Tomatoes, peas, and 8 other crops have been grown in Mars-equivalent soil

In an experiment testing how well we can grow crops in space, scientists have managed to harvest 10 crops, including tomatoes, peas, and rye, from soil that mimics the conditions on Mars.

Although the Mars-equivalent soil produced slightly fewer crops than regular Earth soil, the difference wasn’t huge, suggesting that, in the right conditions, early settlers might be able to sustainably feed themselves with crops grown on the Red Planet. The dream of a Martian colony just got a little bit closer.

“The production of biomass on the Mars soil simulant was lower than on Earth control, but it was a minor difference and caused by one of the trays that showed less growth,” said lead researcher Wieger Wamelink from Wageningen University & Research centre in the Netherlands. “That was a real surprise to us. It shows that the Mars soil simulant has great potential when properly prepared and watered.”

The researchers also grew the same 10 crops – tomato, rye, radish, pea, leek, spinach, garden rocket, cress, quinoa, and chives – in soil that mimicked Moon soil, and showed that these crops were about half as successful as Mars crops, with spinach in particular struggling in the lunar environment.

So how do you find soil that’s chemically similar to kind you’d find outside of Earth? You head to some of the most extreme places on our planet. The ‘Mars’ soil came from a volcano on Hawaii, while ‘Moon’ soil was collected in a desert in Arizona. These were then mixed with fresh cut grass in shallow trays, which made it easier to water the crops. A control tray contained regular Earth potting compost.

Before you get too excited and start packing your gardening gear for Mars, there are a few things to flag here – first of all, the results haven’t been published, so we’re currently taking Wageningen University’s word for it (for the record, this is their second experiment on space crops, so it’s not an unreliable word to take, but we’re always wary until we see peer-reviewed findings).

The study also only mimicked soil on Mars and the Moon, and not the rest of their conditions – such as the harsh space radiation, or the bitter heat and cold.

The crops were grown in a glass house under Earth’s atmosphere, with stable humidity, light, and temperature – but Wamelik explains that this is because “we expect that first crop growth on Mars and Moon will take place in underground rooms to protect the plants from the hostile environment”. That’s fair enough, but we still can’t predict exactly how being on another planet will affect the process.

Finally, the most crucial phase of the experiment – determining whether these plants are safe to eat – hasn’t commenced as yet. And there’s no point growing crops if they’re going to poison us.

“The soils contain heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury and also a lot of iron,” said Wamelink. “If the components become available for the plants, they may be taken up and find their way into the fruits, making them poisonous.”

The team is now crowdfunding further research on this subject, with experiments scheduled to start in April this year.

But despite the limitations, it’s still pretty exciting to know that soil on the Red Planet is capable of growing our food crops – because there’s nothing more comforting when you’re billions of kilometres from home than fresh vegetables.

Last year, astronauts also managed to grow and eat the first lettuce on board the International Space Station – which, tbh, looked pretty tasty – so we’re getting closer to being able to pull a Mark Watney and farm extraterrestrial land than ever before. Bring it on.

first lettuce grown and eaten in space

Children more likely to turn to internet if they are upset than a friend, study finds

Almost a third of children says they turn to the internet first – rather than speaking to relative or friend – when they are seeking help with a problem

Ministers pledged a new crackdown on the ease of access to online pornography

Children as young as 13 would seek out online help, researchers found

More than a quarter of young people would turn to the internet first if they were upset or had a problem, according to a new survey.

Children as young as 13 would seek out online help, ranging from searching for information to looking at websites specifically designed for young people.

More than one in three (34 per cent) would talk to a parent or carer first, while 27 per cent would speak to another person they trusted and 28 cemt would turn to the internet first. Meanwhile, 36 per cent would tell friends to avoid Facebook if they were feeling worried or upset.

Of those surveyed, 75 per cent said the internet makes them happy. But when asked if it was bad for young people’s mental health, 28 per cent agreed it was.

The poll, for family online safety experts Parent Zone, also found that more than half (51 per cent) of 13 to 20-year-olds have read or seen someone discussing suicide online.

Six out of 10 (61 per cent) have also seen someone talk about hurting themselves on the internet.

The poll of 220 students aged between 13 and 20 was accompanied by in-depth interviews with an extra 40 children.

A total of 119 teachers were also polled, while a further six teachers were interviewed in-depth.

Of the teachers, 44 per cent said the internet is bad for young people’s mental health and 91 per cent believe the frequency of mental health issues among pupils is increasing.

Stress and anxiety, depression and self-harm were the most common issues seen in schools.

Most teachers said they did not have adequate resources to deal with pupils’ mental health issues.

Vicki Shotbolt, chief executive of Parent Zone, said: “Family life is arguably more complex now than it has ever been.

“Children have access to information, views and opinions that adults cannot control. The internet has destroyed any notions we might have had about keeping some things away from children until they were ‘old enough to cope’.

“All of the indicators suggest that the prevalence of mental health problems and the severity of those problems are increasing.

“Some people are linking the internet to the increase so we wanted to speak to the young people who have grown up with technology and hear their views so that we can start to think about how best to support them.”

Parent Zone and Ceop Command (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) – part of the National Crime Agency – publish Parent Info, which offers information to help children and young people stay safe online for schools to host on their own websites.

Cyber safety: How protected are your children online?

What Aloe Vera Does In Your Body: Why Egyptians Called It The Plant Of Immortality


Known to the Egyptians as the plant of immortality and to Native Americans as the wand of heaven, aloe vera comes with a wide array of amazing healing properties — some of which you may already be aware. You might even have your own aloe vera plant in your home for those small emergencies like scrapes, cuts, and burns, but did you know that aloe vera is not only limited to topical use and is actually even more beneficial to your body when taken internally?

Aloe vera contains over 200 biologically active, naturally occurring constituents which include polysaccharides, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and minerals that promote nutrient absorption.

According to The Journal of Environmental Science and Health, aloe vera also possesses anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties that assist the immune system in cleansing the body of toxins and invading pathogens. But that isn’t all aloe vera juice/gel has to offer.[1]


Aloe vera has loads of minerals including calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, sodium, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese. These minerals work together to boost metabolic pathways.


Aloe Vera contains important enzymes like amylase and lipase which can aid in digestion by breaking down fat and sugar molecules. One molecule in particular, Bradykinase, helps to reduce inflammation.


One study  showed that aloe vera actually contains vitamin B12, which is required for the production of red blood cells. That would be great news for vegetarians and vegans in particular, who often do not get adequate amounts of B12 through their regular diet. Keep in mind however, that was just one instance and you shouldn’t rely on aloe alone for your daily requirements of b12. Other studies have shown that taking aloe can assist with the bioavailability of vitamin B12, meaning the body can more easily to absorb and utilize it which can prevent deficiency. Aloe vera is also a source of vitamins A, C,E, folic acid, choline, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), and B6.

Amino Acids

Aloe vera contains 20 of the 22 essential amino acids that are required by the human body. It also contains salicylic acid, which fights inflammation and bacteria.

Other Uses For Aloe

Aside from being an excellent body cleanser, removing toxic matter from the stomach, kidneys, spleen, bladder, liver, and colon, aloe can also offer effective relief from more immediate ailments, such as indigestion, upset stomach, ulcers, and inflammation in the gut. It also strengthens the digestive tract and alleviates joint inflammation, making it a great option for arthritis sufferers.

One study found that aloe vera juice, when taken the same way as a mouthwash, was just as effective at removing plaque as the common mouthwash and its active ingredient, chlorhexidine. This is a much better alternative because it is all-natural, unlike the typical chemical-laden options found in stores.

Aloe vera gel has also been found to effectively heal mouth ulcers, which are more commonly known as canker sores.

How To Take Aloe?

Aloe can be consumed straight from the plant, but the easiest and most palatable option is probably aloe juice, which you can find in most health food stores. You can also buy the leaves from many common grocery stores, or harvest your own, and juice them yourself.

You can buy the juice and mix it into your juices and smoothies or just drink it straight up. Make sure you are buying pure aloe juice/gel which is either of the whole leaf or just the inner filet. It does have a somewhat bitter taste though, so you may want to include other things. On the bottle you can find specific dosing instructions, but it would be wise to talk to a natural health expert or do some research into the matter to find instructions on specific dosing.

Protecting Patients From Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria

CDC Releases Vital Signs Report, MMWR Addressing Health Care-Associated Infections

March 15, 2016 04:00 pm News Staff – In the United States, about 2 million people become ill each year with antibiotic-resistant (AR) infections — and of these, about 23,000 patients die.

U.S. medical facilities and staff have made progress in the prevention of health care-associated infections (HAIs), but there still is room for improvement, including in the fight against AR bacteria.

This is according to a recent CDC Vital Signs( report and related Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report( that urged health care professionals to use a combination of infection-control tactics to better protect patients from these infections.

“New data show that far too many patients are getting infected with dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria in health care settings,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a news release.( “Doctors and health care facilities have the power to protect patients — no one should get sick while trying to get well.”

  • A recent CDC Vital Signsreport and related Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reportaddressed control of health care-associated infections (HAIs) and antibiotic-resistant infections.
  • National data signaled achievements including a 50 percent decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections between 2008 and 2014.
  • The CDC’s annual progress report on HAI prevention showed that hospital-onsetClostridium difficile infections decreased 8 percent between 2011 and 2014.

In short-term acute care hospitals, one in seven catheter- and surgery-related HAIs is caused by any of six AR bacteria. This increases to one in four infections in long-term acute care hospitals.

The six AR threats the reports examined are:

  • carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae,
  • methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,
  • extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae,
  • vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus,
  • multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa and
  • multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter.

Hospitals Improve HAI Prevention

National data from 2014 reported in this Vital Signs issue and from the CDC’s latest annual progress report on HAI prevention,( also published this year, signaled promising achievements such as a 50 percent decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections between 2008 and 2014, and a 17 percent decrease in surgical site infections between 2008 and 2014 related to 10 procedures tracked in previous HAI progress reports.

The Vital Signs report also examined the role of Clostridium difficile, which was recently recognized as the most common type of bacteria responsible for infections in acute care hospitals. In 2011, the bacteria caused 453,000 infections with 29,000 patients dying within 30 days of diagnosis.

Zoom In

The good news is the CDC’s annual progress report showed that progress has been made by decreasing hospital-onset C. difficile infections by 8 percent between 2011 and 2014.

CDC Calls Health Care Professionals to Action

The CDC is calling on physicians, nurses, health care facility administrators, and state and local health departments to be vigilant in preventing HAIs.

“For clinicians, prevention means isolating patients when necessary,” said Clifford McDonald, M.D., associate director for science at the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, in the news release. “It also means being aware of antibiotic resistance patterns in your facilities, following recommendations for preventing infections that can occur after surgery or from central lines and catheters placed in the body, and prescribing antibiotics correctly.”

The Vital Signs report recommended physicians start antibiotics promptly and then reassess patients 24-48 hours later. Also, physicians should be prepared to stop antibiotic treatment when appropriate.


Along with its annual progress report on health care-associated infection prevention, the CDC released the Antibiotic Resistance Patient Safety Atlas,( a new Web app with interactive data on health care-associated infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The tool provides national, regional and state map views of superbug/drug combinations showing percent resistance over time that can be filtered by time period, event type and patient age.

The Atlas uses data reported to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network from 2011 to 2014 from more than 4,400 health care facilities.

Government Agencies Support This Fight

The CDC, CMS and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, along with state mandates for public reporting of HAIs, have all contributed to progress in improving transparency, accountability and quality when it comes to better patient safety against HAIs and AR infections.

“The good news is that we are preventing health care-acquired infections, which has saved thousands of lives,” said Patrick Conway, M.D., CMS deputy administrator and chief medical officer, in the news release. “The challenge ahead is how we help to prevent antibiotic resistance as well as infections. We are using incentives, changes in care delivery and transparency to improve safety and quality for patients.”

Congress also has responded, appropriating $160 million in new funding in fiscal year 2016 for the CDC to implement the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria.(

With this funding, the CDC will fight the spread of antibiotic resistance by

  • accelerating outbreak detection and prevention in every state,
  • enhancing tracking of resistance mechanisms and resistant infections,
  • supporting innovative research to address current gaps in knowledge and
  • improving antibiotic use.

These are the happiest countries in the world – and the UK is only 23rd

What is really important in this life? It turns out equality is probably the single thing likeliest to make people happy.

But perhaps bacon and Lego are important too, as Denmark has once again been crowned the world’s happiest nation.

The UK came in a paltry – 23rd, behind Singapore.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The top ten sees a lot of other European nations such as Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Finland – also, famously, countries which prize equality.

What makes you happy?

  • Success

  • Money

  • Love

  • Family

  • Hard drugs

The honour comes courtesy of the 2016 UN World Happiness Report – based on Gallup interviews with people in 160 countries.

But what is it about Denmark that makes people so happy? It’s the fact that everyone feels equal, according to the researchers.

Countries where some people were very happy, but others weren’t, tended to be less happy overall, the researchers found.

The report observes, ‘of the 20 most equal countries, seven also appear in the top 20 countries in terms of average happiness.’

Virtual reality girds for test in marketplace

An Israeli grandmother glimpses herself as a Palestinian teen. A star athlete experiences what life would be like in a wheelchair.

These are not plots of dystopian movies. They are experiences that take place in , which technologists believe will be the next major platform for everything from gaming to social interaction and perhaps even global diplomacy.

Marketers predict VR headsets will soon top wish lists for kids and young adults from the Silicon Valley to Hong Kong.

The computer-generated images beamed to devices strapped around a person’s head allow users to experience “presence”—the sense that they’re entering video games or movies, climbing a treacherous Vietnamese mountain or scuba diving at a coral reef.

Potential benefits include hands-on teaching with a classroom of far-flung students, or holding a business meeting whose global participants sense they’re rubbing elbows.

The upcoming rollout of the Oculus Rift—a $599 headset offering studio-quality VR to the general public—is expected to jump-start industry sales.

The upcoming rollout of the Oculus Rift—a $599 headset offering studio-quality virtual reality to the general public—is expected
The upcoming rollout of the Oculus Rift—a $599 headset offering studio-quality virtual reality to the general public—is expected to jump-start industry sales

Sony meanwhile announced at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco it would launch its PlayStation VR headgear priced at $399 in October. Many others have VR equipment hitting the market.

Along with its cousin, augmented reality, VR is forecast as a huge market that could push aside smart phones and computer tablets.

From a California garage

VR has been a dream of futurists and tech geeks for decades. But until recently, devices were relegated to research labs because of their exorbitant cost, clunky construction and quality issues that included motion sickness.

At Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, experiments were done until 2014 with a $40,000 device that gave users neck aches; now the lab uses a lightweight Rift at a fraction of the cost.

“I believe in virtual reality and I believed it could be amazing, but that was not a view that was shared by everyone,” Rift inventor Palmer Luckey said.

The Rift, created in 2011 by Luckey in his parents’ California garage when he was 18, uses images and sounds (smell and touch may come later) to convince users’ brains they are flying over a city or standing on a skyscraper.

At the San Francisco conference, users pivoted to shoot would-be attackers and flinched at imaginary flying objects.

“Vision is really important. You rely on it for a majority of your senses,” said Jason Rubin, who as head of worldwide studios oversees content development for Oculus.

Oculus, bought by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion, is competing with companies such as Google, Samsung and Sony in creating virt
Oculus, bought by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion, is competing with companies such as Google, Samsung and Sony in creating virtual reality devices, with analysts expecting sales of 12 million headsets by the end of this year

“So if we can take over your eyes, we can get control of your belief system.”

Oculus, bought by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion, is competing with companies such as Google, Samsung and Sony in creating VR devices, with analysts expecting sales of 12 million headsets by the end of this year.

‘Bigger, more disruptive’

But Tim Merel, founder of technology advisory firm Digi-Capital, says VR will be eclipsed by augmented reality, or AR, within a few years.

VR is fully immersive, meaning a user can’t walk down a street wearing a headset. AR is partly immersive: a person can do everyday tasks while augmenting them with virtual images, using holograms (such as flying dinosaurs) superimposed on the user’s field of vision.

While Merel thinks VR will cannibalize video games and become a $30 billion market by 2020, he sees AR as taking over the smartphone and tablet market and accounting for $90 billion in annual sales in the same period.

“Our broad view is that AR will be bigger, more disruptive and faster in terms of its effects than mobile was compared to the original Internet,” Merel said.

While most VR content now focuses on gaming, it has the potential to impact everything from architecture to military training to travel.

Developers envision its use in dealing with phobias and addiction, or in helping youngsters combat bullying. The United Nations is using a VR film to give people a sense of living in a Syrian refugee camp. The New York Times and others are using VR films for immersive news reports.

Jeremy Bailenson, a Stanford professor of communication who founded the lab, said school children might use VR for empathy training. But he acknowledged limits.

“Could this work in the Mideast conflict? I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not a magic bullet or anything.”

There also are potential risks, such as overuse or people discovering they’re more comfortable in a virtual world.

“When porn feels like sex, how does that affect reproduction rates?” Bailenson asked.

The Rift, about the size of a brick but considerably lighter, will be shipped March 28 to customers who pre-ordered it. Oculus is not yet saying when the device will be available in stores. Many users will need a new computer to run the Rift, potentially tripling the $599 price.

Luckey, who attended the developers conference in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and flip-flops, acknowledged the Rift is still too expensive and limited in its capabilities, but that with improvements “it is going to go well beyond being a toy.”

“I think it’s going to be the next smartphone and the last smartphone. Once you perfect virtual reality, there’s no reason to create anything else,” he said. “I see people continuously moving between the real world and the virtual world.”

Quantum Equation Suggests The Big Bang Never Occurred – The Universe Has No Beginning


When it comes to the science regarding the true nature of our reality, you won’t find a shortage of theories, or a shortage of criticisms of each theory. We are like a race with amnesia, trying to discover and search for an answer that most probably exists, but has yet to be discovered. How did the universe begin?

According to new research, there might not have been a big bang. Instead, the universe might have existed forever. The theory was derived from the mathematics of general relativity, and compliment Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

“The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there.”  – Ahmed Farag Ali, Benha University, Co-Author of the study.

Nike’s Self-Lacing Shoes Are Here: Meet The HyperAdapt

I always test my running shoes in gravity-free alien worlds.
“Have you ever had shoes without shoestrings?” Kanye West intoned in 2009’s “Run This Town” collaboration with Jay-Z and Rihanna. The self-styled genius and fashion auteur maybe forgot that Velcro exists, but his line could almost as easily describe Nike’s new HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers with “adaptive lacing”, debuted by the long-running footwear giant in New York today.

Nike HyperAdapt 1.0
Here’s now Nike describes the technology:
The Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 is the payoff of significant research into digital, electrical and mechanical engineering. Powered by an underfoot-lacing mechanism, the shoe proposes a groundbreaking solution to individual idiosyncrasies in lacing and fit preferences. That means the undue pressure caused by tight tying and slippage resulting from loose laces are relics of the past. Precise, consistent, personalized lockdown can now be manually adjusted on the go.
Strip that of marketing copy, and we get shoes that automatically tighten around the full weight of the foot inside them. It’s a bold new variation in tech that keeps shoes attached to feet. And It’s an idea we haven’t seen implemented, really, since Back To The Future Part 2 or its fan-made imitations.
Nike has yet to release details on actual pricing or the precise release date outside “Holiday 2016”, but the footwear and apparel company says you’ll need to download the upcoming new Nike+ app coming out in July to be eligible to buy the HyperAdapt 1.0s.

Male pattern baldness linked to prostate cancer through hormonal imbalance

Men with a specific pattern of hair loss by age 45 are 40% more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Our study found an increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer only in men with a very specific pattern of hair loss, baldness at the front and moderate hair-thinning on the crown of the head, at the age of 45,” senior author Michael B. Cook, PhD, said. “But we saw no increased risk for any form of prostate cancer in men with other hair-loss patterns.”

Frontal baldness most dangerous

Previous research has shown that hair loss and prostate cancer share a number of risk factors, including a family history and elevated levels of the male sex hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

A 2013 study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that, among African American men between the ages of about 35 and 90, those with baldness were about 69% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. That study, however, included only about 500 participants.

The new study included 39,070 men between the ages of 55 and 74 (mostly in their 70s) who were asked to use a pictorial tool to demonstrate what their hair-loss patterns had been like at the age of 45. All participants were taking part in the US PLCO Cancer Screening Trial and had no history of cancer, with the exception of non-melanoma skin cancer, at the study’s start. Approximately half reported that they had experienced some form of hair loss already by age 45.

In three years of followup, 1,138 participants were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 571 of these cases (51%) were classified as aggressive. The average age at diagnosis was 72.

The researchers found that men who reported frontal and moderate crown baldness at age 45 were 40% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than men without any hair loss at that age. Men with frontal baldness were actually twice as likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. There was no connection, however, between other forms of baldness and aggressive prostate cancer, or between any form of baldness and non-aggressive prostate cancer.

The study is the largest to date to show a connection between baldness and prostate cancer.

“While our data show a strong possibility for a link between the development of baldness and aggressive prostate cancer, it’s too soon to apply these findings to patient care,” Cook said. “There is a wide confidence in our estimated 40% increased risk. The lower confidence limit suggests just a 7% increased risk in these men.”

More research underway

The authors emphasized that further research is needed, both to confirm the connection and to explain it.

“If the association between frontal plus moderate vertex balding and increased aggressive prostate cancer risk is replicated in other studies, then mechanistic studies may be warranted to help understand the links underlying this association,” Cook said.

The researchers are already planning two followup studies, looking not just at the risk of developing prostate cancer but also at the risk of dying from it. One study will use a dermatological assessment to determine baldness, rather than using the less reliable self-reporting recall method.

Two other studies are currently underway to examine a potential connection between prostate cancer and baldness: the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort Study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) I follow-up study (NHEFS) by the Centers for Disease Control.

Learn more:

Cancer-causing gene triggered by alcohol may increase breast cancer risk

A University of Houston researcher and his team have discovered an important link between alcohol and breast cancer by identifying a cancer-causing gene triggered by alcohol.

“Alcohol consumption is prevalent among women in the U.S. and is a risk factor for breast cancer,” said UH cancer biologist Chin-Yo Lin. “Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of estrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug Tamoxifen on blocking estrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF.”

Lin, an assistant professor with the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling and the Department of Biology and Biochemistry, and his former Ph.D. student, Nicholes Candelaria, describe their findings in a paper titled “Alcohol Regulates Genes that Are Associated with Response to Endocrine Therapy and Attenuates the Actions of Tamoxifen in Breast Cancer Cells,” recently appearing in PLOS ONE, an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science. Lin and Candelaria, who graduated from UH in 2015 and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Baylor College of Medicine, collaborated with renowned alcohol researcher Rajesh Miranda, a professor at Texas A&M University.

It is estimated that tens of thousands of breast cancer cases in the U.S. and Europe each year are attributable to alcohol consumption and that drinking is also associated with an increased risk of disease recurrence in women with early stage breast cancer.

The study objective was to determine how alcohol can affect the actions of estrogen in breast cancer cells. The research team not only established that alcohol increases estrogen-induced cell proliferation, but their findings also provide a direct link between alcohol, estrogen and a cancer-causing gene in promoting cancer cell growth.

They found that alcohol inappropriately promotes sustained expression of BRAF, even in the absence of estrogen, thereby mimicking or enhancing the effects of estrogen in increasing the risk of breast cancer. Another key finding was that alcohol weakened Tamoxifen’s ability to suppress the rapid growth of cancer cells. Lin and his colleagues posit that their results suggest exposure to alcohol may affect a number of cancer-related pathways and mechanisms. They say these findings not only shed light on mechanistic actions of alcohol in breast cancer, but also provide fresh insight to the cross-talk between alcohol and cancer-related gene pathways and networks in breast cancer.

Their ultimate goal is to use this knowledge in breast cancer prevention, but Lin says their findings also have implications for women who are undergoing hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms, as alcohol can affect the actions of the hormones they take to manage their symptoms. The research highlights potential long-term health effects for college-age women, as well, who might find themselves in situations where heavy or binge drinking is part of the social environment.

“We hope these and future findings will provide information and motivation to promote healthy behavioral choices, as well as potential targets for chemoprevention strategies to ultimately decrease breast cancer incidents and deaths within the next decade,” Lin said. “We want to provide women, in general, with more information and insight to be better able to balance their consumption of alcoholic beverages with the potential health risks, including cancer patients who may want to take into consideration the potential detrimental effects alcohol consumption might have on treatments and modify their behavior and habits accordingly.”