Health Highlights: June 30, 2010

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

Gays, Lesbians More Likely to Smoke: Report

Gay, bisexual and transgender men are 2 to 2.5 times more likely to smoke than heterosexual men, according to a new American Lung Association report that examines tobacco use in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The document also says that lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to smoke than heterosexual women, and that bisexual boys and girls have higher smoking rates than their heterosexual and homosexual peers.

The report was released "to raise awareness of this health disparity and address the need for additional research specific to the LGBT community and tobacco use," Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in news release.

"Like other groups disproportionately affected by tobacco use, including African Americans and Native Americans, the LGBT population needs targeted efforts to reduce smoking rates, which ultimately save lives," he added.


VA Hospital Warns of Patients' Possible Exposure To Infectious Diseases

More than 1,800 veterans may have been exposed to life-threatening diseases after receiving dental treatment at the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis.

The hospital recently mailed letters to 1,812 veterans telling they may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), CNN reported.

The threat to the patients was caused by improper cleaning of dental instruments, the hospital said.

Rep. Russ Carnahan, a Democrat from Missouri, is calling for an investigation into the matter.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," said Carnahan, CNN reported. "No veteran who has served and risked their life for this great nation should have to worry about their personal safety when receiving much needed healthcare services from a Veterans Administration hospital."


Cancer Survivors Should Exercise: Guidelines

Cancer survivors should exercise as much as an average person (about 2.5 hours per week), according to new guidelines issued by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Even patients who are still receiving treatment should exercise. While these patients may not be able to do the recommended amount of exercise, they should avoid inactivity on their good days, the Associated Press reported.

The guidelines were written by a panel of cancer and exercise specialists who evaluated available evidence.

Research suggests that physical activity helps ease some cancer-related fatigue, improves quality of life, and may help prevent a decline in physical function that can last long after a cancer survivor has completed treatment, the AP reported.


Children's Summer Meal Programs Being Cut: Report

The number of hungry children in the United States is increasing, but states and cities are cutting funding for summer meal programs, says a report released Tuesday by the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group.

"Low-income children across the country clearly bore the brunt of budget cuts," said group President Jim Weill, the Associated Press reported.

Summer meal programs are for children who rely on subsidized or free meals at school for most of their nutrition.

The group analyzed data from the U.S. Agriculture Department and a survey of state child nutrition officials and found that during the summer of 2009, only 16% of children who received free or reduced-cost meals at school were fed during the summer holidays.

The figure was 17% in the summer of 2008 and 21% in the summer of 2001, the AP reported.


Alcohol During Pregnancy May Harm Son's Sperm: Study

Women who drink alcohol while pregnant may damage their son's sperm, according to Danish researchers.

They found that young men born to mothers who had 4.5 or more drinks per week while pregnant had sperm concentrations about one-third lower than men who weren't exposed to alcohol in the womb.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology.

"Our study shows that there is an association between drinking a moderate amount of alcohol (about four to five drinks a week) during pregnancy and lower sperm concentrations in sons," Dr. Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen, a clinical associate professor in the epidemiology department at the Institute of Public Health, University of Aarhus, said in a press briefing.

"However, because this is an observational study we cannot say for certain that the alcohol causes the lower sperm concentrations. It is possible that drinking alcohol during pregnancy has a harmful effect on the fetal semen-producing tissue in the testes -- and thereby on semen quality in later life -- but our study is the first of its kind, and more research within this area is needed before any causal link can be established or safe drinking limits proposed," she said.


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