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Health Highlights: Oct. 17, 2012

Health Highlights: Oct. 17, 2012

10/17/12

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

General Health Screenings Not Beneficial: Study

General health screenings that are part of your annual checkup may not be as beneficial for healthy people as you think, according to researchers who conducted what is believed to be the first large review of existing studies on the subject.

The paper's authors reviewed data from more than 180,000 adults in the U.S. and Europe who took part in 14 randomized trials and were followed for an average of just over five years, the Wall Street Journalreported.

Some of the patients were offered some type of health screening while others were not. There were many different types of screening, ranging from physical exams, family histories and questionnaires to blood and lung function tests.

The review found that screenings had no effect on overall death risk or on the risk of death specifically from heart disease, stroke or cancer, and that screenings had no effect on preventing disease, the WSJreported.

The findings were published Tuesday by the nonprofit Cochrane Collaboration, a international network that conducts reviews to help improve health care.

"I would say that this is the most reliable evidence on the topic and it doesn't seem to show any convincing benefits," said Dr. Lasse Krogsboll, the paper's first author and a physician at the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"Many people would consider (the results) counterintuitive," Krogsboll noted. "Many people see their body the way they see the car -- you take it for a checkup, so you should do that with your body. But biology isn't that simple."

The findings raise questions about whether spending on preventive health services should be more focused on screening tests known to be effective, according to the WSJ.

The review was well done but had limitations, including the fact that many of the studies started decades ago and didn't assess what is provided in checkups today, said Michael LeFevre, co-vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. He was not involved in the review.

For example, guidelines for treating high blood pressure and cholesterol have changed over the years.

Even so, the review shows "that just having somebody come in for a (general) checkup doesn't help," LeFevre told the WSJ.

He suggested that the focus should be on specific preventive services and interventions proven to be effective. For example, healthy people would be better off talking with their doctor about quitting smoking or limiting alcohol consumption rather than doing a treadmill stress test.

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Halloween Garb From China Seized Due to Lead Levels

Nearly 1,400 Chinese-made pirate costumes have been seized after high levels of lead were found in the buttons and trim, U.S. officials say.

The children's Halloween costumes, which had 11 times the legal limit for lead, will be destroyed, Mike Milne, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Seattle, told mnsbc.com.

He said the shipment was singled out for inspection because of a past violation, but did not identify the violator.

Children's health could have been at risk if they put the buttons or the trim in their mouths. High levels of lead can cause vomiting, coma or convulsions, while low levels can cause learning difficulties and an inability to pay attention, msnbc.comreported.

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Medical Marijuana Advocates Push for Drug's Reclassification

A federal appeals court is considering whether the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration should hold a hearing on reclassifying marijuana.

Marijuana is currently listed as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use, placing it in the same category as drugs such as heroin. Last year, medical marijuana advocates petitioned the DEA to change marijuana's classification, the Associated Pressreported.

The DEA rejected the petition, saying that there wasn't a consensus of medical opinion on the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The medical marijuana advocates have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to force the DEA to hold a hearing on the issue.

On Tuesday, a lawyer for the medical marijuana advocates told the court that the DEA had misapplied the law, while a government lawyer urged the judges to deny the advocates' request, the APreported.

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Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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