UW News

April 15, 2014

Health Digest: Sleep and cancer, bioethics, and lead contamination

Health Digest is UW Today’s round-up of news stories from UW Health Sciences, compiled by News and Information.

CPAP use for sleep apnea hushes cancer-related genes

a man sleeps in a bed with a CPAP machine

A CPAP in use at the Sleep Medicine Center at Harborview.UW Health Sciences

A common treatment for sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, may be associated with the suppression of cancer-related genes, according to a new UW study. The link between cancer and sleep apnea is controversial, and the current study is among the earliest to systematically examine the effects of therapeutic CPAP on gene transcription. Dr. Sina Gharib, lead author and UW assistant professor of medicine, said that the study is a “preliminary step in our understanding of how the physiological disturbances caused by sleep apnea adversely affect cellular function.” Read more on HSNewsBeat.


Ethical medicine, Lesson 1: Recognize your viewpoint

How do doctors learn to guide patients’ decisions when there are alternative courses of action or when dealing with polarizing medical choices, such as abortion and genetic testing? In a Q&A, Wylie Burke, a UW professor of bioethics and humanities, explains how she helps medical students and residents understand their own assumptions, expectations and biases. “Ethics is every day, not just the dramatic, should-we-pull-the-plug dilemmas. Ethics is being competent in your field; that’s a fundamental ethical obligation for a professional,” she said. Read more on HSNewsBeat.


In Vietnam, reducing harm of battery recycling

a worker sweeps the floor of a Vietnam battery-recycling factory

Workers in a Vietnam battery-recycling factory.UW Health Sciences, Deborah Havens

Many Vietnam communities make money by recycling lead from used car batteries, but at the cost of widespread lead contamination. Researchers from the UW School of Public Health with collaborators at the Vietnamese National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health analyzed surface lead levels in nine homes and a school in a village near Hanoi. The measurements allowed the team to discover how lead spreads through a community. Now they are developing an education and training program and a health assessment. Read more on HSNewsBeat.