Health Highlights: Nov. 22, 2008

Please note: This article was published more than one year ago. The facts and conclusions presented may have since changed and may no longer be accurate. And "More information" links may no longer work. Questions about personal health should always be referred to a physician or other health care professional.

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

Getting Bad News May Be Better Than Not Knowing at All, Study Says

No news is good news, right?

Not necessarily, University of Toronto researchers found, according to the New York Times.

In fact, it's better to get bad news than no news at all, the newspaper reports, because not knowing something may increase anxiety and stress.

The researchers hooked up 41 men and women to electrode caps and asked them to perform tasks, while their neural activity was monitored, the Times reports. The highest neuron response was when the computer feedback issued a question mark instead of a plus sign (job well done) or a minus sign (needs improvement). The question mark gave no indication of what was required next.

This brain activity indicated that being uncertain about an outcome among people who are neurotic is worse than actually receiving bad news. "Basically the motto of the highly neurotic person is, 'Better the devil you know than the devil you don't,' " Jacob Hirsch, the study's lead author, told the Times.

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N.P.R. Radio Host Has Ties to Drug Makers: Report

Between 2000 and 2007, the psychiatrist who hosts National Public Radio's "The Infinite Mind" received at least $1.3 million giving lectures for drug makers, a connection that wasn't mentioned on the program.

In his shows, Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin often discussed topics linked to the commercial interests of the companies for which he consults, The New York Times reported. For example, in a Sept. 20, 2005, program he told his audience that untreated bipolar disorder in children could lead to brain damage, a controversial opinion. Goodwin then told his audience that "modern treatments -- mood stabilizers in particular -- have been proven both safe and effective in bipolar children," the newspaper said.

On the same day, drug maker GlaxoSmithKline paid Goodwin $2,500 to give a promotional lecture for a mood stabilizer drug. In 2005, Goodwin made more than $329,000 promoting that drug, the Times said.

National Public Radio wouldn't have aired Goodwin's program if his ties to drug companies were known, Margaret Low Smith, vice president of N.P.R., told the Times. She said "The Infinite Mind" will be removed from N.P.R.'s satellite service next week, the earliest possible date.

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Forward-Facing Strollers Stress Babies

Using forward-facing strollers may cause babies emotional distress because they aren't getting face-to-face contact with their parents, according to researchers at Dundee University in Scotland.

The researchers studied nearly 3,000 parent-infant pairs and found that 25 percent of parents using rear-facing strollers spoke to their babies, more than twice as many as parents using forward-facing strollers. The researchers also found that babies in rear-facing strollers had lower heart rates and were twice as likely to fall asleep than those in forward-facing ones, Agence France Presse reported.

Facing their parents gives infants positive reassurance and reduces mental stress, the researchers concluded.

"Neuroscience has helped us to learn how important social interaction during the early years is for children's brain development," said Suzanne Zeedyk, of Dundee University's School of Psychology, AFP reported.

"Our data suggests that for many babies today, life in a buggy [stroller] is emotionally impoverished and possibly stressful. Stressed babies grow into anxious adults," she added.

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Hairspray May Increase Risk of Male Birth Defect: Study

Women exposed to hairspray during pregnancy may be more likely to give birth to boys with a genital defect called hypospadias, in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis, instead of the tip, says an Imperial College London study.

The researchers interviewed 471 women whose boys were born with hypospadias and a similar number of women whose boys were normal. About twice as many women in the hypospadias group said they'd been exposed to hairspray through their jobs as hairdressers and beauty therapists, BBC News reported.

In recent decades, there's been a sharp rise in the incidence of hypospadias. Some experts suspect it may be due to hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates, which are used in hairsprays.

However, there's no proof that exposure to hairspray can cause hypospadias, said the authors of the study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"Women shouldn't be alarmed. This study adds a bit more evidence to the general picture about these chemicals, but more research will be needed to demonstrate that the link exists," said study leader Professor Paul Elliott. "Pregnant women will need to make their own choices about whether or not to avoid these kind of exposures."

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IKEA Blinds Recalled After Girl's Death

The choking death of a 1-year-old girl from Greenwich, Conn., has prompted the U.S. recall of 670,000 IKEA IRIS and ALVINE Roman blinds, the Associated Press reported.

The girl died in April when she became tangled in the inner cord of a set of blinds located above her playpen, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The blinds were sold at IKEA stores across the United States between July 2005 and June 2008. Another 4.8 million blinds were sold in other countries, the Associated Press reported. Consumers can return the blinds to any IKEA store for a full refund.

Another recall announced by the CPSC covers about 7,300 Green Mountain Vista insulated blackout roller shades and insulated Roman shades. In June, a 2-year-old girl from Bristol, Conn., nearly died after getting caught on the beaded-chain loop on a set of the shades. The girl was saved by her older brother, the AP reported.

The Green Mountain Vista shades were sold nationwide by a number of retailers from June 2005 through September 2008. The CPSC said consumers should inspect the shades to see if the tension device is attached. If not, contact Green Mountain Vista for a free repair kit and installation instructions.

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Lung Cancer Drug Trial Halted

A late-stage clinical trial of the experimental lung cancer drug motesanib was halted because patients taking the drug had higher early death rates than patients taking a placebo.

The trial by U.S.-based Amgen and Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. was stopped after an independent monitoring committee noted the pattern of deaths among the study's 600 patients with non-small cell lung cancer, Bloomberg news reported.

Motesanib was designed to starve tumor cells of the blood supply they need to grow by blocking a protein called VEGF, which is involved in the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors.

The clinical trial suspension applies only to patients with the squamous non-small cell form of cancer, Bloomberg reported. Amgen said the monitoring committee didn't recommend suspension of the study for patients with the non-squamous form of the lung cancer.

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