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Personal Health | News and Notes

Study: High intake of red meat can increase risk for cancers Just as you're about to dig into that holiday meal, there's more evidence that too much red meat could mean a date with an oncologist.

Study: High intake of red meat can increase risk for cancers

Just as you're about to dig into that holiday meal, there's more evidence that too much red meat could mean a date with an oncologist.

In an eight-year study of 500,000 people, those who ate the most red meat were 20 percent to 60 percent more likely to develop various cancers - esophageal, colorectal, liver and lung - than those who ate the least meat.

The findings, published in PLoS Medicine, also found that a high intake of processed meats was linked to an increased risk of colorectal and lung cancers. The researchers, from the National Cancer Institute, used data from a broader health-and-diet study that began in 1995.

The participants' ages ranged from 50 to 71 when the study began. Their diets were recorded by questionnaire; a high red-meat intake meant anything more than 3.6 ounces - one hamburger - a day. Several of the cancer rates were elevated even with lower red-meat intakes.

- Tom Avril

'Dowager's hump' spinal breaks underreported, undertreated

Numerous studies suggest that vertebral fractures - which can lead to a painful, disfiguring "dowager's hump" - are underdiagnosed in postmenopausal women.

New research led by the University of Pittsburgh reinforces the importance of X-ray diagnosis and treatment.

The study, based on following 9,700 women, found that a woman who has a vertebral fracture is far more likely to have another one within 15 years than a woman with no previous fracture. What's more, initial vertebral fractures usually occur in women who do not have low-bone-mineral density, so they have not necessarily been put on bone-building medication.

The study concludes that women diagnosed with a vertebral fracture should be treated with osteoporosis drugs even if they have normal bone-mineral density. And doctors should be on the lookout for such women by evaluating risk factors such as age, weight, and height loss.

The study appears in the current Journal of the American Medical Association.

- Marie McCullough

Guides clarify the good, bad of drugs for Type 2 diabetes

So many new oral medications to treat adult-onset diabetes have been introduced over the last few years that patients, and even doctors, struggle to keep up with information on how the drugs perform and what kind of side effects they may produce.

To help patients and providers hack through the thicket, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has compiled a pair of medication guides that offer a plain-speaking version of the scientific evidence and effectiveness of the drugs.

The agency, which is charged with improving the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care, says it is the first to summarize the good and bad of all commonly used medications for treating Type 2 diabetes.

The diabetes guide, as well as AHRQ informational guides, including online and audio versions, is posted at



- John Sullivan

Skills training helps older folks losing eyesight - for a while

Teaching problem-solving skills to patients with age-related macular degeneration can prevent depression, at least over the short-term, according to a study led by Thomas Jefferson University researchers.

For obvious reasons, depression is common among older people who are losing their eyesight. The study compared rates of depressive disorders among 101 patients who got no special guidance and 105 patients who were taught how to tackle challenges such as meal preparation, writing letters and paying bills.

During six lessons at home over eight weeks, patients learned how to define problems, set realistic goals, and take action.

At the end of the program, 12 percent were depressed, compared with almost twice that many of the patients left to their own devices.

Six months later, however, even the problem-solving patients had sunk into a funk. The study, in the August Archives of General Psychiatry, says that "booster" sessions may be needed to ward off despondency.

- M.M.