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Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(7):1143

Boring, they're not. But are school-based sex education programs helping teenagers? In a randomized trial of 8,430 adolescents published in BMJ, researchers compared a teacher-delivered sex education program that focused on active learning and skills development with standard programs used in high schools in Scotland. They found that although the students liked the experimental program more than the conventional program, it did not reduce risky sexual behaviors in teenagers and had no effect on condom use. The researchers speculated that the program's success may have been hindered in part because many of the teens were already using condoms, making further change more challenging.

Researchers and biotechnology firms say it may be only a few years before an effective cancer vaccine is developed, according to an article published in the San Jose Mercury News. In fact, numerous vaccines are currently being tested in clinical trials in the United States. Some have been created using a patient's own tumor cells or with proteins or sugar molecules specific to certain types of cancer; others have been designed to trigger an immune response. While approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still a long way off, researchers hope the vaccines will one day enhance current treatments by eliminating the tumor cells that remain after surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Are you diabetic and afraid of the dark? A study published in The Lancet suggests that you should be if you want to ward off diabetic retinopathy. The study recorded oscillatory potentials in seven patients with type 2 diabetes and eight age-matched control subjects during oxygen inhalation after dark adaptation. The decreased oscillatory potentials induced by dark adaptation in the diabetic patients increased by 31.5 percent during oxygen inhalation, which was not significantly different from that of the control subjects before oxygen inhalation. The oscillatory potentials of the control subjects were only marginally affected by oxygen.

“The early bird catches the worm.” According to Psychiatric News, a preliminary study indicates that with proper treatment, some cases of schizophrenia can be delayed or prevented by giving patients antipsychotic drugs before full onset of the disease. Sixty patients having symptoms of the disease were given the antipsychotic agent olanzapine, or a placebo, over the course of a year. Early results show that those taking the drug have a significantly lower incidence of symptoms, which is promising news for persons with a family history of schizophrenia.

“Kangaroos know best.” Premature human infants also benefit from skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care, or KC) with their parents, shows a study published in Pediatrics. The study matched 73 preterm infants who received KC with 73 control infants who received standard incubator care. Mother-infant interaction, maternal depression and perceptions, infant temperament, maternal and paternal sensitivity, the home environment, and the infant's cognitive development were recorded at 37 weeks (gestational age), and at three and six months (corrected age). At each stage, the infants who received KC were more alert and had less gaze aversion, interactions between the infant and mother were more positive, and the mothers showed more positive affect, touch, and adaptation, and less depression. KC parents were also more sensitive and provided a better home environment. In addition, infants who received KC scored higher on cognitive development than infants who received standard care.

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Copyright © 2002 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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