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Health Highlights: Feb. 15, 2007

Many Black Breast Cancer Survivors Underestimate Recurrence Risk Watercress May Reduce Cancer Risk: Study Bunny Toys Pose Choking Hazard Prescription Drug Abuse by U.S. Teens a Growing Problem Office Desks Teem with Bacteria

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

Many Black Breast Cancer Survivors Underestimate Recurrence Risk

Many black breast cancer survivors at increased risk for hereditary breast cancer don't believe that they have a heightened risk of recurrence, says a University of Pennsylvania study in the February issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Researchers interviewed 95 black women with a personal and family history of breast cancer and found that 53 percent of them believed they had the same or lower risk of developing breast cancer again compared to other women, while 47 percent said they felt they had a higher or much higher risk.

Women with higher levels of education were more likely to believe that they had a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence, the study found.

"Having a personal and family history of breast cancer are known risk factors for breast cancer, and it is surprising and worrisome that most of these women with such a history don't recognize that risk," study lead author Dr. Chanita Hughes Halbert, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Community and Minority Cancer Control Program at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center, said in a prepared statement.

The findings suggest that it's important to ensure that black women understand their risk of developing cancer. Genetic counseling that addresses cultural beliefs and values may be one way to achieve that, the researchers said.


Watercress May Reduce Cancer Risk: Study

Regular consumption of watercress may cut cancer risk by reducing DNA damage to white blood cells, suggests a University of Ulster (U.K) study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

DNA damage to white blood cells is believed to be an important cancer trigger, BBC News reported.

In this study, 60 healthy people, including 30 smokers, ate 85 grams of fresh watercress every day for eight weeks. Blood tests taken before and after the volunteers starting eating the watercress revealed that DNA damage to their white blood cells declined by 22.9 percent during the study.

The study authors said they also found that the white blood cells were better able to protect themselves from the damaging effects of free radicals, BBC News reported.

The study was funded by the Watercress Alliance.

Larger studies are needed in order to determine whether the effects of watercress on white blood cells can actually reduce cancer risk, Dr. Anthea Martin, of the charity Cancer Research UK, told BBC News.


Bunny Toys Pose Choking Hazard

About 500,000 Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Bunny Toys sold in the United States are being recalled because the toy's pompom nose can detach and pose a choking hazard to young children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday.

There have been no reported injuries in the U.S. Another 700,000 of the toys were sold in other countries.

The recalled toy is about 10 inches tall. The yellow bunny has one green and one orange ear and features musical and counting sound effects. The words "Laugh and Learn" are printed on the bunny's shirt.

Only bunnies with three-dimensional noses are involved in the recall. It does not include bunnies with flat or embroidered noses, the CPSC said.

Consumers with these toys should immediately take them away from children and contact Fisher-Price at (866)-447-5003 to arrange for the return of the toy and to receive a voucher for a replacement toy of the customer's choice.


Prescription Drug Abuse by U.S. Teens a Growing Problem

American teens are cutting back on their use of marijuana, but their abuse of prescription drugs in recent years has stayed the same or increased, according to a report released Wednesday by White House drug czar John Walters.

From 2002 to 2005, rates of marijuana use declined from 30.1 percent to 25.8 percent. Over that same period, the use of the painkiller OxyContin increased from 2.7 percent to 3.5 percent and the use of Vicodin, another painkiller, increased from 6 percent to 6.3 percent, the Associated Press reported.

Teens are also abusing anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and stimulants like Adderall, Walters said. Overall, 2.1 million American teens abused prescription drugs in 2005.

Teens are abusing prescription drugs because they believe they're safer than street drugs and they're also easier to obtain, according to Walters. He said many teens get prescription drugs over the Internet, from friends, or steal them from household medicine cabinets, the AP reported.

Adults need to keep track of prescription drugs and dispose of them properly when the drugs expire, Walters said.


Office Desks Teem with Bacteria

The average office desk has about 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat in a workplace restroom, according to a new study.

And the study also found that female office workers tend to have three to four times the amount of bacteria in, on and around their desks, drawers, keyboards, computers, phones and personal items than their male colleagues, the Associated Press reported.

"I thought for sure men would be germier. But women have more interactions with small children and keep food in their desks. The other problem is makeup," study author Charles Gerba, a professor of soil, water and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona, told the AP.

For this study, commissioned by the Clorox Co., Gerba tested more than 100 offices across the country.

Using a disinfectant on office surfaces can help reduce the amount of bacteria in offices, Gerba added.


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