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Vasectomies may cause dementia risk

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          HEALTH TIPS - Friday, February 16, 2007
               "News That Keeps You Healthy"

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           Vasectomies may cause dementia risk

EVANSTON, Ill., -- U.S. scientists say they have deter-
mined vasectomies might place some men at risk for an 
unusual form of dementia. Northwestern University re-
searchers discovered men with primary progressive aphasia 
-- a neurological disease in which people have trouble 
recalling and understanding words -- have a higher rate 
of vasectomy than men the same age who are cognitively 
normal. Psychiatry Professor Sandra Weintraub, principal 
investigator in the study, began investigating a possible 
link between the surgery and PPA when one of her male 
patients connected the onset of his language problem at 
age 43 to the period after his vasectomy. Weintraub and 
colleagues surveyed 47 men with PPA and 57 men with no 
cognitive impairment. Of the non-impaired men, 16 percent 
had undergone a vasectomy. In contrast, 40 percent of the 
men with PPA had had the surgery. "That's a huge differ-
ence," said Weintraub, director of neuropsychology in 
Northwestern's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer s 
Disease Center. "It doesn't mean having a vasectomy will 
give you this disease but it may be a risk factor to 
increase your chance of getting it." The study was pub-
lished in the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.

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           Facial composite systems don't work

AMES, Iowa, -- U.S. scientists said the use of computer-
generated facial composites during criminal investigations 
don't produce useful images of perpetrators. Gary Wells 
and Lisa Hasels of Iowa State University pointed to several 
studies in which individuals attempted to create composites 
of celebrities. In one study, 2.8 percent of participants 
correctly named a well-known celebrity's image that had 
been created by other participants using the face-composite 
software. In another study, participants were unable to dis-
criminate composites of classmates from composites of stu-
dents at different schools. The researchers say the poor 
results represent a mismatch between how faces are remem-
bered and how composites are produced. "Numerous lines of 
evidence converge on the view that faces are generally 
processed, stored and retrieved at a holistic level rather
than at the level of individual facial features," they 
said. Wells and Hasels detailed their study in the 
February issue of the journal Current Directions in 
Psychological Science.

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       Technology images tumors' genetic profile

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., -- U.S. scientists have developed a 
method of screening tumors for cancer-related gene ab-
normalities that might be treated with "targeted" drugs.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
and Harvard University say their findings constitute an 
important step toward the era of "personalized medicine," 
in which cancer therapy will be guided by the particular 
set of genetic mutations within each patient's tumor.
"It's universally recognized that cancer is a disease of 
the genome, of mutations within genes responsible for 
cell growth and survival, and a great deal of effort has 
gone into finding those mutations, to the point where 
several hundred to a thousand are now known," said the 
study's senior author, Dr. Levi Garraway. "The challenge 
has been how to determine which of them are involved in 
each of the hundreds of kinds of cancer that occur in 
humans -- and to develop accurate, affordable methods of 
detecting key mutations in tumor samples. This study 
suggests that such a method is feasible on a large scale."
The study appears online in the journal Nature Genetics.

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