Category Archives: IJHS 2 (1)

IJHS volume 2, issue 1

2010 Epidemiology Poster Competition

Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences
University of Ottawa, Canada

Every academic year, third and fourth year undergraduate students enrolled in the Epidemiology course at the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences participate in a competition for the best epidemiological research project.

The products of their work — a research article and a poster presentation — are high quality examples of the output from undergraduate students finishing their Bachelor Degree. We would like to present the top scoring presentations of the 2011 poster competition and offer our congratulations for their contribution to epidemiological research.

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SmartHand: A Sense of Assistive Devices

Author: Philip M. LEE


Amputees have often faced social stigma attributable to their visible limb loss or use of artificial substitutions. In recent years, the use of prosthetics has become much more advanced, particularly in the field of sensory prostheses. One such assistive device, a new prototype technology known as the SmartHand, has recently been featured on several news networks. It is through this discussion that the SmartHand will be reviewed and compared with existing platforms that include myoelectric prostheses and targeted muscle reinnervation. Use of the SmartHand has been noted as having increased levels of competence in and improved the quality of life of its users. These conclusions also bring to light the scientific barriers that are faced, primarily with respect to tissue rejection. The cost benefit analysis of such a device may also produce conflicting data, thereby making it difficult to implement this device on a larger scale. Despite these problems, the SmartHand represents one of the most scientifically advanced assistive devices available in today’s market, whose usefulness for amputees is undeniable.

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A Review of Chlorine in Indoor Swimming Pools and its Increased Risk of Adverse Health Effects

Authors: Sara ANGIONE, Heather MCCLENAGHAN & Ashley LAPLANTE


Background: Chlorine is a commonly used agent for water disinfectant in swimming pools. Inadequate ventilation in indoor swimming pools and chlorination disinfectant by-products (DBP’s) caused by organic matter promote the increased risk of adverse health effects. Water quality and proper ventilation must be monitored to avoid health risks in youth and adolescents.

Methods: Studies were researched on children and adolescents from 2-18 years old who swim indoors.

Articles were limited by only including journals from the year 2000 through 2010 and contain global statistics. Peer reviewed scientific articles were reviewed and a meta-analysis of three different scientific research databases, PubMed, Web of Science and Google Scholar, was conducted.

Results and Conclusions: Children under five years of age, lifeguards and elite swimmers are at an increased risk of upper and lower respiratory symptoms, such as asthma, when exposed to chlorinated swimming frequently. Recreational swimmers who swim moderately are at a lower risk for developing occupational asthma.

Implications: Reducing exposure to chlorine from indoor swimming pools may limit the risk of developing upper and lower respiratory infections.

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Extreme male brain theory of autism

Authors: Erin Y. LIU & Anne T. M. KONKLE


Autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) are a category of neurodevelopmental disorders with symptoms of communication and social impairment, and the exhibition of restrictive and repetitive behaviours. Their occurrence is greater in males than females and this sex difference has played an important part in hypothesizing their etiology. The Extreme Male Brain (EMB) theory is a cognitive model proposed by Simon Baron-Cohen to explain the aforementioned sex differences and potential cause of ASCs. It is based upon his Empathizing-Systemizing theory, which classifies individuals into one of five cognitive profiles (Type S, Type E, Type B, Extreme Type S and Extreme Type E). These cognitive profiles determine an individual’s ability to systemize and empathize. Systemizing is the ability to understand and derive the rules of a system, and requires deductive and analytical skills. Empathizing relates to understanding human emotion and behaviour, thus requires social and communication skills. Males tend to systemize better than empathize while females have an opposite profile. Based upon the EMB theory, autistic individuals would possess an Extreme Type S profile as their impairments in social communication can be explained by a deficit in empathizing, while their preoccupation with patterns and detail-oriented behaviour can be related to their high systemizing. Together, these cognitive models have resulted in the Foetal Testosterone (fT) Theory, which implicates high prenatal testosterone as a risk factor for the associated hypermasculinized cognitive profile of individuals with ASCs. This review paper assesses the validity of the EMB and fT theories by reviewing the literature relating fT with autistic traits in the general population. The seven studies confirmed a correlation between higher fT levels and an increase in autistic traits, but limitations need to be considered when generalizing this information to an ASC sample.

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The Risk of Prostate Cancer from Occupational Exposures in Male Firefighters

Author: Zing-Wae WONG & James GOMES


Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men. Since prostate cancer is a slow developing cancer, mortality can be prevented if the tumour is detected and treated in its early stages. There is proof that environmental exposures can increase the risk of prostate cancer. Many papers have performed data analyses on prostate cancer levels in firefighters. There has been some research on firefighter prostate cancer levels but few reviews on the topic. This paper focuses on finding whether there is a correlation between firefighting occupation and levels of prostate cancer. As well, this paper notes potential carcinogens within the firefighting occupation. Five papers were included in this review; these papers used different methods to obtain the cases and cohorts for the study. The papers also used different controls for comparison. Nevertheless, the papers found in the search supported a positive correlation between exposures in firefighting occupations and the level of prostate cancer. The two chemicals that were suspected carcinogens in these studies were Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and fire smoke. However, future research can be more rigorous in calculations of prostate cancer levels by including lifestyle factors, other confounders such as smoking, and estimated length of exposure.

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Effects of Bisphenol A and Diethylstilbestrol on Estrogen Receptor Expression and Male Fertility

Author: Heather M. DUNCAN & Karen P. Phillips


Infertility is defined as a couple’s inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse. Male reproductive pathologies are the predominate cause of at least 20% of cases of infertility; making male infertility is an important issue in overall population health. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can impair spermatogenesis by creating hormonal imbalances and morphological changes. DES and BPA are both exogenous estrogens, also known as xenoestrogens. Estrogen has an important role in fertility of males as well as females: it has a role in the overall endocrine balance required to allow spermatogenesis. Effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis may be monitored by assessing for upregulation of estrogen receptors α and -B (ERα and ER-B), as well as the novel estrogen receptor g-protein coupled receptor 30 (GPR30). Controversy surrounds the mechanisms endocrine disruption associated with these chemicals, and whether the negative effects on fertility are relevant at low doses, or only at high doses which are systemically toxic. Analysis of literature associated with this ongoing research will enrich our understanding of the molecular bases for impairment of spermatogenesis and male fertility associated with exposure to EDCs, specifically DES and BPA. Once completed, this study will contribute to knowledge in the fields of population health, environmental health, and molecular genetics. With a more thorough understanding of the impact of EDCs on fertility, it is hoped that governments will further prevent exposure by better regulating the use of compounds such as DES and BPA.

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Angioplasty Used to Treat Multiple Sclerosis Patients: A Potential Revolution in Health Care Technology

Author: Andre Guerra


Multiple sclerosis (MS) has long been labeled as a neurological disease with a high incidence among Canadians, women in particular. The disease first manifests itself in young adulthood (between the ages of 15 and 40 years). Areas of demyelination with a proliferation of astrocytes are found scattered in the white matter of MS patients, this leads to muscle weakness, numbness, disequilibrium, sphincter disturbance and other neurological dysfunctions. Recently Dr. Paolo Zamboni, a vascular surgeon at the University of Ferrara in Italy, found that many multiple sclerosis patients have a narrowing of some of the neck veins responsible for draining blood from the brain. According to Dr. Zamboni, this narrowing of the blood vessels leads to the deposit of iron in the defected veins, which restricts blood flow and is responsible for some of the MS complications. Dr. Zamboni achieved unblocking of the veins through angioplasty, a procedure normally used to open arteries affected by atherosclerosis. In one of his trials, 65 patients were given the procedure, which decreased the rate of occurrence of lesions, from 50 % to 12 % in patients. There was an improvement in mental and physical quality of life in most of the patients in this trial. Ethical questions are also discussed in this review. Dr. Zamboni`s studies suggest a genetic inheritance of factors that may lead to MS. Should health care providers institute a screening procedure in newborns? Would these screenings be mandatory? Would the screenings be free?

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