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Health Headlines - August 10

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Christopher Reeve's Widow Has Lung Cancer

Dana Reeve, who spent nine years caring for her paralyzed husband, Christopher Reeve, announced Tuesday that she has lung cancer.

Reeve, 44, said she decided to disclose her illness following rumors about her health in the media, the Associated Press reported. Her announcement came two days after the death of ABC anchorman Peter Jennings from lung cancer.

"I have recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, and am currently undergoing treatment," Reeve, a singer and reportedly a nonsmoker, said in a statement. "I have an excellent team of physicians, and we are optimistic about my prognosis."

"Now, more than ever, I feel Chris with me as I face this challenge," she added. "As always, I look to him as the ultimate example of defying the odds with strength, courage and hope in the face of life's adversities."

Reeve, who starred in the Superman films, was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident in 1995. He died Oct. 10, 2004. Dana Reeve was a constant companion and supporter of her husband during his nine-year ordeal and is chairwoman of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which funds research on paralysis.

Arsenic in Drinking Water Promotes Tumor Growth

Environmental arsenic in drinking water can promote the growth and spread of tumors in people with pre-existing tumors, says a University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center study.

The study on mice found that levels of arsenic as low as four parts per billion in water stimulated blood vessel growth in tumors. Arsenic levels as low as 10 ppb resulted in tumor expansion, the Associated Press reported.

"What we can say pretty definitely that if you have a pre-existing tumor, and you're drinking water with arsenic in it, it could very well increase the growth of that tumor," research team leader Michael Ihnat, assistant professor of cell biology, told the AP.

He added that it's still not clear whether arsenic in drinking water increases overall tumor risk.

Currently, the U.S. federal arsenic standard for drinking water is 50 ppb. However, that standard is scheduled to be lowered to 10 ppb on Jan. 23, 2006.

Oklahoma has some of the highest levels of natural arsenic in drinking water in the United States.

Cosmic Rays May Harm Pilots' Eyes: Study

Exposure to cosmic radiation may increase the risk of eye damage among airline pilots, who are three times more likely than normal to develop cataracts, says a study by researchers in Iceland.

The study, published in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology, included 445 men aged 50 and over. The study volunteers included 79 commercial pilots and 366 men who'd never been pilots. When the researchers compared the rates of cataracts with the men's occupations, they found that the pilots had a far greater risk of cataracts, BBC News reported.

Previous research found a link between cosmic rays and cataracts in astronauts. Cosmic rays are energetic particles and radiation from outer space. One expert suggested that cosmic rays may damage proteins in the lens of the eye.

National Organ System Finds Liver for N.Y. PR Exec

It was the U.S. national organ donation system -- not a media blitz launched by family and friends -- that led to a lifesaving liver transplant for a 31-year-old Manhattan public relations executive over the weekend.

Shari Kurzrok received her liver through the national system, which ranks patients solely by need, location and tissue type.

Kurzrok was hit last month by a mystery illness that damaged her liver. In response, her family and friends launched a controversial campaign to find her a new liver. The effort included a Web site, a rally in Union Square and attempts to track down critically injured trauma victims, the New York Daily News reported.

That campaign sparked complaints that Kurzrok's friends were attempting to do an end run around other patients in the United Network for Organ Sharing's national organ matching program.

While the campaign by Kurzrok's family and friends may have helped raise awareness about the need for organ donations, matching of organs to patients must be done fairly, said Annie Moore of the United Network for Organ Sharing.

"Situations like this definitely bring more attention to the critical shortage of organs available. Our concern was that it was subverting the equitable system that's in place," Moore told the Daily News.

Research Leads to Clues About Fatal Sleep Apnea

The cumulative loss of special cells in the area of the brain that controls breathing may account for fatal cases of sleep apnea -- a condition in which a person stops breathing in the middle of sleep, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles say.

The scientists injected rats with a substance to kill more than half of the special cells in an area of the brain called the preBtzinger complex. Then they noticed that when the animals entered the rapid-eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, they stopped breathing and were jolted awake in order to start breathing again, BBC News Online reported.

Over time, the breathing lapses increased in frequency and severity and eventually began happening when the animals were awake, the network reported. The cells involved in the experiment do not replenish when they die.

The UCLA team said the condition called central sleep apnea may often be misdiagnosed in elderly people as heart failure, the BBC reported. The condition poses a particular risk to seniors, whose heart and lungs often are already weakened.

Fatal cases of the condition probably occur when victims eventually are unable to wake themselves when breathing stops, the researchers said.

The study appears in the current issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Pop Star's Breast Cancer Leads to Dramatic Increase in Screenings

Bookings for breast cancer screenings in Australia rose by 40 percent in the weeks after pop singer Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and had surgery to remove a lump, says a University of Sydney study.

The study also found a 101 percent increase in bookings among women aged 40 to 69 who'd never been screened for breast cancer. The study was published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Simon Chapman, professor of public health, looked at the number of booked mammograms for the Australian government's BreastScreen program in the 19 weeks before, two weeks during, and six weeks after extensive media coverage of the Australian pop singer's breast cancer, BBC News reported.

Chapman said the study showed that media stories about health and medicine can result in dramatic changes in people's health behavior. He said capitalizing on public interest in an illness suffered by a celebrity can lead to news coverage of health topics that equal levels that would normally require expensive public awareness campaigns, BBC News Online reported.

Health Tip: A Bad Case of Food Poisoning

Mother nature usually leaves little doubt when you've eaten contaminated food.

In most cases, once the vomiting and diarrhea subside, you can stop worrying. But sometimes medical attention is necessary.

The University of California, Davis, advises you see a doctor if there is:

* Diarrhea lasting longer than 24 hours.
* Vomiting lasting longer than 12 hours.
* Blood in the stool.
* Fever.
* Vomiting and diarrhea that are so intense severe muscle cramping occurs.
* An inability to keep down any liquids for 12 hours.

Health Tip: Diabetics, Eat Healthy

If you have diabetes, healthy eating should be an integral part of managing your disease. A good diet can help control your weight and blood sugar level.

The Methodist Health Care System in Houston offers these suggestions:

* Use vegetable spray instead of oil, shortening, or butter.
* Steam vegetables using a low-fat broth or water.
* Season foods with herbs and spices, vinegar, lemon juice, or salsa.
* Use low or sugar-free jams instead of butter or margarine.
* Use low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese, or nonfat yoghurt.
* Eat chicken or turkey without the skin.
* Buy only lean meats and broil, roast, stir-fry or grill them.
* Use canola or olive oil rather than vegetable oils.
* Buy whole-grain breads and cereals.

Food Fact:
Boil meets grill.

If you're boiling vegetables, you're losing key nutrients. There is a better way. Turn up the oven to 425 degrees and roast 'em. High heat seals in the veggies' juices -- and the nutrients, which leech out in boiling water. The flavor is remarkably better, too -- roasting caramelizes veggies' natural sugars, and you won't need a pat of butter or a cheese sauce to dress them up. When roasting, cut the vegetable into evenly sized pieces to ensure even cooking. Spray a baking sheet with heart-healthy canola or olive oil. Spread the veggies evenly out on the sheet, and spray with the oil. Add your favorite seasoning and roast until the veggies are tender on the inside.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Boost "good" cholesterol.

Here's one of the best arguments for daily aerobic exercise. Medical trials suggest that a daily dose of walking, biking, jogging, or swimming helps reduce the risk of heart disease, especially if that increased activity helps you lose weight. Research shows such exercise is the best way to raise HDLs, the "good" cholesterol that helps carry harmful fats out of your system.

FAQ of the day:
Do I burn calories even when I''m just sitting around?

You burn calories all the time, even when you're asleep. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy (calories) your body uses for basic chores such as breathing, circulating blood, powering the nervous system and maintaining body temperature. A normal BMR for the average healthy male is around 1 calorie per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight per hour; for women it is slightly lower, at around .9 calorie/kg/hr. But BMRs are very personal. Body composition helps determine BMR; a woman's BMR is generally lower than a man's because she carries more body fat. Other factors that affect BMR include age, activity level, nutrition, growth, pregnancy, body size and overall health.
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