Health Highlights: April 22, 2010

Major Study Will Examine Cell Phone Health Risks Americans Confused About New Health Care Law: Poll Blood Test Could Reduce Heart Transplant Biopsies New Method for Treating Opioid Addiction Unveiled No Bones for Fido: FDA

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

Major Study Will Examine Cell Phone Health Risks

The world's largest study on the health effects of cell phones will include 250,000 users in five European countries and last between 20 to 30 years, say British researchers.

The goal of the Cohort Study on Mobile Communications (Cosmos) is to provide definitive answers on what, if any, health risks are associated with cell phone use, BBC World Service reported.

Previous research has concluded there's no risk, but some experts say those studies may have been too short to detect longer-term health problems, such as cancer.

"The best thing we can do as a society is to start now to monitor the health of a large number of users over a long period of time -- that way we can build up a valuable picture as to whether or not there are any links in the longer term," said co-principal investigator Dr. Mireille Toledano of Imperial College London, BBC reported.

The study will look at brain cancer, other forms of cancer and brain conditions, such as neurodegenerative diseases.

"We will also be monitoring things like if there's a change in the frequency of symptoms such as headaches, tinnitus, depression or sleep disorders," Toledano said. "These are things that people commonly report in association with their mobiles and these are things we are going to be following up on over time as well."


Americans Confused About New Health Care Law: Poll

A new poll finds that 55 percent of Americans are confused about the new health care law, and 56 percent say they don't have enough information to understand how they'll be affected by it.

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey also found that 46 percent of respondents viewed the health care law favorably, while 40 percent had an unfavorable view and 14 percent were undecided, USA Today reported.

Just over one-third of survey participants said cable news was their leading source for information about the law.

"People are struggling to understand how the law will affect them and their families and to separate fact from political spin," Drew Altman, Kaiser president and CEO, said in a news release, USA Today reported.


Blood Test Could Reduce Heart Transplant Biopsies

American researchers say a blood test that analyzes genetic activity could reduce the number of biopsies heart transplant patients must undergo to monitor for signs of organ rejection.

"I think it will cause a paradigm shift in the way we look at monitoring for rejection," said Dr. Michael Pham, a clinical assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University and a leader of the study.

Patients who were monitored using the AlloMap blood test had outcomes similar to patients who underwent frequent heart biopsies, The New York Times reported.

The study, to be presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, appears online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study was paid for by XDx, the California company that developed the blood test. Some authors of the study received consulting fees from the company, and one researcher was an employee of XDx, The Times reported.


New Method for Treating Opioid Addiction Unveiled

A new multi-pronged treatment program for young adults addicted to opioid drugs was introduced Thursday at a U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse conference.

The new approach is based on research by NIDA's Clinical Trials Network in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The research found that young adults who received longer-term treatment with the medication buprenorphine (which helps relieve drug cravings) were less likely to use drugs and more likely to stay in treatment than those who received short-term detoxification without follow-up medication.

"Buprenorphine had been proven effective with adults, but until recently, evidence was lacking that its anti-addiction properties would work in this important group of younger patients," NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow said in an agency news release. "The new product includes a three-hour training package that examines opioid use among young adults and looks at research results showing the effectiveness of buprenorphine for this age group."


No Bones for Fido: FDA

Dog owners are being reminded that giving bones to their four-legged best friends could kill them. No bones are safe, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"Some people think it's safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast. Bones are unsafe no matter what their size," said Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, the Associated Press reported.

There are many reasons why bones can be bad for dogs. Bones can cause broken teeth or mouth or tongue injuries. Bones or bone fragments can get stuck in a dog's throat or stomach, which may require surgery. Bone fragments can cause constipation.

The FDA said dogs can suffer a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the abdomen (peritonitis) if bone fragments poke holes in the stomach or intestines, the AP reported.

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