Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sleeping with more than 20 women protects men against prostate cancer, a study has suggested

Men who had slept with more than 20 women lowered their risk of developing cancer by almost one third, and were 19% less likely to develop the most aggressive form. In contrast, men who slept with 20 men doubled their risk of developing prostate cancer compared with men who have never had sex with another man. Researchers at the University of Montreal believe that intercourse protects men, and men who are more promiscuous have more sex than those in monogamous relationships. However, for homosexual men the benefit is lost because of the increased risk of picking up a sexually transmitted disease, and the damage to their bodies from intercourse. However gay men with just one partner are at no greater risk. "It is possible that having many female sexual partners results in a higher frequency of ejaculations, whose protective effect against prostate cancer has been previously observed in cohort studies," said lead researcher Dr Marie-Elise Parent. But when asked whether public health authorities should recommend men to sleep with many women in their lives Dr Parent added: "We're not there yet." The study looked at more than 3,200 men over a four year period between 2005 and 2009. Overall, men with prostate cancer were twice as likely to have a relative with cancer. However, the researchers were surprised to find that the number of sexual partners also affected the development of their cancer. Men who said that they had never had sexual intercourse were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as those who said that they had. When a man has slept with more than 20 women during his lifetime there was a 28% reduction in the risk of having prostate cancer, and a 19% reduction for aggressive types of cancer. On the other hand, those who have slept with more than 20 men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer of all types compared to those who have never slept with a man. And their risk of having a less aggressive prostate cancer increases by 500% compared to those who have had only one male partner. Dr Parent said that she could only formulate "highly speculative" hypotheses to explain the association. "It could come from greater exposure to STIs, or it could be that anal intercourse produces physical trauma to the prostate," she said. Previous studies have found that sexual intercourse may have a protective effect against prostate cancer because it reduces the concentration of carcinogenic crystal-like substances in the fluid of the prostate. The study is the first to find a link between the number of sexual partners and the risk of developing cancer. "We were fortunate to have participants from Montreal who were comfortable talking about their sexuality, no matter what sexual experiences they have had, and this openness would probably not have been the same 20 or 30 years ago," said lead researcher Dr Marie-Elise Parent. "Indeed, thanks to them, we now know that the number and type of partners must be taken into account to better understand the causes of prostate cancer."

Black men in Britain are 17 times more likely than white counterparts to be diagnosed with a psychotic illness

In Lambeth, with Britain’s largest black population, 26% of the population is black, but nearly 70% of the borough’s residents in secure psychiatric settings are of African or Caribbean heritage. Just one more reason - in addition to crime - to keep black immigrants out of Britain and any other predominantly white nation.

Israel's top legal officer has ordered Moshe Ya'alon, the country's defence minister, to explain a decision that effectively bans Palestinian workers from travelling to their West Bank homes on the same buses as Jewish settlers

The demand, from Yehuda Weinstein, the Attorney General, follows criticism that the move – officially justified on "security grounds" – amounted to racial segregation. Ya'alon's order will make it illegal from December 2014 for Palestinian laborers working in Tel Aviv and central Israel from boarding the Trans-Samaria bus, which travels through the occupied West Bank to the settlement of Ariel. Instead they will have to enter the West Bank through the Eyal checkpoint, far removed from many Palestinian populations centers, and then continue on separate buses. The defense minister's justification contradicts the stance of the Israeli army, which has said that it does not consider the Palestinian workers' presence on the buses a threat, since only those who have been given security clearance are allowed into Israel. Now the Attorney General's office has asked the defense ministry to list the facts and considerations – including legal advice – that prompted Ya'alon's decision, amid criticisms that he was motivated by a desire to curry favor with settlers' groups. The liberal Haaretz newspaper accused him of "kowtowing" to settler opinion while giving ammunition to those who characterize Israel as an apartheid state. "The minister's decision reeks of apartheid, typical of the Israeli occupation regime in the territories," the newspaper wrote in an editorial headlined Welcome Aboard Israel's Apartheid Bus. "One of the most blatant symbols of the regime of racial separation in South Africa was the separate bus lines for whites and blacks. Now, Ya'alon has implemented the same policy in the occupied territories." A source in Ya'alon's office defended the move as purely a security-related matter. "Its purpose is to supervise the entries and exits into Israeli territory, thereby reducing the chances of terror attacks inside Israeli territory," the source said. Israel's transport ministry came under fire in 2013 for introducing "Palestinian only" buses from Israel to the West Bank following complaints from settlers. The latest controversy came as Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, hit back at international criticism of a decision to proceed with plans to build 1,060 new settlers homes in East Jerusalem, which is claimed by the Palestinians as their future capital. The European Union and the United States both condemned the move – apparently agreed in an attempt to appease pro-settler ministers in Netanyahu's coalition – as harmful to prospects for peace. Netanyahu dismissed the criticisms as disconnected from reality. "The EU and the US are applying a double standard when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said on a visit to the port city of Ashdod. "When Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority] incites murder of Jews in Jerusalem, the international community remains silent. And when we build in Jerusalem, they become indignant. I don't accept that. Just as the French build in Paris and the British build in London, Israelis build in Jerusalem."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The captain of South Africa's national soccer team was fatally shot when armed men broke into the house where he was staying

Goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa was killed after two gunmen entered a house in Vosloorus township near Johannesburg while an accomplice waited outside, the national police force says. The three assailants then fled on foot. Police say that there were seven people in the house during the attack, and the shooting followed an "altercation." South African soccer club Orlando Pirates said in a statement that it "has learned with sadness about the untimely death of our number one goalkeeper and current captain." The death of the 27-year-old "is a sad loss whichever way you look at it — to Senzo's family, his extended family, Orlando Pirates, and to the nation," the team's chairman said. South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Scientists have identified two genes linked to extremely violent behavior

A genetic analysis of almost 900 offenders in Finland has revealed two genes associated with violent crime. Those with the genes were 13 times more likely to have a history of repeated violent behavior. The authors of the study said that at least 5% to 10% of all violent crime in Finland could be attributed to individuals with these genotypes. The study, which involved analysis of almost 900 criminals, is the first to have looked at the genetic make-up of so many violent criminals in this way. Each criminal was given a profile based on their offenses, categorizing them into violent or non-violent. The association between genes and previous behavior was strongest for the 78 who fitted the extremely violent offender profile. This group had committed a total of 1,154 murders, manslaughters, attempted homicides or batteries. A replication group of 114 criminals had all committed at least one murder. These all carried a low-activity version of the MAOA gene, which previous research has dubbed the "warrior gene" because of its link to aggressive behavior. A deficiency of the enzyme this controls could result in "dopamine hyperactivity" especially when an individual drinks alcohol or takes drugs such as amphetamines, said Prof Tiihonen. The majority of all individuals who commit severe violent crime in Finland do so under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For now, a person's genetic information should not have any influence on conviction outcomes in criminal courts, Prof Tiihonen added. Commenting on the latest study, Dr Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University in Florida said that it added to our understanding of the factors involved in violent crime. "Studies like this really document that a large percentage of our behavior in terms of violence or aggression is influenced by our biology - our genes - and our brain anatomy. It's important to conceptualize crime and violence, where it comes from, even if we would not want to radically change the criminal justice system." The two genes associated with violent repeat offenders were the MAOA gene and a variant of cadherin 13 (CDH13). The MAOA gene codes for the enzyme monoamine oxidase A, which is important for controlling the amount of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. CDH13 has previously been associated with substance abuse and ADHD. Those classified as non-violent offenders did not have this genetic profile.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The genes of the innate immune system and ovarian longevity

Difficulty in conceiving a child is a major challenge for one in seven heterosexual couples in America, especially for those over the age of 35. Now a new discovery by researchers at Tel Aviv University and Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer could boost the chances of conception in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. Their new research reveals a linkage between the genes of the innate immune system - immunity with which human beings are born, rather than immunity they acquire during their lives - and ovarian longevity. The study constituted the doctoral work of Dr. Shiri Uri-Belapolsky of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine. The research was led by Prof. Ruth Shalgi, of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at TAU's Sackler School of Medicine, Dr. Yehuda Kamari and Prof. Dror Harats of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center, and Dr. Aviv Shaish of Sheba Medical Center. According to research conducted on laboratory mice, the genetic deletion of the protein Interleukin-1 (IL-1), a key player in the innate immune system, could improve the number of eggs available for fertilization as well as improve the ovarian response to hormonal stimulation involved in IVF procedures. This could prove especially effective in women who initially respond poorly to hormonal treatment. "We revealed a clear linkage between the genes of the innate immune system and female reproduction," said Dr. Uri-Belapolsky. "The results of our study, which point to neutralizing the effects of the IL-1 protein to slow down the natural processes that destroy the eggs, may set the basis for the development of new treatments, such as an IL-1 blockade that would raise the number of eggs recovered during an IVF cycle and reduce the amount of hormones injected into women undergoing the treatment." The connection between IL-1 and fertility was discovered by accident in the course of research performed by the scientists on the role of IL-1 in atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries. In a surprise result of the research, the fertility lifespan of IL-1-deficient mice was found to be 20% longer than that of control wild-type mice. Female mammals, including humans, are born with a finite number of eggs and are subject to a biological clock that dictates the end of the reproductive lifespan at around 50 years of age. Over the past decade, a trend of postponing childbearing into advanced age has led to a corresponding upward trend in the number of IVF treatments. Inflammation has been reported to affect both IVF outcomes and the ovarian reserve adversely. "Identifying a possible culprit, such as Interleukin-1, may offer new insight into the mechanisms responsible for egg loss as well as practical interventions," the study reports.

Were the ancient British genetically more similar to the modern Irish than they were to the modern English?

If you are interested in the genetic history of Britain you can find some fascinating reading on the Eurogenes blog.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Study: 6.4% of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2% of non-citizens voted in 2010

Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80% of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 sample), the researchers found that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65% of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1% of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.

An Iranian woman convicted of murder - in a killing that human rights groups called self-defense against a rapist - has been hanged

Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was sentenced to death for the 2007 killing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The United Nations has said that she never received a fair trial. The U.S. State Department also said that there were concerns about the trial. "There were serious concerns with the fairness of the trial and the circumstances surrounding this case, including reports of confessions made under severe duress," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "We condemn this morning's execution in Iran of Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman convicted of killing a man she said she stabbed in self-defense during a sexual assault," Psaki said. Jabbari's execution was originally scheduled for September 30, 2014 but was postponed. Amnesty International said that the delay may have been in response to the public outcry against the execution. Jabbari was convicted of murder after "a flawed investigation and unfair trial," according to Amnesty International. The United Nations has said that Sarbandi hired Jabbari - then a 19-year-old interior designer - to work on his office. She stabbed him after he sexually assaulted her, it said. Jabbari was held in solitary confinement without access to her lawyer and family for two months, Amnesty International said in a statement. She was tortured during that time, the group said. "Amnesty International understands that, at the outset of the investigation, Reyhaneh Jabbari admitted to stabbing the man once in the back, but claimed she had done so after he had tried to sexually abuse her," the rights group said. "She also maintained that a third person in the house had been involved in the killing. These claims, if proven, could exonerate her but are believed never to have been properly investigated, raising many questions about the circumstances of the killing." Iranian Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi joined scores of Iranian artists and musicians calling for a halt to the execution. In an open letter, Farhadi asked the victim's family to pardon her, a possibility under Iranian law. Rights groups have criticized Iran for a surge in executions under Hassan Rouhani in his first year as president. British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood said he was "very concerned and saddened" that Jabbari had been executed, especially given the questions concerning due process in the case. "The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, noted that her conviction was allegedly based on confessions made while under threat, and the court failed to take into account all evidence into its judgment," he said in a statement. "Actions like these do not help Iran build confidence or trust with the international community. I urge Iran to put a moratorium on all executions." According to the United Nations, Iran has executed at least 170 people in 2014. In 2013, it executed more people than any other country with the exception of China, the world's most populous nation.