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Health Highlights: Nov. 28, 2007

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

Kids Exposed to WTC Disaster Developed More Asthma: Survey

Children under age 5 who were exposed to fallout from the World Trade Center disaster were more likely than the average child to be diagnosed with asthma in the two to three years after the event, according to survey findings released Wednesday by the New York City Health Department.

The survey found that half of the 3,100 children enrolled in the WTC Health Registry developed at least one new or worsened respiratory symptom in the few years after 9/11. The enrolled children were under age 18 on 9/11.

Overall, about 6 percent of the enrolled children were newly diagnosed with asthma. Children exposed to the dust cloud from the collapse of the twin towers were twice as likely to be diagnosed with asthma as those who weren't exposed to the dust cloud.

The asthma rate among enrolled children under age 5 may be as much as twice that of the regional (northeastern) rate for children in the same age group. Additional research is needed to clarify those findings.

The survey authors also looked at enrolled children's mental health and found no evidence of increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About 3 percent had symptoms suggestive of PTSD in the years after 9/11, about the same level of children in the general population.

The World Trade Center Health Registry initial survey was conducted in 2003 and 2004.

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Scientists Create Cancer-Resistant Mice

Mice resistant to cancer have been created by University of Kentucky researchers, who said the achievement may help lead to the development of cancer treatments that don't cause serious and debilitating side effects such as those experienced by patients treated with radiation and chemotherapy.

The mice were able to resist cancer after they were programmed to express the tumor-killing Par-4 gene, taken from the prostate. Par-4 kills cancer cells but not normal cells, CBC News reported.

"We originally discovered Par-4 in the prostate, but it's not limited to the prostate. The gene is expressed in every cell type that we've looked at and it induces the death of a broad range of cancer cells, including of course, cancer cells in the prostate," radiation-medicine expert Vivek Rangnekar said in a prepared statement.

Not only were mice that carried the Par-4 gene resistant to tumor formation, they also lived a few months longer than mice without the gene, the study found. There were no signs that carrying the Par-4 gene caused any ill effects, CBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Research.

Rangnekar and his colleagues suggested it may one day be possible to transplant the Par-4 gene into a person's bone marrow to fight cancer cells in the body.

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Pedophiles' Brains Lack Proper Wiring: Study

MRI scans revealed that pedophiles have a significantly less-than-normal amount of white matter that connects six different areas of the brain known to play a role in sexual arousal, says a Canadian study in the Journal of Psychiatry Research.

This lack of adequate wiring between these areas may result in pedophiles being unable to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate sexual objects, said lead researcher Dr. James Cantor of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, BBC News reported.

However, he emphasized that the study findings don't suggest that pedophiles shouldn't be held criminally responsible for crimes they commit against children.

"Not being able to choose your sexual interests doesn't mean you can't choose what you do," BBC News quoted Cantor as saying.

A previous study by Yale University researchers found that pedophiles had different thought patterns than average people.

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American TB Patient Didn't Infect Airline Passengers

No airline passengers caught tuberculosis from an infected American passenger who triggered an international health alarm earlier this year when he flew to Europe for his wedding.

U.S. and Canadian officials who investigated Andrew Speaker's flights to and from Europe tested hundreds of passengers and concluded that Speaker did not infect any of them with TB, the Associated Press reported.

Even though U.S. health officials told Speaker he had drug-resistant TB and advised him not to fly, the Atlanta attorney ignored the warning and flew to his May wedding in Europe.

When Speaker returned to the United States, he was quarantined in hospital and released in July after completing treatment, the AP reported.

Speaker told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he's relieved that he didn't infect any fellow passengers and he hopes the test results give "a sense of peace and closure for the people who may have been concerned."

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Online Breast Cancer Risk Calculator Gets Update

The U.S. National Cancer Institute's online breast cancer risk calculator is being updated to better reflect risk among black women, the Associated Press reported.

The calculator -- which assesses five-year risk based on a number of factors, including age and family history of breast cancer -- was created using findings from studies of breast cancer in white women. Currently, there is a warning that informs non-white women that there may be some uncertainty in their risk assessment result.

A study published Tuesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that the risk calculator was slightly overestimating risk for younger black women and slightly underestimating risk for black women 45 and older, the AP reported.

Updates to the calculator to include newer data on black women will be completed by spring.

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R.J. Reynolds Won't Use Print Ads Next Year

U.S.-based R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said Tuesday that it won't place cigarette ads in U.S. newspapers or consumer magazines next year, but didn't say whether it would resume doing so in subsequent years.

The company has faced harsh criticism for its print ads promoting Camel No. 9 cigarettes. Critics said the colorful ads, with feature images of roses and lace, targeted young women. A recent R.J. Reynolds cigarette ad in Rolling Stone magazine also came under fire, the AP reported.

The tobacco firm's announcement to halt print ads next year is a "more a strategy to deflect criticism than a real change in marketing," said the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

"What they've done is just to limit the ads that have prompted the fiercest criticism, because they are the most visible," the group's president, Matthew Myers, told the AP. Myers said R.J. Reynolds still uses direct mail advertising, heavy promotion at retail outlets, and price promotion "for the brands kids like most."

Print ads for tobacco are legal in the United States, but banned in a number of countries.

Posted: November 2007


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