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Health Highlights: Dec. 6, 2007

U.S. Childhood Cancer Death Rates Decrease Child's Death Prompts Entertainment Center Recall Ceramic Heaters Recalled for Fire Hazard Steroids Found in Some Dietary Supplements Chemical Contamination Possible in Baby Formula, Group Says FDA Eases Access to Accutane

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

U.S. Childhood Cancer Death Rates Decrease

Rates of childhood cancer deaths are decreasing in the United States, but there are continuing regional and racial/ethnic disparities, says a report in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, deaths among children with cancer decreased from 34.2 percent in 1990 to 27.3 percent in 2004. There were significant declines among boys and girls, children ages 0 to 14 years, adolescents ages 15 to 19 years, Hispanics and non-Hispanics, all geographic regions, and most racial groups, with the exception of American Indians/Alaska Natives.

Childhood cancer death rates decreased by 2.1 percent per year for the Midwest, 1.8 percent per year for the South and Northeast, and 1.4 percent per year for the West.

The report also noted a significant difference in the annual percentage decline in death rates among non-Hispanics and Hispanics -- 1.6 percent vs. 1.0 percent.

More research is needed to gain a better understanding about regional and racial/ethnic disparities in childhood cancer deaths, the report authors said. In the future, there should be childhood cancer prevention and intervention efforts that target high-risk and underserved groups, they recommended.

A total of 34,500 childhood cancer deaths were reported in the United States between 1990 and 2004.


Child's Death Prompts Entertainment Center Recall

A fatal accident involving a 19-month-old child has prompted the recall of about 138,000 Ridgewood/Charleswood entertainment centers made by Ameriwood Industries Inc., of Tiffin, Ohio, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The product collapsed onto the toddler. The company has received three other reports of minor injuries involving the entertainment center.

Consumers should immediately stop using the unit, which is black with two lower miter-framed doors, two glass doors at the top, and CD storage racks. It was sold nationwide from May 2000 through May 2005. Model number 93956 is printed on the instruction manual.

Ameriwood is offering a free support panel repair kit. Call the company toll -free at (877) 732-8252.

Another recall announced by the CPSC involves about 100,000 First Years Newborn-To-Toddler Reclining Feeding Seats, made by RC2 Corp. of Oak Brook, Ill. The seat's restraining straps can pull out of the waist strap slots, putting children at risk of falling.

So far, there have been 38 reports of straps pulling out or nearly pulling out, and 12 reports of children falling out of the chairs, which were sold nationwide from November 2006 through October 2007.

Consumers should immediately stop using the chairs and contact RC2 for free replacement straps. Contact the company toll-free at (866) 725-4407.


Ceramic Heaters Recalled for Fire Hazard

A potential fire hazard has triggered the recall of about 20,000 oscillating ceramic heaters sold at Menards stores across the United States from September 2006 through March 2007.

The fans, made in China and imported by Collins International Co. Ltd., of Fair Lawn, N.J., can overheat, smoke or ignite. There have been seven reports of such incidents in the heaters, including four reports of minor damage to carpets and floors, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The recall covers the 1500-watt oscillating ceramic heater, model EB38005. The heater has a white plastic housing with the name "Heat-Wave" in black printed on the top. The model number is located on a label on the bottom of the heater.

Consumers should stop using the heaters, which sold for about $25, and return them to a Menards store for a refund. For more information, contact Collins toll-free at (866) 877-1889.


Steroids Found in Some Dietary Supplements

Tests on a number of the best-selling dietary supplements in the United States found that about one-quarter of them contained traces of steroids and 11.5 percent contained banned stimulants, the Associated Press reported.

The study, which did not name any of the products or their manufacturers, was overseen by Informed-Choice, a nonprofit coalition of U.S. supplement companies. Five years ago, the International Olympic Committee found steroids in 18.8 percent of 240 supplements purchased in the United States.

"The presence of steroids and stimulants in supplement products is still very much an issue," the authors of the new study concluded. "It is clear that not all supplement manufacturers follow good manufacturing practices and the necessary controls are not always implemented to ensure the safety of athletes and the general public who use the supplement products."

The study results didn't surprise Lori Bestervelt, senior vice president and chief technical officer for NSF International, a non-profit company that offers a range of testing services.

"I think there are two categories, one where people are intentionally putting [steroids/stimulants] in, and another where they aren't but don't have a good rein on the supply chain or manufacturing practices, so things can slip a bit," she told the AP.


Chemical Contamination Possible in Baby Formula, Group Says

A potentially cancer-causing chemical called bisphenol A is in the lining of most cans of liquid baby formula and the chemical often leaches into the formula at levels that are dangerous for babies, says the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group.

The group recommended that parents avoid liquid baby formula and use powder formula instead until companies line baby formula cans with bisophenol-free resin, the Toronto Star reported.

"Because they eat so much relative to their small size, their exposure is intense," said Sonya Lunder, the group's leader researcher on bisphenol A. "We can't use endocrine-disrupting chemicals in a baby's first food. The formula companies need to take action."

Liquid baby formula in cans is safe and parents shouldn't be concerned, said an association that represents major formula manufacturers, the Star reported.

However, more than 100 independent studies have shown that small doses of the chemical can cause developmental problems, cancer, obesity and early puberty, the Star reported.


FDA Eases Access to Accutane

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made changes that may make it easier for women to fill prescriptions for the acne drug Accutane, which can cause severe birth defects, the Associated Press reported.

Access to Accutane and its generic equivalents is controlled through a program called iPledge, which has strict rules meant to ensure that women don't become pregnant while taking the drug. Those restrictions include month-by-month prescriptions based on passing pregnancy tests.

Under changes to iPledge announced Wednesday by the FDA, women of childbearing age who don't fill a prescription within seven days of a pregnancy test will be allowed to get another test and then fill the prescription. Until now, women who didn't get the prescription filled within seven days of a pregnancy test were locked out of the program for 23 days. This change does not apply to the initial prescription, the AP reported.

The FDA also said women will have to fill the prescription within seven days of a pregnancy test, rather than within seven days of first seeing a doctor.

Consumer News