Health News You Can Use - Part One

© 2007 Leonore H. Dvorkin

Note: This article was originally published in the October 2007 issue of the Denver publication Community News.

Granby Island market
Photograph © 2007 Leonore H. Dvorkin

Cancer misconceptions

I'm a breast cancer survivor, so cancer news always catches my attention.

Here's a list of the top five cancer misconceptions. (TIME, 7/26/07)

  1. U.S. cancer deaths have been increasing.

    Thanks to better screening and treatment, the U.S. cancer mortality rate has actually been dropping since the 1990s.

  2. Urban air pollution puts you at more risk for lung cancer than smoking a pack of cigarettes per day does.

    While city dwellers may have up to a 12% greater risk of dying of lung cancer than do those in rural areas, 80-90% of lung cancer deaths are due to smoking.

  3. Some injuries can cause cancer later in life.

    In fact, most cancers are due to a progression of genetic changes.

  4. Electronic devices, such as cell phones, can cause cancer in users.

    There is no scientific evidence to prove or disprove a relationship between cell phone use and brain cancer. Note that newer cell phones emit less radiation than older models.

  5. What you do as a young adult has little influence on your chances of getting cancer later on in life.

    Many common cancers, such as skin cancer and lung cancer, are associated with behaviors such as tanning and smoking, both popular among the young.

Fruits and vegetables can't prevent the return of breast cancer

In July of this year came the disappointing results of a seven-year study of more than 3,000 breast cancer survivors. It found that the risk of the return of breast cancer is not reduced even by a diet of up to 11 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Also, none of the participants lost weight on the diet of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Now some cancer researchers feel that it's time to focus less on dietary components and more on lifestyle changes such as weight loss and increased exercise. (Associated Press, 7/18/07)

Given the growing evidence for a connection between obesity and breast cancer (excess abdominal and upper body fat seem to be the most dangerous), weight loss is more than just an appearance issue for women. To lose weight, instead of buying diet books and fretting over all the contradictory nutrition information out there, cut back some on all three of the food groups that are known to pack on the pounds: fats, sweets, and starchy carbs. The bottom line is that you need to eat less and move more. No one's claiming that it's easy to do, but it's really no more complicated than that. Green or oolong tea may help increase your metabolism a bit. (See my second tea article.)

Many moles mean slower aging

British scientists have found that the more moles you have, the more likely your DNA is to be able to fight off aging. From the same article: White people have an average of 30 moles, but some may have up to 400. Having over 100 moles on your body seems to be associated with slower aging. No one is sure why some people have more moles than others, nor what function moles serve. Moles appear in childhood and begin to disappear after middle age. (BBC News, 7/11/07)

Ditch the bottled water / Save money and help the environment

In 2006, Americans drank more than 8.25 billion gallons of bottled water. But why did they pay $10.8 billion for something they could get practically for free? Plain tap water is safe to drink almost everywhere in the country. The best is in New York City. If you have any doubts about your own tap water, add a simple faucet-mounted filter to get the same purified tap water that many bottled water companies are foisting off on you at greatly inflated prices.

The production and shipping of bottled water does considerable harm to the environment. It takes oil to produce and ship the bottles, and that means the production of more greenhouse gases. Importing bottled water from Fiji, France, and Italy, three of the biggest U.S. suppliers, produces about 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. And with some 3/4 of the plastic bottles not being recycled, 2 billion pounds of plastic bottles are added to America�s landfills every year. (TIME, 8/20/07)

What to do? At home, get cold water from the tap or from a pitcher of tap water stored in your refrigerator. On the go, drink from fountains or carry with you an aluminum or plastic bottle filled with tap water. Refill it as needed at any water fountain. Do online research on water bottles to decide which is best for you, aluminum or plastic. Keep the bottle clean, washing it out with hot, soapy water after each day's use.