Health Highlights: Oct. 21, 2011

NFL Player's Brain Tumor Spotted During Trade Physical Mercury Ban Would Affect Vaccines, Experts Warn Specific Facial Features Linked to Autism: Study Anti-HIV Vaginal Gel Also Protects Against Herpes Hip Resurfacing Safety and Effectiveness Unproven: Report

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

NFL Player's Brain Tumor Spotted During Trade Physical

NFL running back Jerome Harrison's life may have been saved by a midseason trade.

Doctors discovered a brain tumor while giving Harrison, 28, a routine physical as part of the deal that would have sent him from the Detroit Lions to the Philadelphia Eagles. The unexpected diagnosis voided the trade but resulted in Harrison receiving life-saving treatment, according to ESPN, ABC News reported.

While Harrison will likely miss the rest of this season, he's expected to return to his football career after completing his cancer treatment.

Earlier this year, doctors treating golfer Chris Logan after he was hit in the head by a golf ball discovered that he had thyroid cancer, ABC News reported.


Mercury Ban Would Affect Vaccines, Experts WAarn

Banning mercury would harm public health because the chemical is needed in vaccines, according to vaccines experts.

A ban on mercury is one proposal that may be considered later this month at a meeting of officials negotiating a global treaty on the deadly chemical. The proposed ban might include thimerosal, a mercury compound used to prevent contamination and extend the shelf life of vaccines, the Associated Press reported.

Currently, there is no real alternative to thimerosal, according to David Wood, a vaccines expert at the World Health Organization. Banning thimerosal would affect the supply chain and vaccination campaigns in poor countries and likely lead to price hikes.

"Not being able to use mercury is not a viable option," Wood told the AP.


Specific Facial Features Linked to Autism: Study

Children with autism have different facial characteristics than children without the disorder, a finding that may help improve understanding of what causes autism, according to University of Missouri researchers.

They found that children with autism have a broader face with wider eyes, a shorter middle region of the face including the cheeks and nose, and a broader or wider mouth and philtrum, the area between the nose and the top lip, reported.

These differences can't be picked out in a crowd of children, but can be identified mathematically, said the researchers, who compared 64 boys with autism and 41 boys without the disorder. The boys were ages 8 to 12.

The face begins to develop during the middle of the first trimester of pregnancy and this finding may point researchers to environmental or genetic factors that occur during pregnancy and cause autism, according to the researchers, reported.


Anti-HIV Vaginal Gel Also Protects Against Herpes

A vaginal gel originally developed to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa is more effective against genital herpes, a new study says.

Genital herpes affects about 21 percent of sexually active women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The infection isn't fatal but causes painful blisters that spoil sexual pleasure and can increase the risk of more dangerous infections such as HIV and syphilis, The New York Times reported.

The South African study found that the tenofovir gel reduced HIV infections among women by 39 percent and reduced genital herpes by 51 percent. The findings were published online this week by the journal Cell Host and Microbes.

The gel is not available in the United States but experts believe it would be welcomed by many American women, The Times reported.


Hip Resurfacing Safety and Effectiveness Unproven: Report

There's not enough evidence to prove that hip resurfacing is as safe and effective as hip replacement, according to a report by the California Technology Assessment Forum.

The statement is a reversal from a position the influential group took just last year. The change of opinion is due to recent findings that some resurfacing devices are failing prematurely and concerns about the health effects of metal debris released as the devices wear, The New York Times reported.

Hip resurfacing preserves more of the thigh bone than traditional hip replacement, enabling patients to remain active and preserving more bone for future hip procedures.

"It is incumbent upon the hip resurfacing community to prove the efficacy and safety of hip resurfacing though clinical trials, said report author Dr. Judith Walsh of the University of California, San Francisco, The Times reported.


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