In Brief

In Brief

March 03, 2006

Diet

Blood pressure and chocolate

More good news for chocolate lovers -- this time from the Dutch, who love to make the sweet and consume it. A study of older men in the Netherlands indicated that those who ate the equivalent of one-third of a chocolate bar every day had lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of death.

Researchers say it's still too early to conclude that the chocolate was responsible. And they point out that eating too much chocolate can make people fat -- a risk for heart disease and high blood pressure.

The findings, published in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine, are based on data collected for more than a decade on Dutch men who were age 65 or older in 1985. The men who ate the most products made from cocoa beans -- including cocoa drinks, chocolate bars and chocolate pudding -- had lower blood pressure and a 50 percent lower risk of death.

Cocoa beans contain flavanols, which are thought to increase nitric oxide in the blood and improve the function of blood vessels.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Arthritis

Cancer drug OK'd for inflammation

The nation's best-selling cancer drug won federal approval this week as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in patients for whom other, older drugs don't work. The Food and Drug Administration action comes more than eight years after the agency initially approved Rituxan, manufactured by Genentech and Biogen, to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The two companies said Rituxan should be used by patients who haven't had success with a class of rheumatoid arthritis drugs called tumor necrosis factor, or TNF, blockers. Those drugs include Enbrel, Remicade and Humira.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system attacks tissues in the joints, causing inflammation and destroying cartilage, tendons and bones.

Rituxan, known formally as rituximab, is also being studied as a treatment for other autoimmune diseases, including lupus and multiple sclerosis.

Associated Press

Pollution

`Acceptable' ozone levels still risky

A government study has found that ozone levels at the EPA's "acceptable" level of 80 parts per billion can still significantly increase the risk of premature death among those who breathe it.

The research, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will be published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and is online at the journal's Web site.

Ozone, the major component of smog, is a molecule consisting of three oxygen atoms bound together. It can cause lung damage when inhaled.

By applying statistical models based on 14 years of data, the researchers determined that an increase of 10 parts per billion in ozone concentrations measured day to day causes a 0.3 percent increase in early mortality. Michelle L. Bell, the lead author on the study, said that in a city the size of New York, a 0.3 percent increase in mortality was equivalent to an additional 2,000 deaths a year.

New York Times News Service

Oncology

Prostate cancer surgery can wait

Delaying surgery on patients with small, low-grade prostate cancer doesn't appear to increase the risk of the disease becoming incurable, according to a 10-year-long Johns Hopkins study reported in this week's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study found that the risk of noncurable prostate cancer -- which is defined as having a 75 percent or better chance of returning -- was the same for men receiving immediate surgical treatment and those who waited two years for initial surgery.

"This study suggests that for carefully selected men with prostate cancer who are monitored, the window of cure does not close in the short term," said Dr. H. Ballentine Carter, a professor of urology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and senior author of the study.

Some researchers have argued that delayed treatment combined with an active surveillance program can result in fewer unnecessary surgeries and other treatments. Others have argued that postponing surgery can shift the patient outside the window of curability.

Sun staff

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