Health Highlights: Aug. 5, 2007

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

New Gene That Targeting Aggressive Lung Cancer Tumors Identified

There are relatively few genes in the body that can spot growths leading to cancer. Scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School announced Sunday that they have discovered a powerful, tumor-suppressing gene, which they call LKB1.

The research, published Aug. 5 in the online edition of the journal Nature, found that LKB1 is a mutation in almost one quarter of all lung cancers. And experiments with laboratory mice indicate that this type of lung cancer causes tumors that are more aggressive and more likely to spread throughout the body.

"Defects in this gene appear to result in a much nastier form of lung cancer, a disease that is bad to begin with," said senior author Dr. Norman Sharpless, assistant professor of medicine and genetics at the UNC School of Medicine, in a university news release.

Identifying the gene can now give physicians a better chance of giving a better prognosis and targeting a more precise therapy for lung cancer patients.

"Based on this study and ones like it, we should be able to sort patients into groups based on exactly what genetic lesion is causing their cancer," said UNC assistant professor of medicine Dr. Neil Hayes, co-author of the study, in the news release. "Then we can make better treatment decisions depending on which therapy is most likely to target that defect."

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U.K. Bans Livestock Exports After Foot-and-Mouth Disease Found on Farm

As it did in 2001, Great Britain banned the export of all livestock Saturday after discovering an outbreak of highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease on a farm southwest of London.

But by Sunday, the Associated Press reports, U.K. health officials were hopeful that the strain of the disease they found may not have spread beyond the farm, because it was identical to one at a nearby research laboratory.

Because that strain hadn't been found in live animals recently, officials were investigating that it was confined to the farm. "This is a promising lead, but we do not know for sure," the wire service quotes Environment Secretary Hilary Benn as saying during a BBC interview.

The United States immediately ordered a halt to imports of British pork, the AP reports. British beef is already banned in the U.S. because of the possibility of mad cow disease.

Foot-and-mouth disease spreads quickly among cloven-hoofed animals and is usually fatal, but is not dangerous to humans. It is spread either by contact between animals or through the wind.

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Green Beans Recalled for Botulism Risk

Because of the possibility of botulism contamination, consumers should not eat certain brands of French cut green beans in 14.5-ounce cans made by Lakeside Foods Inc., of Manitowoc, Wis., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The agency said the canned beans may have not been processed adequately to eliminate the potential for botulism toxin, which can cause life-threatening illness. Symptoms of botulism -- such as double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness -- can begin from six hours to two weeks after eating food that contains botulism toxin.

There have been no reported cases of illness linked to the green beans, the FDA said. The beans were sold under a number of labels, including: Albertson's, Happy Harvest, Best Choice, Food Club, Bogopa, Valu Time, Hill Country Fare, HEB, Laura Lynn, Kroger, No Name, North Pride, Shop N Save, Shoppers Valu, Schnucks, Cub Foods, Dierbergs, Flavorite, IGA, Best Choice, and Thrifty Maid.

The products were distributed in portions of Canada and in the following 20 states: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Specific codes involved in the recall are: EAA5247, EAA5257, EAA5267, EAA5277, EAB5247, EAB5257, ECA5207, ECA5217, ECA5227, ECA5297, ECB5207, ECB5217, ECB5227, and ECB5307.

These products or any foods made with these products should be thrown out immediately, the FDA said. For more information, contact Lakeside Foods at 1-800-466-3834, ext. 4090.

This recall is not related to an earlier botulism-related recall of more than 90 products including canned chili, stew, hash, and pet food products made by Castleberry's Food Co.

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U.S. Develops Consumer Guide for Seafood Fans

Seafood lovers: Concerned about the quality of your favorite fish, or whether overfishing is taking a toll? Then head to the new U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web site, FishWatch, for the latest information.

The Web site (www.fishwatch.noaa.gov) has detailed information on more than 30 of the most popular seafood species, with more species to be added shortly.

"Consumers are increasingly concerned about the safety, quality, and sustainability of the seafood they eat," said Dr. Bill Hogarth, NOAA Fisheries Service director. "This guide brings accurate fish information available to your seafood market, and it allows consumers to make informed decisions about purchasing seafood."

FishWatch gives information about a wide range of seafood, including king crab, red snapper, striped bass, swordfish and tuna. The Web site includes details on population strength and status, as well as consumer information, such as fat content and vitamins. It also provides economic information, such as where seafood comes from and how much money it brings to the economy.

Hogarth plans to unveil FishWatch on Aug. 4 at the fourth annual Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans. NOAA said it co-sponsors the cook-off to celebrate the variety, quality and sustainability of domestically harvested seafood.

NOAA Fisheries Service is asking the public to visit the site and offer thoughts in the "comments" section within the next 60 days.

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Sony Warns of Cut Risk Posed by Digital Cameras

The Sony Corp. is offering to replace for free the bottom casing of 416,000 digital cameras because the plating on it can warp, creating a sharp edge that can lead to cuts or scratches.

The alert involves Cyber Shot DSC-T5 still cameras sold in Japan and overseas markets, including the United States, Europe and China, the Associated Press reported.

Sony learned of the problem about one month after the model first went on sale in September 2005. Some 30 customers in Japan and "several" others overseas have since reported the defect, with a number of them saying they had received small cuts and scratches, a company spokeswoman said.

Customers are advised to check the model and serial numbers of their cameras to see if they are among the affected products, the company said in a statement.

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Simple Cervical Cancer Test Could Save Millions of Lives

An inexpensive visual screening test that detects early signs of cervical cancer could save the lives of millions of women in the developing world, says a study published Friday in The Lancet medical journal.

For this test, a woman's cervix is held open with a speculum and washed with vinegar-soaked cotton gauze. After one minute, pre-cancerous lesions turn white and can be detected under a halogen lamp, the Associated Press reported.

Study authors used this method to screen nearly 50,000 women in India and found that it reduced the number of cervical cancer cases by 25 percent and the cervical cancer death rate by 35 percent.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women. Though largely preventable, it kills about 250,000 women worldwide each year. Nearly 80 percent of those deaths occur in developing nations, the AP reported.

One expert hailed this as a landmark study and others noted that it would be fairly easy to introduce the test to developing nations.

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Posted: August 2007


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