Health Updates 18 November 2011

  • The number of people reaching 90 triples over the past three years: “It’s not all good news.  They’re more likely than the merely elderly to live in poverty and to have disabilities, creating a new challenge to already strained retiree income and health care programs….Joined by graying baby boomers, the oldest old are projected to increase from 1.9 million to 8.7 million by mid-century – making up 2 percent of the total US population and one in 10 older Americans.  That’s a big change from over a century ago, when fewer than 100,000 people reached 90.  Demographers attribute the increases mostly to better nutrition and advances in medical care.  Still, the longer life spans present additional risks for disabilities and chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.” (Associated Press)
  • Full body X-Ray scanners banned in European airports: “The European Union has banned the use of full-body airport scanners that use x-ray ‘in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety’.  The 27 European countries that are part of the European Union will no longer use backscatter scanners, which use very low levels of x-rays to produce anatomically correct images of passengers…the other type of scanning technology used by airports – millimeter wave scanners, which use radio waves and do not expose people to x-rays – are still allowed to be used in European airports as long as they don’t store a copy of the images. In addition, the human reviewer must be in a separate location from the person being scanned, and the image shouldn’t be linked to the screen person.” (Emily P. Walker, MedPage Today)
  • Lower birth rates are tied to weak economy: “The economy may well be the best form of birth control.  US births dropped for the third straight year – especially for young mothers – and experts think money worries are the reason.  A federal report released Thursday showed declines in the birth rate for all races and most age groups.  Teens and women in their early 20s had the most dramatic dip, to the lowest rates since record-keeping began in the 1940s.  Also, the rate of cesarean sections stopped going up for the first time since 1996.” (Associated Press)
  • FDA revokes approval of Avastin for breast cancer:  “The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it was revoking its approval of the drug Avastin for breast cancer after concluding that it ‘has not been shown to be safe and effective for that use’.  Avastin, made by the pharmaceutical company Roche, will remain an approved treatment for certain types of colon, lung, kidney and brain cancer, the FDA commissioner, Margaret A. Hamburg, announced.  Some women who say the drug has been keeping them alive had pleaded desperately for the approval to be retained.” (NY Times)

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