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Health Headlines - February 3

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:25pm
Expert Sees Obesity Hitting U.S. Life Expectancy

Life expectancy in the United States is set to drop within the next 50 years due to obesity, one of the world's top experts on the subject said on Wednesday.

Rare Sexually Transmitted Disease Strikes 2 in N.Y.

Two New Yorkers have been diagnosed with a rare sexually transmitted disease that is spreading among gay and bisexual men in Europe, the city health commissioner said on Wednesday.

Jury Orders Brown & Williamson to Pay $22 Mln

A jury in Independence, Missouri on Wednesday ordered Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. to pay $22 million to the family of a 73-year-old woman who died of lung and heart disease after smoking Kools for 58 years.

European Cancer Patients Using Alternative Therapy

Whether it is herbs, homeopathy or vitamin and mineral supplements, more than a third of cancer patients in Europe use alternative medicine.

Highest Number of Road Deaths on 4th July

More people are killed in road accidents in the United States on July 4th, Independence Day, than any other day of the year, researchers said on Thursday.

Moderate Drinking Doesn't Harm Bones in Women

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is associated with slightly higher bone mineral density (BMD) in women, according to researchers at St. Thomas' Hospital in London, UK.

'Turf Burns' Seen Linked to NFL Skin Infections

Turf burns, the scrapes caused by playing on artificial turf, probably helped spread a stubborn skin infection among St. Louis Rams football players during the 2003 NFL season, researchers said on Wednesday.

Treat Diabetes Early and Aggressively

Doctors need to check patients for diabetes if they even suspect a patient may have the condition, and start using drugs to treat it right away, according to new guidelines released on Wednesday.

An estimated 90 percent of all patients diagnosed with diabetes are not controlling it enough to prevent heart disease and other complications, the experts at the American College of Endocrinology and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists said.

At-risk patients, such as the overweight, should start getting screened at 30. If they show poor control of blood sugar, they should go on drugs right away, the two groups said.

"Numerous studies have shown that significant cardiovascular disease develops years before the onset of diabetes," the groups said in a statement.

A measure of glucose control called A1C should bring back a result of 6.5 percent or lower, the groups said. Fasting glucose should be 110 or below and a two-hour glucose challenge test should come back 140 or below.

"Patients with diabetes are often in denial," said Dr. Jaime Davidson, an endocrinologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and chairman of the guidelines conference.

If a family doctor or primary care doctor suspects a patient may have diabetes, even a young patient, he or she should test immediately, Davidson said.

And a fasting glucose test is no good, he said. The patient should undergo a two-hour glucose challenge to see how well his or her body controls blood sugar.

Insurance companies may balk at paying for the tests, but they shouldn't, Davidson said.

"It is cheaper to pay for that today than to pay for the first heart attack," Davidson said in an interview.

The groups acknowledged that diet and exercise can stop a person from becoming diabetic, but said most patients fail.

"Lifestyle is essential. But in the real world it doesn't really allow us to get a patient to target," said Dr. Harold Lebovitz of the State University of New York, who chaired the writing committee.

"Doctors have big hearts and patients come to them to say 'Give me another chance. Give me a diet. Give me another three months,"' Davidson said.

But he said damage can occur during those three months. "We prefer to get them on target from day one and keep them there," he said.

Diabetics also need to see their doctors often. "If they are diabetic, one time a year is not enough. Because in that time, something is going to happen."

An estimated 20 million Americans have type-2 diabetes and one-third do not know it, the groups said. Another 41 million have what is known as "pre-diabetes," which will develop into diabetes if not controlled.

Diabetes costs the economy $132 billion a year, according to the American Diabetes Association.

"Eighty percent of the money spent is not in treating diabetes. Eighty percent of that money is spent in treating complications," Davidson said.

Drug treatments include metformin, the glitazone or thiazolidinedione class of drugs which includes GlaxoSmithKline's Avandia, and orlistat, sold under the brand name Xenical by Roche. Orlistat is a weight loss drug that also appears to prevent progression to diabetes.

Trigger of Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms Identified

Researchers have identified a protein called GAT-1 that appears to play a key role in the withdrawal symptoms experienced by people who stop using heroin and other "opioid" drugs, such as morphine and codeine.

Red Meat Linked to One Type of Colon Cancer

Women who eat more red meat appear more likely to develop cancer in the lower part of the colon, but not in the upper part of the colon near the small intestine, new research reports.

Study: Lymphoma Treatment Shows Promise

A one-time treatment that uses a homing-device drug to zap cancer cells with radiation made a deadly lymphoma disappear in three out of four patients, many for nearly eight years, researchers report.

While the results were called promising, it's not known yet whether the novel approach will be superior to the standard early treatments normally used for a slow-growing but incurable type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"The striking thing about it is how such a short treatment can produce such long-lasting remissions," said Dr. Mark S. Kaminski, who developed the new treatment, Bexxar, with a University of Michigan colleague.

The researchers said more studies will be needed to determine whether doctors should use Bexxar as a first treatment to fight the immune-system cancer. Bexxar is only approved for use when other therapies, including chemotherapy and radiation, fail.

Bexxar treatment starts with a test dose followed by a full dose a week later instead of over months, as with chemotherapy. One advantage is fewer side effects, such as hair loss, the researchers said.

The findings reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine were partly funded by drug maker Corixa, which recently sold the rights to Bexxar to GlaxoSmithKline. Some of the scientists have received fees from the drug makers; one was a Corixa employee. The university holds patents for Bexxar, and Kaminski and his co-inventor share in royalties.

Dr. Joseph M. Connors, of the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver, said the results were impressive even though they involved carefully chosen patients and no comparison group.

"This is quite promising and firmly indicates that we need to know what would happen in comparisons to standard treatment" said Connors, who wrote an accompanying editorial.

The Michigan researchers tested Bexxar in 76 patients with advanced follicular lymphoma who had received no other treatment. Follicular lymphoma strikes about 15,000 adults in North America each year. Patients typically survive seven to 10 years.

The approach used in Bexxar, called radioimmunotherapy, delivers lethal radiation directly to cancer cells. The method is being tested in other types of cancers, and Bexxar and another treatment called Zevalin are approved for advanced non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In Bexxar, radioactive iodine-131 is attached to antibodies that target and kill lymphoma cells.

In the study, 72 patients or 95 percent had some shrinkage of their tumors after getting Bexxar. The cancer disappeared in 57 participants (75 percent), and three-quarters of them were still disease-free after five years. Many remained cancer-free until the end of the study, a maximum of about eight years. The researchers are continuing to follow the participants.

The most common side effect was a brief drop in white blood cells. Nine patients died, six from lymphoma.

Study: Southern Blacks Die at Higher Rate

Blacks in the South apparently get a double whammy of stroke risk: They die at much higher rates than either Southern whites or blacks who live elsewhere.

Study: Vaccine Slashes Chickenpox Deaths

U.S. deaths from chickenpox dropped to the lowest level ever after a vaccine to prevent the childhood disease was introduced in 1995, a study shows.

Smoothies Pass the Health Test in Texas

Instead of raiding a vending machine after school or loading up on macaroni and cheese at home, 13-year-old Megan de la Torre picks up a strawberry-and-banana smoothie right on campus.

Ariz. Doctors Arrested Over Bootleg Botox

Two Arizona doctors have been arrested on charges of creating and selling bootleg Botox that left four people paralyzed.

Study Connects Bankruptcies to Illnesses

Costly illnesses trigger about half of all personal bankruptcies, and most of those who go bankrupt because of medical problems have health insurance, according to findings from a Harvard University study to be released Wednesday.

Boy's Surgery to Remove Tumor a Success

A 9-year-old boy successfully underwent surgery Wednesday to remove most of a brain tumor he nicknamed "Frank," and which was the subject of an online auction to help raise money for medical bills.

Dr. Suspended for Signing Prescriptions

A Canadian doctor was suspended for two years because he signed prescriptions for U.S. patients he never saw to give them access to cheaper medicine.

Health Tip: Dizziness Explained

The disorienting phenomenon we call dizziness results when the brain receives mixed signals from systems that help maintain our balance and equilibrium, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

Health Tip: Fake Nails Can Lead to Real Infections

Some women think artificial nails do wonders for their appearance. But whether applied at home or by a professional, artificial nails can lead to bacterial and fungal infections, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.

Study: Nearly One in Six Mentally Ill Homeless

A full 15 percent of Americans with serious mental illness are currently homeless, a much higher figure than suggested by previous research, a new study finds.

Rat Whiskers Give Clues to Blinking Disorder

A rat's whiskers may hold vital clues to a debilitating human disorder called blepharospasm, an eye condition characterized by uncontrolled blinking.

New Strategy Stops Smallpox in Its Tracks

Researchers report that they've been able to stop a smallpox-like virus in mice in just eight days, a development that could lead to more effective treatments for other kinds of illnesses in humans.

Study: Benefits of Antidepressants Outweigh Risks

Despite recent controversy over the potential effects of antidepressants in young users, the lifesaving benefits of drugs such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft far outweigh their risks, a new study suggests.

Up to 90 percent of tsunami survivors suffering trauma: health experts

Up to 90 percent of the millions affected by the Asian quake disaster are suffering mental trauma, conditions which could prompt a "second tsunami" unless support and treatment are given, experts said.

Vietnam reports one more case of bird flu

A 24-year old man admitted in a hospital in Hanoi last week has tested positive to avian flu and is currently in stable condition, doctors said.

February most dangerous month for stroke victims: Swedish research

People suffering from a stroke in February are more likely to die than those who suffer a stroke at any other time of the year, a Swedish researcher said.

Brazil to study use of stem cells in heart treatment

Brazil announced the launch of an ambitious experimental program to use stem cells to treat heart diseases.

Grim figures hide some good news in Africa's AIDS crisis

Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers, meeting in London on Friday to discuss ways of helping Africa, will find plenty of data to support the continent's stereotyped image as an AIDS-ravaged basketcase.

Sunbathing reduces risk of lymph gland cancer: Swedish study

Contrary to previous belief, sunlight reduces the risk of developing tumours in the lymphatic glands, according to a Swedish study.

Viagra knock-offs giving Pfizer headaches in China

The U.S. makers of the male impotency drug Viagra see counterfeits as a growing threat to their business and are urging authorities in major fake drug producer China to rein in the copycats, the company's CEO said.

Genetic breakthrough could make pacemakers obsolete

Australian scientists said pacemakers could be obsolete within a decade after researchers managed to revive heart tissue withered by cardiac arrests.
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