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Health Highlights: Oct. 2, 2009

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

Texas City Tops Fall Allergy List

McAllen, Texas is the most challenging U.S. city for people with fall allergies, according to rankings announced Friday by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The other cities in the top five of the 100 cities included in the 2009 rankings are: Wichita, Kan., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, Okla. and Jackson, Miss.

"Whether a city is ranked number 100 on the Allergy Capitals list or number 1, it's essential for allergy sufferers to take the appropriate steps to manage their allergies," Mike Tringale, director of external affairs at AAFA, said in a news release. "Allergy sufferers should know what allergens trigger their symptoms and how to manage them."

Many Americans know that spring is a difficult time for allergy sufferers, but fewer people are aware that fall brings new allergy triggers that aren't present in the spring, such as ragweed, according to the AAFA.

More than 35 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies.


Kidney Cancer Drug May Cause Liver Damage: FDA

An experimental kidney cancer drug called pazopanib may cause liver damage that outweighs the its ability to slow the cancer, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration documents posted online.

GlaxoSmithKline is seeking FDA approval of pazopanib for treatment of advanced kidney cancer. However, the FDA documents say there have been three liver damage-related deaths among patients taking the pill, and other patients have shown elevated levels of enzymes that often predict liver damage, the Associated Press reported.

These cases "strongly suggest that pazopanib may be associated with a significant risk of severe idiosyncratic hepatic injury if used in a large patient population," FDA reviewers said in the documents.

It was also noted that the drug causes side effects common to other cancer drugs, including blood clots, internal bleeding and hypertension, the AP reported.

An FDA panel of experts will decide Monday whether to recommend approval of the drug. The agency isn't required to follow the advice of its expert panels, but usually does.


Michael Jackson Healthy Before Death: Autopsy Report

Michael Jackson was in good health before he died of an overdose June 25, according to his autopsy report.

The 50-year-old pop star was 136 pounds -- within the acceptable range for a 5-foot-9 man -- and his heart was strong with no sign of plaque accumulation. His kidneys and most other major organs were normal, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's report. The full autopsy hasn't been released publicly but the Associated Press obtained a copy.

Health issues noted in the autopsy include arthritis in the lower spine and some fingers and mild plaque buildup in his leg arteries, the AP reported. Jackson's lungs were chronically inflamed and had reduced capacity that may have resulted in shortness of breath. But the lung condition wasn't serious enough to be a direct or contributing cause of death.

"His overall health was fine. The findings are within normal limits," Dr. Zeev Kain, chairman of the anesthesiology department at the University of California, Irvine, told the AP. Kain wasn't involved in the autopsy but reviewed the copy of the autopsy obtained by the AP.

The autopsy report also said that Jackson's face and neck were scarred, his arms were covered with punctures, and he had tattooed eyebrows and lips.

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Posted: October 2009