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

Hormone Therapy Trial Halted

A national study examining the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in menopausal women has been halted after the health risks were found to outweigh the benefits, reports HealthDay.

The trial was cancelled after 5.2 years of average follow-up, or more than three years before its expected duration of 8.5 years.

An article in the July 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that women taking the common combination hormone therapy of estrogen and progestin experienced a 29 percent increased rate of coronary heart disease problems, compared to women taking a placebo.

In addition, stroke rates were 41 percent higher in women receiving both hormones; the rates of blood clots doubled; invasive breast cancer rates were 26 percent higher; and total cardiovascular disease increased by 22 percent.

On the plus side, the women taking the estrogen and progestin experienced a 37 percent drop in colorectal cancer rates; hip fracture rates declined by one-third; and total fractures decreased by 24 percent.

The study's authors speculate that the type of progestin used may have counteracted the beneficial effects of estrogen, causing the effects that were negative.


Largest Ever AIDS Vaccine Trial Set for Thailand

The United States and Thailand are teaming up to conduct the largest trial of an AIDS vaccine to date, reports CNN.

Dubbed the "Thai Vaccine Trial," the $36 million, five-year study will involve about 16,000 HIV-negative volunteers and will be conducted in Thailand. The trial is being co-sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Thai Ministry of Public Health.

Half of the study's participants will reportedly receive a series of three primer shots and two booster shots over the course of six months, and the other half will receive placebos.

The vaccine is designed to stop freely circulating virus from infecting cells that have not been infected, and to prevent the HIV's progression in infected cells.

Officials say the recruiting of volunteers will begin this year and the study will go through 2007, with a final analysis expected in 2008.


Protesters Shout Down Thompson's AIDS Address

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson's speech before the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona was nearly muted by boos, shouts of "Shame! Shame!" and whistles today, reports the Washington Post.

Though the address was reportedly unintelligible to the audience, the secretary was able to finish the speech. No arrests were made and there were no attempts to stop the demonstration.

Accusing Thompson and President Bush of "murder and neglect," the protesters demanded that the United States contribute more to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, among other things.

Despite President Bush's announcement last month of a 5-year, $500 million program to combat AIDS worldwide, the protesters said the United States was not doing enough.

The display was part of what has become a tradition at international AIDS conferences, with loud and sometimes vandalous protests in the past targeted not only at public officials, but scientists and pharmaceutical representatives as well.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, who served under George H.W. Bush, was also shouted down 10 years ago. Thompson commented that he was the only HHS secretary who's had the "courage" to come since then, reports the Post.


FDA Hears Both Sides of Breast Implant Issue

Women who have received breast implants gave both positive and negative accounts of their experiences today to a Food and Drug Administration panel meeting called to gather information.

Continued use of saline-filled implants for cosmetic and reconstructive purposes was approved by the FDA two years ago, but some officials are concerned that not enough follow-up research has been obtained, as was a condition of the approval.

Several women said their implant experiences had been favorable, but others, including actress Mary McDonough, known for her role as Erin on the popular TV show "The Waltons," spoke of continuing health problems that were attributed to the implants.

Members of the FDA panel reportedly agreed with arguments that women should still have the right to choose implants, but they stressed a need for more follow-up research. Among the reasons discussed for the lack of follow-up data was the fact that very few women responded to requests for follow-up interviews.


Number of U.S. HIV-Infected Newborns Sinks

The number of babies born in the United States with the HIV virus fell 80 percent during the 1990s, according to data presented today at the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona.

Estimates offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say about 325 American infants were born with the AIDS-causing virus in 2000, compared with 1,760 babies in 1991. CDC researchers attribute the decline to voluntary HIV counseling and testing, and to subsequent anti-AIDS therapy, reports the Associated Press.

The number of HIV-infected mothers actually surged from an estimated 80,000 in 1991 to as many as 135,000 in 2000, the CDC says. Anti-AIDS drugs, however, have lowered the transmission rate from mothers to newborns from about 25 percent to about 2 percent, the agency adds.


Summer Jobs Pose Dangers for Teens: Consumer Group

Outdated child labor laws and improper training and supervision mean dangerous working conditions for many teen workers -- especially during the summer season, reports the National Consumers League.

The NCL says some child labor laws haven't been updated in more than 60 years, and it is calling on the Department of Labor to release a long-awaited report that recommends changes to better protect teens.

A new NCL survey of teens 14-18 finds that 62 percent receive most of their money from part-time and neighborhood jobs. The advocacy group cites Labor Department statistics that say 231,000 American teens are injured on the job every year.

The NCL has released its annual list of most dangerous jobs for young people. The top 5 are:

  • Driving and delivery, including vehicle operation and repair;
  • Working alone, notably at night, at jobs where money is exchanged;
  • Cooking, including exposure to hot oil, grease, and steam;
  • Construction, and/or working at heights;
  • Selling, in neighborhoods, street corners and door-to-door, of candy and magazine subscriptions, etc.
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