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Health Highlights: Jan. 7, 2011

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

Debate on Health Care Law Repeal Begins

A debate on whether to repeal the new U.S. health care law opens Friday, but it's expected to be a largely symbolic exercise highlighting the conflict between Democrats and Republicans.

The Republicans want to do away with plans to expand health insurance to more than 30 million people and introduce a less costly approach. However, Senate Democrats say they'll block repeal, the Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said a repeal of the new health care law would add $230 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade, The New York Times reported.

The new House speaker, Republican John A. Boehner, dismissed the CBO's figures and claimed the Democrats manipulated the rules for determining the cost of repeal.


Studded Tires May Create Health Risk: Study

Studded tires may threaten the health of drivers and people who live near highways, according to Swedish researchers.

They found that studs churn up microscopic road debris that can be inhaled and harm the lungs and heart, reported.

The study appears in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

"This research is a really helpful reminder to consumers that although we're often focused on the dangers of motor vehicle exhaust, there's also the friction of tires on the highway to consider," said Doug Brugge, a professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, reported. "These particles can also have inflammatory and toxic effects."


U.S. Spent $2.5 Trillion on Health Care in 2009: Report

Total U.S. spending on health care in 2009 was $2.5 trillion, an average of $8,086 per person, says a report released Wednesday by the office of the actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The four percent growth in health care spending from 2008 was the slowest rate of increase in 50 years and was linked to the recession, The New York Times reported.

"Many consumers decreased their use of health care goods and services, partly because they had lost employer-based private health insurance coverage and partly because their household income had declined," explained economist and principal author Anne B. Martin.

Despite the slowed growth in spending, health care still accounted for a record 17.6 percent of total U.S. economic output in 2009, The Times reported.


Irish Giant had Rare Gene Mutation

A rare and mysterious gene mutation explains the mystery of the Irish Giant, according to a new study.

Charles Byrne was 7 feet 7 inches tall. He gained fame and fortune when he traveled to London to be displayed as a freak. After he died in 1783, his skeleton was kept in a museum in London, The New York Times reported.

In 1909, an American doctor removed the top of Byrne' skull and concluded that his immense size was caused by a pituitary tumor. But British and German scientists recently analyzed DNA from Byrne's teeth and concluded that a gene mutation was the cause.

The same mutation was found in four Northern Ireland families who live near where Byrne was born and are related to him.

The study appears in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


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Posted: January 2011