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Health Highlights: April 28  2005

Fewer U.S. Counties Record Unhealthy Air Pollution Working Mothers Most Common Users of Botox Shots Some Global Cancer Rates Have Doubled Since 1975 Senate to Consider Tightened Abortion Restrictions U.S. Officials Predict No Severe Flu Vaccine Shortages

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

Fewer U.S. Counties Record Unhealthy Air Pollution Levels

The number of counties in the United States that recorded unhealthy levels of smog or microscopic soot has fallen recently, but more than half the people in the United States still live with health-threatening air pollution, says an American Lung Association report released Thursday.

The report, which covered 2001 to 2003, found that the number of counties with unhealthy air declined to 390 from 441 in the previous report, which covered 2000 to 2002. The Lung Association used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data to prepare the report.

Cool and wet weather in 2001 to 2003, improved vehicle emission standards, and government controls on Eastern coal-fired power plants were the reasons for the drop in cases of unhealthy air, the report said.

The association noted that problems with unhealthy air persist in counties that are home to 152 million people -- 52 percent of the nation's population, the Associated Press reported.

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Working Mothers Most Common Users of Botox Shots

Working mothers between the ages of 40 and 55 who want to look more relaxed and less stressed are the most common users of cosmetic Botox injections, according to a survey released Thursday by the Aesthetic Surgery Education & Research Foundation, the research branch of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).

The findings contradict the popular belief that Botox injections are most commonly used by the rich and famous.

"Many are under the assumption that Botox is used mostly by models, movie stars and the extremely wealthy. The reality is that the majority of users are working mothers, who are juggling their career and family, and are just as likely to be administrative or clerical staff as managers," said Dr. Leroy Young, chair of the ASAPS non-surgical procedures committee.

"The survey also found that those with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 to $100,000 (44 percent) were more likely to use Botox cosmetic than those with annual incomes of more than $150,000 (36 percent)," he said.

Eighty-six percent of survey respondents said they had Botox injections in the area between the brows in order to treat vertical frown lines.

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Worldwide Breast and Lung Cancer Rates Have Doubled Since 1975

Global rates of lung and breast cancer have doubled over the last 30 years, says a Cancer Research U.K. report.

More than 1.1 million cases of breast cancer and 1.4 million cases of lung cancer are diagnosed each year, compared with about 500,000 cases of breast cancer and fewer than 600,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed in 1975.

Lung cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world.

These increases are partly due to the fact that people are living longer and cancer usually affects older people, the report noted. However, it also said that smoking and poor diet have fueled the increases, BBC News Online reported.

The report also found that rates of stomach cancer, the most common form of cancer in 1975, are declining as the result of improved food preservation and home hygiene.

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Senate to Consider Tightened Abortion Restrictions

The U.S. Senate is to consider a bill just passed by the House of Representatives that would make it a federal crime to transport an under-age girl across state lines for an abortion without her parents' consent.

On Wednesday, the House passed the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act by a vote of 270-157. Supporters say the measure would close a loophole that allows minors under age 17 to thwart restrictive abortion laws in their home states. Abortion-rights advocates say the bill would cut off an escape route for pregnant girls who are victims of rape or incest and make criminals of anyone who tries to help them.

The bill would impose a 24-hour waiting period for young women who travel to another state for an abortion, even if accompanied by her parents. It also contains an exception if the mother's life is in danger. Violators could face a $100,000 fine and a year in jail, The New York Times said.

The Senate is expected to consider the bill later this spring or in early summer. If enacted, it would be the fifth anti-abortion law passed since President Bush took office in 2001, the Associated Press reported.

Currently, 23 states require parental notification and another 10 make it legal for another adult to be notified if a minor wants to have an abortion. Seventeen states have no law restricting access to abortion for minors, the Times said.

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U.S. Officials Predict No Severe Flu Vaccine Shortages

Chiron Corp. said it anticipates being able to produce about half of the number of flu vaccine doses this year as it had intended last year, before British regulators shut the company's Liverpool factory due to contamination problems.

U.S. officials told The New York Times that the expected output from Chiron should be enough to prevent a severe shortage of vaccine.

The company's Liverpool plant was closed last October and was allowed to reopen in March. The shutdown caused widespread flu vaccine shortages in the United States.

Chiron said Wednesday that it thought it could produce 25 million to 30 million doses for the coming flu season, down from 50 million doses the company intended to ship last year. The company said that since it is still working to correct problems at the Liverpool plant, it cannot produce at full speed, the newspaper reported.

Before last year's shortage, the U.S. government had said its goal was to have 100 million Americans vaccinated -- particularly those most at risk, including the elderly, young children, and immune-compromised people.

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