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Health Headlines - April 9

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

Asian Herb May Help in Fighting Urinary Infections

An Asian herb often identified as a weight loss aid may be beneficial in reducing urinary tract infections even after antibiotic treatment, a Duke University study has found.

One of the problems with treating urinary tract infections is that colonies of E. coli bacteria can "hide" in cells lining the bladder even after antibiotics have killed 90 percent of them, a Duke University Medical Center news release says. But the use of forskolin, an extract from the Indian coleus plant, flushes out hiding colonies of bacteria, and then antibiotics can finish them off.

The research was conducted on laboratory mice, and "... there are small numbers of bacteria that survive antibiotic treatment because they sneak into the lining of the bladder, waiting for the opportunity, after antibiotic treatment, to come out and start multiplying again," Duke microbiologist Soman Abraham, who led the research, said in the news release.

"This herb has been used in Asia for centuries for a wide variety of ailments," Abraham said. "However, one of its constant uses has been for treating painful urination."

Forskolin is a popular supplement for weight loss and body building and is available in most stores selling herbal products. Abraham says that a person with a urinary tract infection who wants to try forskolin should first consult a physician.

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Fat Cell Hormone May Cause Increase in Colon Cancer Risk in Obese People

Leptin, a chemical produced by fat cells, may be the cause for accelerating the growth of cancer in the colon, according to a new study.

BBC News reports that research conducted by scientists at the University of California at San Diego and published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Surgery, gives indications as to why overweight people seem to be more susceptible to getting colon cancer.

Previous studies indicated that the hormone leptin appears to accelerate the activity of colorectal cancer cells, the BBC reports, and the University of California researchers conducted laboratory experiments to confirm original findings.

The results showed that leptin appeared to impede the way the body replaces normal cells, allowing malignant cells to form. Lead researcher Dr. Kim Barrett is quoted as saying, "These results may explain why obesity increases a person's risk of colonic cancer."

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Partners of Cancer Survivors May Have Even More Emotional Suffering, Study Says

As if cancer weren't difficult enough for the patient, its psychological fallout may be even more devastating for the partner, a new study says.

University of Florida researchers found that partners of cancer survivors can suffer even greater quality of life problems than the victims themselves. The study is being published online April 10 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a press release from the journal says.

The study centered around cancer patients who had undergone blood and marrow transplant. Researchers examined the psychological effects of this treatment on partners of the cancer patients.

According to the news release, the study found "... while partners of cancer survivors reported better physical health, less fatigue, and less cognitive dysfunction than cancer survivors, they experienced equal levels of mental health impairment. The study further found that while similar numbers of partners and survivors suffered from clinical depression (20 percent vs. 22 percent), depressed partners were less likely than depressed survivors to receive mental health treatment."

The partners also said they received less "social support, spiritual well-being, marital satisfaction, and more loneliness than survivors," the report concluded. "These findings highlight the importance of addressing the needs of family members who care for cancer patients, and who may be suffering in silence," the news release quotes lead researcher Michelle M. Bishop as saying.

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New FDA Web Page Gives Update on Medical Devices

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's image is so tied to the drug approval process that one of its other duties -- the approval and monitoring of medical devices -- is often forgotten or misunderstood.

In order to let the public know more about how it approves medical devices and monitors clinical trials on their effectiveness, the FDA has announced a new link on its Web site where the public can keep updated.

The site, called Post Approval Studies, is designed specifically to monitor how well medical devices are performing since their approval, the FDA said in a news release.

"Electronic access will give the public an opportunity to see progress being made on a company's post-market commitments," Dr. Daniel Schultz, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in the news release.

The idea for the Web site came in 2005 when the FDA issued a series of reports on post-pediatric medical devices. According to the news release, "Each listing includes the company's name, the product's name, the approval number and date, and describes the study and whether it is meeting its reporting deadlines. No information on clinical data is available because the studies may be ongoing and include personal and confidential information."

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High-Deductible Health Plans Increase Women's Costs: Study

Because of the kinds of routine medical exams they require, women face much higher costs than men in high-deductible health insurance plans that are increasingly popular with American employers, says a Harvard Medical School study.

The researchers noted that women need services such as birth control, Pap tests, mammograms, cervical cancer vaccine, and pregnancy-related care, the Associated Press reported.

The study of nearly 33,000 people found that the median expense for men ages 18-45 in high-deductible plans was $463, compared to $1,266 for women. A third of men in that age group spent more than $1,050 in annual medical costs, compared to 55 percent of women in the same age group.

The median cost for women ages 45-64 was $2,871, compared with $1,849 for men. The study appears in the April issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

"High deductible plans punish women for having breasts and uteruses and having babies," study lead author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler told the AP. "When an employer switches all his employees into a consumer-driven health plan, it's the same as giving all the women a $1,000 pay cut, on average, because women on average have $1,000 more in health costs than men."

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Dire Forecast in Climate Change Report

Massive floods and avalanches in Asia, along with increased hunger and water shortages in the world's poorest nations are among the major threats facing the Earth unless action is taken to adapt to climate change and stop it from worsening, says a report released Friday by delegates at an international conference.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report also warned that up to 30 percent of species worldwide face an increased risk of extinction if global temperatures increase 3.6 degrees above the average temperatures of the 1980s and 1990s, the Associated Press reported.

The environmental group Greenpeace said the document was "a glimpse into an apocalyptic future."

The final report was released after five days of intense negotiations, in which government delegates from the United States, China and Saudi Arabia often sought to tone down some of the more ominous projections about the impact of climate change, the AP reported.

"The poorest of the poor in the world -- and this includes poor people in prosperous societies -- are going to be the worst hit. People who are poor are least able to adapt to climate change," said IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri.

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