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In 2023, there were numerous medical firsts and breakthroughs, from the approval of the first RSV vaccine ‘Arexvy’ to lecanemab’s approval for Alzheimer’s treatment. Norgestrel also made headlines for being approved for over-the-counter sale as an oral contraceptive. However, troubling trends such as the rise in colon cancer cases in young people and the lack of non-barrier birth control options for men were also noted. These topics were discussed by editors Andrea Rice, Maria Cohut, and Yasemin Nicola Sakay in a “In Conversation” episode.

One significant study discussed in the podcast focused on the link between artificial sweeteners and cancer. It was found that a chemical in a commonly used artificial sweetener, sucralose, may cause DNA damage. Although the study was conducted on human blood cells, it would require consuming large amounts of sucralose-sweetened beverages daily to see the same DNA-damaging effects in humans. The lack of research on the cancer-causing effects of artificial sweeteners in humans was also raised as a concern.

Another topic of discussion was the increase in colon cancer cases in younger adults, with symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, and iron deficiency anemia being identified as key indicators of early-onset colorectal cancer. Lifestyle factors, diet, and family history of colon cancer were cited as potential reasons for the rise in colon cancer rates in younger age groups.

Contraception options for men, specifically the lack of oral contraceptives, were also highlighted. While condoms and vasectomies are the most common options for men, concerns about side effects and effectiveness were raised. The absence of a male oral contraceptive was questioned, especially considering the side effects that women experience with hormonal birth control. The need for safe and effective male birth control methods was emphasized, with the belief that technology and resources are available to create a male oral contraceptive with minimal side effects.

Overall, the “In Conversation” episode highlighted the importance of ongoing research and advancements in medical science while also addressing concerning trends and areas for improvement in healthcare. The discussions covered a range of topics, from breakthroughs in treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s to challenges in providing safe and effective contraception options for both men and women. The need for continued exploration and innovation in the field of medicine was underscored throughout the conversation.

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