Health Highlights: Feb. 26, 2009

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

Economy Pushing Americans to Cut Needed Health Care

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday found that more than half of Americans cut back on some kind of health care to save money in the past year, the Associated Press reported.

One in four put off general health care needs, including 16 percent who postponed surgery or doctor visits for chronic illnesses. To care for themselves, respondents said they relied instead on home remedies or over-the-counter drugs rather than seeing a doctor or a dentist.

Other findings in the poll, conducted by telephone with 1,204 adults from Feb. 3-12:

  • Overall, 53 percent of Americans cut back on health needs in the past 12 months because of the declining economy.
  • 10 percent delayed seeing a doctor for a chronic illness like diabetes or asthma.
  • 6 percent postponed minor surgery in the doctor's office, while 5 percent delayed major surgery that would have required an overnight hospital stay.
  • 19 percent skipped a doctor's visit for temporary illness or preventive care.

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Smarter Living Could Cut World's Cancer Cases, Report Says

A simpler diet, more exercise and better weight control could prevent more than 40 percent of breast and bowel cancers in developed countries, a World Cancer Research Fund report released Wednesday says.

According to the report, almost a third of the 12 most common cancers in the United States, including throat and lung cancers, could be prevented by adopting lifestyle changes. It estimated that 45 percent of colon cancer cases and 38 percent of breast cancer cases were preventable by adopting the small changes. The figures do not, however, account for the impact of cigarette smoking, which is responsible for about a third of all cancers, BBC News reported.

A panel of 23 experts made 48 recommendations for governments, households and schools to curb an expected uptick in cancer cases worldwide in the coming years. "The good news is that this is not inevitable," project chairman Dr. Martin Wiseman, a physician in clinical practice focusing on diabetes and a visiting professor in human nutrition at Southampton University, told the BBC.

Among the panel's recommendations were for governments to plan more walking and cycling routes, and for schools, workplaces and institutions to cut unhealthy foods from vending machines. The food and drinks industry should make public health its top priority in all stages of production, and household shoppers should be more diligent in their purchases, carefully examining labels to ensure they are choosing the healthiest products.

The report was published by the World Cancer Research Fund in conjunction with the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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China to Create Central Food Safety Commission

A central food safety commission will be established in China as part of the nation's efforts to reduce the number of scandals involving dangerous food products, the state news agency Xinhua said Wednesday.

The news agency said the commission will be set out under a new food safety law to be introduced at the annual parliamentary session next month and the commission's mandate will be to strengthen China's food monitoring system, Agence France Presse reported.

Scandals have plagued China's huge and poorly regulated food industry, resulting in public health emergencies and recalls at home and abroad. One of the worst occurred last year when about 300,000 infants were sickened and at least six died after consuming baby formula tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.

Experts say one major reason for the problems is that too many different agencies have jurisdiction over China's food industry, AFP reported.

Posted: February 2009


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