Health Highlights: Sept. 24, 2007

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

E.U. Approves New Cervical Cancer Vaccine

The European Union has approved the sale of Cervarix, a vaccine against certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer, British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline said Monday.

The approval means the vaccine can now be prescribed by doctors in 27 E.U. countries to females ages 10 to 25 to help protect them against cervical cancer. It is the second most common cancer in women, a Glaxo executive said in a statement, Agence France-Presse reported.

    • E.U. Approves New Cervical Cancer Vaccine
    • Too Little -- or Too Much -- Sleep Increases Risk of Death
    • Brain Activity Different in Pedophiles: Study
    • Device Provides Bird-Flu Test Results Within 30 Minutes
    • Number of Elderly Cancer Patients Could Double by 2030
    • Horses More Dangerous Than Motorcycles

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration decision on whether to approve Cervarix is expected in January.

Currently, Merck's Gardasil is the only HPV vaccine approved in the United States.


Too Little -- or Too Much -- Sleep Increases Risk of Death

Both too little and too much sleep can increase the risk of death, says a U.K. study presented Monday to the British Sleep Society.

University of Warwick researchers studied 10,308 people between 1985 and 1988 and between 1992 and 1993 and found that seven hours of sleep a night was optimal for the average adult, CBC News reported.

People who slept five hours a night had a 1.7-fold increased risk of death from all causes and a two-fold increased risk of cardiovascular-related death. But the study also found that those who slept eight hours a night were more than twice as likely to die as people who slept for seven hours.

Researcher Francesco Cappuccio noted that a lack of sleep has been shown to be a risk factor for weight gain, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, CBC News reported.

"But in contrast to the short sleep-mortality association, it appears that no potential mechanisms by which long sleep could be associated with increased mortality have yet been investigated. Some candidate causes for this include depression, low socioeconomic status and cancer-related fatigue," Cappuccio said.


Brain Activity Different in Pedophiles: Study

Using functional magnetic imaging, a Yale University team found that pedophiles have distinct differences in brain activity compared to the general population. When shown adult, erotic material, pedophiles had less activity in the hypothalamus, which is known to play a role in arousal and hormone release.

The findings, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, are the first to provide real-time evidence of differences in pedophiles' thought patterns, BBC News reported.

"Our findings may thus be seen as the first step towards establishing a neurobiology of pedophilia which ultimately may contribute to the development of new and effective means of therapies for this debilitating disorder," said lead researcher Dr. Georg Northoff.

Journal editor Dr. John Krystal said he didn't know if the pattern of different brain activity noted in this study could be used to predict a person's risk of pedophilia, BBC News reported.

The findings do "provide clues to the complexity of this disorder, and this deficit (in brain activity) may predispose individuals who are vulnerable to pedophilia to seek other forms of stimulation," Krystal said.


Device Provides Bird-Flu Test Results Within 30 Minutes

A hand-held device that can provide bird-flu virus test results for people within 30 minutes has been developed by scientists in Singapore. Other tests currently available take a minimum of several hours to provide results.

The scientists say their new device is able to isolate, purify, amplify, and identify bird flu virus DNA in throat swab samples taken from patients, BBC News reported. When tested on samples of the deadly H5N1 virus, the device delivered accurate results within 28 minutes.

Quick testing of people could help make it easier to contain bird-flu outbreaks. The device could prove especially useful in areas where there's a lack of basic health resources, said the scientists from Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

The so-called mini lab is described in the journal Nature Medicine.


Number of Elderly Cancer Patients Could Double by 2030

By 2030, there will be twice the number of elderly cancer patients (65 and older) worldwide than there were in 2000, an increase that will pose "huge challenges" to health-care systems, cancer experts warned Monday at a European Cancer Conference meeting.

The global increase in elderly cancer patients will be the result of aging societies, especially in developed nations, and improved diagnosis and treatment, Agence France-Presse reported.

"There are not enough health-care professionals who have skills and knowledge in both cancer and the best care and treatment for the elderly," Kathy Redmond, editor of Cancer World, said at the meeting.

She described the impending upsurge in elderly cancer patient numbers as a "time bomb," and said that not enough is being done to prepare to deal with the increase, AFP reported.


Horses More Dangerous Than Motorcycles

Horseback riding is more dangerous than motorcycling, football or skiing, according to a study by researchers at the University of Calgary-Calgary Health Region in Canada.

They reviewed data on 7,941 trauma patients treated at an area medical center over 10 years and found that 151 were severely injured while horseback riding. Many of them were veteran riders, the Canadian Press reported.

The study found that the injury rate for horseback riding was more than three times higher than that for motorcycling. The findings are published in the American Journal of Surgery.

Most of the horseback riders in the study said they felt their accidents were preventable. Only nine percent were wearing helmets, the CP reported.

Riders should wear helmets and safety vests to reduce their risk of injury, the researchers recommended.