STAT Medical News: Secondhand Smoke Detectable in Babies

BABIES BREATHING SECONDHAND SMOKE Parents who frequently smoke around their babies may be subjecting the infants to dangerous chemicals, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Scientists examined urine from 144 babies with smoking parents and found detectable levels of cancer-causing chemicals in nearly half of the infants (47 percent). In babies who had detectable levels of the chemicals, researchers found the parents smoked an average of 76 cigarettes per week.

CANCER-CAUSING GENES -- A FRUITLESS SEARCH?An opinion paper from scientists within the U.S. National Cancer Institute suggests that the hunt to find common cancer genes is not likely to meet with success, despite the investment of large amounts of money. The paper, published Thursday in the British Medical Journal, states that recent research shows these overarching cancer genes are unlikely to exist, or if they do, they are unlikely to have a significant impact on cancer rates. Overall, environmental influences and lifestyle choices such as smoking will outweigh genetic influences, the authors believe.

SLOW SUICIDE More than 80 million Americans are putting themselves at high risk for long-term illness and early death from smoking and/or obesity, say researchers in the British Medical Journal. Scientists from the American Legacy Foundation used 2002 U.S. national health interview data to examine the portion of Americans who smoke and who are obese. Results showed nearly 24 percent of adults were obese and almost 23 percent smoked, composing a total of 81 million Americans. About 9 million Americans both smoked and were obese.

DISABILITY NATION New results from the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than 51 million Americans are living with some sort of disability. The government survey finds 18 percent of Americans reported having a form of disability, ranging from difficulty seeing or doing light housework to more severe conditions such as permanent deafness or paralysis. People reporting severe disabilities had the lowest rate of employment (42 percent vs. 88 percent for nondisability) and an increased chance of having Medicare or Medicaid coverage, living below poverty level and reported "fair or poor" health status.

STAT is a brief look at the latest medical research and is compiled by Joanna Schaffhausen, who holds a doctorate degree in behavioral neuroscience. She works in the ABC News Medical unit, evaluating medical studies, abstracts and news releases.