Health Highlights: Nov. 4, 2009

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

U.S. Hospital Deaths Cost $20 Billion in 2007: Report

Hospitalized patients accounted for one of every three deaths in the United States in 2007, and the cost of their hospital stays was about $20 billion, according to a federal government study released Wednesday.

The average cost of hospital stays for patients who died was $26,035, compared with $9,447 for patients who lived. The average hospital stay was 8.8 days for patients who died and 4.5 days for those who lived, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

    • U.S. Hospital Deaths Cost $20 Billion in 2007: Report
    • Recalled Dietary Supplements May Contain Steroids
    • BPA in Canned Foods Cause For Concern, Group Says
    • Breast Cancer May Change When It Spreads: Study
    • Tests Can Detect Early Dementia: Study
    • Cereal's 'Immunity' Claim Outrages Experts

Among the other findings from the analysis of 765,651 hospital patient deaths in 2007:

Medicare patients accounted for 67 percent of in-hospital deaths and $12 billion in hospital costs; privately insured patients, 20 percent and $4 billion; Medicaid patients, 2 percent and $2.4 billion; and uninsured patients, 3 percent and $630 million.

The average cost for each Medicaid patient who died was $38,939 -- about $15,000 more than for a Medicare or uninsured patient and about $10,000 more than for a patient with private insurance.

Emergency admission patients accounted for 72 percent of patients who died, while 12 percent were admitted for an elective procedure. About 7 percent of patients were admitted for accidents or intentional injury and about 2 percent of patients were newborn infants.

Septicemia -- a life-threatening blood infection -- was the leading cause of death (15 percent), followed by respiratory failure (8 percent), stroke (6 percent), pneumonia (5 percent), heart attack (5 percent); and congestive heart failure (4 percent). Cancer, aspiration pneumonia and kidney failure were other leading causes of death.


Recalled Dietary Supplements May Contain Steroids

The business has recalled 65 dietary supplement products sold online that may contain steroids, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The national and international recalls announced by the Boise, Idaho-based company include all lots and expiration dates of dietary supplements that might contain ingredients that are or should be classified as steroids, including "Superdrol," "Madol," "Tren," "Turinabol," and "Androstenedione," United Press International reported.

To learn more about the recall, consumers can contact at 866-236-8417.

The FDA said products with steroids pose health threats, including acute liver injury, male infertility and increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death, UPI reported.


BPA in Canned Foods Cause for Concern, Group Says

Measurable levels of the chemical additive bisphenol A (BPA) were found in a variety of canned goods, including some that claimed to be BPA-free, according to an analysis released this week by the nonprofit advocacy group Consumers Union.

Studies have linked BPA to reproductive abnormalities and increased risk of diabetes and cancer. Some countries have banned the sale of baby bottles made with BPA, which is a plastic hardener and a component of epoxy resin. BPA is used in many products, including food-can linings.

Consumers Union said children who eat multiple servings of some of the food products included in the analysis could ingest amounts of BPA "near levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies," the Los Angeles Times reported.

In a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Consumers Union said the findings lend support to calls to ban BPA from use in materials that come in contact with foods and beverages.

An FDA spokesman told the Times that a review of existing evidence about BPA's health effects was nearing completion, and that the agency would "make a decision how to proceed" by the end of the month.


Breast Cancer May Change When It Spreads: Study

About 40 percent of breast tumors change when they spread, which means that many patients with metastatic breast cancer may require treatment alterations, say Scottish researchers.

They examined 211 breast tumors that had traveled to the lymph nodes in the armpit. This is the location breast cancer usually spreads to first, BBC News reported. The researchers were surprised to find that the breast cancer had changed in so many patients and in so many ways.

"This suggests there is a need to test which type of disease a woman has in the lymph nodes, because it could radically alter the course of treatment she receives," said lead researcher Dr. Dana Faratian, of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit in Edinburgh.

"This research may show why some women whose cancer has spread to the lymph nodes do not respond to treatment," said Professor David Harrison, director of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the journal Annals of Oncology.


Tests Can Detect Early Dementia: Study

Early dementia can be detected using memory and language tests, say British researchers.

Their 20-year study included 241 elderly people who were given regular tests to assess their thinking and cognitive abilities, BBC News reported. Scrutiny of the test results revealed subtle clues associated with later mental impairment.

The researchers found that participants who had more difficulty with language expression, learning and recall tasks went on to develop mild cognitive impairment or pre-dementia.

The study appears in the journal Neurology.

Most dementias are diagnosed only after considerable loss of brain tissue. These findings could help lead to earlier diagnosis of dementia, which is important because treatment is most effective when started early, BBC News reported.


Cereal's 'Immunity' Claim Outrages Experts

Health and nutrition experts are attacking Kellogg for claims that one of its cereals benefits children's immune systems because it contains increased levels of vitamins A, C and E.

Bold lettering on the front of Cocoa Krispies boxes claims the cereal "Now helps support your child's IMMUNITY," a declaration likely to catch the eye of parents worried about the danger the H1N1 virus presents to their children.

"The idea that eating Cocoa Krispies will keep a kid from getting swine flu, or from catching a cold, doesn't make sense," Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University, told USA Today. "Yes, these nutrients are involved in immunity, but I can't think of a nutrient that isn't involved in the immune system."

After she saw the cereal box claims in August, she sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over false or misleading labeling. Nestle hasn't heard back from the agency.

Many others are outraged by the marketing tactic. The City of San Francisco sent a letter to the FDA asking that it make Kellogg prove its claim, USA Today reported.

The claim "was not created to capitalize on the current H1N1 flu situation," said Kellogg spokeswoman Susanne Norwitz. The cereal was developed "in response to consumers expressing a need for more positive nutrition."