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Health Highlights: June 21, 2011

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

Deaths From Cancer, Heart Disease Rising: U.N.

Deaths from noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart and lung disease are increasing and cause nearly two-thirds of all deaths in the world, a United Nations report says.

In 2008, the 36 million deaths from noncommunicable diseases accounted for 63 percent of the 57 million deaths worldwide. The U.N. said nearly 80 percent of deaths from noncommunicable diseases were in the developing world, and 9 million of the worldwide deaths from noncommunicable diseases involved people younger than 60, the Associated Press reported.

By 2030, noncommunicable diseases will claim the lives of 52 million people, according to the U.N.

The document said risk factors such as unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, obesity and harmful alcohol use are contributing to the rise in deaths from noncommunicable diseases, the AP reported.


FDA Performs Poorly on Imported Food Recalls: Audit

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration often fails to follow its own rules in recalling contaminated imported foods, according to federal government investigators who audited 17 of the recalls.

The cases reviewed by investigators included listeria-infected frozen mussel meat from New Zealand, salmonella-contaminated cantaloupes from Honduras, and frozen fish from Korea that contained botulism-causing bacteria, The New York Times reported.

In one case, a recall was launched more than three months after the FDA became aware of a contaminated food product. In another case, the delay was nearly a month, according to Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.

In 13 of the 17 audited cases, suppliers failed to give accurate or complete information to their customers so that the products could be withdrawn completely, The Times reported.

An FDA official said the new food safety law gives the agency more power to control food safety.


Concussion Increases Young Athletes' Risk of Death: Study

Young athletes who suffer a concussion are at increased risk of death if they begin playing before they're fully recovered and suffer a head blow, a new study warns.

Researchers analyzed the National Registry of Sudden Death in Young Athletes in order to assess the risk of death from blunt trauma among athletes 21 and younger in the United States, the Associated Press reported.

Between 1980 and 2009, there were 261 trauma injury-related deaths among young athletes. Most of them (148) involved football players, including 17 high school players who died of head or neck injuries a few days to four weeks after they had suffered a concussion.

Those 17 deaths are a worrisome number and a key finding that comes when there is growing awareness about concussions, including the threat of "second-impact syndrome," study author Dr. Barry Maron told the AP.

The study was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.


Chemical Suicides Increasing in U.S.

The use of chemical suicide by Americans is increasing and this trend could put emergency responders at risk.

Chemical suicide is popular in Japan, where it is called detergent suicide. It involves mixing common household chemicals to create a poisonous cloud of gas in an enclosed space. It's believed that more than 2,000 people in Japan have used this method to kill themselves, The New York Times reported.

There have been 72 documented cases of chemical suicide in the United States since 2008. There were 36 such suicides in the country last year, but there have been at least 27 so far this year.

Of the 72 documented cases, at least 80 percent resulted in injuries to firefighters, police officers, emergency workers or civilians, Deputy Chief Jacob Oreshan, of the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, told The Times.

These injuries have occurred despite efforts by victims of chemical suicide to protect others by placing warning signs on car windows or closet doors, said Oreshan, who has been tracking the cases.


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Posted: June 2011