Now you see it… now you don’t

Now you see it... now you don't

New research suggests that mammography, the low dose x-ray procedure that helps doctors diagnose small tumors in the breast, might frequently pick up tumors that will go away on their own. Scientists in Norway tracked two populations of over 100,000 women between the ages of 50 and 64. One group received mammograms every two years while those in the other group had a single mammogram at the end of the six-year study. The incidence of invasive breast cancer (the type of cancer that has spread beyond the milk ducts and into the surrounding tissue) was 22% higher in the frequent screening group. This finding led researchers to speculate that mammograms had detected cancers that would have regressed if the women had received no treatment. Otherwise they would expect the two groups, which had parallel risk factors, to have similar breast cancer incidence.  Read more

The broader problem with HPV

The broader problem with HPV

A study presented at this month’s conference of the European Research Organization on Genital Infection and Neoplasia provided evidence that a widely-marketed cervical cancer vaccine might also stave off genital warts in young men. Gardasil, which immunizes women against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV), is also 90% effective in shielding young men from developing genital lesions caused by the four HPV strains it targets, scientists reported. The study was funded by the vaccine’s maker, Merck.  Read more

Dementia with that martini?

Dementia with that martini?

The UK might have an insidious epidemic on its hands, one that is nursed by beer, wine and spirits. Alcohol-related dementia may be an under-recognized health problem that will only worsen as alcohol gets cheaper and attitudes about drinking relax, warn London-based psychiatrists Susham Gupta and James Warner in an article published this month.  Read more

Biden on bird flu

Biden on bird flu

The world is watching US SenatorJoe Biden today. The the new hopeful for vice president will speak tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Through his previous legislative proposals, though, he has already said volumes about what global health issues he views as important.  Read more

The best defense against biowarfare

The best defense against biowarfare

The recent suicide of vaccine researcher Bruce Ivins, the FBI’s prime suspect in the fatal anthrax mailings following the 9/11 attacks, has brought bioterrorism back to the forefront of the national consciousness. Many people are pondering out loud: Is the US prepared to respond to a bioweapons attack? Probably not, according to recent media reports. The government has invested some $50 billion in biowarfare research since 2001, which has gone into creating new labs, building up stockpiles of antibiotics and smallpox vaccines, and devising strategies for large-scale distribution of these medicines. Yet despite considerable progress, there is still work to be done; we still don’t have a suitable anthrax vaccine, for example.  Read more

United we disclose

United we disclose

The relationship between pharmaceutical makers and physicians has come under close scrutiny lately. In recent weeks Congressional leaders have accused Harvard physicians of failing to properly disclose large payments from drug companies; meanwhile, other reports have highlighted the industry ties of certain experts who helped write the American Society of Pediatrics’ new recommendations for managing childhood cholesterol.  Read more

Statins “R” US

Statins “R” US

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stirred up a controversy with its new recommendations for childhood cholesterol management. Appearing in this month’s edition of Pediatrics, the guidelines instruct doctors to begin cholesterol screening in children ages two to ten with risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and a family history of high cholesterol. For interventions, the authors recommend a healthy diet, nutritional counseling and physical activity – nothing surprising. But here’s the kicker: doctors should consider prescribing cholesterol-lowering statins for children as young as eight with high cholesterol.  Read more

An oath for lIfe scientists?

An oath for lIfe scientists?

Life scientists sometimes work with dangerous pathogens and chemicals capable of causing grave damage to human health; they engineer novel organisms and conduct high-stakes clinical trials. These scientists are also under incredible pressure to produce results, publish papers and get ahead in their fields. One would hope that all researchers, especially those in the life sciences, adhere to the highest ethical standards. But a recent study by the US Department of Health and Human Services suggests this might not always be the case. The survey by the agency’s Office of Research Integrity found that 9% of US scientists believed they had observed possible research misconduct, such as fabricated research records and misleading grant applications.  Read more