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Health Highlights: Feb. 13, 2007

Smokers Who Switch to Spit Tobacco Still Face Death Risk Menstrual Cycle Affects Women's Risk of Injury Caesarean 3 Times More Dangerous for Moms Than Natural Childbirth New Booklet Explains Science of Addiction Generics Boost U.S. Statin Prescriptions: Report FDA Warns About Salmonella in Wild Kitty Cat Food

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

Smokers Who Switch to Spit Tobacco Still Face Death Risk

Switching from cigarettes to spit tobacco is not a good way to try to quit smoking. That's the conclusion of an American Cancer Society study that found that men who made that switch had higher death rates from lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and all causes combined, than former smokers who stopped using any kind of tobacco product.

The study, which included 116,000 men, also found that those who switched from cigarettes to spit tobacco were more than twice as likely to die from mouth and throat cancers.

"Smokers who switched to snuff or chewing tobacco had considerably worse health outcomes than those who quite entirely," Dr. Michael Thun, vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, said in a prepared statement.

"Any smoker who is trying to quit should use proven methods such as nicotine replacement, antidepressants, and behavioral counseling rather than tobacco products if they do not succeed in quitting without assistance," Thun said.

He said there is "currently no reliable evidence to support the promotion of alternative tobacco products for smoking cessation."


Menstrual Cycle Affects Women's Risk of Injury

Fluctuating hormone levels that affect muscles and ligaments increase the risk of injury at specific points in a woman's menstrual cycle, say researchers at Portland Hospital in London, England.

The researchers surveyed 1,000 osteopaths and studied 17 women and concluded that both muscles and ligaments appear to be vulnerable to injury midway through the menstrual cycle, and that ligaments are especially vulnerable at the end of the cycle, BBC News reported.

"There was a clear link between hormone levels and laxity of joints, making women more vulnerable to injury," said lead researcher Dr. Stephen Sandler.

Midway through the menstrual cycle, there is a decline in levels of the female sex hormone estrogen, which gives strength to muscles and ligaments. At the end of the cycle, an increase in levels of another hormone called relaxin results in a softening of ligaments.

"Studies have shown before that female athletes and those engaged in recreational sport were more prone to injury at certain times in their cycle and now we understand why," Rebecca Morrison, of the British School of Osteopathy, told BBC News.

"This is significant for women everywhere who can plan their schedules around their cycles and avoid potentially painful injuries," Morrison said. "It will also aid therapists in the rehabilitation of their patients."


Caesarean More Dangerous for Moms Than Natural Childbirth

For healthy women, Caesarean section may be three times more risky than natural childbirth, says a study in the current issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Researchers compared 46,766 Caesareans to more than two million vaginal births among healthy women in Canada. The study found that women who had C-sections were three times more likely to experience serious complications, including infections, blood clots, hysterectomies and heart attacks, the Toronto Star reported.

The complication rate among women who had C-sections was 27.3 per 1,000 deliveries, compared to nine per 1,000 for women who had a natural delivery. The researchers limited their study to outcomes among the mothers and did not look at how C-section affected the babies.

"Look, Caesarean section is not just like falling off a log," Dr. Robert Liston, a lead author of the study, told the Star. "There are health issues that result from the operation, significantly more so than a planned vaginal delivery."

The findings should be considered when women talk with their doctors about Caesarean delivery, said Linton, head of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Columbia.


New Booklet Explains Science of Addiction

A new consumer booklet that explains the science of addiction was released Tuesday by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The 30-page publication, Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction, uses easy-to-understand language to explain that drug addiction is a brain disease that affects behavior. It's hoped this kind of information will reduce the social stigma associated with addiction.

"Thanks to science, our views and our responses to drug abuse have changed dramatically, but many people today still do not understand why people become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse," Dr. Nora D. Volkow, NIDA director, said in a prepared statement.

The booklet explains why people take drugs, why some people become addicted and others don't, how drugs work in the brain, and how addiction can be prevented and treated. The booklet emphasizes that drug addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease, that can be managed successfully.

Each year in the United States, alcohol, drug and nicotine abuse and addiction result in about a half trillion dollars in medical, economic, criminal and social costs.


Generics Boost U.S. Statin Prescriptions: Report

The number of prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs in the United States increased by an average of 500,000 a month between October 2005 and December 2006, and this surge was driven by new generic statins, says a report released Tuesday by Consumers Union and Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.

From October 2005 to May 2006, there were an average of 12.6 million statin prescriptions per month, compared to an average of 13.1 million per month from June 2006 to December 2006.

Two new generic statin drugs were introduced to the U.S. market in the latter half of 2006 and the increase in statin prescriptions suggests that these new generic statins have been eagerly embraced by consumers, doctors, insurers, pharmacists and pharmacy benefit managers, the report said.

The two generics, pravastatin and simvastatin, are versions of Pravachol and Zocor, respectively. Both those brand-name drugs lost patent protection in 2006.

"This is further evidence that the market will eagerly welcome a significant new generic drug, such as simvastatin," Steven Findlay, managing editor of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, said in a prepared statement. "It also shows that new generics can play an important role in extending treatment to more people."

The report also said there was a large increase in prescriptions of an older generic statin called lovastatin.


FDA Warns About Salmonella in Wild Kitty Cat Food

U.S. consumers shouldn't buy or use Wild Kitty Cat Food because it may be contaminated with salmonella, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

Cats and other pets that eat the food may become infected with salmonella. People may become infected if they handle the pet food, touch pets that ate the food, or touch any surfaces that came into contact with the food or animals that ate the food, the FDA said.

The specific products covered by the warning are Wild Kitty Raw All Natural, Frozen Cat Food -- Chicken with Clam Recipe, Net Wt. 3.5 oz. (100g) and 1lb. in plastic containers. The food was sold nationwide.

Consumers with the food should dispose of it in a safe manner by placing it in a securely covered trash container, the FDA said. To report any illnesses or other problems caused by Wild Kitty Cat Food, call the FDA's Office of Emergency Operations at 301-443-1240.

In most people and pets, salmonella can cause short-term symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. But salmonella can cause serious illnesses in small children, frail or elderly people, and people and pets with weakened immune systems.

Consumer News