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Health Highlights: Dec. 20, 2016

Related Health News

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

Young Adults' Cocaine Use Rises in 16 States

Nearly 1 in 20 young adults in the United States use cocaine, a federal government study says.

In 2014-15, 4.9 percent of adults ages 18-25 reported past-year use of the drug. Rates were unchanged in 34 states and the District of Columbia, but rose in 16 states, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Rates varied from 1.8 percent in Mississippi to 10.5 percent in New Hampshire.

Cocaine is highly addictive and poses significant health risks, including heart attack and strokes.

"These increases signal the need for states and communities to continue working together, educating and training others on the dangers of cocaine use," Frances Harding, director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, said in an agency news release.

"Pursuing a comprehensive prevention strategy has proven to be our most effective approach to address substance use issues," Harding added.

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New Prostate Cancer Therapy Works Without Severe Side Effects

A new treatment for early stage prostate cancer is "transformative," according to researchers.

The therapy features lasers and a drug made from deep sea bacteria, and does not cause severe side effects, BBC News reported.

A clinical trial of 413 prostate cancer patients at 47 hospitals across Europe found that 49 percent had no remaining trace of cancer after undergoing the treatment. Only six percent of those who had the treatment had to undergo prostate removal, compared with 30 percent who did not have the new therapy.

Many prostate cancer patients who have surgery or radiation therapy have lifelong impotence and urinary incontinence. But sexual and urination problems lasted no longer than three months among patients who had the new therapy, according to the study in The Lancet Oncology.

The drug used in the treatment is made from bacteria that live in near total darkness on the ocean floor and become toxic only when exposed to light. Ten fiber optic lasers are inserted into the prostate. When switched on, the laser activates the drug to kill the cancer without harming the prostate, BBC News reported.

The new therapy could be as important an advance for prostate cancer patients as the shift from removing the whole breast to just the lump in women with breast cancer, according to Professor Mark Emberton, who tested the technique at University College London.

"This changes everything," he told BBC News.

"Traditionally the decision to have treatment has always been a balance of benefits and harms," he noted. "The harms have always been the side effects -- urinary incontinence and sexual difficulties in the majority of men."

"To have a new treatment now that we can administer, to men who are eligible, that is virtually free of those side effects, is truly transformative," Emberton said.

The new therapy has not been approved for use in patients.

There are other prostate cancer treatments, such as very focused ultrasound, that have a lower risk of side effects, but they are not universally available, BBC News reported.

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New App Offers Help in Opioid ODs

A California startup has won a U.S. Food and Drug Administration contest to create an app to help combat the nation's opioid overdose crisis.

The first Naloxone App Competition was held to make it easier for people to find the closest supply of naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdose, CNN reported.

OD Help, created by Venice-based PwrdBy, won the competition, which received 45 submissions. The company will be awarded $40,000 to continue development of the app.

Naloxone is available at pharmacies with a prescription, and often carried by first responders, as well as at-risk opioid users and family members. The OD Help app is designed to alert these naloxone carriers when someone overdoses, CNN reported.

The app can also interface with a breathing monitor to detect an overdose, gives instructions on diagnosing an overdose and administering naloxone, and can alert emergency services that more help is required.

"Minutes matter in overdoses," said Dr. Peter Lurie, FDA associate commissioner. In many cases, overdose deaths occur not because there is no naloxone, but due to lack of access to the drug, CNN reported.

This is a story from HealthDay, a service of ScoutNews, LLC.