New hope on the horizon

By Kim O’Hare pictureThe British government is opening a network of experimental cancer clinics across the country, giving cancer patients the chance to try untested drugs.

The network will build on cancer research centres, first established in 2002, to bring laboratory advances quickly to patients. Each centre will receive funding from the Department of Health and Cancer Research United Kingdom to develop new treatments.

While clinics in France, the Netherlands and Italy offer cancer patients experimental treatments, no other European country has such a national network.

The government initiative also aims to speed up the drug testing process. Some experts estimate there are 500 potential new drugs in the pipeline, many stuck in the research phase as scientists recruit human volunteers.

Ramadan risks?

Previous research suggested that fasting didn’t increase stroke risk. However, doctors in Iran report that, during the month of Ramadan, when devout Muslims fast, they have more than 2.5 times as many cases of a rare type of stroke that affects mostly young adults and children.

Over a five-year period, 162 patients were admitted to the three hospitals in Isfahan, Iran, with these rare strokes. In 33 of the cases, the patients had been fasting, while only 129 cases occurred during the rest of the months of the year combined. pictureTurf war

The world seems to be on the brink of an artificial turf war. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is looking into the possible health hazards of lead in artificial turf installed at schools, parks and stadiums across the country.

Two fields in New Jersey were closed recently after health officials detected unexpectedly high levels of lead in the synthetic turf and raised fears that athletes could swallow or inhale fibres or dust from the playing surface.

The United States has about 3,500 synthetic playing fields made of various materials, including nylon and polyethylene, and another 800 are installed each year at schools, colleges, parks and stadiums. Turf was once a luxury reserved for professional sports teams, but its use has exploded in recent years as a way to save costs and reduce water use.

Pigment containing lead chromate is used in some surfaces to make the grass green and hold its colour in sunlight. However, it is not clear how widely the compound is used. The New Jersey Health Department found lead in both of the nylon fields it tested, but in none of the 10 polyethylene surfaces it examined. pictureScared shoeless

Japan has asked the maker of Crocs shoes and similar styled footwear to look into changing the design of the soft rubbery shoes after complaints that children wearing the colourful clogs have had their feet injured on escalators.

The Trade Ministry issued a warning after receiving 65 complaints about Crocs and similar products getting stuck in escalators. Most of the cases involved small children. The Washington Metro - one of the largest transit systems in the U.S. - has even posted ads warning about such shoes on its moving stairways. The ads feature a photo of a crocodile, which is the company logo, though the signs don’t mention Crocs by name.

In Singapore, a two-year-old girl wearing rubber clogs, it’s unclear what brand, had her big toe completely ripped off in an escalator accident last year, according to local media reports.

Crocs spokeswoman Tia Mattson said: “Escalator maintenance, footwear and user riding behaviour were the primary cause of accidents. We continue to be supportive of escalator safety initiatives and we will consider any recommendations the ministry has for footwear manufacturers.” pictureTough choices

Commonly used incontinence drugs may cause memory problems in some older people, a study has found.

“Our message is to be careful when using these medicines,” said U.S. neurologist Dr. Jack Tsao, who led the study. “It may be better to use diapers and be able to think clearly than the other way around.”

Urinary incontinence sometimes can be resolved with non-drug treatments, so patients should ask about alternatives. Exercises, biofeedback and keeping to a schedule of bathroom breaks work for many.

Bladder control trouble affects about one in ten people aged 65 and older, according to the National Institute on Aging. Women are more likely to be affected than men. Causes include nerve damage, loss of muscle tone or, in men, enlarged prostate.

Happy times

News flash for rock stars and teenagers: it turns out everything doesn’t go downhill as we age - the golden years really are golden.

That’s according to research that found the happiest Americans are the oldest, and older adults are more socially active than the stereotype of the lonely senior suggests. The study found being social can help keep away the blues.

The study’s author Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist, says older people have learned to be more content with what they have than younger adults. Yang’s findings are based on periodic face-to-face interviews with Americans from 1972 to 2004. About 28-thousand people aged 18 to 88 took part.

In general, the odds of being happy increased five per cent with every ten years of age.

Calorie counting

A federal judge has turned aside a challenge from New York restaurants and upheld the city’s rules requiring calories to be posted on some menus.

Judge Richard Holwell says in a ruling that the law is a reasonable approach to the city’s goal of reducing obesity.

The new law took effect on April 21st and applies to restaurants with more than 15 outlets across the country. That includes fast-food places like McDonald’s and such sit-down chains as Olive Garden and T-G-I Fridays. Some restaurants including Starbucks and Chipotle have already started to post calories on menus. The New York State Restaurant Association had challenged the law.

Thin’s not “in"

In image-conscious France, it may soon be a crime to glamorise the ultra-thin. A new French bill cracks down on websites that advise anorexics on how to starve and could be used to hit fashion industry heavyweights, too.

The groundbreaking bill, adopted recently by parliament’s lower house, recommends fines of up to 71 thousand dollars and three-year prison sentences. It would be applied to offenders who encourage “extreme thinness”. It goes to the Senate in the coming weeks.

Critics said the bill is too vague about whom it is targeting and doesn’t even clearly define “extreme thinness”.

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