Drinking alcohol may increase the risk of dementia
People who drink ’moderate’ amounts of alcohol stand a greater risk of dementia, according to research released by the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference today.
Despite previous research suggesting that moderate alcohol consumption could be beneficial, the research suggested that those who had drank moderate alcohol in earlier life or moderately in old age can risk cognitive decline.
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The study tracked the health of over 20 years of 1,300 women in their late 60’s, found that the risk of dementia was higher in those who reported drinking more alcohol. Women who switched from abstinence to drinking over the course of the study also increased their risk, in addition to those who drank alcohol ‘in moderation’ (7-14 units a week).
The scientists found that:
- Women who reported drinking more in the past than at the beginning of the study were at 30% increased risk of developing cognitive impairment.
- Moderate drinkers at baseline or at midpoint had similar risk of cognitive impairment to non-drinkers; however, moderate drinkers in the late phase of the study were roughly 60% more likely to develop cognitive impairment.
- Women who changed from nondrinking to drinking over the course of the study had a 200% increased risk of cognitive impairment.
Similar research also found that binge drinking can lead to dementia-like problems. In a study of 5,075 men and women, it was discovered that those who reported heavy bouts of drinking- at least one a month- were also more likely to develop dementia-like problems later on in life. Fortnightly binges were found to double the risk.
"We know that binge drinking can be harmful," said Dr. Iain Lang of Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, who conducted the research. "For example, it can increase the risk of harm to the cardiovascular system, including the chance of developing heart disease, and it is related to increased risk of both intentional and unintentional injuries."
According to Lang, it is not clear whether binge drinking in older adults has a damaging effect on cognitive health and whether it increases the risk a person will develop dementia.
Dr Marie Janson, of Alzheimer's Research UK told the BBC:
"There is mounting evidence linking alcohol consumption to cognitive decline, but this research delves deeper by examining the effects of different drinking patterns in more detail. These researchers found that in older people, even moderate drinking may have a harmful effect, in contrast to some previous research suggesting that moderate drinking may bring benefits.”
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”