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Drug Safety, Tainted Food Among Year's Top Health Stories
Date:12/31/2007

overnments nudged the nation's cooks and food manufacturers toward healthier fare in 2007, with New York City's ban on deadly trans fats in restaurant foods leading the way. Other cities soon followed suit. At the same time, fast-food outlets like Burger King and Wendy's offered low-fat or no-fat menu options, while the FDA mulled new regulations that would reduce the amount of salt in processed foods.

Good News on the Stem Cell Front

In November, separate teams of researchers in the United States and Japan announced what could spell the end of fractious ethical debate over the use of embryonic stem cells. Both groups said they had managed to transform human skin cells into cells that very closely approximate embryonic stem cells. "We are now in the position to be able to generate patient- and disease-specific stem cells, without using human eggs or embryos," Japanese senior researcher Dr. Shinya Yamanaka told reporters.

Progress in the War Against Cancer

The nation's No. 2 killer was dealt some killer blows of its own this year. In November, the American Cancer Society, the CDC, and others reported that the decades-long decline in deaths due to cancer picked up speed recently, with annual declines doubling to 2.1 percent fewer cases annually during the years 2002-2004. Deaths among women from either breast or lung cancer fell especially steeply, possibly linked to recent drops in the use of hormone replacement therapy and smoking, respectively.

At the same time, exciting new medicines are beginning to turn the tide against some of the toughest malignancies. The molecular-targeted drug Nexavar was found to boost survival for those with advanced liver cancer by 44 percent, researchers said, while another drug, Avastin, doubled the survival odds of patients battling kidney cancers.

Controversy Over Heart Disease Treatments

The news on treatments for the No. 1 killer
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