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Health Highlights: Sept. 25, 2013

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

FDA Urged to Regulate E-Cigarettes Like Tobacco Products

The federal government should start regulating electronic cigarettes like tobacco products in order to prevent children from using them, says a letter sent by 40 state attorneys general to the Food and Drug Administration.

The letter notes that e-cigarettes are being marketed to children through cartoon-like characters in ads and by offering fruit and candy flavors, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

The attorneys general pointed out that the health effects of e-cigarettes have not been adequately studied and the ingredients are not regulated.

The FDA needs to meet an Oct. 31 deadline to release proposed regulations to control the advertising, ingredients and sale to minors of e-cigarettes, the letter stated. In the past, the FDA has announced intentions to tighten oversight of e-cigarettes but has delayed taking action.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released earlier this month found that 1.8 million middle and high school students said they had tried e-cigarettes in 2012. The percentage of students who said they tried an e-cigarette jumped from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2010, CBS/AP reported.

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Dr. Drew Pinsky Had Prostate Cancer Surgery in July

Television personality Dr. Drew Pinsky revealed Tuesday that he had his prostate removed earlier this year after being diagnosed with cancer.

Pinsky said he had a robotic prostatectomy in July and returned to work within 10 days. He said he's cancer-free and the only reminders of his surgery are six small scars on his torso, the Associated Press reported.

The 55-year-old host of HLN's "Dr. Drew on Call" wrote about his experience on the network's website. He said he went public about his condition to raise men's awareness about prostate cancer.

Pinsky is an addiction specialist who previously appeared on such TV series as "Loveline," "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" and "Lifechangers," the AP reported.

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Burger King Launches Lower-Calorie Fries

Burger King has introduced new crinkle-cut french fries that the fast-food chain says contain about 20 percent fewer calories than its regular fries due to a new batter that doesn't absorb as much oil.

The company says that a small order of the new "Satisfries" has 270 calories, compared with 340 calories for a small order of it regular fries, the Associated Press reported.

Satisfries use exactly the same ingredients --- potatoes, oil and batter -- as regular fries and customers won't be able to tell that the new fries are lower in calories, according to Burger King executives.

The worlds No. 2 hamburger chain worked with one of its potato suppliers -- McCain Foods -- to develop the lower-calorie fries, said Alex Macedo, head of North American operations at Burger King. He told the AP that McCain can't sell the fries to other fast-food restaurants.

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Environmental Chemicals a Threat to Pregnancy: Report

Americans are exposed daily to chemicals in the air, water, food and everyday products that can damage reproductive health, according to a report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The groups said doctors need to lobby for stronger environmental policies to better identify and reduce exposure to harmful chemicals, the Associated Press reported.

They also want doctors to ask pregnant women about their exposure to different chemicals and to teach their patients how to avoid some of the chemicals considered to be the most dangerous during pregnancy.

"What we're trying to get is the balance between awareness and alarmist," ACOG President Dr. Jeanne Conry told the AP.

For the report, a committee of specialists from the two groups examined studies about industrial chemicals that people's bodies can absorb from various sources. They noted that certain chemicals have been linked to infertility, miscarriages, birth defects and other reproductive problems.

On-the-job exposure poses the greatest risk for women, so doctors should ask pregnant women about their workplaces when they make their first prenatal visit, the committee recommended.

They also said that research suggests that nearly all pregnant women are exposed to at least 43 different chemicals. It's unclear how many pose a threat, but some can reach the fetus and are known to be harmful, the AP reported.

For example, mercury can accumulate in certain types of fish. When pregnant women eat these fish, the mercury can damage her unborn baby's developing brain. Exposure to certain pesticides in the womb can increase the risk of childhood cancer, according to the committee.

Women and their babies aren't the only ones at risk. The committee noted that high levels of pesticide exposure in adult men has been linked to sterility and prostate cancer, the AP reported.

The committee advised consumers to choose fresh fruits and vegetables over processed foods when possible and to thoroughly wash produce. Pregnant women and young children should limit their seafood consumption to species with low levels of mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon and catfish.

"There's only so much people can do as individuals and families to limit chemical exposures," University of Washington public health dean and environmental health specialist Dr. Howard Frumkin told the AP. He was not involved in the report.

But he called the report "a very balanced, reasonable and evidence-based contribution."

Current environmental regulations provide sufficient consumer protection and the new report will create "confusion and alarm among expectant mothers" and distract them from proven measures for having a healthy pregnancy, according to the American Chemistry Council.


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