Round-Up of Global News In Health and Complementary Medicine
Week Beginning 17 June 2002
Skin Cancer Key Revealed
Scientists believe they may have discovered why malignant melanoma is much more difficult to treat than other types of skin cancer. Melanoma arises in a type of skin cell called a melanocyte – dark coloured cells which give skin its pigment. Although the layer of melanocytes protects the skin from cancer-causing sunlight, once cancer starts, this natural defence may not work in the patient’s favour. Scientists in the US say this is because melanocytes have a mechanism that enables them to survive the ultraviolet radiation which they endure on the skin’s surface. This mechanism also prevents the desired cell death – apoptosis – which is the aim of standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer.
The Daily Express
Kawasaki disease, a condition which affects the hearts of young children, is becoming more common. The incidence of the disease more than doubled between 1991 and 2000, say researchers from Oxford University and Imperial College London. The condition, which normally affects the under-fives, can lead to heart damage, and perhaps arthritis or meningitis. Its cause is unknown, but there is evidence that it may be caused by an infection. The researchers say the rise could be due to a change in the infectious agent that might cause it, or it could also be due to greater awareness of the condition, leading to an increase in correct diagnoses.
The Daily Mail
Must Reduce Smoking Says EC
The European Commission (EC) wants governments to ban the sale of packets of fewer than 20 cigarettes, in a move to cut smoking among young people. The commission has made a number of proposals to toughen up anti-smoking legislation, including the removal of tobacco products from self-service displays in shops and supermarkets, and a requirement for purchasers of cigarettes to prove their age. David Byrne, the EC commissioner for health and consumer protection, says, 'It is a well-known fact that if you haven’t started smoking in your adolescence you are not likely to pick up the habit at all.'
Prescription Charges To Go?
The Liberal Democrats are to call for a change in the law so that people with chronic illnesses like asthma or cystic fibrosis do not pay for prescription medicines. Backbench MP Paul Marsden presented a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the Commons this week which would exempt these patients from charges. At present some patients are exempt from charges and some are allowed to pay a fee of £89 in advance to cover the costs of their prescriptions over a year. However, a National Association of Citizen’s Advice Bureaux study has found that 27 per cent of those who could have benefited from the so-called season tickets did not even know of their existence. The Lib Dems say the finding strengthens their case for exempting patients with chronic illnesses from prescription charges.
Fresh Evidence Of Mobile Safety
A major study into the safety of mobile phones concludes that they may affect the health of people who use them. Scientists in Finland, who have carried out the first research into the effect of mobile phone radiation on human cells rather than those of rats, suggest that it may cause changes in the brain, damaging the blood-brain barrier. Their two-year study indicates that even low-level emissions from handsets are harmful. Two years ago a UK government inquiry led by Sir William Stewart concluded that mobile phones pose no provable health risk, but its report urged caution over the use of mobile phones by children until more is known about their impact on health.
The Daily Express
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