Health Updates 15 March 2012

  • Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in many household products: “Tests of more than 200 common household products found that the products contain chemicals that research suggests may be linked to asthma and hormone disruptions, researchers report.  Products tested included a wide range of household products, such as soaps, lotions, detergents, cleaners, sunscreens, air fresheners, kitty litter, shaving cream, vinyl shower curtains, pillow protectors, cosmetics and perfumes. Researchers identified 55 chemicals that studies have shown may have health consequences.  Among the chemicals detected were various types of phthalates, which have been linked to reproductive abnormalities and asthma; bisphenol A (BPA), which is being phased out of many baby bottles and children’s toys because of concerns about the effect on fetuses and young children; and parabens, which some research suggests may mimic estrogen in the body and have been associated with breast cancer. ‘This is the first large, peer-reviewed study looking at hormone-disrupting and asthma-related chemicals in a wide range of consumer products,’ said study author Robin Dodson, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute  in Newton, Mass.  The chemicals, however, were not listed on the product labels, which included major brand-name products as well as those marketed as ‘alternative’ products that are often described as fragrance-free, more natural and safer than conventional products.” (HealthDay)
  • Ban metal-on-metal hip replacements, UK researchers assert: “There is ‘unequivocal evidence’ that stemmed metal-on-metal hip replacements fail at much higher rates than other types of hip implants and should therefore be banned, researchers say.  The failure rate is particularly high for stemmed metal-on-metal (MOM) hip implants with larger head sizes and those implanted in women.  In these cases, failure rates are up to four times higher than other types of hip implants according to the study in The LancetUK researchers analyzed data on more than 400,000 hip replacements (including over 31,000 MOM implants) performed between 2003 and 2011. The patients…were followed for up to seven years after surgery….The use of stemmed MOM hip implants has declined in the United Kingdom, but they are still used extensively in the United States, accounting for 35 percent of hip replacements in 2009.” (The Lancet/
  • Childbirth: a different way to remove the placenta may save mothers’ lives a study finds: Delivery without pulling on the umbilical cord may be a simpler way to keep some women from bleeding to death in childbirth, a new study has found.  In Africa and Asia, postpartum hemorrhage kills a third of the women who die in childbirth, and health agencies constantly struggle to refine midwife training to prevent those deaths.  Many midwives are now  trained to deliver the baby, give the mother a shot of oxytocin to help her uterus contract, clamp the cord and pull steadily on it to get the placenta out.  They they massage the uterus to help it tighten and to cut off blood flow.  A study…found that pulling the umbilical cord – known as ‘controlled cord traction’ – did not significantly reduce the amount of blood lost….The study concluded that the oxytocin injection was the most important thing a midwife could do to stop bleeding.  It can be supplied in small, prefilled syringes packed in ‘birth kits’ along with hand soap, a plastic sheet, a sterile razor and a few other basics. (NY Times)
  • PSA testing still has value, trial suggests: “The controversy over prostate cancer screening seems likely to continue with publication of a major European trial that continues to show a benefit with routine testing in healthy men.  After 11 years of follow-up, screening resulted in about a 21% reduction in the rate of prostate cancer deaths…The findings in the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer contradict those of the NIH-sponsored Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) screening program, which has consistently reported no benefit to using prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening in healthy men.  And they leave practitioners in an ‘unsatisfactory situation’ in which they may feel there is not yet enough data to abandon PSA screening, according to Anthony Miller, MD, of the University of Toronto….”  Despite the controversy, “it is unlikely that patients in the US will forego PSA testing in large numbers….’Given that the overwhelming majority of patients believe that screening for cancer is an important component of good health practice’…”. (Michael Smith, MedPage Today)

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