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Health Highlights: Feb. 2, 2002

Alzheimer's Vaccine Trials Suspended After Problems Develop Leading Prostate Cancer Test 'Clinically Useless' Seaweed Gel May Prevent HIV Spread in Women Chivalry Still Fine With Women, But Not Other Men Too Many French Saying 'C'est La Vie' Before Their Time, Says Report

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

Alzheimer's Vaccine Trials Suspended After Problems Develop

Studies of a promising Alzheimer's vaccine have come to a temporary halt after four French patients on the experimental treatment developed inflammation in the central nervous system, CNN reports.

Multiple doses of the vaccine have so far been given to about 360 patients in Europe and the United States, and no unusual side effects have been reported. However, dosing has now been suspended.

AN-1792 was found to be safe and was even found to produce an immune response in a previous study.

The vaccine appears to prevent the build-up of plaque in the brain that is characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

Studies in rats showed that Alzheimer's was stopped, and in some cases reversed, under the vaccine.


Leading Prostate Cancer Test 'Clinically Useless'

The leading test to detect prostate cancer is "clinically useless" at determining the size or severity of a man's tumor, and is only of "limited" value at predicting cure rates from surgery to remove the diseased gland, reports HealthDay.

The test, which measures a blood enzyme called prostate-specific antigen (PSA), is likelier to find benignly enlarged prostates and prompt overly aggressive treatment, according to the scientists who conducted the study just published in the Journal of Urology.

"We used to think [PSA testing] was good. But what we would like it to tell us is whether a PSA that is not much elevated is elevated because of [normal prostate growth] or whether it's elevated because of prostate cancer," says Dr. John McNeal, a Stanford University pathologist and a co-author of the paper. And the protein, at least at moderate levels, can't do that, McNeal says.


Seaweed Gel May Prevent HIV Spread in Women

Scientists are hopeful that a gel derived from seaweed may actually help prevent the spread of HIV in women, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The gel, which is also used as a thickening agent in ice cream and toothpaste, is believed to possibly work by binding the HIV virus and coating it in a thick substance that literally prevents the spread into the human body.

It is made from red seaweed into a product called Carraguard and has already been shown effective in preventing the spread of other sexually-transmitted diseases in animals, including gonorrhea and herpes.

Clinical trials on the treatment are due to begin later in the year.


Chivalry Still Fine With Women, But Not Other Men

Chivalry may not be dead, and women still think it's dandy, but it's cause for suspicion among some men, concludes a new study from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Upon viewing video portraying a scene in which a man picks up the tab for his date's dinner, a group of women saw the gesture as one of respect and a sign that the man was "romantically attracted" to the date.

After watching the same video, however, a group of young men told researchers they regarded the male's action as being "less respectful to the woman, less respectable himself," according to wire reports.

"The take-home message is that chivalry is both good and bad," said the researchers. "Chivalry is related to both the stereotype that women are more virtuous than men, but also that women are less competent and powerful than men," and in need of their assistance, financial and otherwise.

The research was presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Savannah, Georgia.


Too Many French Saying 'C'est La Vie' Before Their Time, Says Report

French people who survive past the age of 65 may expect to be home-free for a few decades, but the trick is getting that far, reports the Associated Press.

According to a French government health report, premature death or death before age 65 for French men is the highest in Europe and is even 2.5 times higher than French women. Smoking is said to be a primary factor in many cases.

But the report says that French men who don't die prematurely from diseases such as cancer can expect to live another 10 years, and French women who make it to 65 usually see another two decades.

On the other hand, it looks like all of that wine and brie may be taking its toll: Obesity is reportedly becoming a problem of "epidemic proportions" in almost all French regions except Brittany.

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