Thursday, February 19, 2009


Biomarker identifies fatal prostate cancer

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (UPI) -- U.S. researchers have identified an accurate biomarker for fatal prostate cancer -- high levels of ionized serum calcium.

The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, confirmed earlier findings that men who have too much calcium in their bloodstreams subsequently have an increased risk of fatal prostate cancer.

"Scientists have known for many years that most prostate cancers are slow-growing and that many men will die with, rather than of, their prostate cancer," senior author Gary G. Schwartz of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center said in a statement. "Many men with this diagnosis are treated unnecessarily."

The researchers found that men in the highest one-third of ionized serum calcium levels are three times more likely to die of prostate cancer than those with the least amount of ionized serum calcium.

Schwartz said the research is focused on identifying characteristics of the men who will develop the tumors before they develop. However, he cautioned that calcium in serum is little influenced by calcium in the diet. Serum calcium levels are controlled genetically and are stable over much of an individual's life, he said.

"These results do not imply that men need to quit drinking milk or avoid calcium in their diets," Schwartz added.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Stimulus funds treatment comparisons

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- The U.S. economic stimulus measure approved by Congress contains funds for measuring and comparing the effectiveness of medical treatments, analysts said.

The notion of comparing different treatments for the same illnesses has become controversial, however, with supporters saying it promises more effective treatment at lower costs while opponents charge it could lead to rationing of some treatment, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The legislation, which President Barack Obama is to sign into law Tuesday, provides $1.1 billion for researchers to compare treatments including medicines, medical devices and surgery for certain illnesses. The research would be intended to provide evidence of the relative merits of treatments.

Dr. Elliott S. Fisher of Dartmouth Medical School said the research would address questions about which approaches work best in treating conditions such as neck pain, mild depression and leg pain.

Several European nations already have such research programs in place.

The pharmaceutical and medical device industries have questioned the advisability of such testing, suggesting it could lead to denial of coverage for expensive treatments.

Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-La. -- who is also a heart surgeon -- said he's concerned "federal bureaucrats will misuse this research to ration care, to deny life-saving treatments to seniors and disabled people," the Times reported.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., said the research "will eventually save money and lives."

Conservative media figures have attacked the provision, some claiming it will open the door for the federal government to impose oppressive treatment protocols on Americans.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


How staph looks as it develops on the skin

How staph looks as a bacteria

Ocean beach swimmers exposed to staph

MIAMI (UPI) -- Swimmers using public ocean beaches increase their risk for exposure to staph bacteria and potential infections, U.S. researchers said.

Staph infections are caused by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, which many healthy people carry on their skin and in their noses without getting sick, but when skin is punctured or broken, staph bacteria can enter the wound and cause infections.

"Our study found that if you swim in subtropical marine waters, you have a significant chance -- approximately 37 percent - of being exposed to staph -- either yours or possibly that from someone else in the water near you," Dr. Lisa Plano of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine said in a statement.

"This exposure might lead to staph infection since people colonized with the bacteria carry it into the water with them. Those with open wounds or who are immune compromised are at greatest risk of infection."

However, the results show the potentially virulent variety of antibiotic resistant staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, makes up less than 3 percent of staph from the beach waters sampled during the study, Plano said.

People shouldn't avoid beaches, but the study team, which included researchers from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, recommends taking precautions to reduce the risk of infection by showering thoroughly before entering the water and after getting out.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International