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Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(7):1209

The summer months bring warmer weather, longer daylight hours, and more risk for tetanus. According to survey results from the National Gardening Association, 40 percent of consumers surveyed said they were not immunized against tetanus. Annually, 80 percent of gardeners receive tetanus-prone injuries. The bacteria that causes tetanus can be found in dirt, potting soil, and manure, and can enter the body through any simple wound. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults receive a diphtheria-tetanus booster every 10 years.

It may be possible to reverse obesity with a drug that “starves” fat cells! As reported on, researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston have designed a drug that targets and destroys the blood vessels that feed fat cells. When the fat cells die, extra pounds melt away. Sounds good? Well, some mice in Texas might agree. After being fattened up to about twice their usual size, mice that were treated with the experimental drug returned to normal weight in just one month—no matter what they ate! More research is needed, and the effects of the drug in humans remain to be explored.

Would your patients trade a few months of life for a more comfortable death? Based on a series of interviews, a research team at the University of Pittsburgh found that while people value quality of life, they also care a great deal about the quality of their death. On average, the interviewees said they would be willing to give up seven months of healthy life if they could be assured of better quality of care in their final month of life. As noted on CNN. com, this study supports the movement toward hospice care as opposed to the use of measures that extend the lives of terminally ill patients.

Could pruritus be an early sign of breast cancer? As reported in The Journal of Family Practice, a patient complained of itching that had lasted for about six months in and near an areola, but a clinical examination turned up no skin changes or other reason for the itching. Steroid cream did not cure the condition. About five months later, however, a needle biopsy (after a negative mammogram) revealed ductal carcinoma. Perhaps the itching resulted from irritation of the nerve fibers by the growing mass in the patient’s breast.

Many people are afraid of snakes, but white men between 25 and 34 years of age who live in southern states—primarily Texas, Georgia, and Florida—really should stay alert when they work outside, or fish, hunt, or hike. The National Vital Statistics system reports in the Southern Medical Journal that this is the population group most at risk for fatal snakebites. Even so, according to the report, only 97 deaths resulting from snake envenomations were reported between 1979 and 1998, which works out to fewer than five deaths per year.

The Freshman 15—is it a cliché or a signal for help at a time when young adults feel out of control and unable to cope with the new stresses of college life and adult responsibility? According to an article from, the first year of college can be immensely stressful, and many students come to rely on overeating and binge drinking to cope. This also is a time when disordered eating emerges as a serious health issue. What can be done to help these kids? Counseling is highly recommended as a way to focus on the underlying problems rather than simply treating the symptoms of overindulgence. Parents should talk honestly with their children and listen to their concerns, with the goal of helping them to get a handle on their newfound freedom and start taking responsibility for their own health. Students can do this by eating regularly, having healthy options for snacks available, and exercising.

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