Health Highlights: Jan. 11, 2012

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

Appeals Court Ruling Supports Texas Abortion Law

A federal appeals court panel ruling Tuesday potentially clears the way for enforcement of a Texas law requiring doctors to show sonograms to pregnant women before they have an abortion.

The three-judge panel overturned a lower court's order last August that blocked key parts of the law just before it was to take effect. In that ruling, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas said the law violated the First Amendment by forcing doctors and patients to engage in government-mandated speech, CNN reported.

In Tuesday's ruling, the three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said opponents of the law did not prove it violated the Constitution. The panel sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

The legal action against the Texas law was launched by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. Center President and CEO Nancy Northrup said the appeals court panel decision was "extreme."

"This clears the way for the enforcement of an insulting and intrusive law whose sole purpose is to harass women and dissuade them from exercising their constitutionally protected reproductive rights," Northrup said in a statement, CNN reported. "Until today, every court that has reviewed similarly intrusive laws have ruled the laws unconstitutional."

The center is evaluating "all available means" to challenge the Texas law, Northrup said.

"Today's ruling is a victory for all who stand in defense of life," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement, CNN reported.


Michelle Obama Announcing Med School Efforts to Help Injured Veterans

More than 100 medical schools have promised to increase training and research for the treatment of U.S. veterans with brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, Michelle Obama is scheduled to announce Wednesday during an appearance at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

The commitment from the medical schools is part of the first lady's Joining Forces campaign, which highlights issues that affect veterans and their families, the Associated Press reported.

The participating medical schools will improve training in how to treat PTSD and traumatic brain injury, boost research into the conditions, and share new information and best practices.

Nearly 213,000 U.S. military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2000, according to the Defense Department. Nearly 300,000 veterans of both wars have suffered PTSD or major depression, according to the Rand. Corp, the AP reported.


Fungicide Detected in Orange Juice: FDA

Testing for the fungicide carbendazim in orange juice will be increased after a juice company said it found low levels of the fungicide in its orange juice and the juice of other companies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The agency said the unnamed company found levels of carbendazim of up to 35 parts per billion, which is significantly lower than the European Union's maximum level of 200 ppb, the Associated Press and ABC News reported.

The fungicide is not approved for use on oranges in the U.S., but is approved and used in Brazil. The FDA does not believe the fungicide poses a health risk.

"Not all of the orange juice that us consumers drink comes from oranges that were grown here in the U.S.," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch, AP/ABC News reported. "Just because a chemical is illegal here doesn't mean that other countries don't allow it to be used or that farmers aren't using it there."


Lawsuits Launched Over Alleged DES-Breast Cancer Link

Fifty-three women in the United States are suing drug companies who made the synthetic estrogen DES (diethylstilbestrol), which was given to millions of pregnant women in the U.S. and other countries to prevent miscarriages, premature birth and other problems.

The women say they developed breast cancer because their mothers took the drug, which was available from about 1938 to the early 1970s, the Associated Press reported.

In 1971, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told doctors to stop prescribing DES to their pregnant patients after a study had found that daughters of women who took DES during pregnancy seemed to be at increased risk for a rare vaginal cancer.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed since the 1970s alleging links between DES and cervical and vaginal cancer, as well as infertility. But a case in Boston is believed to be the first major lawsuit alleging a connection between DES and breast cancer in DES daughters older than 40, the AP reported.

The case is being watched closely by DES daughters across the U.S.


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