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Am Fam Physician. 2007;76(2):182

Can gargling saline mouth rinse detect cancer?

According to data presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, saline mouth rinse may help physicians accurately detect head and neck tumors. The saline rinse flushes out CD44 protein, a bio-marker for head and neck cancers, and detects altered DNA related to these tumors. The altered form of CD44 can be found in bodily fluids (e.g., spit, saliva) and can be accurately measured after five seconds each of swishing and gargling the saline and then spitting it into a cup. The researchers note that in the 102 study participants with head and neck cancers and the 69 patients with benign head and neck disease, the test distinguished head and neck cancers from benign disease nearly 90 percent of the time. These cancers are normally detected in the late stages when cure rates are only 30 percent; however, the saline oral rinse can detect the cancers earlier, allowing physicians to cure the disease at least 80 percent of the time. The researchers note that the mouth rinse test is simple enough to be done at any community health center. (MedlinePlus, April 24, 2007)

Apples may prevent asthma

Does an apple a day keep asthma away? Study results published in Thorax suggest that women who eat apples during pregnancy may help prevent asthma in their child. The diets of nearly 2,000 pregnant women and the lung function of 1,253 of their children at five years of age were studied. Researchers found an association between apple consumption and the prevention of asthma. Children of the women who ate more than four apples per week were 37 percent less likely to have a history of wheezing and 53 percent less likely to have doctor-confirmed asthma compared with children of the women who ate one or no apples per week during pregnancy. The researchers note that the association between apples and asthma may be because of the fruit's phyto-chemical content (e.g., flavonoids), which has been shown to promote healthy adult lung function. (Thorax, published online March 27, 2007)

Oral device to replace pills and injections?

An oral device that attaches to a patient's tooth and dispenses medications may replace pills and injections. Patients with Alzheimer's disease and those who are chronically ill may be the first users of the product. According to its inventors, the “cybertooth” can be placed in a patient's mouth as an attachment to a tooth or as an implant. The device can hold several weeks' worth of medicine and can be programmed to deliver the drug based on the preference of the physician. The inventors hope to market the device within three years. (Reuters, April 19, 2007)

Mother freezes her eggs so her daughter can have children

In the first egg donation of its kind, a Canadian mother has frozen her eggs so her daughter can have the opportunity to become pregnant in the future. Her daughter, who is only seven years of age, has Turner syndrome, a disease that has made her unable to have children. Although this mother-to-daughter donation has raised ethical questions, the ethics committee at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal reviewed and endorsed the case. The eggs, which were frozen using a method called vitrification, will remain viable for 20 to 25 years if the daughter chooses to use them. (, April 19, 2007)

Children more likely to eat homegrown fruits, vegetables

Grow a garden—your children will eat it up! According to study results published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, children who eat fruits and vegetables from their garden at home prefer the taste of them compared with other foods. Researchers analyzed the food preferences of preschool-age children in southeastern Missouri. They found that children who were almost always served fruits and vegetables grown at home were more than twice as likely to eat five servings a day compared with children who rarely or never ate produce that was grown at home. In addition, a wider selection of fruits and vegetables was available to children who ate homegrown foods most of the time. Therefore, the authors recommend that schools grow their own gardens and create educational programs to teach children about sources of locally grown produce, which may be an easy way to encourage children to eat healthier. (J Am Diet Assoc, April 2007)

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Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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