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Health Highlights: March 27, 2009

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

Hot Tea May Increase Throat Cancer Risk: Study

Drinking hot tea may increase the risk of throat cancer, according to Iranian researchers.

They studied people in Golestan province, which has one of the highest rates of esophageal cancer in the world. Tea consumption in the province averages 1.8 pints per person per day, but there are low levels of tobacco and alcohol use, Agence France Presse reported.

The study of 300 throat cancer patients and 571 healthy people found that those who drank hot tea (65-69 degrees Celsius, 149-156 degrees Fahrenheit) were twice as likely to develop throat cancer as those who drank warm or lukewarm tea. Those who drank very hot tea (at least 70 C, 158 F) were eight times more likely to develop throat cancer than those who drank warm or lukewarm tea.

The findings were published Friday in the BMJ.

The team from the Digestive Disease Research Center at Tehran University of Medical Sciences found no association between the amount of tea consumption and cancer risk. The study didn't look at coffee or other hot beverages, AFP reported.

In an accompanying editorial, David Whiteman from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research Australia, said the study contributes to evidence that scorching fluids may cause damage to the throat's epithelial lining and lead to cancer. How this may occur remains unclear.

But the editorial also said there's no reason for panic, because most people drink tea at a warm temperature. It recommended tea drinkers wait at least four minutes before drinking from a freshly boiled cup, AFP reported.


Experts Put Worldwide Cost of Dementia at $315.4 Billion

Worldwide prevalence of dementia may be much higher than previously thought, costing societies around the globe an estimated $315.4 billion, say scientists attending the Alzheimer's Disease International conference this week in Singapore.

Health-care and social services systems in developed and developing countries are under strain dealing with what the experts said was a "greying of the world." Projections indicate as many as 29.4 million people suffer from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, the scientists reported in a news release about the conference issued Thursday. And, worldwide prevalence of dementia may quadruple to almost 120 million people by 2050, they added.

Treating worldwide dementia includes $105 billion for informal care -- non-professional care usually provided by families -- that makes up 37 percent of the total dollars. Seventy-seven percent of dementia treament costs occurred in the world's more developed regions, according to the news release.

"In light of the rapidly growing future prevalence estimates, in particular in less developed regions, the economic impact of dementia is a great challenge for every society," Dr. Anders Wimo, of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, said in the news release.


U.S. Halts Trial of Concentrated Saline Solution for Shock

A clinical trial studying the use of concentrated saline solution in trauma patients suffering from severe shock due to severe bleeding has been halted early by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute because there was no benefit to patients.

In the study, the solution was given to patients as they rode in ambulances to hospital. But patients who received the concentrated saline solution were no more likely to survive than those who received a normal saline solution.

Saline solution is widely used in trauma patients to compensate for blood loss and buy time until they can receive blood transfusions in the hospital. It's believed concentrated saline solution compensates for blood loss more effectively, lessens excessive inflammatory responses, and prevents brain swelling, the NHLBI said.

A parallel study of concentrated saline for traumatic brain injury without shock continues.

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Posted: March 2009