Farrah Fawcett's Anal Cancer: Fighting the Stigma

The iconic photo of Farrah Fawcett smiling in a red swimsuit marked her as the face of sexy, natural beauty in the 1970s.

Farrah Fawcett
American actor and model Farrah Fawcett smiling while sitting outdoors in blue jeans and a mauve blouse. Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer -- a rare and stigmatized disease -- in 2006.
(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Now, after her death Thursday at age 62 from anal cancer, her fight against the illness may help give a face to a potentially stigmatizing condition that can be the result of infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.

"This does not mean that she was promiscuous," noted Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of the department of hematology and oncology at Ochsner Clinic Foundation and Hospital in Baton Rouge, La. "It simply means that she, at some point in her life, was probably exposed to the human papilloma virus."

Indeed, estimates for the percentage of anal cancers as a result of infection with HPV ranges from 45 to 90 percent. Although the exact cause of anal cancer is not known, the American Cancer Society reports that most anal cancers seem to be linked to HPV infection.

Research Disputes FDA Claim that BYETTA Increase Risk of Acute Pancreatitis

In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published strong warnings that the type 2 diabetes drug exenatide (trade name Byetta) might increase risk of acute pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas. The FDA's action came in the wake of reports that 30 exenatide users had come down with pancreatitis and that six of them had died from the condition.

Now, however, a study published by researchers from Medco Health Solutions, Inc., says that exenatide users run no greater risk of developing pancreatitis than type 2s who take neither drug.

The study results, presented at the recent 69th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), showed that only 0.44 percent of exenatide users experienced an episode of acute pancreatitis. Among sitagliptin users, only 0.28 percent had such episodes. Among the control group of type 2s, however, who had never taken either drug, the rate of incidence was 0.39 percent.

The study results were based on tracking the pharmacy and medical claims of 123,621 non-insulin-using type 2s for 540 days and observing which ones came down with pancreatitis:

  • 9,260 patients were exenatide users
  • 2,143 patients were on sitagliptin
  • 112,218 patients, the control group, used neither drug but were taking a medication designed to control blood glucose
  • No patient in the study had a history of pancreatitis, hepatitis or alcohol abuse
  • The patients' ages ranged from 18 to 63 years

The Medco study is the first to lend scientific support to Eli Lilly and Co., Byetta's maker. Lilly has questioned the FDA's statistical reasoning, citing the extremely low percentage of pancreatitis cases associated with the drug.

For more information on the study, visit Medco

Teen Acne Linked to Heart Health

There may be a payoff for all of those years of teenage angst caused by acne. The same high levels of male hormones that can trigger acne during adolescence may protect sufferers from heart disease as adults.

Researchers in the United Kingdom investigated the link between male hormones, called androgens, and acne. Almost 10,000 men participated in health checks between the years of 1948 and 1968 when they were students, and any history of acne was noted. The scientists found that 18 percent of the men reported having acne.

Years later, the men were traced through the United Kingdom’s National Health Service Registry. Researchers found that the men who had a history of acne as adolescents had a 33 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease than the men who didn’t have acne. MORE>>>>>>>>>

Green Tea Slows Prostate Cancer

Active compounds in green tea may slow the progression of prostate cancer, according to a new study published in Cancer Prevention Research.

The study, which was conducted at Louisiana State University, also showed that green tea might lower the incidence of prostate cancer in the first place.

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Maine marks new anti-obesity measures

AUGUSTA, Maine—Even as state lawmakers produced a leaner budget this year, they are still looking to trim some fat -- this time from Maine's waistlines.

It started Wednesday when lawmakers and Gov. John Baldacci marked the passage of three bills, all aimed at promoting health and combatting obesity.

The most significant new law replicates efforts nationwide that require chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus, menu boards and drive-thrus.

Baldacci hosted a signing ceremony for the measures, which also call for schools to record the heights and weights of Maine school children and encourage elementary schools to promote physical activity and physical education.

Participation in the body mass indexing project will be voluntary and data, which is to be kept confidential, will be transmitted to the Maine Center for Disease Control.

"We used to think that it was a good thing to see a child with chubby cheeks," Rep. Helen Rankin, a longtime school nutritionist, said in a statement. "But now we're talking about kindergartners who already are at risk of type II diabetes and a shortened lifespan because they are carrying too much weight."

The governor said an estimated 30 percent of youth in Maine are overweight or obese.

Baldacci, seconded by House Speaker Hannah Pingree, hailed the newly enacted pieces of legislation as important advances in public health.

According to Pingree's office, the rate of obese and overweight Maine adults has doubled and the rate among Maine children has tripled in the last 20 years.

At Wednesday's ceremony in Baldacci's office, Pingree noted that calorie posting has come up for discussion in the context of federal health care reform.

"Overweight and obesity are now overtaking tobacco as the number one threat to public health," Denise Whitley, Maine advocacy director of the American Heart Association, said in prepared remarks.

The Legislature gave final approval to the statewide menu labeling law sponsored by Pingree a week ago as this year's regular session drew toward a close.

The legislation mandates that chain restaurants with 20 or more establishments and at least one in Maine must post calorie data, effective Feb. 1, 2011.

Supporters cited similar ordinances in New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore. They pointed to California and Massachusetts policies to begin next year. Lawmakers in Connecticut and Oregon have enacted similar legislation this year.

Maine's new law makes exceptions for salad bars and buffets, exempts movie theaters, grocery stores and hotels and does not apply to menu items that are offered for less than 90 days.

New Evidence: Vinegar May Be Fat Fighter

Researchers in Japan are reporting new evidence that the ordinary vinegar — a staple in oil-and-vinegar salad dressings, pickles, and other foods — may live up to its age-old reputation in folk medicine as a health promoter.

They are reporting new evidence that vinegar can help prevent accumulation of body fat and weight gain. Their study is scheduled for the July 8 issue of the bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Tomoo Kondo and colleagues note that vinegar has been used as a folk medicine since ancient times. People have used it for a range of ills. Modern scientific research suggests that acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, may help control blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and fat accumulation. MORE>>>>>

Some Video Games Can Make Children Kinder

Some video games can make children kinder and more likely to help other people.

That's the conclusion of new research published in the June issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a top-tier, peer-reviewed academic journal.

The article presents the findings of three separate studies, conducted in different countries with different age groups, and using different scientific approaches. All the studies find that playing games with so-called "prosocial" content causes players to be more helpful to others after the game is over. MORE>>>>>

Better Sex Makes Better Workers

Good sex and emotional support at home can ease stress and improve life in the workplace, according to a new Swedish study.

“Either you come home to something that gives you a possibility to rewind and recover, or you have a relationship that makes you more troubled,” study author Ann-Christine Andersson Arntén told The Local, an English language publication in Sweden.

“If that’s the case then you cannot recover, and your whole system physically and mentally will become unbalanced,” said Arntén, who is a psychology doctoral student from the University of Gothenburg. “It will start to become more and more unhealthy and could end up in depression, anxiety, or sleeping problems.” MORE>>>>>

Chemical in Food Containers Linked to Heart Disease

A chemical commonly used in coatings on the inside of food and beverage cans and in the manufacturing of clear plastic bottles may be harmful to the heart, especially in women. According to a new study by the University of Cincinnati, the chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), may cause arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats.

BPA is found in a vast array of everyday items including baby bottles, bottle tops, and dental fillings and sealants. It has been in use for over 50 years, and is a key component of epoxy resins used to line cans, and also of polycarbonate plastics used to make bottles. MORE>>>>>>>>>>>

Laptops Could Snare Men in Web of Infertility

Young men who are wired now could end up infertile later because of heat their laptops generate, says a reproductive specialist at Loyola University Health System.

That heat can "impact sperm production and development making it difficult to conceive down the road," said Dr. Suzanne Kavic, MD, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at the university and associate professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "However,

Kavic recommends placing laptops on tops to prevent damaging sperm and decreasing counts and motility. Other tips to protect male fertility include: MORE>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Ignored Form of Cholesterol Blamed for Heart Attacks

Danish researchers said on Tuesday they have found the strongest evidence yet that an often ignored form of cholesterol can cause heart attacks.

They said people with higher levels of a little-understood form of cholesterol called lipoprotein (a), which varies up to a thousand fold from one person to another, were also more likely to have heart attacks.

Statins -- taken by millions to cut heart attack and stroke risk -- do not affect lipoprotein (a) but the findings may encourage the development of new cholesterol-lowering drugs, said Borge Nordestgaard of Copenhagen University Hospital, who led the study.


FDA Releases List of Potential Drug Risks

U.S. regulators on Thursday listed two dozen drugs, including weight-loss medicines and sleep disorder pills, that it is reviewing for potential safety problems.

Many of the issues have been disclosed previously, but the Food and Drug Administration continues to review them.

The FDA is checking Pfizer Inc.'s smoking cessation drug Chantix for possible risk of accidental injury, vision impairment and other issues, and Cephalon Inc.'s sleep disorder drugs Nuvigil and Provigil for a potential of serious skin reactions.

Other drugs listed included orlistat, a weight-loss drug that Roche Inc. sells as the prescription product Xenical and GlaxoSmithKline Plc sells as the over-the-counter drug Alli. The FDA said it is continuing to evaluate liver toxicity reports for orlistat. MORE>>>>>>>>>>>

Turmeric May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

Turmeric, which is called the spice of life in ancient Indian lore, might help fight Alzheimer’s, according to initial stages of a study.

The spice is an integral ingredient in curry, and tests on laboratory rats have provided evidence that curry helps prevent dementia.

A human clinical trial is under way in California.

Murali Doraiswamy, director of the mental fitness laboratory at the Duke University Medical Center's psychiatry department, told a conference that curcumin, an element of turmeric, appears to prevent the accumulation of amyloid plaques. The plaques are toxic proteins found in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims and are a key characteristic of the disease. The plaques are thought to interfere with the electrical signals between brain cells. MORE>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Cherry Juice May Be New Sports Drink

Drinking cherry juice could help ease the pain for people who run, according to new research from Oregon Health & Science University presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Seattle, Wash.

The study showed that people who drank tart cherry juice while training for a long-distance run reported significantly less pain after exercise than those who didn't. Post-exercise pain often can indicate muscle damage or debilitating injuries. MORE>>>>>>>>>>>>>