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News Briefs

Census Says Traditional Family May Soon Be Exception

Los Angeles Times

The conventional model of American family life - a married couple with kids and a stable home - is on the verge of becoming the exception rather than the rule, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Monday.

In a study certain to fuel the "family values" debate, Census Bureau statisticians say that only 51 percent of American children live in a traditional "nuclear" family. They define a nuclear family as one where both biological parents are present and all children were born after the marriage. It excludes households with single or divorced parents and other adults or children.

The study is based on 1991 data and does not contain comparable figures for previous years. But it squares with other reports in recent years that show a decline in the number of traditional families.

Census officials say the increasing prevalence of non-traditional family structures reflects powerful societal trends that cannot be easily reversed: gradual migration from rural communities to cities and suburbs, growing ranks of working mothers, declining church and community influence, expanded assistance to poor households and greater tolerance of divorce and single parenting.

The new report did not cite corresponding data from previous years. However, its findings are similar to earlier, little-noticed analysis of census data that clearly showed a steep decline in the percentage of children living in traditional nuclear families over the last two decades.

FDA Approves Test For Detecting Prostate Cancer

The Washington Post

The Food and Drug Administration Monday approved the first blood test for detecting prostate cancer. The disease, although rarely fatal, is the second most common cancer in American men, affecting some 13 percent of U.S. males.

The agency approved the test for use with other conventional diagnostic procedures such as the digital rectal exam in men over 50 years of age. The blood test - which measures levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) - finds 40 percent more cancers than the digital probe alone, but each test picks up cancers that the other might miss. A biopsy is necessary for an authoritative diagnosis.

The FDA did not recommend, however, that the test become a standard screening procedure for the disease, since "many questions still remain in the medical community about how best to treat prostate cancer," the agency said in a statement.

The test has been approved since 1986 for use in monitoring patients whose cancer has previously been diagnosed. It is already used by many physicians to diagnose cancers despite the lack of the FDA's blessing. Such "off-label" uses of medicines and medical devices by doctors are not illegal.

The Tandem PSA assay, developed by Hybritech Corp. of San Diego, finds elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. High PSA levels may signal prostate cancer, but can also indicate a non-cancerous condition. Two of three people who test positive will not actually have prostate cancer, according to the company's study.