Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
New research published this week finds a slightly lower cancer risk among older men who take standard multivitamins. Another study shows a drop in cholesterol levels for U.S. adults. Officials this week confirmed that some steroids from a compounding pharmacy contain a fungus. The same type of fungus has caused more than 250 cases of meningitis. The number of deaths from the outbreak also reached 20 this week.
This Issue: Small Drop in Cancer Risk with Multivitamins Cholesterol Drops among U.S. Adults Pharmacy Probe Expands; Deaths Rise to 20
In the News:
Small Drop in Cancer Risk with Multivitamins
A daily multiple vitamin may slightly reduce cancer risk in older men, a new study suggests. Many studies have found no benefit from high doses of single vitamins. But the new study looked instead at standard multivitamins. The study included 14,641 male doctors age 50 or older. They were randomly divided into groups. One group took a daily multiple vitamin. The other group took a placebo, or fake pill. After an average of 11 years, researchers compared cancer rates. Men who took the multivitamin were 8% less likely to be diagnosed with a new cancer than those who took the placebo. About half of the cancers were in the prostate. Most of them were early stage, with high odds of survival. There was also little difference in prostate cancer rates between the two groups. So researchers decided to look just at other cancers. Men who took vitamins were 12% less likely to develop the other cancers than those who took the placebo pills. Study results were presented this week at a cancer conference. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Cholesterol Drops among U.S. Adults
A new study shows a drop in cholesterol levels among U.S. adults. Researchers said the decline probably is linked to more use of statin drugs to lower LDL cholesterol. People also are eating somewhat less saturated and trans fat. This also could lower LDL. High LDL ("bad cholesterol") and low HDL ("good cholesterol") are linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Experts say most people should try to keep total cholesterol below 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mgdL). Ideally, LDL should be less than 100 mgdL. HDL should be at least 60. The new study was based on government health surveys. They included a total of about 38,000 people. The surveys were taken between 1988 and 2010. In those years, average total cholesterol fell from 206 to 196. Average LDL dropped from 129 to 116. HDL edged up from 51 to 53. In 1988, 3.4% of the survey group used drugs to lower cholesterol. By 2010, this had more than quadrupled, to 15.5%. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study this week. USA Today wrote about it.
Pharmacy Probe Expands; Deaths Rise to 20
U.S. drug regulators this week expanded their investigation of a pharmacy linked to an outbreak of meningitis. The New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass., has been shut down since last month. At least 250 cases of meningitis caused by a fungus have been linked to steroid shots made at the pharmacy. Most of them were linked to a fungus called Exserohilum rostratum. The infections have caused at least 20 deaths. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed this week that the fungus was found in one lot of steroid vials made by the company. The FDA also said it is looking into the cause of infections among 3 people who received other kinds of drugs made by New England Compounding. The U.S. Department of Justice also joined the investigation this week. Members of Congress had requested the criminal probe. One possible issue is whether the pharmacy made drugs it was not entitled to make under its license. The Associated Press wrote about the case.
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