Health Tips ... from UPI

By CHRISTINE SUH, UPI Science News  |  July 29, 2003 at 9:00 AM
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A pharmaceutical researcher has found that when used together, sunscreen and mosquito repellant could increase the risk of side effects such as skin allergies. The risk is particularly high in children. "In our lab, we have found that when these products are combined, there is increased absorption through the skin, and that can do more harm than good," said Xiaochen Gu, of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. Sunscreens and repellants are designed to stay on the surface of the skin. DEET, often found in mosquito repellants, can cause skin allergies, hypotension, headaches, disorientation and even encephalopathy, especially in children, who are more prone to absorption through the skin. People over 65 also might be at higher risk for side effects as their skin tends to be thinner as well, Gu said.


Drugs that are used to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson's disease could increase the likelihood a patient develops Alzheimer's, a new study suggests. The research, published in the Annals of Neurology, found people who had died with Parkinson's and had taken acetylcholine-blocking drugs had twice as many brain plaques that characterize Alzheimer's disease compared to those who did not take the same kind of drugs. "These findings suggest that chronic use of (acetylcholine-blocking) drugs in the elderly should be avoided," though more research is needed, said Elaine Perry, of the Newcastle General Hospital in England. Researchers also said the study raises questions about a range of drugs that block acetylcholine, such as some antidepressants, antihypertensives, antipsychotics and antihistamines.


In some cases, the recommended 60-day dose of antibiotics to prevent anthrax might not be long enough, researchers said. A mathematical analysis done by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that antibiotics might be needed for as long as four months to prevent sickness in people who have been exposed to high levels of anthrax spores. "A single spore left behind can germinate to cause disease," said Ron Brookmeyer, professor of biostatistics at Hopkins. Brookmeyer based the math model on the 2001 anthrax attack in the United States and the 1979 outbreak in Russia. The model accurately predicted illness rates for both. Researchers said if exposure levels in the 2001 attack had been higher, there would have been more casualties.


New research suggests cancer deaths in the European Union will be 92,500 fewer than expected in 2000, partly due to the Europe Against Cancer Program. "Although we fell short of our ambitious target, the reductions are noteworthy, and about half of the expected increase in cancer deaths was avoided," said Peter Boyle, professor at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy. "With few exceptions, most countries are experiencing declining trends in cancer death rates, which seem set to continue, at least in the near future." The biggest reductions in cancer deaths were in Luxembourg, Finland, the United Kingdom and Austria. A few countries, including Portugal, saw increases, however. Experts had projected that cancer deaths in the EU would rise from 850,000 in 1985 to 1.03 million in 2000. The latter figure is likely to be closer to 940,500.

(Editors: For more information on SUNSCREEN, contact the Manitoba news office at 204-275-1160. For ALZHEIMER'S, the American Neurological Association at 612-545-6284. For ANTHRAX, Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or For CANCER, Margaret Willson in the U.K. at +44-153-677-2181 or

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