus on developing longer-lived, more resilient ATRA.

“Our results stimulate the development of longer half-life [ATRA] to combine with [ATO] or other more potent Pin1 inhibitors because they may offer a promising new approach to fighting a broad range of cancers without general toxicity, as proven in curing [acute promyelocytic leukemia],” says Dr. Lu.

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