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HEALTH DESK

Kidney Cancer: The National Cancer Institute is on the lookout for Ashkenazi Jews who have a history of kidney cancer.

Although Jews do not have the highest rate of kidney cancer in the United States, they have traditionally provided a useful genetic laboratory for geneticists because of the strong rates at which Jews historically have married other Jews. Although Jews might not be the worst sufferers, there has been an overall national increase in the rate of kidney cancer — almost 32,000 Americans are diagnosed with kidney cancer every year, and the disease accounts for approximately 3% of all adult cancers.

Ashkenazi Jewish families who have two or more family members afflicted with kidney cancer are urged to contact the National Cancer Institute at (800) 949-6704 or go to http://jewishfamilykidneycancer.ncifcrf.gov.

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Dystonia Dynamos: Leon Fleischer, the world-renowned pianist, celebrated his return to the stage with the launch of a worldwide tour, “Freedom to Play,” which kicked off at Carnegie’s Weill Hall on March 31. His career had been disrupted by the neurological disease dystonia for the previous 40 years.

The tour is intended to raise awareness about the debilitating illness that afflicted Fleischer.

One of every 900 Ashkenazi Jews is a carrier of the gene for dystonia, the third most common neurological movement disorder. Sufferers will often contort their fingers, jaws and lips into awkward, strained positions, with their muscles breaking into spasms. Musicians, who rely on these muscles to play their instruments, are susceptible to focal dystonia, and the illness ends many promising careers.

Among the organizers of “Freedom to Play” is Glen Estrin, a french horn player and dystonia sufferer who co-founded Musicians with Dystonia.

“Freedom to Play” will visit the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Berlin Philharmonic in Germany and many other locales.

“The ‘Freedom to Play’ program will not only enlighten people about dystonia,” said Fleischer, “but will encourage those suffering in silence to obtain a proper diagnosis and start treatment.”

Web site: www.kidneyurology.org.

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Circumcision Contribution: A recent study shows that circumcision might reduce the risk of acquiring HIV, Reuters reported. The study, undertaken by Dr. Kawango E. Agot of Moi University in Kenya, followed 845 men from the Luo ethnic community, which has an extremely high AIDS rate. Of the 398 men who were circumcised, 20% of them went on to become infected with HIV; of the 447 men who were not circumcised 30% of them came down with HIV. “Some have recommended male circumcision as one possible strategy to control the rapid spread of HIV in Africa,” Agot wrote in his findings published in the medical journal, Epidemiology.

However, the study noted, cultural and religious differences between circumcised versus uncircumcised Luo men make it difficult to say with certainty whether circumcision itself stymied the spread of HIV. Dr. Eduardo L. Franco of McGill University in Canada said in an editorial accompanying the study that it did not end debate on the matter, but encouraged further scientific inquiry.

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LOTS Brochure: The Late Onset Tay Sachs Foundation, which is dedicated to eliminating the degenerative genetic neurological disease, has issued a new brochure about the rare malady. For information, call 1-800-672-2022 or visit the group’s Web site at www.lotsf.org.

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Helpful Hospitals: An Israeli public opinion survey concluded that Hadassah hospitals are the best in Israel.

The poll, conducted by the Dahaf Institute in March, also said that 24% of those polled thought that Hadassah physicians were the best, and 17% said that they would recommend Hadassah hospitals to a friend in need of an operation.

The hospitals are supported by Hadassah, the American women’s Zionist organization.

The Hadassah Medical Organization treats some 700,000 patients every year in two Jerusalem hospitals, a community health center and more than 100 outpatient clinics around Israel.

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Volunteered Vehicles: The Kidney and Urology Foundation of America has come up with a unique way to lure donors to its program: Volunteers can donate their old car, pick up a letter from the foundation, show the letter to the IRS, get a tax-deduction… and save a life.

The LifeCars program will pick up any used car, truck or van from 1990 or after, and provide donors with the letter for tax-deductions.

The Foundation is dedicated to the treatment and the cure of prostate, kidney, hypertension and urological diseases, but receives no government funding and must fund itself with donations like the LifeCars program.

For more information interested parties should call (800) 63-DONATE [800-633-6628] or go to the Foundation’s Web site, www.kidneyurology.org.

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