News tips from the UofL Health Sciences Center for Jan. 24


    Health care providers and researchers with the University of Louisville are available to discuss any of the following health topics this week:


    Cervical cancer remains a great risk for women in Kentucky, which has one of the highest rates of the disease in the country. Patients are encouraged to take advantage of a vaccine that prevents the chief cause of cervical cancer- the human papillomavirus (HPV).

    The newest version of the HPV vaccine protects against nine strains of the virus, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and usually has no symptoms. Vaccinations for male and female patients can take place between the ages of 9 and 26, typically involving a three-shot series over six months. Girls and boys vaccinated between the ages of 9 and 14 may only require two shots, separated by six to 12 months.

    HPV vaccinations have fallen behind in Kentucky. Nationwide, 60 percent of girls initiate the vaccine and 39 percent complete the vaccine series. But in Kentucky, 52 percent initiate the vaccine and 37 percent complete the series.

    “It is an exciting time for cancer prevention. We have a vaccine that can prevent cancer,” said Erin Medlin, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist with UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health and the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center. “This is an opportunity to protect our children from cancer and provide hope for the future.”

    Medlin encourages parents to discuss HPV vaccination with their child’s pediatrician. To schedule an appointment with UofL Pediatrics, call 502-588-6000.


    In a study of patients with head and neck cancer, even mild depressive symptoms were associated with poorer overall survival, report UofL researchers in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. The findings indicate that patients should be screened and treated for depressive symptoms at the time of diagnosis. In addition, studies should examine parallel biological pathways linking depression to cancer survival.

    Many patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer experience symptoms of depression, which can make it difficult for them to manage treatment side effects, quit smoking, or maintain adequate nutrition or sleep habits. A team led by Elizabeth Cash, Ph.D., of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, was interested to see if depressive symptoms might also affect patients’ health outcomes.

    The researchers studied 134 patients with head and neck cancers being treated at the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center multidisciplinary head and neck clinic from October 2012 to October 2013 who reported depressive symptoms during the planning of their treatment. In this group, 67.2 percent expressed measureable depressive symptoms. When the investigators examined the patients’ clinical data over the following two years, they found that patients with greater depressive symptoms had shorter survival, higher rates of chemo-radiation interruption, and poorer treatment response.

    “We observed that head and neck cancer patients who reported more depressive symptoms at their initial appointment were more likely to have tumors that persisted after medical treatment and suffered greater two-year overall mortality rates,” said Cash, who serves as the director of research for the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Communicative Disorders at UofL. “This was especially true for those who did not achieve optimal response to medical treatment.”


    Most people know that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can damage the eye and surrounding skin, but also of concern is the high-energy visible (HEV) light emitted from smart phones, high-definition televisions and other devices. Patrick Scott, O.D., Ph.D., of UofL Physicians-Eye Specialists warns that prolonged exposure to HEV blue-violet light from artificial light sources could have damaging effects to the retina that resemble early stage age-related maculopathy, a disease characterized by a progressive loss of central vision usually in both eyesthat greatly impairs vision functions.

    “HEV light is all around us. Outdoors, we are exposed to HEV light in the sun’s rays, and some blue light exposure is essential for good health, boosting alertness, memory and mood,” Scott said. “That dose is compounded, however, when our eyes receive HEV light emitted from indoor sources such as fluorescent bulbs and light-emitting diode screens in TVs, iPhones and computer screens.”

    The longer a person is exposed to HEV the greater the risk. Children are at higher risk because the crystalline lens within their eyes is completely clear, whereas adults have some degree of yellowing of the lens, which helps to absorb HEV light and prevent damage to the retina.

    The effects of HEV blue light can be mitigated, Scott said, by eating a healthy diet rich in anti-oxidants, daily supplementation with Vitamin C and E and reducing time spent looking at cell phones, laptops and TV screens.

    Individuals who spend a great deal of time looking at electronic devices and screens also can protect their eyes from excessive HEV light with special device filters that prevent significant amounts of blue light from reaching the eyes without affecting the visibility of the display. Another option is to filter out high-energy blue light with a coating added to eyeglasses or using special filtering non-corrective lenses.


    Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.