Health Highlights: April 23, 2007

The New England Journal of Medicine on Monday published online two commentaries and an editorial that criticized last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the federal ban on the controversial abortion procedure that opponents call "partial-birth abortion," the Boston Globe reported.

"With this decision the Supreme Court has sanctioned the intrusion of legislation into the day-to-day practice of medicine," wrote Dr. Jeffrey M. Drazen, editor of the journal. Physicians are amenable to oversight and discussion of controversial matters, he said, but those discussions should occur "among informed and knowledgeable people who are acting in the best interests of a specific patient," the newspaper reported.

The furor surrounding the right-to-die showdown involving Terri Schiavo in 2005 demonstrated "the disastrous consequences of congressional interference" in a medical case, Drazen wrote. "The judicial branch has regrettably joined the legislative branch in practicing medicine without a license."

The controversial abortion procedure, known medically as intact dilatation and evacuation (intact D&E), is usually performed after 12 weeks of pregnancy. It accounted for less than 1 percent of all U.S. abortions in 2000, according to a survey from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group focused on sexual reproductive health.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 857,475 abortions were performed in the United States in 2003.

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Asia Faces Dramatic Increase in Cancer Cases

Longer life spans and changing diet and lifestyles are among the factors that could lead to a dramatic increase in cancer cases in Asia by 2020, experts attending a conference in Singapore warn.

If current trends continue, the total number of new cancer cases in Asia could climb from 4.5 million in 2002 to 7.1 million in 2020, the Associated Press reported.

That increase could cause a major health crisis as poorer Asian countries struggle to pay the cost of cancer screening, vaccines and treatment, the experts said.

"This will put a tremendous burden on patients, their families and the health-care system in each country," said Singapore Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan, the AP reported.

Smoking is a major cancer threat. In a number of Asian nations, more than 60 percent of males smoke, said Dr. Donald Max Parkin, a research fellow at the University of Oxford's Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit.

In many Asian nations, large numbers of people have moved from rural areas to the cities. That switch has led to more sedentary lifestyles, increased consumption of meat and fried foods, and fewer vegetables in the diet.

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Cyclist's 'B' Samples Positive: French Paper

The French newspaper L'Equipe reported Monday that follow-up tests on backup urine samples from American cyclist Floyd Landis tested positive for synthetic testosterone, the Associated Press said.

The tests were conducted at France's national anti-doping laboratory of Chatenay-Malabry outside Paris. The results on the seven "B" samples were sent directly to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which requested the tests.

After Landis won the 2006 Tour de France, it was revealed that he'd tested positive for elevated testosterone to epitestosterone levels after the 17th stage of the world's premier cycling race, the AP reported.

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