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Health Highlights: June 18, 2007

Prostate Cancer Report Grades States World's Oldest Man is 111 Infants at Risk for Elevator Injuries Women with Twin Brother Less Likely to Have Children Scientists Identify Hearing Loss Gene Asthmatics With Gene Defect May Need More Medicine

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

Prostate Cancer Report Grades States

Five states -- Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Wisconsin -- received failing grades on the second annual Prostate Cancer Report Card, issued Monday by the National Prostate Cancer Coalition (NPCC).

Three of those states -- Arkansas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin -- flunked for the second-straight year on the report card, which assigns grades based on measures including prostate death and screening rates, support for prostate cancer-related legislation, and patient accessibility to urologists and clinical trial sites.

The five states with the best grades were: Connecticut (A), New Jersey (A-), Rhode Island (A-), California (B+) and Iowa (B+).

"More than 230,000 men will be diagnosed with [prostate cancer] this year, but with greater access to yearly screenings, early detection can save lives," NPCC CEO Dr. Richard N. Atkins said in a statement.

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World's Oldest Man is 111

A 111-year old resident of southern Japan is the world's oldest man, says the Guinness Book of World Records. Tomoji Tanabe took the title in January after the death of 115-year-old Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico.

Tanabe, born Sept. 18, 1895, was officially certified as the world's oldest man earlier this month and received a certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records at a ceremony Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Tanabe, a former city land surveyor, does not drink alcohol or smoke. He lives in the city of Miyakonojo.

The world's oldest woman -- also the world's oldest person -- lives in Japan, too. Yone Minagawa, 114, was born Jan. 4, 1893, the AP reported.

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Infants at Risk for Elevator Injuries

Among children, infants up to two years old are most likely to suffer elevator-related injuries, says a study by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine and Ohio State University.

They analyzed 29,030 elevator-related injuries suffered by children in the United States between 1990 and 2004 that were severe enough to require a visit to a hospital emergency room.

Of those injuries, 28.6 percent involved children up to two years of age, according to the study, which appears in an advance online issue of the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

"What really surprised us was the number of infants with head injuries in our study. As the elevator doors close mothers may not realize the vulnerability of babies in strollers or in their arms," lead author Dr. Joseph O'Neil, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

Overall, 98 percent of children with elevator-related injuries were treated and released from the emergency department. Of the two percent admitted to hospital for additional treatment, most had head, hand, or finger injuries.

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Women with Twin Brother Less Likely to Have Children

Women with a twin brother may be 25 percent less likely to have children than women with a twin sister, says a U.K. study that examined centuries-old Finnish medical records, BBC News reported.

Exposure in the womb to the male hormone testosterone may be an important factor, said Sheffield University researchers. Their study appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study also found that females with a twin brother were 15 percent less likely to marry than women with a twin sister, BBC News reported.

The researchers said they analyzed data on twins in the 1700s and 1800s because advanced healthcare and modern fertility/conception treatments would skew modern data.

"There is some evidence to support this observation. Exposure to testosterone in the womb in sheep recreates a similar syndrome to a condition called PCOS, which is a known cause of infertility in humans," Dr. Laurence Shaw, a fertility expert at the London Bridge Fertility Centre and a spokesman for the British Fertility Society, told BBC News.

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Scientists Identify Hearing Loss Gene

Belgian scientists have identified a gene variant that causes otosclerosis, the single most common cause of hearing loss among white adults. The finding may lead to new treatments for the condition, which affects about one in 250 people.

Otosclerosis is caused by abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, which blocks sound waves from reaching the inner ear. University of Antwerp scientists found that many people with otosclerosis had a specific variant in a gene called TGBF1, BBC News reported.

The finding was presented at a European Society of Human Genetics conference, where the researchers also said that a more active variant of TGBF1 actually helped protect against otosclerosis.

This is a significant finding, Vivienne Michael, chief executive of Deafness Research UK, told BBC News.

"At the moment the most common treatment is surgery, but this findings opens the door to alternative therapies which would prevent or slow the abnormal bone growth that causes the condition," Michael said.

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Asthmatics With Gene Defect May Need More Medicine

Defects in a gene that produces the protein filaggrin affect how often people with asthma need to take medicines, say British researchers, who added that their finding could lead to reductions in medication requirements for asthmatics.

Last year, the University of Dundee team identified the gene that produces filaggrin. The protein is normally found in large quantities in the skin's outermost layers and acts as a barrier to keep moisture in and foreign organisms out, BBC News reported.

Research in children with asthma revealed that defects in the gene can make asthma patients three-to-six times more likely to need to use their inhaler every day and more likely to require extra asthma medicines in addition to inhaled steroids, the scientists said.

The study appears in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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