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Health Headlines - July 31

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Anti-Smoking Guru Has Lung Cancer

Allen Carr, a British anti-smoking advocate whose books and international clinics have helped millions of people quite smoking, has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Carr, 73, quit his 100-cigarette-a-day habit 23 years ago. Since then, he's written international bestsellers on kicking the habit and has established 70 stop-smoking clinics in 30 countries, BBC News reported.

Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Richard Branson are among the celebrities who have benefited from Carr's methods for quitting smoking.

A spokesman for Carr said it's not possible to tell if the lung-cancer diagnosis is linked to Carr's previous cigarette smoking, the BBC reported.

"Allen has spent many years in smoke-filled rooms since he quit, whilst treating smokers for their addiction," the spokesman said. "He is certain that, had he not quit, he would have been dead 20 years ago. He remains in high spirits and sees this latest stage in his remarkable life as an opportunity to make his method even more recognized and widely available."

U.S. Track Athlete Failed Drug Test

U.S. track star Justin Gatlin, the current world record holder in the 100 meters and reigning Olympic champion in the event, revealed Sunday that he had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, The New York Times reported.

The case will be considered by a review panel of the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Gatlin faces a possible lifetime ban from track and field.

In a statement released through a publicist, Gatlin said a test at the Kansas Relays on April 22 came back positive for "testosterone or its precursors," but he denied taking any banned drugs, the Times reported.

"I cannot account for these results, because I have never knowingly used any banned substance or authorized anyone else to administer such a substance to me," Gatlin said in the statement.

His admission about failing the drug test comes just days after it was announced that American cyclist and 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis had tested positive for a testosterone imbalance during the race. If a second test confirms the result, Landis could be stripped of his title, the Times reported.

Surroundings Influence Consumption: Study

The size of a can of soda, a serving on a plate, or an ice cream scoop can be an important factor in determining how much people consume, says a U.S. study that provides new evidence that cues from your surroundings influence how much you eat.

This "unit bias" refers to the tendency to think that a single unit of food -- no matter the size -- is the proper amount to consume, the Associated Press reported.

"Whatever size a banana is, that's what you eat, a small banana or a big banana," and "whatever's served on your plate, it just seems locked in our heads: that's a meal," University of Pennsylvania researcher Andrew Geier told the AP.

In one experiment, Geier and his colleagues placed a bowl of M&Ms in the lobby of an apartment building, along with a sign that said the candy was free and people could eat all they wanted. During the 10-day experiment, the researchers put out different-sized spoons -- a tablespoon or a spoon that held a quarter cup.

On the days that the larger spoon was out, people ate about two-thirds more M&Ms than when the tablespoon was placed with the bowl, the AP reported.

Geier said culture influences what people regard as an appropriate food unit. For example, yogurt containers in American food stores are larger than those found in French stores. But French consumers don't make up the difference by eating more containers of yogurt.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.

Thailand Faces 2nd Bird Flu Outbreak

The Thai government has ordered the slaughter of 300,000 chickens as officials of that country face the second outbreak of bird flu in the past year.

"The H5N1 virus was found in chickens in a local farm," Assistant Agricultural Minister Charal Trinvuththipong told Agence France-Presse on Sunday. The farm where the outbreak occurred is located in the Nakhon Phanom province, which is to the northeast of Bangkok. "It is the second outbreak [this year] following the one in the Phichit province, Charal added.

On Wednesday, a boy died from bird flu; it was the first human death from the disease in seven months. Charal told the wire service that 100 volunteers have been sent to kill the chickens near the affected area, although the move will not be announced officially until Monday.

So far, bird flu has infected 231 people around the world, and killed 134.

Human casualties remain largely confined to Asia and to people who have had close and prolonged contact with infected birds, such as poultry farm workers. Worries about bird flu have also led to the destruction of tens of millions of poultry, mostly in Asian nations, as officials struggle to contain the virus.

North Carolina Beaches Issue Jellyfish Alert

At least 75 people have been stung in the past week by jellyfish near Wrightsville and Carolina beaches, and the Hanover County Health Department has issued an alert in response, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

"I can't recall any particular year that it's been that bad," Charles Smith, director of Carolina Beach Ocean Rescue, told the wire service. One swimmer had to be taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center with a suspected Portuguese man-of-war sting.

After arriving early at Wrightsville Beach, in mid-July, these sea nettles are bombarding Carolina Beach, where so many were in the water on Thursday that lifeguards posted red flags to alert visitors of dangerous conditions. At Wrightsville, lifeguards treated a dozen stings a day when the jellyfish were at their peak although they're now down to one sting a day, Ocean Rescue Director Dave Baker told the AP.

Experts say tropical weather, higher temperatures, salinity and rich feeding grounds are probably behind the trend.
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