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

Teens Saved By Seatbelts Tracked

The use of seatbelts is being credited with saving the lives of no fewer than 4,305 teenagers involved in accidents between 1995 and 2000, according to a new report.

The figures, issued today by the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, are based on statistics showing that 52 percent of teenage drivers wore seat belts in crashes that would have killed all drivers, reports the Associated Press.

The group adds that, had as many as 80 percent of the drivers used seatbelts, an estimated 6,812 teenage drivers who were killed in accidents would have survived.

Car accidents are the cause of about 38 percent of deaths for 15- to 19-year-olds, says the report.


Evaluating Gene Activity Can Help Guide Cancer Treatment: Study

Analyzing the activity of certain genes in the early stages of lung cancer may provide important clues as to which cases may be more deadly and which treatments may be most effective, according to a new study.

Researchers with the University of Michigan say that in looking at the lung tissues of lung cancer patients and comparing the gene profiles with the long-term outcome of the patients, they were able to see that the activity or inactivity of about 50 genes correlated with which patients were most likely to have relapses of the cancer.

Such genetic profiling is already used in treating breast cancer, with additional drugs offered to some women who have extra copies of a gene associated with more aggressive tumors.

Experts say the gene profiling will also likely become a standard tool in determining treatment for lung cancer patients, reports the Associated Press.

The research appears in tomorrow's online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.


Study: Misdiagnosed Appendicitis Cases Face More Complications

Patients with healthy appendixes who are misdiagnosed with appendicitis and subjected to appendix removal face longer hospital stays and more complications than those who have appendectomies for legitimate reasons, says a new study.

Doctors may rush to remove appendixes if symptoms seem appropriate because of the potentially life-threatening complications of a diseased or burst appendix, says the report.

But a review of patients whose appendixes were found to be healthy after removal indicated that such patients had higher death rates; more infectious side effects, and longer hospital stays, reports the Associated Press.

The researchers say various conditions, including ectopic pregnancy, intestinal infections and bowel obstructions, may mimic appendicitis.

In an accompanying editorial, one researcher argued that encouraging longer observation times for patients with appendicitis symptoms could backfire by causing more ruptured appendixes and more deaths.

The study and commentary appear in July's Archives of Surgery.


Numbers of Uninsured Children Improving: Report

The numbers of American children without health insurance have fallen significantly since 1997, according to a federal report obtained by the Associated Press.

According to the Health and Human Sciences report, the rate of uninsured children dropped from 13.9 percent in 1997 to 10.8 percent in 2001.

The report attributes the decrease largely to a program called the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers children in families that are poor but make too much income to qualify for Medicaid, the nation's health insurance program for the poor.

And a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that health insurance rates in the general population are also improving, with uninsured rates dropping from 15.4 percent in 1997 to 14.1 percent in 2001.


WHO Reports Kabul Cholera Cases

The World Health Organization has started taking epidemic prevention measures throughout the Afghan capital of Kabul after confirmation of the highly infectious disease cholera in three people.

The diagnoses came after an estimated 6,000 people were hospitalized in the past three weeks alone over diarrhea-related illnesses. Three have reportedly died from severe dehydration, according to the Associated Press.

Cholera is caused by a bacteria that attacks the intestines and can cause fatal dehydration.

Officials say their efforts will focus on water purification and public education. There are reportedly severe water and sanitation problems in the city.


Antidepressant Drug Helps Obese Lose Weight: Study

A popular drug used to treat depression and to help quit smoking appears to have yet another use - - helping obese people to lose weight and keep it off, according to a new study.

Research appearing in the July issue of the journal Obesity Research finds that the drug, an antidepressant called bupropion SR and sold as Wellbutrin for depression and Zyban for nicotine addiction, helped people lose weight and keep it off when combined with exercise and diet.

For the 48-week study, 227 participants were given either one dose or two doses of the drug or a dummy pill each day. All were placed on a restricted diet and asked to increase their exercise by 50 percent, reports the Associated Press.

The researchers say those on the higher doses of the drug lost 10 percent of their body weight, compared with 7 percent body weight loss among the lower dose group, and 5 percent among those taking the placebo pill. Maintenance of the weight loss was highest among those taking the highest doses of the drug.

The researchers say the drug works by reducing hormones to the brain that control the urge to eat.

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