Health Buzz: Malaria Rates Lowest in Decades

Why screening for colorectal cancer is important; parents, don't be conned by sugary kids' cereals.

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 Officials: Malaria Deaths Could End by 2015

 The fight against malaria has led to the most promising news in decades: The disease has been eradicated in Morocco and Turkmenistan, and infections have fallen across Africa. Since 2008, cases have been reduced by more than 50 percent in 11 African countries, World Health Organization officials said today. Worldwide, 781,000 people died of malaria in 2009, compared to nearly 1 million in 2000. And the number of reported cases fell to 225 million last year, down from 244 million in 2005. "By maintaining these essential gains, we can end malaria deaths by 2015," Ray Chambers, the U.N. secretary-general's special envoy for malaria, said in a statement that accompanied the WHO's World Malaria Report 2010. Officials credit the progress to a massive malaria control program, which has helped buy anti-malaria insecticide-treated mosquito nets for nearly 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. In some African areas, however, malaria continues to cause nine out of 10 deaths, and most victims are children. "It is a long way to go, so serious work has to be done," Robert Newman, director of the WHO's global malaria program, told Reuters, describing the group's vision of ending malaria deaths within the next five years. "But this disease is entirely preventable and treatable, so it's the right aspirational goal."

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  •  Why Screening for Colorectal Cancer Shouldn't Be a Hard Sell

     Breast and prostate cancer screening tests may dominate headlines, but in terms of the quality of the scientific evidence that early detection saves lives, there are no better cancer screening tests than those for colorectal cancer, or cancer of the large intestine. One in 20 adults will develop colorectal cancer during his or her lifetime, and detecting it before symptoms occur substantially improves a patient's chances of survival. Nevertheless, 57,000 people in the United States still die from colorectal cancer every year; in fact, more men under age 75 will lose their lives this year to colorectal cancer than to prostate cancer.

     Given these facts, it's perplexing that colorectal cancer screening is such a hard sell to patients, family physician Kenny Lin writes for U.S. News. Women and men over 50 who diligently come back for annual mammograms and PSA tests politely decline the three effective and widely available colorectal cancer tests: yearly fecal occult blood testing (checking for microscopic evidence of blood in stool samples); flexible sigmoidoscopy (visualizing the lower third of the large intestine) every five years; or colonoscopy (visualizing the entire large intestine, a procedure typically performed under anesthesia) every 10 years. Nationally, other family doctors encounter similar resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about two in five adults older than 50 is overdue for a colorectal cancer screening. As a result, patients may suffer and die needlessly from advanced cancers that, having spread to other organs, offer little hope of survival. [Read more: Why Screening for Colorectal Cancer Shouldn't Be a Hard Sell.]

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    •  Parents, Don't Be Conned by Sugary Kids' Cereals

       Kids will actually eat breakfast cereal that isn't super sugary—and they'll like it, too, writes U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute. That's heartening news for parents who feel like they've been conned by the food industry into serving breakfast with almost no nutritional value, in the belief that their kids would otherwise skip the most important meal of the day. Take that, Froot Loops!

       Many of the breakfast cereals aggressively marketed to children contain huge amounts of sugar: Froot Loops, Cocoa Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes, three of the cereals used in a new study, have 11 or 12 grams of sugar per serving. For Froot Loops, 42 percent of a serving's 118 calories come from sugar. Other cereals fare even worse; a study of sugary cereals done in 2008 by Consumer Reports found that a bowl of some varieties, like Kellogg's Honey Smacks, had as much sugar as a glazed donut—hardly a healthy start to the day.