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Multiple Sclerosis Associated with Lower Cancer Risk

Cancer • • NeurologyMar 31 09

A new study shows that people with multiple sclerosis may be at a lower risk for cancer overall, but at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as brain tumors and bladder cancer. The study is published in the March 31, 2009, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers looked at the medical records of 20,000 people with multiple sclerosis and 204,000 people without the diagnosis. After 35 years, they found that the people with MS had a decreased overall risk of cancer by 10 percent compared to people who did not have the disease. The result was more pronounced in women. However, for people with MS the risk for certain cancers, such as brain tumors and bladder and other urinary organ cancers, increased by up to 44 percent compared to people without MS.

Scientists also evaluated the parents of people with MS to determine whether there was a possible genetic link. They found that there was no overall increased or decreased risk of cancer among either mothers or fathers of those with MS, compared to parents of people without MS.

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‘Natasha Richardson Effect’ Leads to Increase in Emergency Department Visits

Emergencies / First Aid • • Public HealthMar 31 09

The recent death of actress Natasha Richardson, after what initially seemed just a minor bump on the head, was tragically sad.

However, researchers are seeing evidence now that her untimely passing at the age of 45 has provided a valuable public health lesson.

For example, CNN reported a story about a 7-year-old girl in Ohio who was hit in the head while playing baseball with her father. Two days later, she complained of a headache. Her parents, who had just learned what caused Natasha Richardson’s death, immediately called their pediatrician and took their daughter to the hospital. Doctors now say the girl would have died in her sleep that night if her parents had not sought treatment when they did.

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Super Bowl loss may cause fans more than heartache

Heart • • StressMar 31 09

Passionate football fans take heed: watching your team lose in the Super Bowl could be hazardous to your health.

Researchers have found that overall and circulatory death rates in Los Angeles rose significantly after a crushing defeat for the Rams in the 1980 Super Bowl. Four years later, deaths declined after the city’s other team—the Raiders—triumphed in the U.S. football championship game.

“The emotional stress of loss and/or the intensity of a game played in a high profile rivalry such as the Super Bowl can trigger total and cardiovascular deaths,” said Dr. Robert Kloner, a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California, who presented the study at the American College of Cardiology scientific meeting in Orlando.

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Action video games sharpen eyesight: U.S. study

Children's Health • • Eye / Vision ProblemsMar 31 09

Adults who play a lot of action video games may be improving their eyesight, U.S. researchers said on Sunday.

They said people who used a video-game training program saw significant improvements in their ability to notice subtle differences in shades of gray, a finding that may help people who have trouble with night driving.

“Normally, improving contrast sensitivity means getting glasses or eye surgery—somehow changing the optics of the eye,” said Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester in New York, whose study appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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Poultry and diabetics at risk from gas gangrene bug

DiabetesMar 30 09

Gas gangrene, the notorious infectious disease of two world wars can still be a problem today. Professor Richard Titball of the University of Exeter, told the Society of General Microbiology Meeting at the International Centre, Harrogate today (Monday, 30 March) that Clostridium perfringens, the bacterium responsible for gas gangrene in people, can also cause necrotic enteritis in intensively raised chickens. This frequently fatal disease has significant financial implications for the poultry industry.

Intensive study of C. perfringens during World War 2 showed that the bacterium produces a potent toxin. Recent work using modern molecular genetic approaches have provided an insight into the role of this toxin in disease. It works in three ways: by promoting a reduction in blood supply to infected tissues; by increasing inflammation; and by having a toxic effect on the heart.

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Targeting oxidized cysteine through diet could reduce inflammation and lower disease risk

DietingMar 28 09

A team of scientists at Emory University School of Medicine has identified a direct link between oxidative stress and inflammatory signals in the blood. The finding could lead to improved strategies for preventing several diseases by including antioxidants in the diet and for reducing the impact of inflammation in critically ill patients by adding cysteine to intravenous or tube feeding.

The results are published online this week in the journal PLoS One.

Many normal metabolic functions produce reactive forms of oxygen that can damage cells. Oxidative stress, a disruption of the body’s ability to control reactive forms of oxygen, has been connected with heart disease, diabetes and several neurodegenerative diseases.

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UK discovers counterfeit insulin pen needles

DiabetesMar 28 09

Britain’s medicines watchdog said on Friday it had discovered a batch of counterfeit Novo Nordisk insulin pen needles circulating in the country and urged diabetics not to use them.

The counterfeit batch is Novofine Needles 31G (0.25mm x 6mm) with the lot number 08J02S, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement.

“The possible consequences of using these counterfeit needles could include adverse reactions; pain and discomfort; infection and difficulty in attaching the needle to the pen injection device,” it added.

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Oral contraceptives linked to asthma risk

Asthma • • Gender: FemaleMar 28 09

Some women who use oral contraceptives may have an increased risk for asthma, according to results of a Scandinavian study.

The effect depends on body mass index (BMI), with the rate of asthma increasing as BMI goes up, Dr. Ferenc Macsali of Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, and colleagues report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

From 1999 to 2001, the researchers mailed questionnaires to women ranging in age from 25-44 years in Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Respondents included 4,728 women who did not use oral contraceptives and 961 who did.

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Male circumcision cuts risk of cancer-causing virus

Sexual HealthMar 26 09

Circumcision protects men from genital herpes and a virus that causes genital warts and cancer but it does not appear to guard against syphilis, U.S. and Ugandan researchers said on Wednesday.

The report in the New England Journal of Medicine adds to the debate over whether men and newborn boys should be circumcised to protect their health and perhaps the health of their future sexual partners.

The findings from two trials in Uganda build on related research showing that circumcision cuts a man’s risk of HIV infection through heterosexual intercourse by more than 50 percent, said Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, which funded the study.

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Psychiatric disorders are common in adults who have had anorexia

Psychiatry / PsychologyMar 26 09

The study was initiated in 1985. A total of 51 teenagers with anorexia nervosa were studied, together with an equally large control group of healthy persons. The groups have been investigated and compared several times as the years have passed.

“This study is unique in an international perspective. It is the only study in the world that reflects the natural course of anorexia nervosa in the population”, says Elisabet Wentz, Associate Professor in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

The research group has published new results from the study in two scientific journals: the British Journal of Psychiatry and the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

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Lay health workers boost cancer screening rates

Public HealthMar 26 09

Home visits from peers trained as health workers may encourage more low-income Hispanic women to get screened for breast and cervical cancers, a new study suggests.

In the U.S., Hispanic women are generally diagnosed with breast and cervical cancers at a later stage and have poorer survival rates than non-Hispanic women. Lower screening rates are thought to be partly to blame.

The current study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, tested the effectiveness of a program that trains lay people to educate low-income Hispanic women about the importance of mammography for detecting breast cancer early and Pap screening for cervical cancer detection.

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Egyptian woman contracts bird flu: WHO

Flu • • Public HealthMar 23 09

A 38-year-old Egyptian woman has contracted the H5N1 strain of bird flu and is in a stable condition, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

The woman, from Elfath in central Egypt, developed a fever and headache on March 14 and was admitted to hospital where she is being given the antiviral drug Tamivir, it said.

The Geneva-based U.N. agency said she fell ill after coming into contact with dead and sick poultry. She is the 59th case of bird flu in the Arab country.

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New cancer cash has little impact on UK survivals

CancerMar 23 09

Britain’s state-run health service has failed to boost survival rates for cancer patients substantially, despite tripling investment in cancer care over the past decade.

A major study published on Friday found survival rates have improved only marginally since a national cancer plan was launched in England in 2000.

The disappointing outcome will raise fresh questions about whether Britain’s monopoly National Health Service—watched closely by governments around the world, including the new U.S. administration—has the right system to help cancer patients.

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Heightened Level of Amygdala Activity May Cause Social Deficits in Autism

Psychiatry / PsychologyMar 19 09

Something strange is going on in the amygdala – an almond-shaped structure deep in the human brain – among people with autism.

Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered an increased pattern of brain activity in the amygdalas of adults with autism that may be linked to the social deficits that typically are associated with the disorder. Previous research at the UW and elsewhere has shown that abnormal growth patterns in the amygdala are commonly found among young children diagnosed with autism.

The amygdala is popularly associated with the “fight-or-flight response” in dangerous situations. But it has other functions, including identifying faces and situations and evaluating social information such as emotions.

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U.S. names healthcare spending strategy advisers

Public HealthMar 19 09

The Health and Human Services Department named a panel of 15 experts on Thursday to advise the government on how to spend $1.1 billion set aside to study which medical treatments work best.

The effort is part of President Barack Obama’s plan to cut excess spending from the U.S. health system.

Experts on the panel include officials at the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The $787 billion stimulus package passed in February provides $300 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, $400 million for the National Institutes of Health, and $400 million for HHS to support comparative effectiveness research.

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