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Health Highlights: Sept. 10, 2012

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

More Young Adults Gaining Health Insurance: Study

A new study finds that the percentage of young American adults without health insurance fell by one-sixth in 2011 compared to the prior year, the steepest annual drop since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention starting collecting data on the issue in 1997.

Although the exact reason for the sudden uptake of health insurance for people aged 19 to 25 wasn't clear, study author Matthew Broaddus told The New York Times that it's almost certainly due to the provision of the Affordable Care Act that allowed young adults under age 26 to be covered by their parents' health plans.

The study led by Broaddus, a research analyst at the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, found that the number of young adults without health care coverage fell from 33.9 percent in 2010 to 27.9 percent in 2011 -- about 1.6 million fewer uninsured. However, for the next age group -- those aged 26 to 35 -- the share of people without insurance actually rose, another sign that the Affordable Care Act was driving the change for those under 26, Broaddus said.

The percentage of all Americans who were uninsured fell to 15.1 percent in 2011 (about 46 million people) from 16 percent in 2010, the study noted.

The data came from the federal government's National Health Interview Survey.


Clues to Gene-Based Cancer Therapy Found in U.S. Study

A large U.S. study that identified genetic mutations in squamous cell lung cancer tumors may offer new hope to thousands of patients, experts say.

The results appear to herald a period when cancer drugs will target genetic abnormalities responsible for certain malignancies instead of the traditional one-treatment-fits-all approach. About 60 percent of the tumors studied had mutations that might respond to drugs already developed or drugs that could be easily developed, according to The New York Times.

"What we found will change the landscape for squamous cell carcinoma," said study leader Dr. Matthew Meyerson, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, according to the Times. Currently, no targeted treatments exist for squamous cell lung cancer, which kills about 50,000 Americans each year.

The study, published online Sept. 9 in the journal Nature, was launched by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to examine the genetics of cancer, a research frontier opened up by recent advances in DNA sequencing. The researchers compared tumor cells and normal cells of 178 squamous cell lung cancer patients. This is the second study undertaken as part of the NIH Cancer Genome Atlas.

Dr. William Pao, an author of the study and a researcher at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, said the field is moving toward personalized medicine. "Unfortunately, what the Cancer Genome Atlas has revealed is that everyone's cancer could be very different," he said.

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Posted: September 2012