Health Buzz: Pro-Life Pharmacies and Other Health News

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Pro-Life Pharmacies Stir Controversy

A Washington Post article published yesterday on "pro life pharmacies" drew attention from bloggers at the Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Feministing. According to the article, there's a small number of drugstores nationwide that eschew all contraceptives, turning away customers who ask for condoms, birth control pills, or the Plan B emergency contraceptive. According to the Pharmacists for Life International, a group that promotes a pharmacist's right to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraception, seven drugstores have signed a pledge to follow "pro life" guidelines. The U.S. News On Women columnist Deborah Kotz is dismayed by the news. "What concerns me is the potential impact these pharmacies will have on women's access to birth control—especially if they become widespread in small rural towns with few pharmacies," Kotz writes. "But I'm even more worried about the misinformation campaign that's spreading about the pill."

Read more On Women columns, and find more information on contraception and sexual health at health.usnews.com.

New Study Explores the Health Effects of Coffee

ABC News provides some needed context for a study released yesterday that shows drinking a significant amount of coffee each day does not shorten one's lifespan and could, in fact, lengthen it. That study, as HealthDay reports, found that women who drank two or three cups of caffeinated coffee daily seemed to have a 25 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than nondrinkers. However, there's no need to start guzzling coffee, and the new findings should be interpreted with caution, researchers emphasize.

U.S. News's Nancy Shute explored America's fascination with caffeine in a cover story published last April.

Healthful Lifestyle Teaches Prostate Genes to Behave

Adopting a healthful lifestyle—such as eating a low-fat diet and exercising regularly—can switch on good genes and suppress cancer-provoking ones, all in a matter of months, reports U.S. News Health Editor Bernadine Healy. A report released yesterday by Dean Ornish, president of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, found that new lifestyle choices changed the behavior of hundreds of different genes that affect tumor growth by controlling how the prostate gland responds to male hormones. Specifically, the study found that healthy lifestyle choices turned "up" certain genes believed to prevent cancer and turned "down" an array of disease-promoting genes, including oncogenes in the so-called RAS family that are found in both prostate and breast cancer. "While no one is born with a perfect set of genes, the study strongly suggests that genes do not have to be your fate," says Healy.

U.S. News reported on Ornish's lifestyle intervention last September. For more information about treating and preventing prostate cancer, read this guide created in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University.

Old Antipsychotic Drugs Are a Risk

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that older, conventional antipsychotic medications should carry a black box warning about an increased risk of death in some elderly people who take these drugs and are being treated for dementia. FDA officials issued a similar warning for newer ntipsychotic drugs in 2005 and published a full list of the specific drugs involved. The agency based its decision, the Associated Press reports, on two studies of a combined 65,000 seniors that showed those taking antipsychotics were more likely to die than those not on the drugs.

In January, U.S News published a cover story that looked at ways people can keep their brains fit.

Adam Voiland