#Scibraai Monday Menu: About #Feesmustfall, soccer and spit, and cancers

Today’s @Scibraai Monday Menu should probably be called the Scibraai Tuesday Treat. Better late than never! So here’s this week’s snippets of interesting local South African science: an economic perspective on rising university fees, the value of soccer in reducing stress, and some of the reasons for the high incidence of esophageal cancer in the Eastern Cape.


History proves that tuition fees are on the rise

The #FeesMustFall-campaign’s main objection was against the high and rising tuition fees of higher education in South Africa.

In a short note Estian Calitz and Johan Fourie investigates this assertion from a historical perspective. They ask whether university fees are more expensive than a decade or a century ago. They do so by documenting the historical tuition fees at Stellenbosch University, one of South Africa’s premier universities.

Their answer? Yes, unequivocally so.

Reference: Calitz, E. & Fourie, J. (2016). The historically high cost of tertiary education in South Africa, Stellenbosch University Department of Economics Working Papers


Soccer helps for spit?

Playing soccer changes the levels of stress-related enzymes found in spit. That’s the finding from researchers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Minnesota.

They tested their theory on 34 boys between 11 and 13 years old, who were part of a youth soccer development training academy. They underwent 12 weeks of soccer-specific training. Saliva samples were taken before and afterwards.

The researchers specifically looked at the levels of salivary secretory IgA (sIgA) and salivary alpha-amylase (sAA). These enzymes are linked to stress in the body.

Their findings suggest that 12 weeks of soccer-specific training enhances mucosal immunity and body composition and may have an effect on the sympathetic nervous system in black, male youths.

Reference: Dorota, S.E., Konkol, K.F. & McKune, A.J. (2016). Twelve weeks of soccer-specific training: effects on mucosal immunity, salivary alpha-amylase and body composition in male African youths, Sport Sciences for Health


Pipe smoking, alcohol contribute to type of cancer

The Eastern Cape Province, which includes the former Transkei, has high rates of squamous cell oesophageal cancer (OC). This type of cancer is thought to be caused mainly by nutritional deficiencies and fungal contamination of staple maize. The oesophagus is of course the food pipe that runs between your throat and your stomach.

A hospital-based case-control study was conducted at three of the major referral hospitals in the Eastern Cape to measure, among other suspected risk factors, the relative importance of tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption for the disease in this population.

Males and females currently smoking a total of >14 g of tobacco per day were observed to have over four times the odds of developing OC. Pipe smoking showed the strongest effect. Similar trends were observed for the alcohol-related variables.

The researchers therefore conclude that tobacco and alcohol use are major risk factors for OC development in this region. The research team included researchers from Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town and the Cancer Council of New South Wales in Australia.

Reference: Sewram, V., Sitas, F., O’Connell, D & Myers, J. (2016). Tobacco and alcohol as risk factors for oesophageal cancer in a high incidence area in South Africa, Cancer Epidemiology





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