Rebecca Relf, a Technical Instructor and PhD Student within our Environmental Extremes Lab is investigating the ‘physiological differences in females that have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer compared to those females who have not’.
Why Study Cancer & Environmental Extremes?
Cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality in the UK and worldwide, with approximately 2 million individuals living with cancer in the UK, and 1 in 8 females facing a diagnosis of breast cancer in their lifetime (Eisemann et al, 2013). With increasing advancements in technology and treatment, the survival rate is currently 78% in the UK and rising (Cancer Research UK, 2017).
However, the literature indicates that following the treatment of breast cancer, survivors are left with a multitude of varying side effects which differ in intensity for each person. The most common side effects have been reported as;
- Risk of recurrent cancer
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Persistent Fatigue
- Decreased immune function
- Depression and reduced quality of life
Congratulations to Dr Alan Richardson and the occupational team (Associate Professor Peter Watt, Dr. Mark Hayes and Emily Watkins) of the Environmental Extremes Lab (EEL) who recently secured funding to support their research investigating firefighter and instructor health.
The research excellence framework (REF) provides funding to UK universities with the purpose to support the continuation of world-class research. The amount of funding received by a university is assessed against three main criteria: the quality of research outputs; the research impact beyond academia; and the environment that supports research (REF, 2018). A priority from the outset of my PhD (Heat waves in the elderly and the impact of acute and chronic heat alleviating strategies on health) was to achieve impact beyond academia. My aim was to provide evidence-based advice that the elderly could use to improve their health and wellbeing during periods of hot weather.
Kirsty Waldock (3rd year PhD student)
This year members of the Environmental Extreme Lab (EEL) returned to the medical tent at the Brighton Marathon to carry out heat illness prevention research. The purpose of this year’s research was to collect questionnaire data on runners who were suffering from a heat illness. The heat illness susceptibility questionnaire (HIS-Q) was developed by a team of researchers within EEL and the initial reliability and validity was completed within a controlled laboratory environment at the University of Brighton. The Brighton Marathon presented the opportunity to test the HIS-Q in a field based environment, where core temperatures are often higher than that achieved through controlled laboratory testing.
The Environmental Extremes Lab once again supported athletes preparing for the Marathon des Sables this year, considered by many to be the world’s toughest foot race. Adding to the challenge of six stages, covering over 250km across sand dunes and desert, participants are required to carry all their own kit, have a limited water supply and, of greatest interest to our lab, do so in temperatures ranging from 30-50oC.
We are currently recruiting participants who are over 65 years old to take part in a research study that is examining different ways to prepare for hot weather in the UK. Kirsty Waldock, Rebecca Relf and Gregor Eichhorn are conducting this research as part of their PhD studies and would like to speak to you if you are interested in getting involved. Please see the recruitment poster below for details.
This research fits into a broader research theme within the Environmental Extremes Laboratory of ‘heat waves and the elderly’ and what practical heat alleviating methods can be used to reduce the negative consequences that hot weather can have on health, particularly during exercise.
One of the latest papers published by our group (Emily Watkins, Mark Hayes, Peter Watt, & Alan Richardson) is from a national UK fire fighter and fire instructor survey on their current heat exposure practices and health. The full text is available here.
Over the past few weeks, Dr Ash Willmott and PhD students Rebecca Relf and Kirsty Waldock, have helped the MSc Applied Sport Physiology and MSc Applied Exercise Physiology students investigate the sudomotor responses while exercising in a hot, humid environment (35⁰C, 60% relative humidity), replicating expected conditions for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Led by Ash and his current research theme of investigating alternate methods of heat acclimation outside of the traditional lab-based environmental chamber protocols, the students also assessed the efficacy of wearing a sauna suit during exercise in temperate conditions (20⁰C, 40% relative humidity).
Research by Emily Watkins into practical pre-cooling methods for PPE wearers during severe heat exposure was published in Applied Ergonomics today (15/2/18). Pre-cooling is a method used to reduce core temperature, heart rate, and the sensation of being hot when individuals are exposed to hot environments. The aim is to reduce core temperature before the heat exposure, meaning an individual will stay at a safe core temperature for longer. In our previous study “Fire Service Instructors’ Working Practices: A UK Survey” it was indicated that few instructors used pre-cooling and those that did were using a variety of methods. This study aimed to assess three practical pre-cooling methods currently being used by instructors, to identify which method is the most beneficial in terms of reducing physiological and perceptual strain experienced from a heat exposure. Inflammatory responses were also investigated, as they can be markers of an increased risk of a cardiovascular event. The pre-cooling methods used were ice slurry consumption, phase change vest, and forearm cooling.