Fish Oils Unlikely to Prevent Cancer

Consuming fish oil is unlikely to reduce the risk of cancer, according to scientific review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers examined the results of 38 studies that tracked the fish oil consumption of about 700,000 participants. No evidence was found to indicate that fish oil helped protect people from the onset of any type of cancer.

The finding does not negate the recommendation by the American Heart Association (AHA) to regularly consume fish. The AHA's recommendation is based on a strong body of evidence that links fish oil to reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.

The cancer study was conducted to settle what had been a set of mixed results. Several small studies had suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil seemed to be protective of breast and colon cancer.

But when researchers combined all the data no protective effect was found. — Allison Aubrey

Paper Calls for Clearer Separation Between Drs., Pharma

Jan. 24, 2006 — The financial ties between doctors and drugmakers need to be much more tightly regulated than they are, according to a new paper in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The paper proposes that doctors stop accepting even small gifts from drug companies, such as pens and doodads for the office.

The paper also says doctors should forgo free drug samples. It says medical schools should ban industry grants to individual professors or departments for continuing medical education programs. And it calls for public disclosure of all money received by medical researchers and universities from drug and medical device companies. — Snigdha Prakash

Health Care Workers Avoiding Flu Shots

Jan. 24, 2006 — Less than half of U.S. health care workers get flu shots, and a new analysis shows that low-wage and minority health workers are least likely to get vaccinated.

Overall, only 36 percent of American health care workers get vaccinated against flu, despite repeated recommendations that all health care workers get the shot, according to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

African American health workers and those under age 50 were also less likely to get vaccinated.

Among those most likely to get vaccinated are doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physician assistants, chiropractors, dietitians and podiatrists are. Even so, more than half of these caregivers do not get flu shots. Only about half of nurses do.

Study authors say low rates of vaccination make health care workers more likely to spread ordinary flu — or a dangerous flu pandemic, when it happens. — Richard Knox

Poll: Most Americans Support Quarantine

Jan. 24, 2006 — Most Americans think quarantine is a good idea to control avian flu or another epidemic threat, but they don't approve of strong enforcement, according to a new survey.

The federal government commissioned Harvard School of Public Health researchers to study attitudes about quarantine. U.S. attitudes differed from those in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, where quarantine was used during SARS outbreaks three years ago.

In contrast to Asians, most Americans do not support arresting people who don't comply with quarantine.

Only 40 percent of Americans trust government to cope with a disease outbreak. Study author Robert Blendon says how officials manage future emergencies will be crucial.

"If there is a breakdown as was seen with Katrina, it will be very hard to convince people they can count on government to do what's necessary to protect their lives," said Blendon.

The survey appears in the journal Health Affairs. — Richard Knox

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