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Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(8):1505

“You will feel a little pain…” A study published in The Lancet shows that a quick, fingerprick blood test could be used to detect ovarian cancer. Using mass spectroscopy, researchers scanned the blood of 50 patients with ovarian cancer and 50 women without the disease. Looking for specific patterns, scientists identified a pattern of five proteins in the blood of patients with ovarian cancer that was not found in the blood of the women without the disease. There is promise of using this test to detect other cancers and diseases.

(Clink, clink)… “Mmm, beer.” A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience and cited in Psychology Today shows that an ex-addict's worst enemy isn't the item of addiction itself, but rather the sights and sounds associated with it. The study found that rats trained to associate sugar pellets with amphetamine showed signs of craving the drug when they were exposed to the pellets after a 14-day drug-free period. Researchers hypothesize that drug use causes long-term or permanent changes in certain neural systems. In humans, the addiction triggers may persist for as little as a year or as long as half a lifetime.

A noninvasive procedure for detecting colorectal cancer? It may be a long way off, but researchers are exploring the possibilities with a test that detects mutations in the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene, an indicator of the development of colorectal tumors. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers analyzed DNA from the stool samples of 74 patients, and found that APC mutations could be detected in more than one half of the patients with neoplasia. While the researchers caution that the test is not yet applicable in practice, they believe it shows promise for the development of new methods of detecting early colorectal tumors.

“Dogs, cats, and bats…Oh my!” A study conducted by the Florida State Health Department and published in the Southern Medical Journal finds that treatment in Florida of potential rabies exposure hasn't gone as smoothly or inexpensively as expected. The researchers say that nearly a quarter of the 160 potential rabies exposure cases presented to county health departments in 1997 and 1998 received but did not require postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). Researchers say that increased diligence in capturing and properly testing the animals involved, improved decision-making by physicians, and after-the-fact review of exposures could prevent unnecessary PEP.

Listen carefully in your office and you may hear the sound. That's right: the pitter-patter of little feet. According to a report recently released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, women are having more babies now than at anytime in the past 30 years. There port, which presents data from the year 2000, shows a 3 percent increase in births from 1999. Teen births, however, are on the decline, dropping 22 percent from the record high set in 1991.

“Now that's using your head.” A study published in Nature shows that 14-month-old babies can critically evaluate their parents' actions. After watching a woman use her head to turn on a light box, two thirds of the infants in this study repeated the same method. However, when the woman held a blanket around herself, pretending to be cold, and then used her head to turn on the light, 80 percent of the infants who watched this version used their hands, not their heads, to turn on the light box.

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Copyright © 2002 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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