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Health Highlights: March 29, 2010

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

FDA Scientists Go Public With CT Scan Concerns

U.S. Food and Drug Administration managers ignored agency scientists' warnings about the radiation risks associated with regular use of powerful CT scans to screen people for colon cancer, according to The New York Times.

The scientists will break their public silence at a meeting Tuesday when an FDA independent panel of experts will discuss how to protect patients from unnecessary radiation exposure.

Internal FDA documents obtained by The Times reveal that agency managers wanted to approve an application by General Electric to allow the use of CT scans for colon cancer screenings, even though FDA scientists repeatedly voiced their objections. The application is still under review.

The use of CT scans to screen for colon cancer is endorsed by the American College of Radiology and the American Cancer Society. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends doctors use a camera on a flexible tube to directly examine a patient's colon for cancer.

CT scans can deliver the radiation equivalent of 400 chest X-rays, The Times reported. About 70 million CT scans are performed in the United States every year, which may result in as many as 14,000 deaths every year from radiation-induced cancers, according to researchers.


New Test for Human Growth Hormone in Athletes

A new test similar to one used to detect bone and breast cancer will soon be available to catch athletes who use human growth hormone (HGH), says the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Blood from an athlete is spun in a centrifuge and then mixed with chemicals that cause a reaction to occur. An instrument measures the illumination in the blood, and the intensity of the light signals whether the athlete has used HGH over the past 10 to 14 days, The New York Times reported.

The new procedure, called the biomarkers test, has been under development for more than a decade. It should be available for use on athletes within a few months, according to WADA.

The current test can only detect if an athlete has used HGH within the previous 24 to 48 hours, The Times reported.

"HGH has been used with great impunity since the 1970s," said WADA Director General David Howman. "Its very available to athletes. They use it freely, and they usually dont use things that cant help them."


Don't Drink Raw Milk: FDA

Twelve confirmed cases of raw milk-related illness in Michigan have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration again warning consumers not to drink raw milk.

The milk in the latest incident came from Forest Grove Dairy in Middlebury, Ind., the Associated Press reported.

Supporters of raw milk contend that pasteurization destroys nutrients, but the FDA says there is no "meaningful nutritional difference" between raw milk and pasteurized milk.

The agency warns that raw milk may contain salmonella, E. coli, listeria and other harmful bacteria, the AP reported.

Between 1998 and 2008, raw milk was blamed for 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and two deaths in the United States, according to the FDA.


Congress Approves Reworked Health Reform Bill

Congressional Democrats have sent the reworked version of the historic U.S. health reform legislation to President Barack Obama.

In a 220-207 vote Thursday night, the House approved a number of fixes to the health bill Obama signed Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. All Republican members and 32 Democrats voted against it.

The same bill passed in a 56-43 Senate vote earlier Thursday. It's expected that Obama will sign the measure early next week. The bill includes improved benefits for seniors and low-income and middle-class families.

"This is the last step we must take to make health reform a reality for millions of Americans," said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., the AP reported.

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Posted: March 2010