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Health Highlights: June 15, 2006

First Drug Regimen Approved for Advanced Cervical Cancer Docs Question Merits of Cosmetic Lasers: Newspaper Baseball Wants to Strike Out Prostate Cancer Many Parents Underestimate Asthma Risk: Study Separated Twins 'Doing Great'

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

First Drug Regimen Approved for Advanced Cervical Cancer

The first combination of drugs to treat late-stage cervical cancer received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval Thursday.

Hycamtin (topotecan hydrochloride) -- already approved to treat cancers of the ovaries and lung -- is newly sanctioned in combination with cisplatin to treat cervical cancer that's too advanced or is unlikely to respond to treatments including surgery and radiation, the agency said.

Some 10,000 U.S. women are diagnosed annually with cervical cancer, leading to 3,700 deaths each year. In clinical trials involving 293 women, participants who used the combination survived an average of 9.4 months, versus 6.5 months among those who took cisplatin alone, the FDA said

Hycamtin, made by GlaxoSmithKline, was approved in 1996 for ovarian cancer and in 1998 for small-cell lung cancer. People who take it are at risk for neutropenia, a drop in white blood cell count that boosts a person's risk of infections. Users are also at risk for a decrease in blood platelets, which could lead to excessive bleeding and anemia, the FDA said.

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Docs Question Merits of Cosmetic Lasers: Newspaper

A growing number of doctors who have used lasers and other technologies to counter drooping skin are questioning whether the devices actually work as touted, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Body sculpting treatments and related procedures are among the fastest-growing cosmetic procedures, the newspaper said, as the global pricetag in 2005 topped $4.2 billion. But actual results are marginal at best, physicians tell the Journal.

Some dermatologists and plastic surgeons are becoming increasingly critical of what they say are their colleagues' tendencies to show dramatic before-and-after pictures that overstate typical results. Makers of the devices attribute the complaints to the fact that patient results aren't always as dramatic as surgery, the newspaper reported.

There is little documented scientific evidence of the effectiveness of cosmetic lasers and other treatments, the Journal noted. One reason may be that the requirements for approval of these devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are much less stringent than evidence required for the FDA's approval of drugs, the newspaper said.

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Baseball Wants to Strike Out Prostate Cancer

To raise awareness of the dangers of prostate cancer, Major League Baseball says it will observe Father's Day this Sunday by working with corporate sponsors to donate money to prostate cancer research for every home run hit that day.

In an article on its Web site, Major League Baseball said an informative card would be distributed to fans at all MLB ballparks on Sunday, and that players and coaches would don symbolic wristbands and blue-ribbon uniform decals.

And The New York Times reported that traditional seventh-inning stretch activities would instead be done on Sunday during the sixth inning, symbolizing that one in every six American men will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime.

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Many Parents Underestimate Asthma Risk: Study

Nearly half of all parents who participated in a global survey were unaware that a child with a mild form of asthma could still die from an acute attack, European researchers say.

One in three fatal asthma attacks involves a mild form of the disease, the Associated Press reported of data released at a Vienna meeting by the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology.

A survey of nearly 5,500 parents -- primarily in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States -- found that parents frequently cut back on their children's use of inhalers and other treatments when their children have side effects, the wire service reported.

This exposes these children to a host of potential problems, including worsening asthma symptoms, more frequent attacks, and the need for more trips to the doctor or emergency room, the academy warned.

Some 225,000 people died from asthma last year, according to the World Health Organization, a number that's projected to rise by almost 20 percent in the next decade, the AP reported.

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Separated Twins 'Doing Great'

Conjoined twins, attached from the chest to the pelvis and who shared internal organ function, were separated in a daylong operation Wednesday by a surgical team at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

The twins, 10-month-old Regina and Renata Salinas Fierros, were transferred early Thursday to side-by-side beds in an intensive care unit after their surgeries were complete, hospital spokeswoman Janet Dotson told the Associated Press.

"The girls are doing great," she added.

The AP reported that the twins were finally separated as the pelvic bone was cut shortly before 6:30 p.m. PT.Wednesday night. The procedure had lasted more than 12 hours and was especially difficult, the wire service said, because doctors had to devise a way to separate the liver, bladder and genitalia so that each child could function on her own.

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