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Health Highlights: May 30, 2008

FDA Panel Recommends Drug for Rare Blood Disorder Facial Features Affect Perception of Mood Recalled Toy Helicopters Pose Fire, Burn Hazards Most Children's Caregivers Ignorant About Household Poisons 500,000 Asian Youth Targeted by Tobacco Companies: WHO Fruits and Vegetables May Protect Against Lung Cancer

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

FDA Panel Recommends Drug for Rare Blood Disorder

Despite reservations by U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientists, a panel of experts advising the agency has recommended the full agency's approval of a drug to treat a rare immune system disorder that causes the body to destroy its own blood platelets.

The advisory panel voted unanimously Friday to recommend Promacta, produced by GlaxoSmithKline and Ligand Pharmaceuticals, the Associated Press reported. Earlier in the week, FDA scientists released data that they suggested found that Promacta was no better than a placebo in treating chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Some 60,000 people in the United States have the disorder, which leads to excessive bleeding and bruising.

While noting that the drug makers haven't provided long-term data on the drug's safety and effectiveness, the panel said a pair of six-week studies indicated Promacta was of significant benefit to people with the disorder, the AP reported.

The FDA has until June 19 to decide whether to approve the drug. While it isn't bound by the recommendations of its expert panels, it typically follows them.


Facial Features Affect Perception of Mood

A person's facial expressions and mood can be misperceived due to differences in facial features such as eyebrow shape, eyelid position and wrinkles, according to a U.S. study.

It included 20 health care workers who viewed photos that were digitally altered to change a number of features. The participants were asked to rate, on a scale of 0 to 5, seven expressions or emotions conveyed in the photos: tiredness, happiness, surprise, anger, disgust, fear and sadness, United Press International reported.

Results for the altered photos were compared to the scores from the original photos. Overall, eyebrow shape was deemed to be the greatest indicator of mood, drooping of the eyelids was considered the biggest indicator of tiredness, and raising the lower eyelid and the presence of crow's feet were associated with happiness.

The study appears in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

"A key complaint of those seeking facial plastic surgery is that people always tell them they look tired, even when they do not feel tired," study co-author Dr. John Persing said in a prepared statement cited by UPI. "We found that variations in eyebrow contour, drooping of the upper eyelid, and wrinkles may be conveying facial expressions that don't necessarily match how patients are feeling."


Recalled Toy Helicopters Pose Fire, Burn Hazards

About 152,000 Sky Champion wireless indoor helicopters are being recalled because the rechargeable battery inside the toy can ignite and pose fire or burn hazards to consumers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

There have been two reports of the Chinese-made toy helicopters catching fire but no reports of injuries or property damage, according to importer/distributor Tradewinds International Enterprises Inc. (TWIE), of San Francisco, Calif.

recalled helicopters

The recalled helicopters have the code BH26047 printed on the tail. The code WIC 551777 and the UPC code 630990006005 are printed on the packaging. The toys were sold at Walgreens stores across the United States from June 2007 through November 2007 for about $20.

Consumers should stop using the toys and contact TWIE at 888-583-4908 for a refund. Walgreens will not accept returns or provide refunds, the CPSC said.


Most Children's Caregivers Ignorant About Household Poisons

Less than one-third of people who cared for children younger than age six knew the toxicity of common household products, a new U.S. study found.

"Young children are at risk of household chemical ingestion and their caretakers often do not have a good understanding of how toxic those chemical are. Parental education needs to be focused more on younger caretakers with more children," study leader Dr. Rika N. O'Malley, of the Albert Einstein Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

The researchers screened primary caregivers who visited emergency departments, asking them to identify toxic items from a list of common household products. People with a higher level of education, responsibility for fewer children, and those more than 23 years old were more likely to have knowledge of household poisons.

The study was presented Friday at a meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.

The researchers said doctors needed to boost efforts to educate primary caregivers about the risks of household toxins.


500,000 Asian Youth Targeted by Tobacco Companies: WHO

Tobacco advertising that targets teens is putting half-a-billion young Asians at risk for tobacco-related diseases, says the Asia-Pacific director of the World Health Organization.

In a statement issued on the eve of the WHO-designated "World No Tobacco Day," Shigeru Omi said the tobacco industry's marketing efforts aim to persuade half-a-billion young people in the Western Pacific to try their first cigarette, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Youngsters are led to believe that certain types of cigarettes do not contain nicotine, when in fact they do," Omi said.

He restated the WHO's demand for a total ban on tobacco advertising and noted that partial bans simply allow tobacco companies to shift from one promotional strategy to another, AFP reported.

The U.N. agency spokesman accused tobacco companies of "falsely associating use of their products with desirable qualities such as glamour, energy and sex appeal, as well as exciting outdoor activities and adventure."


Fruits and Vegetables May Protect Against Lung Cancer

Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking black or green tea may help reduce smokers' lung cancer risk, suggests a University of California, Los Angeles study.

Researchers looked at the eating habits of 558 lung cancer patients and 837 people without the disease. People who ate three servings of vegetables a day were 1.6 times less likely to develop lung cancer than those who didn't eat three servings. People who ate three or more servings of fruit were one-fold less likely to develop lung cancer, and those who drank one cup of black or green tea a day had a 0.8-fold reduced risk, CBC News reported.

Fruits, vegetables and tea contain flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

"What we found was extremely interesting, that several types of flavonoids are associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer among smokers," said Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, a professor of public health and epidemiology at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, CBC News reported.

Zhang and colleagues believe flavonoids may help stop the development of blood vessels that feed tumors, preventing them from invading healthy tissue.

The study appears in the May issue of the journal Cancer.

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