Friday, June 26, 2009

Health Headlines - June 26

Pop Star Michael Jackson Dies at 50

Michael Jackson, an entertainment icon since he was a child, died Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper reported that Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Steve Ruda said paramedics responded to a 911 call at 12:26 p.m. at Jackson's home in Bel Air, Calif. The 50-year-old Jackson was unconscious when the paramedics arrived.

CPR was performed on the way to the hospital, the newspaper reported. Several media outlets reported that the cause of death was cardiac arrest. His spokesman denied reports he had cancer just last month, asserting that the King of Pop was "in the best of health."

A 50-concert tour in Great Britain had been planned for later this summer. Concerns over the state of Jackson's health had surfaced in recent years, but AEG Live, a promoter of the U.K. shows, said in March that Jackson had passed a four-and-a-half hour physical exams conducted by independent doctors, MSNBC reported.

Jackson's death capped a life of superstardom and scandal. The music legend first burst onto the pop scene as a child star with the Jackson 5 nearly four decades ago and went on to become one of the biggest selling entertainers of all time.


Actress Farrah Fawcett Dies of Cancer at 62

Farrah Fawcett, a national sex symbol in the 1970s thanks to her feathery mane and her role in the TV series Charlie's Angels, died Thursday of cancer in California, the Los Angeles Times reported. She was 62.

Fawcett, initially known more for her layered locks than her acting ability, was diagnosed in 2006 with a rare anal cancer. She was declared cancer-free in 2007, but three months later, doctors at UCLA Medical Center said the cancer had returned and spread to her liver, the Times said. The actress subsequently sought experimental treatments in Europe, according to news reports.

Fawcett was a spokeswoman in the fight against cancer long before her diagnosis. In a statement released Thursday, Elizabeth Fontham, national volunteer president at the American Cancer Society, said: "We are saddened at the news of the passing of Farrah Fawcett. Ms. Fawcett served as the American Cancer Society's chairperson for Women Against Cancer in the early 1980s, appearing in a public service announcement where she encouraged viewers to avoid smoking and get regular cancer checkups. Her public battle against cancer these past few years is a reminder of the work still to be done, and of the toll cancer still takes. Her support of those efforts, and her unique approach to life, will be missed."

Fawcett's publicist, Paul Bloch, said she died at 9:30 a.m. at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, the Times reported.

Women get anal cancer slightly more often than men, according to the American Cancer Society. It estimates that 5,290 new cases will be diagnosed this year, and that 710 people in the United States will die from the disease.

Anal cancer, most often found in adults older than 35, is curable in most cases, the cancer society said.


E. coli Scare Spurs Big Beef Recall

Fears of contamination with the e. coli bacteria has prompted JBS Swift Co., of Greeley, Colo., to recall about 41,000 pounds of beef products, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the products were processed on April 21-22 and sent to distributors and retailers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.

The recalled beef is packed in boxes marked "EST. 969" with packaging date codes of 042109 or 042209. They have case codes of 21852, 21853, 31852, 31853, 33852, 33853, 41853, 79852, 79853 or 90853.

Consumers who have questions regarding the recall should call JBS Swift at (800) 555-7675.


Doctors Mystified by Girl Who Doesn't Age

Doctors are trying to determine what's gone wrong with the aging process in a 16-year-old American girl who's the size of an infant and has the mental capacity of a toddler.

Brooke Greenberg may be unique among documented cases of children who fail to grow or develop in some way, said the girl's pediatrician, Dr. Lawrence Pakula from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, ABC News reported.

In a recent paper, Pakula and his colleagues listed a range of inconsistencies in Brooke's aging process. For example, she still has baby teeth and her bone age is estimated to be that of a 10-year-old, but she's never been diagnosed with a known genetic syndrome or chromosomal abnormality. The article appeared in the journal Mechanisms of Ageing and Development.

Instead of developing as a coordinated unit, independent parts of Brooke's body are developing out of sync, said the article's co-author, Dr. Richard Walker of the University of South Florida College of Medicine, ABC News reported.

"There've been very minimal changes in Brooke's brain," Walker said. "Various parts of her body, rather than all being at the same stage, seem to be disconnected."


Gray Hair Might Indicate Reduced Cancer Risk

Gray hair could actually be a sign that you have a bit of added protection against cancer, suggests a Japanese study.

Hair grays when color-producing stem cells, called melanocytes, die off in hair follicles. DNA damage -- which can lead to cancer -- increases in melanocytes as people age. But gray hair means that melanocytes are no longer present and thus cannot pass on cancer-causing mutations, the Toronto Star reported.

The finding, published in the June 21 issue of New Scientist magazine, might help in the development of new cancer treatments, said Dr. David Fisher, director of the melanoma program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

"The study demonstrated that stem cells containing DNA damage are removed, and it is theoretically possible that such a mechanism may exist for numerous types of cells (outside of hair follicles) in the body," Fisher wrote in an e-mail to the Star.

"The 'protection' concept from gray hair relates to the fact that damaged melanocyte stem cells have been removed (thus, the gray)," he said. "Perhaps if we had a similar mechanism of removing cells from the epidermis, melanoma may be less common."

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