Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes are growing in popularity among American adults, and while some states restrict their use by minors, nearly 1.8 million American middle and high school students reported using them one recent year, a federal study found.
The battery-powered devices work by vaporizing a liquid solution that users inhale. They are sold in various flavors, including mint and chocolate, and typically contain nicotine as well as a propellant to create the vapor. Continue reading
Americans spend about $3 billion annually getting wisdom teeth removed. But some experts are now questioning whether the procedure is always necessary, Elise Oberliesen recently reported in a story for the Los Angeles Times.
“Those who oppose automatically taking out those four teeth say ‘watchful waiting’ is a better path because the teeth and surrounding gum tissue might remain normal, making costly surgery unnecessary,” Oberliesen writes.
The four back teeth, also known as the third molars, generally erupt in young adulthood. But they sometimes only partially break through the gum. The teeth can become impacted because there’s not enough room in the jaw. Impaction can lead to decay, inflammation, the formation of cysts and other problems. Continue reading
Last month, journalists from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting raised serious questions about prenatal genetic screening tests, saying physicians and patients may not fully understand the results of these tests for fetal abnormalities.
In their reporting, the journalists exposed a symptom of what may be a bigger problem: the proliferation of genetic tests without a full understanding about what such testing can and cannot do. Even health insurers have struggled to understand how to pay for new genetic tests.
The stories also pointed out that federal regulators are wrestling with how to classify genetic tests. Many of these tests fall into the category of what pathologists call lab-developed tests or LDTs. These tests are not regulated by the FDA, as the NECIR journalists reported. In October, the FDA proposed regulating these tests as medical devices and clinical laboratories are pushing back, saying such regulations could interfere with the practice of medicine.
We’ll address these issues one at time. Continue reading
A $400,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation will be used to create a database of retractions from scientific journals, extending the work done by Adam Marcus and AHCJ Vice President Ivan Oransky on their Retraction Watch blog.
The grant was awarded to the Center for Scientific Integrity, a nonprofit organization set up by Marcus and Oransky. Continue reading
Dutch researchers have concluded that during a 10-second French kiss, partners exchange an average of 80 million bacteria.
Their study, “Shaping the Oral Microbiota Through Intimate Kissing,” was recently published in the journal Microbiome.
The researchers conducted their investigation with the help of 21 human couples visiting Amsterdam’s Royal Artis Zoo on a summer day in 2012. They administered a questionnaire on the kissing habits of each partner in each couple and collected samples of tongue and salivary microbiota from each participant before and after a “controlled kissing experiment.” Then they offered a probiotic yogurt drink containing marker bacteria to one of the partners in each couple prior to a second French kiss to quantify the number of bacteria exchanged.
The findings suggest that a shared microbiota is able to develop in the mouths of partners. While collective bacteria in saliva were eventually washed out, those on the surface of the tongue were able to find “a true niche, allowing long-term colonization,” the researchers wrote.
“French kissing is a great example of exposure to a gigantic number of bacteria in a short time,” lead researcher Remco Kort of the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research said in a story published online by the BBC. “But only some bacteria transferred from a kiss seemed to take hold on the tongue.
AHCJ member Gary Schwitzer has announced that the website he publishes, HealthNewsReview.org, has received a two-year grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
The site, known for its systematic reviews and ratings of news stories about health care, had been funded since 2005 by the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation but lost its funding July 1, 2013. Continue reading
Photo: Carla K. JohnsonMark Taylor
How can journalists make the most of their time and energy when covering a scientific or professional conference?
Mark Taylor has covered more than a few scientific conferences in his two decades as a health care journalist. While he says that doesn’t qualify him as an expert, he does admit that “over the years I’ve painfully acquired a few tips for how to successfully cover such massive events.”
Most recently, he attended the annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (as a GSA Journalism in Aging Fellow), which featured more than 500 presentations, symposia and poster sessions.
Following that meeting, Taylor shared his top 10 tips for efficiently covering scientific conferences. Find out what they are and then come back here to add your tips in the comments.
If you’ve ever wondered about the real impact of those little black-and-white nutrition labels, or felt that perhaps food labeling could be more meaningful, consider the results of a new study, published recently in The American Journal of Public Health.
A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health wanted to know what makes people change their habits – specifically, low-income black adolescents. In 2012 – the most recent year of CDC data – obesity was more prevalent among both African-Americans and low-income groups than the general population. (But remember that the relationship between income and obesity varies by poverty level, gender and race is a complicated one.)
Two U.S. senators have proposed a bill to support research into prostate cancer, calling for “a national strategy to combat prostate cancer.”
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) have introduced the National Prostate Cancer Council Act, which would establish a body made up of federal agencies, patients, and medical experts. It would coordinate prostate cancer research and services across all federal agencies.
In a press release announcing the legislation, Sessions said, “Testing and early detection are the keys to combat this disease. When identified early, the survival rate for prostate cancer is very high. We need to ensure that we have the most advanced screening tools available and this legislation is a step in the right direction.”
The National Cancer Institute estimates there will be 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer and 29,480 deaths in the U.S. this year. Continue reading