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1.  Factors Associated With Metabolic Syndrome in a Mediterranean Population: Role of Caffeinated Beverages 
Journal of Epidemiology  2014;24(4):327-333.
Intake of caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea, has been related to improvements in components of metabolic syndrome (MetS), but studies conducted in the Mediterranean region are scarce. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether or not consumption of a variety of beverages containing caffeine was associated with components of MetS in an Italian population.
From May 2009 to December 2010, a cross-sectional survey was conducted on 1889 inhabitants living in Sicily, southern Italy. Data regarding demographic characteristics, habitual beverage intake, and adherence to the Mediterranean diet were collected, and clinical information was retrieved from the general practitioners’ computer records.
After adjusting for all covariates, coffee (odds ratio [OR] 0.43, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.27–0.70) and tea (OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.34–0.78) were associated with MetS, whereas no association was observed between caffeine intake and MetS. Among other factors, age, body mass index, physical activity, current smoking, and adherence to Mediterranean diet were associated with having MetS. Triglycerides were inversely associated with consumption of both espresso coffee and tea. The healthy effects of such beverages were more evident in individuals with unhealthy dietary habits.
Although no direct association between caffeine intake and MetS or its components was observed, coffee and tea consumption was significantly related to reduced odds of MetS.
PMCID: PMC4074638  PMID: 24806662
coffee; tea; polyphenols; caffeine; metabolic syndrome; cardiovascular risk factors
2.  Factors Associated with Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet among Adolescents Living in Sicily, Southern Italy 
Nutrients  2013;5(12):4908-4923.
The present study aimed to examine the factors associated with increased Mediterranean diet (MD) adherence among a sample of Italian adolescents. A cross-sectional survey was conducted on 1135 students (13–16 years) attending 13 secondary schools of Sicily, southern Italy. Validated instruments were used for dietary assessment and the KIDMED score to assess adolescents’ adherence to the MD. A higher adherence to the MD was associated with high socioeconomic status (Odds Ratio [OR] 1.53, 95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 1.03–2.26) and high physical activity (OR 1.19, 95% CI: 1.02–1.70), whereas lower adherence was associated with living in an urban environment (OR 0.65, 95% CI: 0.44–0.97) and being obese (OR 0.59, 95% CI: 0.37–0.94). The adolescents’ KIDMED scores were inversely associated with adolescents’ intake of sweets, fast foods, fried foods, and sugary drinks, and directly with fruit, vegetables, pasta, fish, and cheese intakes. Urban-living adolescents were less likely to eat fruit and more prone to consume meat, sugary drinks, and fast food than rural-living adolescents. The latter were more likely to eat sweets and snacks. A general poor quality of food consumption in Italian adolescents away from the MD was reported, especially among those living in urban areas.
PMCID: PMC3875926  PMID: 24304608
adolescents; Mediterranean diet; food intake; obesity; environment; nutrition transition
3.  Mediterranean diet and cancer: epidemiological evidence and mechanism of selected aspects 
BMC Surgery  2013;13(Suppl 2):S14.
Populations living in the area of the Mediterranean Sea suffered by decreased incidence of cancer compared with those living in the regions of northern Europe and US countries, attributed to healthier dietary habits. Nowadays, we are assisting to a moving away from the traditional Mediterranean dietary pattern, but whether this changing is influencing risk of cancers is still unclear. The aim of the study was to review recent evidence on potential relationship between the adherence to the Mediterranean diet and cancer.
The most recent pooled analyses of epidemiological studies supported strongly the hypothesis that the Mediterranean diet may play a role in preventing several types of cancers, especially those of digestive tract, whereas contrasting results were reported for hormone-dependent cancers. Specific aspects of the Mediterranean diet such as high fruit and vegetables and low red processed meat intake may explain such protective effects. Moreover, evidence regarding olive oil and whole grains increase the beneficial effects of such dietary pattern against cancer.
Literature evidence actually demonstrates that the increased adherence to the Mediterranean dietary pattern is beneficial to health across populations and may translate a protective effect with certain cancers.
PMCID: PMC3850991  PMID: 24267672
4.  Pharmacological and dietary prevention for colorectal cancer 
BMC Surgery  2013;13(Suppl 2):S16.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer morbidity and mortality. People at higher risk are those individuals with a family history of CRC and familial adenomatous polyposis. Prevention and screening are two milestones for this disease. The aim of this study is to evaluate the chemopreventive role of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin and cyclooxygenase 2 inhibitors, some micronutrients (folic acid, calcium, selenium, antioxidants) and probiotics.
The studies on aspiring reported promising results, but it is debatable whether aspirin should be used as chemoprevention, because of its side effects and because of poor efficacy evident in subjects at high risk. Similar results were reported for other non-aspirin NSAIDs, such as sulindac and celecoxib, which the potential adverse effects limit their use. Selenium role in prevention of various types of cancer as well as in colon adenomas are often inconclusive or controversial. Several studies suggested that calcium may have a possible chemopreventive effect on colon adenomas and CRC, although contrasting results are reported for the latter. A recent meta-analysis including 13 randomized trial suggested that folic acid supplementation had not a chemiopreventive action on CRC. Several studies investigated the association between antioxidants, administered alone or in combination, and CRC risk, both among general and at risk population, but only few of them supported statistically significant results.
The results of this literature review showed an unclear role in CRC prevention of both pharmacological and dietary intervention. Despite several options are available to prevent colon cancer, it is challenging to identify a correct strategy to prevent CRC through pharmacological and dietary intervention due to the long latency of cancer promotion and development. Since some of the drugs investigated may have uncertain individual effects, it can be suggested to potentiate such effects by adding them together.
PMCID: PMC3851139  PMID: 24267792
5.  Laparoscopic vs. open approach for colorectal cancer: evolution over time of minimal invasive surgery 
BMC Surgery  2013;13(Suppl 2):S12.
In the late '80s the successes of the laparoscopic surgery for gallbladder disease laid the foundations on the modern use of this surgical technique in a variety of diseases. In the last 20 years, laparoscopic colorectal surgery had become a popular treatment option for colorectal cancer patients.
Many studies emphasized on the benefits stating the significant advantages of the laparoscopic approach compared with the open surgery of reduced blood loss, early return of intestinal motility, lower overall morbidity, and shorter duration of hospital stay, leading to a general agreement on laparoscopic surgery as an alternative to conventional open surgery for colon cancer. The reduced hospital stay may also decrease the cost of the laparoscopic surgery for colorectal cancer, despite th higher operative spending compared with open surgery. The average reduction in total direct costs is difficult to define due to the increasing cost over time, making challenging the comparisons between studies conducted during a time range of more than 10 years. However, despite the theoretical advantages of laparoscopic surgery, it is still not considered the standard treatment for colorectal cancer patients due to technical limitations or the characteristics of the patients that may affect short and long term outcomes.
The laparoscopic approach to colectomy is slowly gaining acceptance for the management of colorectal pathology. Laparoscopic surgery for colon cancer demonstrates better short-term outcome, oncologic safety, and equivalent long-term outcome of open surgery. For rectal cancer, laparoscopic technique can be more complex depending on the tumor location. The advantages of minimally invasive surgery may translate better care quality for oncological patients and lead to increased cost saving through the introduction of active enhanced recovery programs which are likely cost-effective from the perspective of the hospital health-care providers.
PMCID: PMC3851244  PMID: 24267544
6.  Social disparities, health risk behaviors, and cancer 
BMC Surgery  2013;13(Suppl 2):S17.
Overall cancer incidence rates decreased in the most recent time period in both men and women, largely due to improvements in surgical therapeutic approaches (tertiary prevention) and screening programs (secondary prevention), but differences in cancer incidence and survival according to socioeconomic status are documented worldwide. Health risk behaviors, defined as habits or practices that increase an individual’s likelihood of harmful health outcomes, are thought to mediate such inequalities.
Obesity has been related with increased cancer incidence and mortality due to imbalance of leptin and adiponectin which are connected to activation of PI3K, MAPK, and STAT3 pathways and decreasing insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 and mTOR signaling via activation of 5 AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), respectively. Physical activity has been associated to prevent cancer by the aforementioned obesity-related mechanisms, but also increasing level of circulating vitamin D, which has been related to lower risk of several cancers, and increasing prostaglandin F2a and reducing prostaglandin E2, which are both related with cancer prevention and promotion, respectively. A large number of different substances may induce themselves a direct cytotoxicity and mutagenic action on cells by smoking, whereas alcohol promote immune suppression, the delay of DNA repair, inhibition of the detoxification of carcinogens, the production of acetaldehyde, and the contribution to abnormal DNA methylation. The combined smoking and alcohol drinking habits have been shown to increase cancer risk by smoke action of increasing the acetaldehyde burden following alcohol consumption and alcohol action of enhancing the activation of various procarcinogens contained in tobacco smoke.
Interventions at the social level may be done to increase awareness about cancer risks and promote changing in unhealthy behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3851246  PMID: 24267900
7.  Health related quality of life in colorectal cancer patients: state of the art 
BMC Surgery  2013;13(Suppl 2):S15.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in males and the second in females with a progressive increase in prevalence in industrialized countries. The loss of health due to the cancer and/or the consequence of the treatment may result in psychophysical, functional and social impairment; all of these affect health-related quality of life (QoL).
The most frequently CRC-specific QoL questionnaires is the FACT-C. QoL is not only important for the well-being of cancer patient but it also influences survival and response to therapy. Many studies investigated various determinants involved in the assessment of QoL in CRC, suggesting that symptoms, surgical procedures and the number of comorbidity significantly affected QoL.
Despite that CRC patients have a relatively good QoL compared with the general population, a wide range of intervention could be undertaken to improve their QoL. The finding of this review may be useful for cancer clinicians in taking therapy and surveillance-related decisions. However, future research should be directed to large-scale prospective studies using well validated QoL instruments to facilitate comparison of results.
PMCID: PMC3851259  PMID: 24267735
8.  A retrospective study on acute health effects due to volcanic ash exposure during the eruption of Mount Etna (Sicily) in 2002 
Mount Etna, located in the eastern part of Sicily (Italy), is the highest and most active volcano in Europe. During the sustained eruption that occurred in October-November 2002 huge amounts of volcanic ash fell on a densely populated area south-east of Mount Etna in Catania province. The volcanic ash fall caused extensive damage to infrastructure utilities and distress in the exposed population. This retrospective study evaluates whether or not there was an association between ash fall and acute health effects in exposed local communities.
We collected the number and type of visits to the emergency department (ED) for diseases that could be related to volcanic ash exposure in public hospitals of the Province of Catania between October 20 and November 7, 2002. We compared the magnitude of differences in ED visits between the ash exposure period in 2002 and the same period of the previous year 2001.
We observed a significant increase of ED visits for acute respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and ocular disturbances during the ash exposure time period.
There was a positive association between exposure to volcanic ash from the 2002 eruption of Mount Etna and acute health effects in the Catania residents. This study documents the need for public health preparedness and response initiatives to protect nearby populations from exposure to ash fall from future eruptions of Mount Etna.
PMCID: PMC3750325  PMID: 23924394
Acute health effects; Ash fall; Cardiovascular effects; Emergency department visits; Respiratory effects; Volcanic eruption
9.  Red Orange: Experimental Models and Epidemiological Evidence of Its Benefits on Human Health 
In recent years, there has been increasing public interest in plant antioxidants, thanks to the potential anticarcinogenic and cardioprotective actions mediated by their biochemical properties. The red (or blood) orange (Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck) is a pigmented sweet orange variety typical of eastern Sicily (southern Italy), California, and Spain. In this paper, we discuss the main health-related properties of the red orange that include anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and cardiovascular protection activities. Moreover, the effects on health of its main constituents (namely, flavonoids, carotenoids, ascorbic acid, hydroxycinnamic acids, and anthocyanins) are described. The red orange juice demonstrates an important antioxidant activity by modulating many antioxidant enzyme systems that efficiently counteract the oxidative damage which may play an important role in the etiology of numerous diseases, such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. The beneficial effects of this fruit may be mediated by the synergic effects of its compounds. Thus, the supply of natural antioxidant compounds through a balanced diet rich in red oranges might provide protection against oxidative damage under differing conditions and could be more effective than, the supplementation of an individual antioxidant.
PMCID: PMC3659473  PMID: 23738032
10.  Laparoscopic-Assisted Versus Open Surgery for Colorectal Cancer: Short- and Long-Term Outcomes Comparison 
Despite the theoretical advantages of laparoscopic surgery, it is still not considered the standard treatment for colorectal cancer patients because of criticism concerning oncologic stability. This study aimed at examining the short- and long-term follow-up results of laparoscopic surgery versus open surgery for colorectal cancer and at investigating clinical outcomes, oncologic safety, and any potential advantages of laparoscopic colorectal cancer resection.
Subjects and Methods
We retrospectively analyzed a database containing the information about patients who underwent surgery for stage I–III colorectal cancer from January 2004 to January 2012 at our institution.
The patients who underwent the laparoscopic-assisted procedure showed a significantly faster recovery than those who underwent open surgery, namely, less time to first passing flatus (P=.041), time of first bowel motion (P=.04), time to resume normal diet (P=.043), and time to walk independently (P=.031). Laparoscopic colorectal surgery caused less pain for patients, leading to lower need of analgesic (P=.002) and less hospital recovery time (P=.034), compared with patients who underwent open surgery. No differences were found in 3- and 5-year overall and disease-free survival rates.
Our results suggested that the laparoscopic approach was as safe as the open alternative. Laparoscopic-assisted surgery has been shown to be a favorable surgical option with better short-term outcomes and similar long-term oncological control compared with open resection.
PMCID: PMC3698686  PMID: 23004676
11.  Major postoperative complications and survival for colon cancer elderly patients 
BMC Surgery  2012;12(Suppl 1):S20.
Increased life expectancy has led to elevating the mean age of the patients at the time of diagnosis of colon cancer and subsequent treatment. Differences in complication rates and outcome between elderly and younger patients have been investigated.
We retrospectively analysed a database containing the information of patients who underwent surgery for stage I-III colorectal cancer from January 2004 to January 2012 at our institution and compared demographic, cancer-related, and outcomes data of 235 elderly patients with 211 patients ≤65 years old.
Intraoperative complications did not differ between young and old patients whereas some differences have been found in postoperative and late complications: elderly patients suffered more by ileus (P = 0.024), peritonitis or septic shock (P = 0.017), pelvic abscess (P = 0.028), wound infection (P = 0.031), and incisional/port herniation (P = 0.012) compared with younger patients. Moreover, elderly patients suffered by systemic complications such as cardiovascular (4.7% vs. 1.4%, P = 0.049), renal (4.7% vs. 0.5%, P = 0.006), and respiratory (10.6% vs. 5.2%, P = 0.036). The multivariate analysis assessing the odds of having a complication revealed that older age (Odd Ratio [OR] 2.75, 95% Confidential Interval [CI]: 1.67-4.52) and open surgery (OR 1.63, 95% CI: 1.01-2.62) are significantly and independently associated with having a complication.
In our series, elderly patients have presented a slight higher incidence of comorbidities that may affect the incidence rates of postoperative complications. These results have implications in increasing the hospital stay as well as a higher rate of death.
PMCID: PMC3499273  PMID: 23173563
12.  Long-Term Persistence of Seroprotection by Hepatitis B Vaccination in Healthcare Workers of Southern Italy 
Hepatitis Monthly  2012;12(9):e6025.
The impact of hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccination campaigns on HBV epidemiology needs to be evaluated, in order to assess the long-term immunity offered by vaccines against HBV.
To evaluate the current status of anti-HBV vaccine coverage among healthcare workers (HCWs) in Southern Italy, and to determine the long-term persistence of antibodies to hepatitis B surface antigens (anti-HBs) in such a cohort of subjects.
Patients and Methods
A longitudinal, retrospective seroepidemiological survey was conducted among 451 HCWs, who were working at or visiting, the Occupational Health Department of a city hospital, in Catania, Italy, between January 1976 and December 2010.
At the 30-year follow-up (mean follow-up 10.15 ± 5.96 years, range 0.74-30), 261 HCWs had detectable anti-HBs titers indicating a persistence of seroprotection of 89.4% (out of 292 anti-HBs positive results, three months after vaccination). An inadequate vaccination schedule was the strongest predictor of antibody loss during follow-up (OR = 8.37 95% CI: 5.41-12.95, P < 0.001). A Kaplan-Maier survival curve revealed that the persistence of anti-HBs 30 years after vaccination, was 92.2% for high responders, while it was only 27.3% for low responders (P = 0.001).
A good level of seroprotection persisted in 57.9% of the subjects after 30 years. Factors related to this immunization status confirmed the importance of vaccinating HCWs early in their careers and ensuring an adequate vaccination schedule. However, with particular reference to the low rate of hepatitis B vaccine coverage among HCWs in Southern Italy, the implementation of a new educational intervention as part of an active vaccination program is needed.
PMCID: PMC3475028  PMID: 23087756
Hepatitis B Virus; Vaccines; Health Personnel; Vaccination
13.  Congenital talipes equinovarus: an epidemiological study in Sicily 
Acta Orthopaedica  2012;83(3):294-298.
Background and purpose
Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot) can present in 2 forms: “syndromic”, in which other malformations exist, and the more common “idiopathic” form, where there are no other associated malformations. We analyzed the epidemiology of congenital talipes equinovarus in the Sicilian population, looking for potential etiological factors.
Patients and methods
Among the 801,324 live births recorded between January 1991 and December 2004, 827 cases were registered (560 males; M/F sex ratio: 2.1). Control infants were randomly selected from a historical cohort of live births without any major congenital malformations.
A positive family history of clubfoot, gender, and maternal smoking were found to be risk factors for clubfoot. Patients with clubfoot were born most frequently during the period January–March. No association was found between clubfoot and reproductive history, peri-conceptional maternal drug exposure, maternal education, or ethnicity.
Our findings emphasize the importance of birth defects surveillance programs and their usefulness in investigating potential risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3369158  PMID: 22489891
14.  Worldwide epidemiology of liver hydatidosis including the Mediterranean area 
The worldwide incidence and prevalence of cystic echinococcosis have fallen dramatically over the past several decades. Nonetheless, infection with Echinococcus granulosus (E. granulosus) remains a major public health issue in several countries and regions, even in places where it was previously at low levels, as a result of a reduction of control programmes due to economic problems and lack of resources. Geographic distribution differs by country and region depending on the presence in that country of large numbers of nomadic or semi-nomadic sheep and goat flocks that represent the intermediate host of the parasite, and their close contact with the final host, the dog, which mostly provides the transmission of infection to humans. The greatest prevalence of cystic echinococcosis in human and animal hosts is found in countries of the temperate zones, including several parts of Eurasia (the Mediterranean regions, southern and central parts of Russia, central Asia, China), Australia, some parts of America (especially South America) and north and east Africa. Echinococcosis is currently considered an endemic zoonotic disease in the Mediterranean region. The most frequent strain associated with human cystic echinococcosis appears to be the common sheep strain (G1). This strain appears to be widely distributed in all continents. The purpose of this review is to examine the distribution of E. granulosus and the epidemiology of a re-emerging disease such as cystic echinococcosis.
PMCID: PMC3319938  PMID: 22509074
Epidemiology; Echinococcus granulosus; Cystic echinococcosis

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