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Health Headlines - July 31

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

Alcohol Increases Bowel Cancer Risk: Study

The more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to develop bowel cancer, says a British study that found that a large glass of wine or a pint of beer a day increases the risk by about 10 percent, while those who drink more than 30 grams of alcohol a day have a 25 percent increased risk.

The study authors analyzed data on almost 480,000 people, who were asked how much alcohol they drank and then were followed for six years, BBC News reported. During that time, 1,833 of the study volunteers developed bowel cancer. The findings appear in the International Journal of Cancer.

"The research shows quite clearly that the more alcohol you drink the greater your risk of bowel cancer," said Professor Tim Key, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist and deputy director of the cancer epidemiology unit in Oxford.

"The increase in risk is not large but it is important that people understand they can reduce their risk of a number of different cancers -- including bowel cancer -- by cutting down on alcohol," Key said.

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Instant Steam Device May Help Control Hospital Infections

A device that produces instant superheated steam may prove an effective method of killing bacteria that cause infection outbreaks in hospitals, says an article in Chemical and Industry magazine.

The handheld unit makes steam in seconds by passing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide through a fine powder catalyst, BBC News reported. The device can produce 70 liters of steam at 650 degrees C per minute.

Prototypes of the device -- which could also be used to remove gum from sidewalks and pavement -- are currently being developed by the U.K. company Oxford Catalysts.

The Chemical and Industry article said a study by a team at University College Hospital London found that dry steam applied at temperatures ranging from 150-180 degrees C could kill bacteria -- including dangerous antibiotic-resistant forms such as MRSA -- in less than two seconds.

More tests are needed to determine if a device that produces instant steam would be an effective method of controlling infections in hospitals. Dr. Jodi Lindsay, a senior lecturer at St. Georges Hospital Medical School, noted that steam is used to clean medical instruments and laboratory equipment.

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VP Cheney's Heart Monitoring Device Replaced

Vice President Dick Cheney's heart monitoring device was replaced Saturday with a similar, updated model.

The New York Times reports the minor surgery to implant the cardioverter-defibrillator that monitors and corrects Cheney's heart rhythm, was conducted without incident.

The vice president was sedated for the Saturday morning procedure, the Times reports, and he walked out of the George Washington University Hospital clinic at midday and returned home. The device "was successfully replaced without complication," the newspaper quotes Cheney spokeswoman Megan E. McGinn, as saying.

The device was implanted in 2001 and acts as both a pacemaker and defibrillator to shock the heart back into normal rhythm. The wires that run from the device into the heart were not replaced, the Times reported.

McGinn said Friday the need to replace the aging battery had been determined at a physical examination in June. She said the vice president, 66, was scheduled to have the procedure at George Washington University Hospital, located a few blocks from the White House.

At last month's checkup, Cheney also had a stress test, which found nothing unexpected, the Associated Press said.

Cheney has a history of cardiovascular problems, including a clot in his left leg discovered in March; a weak spot in an artery called an aneurism that was surgically repaired in 2005; four prior heart attacks; and quadruple bypass surgery, the wire service said.

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NIH Division Director Under Investigation in Ethics Inquiry

A director of one of the divisions of the National Institutes of Health spent more than triple the amount allocated for his laboratory and continued to hire out his services as an expert on asbestos despite an ethics policy recommending against doing so, Congressional investigators have found, The New York Times reports.

Dr. David A. Schwartz, a Schwartz, who in 2005 became head of the NIHs National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, spent $6 million in 2006 on his laboratory, despite agreeing to spend $1.8 million, billed the U.S. for personal items and asked staff members to run personal errands for him, the newspaper reports. Sen. Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa), ranking Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee is investigating the allegations.

NIH spokesman John Burklow told the Times that the Institutes had initiated a number of measures in response to the investigation: Schwartz no longer had permission to consult with law firms, he no longer ran his laboratory, he had resigned his faculty position at Duke University, and that he repaid unauthorized office and travel expenses.

The newspaper quotes a statement from Schwartz: "I firmly believe that I have acted ethically and in the best interests" of the health institute and that he was working to resolve "the issues raised."

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Next Year's Vioxx Trials May Include Stroke Cases

Until now, all of the lawsuits brought to trial involving the controversial painkiller Vioxx had centered on plaintiffs who had suffered heart attacks.

But according to the Associated Press, the federal judge appointed to oversee pretrial motions for the more than 8,500 federal lawsuits against Vioxx's maker Merck and Co. said that some of the trials next year could involve people who had suffered a stroke.

"We may carve out five or six stroke cases and try them," the wire service quotes U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon as telling attorneys for the plaintiffs and Merck.

Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in 2004 after studies revealed that using it increased a person's heart attack twofold.

Plaintiffs have sued Merck in both federal in state courts. In federal cases, Merck has won four of five. In all, there are almost 30,000 lawsuits filed against Merck. The company has won about half the cases, but it lost a big jury award in Texas, which is now on appeal.

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Sara Lee Recalls 27 Whole Wheat Bread Brands

Sara Lee Corp. has announced a recall of 27 different whole wheat bread products because a routine inspection at its plant in Meridian, Miss. found "small metal pieces" in some of its baked goods, the Associated Press reports.

The problem apparently developed in a flour-sifting machine, which company spokesman Mark Goldman described to the wire service as "not up to our specification and raised the possibility some metal could have dislodged." The problem was only at the Meridian bakery, Goldman added.

The products have been sold in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, the A.P. reports. The brands are EarthGrains, Publix, Sara Lee Delightful, Sara Lee Hearty and Delicious. Other affected brands were stamped "best if purchased by" July 25, 2007, to Aug. 7, 2007, and included the code "222."

Consumers can return the bread to the store where they bought it for a refund, the wire service reported.

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