October 2003 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.


Want the flu for the winter holidays? If not, now is the time to get your flu shot.

Flu season typically lasts from December through March. The ideal time for inoculation is October through mid-November. The vaccine begins to protect one to two weeks after the shot, and is a safe and effective way to prevent the flu or reduce its severity.

Getting the vaccine is particularly important for children who have asthma and for the elderly and those with weakened immune systems or underlying illnesses such as heart disease, pulmonary disease, kidney problems or diabetes.

“Influenza can cause serious illness or death in people who are elderly or have weakened immune systems,” says Dr. James Luby, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Those who are allergic to eggs or have had a reaction to a flu shot in the past should avoid vaccination.

Media Contact: Rachel Horton


Symptoms classically tied to prostate infection such as blood in the urine and a burning feeling while urinating are also warning signs for bladder cancer, says Dr. Kenneth Koeneman, assistant professor of urology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Bladder cancer is now the fourth leading type of cancer in men, but detection can be tricky because there is no generally accepted screening test for the disease. It is imperative for those who experience these symptoms to see a urologist and request a urine test and possibly a cystoscopy in addition to the tests usually done for prostate problems, Dr. Koeneman says.

A cystoscopy involves examination of the bladder with a flexible endoscopic scope.

“Early detection is extremely important, because these are usually very aggressive tumors,” Dr. Koeneman says. “If the cancer is advanced, 30 percent to 50 percent of people have recurring tumors, whereas if we catch it early and find a small, polyp-like tumor, most of those people do well with a local excision.”

Media Contact: Rachel Horton


Organic food sales, although only a minor percentage of total food sales nationwide, continue to grow rapidly. But are all organic foods natural?

“Organic food is not necessarily natural food,” says Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “Just like any other food, you need to read the label. Organic foods can have added fats such as coconut oil and can also include sodium and saturated fats. Whether a vegetable is grown under organic or non-organic conditions does not change its nutrient content.”

Key label references include:100 percent organic – all components grown or produced organically and certified by an organic producer; Organic – contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients; and, Made with organic contents – contains at least 70 percent organic components.

Media Contact: Amy Shields


Cancer can be deadly, but a few simple lifestyle changes can have a significant effect in the fight against the disease.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates more than 1.3 million Americans will develop cancer in 2003, and more than 550,000 will die from the disease. But the Institute of Medicine and the ACS add that almost 100,000 new cancer cases and 60,000 cancer deaths annually could be prevented by the year 2015 if people just take easy preventative steps.

“Avoiding intense sun exposure, eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet, maintaining ideal body weight and avoiding tobacco products are simple strategies that have a significant impact on reducing the development of cancer and heart disease,” says Dr. James Huth, chairman of surgical oncology UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Oncologists recommend avoiding tobacco, keeping a healthy body weight, participating in regular physical activity and receiving an annual checkup for early detection of any possible cancer. Some specific healthy steps include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, whenever possible, or snacking on fruit instead of cookies.

Taking these preventative measures not only reduces the risk of cancer but heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and diabetes, oncologists say.

Media Contact: Scott Maier


Ragweed – scientific name: Ambrosia – is a common cause of hay fever for many allergy sufferers. It flourishes in hot, dry climates, and two species – the common or short A. artemisiifolia, which generally grows 1 to 5 feet tall, and the giant A. trifida, which can reach 15 feet – are said to account for more hay fever than all other plants together. Ragweed is especially common in the central United States.

Many myths about the allergen persist, says Dr. David Khan, an associate professor of internal medicine and allergist at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Common misconceptions include:

The peak pollen dispersal time is morning. It’s actually around midday.
Most people are allergic to ragweed. Most people are not allergic to ragweed, but it is the most common pollen allergy.
You need to be near a ragweed plant to react. Wind can carry ragweed pollen hundreds of miles.
All allergy medicines make you sleepy. There are several non-drowsy antihistamines that can relieve ragweed-induced hay fever.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem


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