Health Highlights: Oct. 13, 2008

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

Personal Music Players Pose Hearing Threat

Personal music players could cause permanent hearing loss for as many as 10 million of the estimated 50 million to 100 million Europeans who use them, according to experts who conducted a study for the European Union.

The specialists on the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks concluded that people who listen to personal music players at high volume for five hours a week are exposed to more noise than employees in the noisiest factories or workplaces. Maximum volume on some personal music players can be as loud as an airplane taking off nearby, The New York Times reported.

    • Personal Music Players Pose Hearing Threat
    • Shark Antibodies May Help Fight Cancer
    • 1 in 5 Adults May Use Prescription Drugs for Brain Boost
    • Ultrasound Law Challenged in Oklahoma Abortion Case

People who listen at high volumes for more than an hour a day each week risk permanent hearing loss after five years, the study said.

"Regularly listening to personal music players at high-volume settings when young often has no immediate effect on hearing, but is likely to result in hearing loss later in life," wrote the authors of the study, which was published Monday, the Times reported.


Shark Antibodies May Help Fight Cancer

Antibodies in shark blood could offer a powerful weapon against cancer, suggest Australian researchers who found the antibodies can withstand high temperatures and extremely acidic or alkaline conditions.

This suggests that shark antibodies may be able to survive in the harsh environment of the human gut, a capability that's vital in the development of a cancer-fighting pill, BBC News reported.

The researchers also found that shark antibodies can also attach to cancer cells and prevent them from spreading.

"The (cancer) cells actually grow less than when we don't add a shark antibody or we add a completely irrelevant shark antibody," said Mick Foley, an associate professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, BBC News reported. "So this indicates the shark antibody that we have is binding to those cancer cells and for some reason causing them to grow more slowly and perhaps even killing them."

It's also hoped that shark antibodies may treat other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and malaria.


1 in 5 Adults May Use Prescription Drugs for Brain Boost

Up to 20 percent of adults may be using prescription drugs such as Ritalin to increase alertness and brain power, according to a survey of 1,400 people, BBC New reported.

The Nature journal poll found that 20 percent of respondents said they'd taken Ritalin, Provigil (modafinil) or beta-blockers for non-medical reasons such as boosting focus, concentration or memory. Of those, 62 percent had taken Ritalin and 44 percent Provigil, which is normally prescribed to treat daytime sleepiness in people suffering from the sleep disorder narcolepsy, the news service said.

In most cases, users of the drugs got the drugs through prescriptions or bought them online.

Professor Barbara Sahakian, of Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, England, said there's evidence that the use of drugs for cognitive enhancement is becoming more widespread and safety trials are urgently needed, BBC News reported.

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