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Be on Guard Against E. Coli

One of the most common sources of foodborne illness is a bacteria named Escherichia coli, or E. coli for short. Certain types of E. coli make a toxin that can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory problems and other serious illnesses. Some people, including children, pregnant women, older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems, are at higher risk for contracting a foodborne illness. The best way to protect yourself from E. coli infection is to follow strict hygiene recommendations and observe safe practices when preparing food.

The most important hygiene practice is to wash your hands thoroughly in the following situations:

  • Before and after handling food—especially raw meats, vegetables and fruits
  • After using the bathroom or changing diapers
  • After touching animals or objects that animals use, such as food bowls, pet toys and beds
  • Before preparing and feeding bottles or foods to an infant or toddler, or touching anything that goes into a child’s mouth

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

When preparing food, follow these guidelines:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before use
  • Cook meats thoroughly, using a food thermometer to ensure the meat reaches an internal temperature suitable for killing E. coli and other bacteria (most meat packaging will list the appropriate internal temperature)

Sunscreen Smarts

If you’re going out in the sun for any length of time, be sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of your body to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet UVA and UVB rays. Not all sunscreens are created equal, so be sure to choose your sunscreen based upon factors other than its fragrance or degree of greasiness. Using any sunscreen is better than using no sunscreen at all, but for the best protection, experts recommend using a sunscreen with the following characteristics:

  • Broad-spectrum coverage, protecting you from both UVA and UVB rays
  • Resistance to water and perspiration, if you will be going in the water or will be exposed to high temperatures that promote perspiration
  • A sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher

Put on your sunscreen about 15 minutes before going out in the sun. Reapply sunscreen according to the label’s directions or at least every two hours—and more frequently if you go in the water or are sweating. Even water-resistant sunscreens can begin to break down when exposed to water or perspiration, and in such cases should be reapplied after about 40 minutes.

COVID Vaccine and Mammograms

Since the initial rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020, the public has been advised that the vaccines may cause certain mild symptoms that mimic some of the symptoms of full-scale virus infection, such as slight fever, headache and fatigue. These symptoms are a sign that the vaccine is “working,” and they typically go away on their own within a few days. 

Recently, breast health experts have noted an additional symptom of COVID-19 vaccination: swollen lymph nodes under the same arm in which patients received their injection. This is an additional normal response by the immune system, and similar swelling often occurs in women who get the flu shot. Like the other postvaccination symptoms, swollen lymph nodes are an indication that the immune system is preparing itself to fend off any future COVID-19 infection. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swollen lymph nodes that occur following COVID-19 vaccination typically go away on their own within a few days to a few weeks. However, breast health experts point out that swollen lymph nodes under the arm also can be a sign of breast cancer. 

If such swelling doesn’t go away within a few weeks, or if it continues to get bigger, see your healthcare provider.

Should women who have received the COVID-19 vaccine delay getting a mammogram? Many breast-screening experts suggest that women may delay having a regular annual screening mammogram for four to six weeks following COVID-19 vaccination (after the second shot, if the vaccine requires two doses). However, women who have other symptoms of breast cancer, who have a known breast cancer or who have been previously treated for breast cancer should not delay having a mammogram—even if it is scheduled for right after a COVID-19 vaccination. 

If you have questions about mammograms and the COVID-19 vaccines, be sure to speak with your physician.

Does Acid Reflux Cause Cancer?

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid enters the lower esophagus, where it does not belong, and where it may cause indigestion, heartburn or other feelings of discomfort that seem to come from the chest or upper abdomen. While nearly everyone has occasional episodes of acid reflux, symptoms also can be long-term or chronic—a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

People with GERD have a somewhat increased risk of developing cancer of the esophagus; however, GERD is very common, and the vast majority of people who have it will not develop esophageal cancer.

GERD can lead to esophageal cancer by causing what is known as Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the squamous cells that line the interior of the esophagus are transformed into gland cells. Gland cells, which are more resistant to stomach acid, are similar to the cells that line the inside of the stomach. 

People with Barrett’s esophagus typically have had GERD for a long time, and they are at significantly higher risk of developing esophageal cancer (about 1 in 400). Still, the majority of people with Barrett’s esophagus do not develop cancer from the condition. 

If you suffer from persistent acid reflux, talk to your doctor. Effective treatments are available. 

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