Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
Three medical groups this week endorsed CT scans to screen for lung cancer in some smokers. Annual tests are recommended for older adults who are or used to be heavy smokers. An expert group that advises doctors on preventive care has rejected the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for routine use. The group said using the test to screen for prostate cancer does more harm than good. A new study released this week suggests that people who take calcium pills may have a higher risk of heart attack. Another study found that more teens today are at risk of heart disease than teens a decade earlier. That's because they are more likely to be overweight or have diabetes or high blood pressure.
This Issue: Lung Cancer CT Scans Recommended for Heavy Smokers Panel Confirms Rejection of Routine PSA Calcium Pills May Raise Heart Attack Risk Teens at Risk for Heart Disease
In the News:
Lung Cancer CT Scans Recommended for Heavy Smokers
Heavy current and past smokers ages 55 to 74 should get yearly lung CT scans, according to guidelines published this week. A panel of cancer and chest experts reviewed the results of past studies. One study, the National Lung Screening Trial, found that yearly low-dose CT scans could reduce deaths from lung cancer by 20%. Heavy smokers are people who have smoked a pack of cigarettes a day or more for 30 years. About 160,000 people will die of lung cancer in 2012 in the United States. Testing comes with risks, said the experts. These include side effects from radiation and more tests. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the new guidelines online. Several major medical groups endorsed them. The Associated Press wrote about the guidelines.
Panel Confirms Rejection of Routine PSA
An expert panel has stuck with its controversial advice that most older men should not get routine screening for prostate cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said last fall that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening does more harm than good. A high test reading can indicate prostate cancer. But PSA can go up for other reasons. Only a biopsy can tell if cancer exists. Some prostate cancers can be deadly. But most grow so slowly they never cause harm. Men who get treated may have problems with sexual function and urine control. Urologists, who treat men with prostate cancer, protested the task force's statement last fall. But the panel was not persuaded. It said this week that there's little or no evidence that routine PSA tests save lives. The task force said men should be able to get a test if they want one. But first their doctors should explain the risks. The task force found that more research is needed on the benefits of PSA for men at highest risk of prostate cancer. These include black men and those with a family history of the disease. The Associated Press wrote about the issue.
Calcium Pills May Raise Heart Attack Risk
Taking calcium pills to strengthen bones may increase your risk of a heart attack, a new study suggests. Researchers looked at information from questionnaires filled out by people in a long-running health study. About 24,000 people were involved. They were ages 35 to 64 when the study began. In the next 11 years, 354 people had heart attacks. The heart attack rate was 86% higher in people who took calcium pills than in those who did not take them. Taking calcium did not affect the rate of stroke or heart- and stroke-related death. The study appeared this week in the journal Heart. USA Today wrote about it.
Teens at Risk for Heart Disease
Children are at greater risk for heart disease now than they were a decade ago, a study released this week said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compared data from 1999 with data from 2008. The CDC found that 23% of teens are at risk for diabetes, up from 9% in 1999. About 35% of teens are overweight or obese. About 15% have blood pressure that is higher than normal. All of these factors increase the risk of heart disease. By 2008, 43% of teens had at least one risk factor for heart disease. The study included information from 3,383 adolescents, ages 12 through 19. Results appeared in the journal Pediatrics. The Associated Press wrote about the study.
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