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Ovary transplant baby born
September 24 - The first baby has been born to a woman who underwent an ovary transplant, it was announced today.

The woman, aged 32, put her ovarian tissue into a freezer seven years ago as she faced the prospect of destructive drug treatment for cancer.

The chemotherapy, administered for Hodgkin's disease, left her infertile.

But five months after ending several years of treatment, doctors reimplanted her ovaries and 11 months later became pregnant.

The baby was born last night at the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc, Brussels, Belgium, weighing 3.72kg.

Researcher Jacques Donnez said: "Our findings open new perspectives for young cancer patients facing premature ovarian failure.

"Ovarian tissue cryopreservation should be an option offered to all young women diagnosed with cancer, in conjunction with other existing options for fertility preservation, such as immature oocyte retrieval, in-vitro maturation of oocytes, oocyte vitrification, or embryo cryopreservation."


Dogs sniff out cancer
September 24 - Specially trained dogs can detect human bladder cancer by distinctive odours in urine, researchers reported today.

The research, from Amersham Hospital, Buckinghamshire, UK, is published in this week's British Medical Journal.

Anecdotal evidence had suggested that dogs may be able to detect several forms of cancer, because tumours may produce chemicals with unique odours. With their exceptional sense of smell, dogs could potentially detect the chemicals, even in minute quantities.

Using urine samples from patients with bladder cancer and control samples, six dogs were trained to discriminate between them. In tests, the dogs were offered seven urine samples, one of which came from a cancer patient. The dogs were able to indicate their chosen sample in nine separate tests.

All together, the dogs were correct 22 out of 54 times. This is a rate of 41 per cent, much greater than the 14 per cent expected by chance.

Dr Carolyn Willis, Director of Academic Research at Amersham Hospital, said: "Our study provides the first piece of experimental evidence to show that dogs can detect cancer by olfactory means more successfully than would be expected by chance alone."

"The results we achieved should provide a benchmark against which future studies can be compared, and it is to be hoped that our approach to training may assist others engaged in similar work," she added.

In an accompanying commentary by Professor Tim Cole of the Institute of child health, London, UK writes: "The study was carefully designed to include several features to minimise bias, and it is hard to fault the study in this respect. On balance the results are unambiguous.

"Dogs can be trained to recognise and flag an unusual smell in the urine of bladder cancer patients."

BMJ Volume 329, pp 712-4, 715


Books on Men's Health

Red wine protects men
September 23 - Men who take a glass of red wine a day may be giving themselves powerful protection against one kind of male cancer, researchers revealed today.

The daily glass seems to cut the risk of prostate cancer in half, according to the study.

And the risk of the most dangerous forms of prostate cancer is cut by even more - by 60 per cent, according to the study reported on-line in the International Journal of Cancer.

Researchers said only red wine seemed to protect against prostate cancer.

They could find no evidence that beer, white wine or spirits offered any protection. Earlier research has linked white wine to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

More than 1,400 people took part in the study.

Researcher Dr Janet Stanford said between four and eight glasses a week seemed to be linked to the greatest benefit.

Dr Stanford, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, USA, said a chemical called resveratrol, found in red grapes, might be responsible for the wine's anti-cancer properties.

She said: "One of the reasons we wanted to do this study is because overall, most of the scientific literature – around 17 studies to date – haven't shown a consistent relationship between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer.

"Some have shown an increase, some a decrease, and most no association whatsoever."


Acupuncture breakthrough
September 22 - Doctors studying the secrets of the ancient art of acupuncture say they have discovered "previously unknown pain-killing properties".

The discovery emerged from a remarkable study of the benefits of administering acupuncture to women who underwent major breast surgery.

The trial aimed to study the benefits of the needle therapy in reducing nausea and vomiting experienced by women after having an operation.

Researchers said it proved to be better than any existing medication at the task.

Researchers used electro-acupuncture, rather than needles, for their study. The modern technique delivers small electrical charges to acupuncture points.

Some 75 women took part in the study, receiving either acupuncture, the drug ondansetron or no treatment.

More than three quarters of the acupuncture women were free of ill-effects afer surgery - compared with 64 per cent of those receiving the drug and 42 per cent of those who had no treatment.

The study showed that acupuncture's effects lasted in almost all cases for at least 24 hours.

The acupuncture was applied to a point two inches below the palm of the hand close to the wrist, known as the sixth point.

Researcher Dr Tong Joo Gan said it was the first time this acupuncture point had been found to have pain relief properties.

Reporting in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, Dr Gan says it is possible to achieve different kinds of pain relief by adjusting the frequency of the electrical charge.

Low frequencies achieved a long-lasting pain relief while high frequencies achieved fast but short anaesthesia.

Dr Gan, of Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA, said: "In the areas of post-operative nausea and vomiting control, pain relief, and general overall satisfaction, acupuncture appears to be more effective than the most commonly used medication, with few to no side effects."


Books on Healthy Eating

Mediterranean survival
September 22 - A lifestyle based on wine, fish and salads gives elderly people a massively improved prospect of living a long and healthy old age, researchers reported last night.

The so-called Mediterranean diet is linked to a 23 per reduced risk of dying at any age between 70 and 90, according to the study of more than 1,500 Europeans.

Researchers studied the fate of people who consumed a Mediterranean diet, based on fruit, vegetables, olives and wine, and low in dairy products and meat. They also studied whether people kept physically active and did not smoke.

The research, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that diet alone reduced the risk of dying by 23 per cent.

Healthy pensioners could boost their prospects even more by keeping active - linked to a 37 per cent reduction - and by not smoking which cut the risk of dying by another third, according to Dutch researcher Kim Knoops, of Wageningen University.

A second Italian study in the same journal found the Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of "metabolic syndrome", a condition that leads to the development of diabetes and heart disease.

Patients were advised to eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil.

Researcher Dr Katherine Esposito, of the Second University of Naples, Italy, reports: "The results of this study represent the first demonstration, to our knowledge, that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, walnuts, and olive oil might be effective in reducing both the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome and its associated cardiovascular risk."


Tax free fitness plan
September 21 - Exercise and sport facilities would be eligible for tax relief, under a plan put forward by senior GPs.

According to an official of the Royal College of GPs, most people cannot afford to play energetic sports such as tennis, which can cost five pounds a game.

The idea was put forward at a conference held last week to discuss how obesity can be treated in primary care.

The college called on the government to make more healthy food available in schools and places of work.

It said exercise should be accessible and affordable to everyone.

Dr Graham Archard, chair of the RCGP clinical network, said: "We need to create an environment where everyone is able to balance their busy lifestyles with healthy eating and exercise. With around 22 per cent of the UK adult population obese this is an issue of growing concern to the medical community.

"More needs to be done to ensure sports are available for all. Most people can't afford sports such as tennis at the moment, not when they cost as much as five pounds a game.

"One idea might be to offer tax relief on exercise – after all obese people are likely to use more NHS resources than healthy people."


Doctors hasten thousands of deaths - claim
September 20 - At least 18,000 people a year may have their end hastened medical assistance, according to a controversial study published yesterday.

Legal expert Dr Hazel Biggs claims it is time that the practice of helping people to die was regulated.

She has made her claims in article submitted to the European Journal of Health Law, the Observer reported.

She has also submitted evidence to a House of Lords committee studying a private member's bill on Assisted Dying.

Her claims are set to fuel the flames of the argument about euthanasia.

She says she arrived at her estimated by studying research from Australia and Holland and adding to that evidence gathered from British doctors.

She said "What this says to me is that we know these practices are going on, but they are completely unregulated.

"We don't know how many people are volunteers or non-volunteers, and maybe because of that the law ought to be changed so that people can give voluntary consent, which will give them more protection."

But a spokeswoman for the ProLife party said: "Surely the response of a compassionate society is to alleviate the pain, to love and comfort the patient, and to try and restore a sense of self-worth until death comes naturally."

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