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Gene Test Not Needed If Cancer Drug Given in Low Dose

CancerJun 20 07

Investigators at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have shown that when the cancer drug irinotecan is given in low doses for multiple days, it eliminates the need to delay treatment to perform costly genetic testing that determines if the patient is at risk for serious treatment side effects, such as neutropenia. Neutropenia is an abnormal reduction in the numbers of immune cells, called neutrophils; the disorder leaves individuals more vulnerable to infections.

The finding means that clinicians can begin treatment sooner and eliminate the cost of this specialized test, which determines if the child carries a variation in the gene UGT1A1 that is linked to this side effect of neutropenia. By giving the drug in small doses for two weeks instead of the standard single large dose once a month, children can begin treatment with irinotecan immediately. Irinotecan is used to treat childhood solid tumors such as neuroblastoma, sarcomas and kidney tumors.

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Headaches, fatigue tied to kids’ unexplained pain

Children's Health • • Headaches • • MigraineJun 19 07

Children who often suffer headaches or daytime drowsiness may be at heightened risk of developing unexplained body aches and pains, a study has found.

Researchers found that of more than 1,000 children they followed for one year, those who said they had weekly headaches or bouts of sleepiness were more likely to develop “non-traumatic” pain in their muscles or joints.

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Risk of Stroke Doubles If Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes • • StrokeJun 19 07

Individuals diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are at double the risk of having a stroke compared to those without diabetes, according to new research from the University of Alberta. It was found that the risk of a stroke is considered high within the first five years of treatment for Type 2 diabetes and more than doubles the rate of occurrence.

For this study, the researchers entered 12,272 subjects into a Type 2 diabetes cohort. All subjects were recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and had a mean age of 64 years. After five years of monitoring, stroke incidence rates were compared between the cohort and the general population.

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Low ‘energy density’ foods aid weight loss

Dieting To Lose Weight • • Food & Nutrition • • Weight LossJun 19 07

Foods that fill you up without packing a ton of calories can help in the battle of the bulge, results of a new study suggest.

In the study, obese women who reduced the “energy density” of their diet by cutting their intake of fats and adding more fruits and vegetables lost more weight over a 12-month period, and felt less hungry, than did those who simply reduced their fat intake.

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Does OTC Diet Pill Alli Live Up to Its Name?

Drug News • • Obesity • • Weight LossJun 19 07

The first and only over-the-counter product for weight loss approved by the Food and Drug Administration will be available Friday, June 15.

Orlistat, known by the brand name Alli, works by decreasing the amount of fat absorbed by the body. It is the OTC version of Xenical, a prescription weight loss pill. The good news: Orlistat has been tested and the prescription version has been used since 1999.

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U.N. rules to contain health emergencies take hold

Emergencies / First AidJun 16 07

New rules to help the United Nations contain public health emergencies took effect on Friday, requiring countries to disclose potential threats from disease, chemical agents, radioactive materials and contaminated food.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said its revised International Health Regulations, approved by member states in 2005, would hasten the detection, investigation and control of potentially devastating outbreaks.

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Pentagon says more funds needed for mental health

Psychiatry / Psychology • • Public HealthJun 16 07

The U.S. military’s mental health system fails to meet the needs of troops and is too short of funds and staff to help service members sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Repeated and extended deployments to those war zones over the past five years have driven the need for mental health services higher, but resources have not climbed in response, members of a Defense Department task force said.

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Obesity surgery can increase alcohol sensitivity

Obesity • • SurgeryJun 16 07

Patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery for obesity have higher breath-alcohol levels after drinking the same amount as other people—and it takes much longer for their levels to return to zero, the findings from a small study suggest.

“There are a few implications here. The overwhelming one being that patients need to be cautious using alcohol after they’ve had this surgery. One drink may be one too many,” senior author Dr. John Morton, from Stanford University in California, told Reuters Health. “In addition, by relaxing the intestine, alcohol can allow the patient to consume more food, which could wreak havoc on their weight maintenance.”

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US veterans have increased risk of suicide

Psychiatry / Psychology • • Public HealthJun 13 07

Male US military service veterans are more than twice as likely to commit suicide compared with their peers who never served in the armed forces, a new study shows.

And veterans with some type of disability were at particularly high risk of killing themselves, Dr. Mark S. Kaplan of Portland State University in Oregon and colleagues found.

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Giving antibiotics to babies boosts asthma risk

Children's Health • • Allergies • • AsthmaJun 13 07

Children who received antibiotics as babies have a higher risk of developing asthma by age 7, Canadian researchers said on Monday.

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to children under age 1 for a host of reasons, most often for lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia or upper respiratory tract infections like ear and sinus infections.

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New study shows exposure to smokers in movies increases likelihood of smoking in the future

Tobacco & MarijuanaJun 13 07

A new study appearing in the July issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reports that watching an actor smoke on the big screen may make smokers more likely to continue smoking in the future, and make nonsmokers more favorably disposed toward smoking.

Sonya Dal Cin, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center of Dartmouth Medical School, and colleagues from the University of Waterloo and Central Michigan University, assessed the level to which identification with a protagonist on film alters our implicit associations between the self and smoking.

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Sleep restriction reduces heart rate variability

Heart • • Sleep AidJun 13 07

Chronic sleep restriction has a negative effect on a person’s cardiac activity, which may elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, according to a research abstract that will be presented Wednesday at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, conducted by Siobhan Banks of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, was based on preliminary analyses of 39 subjects, each of whom participated in a laboratory-controlled chronic sleep restriction protocol. The subjects underwent two nights of baseline sleep followed by five hours of sleep restriction. The results showed a statistically significant decrease in the heart rate variability after five nights of sleep restriction.

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Heavy pesticide exposure linked to brain cancer

Breast CancerJun 12 07

Agricultural workers with extensive exposure to pesticides may have an elevated risk of brain cancer, new research suggests.

In a study of nearly 700 adults with or without brain tumors, French researchers found that agricultural workers with the highest level of exposure to pesticides were twice as likely to be diagnosed with brain cancer as those with no occupational pesticide exposure.

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Blacks less likely to undergo heart bypass surgery

Heart • • SurgeryJun 12 07

Black patients who are hospitalized after a heart attack are less likely than their white counterparts to undergo coronary bypass surgery, also referred to as revascularization, regardless of whether or not the hospital has a service specializing in this surgery, new research shows.

A number of studies have documented racial differences in coronary revascularization rates. However, few studies have looked at the impact that a hospital revascularization service may have on this difference.

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Diabetes drug may help obese people eat less

Diabetes • • ObesityJun 12 07

Obese subjects ate nearly 1,000 fewer calories per day when they injected pramlintide, a drug approved for the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes, before every meal, a new study shows.

The subjects were also less likely to binge eat and ate less when faced with “fast-food challenges” of deep-dish pizza, sugary sodas and ice cream.

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