Saturday, 24 February 2007

On the road at the 2007 Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer

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The first workshop I attended on Friday was called Good Science, Effective Advocacy: Learning about Research and Helping to make it Happen. This workshop focused on exploring the impact of legislation on treatment and research, and learn how to become a breast cancer advocate.

The workshop defined and offered basic instruction on randomized trials and observational studies and explained why they work the way they do to help you gain a better understanding of evidence-based health care and research and promote your own medical care.

One of the most important things that I learned in this workshop was that breast cancer patients can impact what studies are done when they are involved in advocacy. Patients now can have a say, where not too long ago the patients never played a part in this process.

How can advocates make a difference in the research process?

  • Participate in a clinical trial
  • Clinical trail education and recruitment
  • Legislation and funding - Federal and State
  • NCI and FDA patient programs
  • Study Sections (These can impact what studies are done)
  • Institutional review boards
  • Data and safety monitoring board
  • Private foundations
  • Pharmaceutical advisory boards

These are also some resources to get you started being a breast cancer advocate:

  • Project LEAD
  • NBCC Annual Conference
  • Koman Annual Meeting
  • Koman Champions for the Cure
  • NCI CARRA program

Becoming an advocate is something that can be very fulfilling and meaningful. Let your knowledge build and slowly see what your strengths are and go in the direction that best suits you. Advocacy gives patients some say in what studies move forward. Patients getting involved have dramatically impacted the research process.

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Recipe for Healthy Living: Lemon couscous

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Couscous is that little pasta pellet that many people mistake for rice. It cons ists of grains made from semolina that are about 1 mm or 1/16th inch in diameter after cooking. It is quick and easy to prepare and can be eaten cold, warm, or hot. A multi grains diet aids in the prevention of colon cancer. Here is one of my favorite healthy ways to eat this little treasure. The added ingredients are known in the food world to aid in the prevention of cancer. Studies show falcarinol in carrots reduce cancer. Some studies show that basil is a cancer preventative herb. Green peas provide nutrients, including vitamin C, which are instrumental in helping to prevent the development of cancer. Lemon also adds to the vitamin C in this recipe. A high intake of vitamin C has been shown to reduce the risks for virtually all forms of cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, and lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers as well as sex hormone-related cancers like breast, prostate, cervix, and ovarian cancers.

Vicki's Lemon Couscous
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons of lemon zest
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups couscous
1 cup sweet peas
1 cup minced carrots
1/4 cup fresh minced basil
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons minced garlic

In a 1-quart saucepan, bring water, lemon juice, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons oil and garlic to a boil. Add carrots, peas, capers and couscous and stir. Cover and remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove couscous into a large bowl by using a fork to fluff and separate the pieces. Add the minced basil and stir. You can eat this while it is hot as a great side dish or cold as a salad. Salt and pepper to taste.
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Naps reduce heart attacks

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Meditation, siestas, and naps all are used to re energize us. I have friends who swear by the 20 minute power nap. But in a society where everyone pumps caffeine to stay awake and working 12 or more hours a day is becoming common place, can we take the advice of the Archives of Internal Medicine telling us that taking naps reduces heart attacks? Now studies show that taking 30 m inute naps in the afternoons can help reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack. Working men seemed to benefit the most from the down time. The main reasoning in the study is that naps helped reduce stress and lowering stress helps reduce the likelihood of heart attacks.

In the largest study to date, Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos of Harvard University and the University of Athens Medical School, released facts on the health effects of napping. Researchers tracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults for an average of about six years. Those who napped at least three times a week for about 30 minutes had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who did not nap. The researchers in this study factored in diet, exercise, smoking and other habits that affect the heart but still found napping seemed to help. It is speculated that the health advantages probably would extend to women as well.

Wouldn't it be great if companies in this culture would follow suit from the siestas in many other cultures? I can see an increase in the sales of reclining office chairs as I write.

Pfizer Pitches Directly to Patients

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If at first you don't succeed - go straight to the patient's home. After a lackluster attempt to sell doctor's on prescribing Phizer's inhalable insulin, Exubera, the company has decided to begin running television and print campaigns to advertise directly to patients.

The ads will start appearing the second half of 2007. However the main contention from Congress and medical groups is that mass marketing to patients encourages excessive use of costly therapies. Exubera gained a reputation for being an over priced and not-so-discreet way to administer insulin. Doctors say the inhaler is unwieldy. Depending on a patient's health care plan, they can pay about $600 a year more for Exubera than injectable forms of insulin. Clinical trials have found the product can reduce lung function for some patients. Pfizer says the condition is reversible and is conducting a five-year study among users to monitor it.

Why the push, Pfizer? You seem hell-bent on making this one stick. The president of Pfizer's worldwide pharmaceutical operations says the television ads will target newly diagnosed diabetics who may not want to inject themselves daily. Patients who develop diabetes later in life may put off using insulin because of needle phobia. Fair tradeoff: I see your fear of needles and raise you $600 a year, a license to toke (in public), and maybe a little bruising on your alveoli. Puff, puff...give it a shot.

Acupuncture for chemotherapy nausea

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Delayed nausea from chemotherapy in cancer patients frequently is managed by recurrent administration of high dose corticosteroids, resulting in undesirable side effects including weight gain, growth retardation and increased risk for infections. Acc ording to the NIH Consensus Statement on Acupuncture, there have been many studies on acupuncture's potential usefulness showing promising results in aiding adult postoperative patients and chemotherapy patients with nausea, vomiting and headaches. The National Center For Complementary And Alternative Medicine offers a lot of facts on acupuncture and other alternative treatments and therapies.

To many patients acupuncture relaxes them and helps relieve stress and to some it energizes them. It is safe and most people feel no pain or very minimal pain as the hair thin needles are inserted. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. Finding an acupuncture practitioner is as easy as getting a referral from your health care practitioners. More medical doctors themselves are getting training to do acupuncture. Be sure to check their credentials for licensing and training. A good thing to know is th at acupuncture is becoming one of those alternative therapies that are more commonly covered by insurance so be sure to check your insurance coverage.

An unexpected benefit of carb reduction

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Carbs, carbs, carbs -- yeah, we know all about carbs. There's so-called "good" ones and there are definitely "bad"ones. There are times when we need them, and there are times when we should probably steer clear of them altogether. People with diabetes know the carb better than just about anyone on the planet, but even they may not know something that researchers from the University of North Carolina recently discovered. Interested to know what they found? If so, me et me on the next paragraph.

Welcome back. So, what did the researchers find out about carbs? That by cutting back on them, you can relieve heartburn. According to the data, patients experienced a 44 percent reduction in the severity of their heartburn symptoms after spending a mere 4 days eating a reduced carbohydrate diet. In addition, the pain-inducing acid in each patient's esophagus decreased by an average of 60 percent.

Patients that returned to eating a higher-carb diet after the study found their heartburn to return, as well. As of this writing, the scientists involved in the study are unsure why reducing carbs worked to relieve heartburn, but further investigation into the correlation may soon reveal some answers.

Microalbuminuria Best Measure for MOD

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A 12 year study examined three separate definitions of the Metabolic Syndrome and how it can be used to predict major outcomes of diabetes (MOD). In case you were wondering, MOD is the easy way to explain complications like coronary artery disease, renal failure, diabetes-related death, or an aggregate of all of the above.

The study involved 514 type 1 diabetics. The three definitions of Metabolic Syndrome used for the study were taken from: NCEP ATP III (AHA Modified), International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and the World Health Organization (WHO). The prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome ranged from 8% (IDF) to 21% (WHO) at the conclusion of the 12-year follow-up. All definitions showed reasonable specificity (83%) for each outcome, while the WHO definition had the highest sensitivity for all outcomes except Renal Failure, for which eGDR was most sensitive. However, the individual assessment of each complication, rather than an aggregate estimate, was most accurate. Microalbuminuria was clearly the strongest predictor of all individual outcomes.

What an acronym! MOD stands for major outcomes of diabetes, which is far less posh than the vernacular predecessor, mod, which means vanguard in style. But I digress -- praise be microalbuminuria for being crowned the best single predictor of MOD. If you happen to linger with curiosity to learn more about microalbuminuria, indulge in the deep ocean of Wikipedia.

White Mulberry Lowers Blood Sugar

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Here we go round the mulberry bush -- you know the nursery rhyme but did you have any idea how influential the center of attention could be? Well, regardless of Mother Goose, Roman Poets and silkworms staple diet - the mulberry has more to offer than you might think.

Mulberry leaves are reported to lower blood sugar, blood pressure, reduce fever and exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. A study showed the fasting blood sugar of diabetic rats eating a diet with mulberry leaf was reduced by 50% when compared to the diabetic control. The mulberry leaf rats also showed a drop of 30% in their HbA1c. Studies have shown that prolonged intake of mulberry leaves may further reduce HbA1c levels and probably help in achieving better glycemic control. Mulberry leaves also helped control the intracellular balance and reduced the activity of glucogenesis, both telltale signs of uncontrolled diabetes. Glucogenesis is when the body breaks down proteins and fats for glucose.

The mulberry bush should be celebrated. What if drinking a cup of white mulberry tea before a meal could reduce the total sugars absorbed? Researchers in Japan found white mulberry leaves have certain nitrogen-containing sugars (1-deoxynojirimycin) that strongly inhibit the intestinal metabolism of sugars from entering the circulation. Bottom's up for lower post meal numbers.

All we are saying is give peas a chance

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"What can I eat?" That's the question most people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes ask. Sometimes this question is piggy-backed with "What can't I eat?' -- which is more or less the same question. Doctors are busy people, and it's all too often that people are left to figure out much about their condition by themselves. I personally came across an example of this less than three weeks ago, where a family friend was diagnosed with type 2. Feeling, shall we say, less-than-informed by her doctor, she turned to me (former fitness trainer) and my girlfriend (type 1 diabetic, diabetes blogger, and dLife web/TV content editor) for some answers.

"I can't eat peas, can I? The doctor told me that peas were out." This is what my family friend was told -- No peas. Personally, I had never heard anything of the sort regarding peas. Neither did my girlfriend. By no means am I a doctor, and I suppose I could be wrong with the whole peas thing, but as best as I can tell, peas don't ring in all that high on the glycemic index. So, peas should be fine. Other foods, however, such as sugary candies, rice, pasta, etc. may have to be cut back on.

Peas were back in. As were many of the other foods that my family friend thought would never grace her pallet again. And while she still seems a little confused about her new diagnoses -- particularly what foods she should be eating and which ones she should be avoiding or limiting -- it seems like she's finally starting to figure it out.

The diabetes clock may start earlier for women

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Tick-tock, tick-tock. That's the sound of the so-called diabetes clock, and it apparently moves just a bit faster for women than it does for men.

Epidemiologists at the University of Buffalo have discovered that newly identified risk factors found in blood -- such as chronic sub-acute inflammation and evidence of endothelial dysfunction -- are present in women who eventually go from having normal blood sugar levels to pre-diabetic conditions. These markers, the researchers state, are generally not associated with that progression from normal to pre-diabetic status for men.

The U. Buffalo study is one of the first to show that otherwise healthy women are more likely than men to show elevated levels of endothelial factors and other indications of a progression towards pre-diabetes. It involved 1,455 healthy participants originally enrolled in a case-control investigation of patterns of alcohol consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease. Using this data, the researchers uncovered the pre-diabetes markers in women.

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Glucose RapidSpray Available in the US

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The company making oral insulin a reality is distributing a teaser product to give you a hands-on example of the efficacy, ease and convenience their drug delivery system offers. Feast your buccal cavity on Glucose RapidSpray! The reality of oral-insulin is coming soon to the US - but its sugar stabilizing sister is here today!

Glucose RapidSpray can be taken at the first sign of the need for glucose, during exercise, between meals, or even before bedtime. It is simple to use and easy to carry. It comes in two different flavors, orange and raspberry, and there are no artificial colors. The main ingredient in Glucose RapidSpray is D-Glucose (dextrose), which is a simple monosaccharide sugar. Keep Glucose RapidSpray in your home, office, pocket, purse, or car (as long as it does not stay in sub-zero temperatures for too long). Interested in getting your hands on it?

The product is now available in over 2,500 stores in the United States at Aurora Pharmacy, Inc., Bi-Mart Corporation, The Diabetes Place, Fruth Pharmacy, Inc., Hy-Vee, Inc., Kerr Drug, Inc., The Medicine Shoppe(R) Pharmacy, Meijer, Inc., and ShopKo Stores. It is also available for purchase online at Glucose Rapid Spray and Diabetic Express.

This might be the first product from Generex you'll use, but it certainly won't be the last. Generex's flagship product is oral insulin, brand name Oral-lyn[TM]. It is available for sale in Ecuador for the treatment of patients with Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes, and is in various stages of clinical trials around the world. For more information, visit the Generex site or call 1-800-391-6755.

New Insulin Pen with Computer Chip

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Eli Lilly is introducing a unique insulin pen named the Memoir. It is the first on the market with a memory device to track doses adm inistered. It is designed for use with Lilly's top-selling insulin, Humalog.

The battery-operated pen uses a computer chip to remember the last 16 insulin doses. And while insulin pens are popular in Europe and Asia, only about 800,000 of the 4 million U.S. diabetics who take injections use a pen-- most use syringes. It won't be too surprising if insurers and patients balk at the $100 sticker price for the pen alone. There is a separate fee for the insulin cartridges. I agree, it's a little pricey. Lilly plans to ignite the marketing campaign by offering a $45 coupon. Good start. This pen has been under development for seven years. Lilly plans to introduce two other pens this year to increase Humalog demand. I've got an idea (since nobody asked, but I was a former user). I traded up to Apidra because I became irate every time Humalog clogged my infusion set for my pump. Go back to the drawing board with that quandary while I'll work on my honey do list for product development.

Neither here nor there - my point is this: Eli Lilly you can be everything you want to be if you listen to your customers. The number of insulin-taking diabetics is rising along with the bar on product ingenuity. It's game day, Eli Lilly. I have more ideas to help bring out your A-game. Stay tuned...

How to eat a healthy breakfast and not get attacked by bears

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If I was Goldilocks (stay with me here), eating the 3 Bears' porridge wouldn't have been an issue. Why? Because: 1) I'm smart enough not to eat food that belongs to an animal that can rip me to shreds (let alone 3 of them), and 2) I really don't like the taste of porridge/oatmeal. The downside of that distaste is that I miss out on a great deal of health benefits offered by whole oats. The solution I came up with is to mix the oats with my morning protein shake, which helps me choke it down. But, it turns out that there is a very easy and tasty alt ernative to cholesterol-reducing oatmeal, and the best part is that it's much more tasty. Cheerios.

Classic Cheerios (not the Honey Nut kind) has more fiber (4 grams) than a packet of oatmeal (3 grams). And, just like oatmeal, whole-oat cold cereals chip away at your LDL cholesterol because they contain beta-glucans. You should also find the effects on blood sugar to be comparable to those produced by eating a bowl of oatmeal.

The way I see it, it's a Win-Win situation. Of course, if you like oatmeal, making the switch may not be necessary -- although I would still advise it if it can prevent you from becoming the target of 3 hungry bears.

Omega-3 effects on type 2 to be studied

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I swear, the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are springing up faster than I can write blog posts about them. Having just finished a post on TheCardioBlog about how researchers discovered that omega-3s may be as effective as ibuprofen at relieving pain, I came upon the following information related to an ongoing study on omega-3 and its role in preventing diabetes.

Through a grant provided by the Tohono O'odham Nation, researchers from the University of Arizona have begun studying the effectiveness of fish oil (which contain a high concentration of omega-3s) on preventing or reversing the effects of type 2 diabetes.

The study will help determine if eating a diet high in omega-3s has any effect on the onset or reversal of diabetes, especially among the Native American population. This research is of particular importance because Native Americans are considered to be genetically susceptible to diabetes and, as of this writing, represent the fastest growing ethnic group with diabetes.

Testing is at its earliest planning stages right now and there has not been any indication of when the researchers anticipate publishing their findings.

Project Dulce finds success with culturally specific diabetes management

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As was the case with my family friend who was unsure what she could eat after being newly diagnosed with diabetes, it seems that a lack of awareness and education seems to be addressed This is not where fingers start to be pointed and names are named, but instead where some of the causes of this disconnect need to be addressed and ultimately fixed. Having said that, it seems as though at least a part of the communication breakdown may be caused less by a lack of discussion, and more from an absence of culturally specific diabetes management. Fortunately, Project Dulce, a program established in San Diego, is taking that very thing into considerat ion, and the results thus far have been extremely positive.

Project Dulce's goal is to meet the ADA's standards of care; with their target population being primarily low-income, under-insured Latino men and women. Focusing on 3,893 people in a study of the program's efficacy, participants "showed clinically significant improvements in A1C, blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein and triglycerides," according to a researcher from the University of California San Diego.

To achieve their goals, the clinical team included a registered nurse/certified diabetes educator (CDE), medical assistant and a registered dietitian who were bilingual and bicultural. Patients met with their team several times after an initial visit and scheduled follow-up. Reminders were even phoned in to patients about upcoming appointments.

Patient's also participated in an eight-week group self-management training program, lead by peer educators who themselves were of the same cultural or ethnic group as the participants.

The positive results of the study serve as a testament to the importance of educating people about their -- or even their loved one's -- diabetes. Barriers such as language and cultural differences, as evidenced with Project Dulce, can be easily overcome.

Refined carb consumption linked to kidney cancer

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If you're avoiding refined carbs, you probably already know that you should be. Whether it's because their effect on blood sugar is the reason, and/or if is more for the purpose of merely trying to eat healthier, avoiding starches such as white bread, rice, pasta and simple sugars such as sweets and juices is a smart move.

New evidence has surfaced connecting excessive refined carb consumption with an increased risk of kidney cancer. According to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, when the diets of 767 kidney cancer patients and 1,534 healthy people were compared, it was discovered that patients who ate the most white bread (7 ounces or more daily) were almost twice as likely to have kidney cancer than those who ate 3.5 ounces or less.

Moreover, people who ate 2 or more cups of regular pasta were one-third more likely to have kidney cancer than those who ate half that much.

Foods such as white bread, regular pasta and other refined carbs cause glucose levels in the blood to spike, as most people with diabetes know. Being that insulin plays a significant role in the development of kidney cancer, the researchers knew where to look in making this connection.

Internal clock may be responsible for morning heart attacks

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Heart attacks and strokes occur most frequently in the morning. Scientists, and most lay people, have known this for decades. Questions regarding this time related spike in heart attack and stroke have typically been met with speculation, mostly of a nature vs. nurture theme.

Some scientists believe that blood pressure follows circadian rhythm, forming a molecular clock of sorts. Others subscribe to the belief that the daily hassles and pressures -- such waking up for work, trying to hurriedly get dressed, and weaving in and out of traffic in efforts to not be late to the job again -- are more to blame.

But, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine may have finally solved this mystery. Which camp is right? The Nature or the Nurture people? Well, at least based on this new research (which will be available soon in the Proceedings of the National Academy), it seems that the body's internal, molecular clock is what controls blood pressure and, based on the evidence, seemingly plays the greater role in morning heart attacks and strokes.

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Pasta designed for the Carb Conscious

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Yes, once again - the thoughtful feedback of thediabetsblog audience has landed me smack-dab in the middle of a dietary goldmine! Today I proudly introduce the genius of Dreamfields Pasta, thanks to a comment from ItalianGM.

Inspired by the movement of healthier living and lower carb lifestyles, Dreamfields Pasta created a product that the whole family could eat. They culminated their rich experience in pasta, which happens to supply premium pasta products throughout the world, to produce some of the best tasting healthiest pasta on the market. Ever hear of Barilla Plus? Well, in a taste test comparison Dreamfields Pasta beat it, hands down. It is available in 6 popular shapes: Lasagna, Rotini, Spaghetti, Linguine, Elbows, and Penne Rigate. Don't be turned off by the price - at nearly $4 a pound, wholesome goodness isn't cheap.

In all fairness - Dreamfields Pasta is culinary magic. A world class product, delicious old-world taste and al dente texture define the reputation but you'll be the wet noodle if you don't taste test it for yourself. In a million years I never would have imagined the possibility of making mac & cheese with a total digestible carbohydrate count of 19 grams. The real test is seeing if the folks believe its low-carb.

Chili peppers may help reduce insulin levels

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I remember taking a supplement called Rocket Fuel when I was a stupid teenager. It came in a medicine dropper looking bottle, touting itself as a workout energy booster that would surely make you the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like I said, I was a stupid teenager. In reality, all the stuff did was burn the hell out of your mouth, making you want to workout as fast as possible so you could bury your mouth under the kitchen sink. Not that I know for sure -- or really feel like taking the time to look it up to find out -- but, I'm guessing that Rocket Fuel had some sort of chili pepper extract in it. However, the crazy thing is that there is now evidence that suggests that eating foods that contain chili peppers and chili powders can help reduce fat. Granted, the last thing my 130 pound teenage body needed was to lose weight, but it's still pretty funny to think that there may have been something to that foolish Rocket Fuel after all.

This chili pepper phenomenon was examined by Australian scientists, who discovered that capsaicin -- the chemical that makes chili peppers hot -- may improve the liver's ability to clear insulin from the bloodstream after a meal. This is rather important, for it is insulin that signals the body to store fat. With respect to the results of the Aussie's research, they found that their test subjects' insulin levels were 32 percent lower following their consumption of a chili pepper flavored meal.

To receive the benefits of capsaicin, you could try adding Tabasco sauce to your foods. As for Rocket Fuel, that should probably be left in the heaping pile of useless supplements where it belongs.

Caffeine: The debate rages on

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Back and forth, back and forth. The evidence behind the benefit/detriment of caffeine keeps springing up on both sides, leaving at least this blogger unsure which study(ies) to believe. In the latest pro caffeine development, it was just released that drinking caffeinated beverages on a regular basis may provide significant protection against the development of heart disease in elderly people who have normal blood pressure levels.

It turns out that drinking a caffeinated beverage may raise blood pressure to what researchers referred to as a healthy level after someone has consumed a meal. This rise can counteract the temporary drop in blood pressure that typically occurrs after a meal. This drop is most commonly known to occur in the elderly.

The researchers point to their findings that people who consumed four or more servings of caffeinated beverages daily had a 53 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than did those individuals who consumed less than half a serving a day. And, with respect to the people who only drank two or three servings of caffeinated beverages a day, they had a 32 percent lower risk than those who drank less than half a serving a day.

The verdict is in. For now, anyway. I'm sure I'll come across some information stating just the opposite about caffeine, but for now I'm going with this new study.

Rebuilding the food pyramid

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Remember the food pyramid? You know, the one suggesting 11 daily servings of breads and cereals that conveniently was created by the US Department of Agriculture (oooh, how I love a good conspiracy). Well, by now people are hip to the fact that this pyramid is not exactly structurally sound. Among its most obvious flaws is its failure to separate good (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats and bad (saturated and trans) fats. In addition, it fails to stress the importance of lean sources of protein to ensure a healthy diet.

Most recently, Danish scientists (read as: Scientists from Denmark, not Danish pastries who work in laboratories) reported their findings from a 5-year study on the effects of eating lean protein sources, such as steak, fish, and chicken. After reviewing the health of over 42,000 participants in the study, the researchers found that those who consumed the most animal protein experienced the least increase in waist circumference over the 5-year span.

Because high-protein foods typically take longer to digest than do carb-loaded foods, they take longer to digest -- boosting your metabolism in the process. In addition, because high-protein foods take longer to process, you feel full for a longer period of time, making unhealthy snacking less common.

This doesn't mean that we should tear down the food pyramid and build a giant steakhouse in its place. But, it does suggest that it may be time for some structural renovations.

That pain in your chest may not be what you think it is

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It's always best to be alert and in-tune with your body, especially when it comes to your heart. Erring on the side of caution is probably the smartest way to deal with signs or symptoms of heart attack or stroke, although there is not always a need to an alarmist, either. Sometimes what you may think is something serious can, in all actuality, really b nothing more than, say, heartburn or hyperventilation. Still, I feel that erring on the side of caution is the smarter way to operate.

Just the same, here are a few common mistaken chest sensations that may have you wondering if you're in trouble:

A Pounding or Fluttering Heartbeat: Believe it or not, a perfectly healthy man or woman may feel extra or skipped heartbeats on occasion. Turns out it's pretty normal. If the sensation is brief and the onset gradual, the fluttering is probably the harmless result of downing too much caffeine or dealing with a boatload of stress. When to worry? If the fluttering happens frequently and/or are accompanied by feeling light-headed or dizzy.

Pain on the Left Side of the Chest: Heart attack, right? Hopefully not. It may not necessarily be one, though. Fleeting pain on the left side of your chest can signal an inflammation of the lung lining -- which may not sound all that fun, but it's not life threatening. The pain could also be caused by a pulled muscle or even a broken bone.

Numbness and Shortness of Breath: Break out the brown, paper bag, because you may be hyperventilating. If you're struggling to catch your breath, and you lose feeling in your lips or hands, it's possibly being caused by your inability to catch you breath -- and not from a heart attack. When to worry? If after lying down and breathing into the bag for 5 minutes you still have symptoms, it may be time to make the call.

I know I've already said it twice, but I feel the need to stress that erring on the side of caution is still the way to go. Although some of the above may sometimes be mistaken for more serious heart problems, you don't want to find out to late that the symptoms you were experiencing were due to the real thing.

How do you spell relief? O-M-E-G-A-3

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For a while now, people have known about the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. From lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol and raising good (HDL) cholesterol to helping to slim down a waistline, omega-3s seem to be the supplement of the moment. But, studies have uncovered yet another benefit of this heart-healthy compound (which is found in fish, but is also available in pill form), and that is its ability to assist with chronic pain.

In tests, omega-3 produced pain reduction results on par with ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). When people suffering from neck and back pain replaced their daily NSAIDs with 1.2 grams of omega-3 fish oil for 10 weeks, 60 percent reported feeling better. What's more 59 percent stopped taking their prescription or non-prescription pain medication altogether.

Omega-3 contains EPA and DHA, which are converted into prostaglandins -- compounds that have been shown to fight inflammation. So, if you're back or neck are feeling a little sore, your solution may not be in your medicine cabinet, but may instead be at your seafood market.


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Growing up, I always drank milk with my meals. Actually, with the exception of my mother, so did the rest of my family. Even now, dare I say a grown up myself, I still find myself drinking milk with dinner (unelss I'm eating fish, becasue the two just don't plain mix). Although I didn't realize it as a kid, or really care all that much at the time, those glasses of milk were helping me get the vitamin D I needed.

Because I live in the northeast, the colder months prevent us (or at least deter us) from being out in the sun as much as people from living in warmer climates. As a result, we don't get our D from el sol. So, again, downing milk was a good thing. Why I mention all of this is to point out the fact that most people unfortunately do not get enough vitamin D, evidenced by their blood levels of this important vitamin being far below optimal.

Harvard Univerity researchers recommend that people consume at least 25 micrograms of vitamin D to achieve the lowest risk of bone fracturs, periodontal disease, colon cancer, and heart disease. To put that amount in perspective, it's about 20 mcg (800 IU) more than what the average person is currently consuming. And, while drinking milk like I did, and still do, are a good source of vitamin D, you would still do well to get some sunlight and perhaps even consider taking a supplement.

Grape news for your heart

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A few days ago I mentioned how it is apparently just as healthy for your heart to drink white wine as it is red. But, what I probably should have stated at the time is that drinking grape juice (especially the not-as-easy-to-drink concentrate) is a non-alcoholic beverage that can also improve your circulation and reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol -- minus the fun of getting drunk and peeing in public.

The flavonols found in red wine are found in equal abundance in Concord and other purple grape juice; which, let's face it, makes sense considering they are both made from grapes. And, just like wine, grape juice can help your heart in three ways: By reducing the oxidation of bad (LDL) cholesterol, improving elasticity of the arteries, and reducing platelet clumping. Also, grape juice contains many essential vitamins and minerals, in addition to containing almost as much potassium as a banana.

In a research study held in Spain, the power of grape juice concentrate was put to the test. Researchers found that when people consumed 7 ounces of the ultra-sweet juice concentrate daily for two weeks, their LDL cholesterol dropped by 13 percent while their good (HDL) cholesterol rose by 16 percent.

Fortunately, you don't have force down grape juice concentrate if its sweetness is too much for you to take, because drinking a 100 percent grape juice like Welch's can provide similar benefits.

Shaping up

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Ask any four-year-old to draw you a picture of a heart, and you'll be sure to get something that looks like the picture to the right. The funny part is that if you ask most forty-year-olds to draw a heart, they'll probably draw a similar picture, albeit slightly neater. But, the forty-year-old knows that their drawing of a heart does not accurately represent the shape of the actual organ. The four-year-old? I'm not sure they care either way. But, all of this raises an interesting question: What makes the heart, well, heart-shaped?

Oddly, this very question has been answered in a new study published in the open access journal PLoS Biology. Researchers involved in the corresponding study examined the individual cardiac cells of transgenic zebrafish, hoping to find what goes on to shape a heart. They found that both flow and cardiac contractility influence heart cell shape. They also discovered that a balance of internal, contractility forces and external forces such as blood flow is necessary to create the cell shapes that create heart chamber curvatures.

Applying their findings to human beings, the researchers surmised that any disruption of this balance is what may cause the same physical aberrations observed in some types of human heart disease.

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Oolong tea. And an ooh not so long post about it.

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A while back I highlighted the fat absorption properties of green tea. Well, it turns out that there may be a new Shenobi in town, because Japanese scientists have discovered some healthy competition.

Oolong tea has been found to have very high levels of antioxidants called polymerized polyphenols, which inhibit the body's ability to absorb fat. The researchers uncovered this tea secret after giving subjects 3 cups a day of oolong that had infused with twice the normal amount of polyphenols. The enriched oolong tea inhibited the body's ability to absorb fat by up to 20 percent.

Unfortunately, this super-charged version of oolong tea is not yet available for consumers. But, the regular version can be purchased in most health food stores and even some supermarkets. If you can't seem to find any -- even after searching online -- green tea is certainly not a bad 2nd choice.

Short and Sweet: A spotlight on Men's Health and Women's Health magazines

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Men's Health and Women's Health are two of the best health magazines out there. Period. Admittedly more geared toward people who have already involved themselves in healthy lifestyles, still both magazine offers advice, tutelage and interesting health facts that just about anyone -- regardless of whether or not you've ever exercised or dieted a day in your life -- could benefit from knowing.

The information on cardiovascular health, strength and endurance conditioning, diet, disease and prevention -- all of it is backed by credible research and presented succinctly and in an interesting way. Thumbing through a back issue (December 2006, featuring comedian Dane Cook on the cover), I noticed a running blurb sort of thing the magazine does called Facts of Life. Every four or five pages, you'll see a small, yellow box situated somewhere on the page, showing a specific number. A quick read into it (and by quick, I mean a sentence) reveals that this number is representative of a health factoid.

Some of the few I thought were worth reiterating from this December issue are the following:

27 = Percentage more likely you are to suffer a stroke or heart attack on your birthday than any other day.

41 = Percentage of lard that's actually oleic acid, the same heart-healthy fat that's in olive oil.

17 = Average number of pounds people gain in just 8 months of working in a sedentary office job.

45 = Percentage boost in cycling performance at altitude after taking Viagra, which improves blood flow to the lungs.

Like I said, these Facts of Life are short and to the point. You'll find that most of the health information listed in these magazines are presented in a similar fashion, making them much easier to read than an academic journal, yet still providing the gist.

Music & laughter to fight cancer

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Indie Music For Life non profit raising funds for cancer research and for educational awareness of music as therapy for cancer patients has launched a new entity of their non profit called Laughs For Life. Indie Music For Life works with independent singer songwriters in fund raising concert events and producing yearly compilation CDs. Laughs For Life will work with comedians and will produce comedy events and comedy CDs. Comedian Shelly Ryan in Atlanta Georgia was "MC" at a combination dinner and music fund raising event in Georgia last year and the idea was spawned to start including comedy into the shows and to also set up separate comedy events to bring in funds.

Indie Music For Life just finished the submission process for artists to send in songs to be considered for the 2007 compilation CD project and the selected artists will be announced soon. The CD will go up for sale at online music locations soon.

Shelly Ryan is heading up the comedy CD project and working on events for the Southeast region and can be reached at if you are interested in becoming a part of this project. For more information on music happenings and getting involved with the music event fund raising you can contact

Cancer drug Avastin fights brain tumors too

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Lung and colorectal cancer drug Avastin has been tested for the first time against the most common and deadly form of brain cancer.

Duke University researchers used Avastin, known chemically as bevacizumab, in combination with a standard chemotherapy agent in patients with recurrent brain tumors called gliomas. Good news -- the two drugs together stopped tumor growth for twice as long as any other therapy.

Gliomas are mostly incurable in all cases, but this new treatment approach may extend life and may help preserve physical and mental function for a longer period of time for patients fighting this deadly disease.

"These results are exciting because of the possible implications for a patient population that currently has the poorest possible prognosis going into treatment -- those with malignant brain tumors that have recurred after initial treatment," says the lead researcher whose findings appear in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Tickled pink about cancer victory

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Six-year-old Joey told his doctor the other day about my cancer. The topic came up because Joey wore a pink tie-dye t-shirt in anticipation of a gymnastics meet we would attend later that day. The meet was dedicated to breast cancer awareness, and fans were encouraged to pack the place pink. Joey was ready.

Joey told the doctor all about his shirt. And all about me.

"My mom had cancer," he said. "But she survived."

He talked about everything I had to endure, about his surprise that I had to go through so much. He spoke lovingly, his doctor told me. She said he seemed proud.

Joey's doctor told me his eyes were full of emotion when he spoke about me and my cancer. She said he wasn't on the verge of tears, but he was surely passionate about his mom's victory over a disease he just barely comprehends.

And I am proud of Joey. I am proud of his loyalty, his support, his ability to express his emotions, his unwavering enthusiasm for all things pink.

Yes, I survived. Joey did too. And we are both tickled pink.
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Desperately seeking sisters

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The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences needs sisters -- 18,000 sisters to be exact -- to join the nation's largest research project aimed at pinpointing the causes of breast cancer.

The Sister Study ideally will enroll a total of 50,000 women whose sisters had breast cancer. Since the study launch in October 2004, 32,000 women have been recruited. But still more are needed.

The 10-year observational study requires very little time, is available in English and Spanish, and requires women to first answer questio ns about diet, jobs, hobbies, and breast cancer risk factors. Later, a female health professional collects small samples of blood, urine, nail clippings, and house dust for use in analysis of environment and genetics.

Women in the United States and Puerto Rico between the ages of 35 and 74 may be eligible for the study if their sisters -- living or deceased -- had breast cancer. The study participants must have never been diagnosed with breast cancer themselves.

The Sister Study, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, NIH's National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Sisters Network Inc., the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, and the Intercultural Cancer Council, is confidential and safe. Women are never asked to take medications, visit medical locations, or make any changes to their habits, diet, or daily life. They are simply asked to join this effort so that the mystery of breast cancer can continiue to unfold.

To volunteer or learn more about the Sister Study, visit or Or call (877) 474-7837 or (866) 889-4747 for the hearing-impaired.

Recipe for healthy living: Bok Choy Soup

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Bok Choy is low in calories, fat and is high in calcium, potassium and Vitamin C and A. Bok Choy also contain glucosinolates, which may help prevent cancer by eliminate carcinogens. Bok Choy is used in a lot of stir fry recipes but I personally like to make a soup that allows me to drink all of the nutrients in the broth. It is simple and quick to make and packed full of flavor and nutrition. If you add diced tofu to the recipe, it will also give you protein.

Chef Vicki's Bok Choy Soup

3 cups vegetable broth
(you can use three cups of water and 3 vegetable bouillon cubes)
1 celery stalk diced
1/2 white onion diced
6 button mushrooms sliced
6 Bok Choy leaves chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 block Extra Firm Tofu cubed in 1/2 inch pieces (optional)

Bring broth to boil and add celery, onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Boil for 2 minutes and lower heat to medium. Add Bok Choy and tofu and simmer for approximately 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

One hot topic: Some children's bath products linked to cancer

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I had no idea my February 10 post Some children's bath products linked to cancer would spark such great debate. At the very moment I write, the post has received more than 64,000 hits and 70 comments.

I must admit when the comments started rolling in, I was a bit nervous. Even though I merely reported the facts on this topic, had no claim to any of the information, and didn't even share my opinion on the matter, the highly charged words written by so many well-meaning readers made me feel a bit like I was caught in the middle, like I started an argument and needed to jump back in, sort things out, and create harmony among those responding to my words.

But then I realized debate is not such a bad thing. It sheds light on all sorts of valid viewpoints. It educates. It raises awareness. And that's what cancer causes are all about.

Having read all the comments that now are officially assigned to this one post, I am so much more enlightened than when I summarized the story I came across revealing that some bath products contain a bit too much of a chemical called 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen that is already known to cause cancer in animals.

All I really knew at the time I wrote the post is that the FDA has no regulation over this chemical and that cosmetic companies must monitor themselves. Some don't do such a good job, and herein lies the debate.

Some readers say big deal, what's the harm really in a little extra dash of chemical in a whole tub of water. Perhaps if our children soaked all day for many days in this chemical, cancer might strike. But a quick bath with a tiny trace of 1,4-dioxane is not likely to do any harm. One reader wrote that we shouldn't stress so much about headlines that scare us into believing everything causes cancer, that we'll probably live a whole lot longer just living our lives free of constant worry.

Another camp of readers say a little bit of something bad is still too much. Over the course of a lifetime, how do we know our children won't pay for our mistaken belief that this hype is just -- hype. Some cancer surviving readers wonder if their cancer was caused by their plentiful childhood bubble baths. And some go to great lengths to find natural, organic, chemical-free products, whatever the financial cost.

A few consultants for these natural products left their own comments, claiming to help those consumed with anxiety. Others scolded these business people for capitalizing on the fears of others with products that have not been proved any safer.

There are advocates of moderation who wrote. And individuals seeking more information. And people who located resources for others to investigate.

There is indeed a rich commentary on the link between bath products and cancer that follows one short post I wrote late one night, after my own children were bathed -- with Dove soap and generic shampoo -- and put to bed. And I am indeed happy to know my small contribution on the topic has generated such a powerful windfall of thought and concern.
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Tamoxifen halts long-term breast cancer risk

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Breast cancer drug tamoxifen, designed to cut recurrence in women with estrogen-receptor positive disease, has been shown to continue working long after women stop taking the drug. And two studies suggest it might also offer long-term protection for healthy women with high risk of developing breast cancer.

One such study found the drug decreases risk of hormone-sensitive breast cancer by 39 percent over 20 years. Another shows a 34 percent decrease for up to eight years after the therapy concludes.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, one study -- the International Breast Cancer Intervention Study, or IBIS -- looked at 7,145 women at high risk of breast cancer. And for the first time, clear evidence has surfaced in support of the merits of tamoxifen after the completion of treatment.

IBIS study participants took either a daily dose of tamoxifen or a placebo for five years. At the eight-year mark, 87 women who took the actual drug were diagnosed with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. And 129 women in the placebo group were diagnosed with the same disease.

In the second study, researchers from the Royal Marsden Hospital in London investigated 20-year data on 2,471 healthy women at high risk of breast cancer who took tamoxifen for six or seven years. Similar results were found.
Despite the benefits of tamoxifen as a preventative treatment, the drug is not currently approved for this use in the UK, where breast cancer is the most common form of female cancer.

Weight gain ups risk of womb cancer

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Findings from an international study suggest that women with a waist size of more than 34 inches are more likely to develop cancer of the womb than women who boast slimmer waistlines.

The study, funded in part by the British charity Cancer Research UK, sized up 223,000 women worldwide and determined that women with a waistline less than 31 inches have half the risk of developing womb cancer than their heavier counterparts.

There has been a significant rise in cases of womb cancer in Britain. And the link between the disease and weight gain is most prevalent among postmenopausal women who have never used hormone replacement therapy or the birth control pill.

According to the National Sizing Survey conducted in 2004, the average British woman now has a 34-inch waist. This is more than six inches bigger than the average size of a woman in the 1950s, says Dr. Lesley Walker of Cancer Research UK.

"Women are larger than they were when they existed on a wartime diet and were generally more active and this is having serious consequences," Walker says.

More than 6,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with womb cancer each year. The disease kills about 1,000 annually.

Recipe for Healthy Living: Nappa Risotto

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Getting enough grains in your diet is very essential in the prevention of colon cancer. Switching from a white bread to a multi grain bread is an easy step. Adding ground up flax seed to the daily diet is another. And to me Risotto is to rice what wheat is to pasta. It is comfort food, satisfying, and can be fixed a hundred ways with or without meat, by adding various vegetables or just mixed with cheese, but the creamy texture is like no other. Here is one of my favorite personal risotto recipes that adds an unlikely candidate in the food world to the famous Italian food. Nappa cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable that aids in reducing carcinogens in the body and gives you lots of vitamins and nutrients. This is my Italian meets Asian recipe that makes this comfort food especially healthy in the fight against cancer.

Chef Vicki's Creamy Nappa Risotto

1/2 white onion chopped (medium onion in size)
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons butter (you can sub stitute olive oil)
5 nappa cabbage leaves chopped.
5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup arborio rice

Note: If you don't buy boxed or canned vegetable broth you can use 5 vegetable bouillon cubes with 5 cups of water to make the broth.

Remember this is a slow cooking recipe that requires a lot of stirring and love watching over the pot. It takes approximately 30 minutes to cook this dish but it is well worth the wait.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat and add onions, celery, and garlic. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add arborio rice and stir until it is all coated and the starch from the rice starts to release. Slowly start adding your vegetable broth one cup at a time and wait for it to be absorbed before adding the next. Continue stirring until you add the last cup of broth. Add the Nappa cabbage with the last cup of broth and continue stirring until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is creamy.
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Prenatal vitamins protect kids from cancer

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Besides preventing birth defects in the brain and spine and other congenital abnormalities, the folic acid found in prenatal multivitamins has now been shown to prevent cancer in children whose mothers take the vitamins during pregnancy.

A new Canadian study, appearing online in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, estimate s prenatal multivitamin supplements can save hundreds of children each year in Canada -- where only 40 to 50 percent of women take prenatal vitamins -- from developing leukemia, brain tumors, or neuroblastoma. And the vitamins may prevent 900 cases of pediatric leukemia and more than 300 brain tumor cases annually in the United States.

It's not clear which vitamins or minerals, and in what amounts, could be protecting babies from cancer, but it's possible folic acid -- critical for cellular function -- may be acting alone.

One thing is certain, says lead investigator Dr. Gideon Koren -- this is one inexpensive way to prevent cancer.

Merck stops cervical cancer vaccine campaign

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Merck, maker of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, is backing off its lobbying campaign following pressure from medical groups and parents who believe the vaccine should not be mandated as a school attendance requirement for adolescent girls.

The public outcry that caused Merck to announce its stop order on Tuesday stems from the fact that the vaccine protects against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. School-mandated vaccines are typically for diseases spread through casual contact, such as measles and mumps.

Merck's medical director for vaccines, Dr. Richard M. Haupt says, "We're concerned that our role in supporting school requirements is a distraction from that goal, and as such have suspended our lobbying efforts," adding that the company will continue providing information about the vaccine upon request.

Gardasil, launched in June and the first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, has inspired controversy since day one. There's the cost -- $360 for three required shots -- and all sorts of insurance concerns and conservative groups who worry the vaccine encourages premarital sex and interferes with parental rights. Even those in support of the vaccine -- like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Practitioners -- question Merck's quick push to market this drug, especially in light of the company's withdrawn painkill er Vioxx.

"I believe that their timing was a little bit premature so soon after (Gardasil's) release, before we have a picture of whether there are going to be any untoward side effects," says Dr. Anne Francis, who chairs an American Academy of Pediatrics committee.

Legislatures in 20 states have taken steps to mandate the vaccine for young girls. And with the exception of Texas governor Rick Perry's February 2 executive order requiring Texas girls entering the sixth grade in 2008 get vaccinated, nothing has been made official so far.