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Male Pattern Baldness Linked to Prostate Cancer


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Men with male pattern baldness just got something new to worry about besides a lack of hair.

A new study published in the Sept. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests men with male pattern baldness may face a higher risk of developing an aggressive type of prostate cancer than guys who are not going bald.

Study co-author Michael Cook, an investigator at the National Cancer Institute, is quick to point out that the study only found an association between male pattern baldness and aggressive prostate cancer. There’s no proof of cause and effect.

Male pattern baldness is a form of hair loss that starts when the front hairline as well as the top of the back of the head begin to recede.

Dr. Charles Ryan, an associate clinical professor with the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says male pattern baldness develops as a result of "a cumulative, lifelong exposure to testosterone in the skin." Ryan says testosterone also drives prostate cancer.

Researchers studied some 40,000 men between 1993 and 2001, when they were between 55 and 74 years old, and asked them about their level and type of hair loss at age 45. During a follow-up period between 2006 and 2008, the researchers found more than 1,100 men had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Nearly 600 of them developed aggressive prostate cancer.

Men who recalled having a specific type of male pattern baldness -- in the front and, moderately, around the crown of the head -- were 39 percent more likely to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer than men who had no baldness.

Other types of baldness were not linked to the development of aggressive or other types of prostate cancer.

"It is conceivable that, in the future, male pattern baldness may play a small role in estimating risk of prostate cancer and may contribute to discussions between doctors and patients about prostate cancer screening," says Cook.

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Prescription Drug Deaths Continue to Rise


iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says deaths from opioid prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin nearly quadrupled between 1999 and 2011.

According to CDC data, there were 4,263 deaths linked to opioid drugs in 1999.  In 2011, the number of deaths climbed to nearly 17,000.

“The numbers we’re seeing are definite underestimates,” said Dr. Holly Hedegaard, injury epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics and one of the lead authors of the CDC report.

According to the report, the number of deaths linked to a combination of opioids with benzodiazepine drugs, like Xanax or Klonopin, was also on the rise.

In 2011, nearly a third of opioid-related deaths occurred in combination with benzodiazepines -- a considerable jump from only about 13 percent in 1999.

The report also concluded that the group with the greatest increase in death rates was Americans between 55 and 65 years old.  Dr. Robert Waldman, an addiction medicine consultant not involved with the research, says one explanation may be the medical community placing more emphasis on treating pain symptoms.

Dr. Waldman says while this has led to relief for patients, it may have also led to more aggressive treatment of pain -- and with it, more use of prescription painkillers.

The rise in deaths from opioid prescription painkillers appears to be slowing down in younger age groups. Health experts say that is likely due to a combination of increasing drug awareness, law enforcement activities and drug treatment programs.

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One in Three Americans Would Save Smartphone Before Pets in a Fire


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Pets are cherished members of many American families, but apparently not as cherished as smartphones in some households.

When researchers asked 2,673 American adults what they would save first if their house was on fire -- aside from family members or other people -- 31 percent gave their smartphones a higher priority than family pets and cash.

Of those people who would save their smartphone first above all else, 65 percent said they would do so because there was “too much on their phone to lose.”

Another 12 percent admitted they would go for their smartphone first because it would be the closest thing at hand. The participants were able to choose from a list of possible answers.

The study was conducted by vouchercloud.net.

Here are the top 10 items people would save in a fire:

  1. Smartphone – 31 percent
  2. Pet(s) – 18 percent
  3. Cash – 13 percent
  4. Jewelry – 11 percent
  5. Tablet device -10 percent
  6. Wallet/purse/handbag – 5 percent
  7. Photos – 4 percent
  8. Laptop – 3 percent
  9. Desktop computer – 3 percent
  10. Keepsakes – 1 percent


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A Blood Test to Diagnose Depression?


iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Doctors usually rely on patient self-reporting to treat depression, but researchers at Northwestern University say a simple blood test may one day allow physicians to diagnose major depressive disorder.

When the researchers examined nine biomarkers in the blood of test subjects, they noticed a significant discrepancy in levels among people who had MDD and those who did not.

The researchers say three of the markers can be used to determine which type of depression therapy might be most effective for a specific patient.

Because depression is diagnosed after an evaluation by a psychiatrist or primary care physician, the researchers suggest a blood test may help avoid diagnostic uncertainty which can often lead to a delay in identification and treatment.

Medical experts not involved with the research note that the Northwestern University study only involved 14 patients with 14 controls. The study was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

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American Waistlines Continue to Grow


iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- In this era of triple bacon cheeseburgers, 48-ounce sodas and double-stuffed-crust pizzas, it shouldn't come as a surprise that American waistlines are getting bigger.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average American waist size increased more than an inch -- from 37.6 inches to 38.8 inches -- between 1999 and 2012.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers studied 32,816 men and women ages 20 and older and found that while men's waists increased less than an inch -- about 0.8 of an inch on average -- women's midriffs grew about twice that, or 1.5 inches.

Waistlines larger than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men are considered abdominal obesity.

Based on their waist circumference, 54 percent of Americans were abdominally obese in 2012, up from 46 percent 13 years earlier.

Abdominal obesity is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol.

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Detroit Doctor Pleads Guilty to Administering Unnecessary Chemotherapy to Defraud Medicare


yanyong/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- A Detroit-area doctor pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare and insurance companies by providing patients with unnecessary chemotherapy.

Dr. Farid Fata, 49, had been accused of fraudulently billing about $225 million in claims to Medicare over a six year span. He pleaded guilty on Tuesday to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive kickbacks, and two counts of money laundering. He could face a maximum of 175 years in prison.

"At a time when they are most vulnerable and fearful, cancer patients put their lives in the hands of doctors and endure risky treatments at their recommendation," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said. "Dr. Fata today admitted he put greed before the health and safety of his patients, putting them through unnecessary chemotherapy and other treatments just so that he could collect additional millions from Medicare."

Fata's actions are "chilling," Caldwell said.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh called Fata's actions "simply deplorable."

Fata submitted $225 million in claims to Medicare between August 2007 and July 2013, receiving over $91 million.

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Doctor Who Recovered from Ebola Calls Outbreak a 'Fire Straight from the Pit of Hell'


ABC News(ATLANTA) -- The doctor who was the first U.S. Ebola patient to be treated in America testified before a congressional committee Tuesday recalling the horror and "humiliation" of a disease that has killed thousands.

Dr. Kent Brantly, working on behalf of the U.S.-based missionary group Samaritan's Purse, was treating patients in Monrovia, Liberia, when he became infected with the Ebola virus in July. Brantly was evacuated to Emory University Hospital, where he was treated and eventually recovered.

The Ebola outbreak continues to grow throughout West Africa with an estimated 2,461 deaths attributed to the virus and approximately 4,985 infected.

Now just a few weeks after being discharged from Emory, Brantly was able to speak out about what he saw as a doctor and a patient during this Ebola outbreak -- the worst on record since the virus was first identified in the 1970s. During his testimony, Brantly urged Congress and government officials to give more aid and personnel to try and stop the outbreak, which President Obama said is "spiraling out of control."

You can read a few of Brantly’s most affecting remarks from his testimony below.

- "I came to understand firsthand what my own patients had suffered. I was isolated from my family, and I was unsure if I would ever see them again," Brantly said of his time being an Ebola patient in Liberia. "I experienced the humiliation of losing control of my bodily functions and faced the horror of vomiting blood -- a sign of the internal bleeding that could have eventually led to my death."

- "Many have used the analogy of a fire burning out of control to describe this unprecedented Ebola outbreak. Indeed it is a fire -- a fire straight from the pit of hell. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the vast moat of the Atlantic Ocean will keep the flames away from our shores."

- "It is grueling work," Brantly said of treating Ebola patients in Liberia. "The personal protective equipment (PPE) we wore in the Ebola Treatment Unit becomes excruciatingly hot, with temperatures inside the suit reaching up to 115 degrees. It cannot be worn for more than an hour and a half."

- "If we do not do something to stop this outbreak now, it quickly could become a matter of U.S. national security -- whether that means a regional war that gives terrorist groups like Boko Haram a foothold in West Africa or the spread of the disease into America."

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Man Survives Rare Cancer Thanks to New 'Targeted' Therapy


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- James “Rocky” Lagno was so sick that doctors only gave him about a year to live. Having been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer, even aggressive chemotherapy and radiation didn’t prevent the New Hampshire native’s tumors from growing larger.

To top it off, he was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer and then, several months later, a MRI revealed a dozen brain lesions.

“The oncologist told me I should probably think about getting my bucket list together,” Lagno, 53, recalled of the 2011 conversation he had with his doctor.

Fortunately for Lagno, his wife, Geralynn, lobbied for a biopsy that uncovered a rare genetic mutation linked to lung cancer. Once discovered, Lagno was entered into a clinical trial to test out a relatively new approach to cancer treatment known as molecular targeted therapy.

Traditional cancer drugs are indiscriminant, attacking not just cancer cells but every living cell in the body. Molecular targeting agents like the one Lagno received -- which are no longer experimental and are being used with increasing frequency -- are designed to target specific cancer mutations, explained Mayo Clinic cancer researcher Elaine Madris.

“Many cancers revolve around novel proteins that are highly active and constantly stimulated so that the growth of cancer is stimulated,” Madris said. “These new targeted drugs seek out these novel proteins and shut them down.”

In Lagno’s case, the therapy seems to have worked. The real estate agent has been taking two pills of the drug Ceritinib daily for the past three years and, while his tumor isn’t entirely gone, it hasn’t grown or spread either, he said.

Lagno’s remarkable turnaround is no longer unique, researcher Madris said. Ceritinib was approved by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year along with four other similar drugs, she added. It’s now widely used to treat lung cancer patients in hospitals all across the country.

“Many patients will now get this sort of drug in the first round of treatment even before chemo or radiation,” Madris said.

Because gene sequencing has become so much simpler and commonplace, more and more tumor varieties are identified every year, Madris said. This allows pharmaceutical companies to create drugs with more precision.

As a result, the FDA has trimmed back many of the longer, more expensive trials so drugs are reaching the public faster than ever before, she said.

“For some type of cancers, you’re seeing these new therapies replacing traditional cancer treatment like chemotherapy and radiation,” Madris said, adding that the new drugs are more effective in many cases than older treatments and carry far fewer side effects.

Targeted molecular therapy (also known as genomic medicine) has led to significant breakthroughs for many cancers. As Madris pointed out, some kinds of lung cancers and melanomas that would have been considered deadly less than a decade ago now have a better than 75 percent cure rate with this treatment.

In the near future, perhaps five years, medicine may be truly personalized, Madris said.

“There may be a time when you will be given a drug or a combination of drugs designed to treat your illness based on your unique genetics,” she said.

Even though personalized medicine isn’t quite a reality, Lagno said he thought this was a hopeful moment for anyone who is a cancer patient like him.

“Ten years ago my wife would have been a widow,” he said. “To think that I can take two pills a day and be alive is a miracle.”

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Does Your Family Play Favorites?


iStock/Thinkstock(PROVO, Utah) -- The Smothers Brothers comedy routine always included Tommy Smothers feeling hurt and complaining to his brother Dick that "Mom always liked you best." Well, a new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology shows that some families do play favorites, and it can have a negative future impact on children.

Alex Jensen, a professor at Brigham Young University and the lead author of the study, examined perceived preferential treatment among different types of families and categorized those that weren’t close to one another as “disengaged families.”

Jensen looked further at the disengaged families and found that children who considered themselves slightly less favored were almost twice as likely to use alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs.

And the study found that if a child’s perception of not being the favorite was even greater, they were nearly four times more likely to abuse substances.

"With favoritism in disengaged families, it wasn't just that they were more likely to use any substances, it also escalated," Jensen said in a press release. "If they were already smoking then they were more likely to drink also. Or if they were smoking and drinking, they were more likely to also use drugs.”

On the opposite end, the link to abuse of substances didn’t exist at all in families that took a strong interest in one another. The bottom line: happy kids make for happy adults and a happy family.

Jensen suggests that parents who know they play favorites should make a strong effort to show all their kids more love than they already are.

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Is Blood Type an Indicator of Future Memory Problems?


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Can blood type be a factor in determining your risk for dementia?

A new study published in the journal Neurology finds that people with blood type AB appear to have an increased risk for memory problems as they age.

Over a period of three years, individuals with AB type blood, which represents about four percent of the population, were almost twice as likely to display memory problems as those with type O blood, the most common blood group.

The researchers gave memory and thinking skills tests to more than 30,000 people over the age of 45 and re-tested them again three years later.  Out of the group, 495 participants scored low enough to indicate some sort of memory or thinking impairment.  When their blood types were compared to the blood types of 587 participants who achieved satisfactory cognitive scores, the researchers found those with AB blood types were 82 percent more likely to have impaired thinking skills than those with type O blood.

Dr. Mary Cushman, a professor of hematology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and the study's senior researcher, says the results are not surprising.  Cushman says they already know that having blood type AB can affect blood-clotting characteristics and risk of blood vessel-related conditions.  Cushman says her group also learned earlier this year that the AB blood type was connected to a higher risk of stroke.

But don't panic if you have AB blood. Dr. Terence Quinn, a clinical lecturer in stroke and geriatric medicine at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, says other circumstances play a bigger role in a person's risk of developing memory and thinking problems.

"If you were to do the same study and look at smoking, lack of exercise, obesity and other lifestyle factors, the risk of dementia is much, much higher," says Quinn.

"People who are worried about dementia, whether they have that blood group or not, should look at making those lifestyle changes," adds Quinn.

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Peer Pressure Makes Healthcare Workers Better Hand Washers


iStock/Thinkstock(IOWA CITY, Iowa) -- Healthcare workers, more than any other group, know that clean hands go a long way to prevent the spread of infection, but a new study finds that hand hygiene amongst that group is rather low, but peer pressure helps improve the practice.

Researchers at the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine studied hand hygiene compliance and opportunities, as well as the location and proximity of every healthcare worker in the intensive care unit of the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics during a 10-day period for 24 hours a day.

After recording more than 47,000 hand hygiene opportunities, the estimated hand hygiene rate was seven percent higher when healthcare workers were in close proximity to peers as compared to when healthcare workers were alone -- 28 percent vs. 21 percent.

"Social network effects, or peer effects, have been associated with smoking, obesity, happiness and worker productivity. As we found, this influence extends to hand hygiene compliance, too," said Philip Polgreen, MD, an author of the study.

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A Good NightÂ’s Sleep Means Less Sick Time


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In addition to not feeling tired in the morning, a new study finds getting a good night’s sleep means you’re less likely to take time off from work due to illness.

A study published in the September issue of Sleep followed 3,700 people in Finland, ages 30 to 64, for an average of seven years and found those who slept between seven and eight hours a night had the lowest percentage of taking time off from work due to sickness.

According to the study, those who slept less than six hours were much more likely to have taken off work due to illness.

Surprisingly, those who slept more than nine hours a night were just as likely to miss work due to illness as those who got less than six hours of shut-eye.

The researchers say the ideal amount of sleep for women is seven hours, 38 minutes, and seven hours, 46 minutes for men.

Tea Lallukka, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said in a news release that “those sleeping five hours or less, or 10 hours or more, were absent from work every year for 4.6 to 8.9 days more, as compared to those with the optimal sleep length."

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Enterovirus 68 Now in 27 States


Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A mysterious virus, enterovirus 68, is striking children and spreading fast across the country. Twenty-seven states are confirmed or suspected of having cases of the virus.

ABC chief health and medical editor Doctor Richard Besser says the illness starts off like a cold, but parents need to be aware if their child develops breathing difficulties or a reluctance to eat.

Dr. Besser says the danger signs include wheezing and difficulty speaking or eating. 

“If you look at your child's belly and there's inpulling with every breath, or blueness around the lips, those are signs your child may not be getting enough air,” Dr. Besser warns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 104 confirmed enterovirus cases in 10 states, but public health officials may never know the true scope of the outbreak because the CDC doesn’t require hospitals and labs to report enterovirus 68.

Dr. Besser says if a child has a cold “and it's acting like every other cold, there's nothing to worry about.”

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"The View's" Rosie O'Donnell Reveals Downside of 50-Pound Weight Loss


Lou Rocco/ABC(NEW YORK) -- Rosie O'Donnell is back hosting The View after more than seven years since she left the show following the 2007 season.

On Monday's season premiere, O'Donnell was all jokes with the rest of the panel -- Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez and Nicolle Wallace -- and even kidding with the crowd between commercial breaks. You could just see the excitement on the host's face during the show.

O'Donnell, 52, is also 50-plus pounds lighter and a happily married woman. O'Donnell tied the knot for the second time to Michelle Rounds in 2012 and recently adopted a baby girl Dakota, in addition to her other children from her first marriage.

"I feel good. I wouldn't have said yes to coming back if I didn't," she told ABC News backstage after the show. "They asked me a year ago, 'Would you consider [coming back]?' ...The concept of being able to do this show in a way that celebrates and elevates women is hard for me to resist."

O'Donnell had a procedure known as a vertical gastric sleeve, which she said has less complications that gastric bypass. Now, O'Donnell can't eat as much and doesn't want to, but getting used to her new body isn't all positive, she said.

"The fact that I look so different has been difficult and unexpected," she said. "Everyone assumes that obese people would just be jumping for joy that they were healthier and thinner and able to fit into store-bought sizes, we don't have to go to the plus store. But it's also filled with a lot of emotional turbulence, you wouldn't expect."

O'Donnell added that she is addressing the change in the right ways and getting support from other people in similar situations.

"I have a group that I go to, where women talk about how they feel," she said. "A lot of marriages break up once one person gets healthy. Luckily, my wife is very healthy, always been healthy, loves me and encourages me to be healthy."

In fact, O'Donnell's health -- especially after a heart attack at 50 years old -- is something her wife makes her take seriously.

"When we decided to get married, she said, 'But I want 40 more years and I don't want you to die on me, so you need to do something for your health,'" she added.

But O'Donnell didn't take her wife's request seriously until Rounds got cancer.

"The stress of that as well as being as big as I was, as well as being so depleted in every way, I had a massive heart attack," she said of the 2012 scare that almost took her life. "So, since then, I can't ignore it anymore. It's not like I don't want the cupcake that I saw, I just know that that's not a good choice."

O'Donnell also touched on how she "wasn't in the best place" last time she hosted the show, since she was going through a divorce from ex Kelli Carpenter in 2007.

"When you are getting a divorce and you have children involved and you are two people who are intelligent and love your children and each other and know it's not going to work, it takes a long time," she explained. "So, I was in the midst of that and wasn't in the best place. Now Kelli is happily married. ...I'm happily married, I have a new baby, which for me is better than any Prozac."

The host, who was welcomed back to the show via a standing ovation on Monday, said her baby has only kept her up two nights in the past year and a half, which worries O'Donnell, because her wife thinks that's normal.

"She keeps going, 'We should have another one!'" she said, laughing. "So, I'm happy, I'm in a good place."

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President Obama to Unveil Expanded Ebola Response


Bumbasor/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama plans to unveil Tuesday an expanded U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the worst outbreak of the disease in history.

Obama, who has called the outbreak a national security priority, will outline new steps to address the crisis during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

According to senior administration officials, the ramped up military effort centers on command and control, logistics, training and engineering support.

They new steps include:

  • Creating a joint force command headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia. By end of the week, the U.S. will have a general officer in place to lead the effort, known as "Operation United Assistance."
  • Providing engineers to build treatment units -- up to 17 separate facilities with 100 beds each.
  • Training support for health care workers, up to 500 health care workers per week, for as long as needed (although budgeting plans for a six-month period). Training will come from U.S. military medical personnel. The administration hopes to have force on the ground in a couple of weeks. After this scaling up is done, the expectation is for there to be up to 3,000 Defense Department personnel on the ground in support of the joint force command.
  • Working to boost a messaging campaign to train households on how to protect themselves and help family members that may present symptoms. To pay for the mission, the administration is asking for $88 million be added to the CR; $175 million has already been dedicated. The Defense Department has requested the reprogramming of $500 million in unobligated funds to be put towards the Ebola response.

As of Sept. 16, there were 4,985 probable, confirmed and suspected cases in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with 2,461 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The countries affected are Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.


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