Health Buzz: Obesity Gene Linked to Colon Cancer and Other News

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Genes, Fat, and Risk of Colon Cancer

There may be a genetic link between risk of colon cancer and weight gain, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "We have discovered that a genetic variant of the adiponectin gene, called ADIPOQ, is associated with colon cancer risk," lead researcher Boris Pasche, director of the division of hematology and oncology at the Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, told HealthDay. ADIPOQ encourages the creation of the fat hormone adiponectin. Researchers found that people who possess a certain variant of the gene have up to a 30 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer than those who don't have this variant, according to HealthDay.

In addition, researchers said that those who don't possess this gene variant—as well as people who have high levels of adiponectin in their systems—may have a slightly higher risk of colon cancer and may benefit from early screening for the disease, HealthDay reports.

Two recent studies suggested that treatments for colon cancer need improvements. And reporter Katherine Hobson recently explained what you need to know about colon cancer screening.

Landmark California Healthcare Program Allowed to Continue

An appeals court ruled yesterday that Healthy San Francisco, a landmark universal healthcare program, is not a violation of federal law, the Associated Press reports. The decision overturns a lower court's ruling that Healthy San Francisco puts an unfair financial burden on businesses by requiring companies with at least 20 employees to provide healthcare or contribute a portion of each worker's salary as a fee paid to the city to help offset the $200 million cost of the healthcare program. That fee is capped at $180 per employee for companies that have more than 100 employees.

U.S. News ranks America's Best Health Plans. Last week, Michelle Andrews reported that healthcare premiums are up again.

New Study Casts Further Doubt on Popular Osteoarthritis Supplements

The popular supplements glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate don't appear to work any better than placebo in slowing down the loss of knee cartilage in osteoarthritis patients, Reuters reports. A new study, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and published this month in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, bolsters previous research that also cast doubt on the effectiveness of the supplements, though researchers said more study is needed to confirm this week's findings.

"The study actually says more about what we need to do for the next investigation than for what patients should do," researcher Allen Sawitzke, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, told HealthDay.

A recent study found that arthroscopic surgery for knee osteoarthritis doesn't work any better than physical therapy and medications. U.S. News's Adam Voiland provided a list of six alternatives to arthroscopic knee surgery. Earlier, Katherine Hobson encouraged runners to listen to their knees.

Now Hospitals Must Pay for Avoidable Complications

A new Medicare rule that took effect at midnight today should make hospital care a little safer, Avery Comarow reports. Here's how: If the cost of treating a Medicare patient is pushed up because one of a defined set of avoidable problems happened on the hospital's watch—such as a fall, bedsore, or urinary tract infection that occurred or arose after the patient was admitted—the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will no longer reimburse the hospital for the additional expense. The incident will be considered a hospital-acquired condition, not a complication that up to now would have triggered a higher payment.

Comarow explained last year how bad care will cost hospitals as a result of the new Medicare rule. U.S. News ranks America's Best Hospitals.

—January W. Payne