Health Highlights: Dec. 2, 2008

Dec. 3 -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Gene May Protect Against Lung Cancer

A gene that protects against lung cancer has been identified by British researchers, a discovery that may lead to earlier diagnosis and new treatments for the deadly disease.

The University of Nottingham team compared lung cancer tissue with healthy lung tissue and found that the LIMD1 gene was missing in most of the lung cancer samples. This suggested that the gene may help protect against lung cancer, BBC News reported.

In a follow-up experiment, the researchers found that mice bred to lack the LIMD1 gene developed cancer. The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The LIMD1 gene studied in this research is located on part of chromosome 3, called 3p21," said lead researcher Dr. Tyson Sharp, BBC News reported. "Chromosome 3p21 is often deleted very early on in the development of lung cancer due to the toxic chemicals in cigarettes, which implies that inactivation of LIMD1 could be a particularly important event in early stages of lung cancer development."

"This is very exciting research which could lead to the development of early screening techniques and treatments for lung cancer," Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, told BBC News.


5 Distinct Types of Ovarian Cancer: Study

Five types of ovarian cancer are actually distinct diseases, according to a study by American, Canadian and German scientists, who said the current method of lumping them together as one disease hinders efforts to develop more effective treatments.

The researchers analyzed tissue from 500 tumors and found major differences in the pattern of biomarkers present in five types of ovarian cancers: low- and high-grade serous; clear cell; endometrioid; and mucinous, the Canadian Press reported.

The study appears in the journal PLoS Medicine.

While the findings won't have an immediate impact on the treatment of ovarian cancer, they should change the way ovarian cancer research is conducted and possibly accelerate the discovery of more effective treatments, said senior author Dr. David Huntsman, a researcher with Vancouver General Hospital and the British Columbia Cancer Agency.


Doctors Upset About Losing Money on Vaccinations: Survey

About 40 percent of U.S. doctors who vaccinate privately insured children are thinking about withdrawing the service, because they lose money on it, according to a survey of about 800 pediatricians and family physicians.

About half the respondents said they'd delayed buying at least one vaccine due to the cost, and almost 20 percent said they felt strongly that they weren't adequately reimbursed for the purchase and administration of vaccines, the Associated Press reported.

A second survey of 76 doctors in five states found major differences between what doctors pay for vaccines and what their reimbursement is from private insurers. For example, 10 percent of doctors lost money on a recommended infant vaccine, while others made almost $40 per dose for giving the same shot.

Both studies were published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics.

There's no evidence that large numbers of doctors are withdrawing vaccination services because of financial concerns, according to experts. But health officials are worried about that possibility, because it would mean fewer people would receive recommended shots, the AP reported.


294,000 Chinese Children Sickened by Tainted Dairy Products

A total of 294,000 children in China fell ill after consuming melamine-tainted dairy products, and 154 of them remain in serious condition, the country's health ministry said Monday in a statement posted on its Web site.

That new figure is almost six times higher than the government's previous figure of 53,000 that was given in September, Agence France-Presse reported.

Officials also said there may be more than the previously-announced four deaths, because six more deaths since Sept. 10 may be linked to consumption of melamine-tainted milk.

Of the 294,000 children who suffered urinary tract problems, 51,900 were admitted to hospital, the health ministry said. Of those, 861 remain in hospital and 154 were "serious" cases, AFP reported.