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'New mums codeine alert'; 'Fresh HRT-breast cancer link'; 'Prostate cancer in obese men'

The big health stories from this week's papers, digested.

The big health stories from this week's papers, digested.

'New mums codeine alert'

The story Nursing mothers are to be warned of the risks of taking medicines containing codeine in the US after a baby was found to die of a morphine overdose, reports The Times.

The source The US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning yesterday following an investigation into the death of a 13-day-old baby. The infant was found to have suffered a morphine overdose because the nursing mother's metabolism broke down codeine more rapidly than usual.

Expert view The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said the BNF already contained warnings on use of codeine products. 'We will be updating labels on all codeine-containing products, both prescription and over-the-counter.

'On very rare occasions, due to the mother's genetic profile, breastfed babies might develop side-effects due to presence of morphine in the breast milk. In the UK population only 1-2% are estimated to have the necessary genetic profile.'

'Fresh HRT-breast Ca link'

The story New research has reignited the row over the safety of hormone replacement therapy, says the Daily Telegraph.

The source A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that between 2000 and 2003, HRT use fell by 41%, and the number of new cases of breast cancer by 5% per year.

Between 2001 and 2003 the number of oestrogen-positive cancers detected in women attended mammography screening fell by 13%.

In both cases the researchers, from the University of California, claim the drop in the number of breast cancer diagnoses is the result of the fall in HRT prescriptions.

Expert view Dr Sarah Cant, senior policy and information officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: 'It's encouraging that the incidence of breast cancer in the US has dropped, although there isn't enough information to say that a decline in HRT use has led to this decrease.

'We've known for some time that taking HRT can increase the risk of developing breast cancer, but short-term use is likely to have only a small effect.'

'Prostate Ca in obese men'

The story Obese men are prone to developing aggressive forms of prostate cancer, according to The Guardian and BBC News online.

The source Scientists from Sweden's Umea University compared 392 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and an equal number of healthy controls. Their study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, found men who were insulin-resistant were at greatest risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.

Expert view Dr Chris Hiley, head of policy and research management at the Prostate Cancer Charity, said: 'Prostate cancer, broadly speaking, comes in two types – one men can live with, and an aggressive potentially life threatening version. This study indicates that obesity might decrease the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer overall, but increase the risk of an aggressive form.'

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