Health Highlights: Nov. 2, 2007

Children Inherit Cancer Survival Traits: Study Massachusetts Will Offer Overdose Treatment Kits to Heroin Addicts Millions of Totino's and Jeno's Frozen Pizzas Recalled Report Urges Doctors to Watch for Lead Poisoning in Children Online Drug Chat Draws 36,000 Questions From Students

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

Children Inherit Cancer Survival Traits: Study

Survival traits for certain kinds of cancers are passed from parents to children, concludes a Swedish study reported in the November issue of The Lancet Oncology journal.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm analyzed a Swedish family database that included three million families and more than 1 million cancer patients. The scientists found that children whose parents had good survival rates after being diagnosed with breast, lung, prostate or colorectal cancer had better survival rates for those same cancers than people whose parents died within 10 years of being diagnosed with those cancers.

The increased risk of death for children whose parents had died earlier was 75 percent for breast cancer, 107 percent for prostate cancer, 44 percent for colorectal cancer, and 39 percent for lung cancer.

"In conclusion, our findings provide support for the hypothesis that cancer-specific survival of a patient can be predicted from previous parental survival from cancer at the same site," the study authors wrote. "Consequently, molecular studies that highlight the genetic determinants of inherited survival in cancers are needed. In a clinical setting, information on poor survival in a family might be vital in accurately predicting tumor progression in the newly diagnosed individual."

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Massachusetts Will Offer Overdose Treatment Kits to Heroin Addicts

Starting next month, heroin addicts in Massachusetts will be offered kits to help treat overdoses quickly, safely and without fear of addiction, the Associated Press reported. The state plan was inspired by similar programs in Boston, Chicago and New York City.

In 2005, heroin and other opiates killed 544 people in Massachusetts, more than double the number of people killed by firearms.

Each kit contains two doses of Narcan (generic name: naloxone), which can be squirted into the nose of someone who has overdosed. Experts say the drug causes no side effects, the AP reported. The initial test run in Massachusetts is expected to enroll 450 heroin users and cost less than $50,000. If it saves lives, the program may be expanded.

Advocates say this is a safe, effective approach for preventing overdose deaths. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy doesn't support the idea, the wire service said.

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Millions of Totino's and Jeno's Frozen Pizzas Recalled

Five million Totino's and Jeno's frozen pepperoni pizzas that could be linked to an outbreak of E. coli in the United States are being recalled by General Mills. The pizzas were made in the company's Wellston, Ohio plant and distributed across the United States, the Associated Press reported.

Between July 20 and Oct. 10, there were 21 cases of E. Coli 0157:H7 reported in Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. Of the 21 people who became ill, nine said they'd eaten Totino's or Jeno's pizza with pepperoni, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a news release.

Included in the recall are Totino's Original Crisp Crust Party Pizza and Jeno's Crisp 'N Tasty Pizza containing pepperoni or a combination of pepperoni, sausage and other ingredients, the AP reported. Packages affected by the recall show "EST. 7750" inside the USDA mark of inspection, and include a "best if used by" date on or before "02 APR 08 WS."

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Report Urges Doctors to Watch for Lead Poisoning in Children

Doctors need to be more alert to signs of lead poisoning in children, according to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, which noted that even children with blood levels lower than the U.S. standard of 10 micrograms per deciliter can still have lower IQs and various health problems.

The report, prepared by the federal government's Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention, didn't propose a new standard but is "emphasizing that all levels are important," primary author Dr. Helen Binns, of Northwestern University, told the Associated Press.

Children with blood lead levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter may not show any obvious symptoms but may still have impaired intellectual development, she said.

In their report, Binns and her colleagues advise doctors on how to speak to parents of children with lower blood lead levels, including mention of the risks, and nutrition changes and measures to prevent additional lead exposure, the AP reported.

The paper was published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics. Its release coincides with growing concern over high lead levels in imported toys.

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Online Drug Chat Draws 36,000 Questions From Students

More than 36,000 questions from students at middle and high schools across the United States were received when U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse experts held the online Drug Facts Chat Day on Oct. 12.

More than 40 scientists and science writers who specialize in addiction issues took turns throughout the day to answer questions as they were posted during a ten-hour period. At times, the questions came in as rapidly as 6,000 questions per hour.

Marijuana, alcohol and smoking were the focus of about 30 percent (10 percent each) of all the questions. Among other questions:

  • More than 600 students asked how they could get help for a friend, and nearly 400 asked about the effects of using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
  • There were nearly 1,000 questions each on methamphetamine and cocaine, more than 300 on heroin, and more than 200 on mushrooms.
  • There were more than 100 questions on inhalants, including gasoline, hairspray and permanent markers.
  • At least 50 students asked about steroids and athletic performance.

"The unexpectedly high volume of questions in this chat underscores how much this age group wants fact, not rumor; how much they don't know; and how much their teachers want to help them get the latest scientific information," NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said in a prepared statement.

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