"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Two Ways to Prevention 

In the most basic sense, there are only two options: you either do something, or you don't do something. In medicine and health, this decision is arguably even more important than the decision of what you do (or don't do).

Prevention is a, and perhaps the, critical public health goal, and it requires a careful balance of do's and don'ts. Today, we see a potential example of each: for preventing breast cancer, and resistant bacterial infections.

Studies have shown that tamoxifen reduces womens' risk of developing certain types of breast cancer. The problem is, tamoxifen has some pretty serious side effects. Another drug, raloxifene, seems to be as effective at preventing breast cancer, but without many of the side effects. The study looks odd to me - I'm not sure how well controlled it was, but the results are interesting.

Food-borne bacterial infections are nasty, but usually easily remedied with antibiotics. The problem, of course, is when the bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, usually due to previous exposure. Previously, it's been presumed that resistance is due to overuse of antibiotics by humans, in humans, but Australian researchers suggest that use of antibiotics in food animals may have a similar effect. Australia banned use of many antibiotics in livestock (good for them!), and found lower rates of resistant-strain infections in humans. Not a shock, but good to see some confirmation of our suspicions.

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