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Health Highlights: Oct. 16, 2002

CDC Recommends Smallpox Vaccinations for about 500,000 Intense Nerve Activity Behind Teenage Angst: Study Study Supports Early Glaucoma Treatment Deodorants Don't Cause Cancer, Study Concludes Blood Protein Could Signal Prostate Cancer Guidelines to Control High Blood Pressure Updated

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

CDC Recommends Smallpox Vaccinations for about 500,000

After intense deliberation over how to respond to the threat of a possible smallpox outbreak caused by terrorists, federal health officials have voted to recommend vaccinating about a half a million hospital workers around the nation for the disease.

The plan proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices would result in about 100 workers at all of the nation's hospitals being prepared to handle smallpox patients, reports the Associated Press.

Previous plans had included designating regional hospitals to handle smallpox cases and vaccinating all so-called "first responders," which would have amounted to as many as 10 million people.

The plan the CDC settled on is not set in stone - - the White House will make the final decision on the smallpox vaccination plan.

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Intense Nerve Activity Behind Teenage Angst: Study

There may be more to adolescent angst than hormones gone haywire, says a new study.

Neuroscientists say they've observed that the nerve activity taking place in the teenage brain is at a level of intensity that they can have not only social and emotional challenges, but may even find it difficult to process basic information.

In addition, upon entering puberty, teens' ability to recognize other people's emotions falls significantly. The good news is the condition is only temporary - - but the bad news is that it can take until they're 18 to return to normal, reports New Scientist

The findings are published in a recent issue of Brain and Cognition.

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Study Supports Early Glaucoma Treatment

The eye disease glaucoma should be treated in the early stages to delay progression of vision loss, a new study suggests.

The conclusion, reported in the October issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology, lends support to what most eye specialists are already doing and is lauded by one expert as validation of what has become standard practice, reports HealthDay.

In the study, researchers looked at one group of 129 patients that were treated immediately after diagnosis of glaucoma with eyedrop medication and laser surgery to help fluid drain, while another group of 126 was untreated. However, both groups were followed closely and any control group patient whose disease showed signs of progressing was offered treatment.

After six years of follow-up, 62 percent of the untreated control group had progression, but only 45 percent of the treatment group did.

Open angle glaucoma affects about 2.2 million Americans, according to the National Eye Institute, and another 2 million may have it and not know it.

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Deodorants Don't Cause Cancer, Study Concludes

Cancer experts say they've debunked an urban legend that deodorant products can cause breast cancer.

Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle studied 813 women with breast cancer and 793 without the disease, finding no link between cancer and body-odor products.

The supposed connection was first raised in the early 1990s in online bulletin boards and via email. Spokespeople from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and the Fred Hutchinson center tell the Associated Press that they still receive occasional calls questioning the rumor's validity.

Results of the study are published in this week's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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Blood Proteins Could Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer

Patterns of a person's blood proteins could help doctors distinguish between prostate cancer and benign prostate disease, government scientists report in this week's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

NCI researchers and those with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration devised a 30-minute test to analyze the patterns of small blood proteins. They say the technique proved effective in men with normal, high, and only slightly elevated levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA). Among the latter group, it has been traditionally difficult to rule out prostate cancer without a biopsy.

PSA levels are commonly used as a preliminary screen for prostate cancer, but as many as 75 percent of men who have a biopsy because of an abnormal PSA level wind up not having cancer, the researchers say. So far, they add, the new test is proving much more accurate in diagnosing actual cases of cancer.

Of 38 cases of prostate cancer, the researchers say they used the test to correctly identify 36 of those cases (95 percent). And of 228 cases of benign disease, 177 cases (78 percent) were correctly identified.

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Guidelines to Control High Blood Pressure Updated

A healthy amount of exercise and a proper diet are still the best ways to ward off high blood pressure, according to new federal guidelines published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

New recommendations from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute include consuming more than 3,500 mg of potassium each day. The guidelines also newly suggest a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, and limited in saturated and total fat.

Earlier recommendations that are repeated include limiting consumption of salt and alcohol, reducing body weight, and getting enough exercise.

The guidelines cite recent research in casting doubt on some widely publicized methods that purport to reduce blood pressure, including fish oil (omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) and calcium supplements. The recommendations say these methods were proven to reduce blood pressure only slightly.

Hypertension -- beginning at 140/90 -- affects 50 million Americans including one of every two adults over age 60, the NHLBI says.

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