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Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(5):809

There are two new Web sites from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As reported in FDA Consumer, FDA Heart Health Online ( lists information on products for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease. Drugs@FDA ( contains a searchable catalogue of approved prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as some discontinued drugs. Information on recalls, warnings, and drug shortages will be added to that site in the future.

Liposuction may make your patients’ tummies flatter, but it does not improve their health. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine evaluated risk factors for diabetes and coronary heart disease in 15 obese women before abdominal liposuction and 10 to 12 weeks after the procedure. Although liposuction decreased the volume of subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, it did not significantly alter metabolic risk factors for diabetes or coronary heart disease.

An estimated 10 million women in the United States undergo unnecessary Papanicolaou (Pap) smears. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded in 1996 that routine Pap smears are unnecessary in women who have had a complete hysterectomy for benign disease. According to a study published in JAMA, these women are being screened for vaginal cancer, a cancer that occurs in only 0.3 percent of women. Screening for a cancer with such a low incidence is unwarranted.

More benefits of exercise! According to research findings reported on, physical activity can improve quality of life in cancer patients and maybe even extend life, at least in women with breast cancer. In addition to providing a distraction and alleviating depression, weight-bearing activities, strength training, and stretching can counteract some common side effects of chemotherapy, such as bone and muscle loss and weight gain. The study followed more than 2,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study for 16 years and showed that walking one to three hours per week reduced the women’s risk of dying from breast cancer by 25 percent. The risk was decreased by 50 percent when the women walked three to eight hours per week. Rowing was noted to have particular benefit in women who had had lymph nodes removed from their underarms.

The numbers prove it—early detection and more effective treatments are increasing survival in cancer patients. As summarized in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a data analysis conducted by the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the number of persons living with cancer increased from 3 million in 1971 to 9.8 million in 2001. The analysis also found that an estimated 64 percent of adults diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2000 would be alive five years after diagnosis, compared with 50 percent of adults diagnosed with cancer from 1974 through 1976.

Could a doctor’s necktie make his patients sick? Study findings presented at a conference of the American Society of Microbiology and reported on showed that neckties can be a nesting ground for germs. A medical student from Technion University in Israel came up with the idea for the study while he was taking an elective course at New York Hospital Queens. Accustomed to the open-collar shirts of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals, the student noticed that the ties worn by physicians and clinical workers in the American hospital often came into contact with patients or their bedding. Researchers examined 42 ties and found that 20 of the ties (48 percent) carried one or more disease-causing microorganisms. However, all of the bacteria were common pathogens that are treated easily with medications.

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Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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