Showing posts from April, 2014

Can You Catch Cancer From a Virus? Yes

It always sounded, to me, like the stuff of horror movies.  Cancer caused by a virus?  That anyone can catch?

Well, it turns out neither breast cancer or a type of brain tumor called a glioblastoma (the most fatal kind) are not caused by a virus.

Accordingn to, the study, which was based on over seven billion DNA sequences, found no genetic traces of viruses in these forms of cancer. "It has been scientifically proven that about 15 per cent of all cancer cases are the result of viral infection, but many researchers believe that even more cancers could be caused by viruses," the Web site reports.

Among other theories, it is suggested that the Epstein-Barr virus could be a possible cause of breast cancer and that the cytomegalovirus might cause the malignant brain tumour glioblastoma.

Seven types of viruses are now known to be the source of 10-15 percent of all malignant human cancers, Arild S. Foss writes at Cervical cancer is almost always caus…

Can Eating Flowers Ward Off Disease?

Sounds a little too new-agey for me.  But a new study has found that eating certain kinds of flowers could ward off chronic disease. reports that some edible flowers, which have been used in the culinary arts in China for centuries, contain phenolics that have been correlated with anti-inflammatory activity and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

"The findings of this study show that common edible flowers have the potential to be used as an additive in food to prevent chronic disease, help health promotion and prevent food oxidization," the Web site notes.  However, the antioxidant mechanisms, the anti-tumor, anti-inflammation and anti-aging activity of the edible flower extracts still need to be further studied to develop more applications as natural antioxidants. Here are some of the flowers, and diseases they might prevent, according to The Times of India: Apple and Orange Blossoms: They're clearly the most popular among edible flower…

Like the Food Better? Eat at a Higher-Priced Restaurant

I suppose it shouldn't surprise us.  But a new survey has found that we tend to think the food's better when we pay more for it at a restaurant.

The study suggests taste perception, as well as feelings of overeating and guilt, can be manipulated by price alone, according to “We were fascinated to find that pricing has little impact on how much one eats, but a huge impact on how you interpret the experience,” the Web site quotes Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a professor at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University who oversaw the research. “Simply cutting the price of food at a restaurant dramatically affects how customers evaluate and appreciate the food.” The study showed that customers who pay more at a restaurant buffet perceive the food as tastier than the same food offered at a lower price.Those in the study who paid $8 for a buffet reported enjoying their food on average 11 percent more than those who paid $4, though the two groups ate…

Poll: Still Too Much Screen Time for Kids

So what are we doing to reduce the hours our kids watch TV?  Not much, it turns out.

A new poll has found that about 25 percent of parents who have children aged two to five say their children get three or more hours of entertainment screen time a day, well beyond recommended limits, according to

The news isn't all bad: a little more than half of those parents do try to set some limits by location: banning media devices from places like the bedroom or at mealtime.

Here's what the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) had to say about TV and kids: "The AAP discourages any screen time for children less than two years of age. For older children, the AAP recommends no more than two hours daily. The AAP suggests keeping media devices out of children’s bedrooms, keeping family routines like mealtime screen-free, and setting screen-free days for the whole family."

I've flunked about all of those.  My son, who'd much rather spend time on the computer and…

Are We Making It Too Hard For Boys To Succeed in the World?

When my son was in pre-K, the director came up to me and suggested I attend a lecture on why boys learn differently.  As my son was only four, I didn't think about it too much and I certainly didn't attend the lecture.

But now I am seeing why.  I've been fortunate in that my son, now almost 13, is a good student and we don't have to harangue him (most of the time) about doing his work.  But I am seeing that boys learn differently and an article in today's New York Times puts its finger on that difference.

David Leonhardt writes in, "A Link Between Fidgety Boys and a Sputtering Economy," that the gap in behavioral skills between young girls and boys is even bigger than the gap between rich and poor.

"By kindergarten, girls are substantially more attentive, better behaved, more sensitive, more persistent, more flexible and more independent than boys, according to a new paper from Third Way, a Washington research group," he reports. By eighth grade, 4…

Trampoline Falls Injure Almost 300K a Year, Most Of Them Kids

It happened in our neighborhood.

A tween girl was jumping on a neighbor's trampoline when she was double-jumped by another kid, fell and broke her ankle.  This was particularly heart-breaking because she was a star athlete and now, two years later, the damage may be permanent.

According to, trampoline accidents sent an estimated 288,876 people, most of them children, to hospital emergency departments with broken bones from 2002 to 2011.

"Including all injuries, not just fractures, hospital emergency rooms received more than 1 million visits from people injured in trampoline accidents during those 10 years, boosting the emergency room bills to just over $1 billion, according to the study," the Web site reports.

About 60 percent of the fractures were upper-extremity injuries, notably fingers, hands, forearms and elbows. Lower-extremity fractures most commonly were breaks in the lower leg -- the tibia and fibula -- and ankles. Just over 4 percent involved fractures…

Is Obesity Really a Disability?

Maybe because I've never been obese (overweight, yes, obese, no), but I disagree with the court that found that obesity is a disability.

I admit I'm one of those biased people who feels that weight is something you can -- should be able to -- control.  I, of course, know how hard it is.  I've been on a diet (and fought anorexia) most of my life. 

But, according to The Wall Street Journal, "A federal district court ruled last week that obesity itself may be a disability, independent of an underlying physiological condition, confirming the rising risk of lawsuits on grounds of obesity discrimination."

The man who won sued because his company had “terminated his employment because of his disability and, in retaliation for the charge of discrimination, threatened to terminate business with other entities if those entities employ plaintiff."

”Attorneys for the company had moved to dismiss the case, arguing that obesity was not a disability under the Americans with Di…

Married and Depressed? There May Be a Connection

Big surprise.  Being married can make you more likely to get depressed.

All I wanted, when I met my husband, was to get married.  (It only took 10 years.)  But once we were, I didn't like it quite as much.  For one thing, I now had a mother-in-law.  And for another, it seemed so, well, permanent. I can remember driving home from work one day and thinking, well, I've made it through a month.

A new study has found that marital stress may make people more vulnerable to depression, according to a recent study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers and their colleagues, reports.

I suppose it's a no-brainer but people who experience chronic marital stress are less able to savor positive experiences, a hallmark of depression, the Web sie notes. They are also more likely to report other depressive symptoms.

“This is not an obvious consequence, if you will, of marital stress, but it’s one I think is extraordinarily important because of the cascade of changes that m…

New Study: Statins May Make You Fat

Great.  Now I have to worry about my cholesterol medicine making me fat.

A new study has found that people who take statins tend to eat more calories and fat than those who do not. According to, "people who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol appear to have developed a false sense of security that could lead to heart disease and other obesity-related illnesses."

That's because a new UCLA-led study suggests that people who took statins in 2009–2010 were consuming more calories and fat than those who used statins 10 years earlier. There was no similar increase in caloric and fat intake among non–stain users during that decade, researchers said.

In 1999–2000, statin users were consuming fewer calories and less fat than individuals who didn't take these medications, the Web site reports, but that is no longer the case. "Increases in body mass index — a measure of obesity that considers body weight and height — were greater for statin-users than fo…

Poetry, Thy Name is Physician

I found this pretty amazing.  There's a poet lurking in almost every physician.

According to, future physician Paul Rocco Allegra had this to say after encountering death in the anatomy lab, where he and his classmates dissected cadavers.

Metal gurney against preserved flesh,
maybe this isn’t the first time we’ve met …
And this, in imagining fleeting moments when, in life, the person whose corpse lies before him, might have crossed paths with him. 
I hesitate to look at your face, because maybe, just maybe, you’ve looked at mine.
The Web site quotes Allegra, who says, “You see painted fingernails, or freckles or hair,” haunting signs that this preserved mass of organic material was once a person – a human being like him. “You need to stop and reflect and analyze, and poetry does that.” Writes another student, 
My pronunciations are shameful. Erythematous. Blah. My cheeks burn. Will patients call me doctor if I can’t speak?
“This poem is an exercise in personal therapy for me,” say…

Talk to Strangers? Don't Listen to Your Mom

My husband and son hate it.  I know that Mrs. B. is doing well with her chemotherapy.  Mary at CVS' brother is doing much better now that he's been out of intensive care for a while.  And Antoinetta's grandson is entering second grade in the fall.

I talk to everyone when I'm out around town.  Pharmacists.  Supermarket checkers.  Owners of small businesses.  I started doing it because I was bored, waiting in line.  But then I started to enjoy it.  I've seen Antionetta's grandchildren grow from one to four (Mia is my favorite).  And I've come to feel really good when Mrs. B. asks how I'm doing in that caring, kind way. 

And now The New York Times is telling me what I knew all along.  Striking up conversations with strangers is good for everyone.

I've made friends on airplanes -- from the young professional with a full bladder who forgot to undo his seat belt before getting up (fortunately, nothing more serious than a big case of the embarrasseds), to the…

Humble Wins the Date, Every Time

Are you quick to boast about your successes at work to a new person you're dating? Point out that you were voted "best-looking" in high school?  That you drive an Audi RS 5 Cabriolet?

If you do, you're doomed.  Or so says a new study. reports that researchers have discovered that prospective dating partners who were more humble were viewed as more attractive candidates for a romantic relationship than those less humble. In long-distance relationships, partners who are viewed as humble tended to recover more quickly after offenses than their less humble counterparts.

"Researchers at Hope College, Georgia State University and the University of North Texas asked respondents to look over a fake dating profiles and rate them on a seven point scale on likability, friendliness, number of friends, fun, attraction, likelihood of going on a date and potential satisfaction with dating," the Web site says. In one study, respondents were asked to think about…

Men No Longer Feeling So Left Out -- Ultrasound Experience Bonds Them With Baby

It didn't happen with my husband (maybe because, 13 years ago, ultrasounds were milky and hard to see), but a new study has found that "seeing their babies’ ultrasound images for the first time is a powerful moment for expectant fathers, and could hasten family bonding and provide an opportunity for promoting positive partnering and parenting," according to

Today, with just about everything visible from your baby's nose to his toes, I'm sure it's a much more dramatic experience.  But when our son was in-utero, we could barely make out his head.

(Even so, I have his 20-week ultrasound in a frame in our room and I feel happy every time I look at it.)

It's all about being left out.

“While all our fathers felt the mothers were receiving good care, about half of them felt excluded or ignored and wished that providers would offer them more explanation and opportunity to ask questions during the appointment,’’ says Dr. Tova Walsh, a researcher at the U…

Avoid Type 2 Diabetes? Drink More Coffee

My husband was overjoyed.  Turns out coffee can help beat type 2 diabetes.

He, who drinks about eight to 10 cups a day, swears by it.  Since he exchanged it for Coke (he drinks iced coffee), he's lost about 20 pounds.  And, bless him, somehow he has no problem sleeping, even if he drinks it late at night.

According to, "People (in the study) who increased the amount of coffee they drank each day by more than one cup over a four-year period had a 11% lower risk for type 2 diabetes than those who made no changes to their coffee consumption."

In addition, the study found that those who decreased their coffee consumption by more than a cup per day increased their type 2 diabetes risk by 17%.

Scientists are also finding it may prevent certain kinds of cancers, too.

"Our findings confirm those of previous studies that showed that higher coffee consumption was associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk,” said Shilpa Bhupathiraju, lead author and research fellow in …

How Happy Is Your City? 'Selfies' Will Show

If you're like me, you pretty much check Twitter to see what your friends are up to, and what's going on in the world (that's how I knew exactly what was going on minute-by-minute during the Boston Marathon massacre).  But what would you think if it could tell you how happy your city was?

That's the new plan developed by the University of California, San Diego and The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY).  They're collecting and analyzing tweeted images of cities to measure just how happy people are in cities.

According to, the project will tackle a simple question: Is it possible to measure the overall happiness of metropolitan areas based on the study of images shared on Twitter?

"Can visual characteristics of images shared on social media tell us something about the ‘moods’ of cities?” the Web site quotes principal investigator Mehrdad Yazdani, a data scientist with the Software Studies Initiative (SSI) at the Qualcomm Institute, th…

Flog Till You Drop? Maybe Don't Exercise So Hard

We've all heard it.  And most believe it.  No pain no gain.

But a new study has found, as Gretchen Reynolds reports, that "while it is possible to push through fatigue to reach new levels of physical performance, it is not necessarily wise."

She writes that scientists have long been puzzled about just how muscles know that they’re about to run out of steam "and need to convey that message to the brain, which has the job of actually telling the body that now would be a good time to drop off the pace and seek out a bench."

Earlier research established that contracting muscles release a number of substances, including lactate, certain acids and adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, a chemical involved in the creation of energy. The levels of each of those substances were shown to rise substantially when muscles were working hard, Reynolds notes.

Reynolds goes into much more detail than I will here, but the bottom line is that "the feeling of fatigue in our muscles duri…

Like E-Cigs? Here's What You Should Know

Thinking e-cigarettes are a safer way to get your nicotine fix?  Think again.

According to Lenny Bernstein at The Washington Post, the Food and Drug Administration has decided to regulate e-cigarettes, which have quickly grown into a $2 billion a year enterprise. 

Purveyors call it "vaping" to describe the nicotine blast they get from the flavored vapor that comes out of an e-cig as it's "burning."  But Bernstein points to some things you should know about these not-so-healthy smoking sticks.

Most consist of  a rechargeable, battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge that contains nicotine or other chemicals and an atomizer that, when heated, converts the liquid in the cartridge into a vapor, he reports. This vapor is inhaled. Nicotine concentrations vary depending on the user’s preference.

On the plus side, e-cig manufacturers claim that they are significantly less expensive than tobacco cigarettes, which are heavily taxed, Bernstein writes.

On the n…