Health Highlights: June 6, 2016
New Cancer Database Unveiled by VP Biden WHO Committee Will Assess Zika Risks At Rio Games Mississippi Woman Wins Legal Fight to Keep Her Placenta After Birth Sunflower Seed Recall Expanded Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali Dies at 74
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
New Cancer Database Unveiled by VP Biden
A public cancer database meant to improve individualized treatment of patients was to be unveiled Monday by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
The Genomic Data Commons database is housed within the National Cancer Institute and currently has genetic and clinical data for 12,000 patients, the Associated Press reported.
The goal of the database is to increase sharing of information about the gene sequences of cancer and how patients respond to specific treatments. The system is designed to be easily searched by researchers and doctors, but includes protections for privacy and security, according to the White House.
Biden says data sharing is crucial to finding new ways to treat cancer, the AP reported.
WHO Committee Will Assess Zika Risks At Rio Games
An expert committee will be convened by the World Health Organization to consider whether the Summer Olympics in Brazil should proceed as planned despite concerns about the Zika virus.
"Given the current level of international concern, I have decided to ask members of the Zika Emergency Committee to examine the risks of holding the Olympic Summer Games as currently scheduled," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan wrote in a letter released by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the Associated Press reported.
Last month, Shaheen asked Chan to evaluate whether the Rio games, scheduled for Aug. 5-21, should be delayed or postponed. About 500,000 athletes and visitors are expected to attend the games.
In her letter, Chan said WHO had sent senior scientists to Brazil four times to assess the risk of Zika. The meeting date of the expert committee has yet to be announced.
Of the approximately 60 nations with reported Zika outbreaks, Brazil has been hit the hardest and has the most cases (almost 1,500) of a Zika-related birth defect in which a baby is born with an abnormally small brain and head.
Last month, a group of more than 200 experts asked WHO to convene an independent panel to consider whether the Rio games should be delayed or moved, but WHO rejected the suggestion and said ""canceling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics (would) not significantly alter the international spread of Zika," the AP reported.
Mississippi Woman Wins Legal Fight to Keep Her Placenta After Birth
A pregnant woman in Mississippi won her legal fight to be allowed to take home her placenta after giving birth.
"For a bunch of men in suits to tell women what they can or cannot do with their bodies is just not right," Jordan Thiering, 25, told NBC News. "Having to get a court order to get something you grew in your own body beside your baby is just crazy."
After her court victory, the state is considering changing the rules to allow other mothers to keep the placenta after birth.
Despite a lack of scientific evidence, some people believe the blood-rich placenta has nutrients that can ease postpartum depression and boost breast milk production, NBC News reported.
The placenta can be dried and processed into a powder that can be swallowed like a capsule or blended into a smoothie.
"A lot of women use it to make art," Thiering told NBC News. "Some of them plant it with a tree, to create a tree of life."
Sunflower Seed Recall Expanded
A recall of sunflower seeds due to possible listeria contamination has been expanded.
The seeds were processed by SunOpta Inc. of Minnesota and covers dozens of brand names in 25 states and parts of Canada. The expanded recall is for certain flavors of Clif Bars, Quaker products, Hy-Vee, Food Club and Publix, NBC News reported.
No illnesses linked to the recalled sunflower seeds have occurred, according to the company.
The recalled sunflower seeds include store brands and well-known brands such as Planter's, as well as spreads, packaged kernels, salad toppings, snack bars and mixes of products containing sunflower seeds, NBC News reported.
A full list of the recalled products is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Each year in the United States, listeria outbreaks cause 1,600 hospitalizations and 260 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali Dies at 74
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali died on Friday in a Phoenix hospital after battling a respiratory condition.
One of the most iconic sports figures of all time, the 74-year-old Ali had suffered from Parkinson's disease since he was 42. A degenerative neurological condition that can rob victims of speech and mobility with no known cure, many experts believe his illness was caused by decades of taking head blows in the boxing ring.
Ali was first hospitalized for respiratory issues earlier this week, but his condition worsened rapidly, the Associated Press reported. His hometown of Louisville plans to hold a memorial service next Saturday, the wire service said.
"The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening," family spokesman Bob Gunnell said in a statement Friday night. "The Ali family would like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and support and asks for privacy at this time."
Although celebrated in the ring for his unorthodox and groundbreaking boxing style, Ali also became famous for speaking out on many of the social issues that defined his time.
Often, his brash, yet poetic, statements on race, religion and war generated both controversy and respect. Sadly, Parkinson's eventually robbed him of the ability to express his personal convictions on a public stage.
Millions watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Atlanta in 1996, as the former superstar's hands trembled so badly he could barely light the ceremonial torch to start the games.
In the 1960s, his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War led boxing officials to strip him of his heavyweight titles, and he was convicted as a draft evader, The New York Times reported.
But he appealed the verdict and filed for conscientious objector status in 1967. Although he lost more than three years of a brilliant boxing career, the U.S. Supreme Court finally granted him that status in 1971, the newspaper said.
He also converted to Islam in the 1960s, at which point he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali.