Roundup of the Day's Health News

In the medical file today:

Ferraro Endorses Blood Cancer Drug

The former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro says she has blood cancer, an affliction that leads to death within five years for more than half of its sufferers. But Ferraro is one of the first patients to fight the disease with a drug called thalidomide, which was banned after being linked to birth defects but now shows promise as a cancer treatment. Ferraro says her cancer is in remission. Read more.

Folic Acid: A Job Well Done

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control report a 19 percent decline in neural tube defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly, marking the success of a 1998 FDA mandate to fortify all enriched grain foods with folic acid, a type of vitamin B. Previous studies have shown folic acid supplementation helps decrease birth defects. Women of reproductive age women are still advised to take a 400-microgram folic acid supplement daily. Read more.

Strong Bones Tied to Breast Cancer Risk

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh report older women with strong bones are three times more likely to develop breast cancer than those with weak bones. Investigators stress strong bones themselves are not the cause for cancer, but a marker of hormonal levels revealing a woman's long term exposure to estrogen, testosterone or other growth-promoting hormones.

Little Relief for Pain

The National Academy of Sciences says few health-care professionals are adequately trained to care for cancer patients who are dying and in pain. The academy says the government needs to step in and provide more support.

06/18 Terminal illnesses; fatherhood and hormones

06/15 Pig cells for diabetes; fat tax; aggressive drivers

06/14 Heart attack drugs; vitamin C danger; undermedication

06/12 Lyme disease; TB; teen pregnancy; prescription drugs

06/11 Carpal tunnel syndrome; marijuana and heart attacks

06/07 Measles vaccine for lymphoma; Down syndrome; wine pills

06/05 Cancer deaths down; rating Medicare providers; the Lap Band

06/04 Meningitis outbreak; kids & condoms; kids who snore

05/31 AIDS surge; ritalin & grades; artery-hardening burgers

05/29 HMO errors; unnecessary operations; medication for gambling?