Health Highlights: March 27, 2013

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  • Breastfeeding for 6 Months Cuts Women's Risk of Cancer Death: Study
  • Euro Budget Cuts Linked to More Health Problems, Suicide: Study
  • North Dakota Governor Signs Tough Abortion Law

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

Breastfeeding for 6 Months Cuts Women's Risk of Cancer Death: Study

Mothers who breastfeed for at least six months have a 10 percent lower risk of dying from cancer and a 17 percent lower risk of dying from circulatory disease, according to a new study.

Researchers examined the habits of nearly 380,000 people in nine European countries and found that those who followed World Cancer Research Fund advice on cancer-prevention lifestyles had about a one-third lower risk of death from several major diseases, The Telegraph in the U.K. reported.

Along with advising women to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months, the recommendations direct people to: be as lean as possible without being underweight; get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day; limit consumption of sugary drinks, salty foods, processed foods and red meat; eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and legumes; not smoke; and limit alcoholic drinks to two a day for men and one a day for women.

People who most closely followed these recommendations were 50 percent less likely to die from respiratory disease, 44 percent less likely to die from circulatory disease, and 20 percent less likely to die of cancer, compared with those who followed few or none of the suggestions, The Telegraph reported.

The specific tips associated with the greatest reduction in the risk of death from those diseases were being as lean as possible without being underweight (22 percent lower risk) and eating lots of vegetables, fruits and legumes (21 percent lower risk), according to the study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Limiting alcohol consumption had the most impact on the risk of cancer death, reducing it by 21 percent.

This is the first study to show a strong link between the WCRF recommendations and a reduced risk of death, said study leader Dr. Teresa Norat, of Imperial College London in the U.K., The Telegraph reported.

"This study demonstrates in real terms the value of the ... recommendations in preventing deaths from a range of common diseases, not just cancer," said Dr. Panagiota Mitrou, the deputy head of science at WCRF.


Euro Budget Cuts Linked to More Health Problems, Suicide: Study

Health care cuts made by European nations as they fight huge debts are being partly blamed for an increase in suicides and outbreaks of diseases not normally seen in Europe, a new study says.

Since 2008, government-run health and welfare services in Europe have had their budgets slashed and medical treatments rationed, and adopted unpopular measures such as user fees, the Associated Press reported.

Medical care has suffered the most in countries -- namely Greece, Spain and Portugal -- that have made the largest cuts in public spending, according to the study published online in The Lancet.

"Austerity measures haven't solved the economic problems and they have also created big health problems," said study leader Martin McKee, a professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the AP reported.

Greece has been particularly hard hit. Suicides in the country rose 40 percent from 2010 to 2011. There was also an upsurge in the number of HIV cases among drug users, partly due to increased needle sharing after needle exchange programs were cancelled, the study said.

In addition, outbreaks of malaria, West Nile virus and dengue fever have occurred in Greece in recent years.

"These are not diseases we would normally expect to see in Europe," said Willem de Jonge, general director of Medecins Sans Frontieres in Greece, the AP reported.


North Dakota Governor Signs Tough Abortion Law

The governor of North Dakota approved a set of bills on Tuesday that enacts a law that essentially bans most abortions.