Health Highlights: Dec. 3, 2009

HealthDay SHARE
  • Obesity Increases Kids' Risk of Spinal Problems: Study
  • Mammogram Task Force Defends Recommendations
  • USADA Targets Easy Availability of Steroids
  • NFL Issues Tougher Rules on Handling of Head Injuries
  • Label to Warn of Heart Risks From Antidepressant: FDA
  • Costs of Many Hospital Procedures Rise Sharply: Report

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Obesity Increases Kids' Risk of Spinal Problems: Study

Along with an increased risk for high cholesterol and diabetes, overweight and obese children also may be more prone to spinal problems and back pain, according to U.S. researchers.

They examined MRIs of 188 young people, ages 12 to 20, who had back pain and found that 56 percent of them had some lumbar spine abnormalities, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The researchers then calculated the age-adjusted BMI (body-mass index) for 106 of the study participants and found that 54 had a BMI greater than the 75th percentile for their age. Of those, 37 (68.5 percent) had abnormal findings on their spinal MRIs. All the children at or below a healthy weight had normal MRI results.

The study was presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Radiological Society.

"These results demonstrate a strong relationship between increased BMI in the pediatric population and the incidence of lumbar disc disease," study lead author Dr. Judah Burns, a fellow in neuroradiology at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City, said in a news release, the Times reported.


Mammogram Task Force Defends Recommendations

While they concede they "communicated very poorly," members of a U.S. government-appointed task force are holding firm on a controversial new recommendation that most women shouldn't get regular mammograms until age 50.

Appearing before Congress Wednesday, the task force leaders explained their guidelines have mistakenly been taken to mean that women under 50 should forgo mammograms altogether. But their true message is that women under 50 should discuss the issue with their doctor in order to make the choice that's best for them, CBS News reported.

Some doctors are ignoring that advice and still recommending annual mammograms for their female patients.

The lead doctors on the task force also faced questions about another contentious recommendation regarding breast self-exams.

"The task force recommended against clinicians teaching women breast self-examination. They did not recommend that women not pay attention to their bodies," task force report co-author Dr. Diana Petitti told lawmakers, CBS News reported.

"Well, how are women to get that knowledge?" asked Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, asked. "They can't just get it by intuition!"


USADA Targets Easy Availability of Steroids

In an effort to stop "rogue" manufacturers from selling steroids under the guise of legal nutritional supplements, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency this week launched a new program called Supplement Safety Now.

These steroids are easily available to anyone, noted Travis Tygart, USADA chief executive officer. Earlier this week, he went to and found he could buy "P-Plex," a muscle-building product that contains a designer steroid called Madol, the Associated Press reported.

"When you can go onto a popular site like Amazon, and without ID, you can buy a product like this, it's an obvious problem, not just for athletes,'' Tygart said. "It undermines the legitimacy of the legitimate supplement industry. Until these problems are adequately addressed, even the most informed customer cannot have confidence in their choice.''

The new initiative, designed to increase awareness of the issue and develop solutions, has the support of a number of major athletic organizations, including the NFL, Major League Baseball and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Dietary supplement makers are mostly supportive of the USADA's new program. But instead of new laws, the industry wants better enforcement of existing laws.

"I do find that disturbing, if you're able to buy these kind of products off a Web site like Amazon and those kind of products are clearly illegal in a number of regards,'' Steve Mister, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, told the AP. "But that means someone's not doing their job if they're not enforcing the law."