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Health Highlights: Sept. 27, 2007

Cervical, Testicular Cancers Boost Divorce Risk Russian Woman Has 17-Pound Baby Do More to Cut Suicidal Behavior in Older Adults: U.S. Report New U.S. Recalls of 600,000 Chinese-Made Toys, Kids' Jewelry Bill Would Regulate Workers' Exposure to Microwave Popcorn Chemical 19th Century Autopsy Helps Spot Adrenal Tumor Gene

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

Cervical, Testicular Cancers Boost Divorce Risk

Problems with sexuality and intimacy may be reasons why testicular and cervical cancer patients are at increased risk for divorce, according to a Norwegian study presented Thursday at the European Cancer Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

The study found that women who develop cervical cancer are 40 percent more likely to divorce, while men who develop testicular cancer are 20 percent more likely to suffer failed marriages, Bloomberg news reported.

"During the course of treatment (for cervical and testicular cancers), sexual function will certainly be impaired," noted Dr. John Smyth, professor of medical oncology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and outgoing president of the Federation of European Cancer Societies.

He added that sexual counseling should be included in the care provided to people with testicular and cervical cancer, Bloomberg reported.

The risk of divorce actually declined for colorectal, lung, prostate and breast cancer patients in the initial years after diagnosis, the study found.


Russian Woman Has 17-Pound Baby

A 42-year-old women in Siberia gave birth to a 17.05-pound baby girl, the heaviest newborn ever recorded in Russia. The baby was delivered by Caesarean section on Sept. 17 and was doing well and developing normally, a doctor said.

The infant, the 12th child for Tatiana Khalina, was born at a maternity clinic in the town of Aleisk in southern Siberia and then transferred to a maternity hospital in the city of Barnaul, the Associated Press reported.

A Russian newspaper quoted a local official as saying that the mother and father weren't tall.

According to international statistics, an average weight for a newborn baby is about 7.04 pounds., the AP reported. A 23.12-pound baby born in the United States in 1879 is the heaviest ever recorded in the world, says the Guinness Book of Records. The baby died 11 hours after it was born. Babies weighing 22.8 pounds were born in Italy in 1955 and in South Africa in 1982.


Do More to Cut Suicidal Behavior in Older Adults: U.S. Report

In 2005, there were an estimated 7,105 U.S. hospital emergency department visits for treatment of nonfatal self-inflicted injuries among adults aged 65 and older, according to a report in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a journal from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Self-inflicted injuries include suicidal and self-harming behaviors. Of the cases in this report, 80 percent involved suicidal behavior.

The report noted that a significantly higher percentage (70.6 percent) of older adults seen at hospital emergency rooms for self-inflicted injuries were hospitalized following care for suicidal behavior than younger adults (ages 20-34, 42.8 percent; ages 35-49, 53.2 percent; 50-64, 56.4 percent).

Average medical costs for overall self-inflicted injuries among older adults are twice that of younger adults (ages 25-64), noted the report authors. They called for increased prevention efforts that focus on multiple risk factors -- such as better identification and treatment of depression and enhancing social support for those at-risk -- in order to reduce suicidal behaviors among older adults.


New U.S. Recalls of 600,000 Chinese-Made Toys, Kids' Jewelry

Seven new recalls of more than 600,000 Chinese-made toys and children's jewelry that contain excessive levels of lead were announced Wednesday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

One of the new recalls was for 200,000 units of five kinds (two vehicles and three accessories) of Thomas & Friends railway toys distributed by Chicago-area RC2 Corp, which recalled 1.5 million Thomas & Friends railway toys in June, the Chicago Tribune reported.

RCR2 also recalled 800 "Knights of the Sword" toys with lead paint.

Other recalls announced Wednesday included:

  • 350,000 children's gardening tools and chairs sold by Target.
  • 23,500 Toby & Me jewelry sets, sold by TOBY N.Y.C of New York.
  • 16,000 children's toy rakes, sold by Jo-Ann Stores Inc. of Hudson, Ohio.
  • 10,000 floor puppet theaters, sold by Guidecraft Inc., of Englewood, N.J.
  • 850 children's spinning wheel metal necklaces, sold by Rhode Island Novelty, of Cumberland, R.I.

So far this year, the CPSC has announced 50 lead-based recalls in the United States. That's more than double the most recalls in any previous year in the agency's history, the Tribune reported.


Bill Would Regulate Workers' Exposure to Microwave Popcorn Chemical

The U.S. House voted Wednesday to have the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulate workers' exposure to a chemical used to give artificial butter taste and smell to microwave popcorn.

There is no firm scientific evidence, but some believe that diacetyl is responsible for a deadly lung disease suffered by workers who package microwave popcorn. The OSHA is conducting a study on the safety of the chemical but House Democrats didn't want to wait for the results of the study, the Associated Press reported. Under the bill, which hasn't yet been considered by the Senate, companies would have to limit worker exposure to the chemical, institute air monitoring, medical surveillance and safety labeling, and require workers to wear protective clothing and equipment.

The lack of an OHSA standard on diacetyl "has endangered the health of families," said Rep. Betty Sutton (D.-Ohio). "That is why we have to act today. Workers should never have to choose between their health and feeding their families."

Many companies that make microwave popcorn have already found a substitute for diacetyl, the AP reported. There is no evidence of any danger to people who eat microwave popcorn that contains diacetyl.


19th Century Autopsy Helps Spot Adrenal Tumor Gene

Clues from a 123-year-old autopsy report on the sudden death of a young German woman helped U.S. researchers discover a germ line mutation that causes adrenal gland tumors, says a study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

The team from the Cleveland Clinic's Genomic Medicine Institute found that the germ line mutation causes a rare inherited condition called pheochromocytoma, which leads to tumors on the central portion of the adrenal gland, resulting in excess adrenaline production. Too much adrenaline can cause a severe and potentially fatal elevation in blood pressure.

The 1884 autopsy report detailed the sudden illness and death of 18-year-old Minna Roll of Wittenweier, Germany. The autopsy revealed that she had tumors on both of her adrenal glands. The Cleveland Clinic team gathered genetic samples and family history from six of Minna Rolls' family descendents.

The researchers found that people in the family inherited the germ line mutation that causes pheochromocytoma. New technology has been developed to screen people for the mutation and begin early treatment.

"This work shows how far we've come in technology and understanding the human genome, and how that knowledge can benefit today's patients," team leader Dr. Charis Eng, chair of the Genomic Medicine Institute, said in a prepared statement. "If genetic and family screening were available 123 years ago, Minna most likely would have lived because the tumors would have been diagnosed earlier, and the lives of all those subsequent family members could have been saved."


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