Health Buzz: Americans Exposed to Radiation and Other Health News

Weight-loss drugs are flagged; how health insurance reform may raise young adults' premiums.


Study Looks at Radiation in Medical Imaging Tests

A new study suggests medical tests like CT scans and nuclear imaging expose millions of Americans to high doses of radiation, the New York Times reports. Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 950,000 adults under age 65. Between 2005 and 2007, nearly 70 percent of them underwent at least one imaging procedure that exposed them to radiation. Of those, about 1.9 percent received at least 20 millisieverts of radiation in at least one of the three years, and 0.2 percent received at least 50 millisieverts, more than the maximum annual safe dose allowed for workers exposed to radiation on the job, according to the New York Times. From those numbers, the authors estimate that about 400,000 Americans annually exceed that maximum dose, while 4 million people receive more than 20 millisieverts of radiation a year. The study, which didn't measure how many extra cancer cases the exposure is likely to cause, is published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Read why people who are overweight or obese may be at greater risk for dangerous radiation exposure. And here's new research that links radiation to aggressive thyroid cancer.

Why You Should Think Twice Before Using Alli or Other Weight-Loss Aids

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration announced an investigation into reports of liver problems thought to be related to an over-the-counter pill for weight loss, Alli, and the prescription version, Xenical. This came after the agency received information on 32 cases of serious liver injury, including six cases of liver failure, in those using either product, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reports. Both pills contain the drug orlistat but in different doses.

The FDA hasn't determined yet whether these liver problems are related to orlistat since overweight individuals—who are most likely to use these drugs—tend to have a higher risk of developing liver failure because of a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The real take-home message is that we can't assume that any weight-loss medication is risk free, Kotz writes. Herbal weight-loss products commonly sold on the Internet, for example, may have harmful prescription drugs hidden in them. Those who are severely overweight might find that the weight-loss benefits of orlistat are greater than its risks, but those with just a few pounds to lose may want to think twice. Read more.

Read about weight-loss ingredients the FDA says may endanger your health, along with 28 weight-loss products that contain them.

Health Reform: Let's Lower—Not Raise—Young Adults' Premiums

Under current health reform proposals in Congress, young adults, those healthy 20-somethings that help make up the 45 million Americans who are uninsured, will be forced to buy health insurance—at prices that will be vastly inflated over the ones now available to them, U.S. News health columnist and physician Bernadine Healy writes.

That's because they will be obliged to buy the same basic comprehensive, federally chosen benefits package that older people would buy and pay premiums that cannot be less than half of the highest premium the pre-Medicare person owes, Healy reports. The higher premiums borne by the young, which would be $4,000 or more (policies can be found now for as little as $500 or $600 yearly), are intended to contribute to the health coverage of their elders. But they would force many young people, even those currently insured, to take government subsidies. Read more.

Healy has written extensively on the subject of health reform, including how it could affect young adults. Earlier this month, she listed 4 details of the House's health reform bill that promise to radically change some people's health experiences—and everyone's relationship with the government. In July, she proposed a two-part plan to fix the health insurance system. She has also described 7 ways health reform will affect Americans.

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