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Health Highlights: March 25, 2010

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

Health Reform Bill Sent Back to House

The newly enacted U.S. health care overhaul bill has been sent back to House of Representatives lawmakers in order to deal with two provisions that violate Congress' budget rules.

The move was forced by Senate Republicans searching for violations in hopes of bringing down the new law. Senate Democrats say the provisions are minor issues that have nothing to do with health care, the Associated Press reported.

It's expected that the two provisions, dealing with Pell grants for low-income students, will be formally removed from the bill on Thursday. The Senate and the House are expected to approve the revised bill before the weekend.

President Barack Obama signed the health care reform package into law Tuesday.

In related news, some Democrats who supported the health care reform bill have received threats, the AP reported.

At least 10 members of Congress have reported some form of threats, and windows were broken at four Democratic offices in Arizona, Kansas and New York. The FBI is investigating the incidents, but no arrests have been made.


Exercise, Healthier Diet Could Prevent Breast Cancers

Getting women to eat less and exercise more could prevent up to one-third of breast cancer cases in Western nations, according to experts.

Mammogram screenings, early diagnosis and improved treatments have made major inroads against breast cancer. The emphasis now needs to shift to lifestyle behaviors, such as diet and exercise, researchers said Thursday at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona, Spain, the Associated Press reported.

Figures from the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggest that 25 to 30 percent of breast cancer cases could be prevented if women were thinner and exercised more, noted Carlo La Vecchia, head of epidemiology at the University of Milan.

The hormone estrogen, which is produced in fat tissue, is associated with many breast cancers. The fatter a women is, the more estrogen she's likely to produce and the greater her risk of breast cancer, experts believe, the AP reported.

Obesity rates in France and Italy have been stable for the past two decades, which shows that weight can be controlled at a population level, according to La Vecchia.

"It's hard to lose weight, but it's not impossible. The potential benefit of preventing cancer is worth it," he told the AP.


Obama Reaffirms Abortion Funding Restrictions

President Barack Obama signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon that reaffirms restrictions on federal funding of abortions.

Obama promised to sign the order in exchange for Democratic abortion opponents' critical support in getting the health-care reform bill passed on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

Members of the Democrats' anti-abortion group, including leader Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, were invited to the signing, the news service said.


Genzyme Faces FDA Oversight

Biotechnology company Genzyme will be fined for recent manufacturing problems and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will more closely monitor operations at the company's Boston plant.

A Genzyme news release said the FDA would likely issue a consent decree "under which a third party would inspect and review the factory's operations for an extended period and certify compliance with FDA regulations," The New York Times reported.

Last June, viral contamination forced Genzyme to close its Boston factory, resulting in a continuing shortage of two major products, both treatments for rare diseases: Cerezyme for Gaucher disease and Fabrazyme for Fabry disease, the newspaper said.

In November, Cerezyme, Fabrazylme and three other drugs made in part at Genzme's Boston factory were contaminated with steel, rubber or fiber particles, the Times reported.

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Posted: March 2010