New treatment approach may help patients with eczema

For patients with eczema, applying fluticasone propionate cream twice a week, alongside daily emollient treatment, significantly reduces the risk of relapse, say researchers in this week’s BMJ. The study involved 376 patients with moderate to severe eczema from 39 dermatology clinics in six countries. All patients were experiencing a ‘flare’ of their condition.

AIDS in India could become as dire as in Africa

The epidemic of HIV/AIDS in India is following the same pattern as that of sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s, and it could become just as devastating unless preventive action is taken now, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, in a paper to be published Saturday (June 21) in the British Medical Journal. “In hindsight, opportunities were missed to stem the explosive growth of AIDS in Africa,” says Dr. Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and lead author of the paper. “It would be a tragedy if we don’t apply the lessons learned from the failure to control the spread of HIV in Africa to the current situation in India. It is very painful to watch history repeating itself.”

Growing Human Skin in Laboratory Can Prematurely Age Cells

Children who receive laboratory-expanded sheets of their own skin to cover severe burns are saved from certain death, but their new skin can have the cellular age of an 80 year old, according to a study at Duke University Medical Center. The process of growing small patches of human skin into larger sheets, called tissue engineering, makes cells divide so many times that the skin becomes prematurely aged at a cellular level.

New pap smear tests perform no better than conventional tests

New cervical smear tests are unreliable and should not replace conventional tests (PAP smears) according to a study in this week’s British Medical Journal. Researchers in France studied 828 women referred to hospital because abnormalities had been detected on previous smears and 1,757 women attending for routine smears.
Each woman underwent a conventional cervical smear test. The remaining material was then tested using two new methods (monolayer cytology and human papillomavirus testing). These tests are replacing conventional smear tests in several countries.

Baby milk manufacturers are violating international marketing code

Manufacturers of formula milk are violating the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes in west Africa, say researchers in this week’s BMJ. Two survey teams monitored compliance with the code, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 to ensure the proper use of breast milk substitutes. The study involved health facilities, sales outlets, distribution points, and the news media in Togo (a country without legislation on the marketing of breast milk substitutes) and Burkina Faso (which has such legislation).

Breast cancer risk clarified

Women diagnosed with a specific form of benign breast disease called atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH) are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, but the risk is not the same for both breasts, researchers report this week. The findings, reported in the British medical journal The Lancet, challenge the long-held belief that the risk for breast cancer in women with this diagnosis was the same in both breasts, an assumption that could be used as an argument for double mastectomy to prevent cancer. Instead, the researchers found that women with this type of abnormality were three times more likely to develop breast cancer than are women without this diagnosis, and that three-fourths of subsequent breast cancers occurred in the same breast.

Drug industry creating new disease?

Drug companies are sponsoring creation of a new medical disorder known as female sexual dysfunction in order to build markets for drugs among women, despite controversy surrounding the medicalisation of sexual problems, finds an article in this week’s British Medical Journal. Over the past six years, researchers with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry have been developing and defining the new disorder at company sponsored meetings, writes journalist Ray Moynihan.