Today’s Headlines: Obese Preschoolers, HPV Tests and Colon Cancer

A plunge in U.S. preschool obesity? Not so fast, experts say: News that obesity rates dropped 43% in American preschoolers is raising eyebrows. “When the study was published in late February in the Journal of the American Medical Association, no one had a ready explanation for that astounding finding by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” As specialists take a closer look at the study’s data, some are saying that it may be a “statistical fluke” given that other studies have not shown a similar decline. Though the study’s information came from the well-respected National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, some experts are saying that “no evidence of the kinds of major shifts in the behavior among preschoolers aged 2 to 5 exists which would explain a 43 percent drop in their obesity rates.” (Fox News)

FDA: Use HPV tests over Pap tests to find cervical cancer: An FDA advisory committee unanimously recommended that an HPV test replace the Pap test as the first line of screening for cervical cancer. “The test developed by Roche detects the DNA of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is the cause of more than 99% of all cervical cancers,” and like the Pap test, is performed using a vaginal swab. For the past 60 years, the Pap test, which detects abnormal cells that could indicate cervical cancer, has been used as the first-line test to detect cancer, with the HPV test as a second analysis. The proposed Roche test detects two strains of the HPV virus that are found in 70% of all cervical cancers, so women without HPV may be “less likely to need a Pap.” The FDA does not always accept its advisory committees’ recommendations, but “in most cases it does.” (CNN)

More screenings put dent in colon cancer: “The incidence of colon cancer, declining since the mid-1980s, plunged a further 30% last decade among Americans 50 and older as more people had colonoscopies, a new study found.” In addition, colon cancer deaths dropped 3% a year between 2001 and 2010. The improvements were most notable for older Americans over 65, whose rate of colon cancer dropped 7% a year between 2008 and 2010. Experts credited increased colonoscopy screening with the decrease in deaths, since “the percentage of Americans who are up-to-date on recommended colon-cancer screening rose from 55% to 65% during the past decade.” (The Wall Street Journal)