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Medical News Notes – June 28, 2010

Posted Wednesday, Jul 28, 2010 by Allen B. Ury

Medical News NotesWhooping cough declared an epidemic. Your sunscreen could cause cancer. New breakthrough in the treatment of tooth decay. These and other stories from the world of health and medicine in this week’s Medical News Notes.

Whooping Cough Returns to USA, Vaccinations Urged

Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is an almost-forgotten disease that has recently re-emerged throughout the USA. Highly contagious and often fatal for infants, the bacterial infection attacks the lungs and can lead to everything from broken blood vessels throughout the upper body (even in the brain) to death by suffocation. In mid-July, it was officially declared an epidemic in California and North Carolina. People who have contact with infants or who have other health risk factors are being advised by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to get a DTaP (Diptheria/tetanus/acelluar Pertussis) combination vaccine as soon as possible. Even people who were vaccinated as children are advised to get a “booster shot” as the immunity it provides is not permanent. Note: There is no stand-alone vaccine for Pertussis/whooping cough.

Your Sunscreen Could Cause Cancer

The sunscreen you use to prevent skin cancer may actually be carcinogenic, warns the Environmental Working Group (EWG), headquartered in Washington, D.C. The group is particularly concerned with sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, which is absorbed into the body and is a potential cancer-causing agent. Instead, they recommend using sunscreens that contain zinc and titanium, which are not only safe but actually provide better protection against UVA rays. The EWG also recommends people avoid spray-on sunscreens, since users likely inhale their chemicals in aerosol form.

New Gel Could Reverse Tooth Decay

A new gel being developed in France could not only reverse the damage caused by tooth decay, but it could also mean the end to the dreaded dentist’s drill. The new compound contains melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), a chemical naturally produced by the pituitary gland and known to stimulate bone growth. In trials, the French MSH gel caused decayed teeth to fully re-grow in as little as four weeks. The teeth were fully restored with no need to drill or implant metal or ceramic fillings. It will likely be several years before the MSH gel becomes available to the public, but if/when it does, it is likely to make a trip to the dentist far less stressful for many people.

ADHD Drugs May Help Fight Cocaine Dependency

Researchers at Yale University have discovered that stimulant drugs commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be useful in helping cocaine addicts overcome their drug dependency. Both ADHD and cocaine addiction are linked to “cognitive impairment” — the loss of self-control — and recent MRI studies have shown that stimulant drugs like Ritalin significantly improve this condition. The Yale researchers believe more studies are necessary to show how this mechanism works and how ADHD drugs can be effectively used for cocaine rehabilitation.

Distant Day-Dreaming Can Help Block Unpleasant Memories

Did you just have an experience you’d just as soon forget? If so, then thinking about a far-off location — and the more distant the better — can trigger an amnesia-like effect concerning recent events, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina and Florida State University. In a series of psychological experiments, the scientists discovered that people who daydream about distant locales have a more difficult time remembering the details of recent events compared to people who do not. Curiously, this “amnesia” effect is less pronounced when the test subjects were asked to think about locations closer to home.

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