In Brief


January 12, 2009

Old tooth study revived to look at radiation effects

Questionnaires will soon be sent to thousands of men who donated their baby teeth half a century ago to scientists seeking to learn whether radioactive fallout in milk the donors drank as children affected their health later in life.

It's the latest step in a study that began in the 1950s and 1960s at Washington University, but then stalled for decades.

Fifty years ago, concern about atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons spurred a group of local scientists and other area residents to begin the project, then called the St. Louis Baby Tooth Survey.

An early apparent link between fallout and health problems was established by the study. But now, more than 40 years later, the study is resuming. Researchers now hope to find links between fallout and instances of cancer in children born in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Letters containing health questionnaires are going out to the donors of 6,340 baby teeth. Those teeth have been kept in storage since the original study.

Preliminary results of the new study are expected by the middle of the year, a New York-based scientist says.

The scientist, Joseph Mangano, is executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project. He said in a telephone interview that his research group has had possession of 85,000 donated baby teeth since 2001 but lacked the money until recently to begin a full study of the cancer risk posed by nuclear tests.


Teen pregnancy rate highest in Mississippi

Mississippi now has the nation's highest teen pregnancy rate, displacing Texas and New Mexico for that lamentable title, according to a new federal report released last week.

Mississippi's rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The teen pregnancy rate in Texas and New Mexico was more than 50 percent higher.

The three states have large proportions of black and Hispanic teenagers - groups that traditionally have higher birth rates, experts said.

The lowest teen birth rates continue to be in New England, where three states have teen birth rates at just half the national average.

It's not clear why Mississippi surged into first place. The state's one-year increase of nearly 1,000 teen births could be a statistical blip, said Ron Cossman, a Mississippi State University researcher who focuses on children's health statistics.

More than a year ago, a preliminary report on the 2006 data revealed that the U.S. teen birth rate had risen for the first time in about 15 years. But the new numbers provide the first state-by-state information on the increase. The new report is based on a review of all the birth certificates in 2006. Significant increases in teen birth rates were noted in 26 states.

"It's pretty much across the board" nationally, said Brady Hamilton, a CDC statistician who worked on the report.

About 435,000 of the nation's 4.3 million births in 2006 were to mothers ages 15 through 19. That was about 21,000 more teen births than in 2005.

Associated Press

Deep-brain stimulation helps with Parkinson's

Patients with advanced Parkinson's disease who received deep-brain stimulation showed greater improvement in movement and quality of life after six months than those treated with medication, a new study shows.

But the deep-brain stimulation patients had an almost four times greater risk of serious side effects such as depression, infections, falls or heart problems. Although most side effects could be treated, one patient suffered a brain hemorrhage and died.

With deep-brain stimulation, doctors surgically implant electrodes that send electrical stimulation to parts of the brain to reduce involuntary movements and tremors. It is a widely accepted treatment for advanced Parkinson's, but few randomized trials have been conducted comparing treatments.

Previous studies have largely excluded older patients, who account for the majority of those with the disease. About 25 percent of the more than 250 patients in the new study were 70 or older.

In the study, which appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, patients were randomly selected to receive either medication or bilateral deep-brain stimulation, with the electrodes implanted into the subthalamic nucleus or the globus pallidus areas of the brain.

Los Angeles Times

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.