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Bacteria May Help Battle Cancer, Study Suggests
January 31, 2015


SATURDAY, Jan. 31, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Bacteria may offer a new way to treat cancer, a small, preliminary study suggests.

Researchers injected a weakened strain of Clostridium novyi-NT bacteria spores into tumors in six patients. The bacteria grew in the tumors and killed cancer cells, the investigators reported.

C. novyi-NT, which lives in soil, is a close relative of the bacteria that causes botulism. Before injecting C. novyi-NT into the patients, the researchers weakened it by removing its dangerous toxin.

Five of the six patients are still alive, while one died from unrelated causes several months after receiving the bacteria injection, according to the study to be presented Saturday at the annual Symposium on Clinical Interventional Oncology in Hollywood, Fla.

Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"When tumors reach a certain size, parts of them do not receive oxygen, which makes them resistant to conventional therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy," study author Dr. Ravi Murthy, a professor of interventional radiology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in a symposium news release.

"C. novyi-NT thrives under these conditions, hones in on the low-oxygen areas and destroys tumors from the inside while sparing normal tissue," Murthy explained.

C. novyi-NT also triggers an immune response to cancer.

"Essentially, C. novyi-NT causes a potent cancer-killing infection in the tumor," study principal investigator Dr. Filip Janku, an associate professor in the department of investigation therapeutics at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said in the news release.

The new findings are very preliminary and much additional research into the potential therapy is needed.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer treatments.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Symposium on Clinical Interventional Oncology, news release, Jan. 31, 2015...

Winter Is the Season of Nosebleeds
January 31, 2015


SATURDAY, Jan. 31, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Nosebleeds are a common during the winter and shouldn't be cause for concern, an expert says.

"Cold winter air can be drying and irritating to the nose, and so can forms of indoor heat, such as forced air and fireplaces. Blood flow from the nose can range from a few drops to a real gusher," explained Dr. James Stankiewicz, chair of the otolaryngology department at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill.

"Older individuals are more susceptible to nosebleeds in winter because their mucous membranes are not as lush and the dry air causes the thinning blood vessels in the nose to break," he said in a university news release.

And older women and people taking blood-thinning drugs have an even greater risk. "Women who are postmenopausal are especially vulnerable to nosebleeds because of the decrease in estrogen that increases bodily fluids. Anyone who is taking blood thinners such as an aspirin regimen or Coumadin also is prone to nosebleeds," Stankiewicz added.

He offered the following advice.

If you get a nosebleed, don't panic. "Tilt your head back and apply firm pressure to the nostrils for about five minutes," Stankiewicz said.

Apply ice. The cold causes blood vessels to constrict, which limits and slows blood flow. Put petroleum jelly on cotton pads and insert them into your nostrils.

"Go to the doctor if the bleeding is profuse and will not stop. The bleeding vessel will likely be cauterized, meaning heat will be applied to the wound to stanch the flow," Stankiewicz said.

There are some things you can do to prevent winter nosebleeds, too.

"Get a humidifier and run it, especially in the bedrooms, with the door closed, a few hours before bed. You will be spending eight hours or so asleep and your nose, like you, needs a soothing rest," Stankiewicz said.

"A dab of petroleum jelly on either side of the septum, two times per day, will aid moisture. Saline sprays and specialized gels and ointments also are readily available at stores," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about nosebleeds.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, Jan. 21, 2015...

Lead Exposure May Be Bigger Threat to Boys Than Girls
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Hormones may explain why lead exposure is less likely to cause brain damage in girls than in boys, researchers report.

Specifically, the female hormones estrogen and estradiol may help protect against lead's harmful effects on the frontal areas of the brain, according to the findings published recently in the Journal of Environmental Health.

"The study supports existing research suggesting that estrogen and estradiol in females may act as neuroprotectants against the negative impacts of neurotoxins," study author Maya Khanna, a psychology professor at Creighton University, said in a university news release.

The study included 40 children. They were between the ages of 3 and 6, and all lived in an area of Omaha considered the largest residential lead clean-up site in the United States. The area has high levels of lead contamination in the soil due to emissions from a lead refinery that operated there for 125 years.

Also, many homes in the area are old and still have lead-based paint.

The researchers found that 23 of the children had elevated blood lead levels. Boys with elevated lead levels scored low on tests of memory, attention and other thinking abilities. Girls with elevated lead levels did not do as poorly on the tests, according to the study.

The researchers also found that elevated lead levels had a much stronger negative impact on thinking abilities than on reading readiness.

This is the first study to show that very young children already experience harm from lead exposure, and that lead has a greater impact on thinking abilities in boys than in girls, according to Khanna.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about lead.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Creighton University, news release, Jan. 23, 2015...

Obama to Announce Major Personalized Medicine Initiative
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- In what could be a significant advance for personalized medicine, President Barack Obama will ask Congress to fund a research program aimed at developing treatments that would be tailored to a patient's individual genes, the White House said Friday.

The plan would give scientists access to genetic and medical information for about 1 million American volunteers, according to news reports.

The goal is to help physicians determine the best treatments for specific patients, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The New York Times. The NIH will head the ambitious venture.

White House officials told reporters that $215 million is needed to launch the "precision medicine initiative" next fall.

"We do not envision this as being a biobank, which would suggest a single repository for all the data or all the samples," Jo Handelsman, associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told the Times. "There are existing cohorts around the country that have already been started and have rich sources of data. The challenge in this initiative is to link them together and fill in the gaps."

The scientists would have access to medical records, genetic profiles, laboratory test results, lifestyle habits and more for the participants.

Already, certain medical fields and centers are moving away from a one-treatment-fits-all approach.

"Patients with breast, lung and colorectal cancers routinely undergo molecular testing as part of their care," Handelsman told reporters. Results of these tests help doctors select the drug treatments most likely to boost patients' odds for survival. Some drugs target specific genes implicated in a condition.

The Center for Individualized Medicine at the Mayo Clinic offers genomic testing to patients to personalize care. Currently, it accepts patients with advanced cancers or rare diseases thought to have genetic origins, according to its website.

The aim of the U.S. program is to "harness the power of science to find individualized health solutions," Collins told the Associated Press.

Collins said the growing affordability of genomic sequencing combined with advances in computer-powered medicine have made it possible to tackle this approach on a large scale.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about matching treatments to your genes.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: The New York Times, Associated Press...

Some With Kidney Stones Might Have Calcium Buildup in Blood Vessels: Study
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Some people who develop recurring kidney stones may also have high levels of calcium deposits in their blood vessels, and that could explain their increased risk for heart disease, new research suggests.

"It's becoming clear that having kidney stones is a bit like having raised blood pressure, raised blood lipids [such as cholesterol] or diabetes in that it is another indicator of, or risk factor for, cardiovascular disease and its consequences," said study co-author Dr. Robert Unwin, of University College London. Unwin is currently chief scientist with the AstraZeneca cardiovascular & metabolic diseases innovative medicines and early development science unit, in Molndal, Sweden.

The main message, Unwin said, "is to begin to take having kidney stones seriously in relation to cardiovascular disease risk, and to practice preventive monitoring and treatments, including diet and lifestyle."

Some 10 percent of men and 7 percent of women develop kidney stones at some point in their lives, and research has shown that many of these people are at heightened risk for high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and heart disease, the researchers said.

But study author Dr. Linda Shavit, a senior nephrologist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and her colleagues wanted to find out whether the heart issues that can occur in some of those with kidney stones might be caused by high levels of calcium deposits in their blood vessels.

Using CT scans, they looked at calcium deposits in the abdominal aorta, one of the largest blood vessels in the body. Of the 111 people in the study, 57 suffered recurring kidney stones that were comprised of calcium (kidney stones can be made up of other minerals, depending on the patient's circumstances, the researchers noted), and 54 did not have kidney stones.

Not only did the investigators find that those with recurring kidney stones made of calcium have higher calcium deposits in their abdominal aortas, but they also had less dense bones than those who did not have kidney stones.

Earlier research has shown that calcium buildup in blood vessels frequently goes hand in hand with bone loss, which suggests a link between osteoporosis and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

Dr. Steven Fishbane, vice president of dialysis services at North Shore-LIJ Health System, in Great Neck, N.Y., was cautious in interpreting the results. "Patients should not be panicked by the findings, but they are worth discussing with your physician," he advised.

"Many people who develop a kidney stone will go on to form more stones," Fishbane said. "There is a risk of recurrence, although it can also be an isolated event."

Shavit noted that genetic factors are responsible for the development of kidney stones in about 50 percent of cases, but diet and lifestyle also play a part. Not drinking enough water or consuming too much calcium, potassium or salt in your diet are major risk factors for kidney stones, she said.

So, Shavit added, individuals with kidney stones should be monitored for heart disease in various ways, including having CT scans that measure both calcium deposits in blood vessels and bone density, and by counting the number of kidney stones that develop and where they are located.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed that CT scans can be useful for these patients. "If you are having recurring kidney stones, it may be worth talking to your doctor about this test since we know that kidney stones can be associated with heart disease down the line," she said.

The findings were published online Jan. 29 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

An accompanying editorial, written by Dr. Eric Taylor of Maine Medical Center in Portland and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, noted that it's too early to incorporate a history of kidney stones into screening guidelines for cardiovascular risk factors or osteoporosis.

More information

Find out more about kidney stones at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Robert Unwin, M.D., University College London, chief scientist, AstraZeneca cardiovascular & metabolic diseases innovative medicines and early development science unit, Molndal, Sweden; Linda Shavit, M.D., senior nephrologist, Shaare Zedek Me...

Early Exposure to English May Help Spanish-Speaking Kids in School
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Early exposure to English helps Spanish-speaking children in the United States do better in school, a new study shows.

"It is important to study ways to increase Spanish-speaking children's English vocabulary while in early childhood before literacy gaps between them and English-only speaking children widen and the Spanish-speaking children fall behind," study author Francisco Palermo, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri College of Human Environmental Sciences, said in a university news release.

"Identifying the best ways to support Spanish-speaking children's learning of English at home and at preschool can diminish language barriers in the classroom early and can help start these students on the pathway to academic success," he added.

The study included more than 100 preschoolers who primarily spoke Spanish. The children were learning English. The researchers found that the youngsters' English vocabulary skills were better if they were exposed to English both at home and in the classroom.

When parents used English at home, it helped the kids learn and express new English words. Using English with classmates also helped the children practice new English words, according to the researchers.

"It is important for parents with limited English proficiency to continue speaking their native languages with children and to look for situations where they, other relatives, neighbors and children's playmates can expose children to English so that they can have some familiarity with English before entering preschool," Palermo suggested.

The amount of English used by teachers didn't have a significant effect on the preschoolers' English vocabularies. The quality and variety of teachers' English may be more important than the amount of English they use, according to Palermo.

"Preschool is an ideal setting to study how [Spanish-speaking] children learn language because learning in preschool occurs mainly through social interactions, and languages are learned naturally by engaging in social interactions," Palermo explained.

"Teachers should support children's native languages and encourage activities in the classroom that allow children to interact using English," he added.

The study was published recently in the journal Applied Psycholinguistics.

By 2030, as many as four in 10 students in the United States will be learning English as a second language, according to the Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about building languages.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of Missouri, news release, Jan. 23, 2015...

Flame Retardants May Raise Risk of Preterm Births, Study Finds
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women exposed to high levels of flame-retardant chemicals may be at increased risk for having premature babies, a new study indicates.

Researchers analyzed blood samples from pregnant women when they were admitted to hospital for delivery. Those with higher levels of flame-retardant chemicals in their bodies were more likely to have preterm babies (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) than those with lower levels of the chemicals, the investigators found.

"Nearly all women have some amount of exposure to flame-retardant chemicals. Many people have no idea that these chemicals can be found on many common items, including household dust and clothes dryer lint," study author Dr. Ramkumar Menon, an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said in a university news release.

Flame retardants have been widely used for four decades in home construction, furniture, clothing and electronic appliances, and they have been found in amniotic fluid, umbilical cord tissue, fetal tissue and breast milk, the study authors said.

More than 15 million babies around the world are born prematurely every year. About 1 million of these babies die shortly after birth, making preterm birth the second-leading cause of death in children under 5, the researchers added.

"Since stopping the use or exposure of flame retardants during pregnancy is not likely, our laboratory is currently studying the mechanisms by which flame retardants cause preterm birth," Menon said.

While the study found an association between exposure to flame-retardant chemicals and premature birth, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

The study was published Jan. 28 in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about preterm labor and birth.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of Texas, news release, Jan. 28, 2015...

Breast Reconstruction Complications Similar for Older, Younger Women
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The overall risk of complications from breast reconstruction after breast removal is only slightly higher for older women than for younger women, a new study indicates.

Researchers looked at data from nearly 41,000 women in the United States who had one breast removed between 2005 and 2012. Of those patients, about 11,800 also underwent breast reconstruction.

Patients aged 65 and older were less likely to have breast reconstruction than younger women. About 11 percent of older women chose to have the surgery compared to nearly 40 percent of women under 65, the study found.

Women who had breast reconstruction had more complications -- such as longer hospital stays and repeat surgeries -- than those who did not have breast reconstruction. However, overall complication rates after breast reconstruction were similar. About 7 percent of older women had complications, while slightly more than 5 percent of younger women did.

One exception was the risk of blood clot-related complications after breast reconstruction that used a patient's own tissue instead of implants. The risk of a type of blood clot called a venous thromboembolism (VTE) was nearly four times higher among women 65 and older who had reconstruction using their own tissue. For women between 70 and 75, the risk of venous thromboembolism was more than six times higher, according to the study.

Venous thromboembolism includes deep vein thrombosis (a clot in the leg) and pulmonary embolism (a clot in the lungs). But the overall rate of venous thromboembolism was low -- just 1 percent after reconstruction using a woman's own tissue, the researchers found.

The study appears in the February issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

"Older patients should be counseled that their age does not confer an increased risk of complications after implant-based post-mastectomy breast reconstruction," Dr. Mark Sisco, of NorthShore University Health System and the University of Chicago, and colleagues wrote in a journal news release.

"However, they should be counseled that their age may confer an increased risk of VTE," they added.

Older women may need special attention to prevent venous thromboembolism after tissue-based breast reconstruction. One possibility is longer use of blood-thinning medications, the researchers said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about breast reconstruction.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, news release, Jan. 28, 2015...

Researchers Learning More About Deadly Pancreatic Cancer
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists are working to find new ways to treat pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest types of cancer in the United States.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the country. Each year, more than 46,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease and more than 39,000 die from it, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Current treatments include drugs, chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy, but the five-year survival rate is only about 5 percent. That's in part because it often isn't diagnosed until after it has spread.

"Today we know more about this form of cancer. We know it usually starts in the pancreatic ducts and that the KRAS gene is mutated in tumor samples from most patients with pancreatic cancer," Dr. Abhilasha Nair, an oncologist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said in an agency news release.

Scientists are trying to develop drugs that target the KRAS mutation, the FDA noted.

"Getting the right drug to target the right mutation would be a big break for treating patients with pancreatic cancer," Nair said. "KRAS is a very evasive target. We need to learn more about it so we can better understand how to overcome it."

Other areas of research include learning more about how certain factors increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

These risk factors include smoking, long-term diabetes, other gene mutations, Lynch syndrome (a genetic disorder that increases the risk for certain cancers), and pancreatitis, which is chronic inflammation of the pancreas that causes abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

Immune therapies, which have proven successful in treating melanoma and some other cancers, are another area of research in fighting pancreatic cancer.

"Not too long ago, the prognosis for melanoma patients was very poor. But with the advent of these new therapies that boost the patient's own immune system, the landscape has greatly improved," Nair said.

"We hope that new research in pancreatic cancer will ultimately give us a similar, if not better, outcome in the fight against this aggressive cancer," Nair added.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about pancreatic cancer.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, Jan. 27, 2015...

Girls Outperform Boys Academically Around the Globe, Study Says
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Girls tend to get better grades in reading, math and science than boys, according to a new study that challenges the widely held belief that boys do better in these subjects than girls.

"Even in countries where women's liberties are severely restricted, we found that girls are outperforming boys in reading, mathematics and science literacy by age 15, regardless of political, economic, social or gender equality issues and policies found in those countries," study author David Geary, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, said in a university news release.

The researchers analyzed the grades of 1.5 million 15-year-old students around the world between 2000 and 2010.

They found that girls outperformed boys in reading, math and science in 70 percent of the countries included in the study. These findings held true even in countries where females face severe social restrictions.

Boys did better than girls in only three countries or regions: Colombia, Costa Rica and the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. Girls and boys were about equal in the United States and Englad, the researchers found.

In countries with low levels of gender equality -- such as Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- girls were far ahead of boys in educational achievement, according to the study.

Findings were published recently in the journal Intelligence.

"The data will influence how policymakers think about the options available," Geary said.

"For example, to increase levels of equal opportunities in education. We believe that policymakers and educators should not expect that broad progress in social equality will necessarily result in educational equality. In fact, we found that with the exception of high achievers, boys have poorer educational outcomes than girls around the world, independent of social equality indicators," he said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips to help children succeed in school.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of Missouri, news release, Jan. 26, 2015...

Colon Cancer Rates Rising Among Americans Under 50
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Although the overall rate of colon cancer has fallen in recent decades, new research suggests that over the last 20 years the disease has been increasing among young and early middle-aged American adults.

At issue are colon cancer rates among men and women between the ages of 20 and 49, a group that generally isn't covered by public health guidelines.

"This is real," said study co-author Jason Zell, an assistant professor in the departments of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Irvine.

"Multiple research organizations have shown that colon cancer is rising in those under 50, and our study found the same, particularly among very young adults," he said. "Which means that the epidemiology of this disease is changing, even if the absolute risk among young adults is still very low."

Results of the study were published recently in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology.

The study authors noted that more than 90 percent of those with colon cancer are 50 and older. Most Americans (those with no family history or heightened risk profile) are advised to start screening at age 50.

Despite remaining the third most common cancer in the United States (and the number two cause of cancer deaths), a steady rise in screening rates has appeared to be the main driving force behind a decades-long plummet in overall colon cancer rates, according to background information in the study.

An analysis of U.S. National Cancer Institute data, published last November in JAMA Surgery, indicated that, as a whole, colon cancer rates had fallen by roughly 1 percent every year between 1975 and 2010.

But, that study also revealed that during the same time period, the rate among people aged 20 to 34 had actually gone up by 2 percent annually, while those between 35 and 49 had seen a half-percent yearly uptick.

To examine that trend, the current study focused on data collected by the California Cancer Registry. This registry included information on nearly 232,000 colon cancer cases diagnosed between 1988 and 2009. Half the cases were in men, and over 70 percent occurred in whites.

Less than half a percent of those with colon cancer were between the ages of 20 and 29. And, about 2 percent were between the ages of 30 and 39. Around 7 percent were between the ages of 40 and 49 when diagnosed with colon cancer, according to the study.

The researchers found that between 1988 and 2009, the biannual colon cancer rates had been rising by 2.7 percent among males 20 to 29 and 40 to 49. Among males 30 to 39, the biannual increase was pegged even higher, amounting to 3.5 percent.

In young women, the increases were even higher. Women aged 20 to 29 saw a 3.8 percent biannual increase, according to the study. Those in their 30s saw a 4.5 percent increase, and women in their 40s had a 2.6 percent biannual increase, the study reported.

By contrast, both males and females in their 50s, 60s and 70s, saw a decrease in their colon cancer rates during the study period.

"We're not saying the proportion is shifting," Zell stressed. "Most colon cancer is still happening to older people. But I do think we need to do a much better job at early-age detection. Because another thing we observed is that those young adults who get colon cancer have a higher stage of cancer at diagnosis. And that has terrible implications when we look at survival."

But what exactly is driving the trend?

"That's the 20-million-dollar question right there," said Zell, who acknowledged that there is no simple explanation at hand. "But what I can say is that we need more awareness of the trend among both patients and doctors. Because at this point, key symptoms among young adults, like blood in the stool, weight loss or other complaints, are often ignored."

Dr. Andrew Chan, an associate professor in the department of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an associate professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said the findings "should give us pause."

"Because the actual risk among young people is still quite low, I don't think by any means that these findings suggest that we need to change what we do in clinical practice," he said. "But because we don't really know why this is happening, we have to stop and consider a range of different possibilities. And really think critically about what is it about our lifestyle or environment that may be responsible of this increase in incidence."

More information

There's more on colon cancer at the American Cancer Society.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Jason Zell, D.O., M.P.H., assistant professor, department of medicine and department of epidemiology and Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, Irvine; Andrew Chan, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor, department of medi...

Teens, Young Adults Most Likely to Go to ER After Car Accidents: Report
January 30, 2015


FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that won't surprise many parents, a new government analysis shows that teens and young adults are the most likely to show up in a hospital ER with injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident.

Race was another factor that raised the chances of crash-related ER visits, with rates being higher for blacks than they were for whites or Hispanics, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated.

According to information in the study, there were almost 4 million ER visits for motor vehicle accident injuries in 2010-2011, a figure that amounted to 10 percent of all ER visits that year.

Crash victims were twice as likely to arrive in an ambulance as patients with injuries not related to motor vehicle crashes (43 percent versus 17 percent), the study found. However, the chances that crash victims were determined to have really serious injuries were only slightly higher than those who arrived at the ER for other injuries (11 percent versus 9 percent).

"While almost half of the patients arrived by ambulance, they were generally no sicker than patients with non-motor vehicle-related injuries and were no more likely to require admission to the hospital," said Dr. Eric Cruzen, medical director of emergency medicine at The Lenox Hill HealthPlex, a freestanding emergency room in New York City.

Cruzen -- who was not involved in the study -- noted that "most patients evaluated after motor vehicle accidents received an X-ray and/or CT scan, and were most often diagnosed with sprains, strains and contusions."

According to the study authors, Dr. Michael Albert and Linda McCaig of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), "In spite of improvements in motor vehicle safety in recent years, motor vehicle crashes remain a major source of [injury and death] in the United States."

And, they wrote, "Motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries also result in substantial economic and societal costs related to medical care and lost productivity."

Age was perhaps the most compelling determinant of who arrived in the ER with a motor vehicle crash injury, with the rate peaking at 286 per 10,000 persons for those aged 16 to 24. That compared to a rate of 65 per 10,000 persons for those aged 65 and over, and 70 per 10,000 persons for those under the age of 15.

In addition, race also played a part in the likelihood of such ER visits, the findings showed.

The overall ER visit rate for motor vehicle injuries was higher among black people (260 per 10,000 persons) than among whites (119 per 10,000 persons) or Hispanics (104 per 10,000 persons), the study found.

The findings were reported Jan. 30 in the NCHS Data Brief.

More information

Find out more about teen driving safety at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Eric Cruzen, M.D., chairman & medical director, department of emergency medicine, Lenox Hill HealthPlex, New York City; NCHS Data Brief, January 2015...

Health Tip: Drink Responsibly
January 30, 2015


(HealthDay News) -- Responsible drinking is a surefire way to prevent alcohol abuse and alcohol poisoning, a dangerous complication of drinking too much.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests:

  • Don't over-drink or binge drink.
  • Don't mix alcohol with energy drinks. The caffeine in energy drinks may mask the effects of alcohol and lead to drinking too much.
  • Avoid drinks with an unknown amount of alcohol.
  • If you see anyone with signs of alcohol abuse, seek immediate help.
  • Seek help if you think you have a drinking problem.

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Health Tip: Prepare Your Child for College
January 30, 2015


(HealthDay News) -- Before sending your child to college, sure your teen is ready to take charge of his or her own health.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:

  • Visit the doctor to ensure your child is up to date on all vaccinations.
  • Find out how to coordinate health care between the doctor at home and the health center at school.
  • Make sure your child knows about how any health conditions are treated.
  • Prep your child about all medications, what they are for and any possible side effects.
  • Talk to your child about where to go at school if he or she feels sick.
  • Make sure your child understands how health insurance works.

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


More Measles Cases Seen in January Than in Typical Year: CDC
January 30, 2015


THURSDAY, Jan. 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The United States has seen more cases of measles in January than it usually does in an entire year, federal health officials said Thursday.

A total of 84 cases in 14 states were reported between Jan. 1 and Jan. 28, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during an afternoon news conference.

That's more in one month than the average 60 measles cases each year that the United States saw between 2001 and 2010, said Schuchat, who is also Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service.

"It's only January, and we've already had a very large number of measles cases -- as many cases as we have all year in typical years," she said. "This worries me, and I want to do everything possible to prevent measles from getting a foothold in the United States and becoming endemic again."

January's numbers have been driven largely by the multi-state measles outbreak that originated in two Disney theme parks in California in December, Schuchat said.

There have been 67 cases of Disney-related measles reported since late December, occurring in California and six other states, she said. Of those, 56 are included in the January count. About 15 percent of those infected have been hospitalized, she added.

Schuchat pointed the finger directly at a lack of vaccination for the Disney cases.

"The majority of the adults and children that are reported to us for which we have information did not get vaccinated, or don't know whether they have been vaccinated," she said. "This is not a problem of the measles vaccine not working. This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used."

Public health officials are particularly concerned because the Disney outbreak comes on the heels of the worst year for measles in the United States in two decades, Schuchat said.

In 2014, there were more than 600 cases of measles, the most reported in 20 years. Many were people who contracted measles from travelers to the Philippines, where a massive outbreak of 50,000 cases had occurred, Schuchat explained.

The United States declared measles eliminated in 2000, meaning that the virus is no longer native to this country.

But measles still rages abroad, and can re-enter the United States to infect vulnerable people through travelers, Schuchat noted.

"Although we aren't sure how exactly this year's outbreak began, we assume that someone got infected with measles overseas, visited the Disneyland parks and spread the disease to others," she said.

The CDC estimates there are about 20 million cases of measles worldwide each year, and in 2013 almost 146,000 people died from the highly infectious disease, Schuchat said. For every 1,000 children who get measles, two to three die, she added.

Parents whose children are not vaccinated against measles should get them immunized, she said, and adults who aren't sure about their vaccination history should get a booster dose as well.

"For adults out there, if you're not sure if you've had measles vaccine or not, we'd urge you to contact your doctor or nurse and get vaccinated," Schuchat said. "There's no harm in getting another MMR vaccine if you've already been vaccinated."

A trickle of measles cases have always flowed into the United States as a result of travel between countries. In January, doctors have seen cases here linked to travel to Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India and Dubai, Schuchat said.

Measles is incredibly infectious, even more so than Ebola, officials explained.

"It's so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who aren't immune will also become infected," Schuchat said. "You can become infected by being in the same room as a person who has measles, even if that person already left the room, because the virus can hang around for a couple of hours."

Unfortunately, many parents are not getting their children vaccinated against measles.

"These outbreaks the past couple of years have been much harder to control when the virus reaches communities where numbers of people have not been vaccinated," Schuchat said.

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on measles.

SOURCE: News conference with: Anne Schuchat, M.D., director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Assistant Surgeon General, U.S. Public Health Service...

Tamiflu Cuts 1 Day Off Average Flu Bout, Study Finds
January 30, 2015


THURSDAY, Jan. 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A review of the data suggests that the antiviral drug Tamiflu shortens the length of flu symptoms by about a day, and reduces the risk of flu-related complications such as pneumonia.

The findings come from an analysis of nine published and unpublished randomized clinical trials of Tamiflu (oseltamivir) in adults. The data was provided to the researchers by Tamiflu's maker, Roche.

The studies compared the effectiveness of the licensed 75-milligram dose of Tamiflu against a placebo in more than 4,300 adults who had the flu between 1997 and 2001.

In patients with laboratory-confirmed flu, Tamiflu shorted the length of flu symptoms by 21 percent compared with the placebo, shortening the average flu bout from about five days to four.

Compared to flu sufferers who took the placebo, patients who took Tamiflu also had a 44 percent lower risk of lower respiratory infections requiring antibiotics and a 63 percent lower risk of hospitalization for any cause.

One expert said the study was important.

"This type of confirmatory data is great to see," said Victoria Richards, associate professor of medical sciences at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

"It has often been stated that Tamiflu reduces the length of the flu, but to have more data, especially independent data, to back up the statement is critical for appropriate prescribing and usage," she said. "Moreover, reducing the risk of bacterial infections is encouraging."

Still, every medicine has its risks and that was true for Tamiflu, as well. The study found that patients who took Tamiflu were 3.7 percent more likely to experience nausea and 4.7 percent more likely to have vomiting than those who took a placebo.

The study, published online Jan. 29 in The Lancet, was funded by the Multiparty Group for Advice on Science foundation, an independent panel of experts.

Tamiflu's safety and effectiveness "has been hotly debated, with some researchers claiming there is little evidence that [Tamiflu] works," study co-leader Arnold Monto, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, noted in a journal news release.

But the new data review gives "compelling evidence" the drug does reduce flu duration while preventing complications, he said. However, "whether the magnitude of these benefits outweigh the harms of nausea and vomiting needs careful consideration," Monto added.

Dr. Ambreen Khalil is an infectious disease specialist at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. She said that any drug that can ease a bout of flu is welcome because "symptoms associated with influenza can be severe, and influenza infection predisposes some people to develop secondary infections such as pneumonia."

Khalil said that testing patients to quickly confirm influenza is also key and can "help limit the use of Tamiflu to those who have confirmed diagnosis."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about flu antiviral drugs.

SOURCES: Victoria Richards, Ph.D., associate professor of medical sciences, Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn; Ambreen Khalil, M.D., infectious disease specialist, Staten Island University Hospital, Staten Island, ...

More Evidence That Boxing Can Lead to Brain Damage
January 30, 2015


THURSDAY, Jan. 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Another study supports the notion that repeated blows to the head in boxing or the martial arts can damage the brain.

The study, led by Dr. Charles Bernick of the Cleveland Clinic, included professional fighters -- 93 boxers and 131 mixed martial arts experts. They ranged in age from 18 to 44, and were compared against 22 people of similar age with no history of head injuries.

The amount of time the boxers and martial arts combatants had spent as professional fighters ranged from zero to 24 years, with an average of four years, Bernick's team said. The number of professional matches they'd had ranged from zero to 101, with an average of 10 a year.

MRI brain scans and tests of memory, reaction time and other intellectual abilities showed that the fighters who had suffered repeated blows to the head had smaller brain volume and slower processing speeds, compared to non-fighters.

While the study couldn't prove cause-and-effect, the effects were evident at a relatively young age and tied to a higher risk of thinking and memory problems, the Cleveland researchers said.

The more fights, the worse the outcomes for the brain, the study found. Gauging the number of fights a boxer or martial arts expert had engaged in, Bernick's team came up with a "Fight Exposure Score." They found that the higher the score, the lower the volume of certain brain structures, and the poorer the person's performance in "brain processing speed."

The boxers tended to fare worst: They had smaller brain volume and tested as mentally slower compared martial arts fighters, according to the study published online Jan. 29 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

"Perhaps the most obvious explanation is that boxers get hit in the head more," the researchers wrote. "In addition to trying to concuss (i.e. knock out) their opponent, martial arts fighters can utilize other combat skills such as wrestling and jiu jitsu to win their match by submission without causing a concussion," they added.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about concussion.

SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, news release, Jan. 29, 2015...

Too Much Alcohol at Midlife Raises Stroke Risk, Study Finds
January 29, 2015


THURSDAY, Jan. 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Too much alcohol in middle age can increase your stroke risk as much as high blood pressure or diabetes, a new study suggests.

People who average more than two drinks a day have a 34 percent higher risk of stroke compared to those whose daily average amounts to less than half a drink, according to findings published Jan. 29 in the journal Stroke.

Researchers also found that people who drink heavily in their 50s and 60s tend to suffer strokes earlier in life than light drinkers or non-imbibers.

"Our study showed that drinking more than two drinks per day can shorten time to stroke by about five years," said lead author Pavla Kadlecova, a statistician at St. Anne's University Hospital International Clinical Research Center in the Czech Republic.

The enhanced stroke risk created by heavy drinking rivals the risk posed by high blood pressure or diabetes, the researchers concluded. By age 75, however, blood pressure and diabetes became better predictors of stroke.

The study involved 11,644 middle-aged Swedish twins who were followed in an attempt to examine the effect of genetics and lifestyle factors on risk of stroke.

Researchers analyzed results from a Swedish registry of same-sex twins who answered questionnaires between 1967 and 1970. By 2010, the registry yielded 43 years of follow-up, including hospital records and cause-of-death data.

Almost 30 percent of participants had a stroke. They were categorized as light, moderate, heavy or nondrinkers based on the questionnaires, and researchers compared the risk from alcohol and health risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

The researchers found that for heavy drinkers, alcohol produced a high risk of stroke in late middle age, starting at age 50. By comparison, light drinkers' or nondrinkers' stroke risk increased gradually with age.

Among identical twins, siblings who had a stroke drank more than their siblings who hadn't had a stroke, suggesting that midlife drinking raises stroke risks regardless of genetics and early lifestyle, the researchers said.

Midlife heavy drinkers -- those in their 50s and 60s -- were likely to have a stroke five years earlier in life, irrespective of genetic and lifestyle factors, the study found.

The findings are consistent with national guidelines that recommend a maximum of two drinks a day for men and one for women, said Dr. Irene Katzan, a staff neurologist and director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at the Cleveland Clinic. That translates to a daily maximum of about 8 ounces of wine for a man and 4 ounces for a woman.

"It's a nice study that corroborates what we've known about alcohol and stroke, and it corroborates the recommendations that are in the national guidelines," Katzan said.

It's not clear exactly how alcohol affects stroke risk, but some theories center on the fact that alcohol thins your blood. This could increase your risk of hemorrhagic stroke, in which a blood vessel breaks inside the brain, Katzan said.

"The more you drink, the more risk you have of bleeding in the brain," she said.

At the same time, it's also well-known that alcohol contributes to high blood pressure and can increase the chances of atrial fibrillation, two other health-related risk factors for stroke, she added.

"Who knows what combination of factors are at play in any particular person?" Katzan concluded.

People who imbibe should consider cutting back their intake if they are having two or more drinks a day on average, Katzan and Kadlecova said.

"It is okay to drink in moderation," Katzan said. "The ideal is consuming less than two drinks per day for men, and for non-pregnant women the maximum should be no more than one drink per day."

More information

For more on stroke risk factors, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Pavla Kadlecova, M.Sc., statistician, St. Anne's University Hospital International Clinical Research Center, Czech Republic; Irene Katzan, M.D., staff neurologist and director, Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Neurological Insti...

Early Birds May Catch the Worm, but Night Owls May Snatch the Win
January 29, 2015


THURSDAY, Jan. 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Who's going to win Sunday's Super Bowl? It may depend, in part, on which team has the most "night owls," a new study suggests.

The study found that athletes' performance throughout a given day can range widely depending on whether they're naturally early or late risers.

The night owls -- who typically woke up around 10 a.m. -- reached their athletic peak at night, while earlier risers were at their best in the early- to mid-afternoon, the researchers said.

The findings, published Jan. 29 in the journal Current Biology, might sound logical. But past studies, in various sports, have suggested that athletes usually perform best in the evening. What those studies didn't account for, according to the researchers behind the new study, was athletes' "circadian phenotype" -- a fancy term for distinguishing morning larks from night owls.

These new findings could have "many practical implications," said study co-author Roland Brandstaetter, a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham, in England.

For one, athletes might be able to maximize their competitiveness by changing their sleep habits to fit their training or play schedules, he suggested.

"What athlete would say no, if they were given a way to increase their performance without the need for any pharmaceuticals?" Brandstaetter said. "All athletes have to follow specific regimes for their fitness, health, diet and psychology."

Paying attention to the "body clock," he added, just adds another layer to those regimens.

The study began with 121 young adults involved in competitive-level sports who all kept detailed diaries on their sleep/wake schedules, meals, training times and other daily habits.

From that group, the researchers picked 20 athletes -- average age 20 -- with comparable fitness levels, all in the same sport: field hockey. One-quarter of the study participants were naturally early birds, getting to bed by 11 p.m. and rising at 7 a.m.; one-quarter were more owlish, getting to bed later and rising around 10 a.m.; and half were somewhere in between -- typically waking around 8 a.m.

The athletes then took a series of fitness tests, at six different points over the course of the day. Overall, the researchers found, early risers typically hit their peak around noon. The 8 a.m. crowd, meanwhile, peaked a bit later, in mid-afternoon.

The late risers took the longest to reach their top performance -- not getting there till about 8 p.m. They also had the biggest variation in how well they performed across the day.

"Their whole physiology seems to be 'phase shifted' to a later time, as compared to the other two groups," Brandstaetter said.

That includes a difference in the late risers' cortisol fluctuations, he said. Cortisol is a hormone that, among other things, plays a role in muscle function.

But while the study showed clear differences in the three groups' peak-performance times, it didn't prove that trying to change an athlete's natural sleep/wake tendencies will boost performance.

"You can't infer that from this study," said Dr. Safwan Badr, immediate past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

To prove that would work, he said, researchers would have to do an "intervention" study where they recruited night owls or early birds and changed their sleep/wake cycles.

Plus, altering one's body clock would be easier said than done, according to Badr. It could also get complicated, he noted, for athletes who have to travel to different time zones to compete.

"If you're an East Coast team playing on the West Coast at night, you're really at a disadvantage," Badr said.

In fact, a 2013 study of National Football League teams found that since 1970, West Coast teams have had a major advantage over East Coast teams during night games.

Sunday's Super Bowl will be played at 6:30 p.m. EST in Glendale, Arizona -- which would seem to put the New England Patriots at a disadvantage against the Seattle Seahawks. Still, based on the new findings, the outcome might partly depend on the proportion of night owls on each team.

Brandstaetter acknowledged that this study does not prove that changing athletes' body clocks improves their performance. But it's a question his team is actively investigating.

For an elite athlete, any change that could enhance performance even a little could make a big difference, since seconds can separate medal winners from losers, Brandstaetter noted.

"The most important thing to consider here," he said, "is that just getting up at a certain time on the day of the competition will not help if this time is different from internal biological time."

Most people, of course, aren't elite athletes. But Badr said it could be worthwhile for everyday exercisers to consider the time of day when they feel they're at their best.

"That might help you enjoy physical activity more," he said.

But when it comes to sleep, Badr said the most important thing -- for all of us -- is to get enough of it.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more on biological clocks and health.

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Roland Brandstaetter, Ph.D., senior lecturer, school of biosciences, University of Birmingham, England; Safwan Badr, M.D., immediate past president, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, chief, pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, Wayne Sta...

Flu's Grip on U.S. Starting to Weaken: CDC
January 29, 2015


THURSDAY, Jan. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- After a rough start to the flu season, the number of infections seems to have peaked and is even starting to decline in many parts of the nation, federal health officials reported Thursday.

"We likely reached our highest level of activity and in many parts of the country we are starting to see flu activity decline," said Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Influenza Division.

Jhung added, however, that flu remains widespread in much of the country.

As has been the case since the flu season began, the predominant type of flu continues to be an H3N2 strain, which is not a good match to this year's vaccine. The majority of H3N2-related infections diagnosed so far -- 65 percent -- are "different from the strain in the vaccine," he said.

The reason: the circulating H3N2 strain mutated after scientists settled last year on the makeup of this season's flu shot.

This year's flu season continues to hit children and the elderly hardest. And some children continue to die from flu. "That's not surprising," Jhung said, adding that 56 children have died from complications of flu.

In an average year, children's deaths vary from as few as 30 to as many as 170 or more, CDC officials said.

Jhung thinks that over the next few weeks, as in other flu seasons, different flu strains -- such as H1N1 -- will likely become more common. "I expect to see some other strains circulating, but I don't know how much," he said.

That could be good news on the vaccine front. Right now, the flu vaccine is only about 23 percent effective, due to the mutated H3N2 strain. But, as other strains become more widespread, the vaccine's effectiveness should increase, Jhung said.

Most years, flu vaccine effectiveness ranges from 10 percent to 60 percent, according to the CDC.

Twenty-three percent effectiveness means there's some benefit -- a little less flu among vaccinated people. Typically, flu is more common among the unvaccinated, but this year there's been a lot of flu both in people who are vaccinated and in those who aren't, CDC officials said.

Vaccine effectiveness is also related to the health of those getting the shot. Flu vaccine usually works best in young, healthy people, and is less effective in those 65 and older, the CDC said.

So far, this year's shot has been most effective -- 26 percent -- for children 6 months old through 17 years. Older people have been getting less benefit -- 12 percent effectiveness for those 18 to 49 years and 14 percent effectiveness for those 50 and older, according to the CDC.

Jhung said that all the data right now suggest that this flu season will be like the last H3N2 season -- in 2012-13. "At the end of that season, we called it a 'moderately severe' season," he said.

And even though it's well into the flu season, Jhung said it's not too late to get a flu shot. "It's the first line of protection," he said.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. Vaccination can prevent some infections and reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and death, the agency says.

Other ways to treat and prevent flu from spreading include early treatment with antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza, and washing hands frequently and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

As of the middle of January, all areas of the country reported flu activity at or above baseline levels. Twenty-three states and Puerto Rico experienced high activity. Ten states and New York City experienced moderate activity. Another 10 states reported low flu activity and seven states reported minimal activity, the CDC reported.

More information

For more on flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Michael Jhung, M.D., medical officer, Influenza Division, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CDC FluView website...

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