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Health Highlights: May 15, 2006

Exercise, Healthy Diet May Ward Off Colon Cancer Parents' Response Influences How Children Cope After Hurricanes Contact Lens Solution Removed From Market 48 Million in U.S. Don't Use Seatbelts: Report

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

Exercise, Healthy Diet May Ward Off Colon Cancer

Exercise and a restricted-calorie diet may help protect against colorectal cancer, suggests a University of Wisconsin-Madison study in mice genetically engineered to be predisposed to develop intestinal polyps, the forerunners of colorectal tumors.

Male mice who exercised on a running wheel and had their food intake restricted developed 25 percent fewer polyps and had smaller polyps than mice in a control group who got no exercise and ate as much as they wanted.

By the end of 10 weeks, six of the 23 mice in the control group had died due to the number of polyps that had grown and the resulting anemia, but all of the 24 exercising mice were still alive.

The findings appear in the journal Carcinogenesis.

"Our studies are relevant for humans in that these mice have a mutation in one of the same genes, APC, that is also mutated in human colon cancer," study lead author Lisa H. Colbert, assistant professor, department of kinesiology, said in a prepared statement.

"The protective effect of exercise and body weight in our mice is consistent with epidemiological evidence in humans that suggests higher levels of activity and lower body weight reduces the risk of colon cancer," she said.

Another study in the same issue of Carcinogenesis concluded that exercise may help protect against skin cancer. The study of female mice found that those who had constant access to a running wheel took longer to develop skin tumors and developed fewer and smaller tumors than mice that didn't have running wheels. Both groups of mice were exposed to tumor-inducing ultraviolet B light.

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Parents' Response Influences How Children Cope After Hurricanes

How children cope with the aftermath of a hurricane is closely linked to their parents' psychological health, says a University of South Florida College of Public Health study that examined hundreds of families affected by Hurricane Charley, which struck Florida in 2004.

The study found that children of parents who reported high levels of post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms (such as fear, anxiety, anger, and depression) were four times more likely to report high levels of stress compared to children whose parents reported no PTS symptoms. Forty-five percent of children reported high levels of PTS symptoms if their parents also reported high levels of stress symptoms.

The study also found that:

  • Seventy-nine percent of parents experienced panic during the hurricane, while 45 percent feared their own death and 42 percent feared their child's death.
  • Eight months after Hurricane Charley, nearly 40 percent of parents reported moderate or high levels of PTS symptoms.
  • Seventy-eight percent of the children in the study reported at least one symptom of PTS.
  • High levels of PTS symptoms were reported by 27 percent of parents who had structural damage to their homes, by 40 percent of parents whose home suffered more damage than their neighbors' homes, and by 55 percent of parents who lost keepsakes and photos.
  • More than 50 percent of parents whose children had high levels of PTS symptoms did not believe that counseling would help them or their children.

The study authors said their findings have implications for survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

"I would expect the burden of post-traumatic stress symptoms among Hurricane Katrina survivors to be even higher, because research has shown direct exposure to the dead and wounded is a strong risk factor for developing post-traumatic stress disorder," study director Elizabeth Barnett, associate professor of epidemiology, said in a prepared statement.

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Contact Lens Solution Removed From Market

Contact-lens solution maker Bausch & Lomb said Monday it has permanently pulled from the market a lens solution linked to an outbreak of fungal eye infections that can cause blindness.

The number of confirmed cases of Fusarium keratitis had climbed to 122 by last Friday, according to U.S. health authorities, and most of the cases involved contact-lens wearers who reported using Bausch & Lomb's newest cleaner, ReNu with MoistureLoc MultiPurpose Solution.

"Bausch & Lomb's top priority is the safety of our customers, and we want them to have complete confidence in our products," the company's chief executive, Ronald Zarrella, said according to an Associated Press report.

The company halted U.S. sales of MoistureLoc on April 13 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was investigating an unusual spike in infections in Americans using the product.

Of the more than 30 million Americans who wear contact lenses, nearly 11 million use MultiPlus, which was launched a decade ago. Another 2.3 million people use MoistureLoc, which was introduced in late 2004 and accounted for $45 million in U.S. sales last year. Bausch & Lomb also makes contact lenses, ophthalmic drugs and vision-correction surgical instruments and generates more than $2 billion in annual revenues.

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48 Million in U.S. Don't Use Seatbelts: Report

About 48 million people in the United States don't regularly use seat belts when they're driving, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Young men who live in rural areas and drive pickup trucks are the least likely to wear seatbelts, the report found, and men in general account for 65 percent of the more than 31,000 people killed each year in passenger vehicle crashes, the Associated Press reported.

The report also found that 58 percent of people killed who weren't wearing seatbelts were in crashes that occurred on rural roads. In crashes involving pickups, about 7 in 10 who died were not wearing seatbelts.

More than 6 in 10 people ages 8 to 44 who died in passenger vehicle crashes were not wearing seatbelts, the AP reported.

For people in the front seats of passenger cars, lap and shoulder safety belts reduce the risk of death by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injuries by 65 percent, the NHTSA said.

For people in the fronts seats of pickups, vans and sport utility vehicles, seatbelts reduce the risk of death by 60 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injuries by 65 percent.

The agency's "Click It or Ticket" campaign runs from May 22 to June 4, in advance of the summer driving season. It includes public education advertisements, checkpoints, and patrols to help enforce seatbelt laws, the AP reported.

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