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Public Health Involves Personal Choices

LEICESTER, England, Oct. 12 (UPI) — Public health in the past involved government to control infectious diseases but health issues today involve personal choice, a British researcher said.

Elizabeth Murphy, head of the University of Leicester’s College of Social Science, said public health issues have previously been amenable to government intervention because it involved improving sanitation, air quality, or controlling infectious disease.

However, public health issues today involve decisions of personal choice such as smoking, drinking and diet, which affect medical issues such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In her inaugural lecture, Murphy said, “It is possible within states committed to respect for the autonomy and privacy of individuals, to promote the health and welfare of the population without riding roughshod over individual choice and freedom.”

For example, her lecture explained data from a study about the choices mothers make about feeding their babies during the first two years of the infants’ lives, including whether to breastfeed or bottle feed, can affect public health for decades. She considers how mothers endorse, negotiate, resist, reconstruct and refuse expert advice about infant nutrition.

“I shall discuss the ways in which health-related lifestyle choices have become increasingly moralized so that failure to conform to expert advice about health-promoting behaviors raises questions about one’s standing as a fit and proper person,” Murphy said in a statement.

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U.S. Loses More Ground in Life Expectancy

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (UPI) — Life expectancy for U.S. adults grew from 1975 to 2005 but people in other countries have been living even longer, lowering the U.S. ranking, researchers say.

Peter Muennig and Sherry Glied of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York analyzed health spending; risk factors and 15-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 to 65 in the United states as well as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The study, conducted for the Commonwealth Fund and published in Health Affairs, finds the United States still lags behind other nations when it comes to gains in life expectancy, but lifestyle is not to blame.

In 2005, U.S. smoking rates had bigger declines than in most other countries, and U.S. car fatalities and homicides remained stable during the 30-year study period — and while people in the United States were more likely to be obese than other in 2005, this was also true in 1975, when the United States was not so far behind in life expectancy.

The U.S. ranking for 15-year life expectancy for 45-year-old men fell from third place in 1975 to 12th in 2005, while 45-year-old U.S. women were in last place.

Muennig says the failure of the United States to increase survival rates while almost doubling healthcare spending may be attributable to flaws in the unregulated fee-for-service payments and reliance on specialty care as possible reasons for high spending without commensurate gains in life expectancy.

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Work Noise + Chemicals May = Deafness

ZARAGOZA, Spain, Oct. 6 (UPI) — Spanish researchers say they have linked the combination of noise and chemicals to the loss of hearing in young workers.

Researchers at the University of Zaragoza in Spain say chemical contaminants can interact with noise and modify how workers experience work-related “deafness” — an increasingly common condition among young people. Non-noise caused deafness, the researchers say, is the most common occupational disease in Europe.

“Workers exposed to noise in the presence of metalworking fluids exhibit a delay in hearing alteration in comparison with those exposed only to noise at the same intensity. However, those exposed to noise in the presence of welding fumes experience increased hearing alteration,” lead author Juan Carlos Conte says in a statement. “A problem we detected with respect to welding fumes in the presence of noise was that the protection used is effective for reducing the intensity of noise, but not for reducing the effects of the chemical contaminant.”

The researchers note other factors, such as tobacco-use — smoking is considered a risk factor for the acquisition of initial acoustic trauma — or an injury to the inner ear due to very loud noise may have an impact on advanced acoustic injury.

The study, published in Anales del Sistema Sanitario de Navarra, looked at the way in which various physical and chemical contaminants interact may impact hearing alteration in 558 metal workers.

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Secondhand Smoke Linked to Breast Cancer

MIAMI, Oct. 5 (UPI) — A study of Mexican women finds those exposed to secondhand smoke have three times the risk for breast cancer as women not exposed, researchers say.

Lizbeth Lopez-Carrillo, a professor of epidemiology at the National Institute for Public Health in Mexico City, says 6 million Mexican women ages 12-65 who have never-smoked are being exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke.

Lopez-Carrillo and colleagues examined 504 women with confirmed breast cancer and compared them with 504 healthy women of similar age. In direct interviews, they asked the women about their smoking and secondhand smoking exposure at home and at work.

Compared with women who never smoked and had no secondhand smoking exposure, women with passive smoking exposure had a threefold higher risk for breast cancer — regardless of menopausal status.

Among women who smoked, the study found an increased breast cancer risk, but this association was only significant if women began smoking between puberty and the birth of their first child.

“Active and passive smoke exposure is a modifiable risk factor for breast cancer,” Lopez-Carrillo says in a statement. “Reducing not only active smoking, but also passive smoking, will prevent new breast cancer cases in this population — everyone should avoid secondhand smoke.”

The findings were presented at the Third American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Miami.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Secondhand Smoke Linked to Breast Cancer

MIAMI, Oct. 5 (UPI) — A study of Mexican women finds those exposed to secondhand smoke are at have three times the risk for breast cancer as women not exposed, researchers say.

Lizbeth Lopez-Carrillo, a professor of epidemiology at the National Institute for Public Health in Mexico City, says 6 million Mexican women ages 12-65 who have never-smoked are being exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke.

Lopez-Carrillo and colleagues examined 504 women with confirmed breast cancer and compared them with 504 healthy women of similar age. In direct interviews, they asked the women about their smoking and secondhand smoking exposure at home and at work.

Compared with women who never smoked and had no secondhand smoking exposure, women with passive smoking exposure had a threefold higher risk for breast cancer — regardless of menopausal status.

Among women who smoked, the study found an increased breast cancer risk, but this association was only significant if women began smoking between puberty and the birth of their first child.

“Active and passive smoke exposure is a modifiable risk factor for breast cancer,” Lopez-Carrillo says in a statement. “Reducing not only active smoking, but also passive smoking, will prevent new breast cancer cases in this population — everyone should avoid secondhand smoke.”

The findings were presented at the Third American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Miami.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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After Sex: Women Want Cuddling, Men Smoke

READING, Pa., Oct. 4 (UPI) — After sex, women prefer talking, kissing, cuddling and talking about the relationship, while men prefer to smoke, eat or drink, U.S. researchers say.

Study author Susan Hughes, associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, Pa., says most research on sex focuses on what leads to sex, but a number of elements of reproduction happen after sexual intercourse, including: bonding, future relationship intentions and possible continued sexual activities, sperm retention and competition, mate guarding and the possibility of fertilization.

Hughes says the study, to appear in the upcoming issue of The Journal of Sex Research, involved 170 men and women who completed a questionnaire.

The study found women were more likely than men to initiate and place greater importance on behaviors linked to intimacy and bonding with both long and short-term partners. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to engage in extrinsically rewarding tasks such as smoking, asking for a favor or behaviors that increased the odds of having sex again. Men also initiate having more sex.

Both men and women agree on the importance of saying “I love you” to a long-term partner after sex, Hughes says.

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Fewer Smoking = Fewer with Lung Cancer

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 1 (UPI) — California’s tobacco control program has resulted in lung cancer rates about 25 percent lower than those in other states, researchers say.

John P. Pierce of the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, director of the Population Sciences Division at Moores UCSD Cancer Center, says California established the nation’s first comprehensive Tobacco Control Program in 1989.

Since then, California’s smoking rate is half that of the rest of the country — 9.3 percent of Californians smoke, compared to 17.8 percent nationally.

“The consistency in the trends from cigarette sales and population surveys was reassuring” Pierce says in a statement. “What is really important is that the widening gap in smoking behavior between California and the rest of the nation is replicated in the lung cancer data 16 years later. There is no other behavior that affects a disease like this.”

The team analyzed major national surveys conducted since 1965 as well as data from taxed cigarette sales to calculate trends in smoking behavior since 1960. They then compared these trends with lung cancer mortality data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The findings are published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Mom's Smoking May Hurt Child's Motor Skill

OREBRO, Sweden, Sept. 27 (UPI) — Smoking during pregnancy may affect the child’s physical coordination, British and Swedish researchers say.

Researchers from Orebro University in Sweden looked at 13,000 children taking part in the National Child Development Study where the children — all born in Great Britain in one week in March, 1959 — were continually tracked and smoking habits of the mothers during pregnancy were among the factors noted. The childrens’ physical control and coordination were tested at age 11 by school physicians.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, finds the children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy had a higher risk of poorer coordination and physical control.

“We discovered that boys’ abilities may be affected to a greater extent than those of girls,” Scotte Montgomery says in a statement.

Montgomery and colleagues suggest a link between nicotine and testosterone may be affecting the boys. Nicotine, they say, can influence development of the brain in the fetus — especially since nicotine interacts with testosterone — and could make boys extra susceptible to fetal nicotine exposure.

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One-third Say Work Hinders Healthy Life

GENEVA, Switzerland, Sept. 25 (UPI) — More than 90 percent of workers in India, Mexico, Poland and Portugal say it is their employer’s job to create a healthy environment at work, researchers say.

The survey — commissioned by the World Heart Federation and conducted by Opinion Health — says 32 percent of employees say their workplace hinders their ability to lead a healthy life.

Dr. Kathryn Taubert, senior science officer at the World Heart Federation, says approximately 17.1 million lives are claimed each year globally by the burden of cardiovascular disease, even though most heart disease and stroke is preventable.

“As many of us spend over half of our waking hours at work, the workplace is the ideal setting to encourage behavior changes to minimize a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease,” Taubert says in a statement.

The World Heart Federation and World Economic Forum are encouraging employers and employees to promote a heart-healthy workplace by adopting programs such as gym memberships, cycle to work programs or smoking-cessation programs.

Eleven percent of workers say they do not agree that their employer supports a healthy workplace and 80 percent rate health insurance as important or very important when choosing an employer.

Total sample size was 4,000 men and women working in Poland, Mexico, India and Portugal completed in July-August. No further survey details were provided.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Lifestyle Can Reduce Cancer, Death Risk

NASHVILLE, Sept. 20 (UPI) — Researchers at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville link longer life to a combination of five healthy lifestyle factors.

Dr. Wei Zheng and colleagues find a healthy lifestyle pattern for Chinese women included normal weight, low belly fat, regular physical activity, limited secondhand cigarette exposure, and a diet including fruits and vegetables.

Zheng and colleagues assigned one point for each of the five health factors and found higher scores associated with reduced risk of mortality from all causes, as well as from cardiovascular diseases and cancer, specifically. Women with scores of 4 to 5 had a 43 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality compared with women with a score of zero.

“The results show that overall lifestyle modification, to include a combination of these health-related lifestyle factors, is important in disease prevention,” Zheng said in a statement

Zheng noted most of the factors could be improved and even in the more difficult to change factors, like spousal smoking, could be improved by increased awareness about the detrimental health effects of smoking. The researchers tracked 71,243 non-smoking, non-drinking Chinese women age 40-70 — participating in the ongoing population-based Shanghai Women’s Health Study for nine years.

The findings are published in the journal PloS Medicine.

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