Health Highlights: April 26, 2007

While Spain's stem cell research environment is fairly open and Spaniards have traditionally been supportive of organ and tissue donation, the authors said they believe the results of the stem cell study can be generalized to other countries.

"We are convinced that if this type of personal interview and survey were carried out in the U.S.A., at least 50 percent of the couples would be willing to donate their spare embryos for stem cell research," Pablo Menendez, director of the Spanish Stem Cell Bank, said in a prepared statement.

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System Assesses Death Risk for Bariatric Surgery Patients

A simple five-factor scoring system can help doctors predict the risk of dying among patients being considered for gastric bypass surgery.

The system takes into account a patient's weight, age, gender, blood pressure, and the risk of developing a blood clot in the lungs, and then ranks patients as having a low, medium or high risk of dying from the weight-loss surgery.

The scoring system, first proposed last year by Duke University Medical Center surgeons, was tested in study of more than 4,400 patients. It found that patients in the high-risk group were six times more likely to die than those in the low-risk group, while medium-risk patients were three times more likely to die than low-risk patients.

The study was to be presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Surgical Association.

"This represents the first validated scoring system for assessing risk for patients considering bariatric surgery," Duke surgeon Eric DeMaria, who developed the system, said in a prepared statement.

About 170,000 Americans had gastric bypass surgery in 2005, according to the American Society for Bariatric Surgery.

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Imported Eye Products Contain Lead, NYC Warns

The New York City Health Department warned Thursday that certain imported cosmetic eye products contain dangerously high levels of lead that can damage the brain and nervous system.

The products -- called kohl, kajal, and surma -- are imported from Asia, Africa and the Mideast and have been sold at neighborhood stores throughout the city. In recent months, the health department has investigated five lead poisoning cases among children and pregnant women who used the products.

Health department officials have ordered stores to remove the products, which are banned by the Food and Drug Administration and have been imported illegally.

Consumers who have bought and used these products are advised to: immediately stop using the products; keep the products away from children; call a doctor to request a blood-lead test.

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Texas Governor's HPV Vaccine Order Rejected

Texas Governor Rick Perry's order requiring sixth-grade girls to get the human papillomavirus virus (HPV) vaccine was rejected Wednesday by Texas lawmakers, who sent the governor a bill that would block, for at least four years, officials from requiring girls to get the vaccine.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer.

After Perry issued his executive order in February, prominent legislators vowed to overturn the order because they said the vaccine was too new to force on Texas families, the Associated Press reported. The order was to have taken effect in September 2008.

Perry has 10 days to sign or veto the bill passed by the legislature. Even if he does veto it, lawmakers have the two-thirds majority vote in both chambers needed to override the veto.

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