Sci/tech

Wyeth Jury Awards $99 Million: HRT Drugs Blamed For Cancers
October 15, 2007 11:11 PM -

RENO, Nevada (Reuters) - A Nevada jury on Monday awarded $99 million in punitive damages to three women who blamed their breast cancer on Wyeth hormone replacement drugs.

Judge Robert Perry, presiding over the case in the Washoe County District Court, slashed the compensatory damages to $35 million from $134.5 million on Friday, after the jury said the original sum included some punitive damages.

The new total is about the same as the original figure.

Cancer death rates continue to fall
October 15, 2007 11:06 PM - Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Death rates from cancer continue to fall in the United States, dropping more than 2 percent per year from 2002 through 2004, cancer experts reported on Monday.

They found important declines in deaths from lung, prostate and colorectal cancers in men, as well as in breast and colon cancer among women. Lung cancer deaths were still on the rise among women but this increase slowed, according to the report.

"The significant decline in cancer death rates demonstrates important progress in the fight against cancer that has been achieved through effective tobacco control, screening, early detection, and appropriate treatment," U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said in a statement.

Air Pollution Linked To Bronchitis In Preschoolers
October 15, 2007 10:04 AM -

Davis, California - In one of the first studies to examine air pollution in relation to infant and early childhood health, a UC Davis researcher has discovered a strong link between exposure to components of air pollution and acute bronchitis diagnoses in preschool-aged children. Those components - polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs - contribute to air pollution from a variety of sources, including coal burning, vehicle exhaust, wood-burning stoves, tobacco smoke and grilling food.

Led by UC Davis environmental epidemiologist Irva Hertz-Picciotto, the Czech Early Childhood Health Study involved 1,133 children from birth to 4.5 years of age born in two districts of the Czech Republic between 1994 and 1998. One of those districts, Teplice (pronounced Tuh-PLEET-zuh), is known for its high levels of air pollution. The other, Prachatice (pronounced prah-kuh-TEET-zuh), has much lower levels of air pollution.

American trio wins 2007 Nobel for economics
October 15, 2007 07:56 AM - Reuters

American economists Leonid Hurwicz, Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson won the 2007 Nobel for economics on Monday for laying the foundations of an economic theory that determines when markets are working effectively.

Hurwicz, Russian-born but an American citizen, is 90 years old and is the oldest ever recipient of a Nobel prize.

No sex for 40 million years? Works for some
October 14, 2007 10:45 PM - Michael Kahn, Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - One microscopic organism has thrived despite remaining celibate for tens of millions of years thanks to a neat evolutionary trick, researchers said.

Asexual reproduction has allowed duplicate gene copies of the single-celled creatures -- called bdelloid rotifers -- to become different over time.

This gives the rotifers a wider pool of genes to help them adapt and survive, the researchers said in the journal Science.

"It is like having a bigger tool kit," Alan Tunnacliffe, a molecular biologist at the University of Cambridge, said in a telephone interview. "You can do the same job but better."

Smoking Turns On Cancer Genes, Permanently: Study
October 14, 2007 09:59 PM -

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Smoking may turn on some genes in the body in a permanent and harmful way, scientists said on Thursday in a study that may help explain why the risk of cancer remains high even after smokers quit.

They found many genetic changes that stop when a smoker quits, but found several genes that stay turned on for years, including several not previously linked with tobacco use.

"These irreversible changes may account for the persistent lung cancer risk despite smoking cessation," the researchers wrote in their report, published in BioMed Central journal BMC Genomics.

Genes found that slow both aging and cancer
October 14, 2007 09:52 PM - Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers have identified a batch of genes that not only prevent cancer but slow the aging process in worms, and say they are now looking to see if the genes have the same properties in humans.

Many of the genes in the worms are already known to have counterparts in humans, and the team at the University of California, San Francisco, say they hope to better understand some of the processes that cause both aging and cancer.

Drugs that mimic the effects of these genes might help people both avoid cancer and also live longer, they wrote in Sunday's issue of the journal Nature Genetics.

Fearful looks get brain's attention fast: study
October 14, 2007 09:31 PM - Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Smiles may take a while, but a horrified expression is a sure-fire attention getter, U.S. researchers said on Sunday, based on a study of how fast people process facial expressions.

They believe fearful facial expressions make a beeline to the alarm center of the brain known as the amygdala, cuing humans to potential threats.

World Bank studies rising seas in Guyana
October 12, 2007 08:17 PM - Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank and Global Environmental Facility have approved $3.8 million in grant funding to protect low-lying coastal areas in Guyana threatened by rising sea levels, an official said on Friday.

This is the first project of its kind to be approved under the Global Environmental Facility's Special Climate Change Fund. It will look at ways to improve coastal drainage in the small South American country.

Gerald Meier, a consultant with the World Bank's hazard risk management group, said the project was responding to the catastrophic flooding in Guyana in 2005, which affected most of the inhabited northern coast of the country where up to 90 percent of the population lives.

On Saturn's moon Titan, bring an umbrella
October 12, 2007 04:57 PM - Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The daily weather forecast on Saturn's largest moon Titan appears to be a steady drizzle of liquid methane, at least around the bright, exotically named region known as Xanadu, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

But this is hardly the paradise romanticized by the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem "Kubla Kahn."

New images from Hawaii's W.M. Keck Observatory and Chile's Very Large Telescope show nearly global cloud cover at high elevations and a dreary morning drizzle that seems to dissipate around midmorning local time -- which is about three Earth days after sunrise.

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