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Health Highlights: June 25, 2002

Aspirin Linked to Reduced Lung Cancer Risk: Study EU Plan Offers Cheap Drugs to Poor Nations Martha Stewart-Brand Potpourri Pots Recalled Skin Cholesterol Test Receives FDA Approval Liposuction Becomes Safer Many at Risk for AIDS in Denial: U.N. Study

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

Aspirin Linked to Reduced Lung Cancer Risk: Study

Aspirin has already risen from the ranks of a mere pain reliever to become a highly valued heart attack and stroke prevention tool, and now researchers say preventing lung cancer may be added to its list of benefits.

Researchers with New York University say that in looking at more than 14,000 women, they found that those who took aspirin regularly had less than half the rate of non-small cell lung cancer -- the most common form of the disease -- than those who did not take aspirin, reports MSNBC.

The researchers say they're not yet able to understand how aspirin works to reduce cancer, but they believe the drug's anti-inflammatory effects may play a role.

Not smoking was still -- by far -- found to be the best way to reduce the risk of lung cancer. The study is published in the British Journal of Medicine.


EU Plan Offers Cheap Drugs to Poor Nations

The European Union has proposed a plan to allow poor nations to import inexpensive drugs as part of a deal made last year at the World Trade Organization meeting.

Under the plan, developing nations could have emergency access to medicines they desperately need but do not have the facilities to produce themselves, reports the Associated Press.

The plan is a proposed solution to a key problem with an earlier plan adopted at the WTO last year. That plan gave poor countries the right to override patents on expensive Western drugs and make the products themselves when public health is at stake.

But the plan prevented exporting or importing those drugs, meaning that countries unable to afford to set up facilities to make the drugs themselves could not benefit.

Some activist groups are criticizing the proposal because nations would be required to have border patrols in place to prevent re-exportation or drugs going back out onto the black market, and the groups say those patrols may be too costly.


Martha Stewart-Brand Potpourri Pots Recalled

You might say Martha Stewart's problems are taking her from the fire to the frying pan -- amid scandal over questionable stock transactions comes a recall of Martha Stewart Everyday brand potpourri simmering pots because of their potential to burn consumers.

The pots' manufacturer, the Cincinnati-based Candle-lite, has received nine reports of tea lights inside the pots overheating and one case of a consumer receiving minor burns while attempting to extinguish the light, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The incidents have prompted the recall of about 80,000 of the white ceramic pots, which were sold at Kmart stores from September 2001 through March 2002 for about $5 each, reports the Associated Press.

Consumers are advised to stop using the pots and call Candle-lite at 1-800-718-7151 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. EDT Monday through Friday for information on refunds.


Skin Cholesterol Test Gets FDA OK

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a skin test that detects a person's cholesterol level through the palm of the hand.

Yesterday's action, however, only allows the "Cholesterol 1,2,3" test to be used for people with severe heart disease or a history of heart attack, reports the Associated Press. The rest of the population will still have to rely on the standard blood-cholesterol test.

The Cholesterol 1,2,3 test includes a foam pad with small holes, to be placed on the palm. An enzyme and a second chemical are then added. Within three minutes, the pad will turn different shades of blue, depending on a person's cholesterol level. A handheld detector evaluates the color and indicates a person's level of risk.

Toronto-based International Medical Innovations Inc. is still looking for a U.S. marketing partner, the AP reports, which makes its U.S. introduction date uncertain. The product, which should cost under $10, is slated to be introduced in Canada later this summer.


Liposuction Becomes Safer

Liposuction, now the top form of cosmetic surgery in the United States, has become significantly safer because doctors are removing smaller amounts of fat, The New York Times reports.

The procedure, medically known as lipoplasty, was done approximately 385,000 times last year, mostly on 35- to 50-year-old women. A person's risk of death, which in 1998 was 1 in 5000, plummeted to 1 in 47,415 in just two years, according to the Aesthetic Surgery Journal. Most patients now have an average of five pounds of fat removed.

Doctors are now using smaller surgical tools with ultrasound attachments that help break down fatty deposits before they are sucked out. This also has made the procedure safer, the Times reports.


Many at Risk for AIDS in Denial: U.N. Study

Most people in developing countries are aware of AIDS, but few believe they are at risk of contracting the HIV virus, according to a newly released United Nations survey.

Researchers polled about 5,000 people in each of 24 countries in Africa, seven in Asia, and eight in Latin America and the Caribbean, reports the Associated Press. In several countries including the Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Niger, as many as 90 percent of those polled believed their risk of contracting the HIV virus was low.

Condom use in many of the nations surveyed remains unpopular, the report says. U.N. officials concede that changing sexual behavior in developing nations remains an awesome challenge.

The research was conducted by the U.N.'s Population Division during the mid-to-late 1990s.

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