Health Buzz: Gays Kept Out of Clinical Trials

The big risk in ignoring erectile dysfunction; the problem with a blood test for colon cancer.

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Homosexuals May Face Discrimination in Medical Studies

New research suggests that clinical trials are often needlessly rejecting gay and lesbian participation, HealthDay reports. Researchers looked at 243 studies involving couples and sexual function and found that 37 excluded nonheterosexuals. "It's an exclusion that in many cases, maybe in most cases, doesn't need to be used," says Roland Dunbrack of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia who coauthored the report, according to HealthDay. Dunbrack said that in studies excluding gays and lesbians, the team saw no rationale for the restriction. The findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

[Read Should You Join a Research Study? 9 Tips for Volunteers in Clinical Trials.]

The Big Risk in Just Living With Erectile Dysfunction

By now, men have probably heard that erectile dysfunction, which the National Institutes of Health defines as the "inability to get or keep an erection firm enough" to do the deed, isn't just an emasculating sexual problem. It's also increasingly being recognized as a sign that something could be amiss in the cardiovascular department, U.S. News's Lindsay Lyon writes. New research adds more.

Research on over 1,500 men published this week in the journal Circulation suggests that for those who have cardiovascular disease, ED is a "potent predictor" of serious trouble ahead: Having both appears to raise the chance of dying from any cause and of dying from cardiovascular disease, and it seems to double the risk of having a heart attack compared with men who have cardiovascular disease but no erectile issues. What's more, the researchers reported, the worse the ED, the greater those risks appear to be.

"We've known from previous studies that men who present with ED are at greater risk of going on to have cardiac events such as heart attack, cardiac death, stroke, and angina [chest pain]," says Robert Kloner, director of research at Good Samaritan Hospital's Heart Institute and a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California (who had no hand in the latest research). "We've also known that typically, ED comes on before the cardiac symptoms, usually by three to four years." What the new study adds, he says, is that ED may help flag men whose cardiovascular disease is more advanced and who are in greater peril. Read more.

[Read Coping With 5 Common Sex Problems and Dr. Ruth Offers Advice on Improving Your Sex Life.]

A Blood Test for Colon Cancer Sounds Great—but It's Short on Proof

It's an eye-catching headline: " 'Revolutionary' Blood Test for Colon Cancer Screening Announced." The press release goes on to say that EDP Biotech Corp., based in Tennessee, will today brief its home state's legislators on what it calls a "breakthrough blood test" that "could save thousands of colon cancer deaths and billions in healthcare costs each year." (It not only briefed them, a later release said; it offered them the chance to participate in a study.) The company is hoping for approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the next couple of years.

In theory, that's wonderful, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson writes. Routine colon cancer screening is recommended starting at age 50 by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, the American Cancer Society, and other public-health groups. Certain screening methods—including colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy—can actually be considered a form of prevention, since they find polyps before they become cancerous. Yet, as the report from the February National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference on colorectal cancer screening said, "screening rates fall short of desirable levels," with about 55 percent of eligible people undergoing some type of screening. More options, particularly inexpensive, noninvasive ones, would be welcome. Read more.

[Slide Show: 11 Screening Tests You Should (or Shouldn't) Consider.] [Read Colon Screening: 5 Things You Need to Know.]

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