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IN BRIEF

December 22, 2008

Heart disease, stroke deaths drop by 30%

The death rates for heart disease and stroke each dropped by about 30 percent between 1999 and 2006, allowing the American Heart Association to reach its 2010 goal of a 25 percent reduction in deaths four years early, researchers said last week.

"It's one of the most remarkable achievements of modern medicine to have this kind of decline," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a cardiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles' Geffen School of Medicine who was not involved in the research. "But there is still obviously a lot of work to be done. We still have the No. 1 and [No.] 3 killers of men and women in the United States."

And experts fear that the declines soon might be reversed. "Although death rates are declining, several of the risk factors leading to heart disease are increasing," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, an American Heart Association spokeswoman. "There is an increase in obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity, which all lead to heart disease and stroke."

The annual report, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association by the Heart Association in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, showed that death rates in the U.S. from heart disease and stroke each dropped about 5 percent from 2005 to 2006, the most recent year for which data are available.

Los Angeles Times

Drug combination cuts prostate cancer deaths

Treating advanced prostate cancer with radiation and hormone-blocking drugs cut the death rate in half in a study of Scandinavian men, researchers report. In the United States, the combination has been standard care since the 1990s. But in Europe, many doctors have avoided the combo treatment and used hormone drugs alone, thinking the pair would be too harsh for most patients.

The Scandinavian researchers tracked 875 men with advanced prostate cancer in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

About half were given hormone-blocking drugs, while the other half got the same treatment plus radiation. The drugs block production of testosterone, which feeds cancer cells.

After nearly eight years, 79 men in the hormone-only group had died of prostate cancer, compared to 37 in the group that had hormone therapy plus radiation.

The study was published online last week by the British medical journal Lancet. It was paid for by various Scandinavian cancer groups, Umea University and the makers of the drugs used in the study, Schering-Plough Corp. (Lupron) and Abbott Laboratories Inc. (Eulexin).

Associated Press

Holidays difficult for compulsive shoppers

For shopping addicts, the holiday season isn't always so merry. Compulsive spenders "often feel the holiday shopping time almost gives them permission to do it, and they feel greater pressure sometimes," says Jon Grant, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, which houses a clinic for impulsive disorders.

About 5 percent of Americans suffer from compulsive shopping, and even more struggle with lesser forms of overspending, says Terrence Shulman, founder of the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft and Spending.

U.S. News & World Report

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