Best Health News: September 2009

A better test for cervical cancer, what to plant now and a surprising fact about men who drink’here’s your monthly roundup of the best health news, facts and tips

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cancer news

Good news and bad news about cancer

First, the good news from a recent Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) report: The mortality rate from breast cancer, the most common cancer for women, has declined. Widespread fundraising campaigns have both raised money for breast cancer research and educated Canadians about early detection. Now the bad news: More women are dying from lung cancer, the number one cancer killer of women in Canada. The CCS says the incidence rate for women with lung cancer is only beginning to level off, thanks to fewer women smoking.

Incidence rate:
Breast cancer - 102 women/100,000
Lung cancer - 47 women/100,000

Mortality rate:
Breat cancer - 22 women/100,000
Lung cancer - 40 women/100,000

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batteries

You can recycle batteries

With camping and cottage season ending, what to do with used batteries? Many provinces and municipalities have recycling programs (for example, P.E.I.'s iwmc.pe.ca/batteries.htm) and so do Mountain Equipment Co-op stores.

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man drink

Men who drink alcohol make better lovers

Yes, you read that right. According to research from Australia, men who have up to 14 alcoholic drinks a week are less likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED) than those who don't drink alcohol. (One to two drinks a day is considered low-risk drinking by Can­ada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.) The highest occurrences of ED were in men who quit drinking and those who had fewer than seven drinks a week. Drinking responsibly and not smoking seem to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and ED.

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man drink 2

Men who drink alcohol make better lovers

Yes, you read that right. According to research from Australia, men who have up to 14 alcoholic drinks a week are less likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED) than those who don't drink alcohol. (One to two drinks a day is considered low-risk drinking by Can­ada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.) The highest occurrences of ED were in men who quit drinking and those who had fewer than seven drinks a week. Drinking responsibly and not smoking seem to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and ED.

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DNA

DNA test linked to fewer cervical cancer deaths

What's not to love about the prospect of DNA testing for cervical cancer? It could be even more accurate than the currently used Pap test-plus, we wouldn't need to get tested as often.

Canada has seen a major drop in deaths from cervical cancer since the Pap was introduced in the 1960s, but the disease still killed about 380 women last year. According to just-published results from an eight-year trial in India by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, women who had DNA testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer were less likely to die of the disease than those who had the Pap test. DNA testing would be required only once every five years, says Dr. Renga­swamy Sankaranarayanan, lead author of the study.

DNA testing, in conjunction with the Pap smear, is now available in Canada for women only to provide confirmation of HPV infection. But, conjectures Sankaranarayanan, "HPV DNA testing will be increasingly used [around the world] as the primary screening test for women over 30 in the near future."

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orthorexia

Q&A: Can healthy eating become obsessive?

Yes. There's a form of disordered eating called orthorexia, where a person is excessively preoccupied with eating only foods she or he considers healthy. "A typical orthorexic will not eat anything that isn't 100 percent organic, and nothing processed or with preservatives," says Michelle Morand, director of Victoria's Cedric Centre, which treats eating disorders. "Those are all good guidelines for choosing food. But for people with orthorexia, the focus isn't really about health; it's about creating restrictions. They will go hungry rather than eat a food that isn't 'acceptable.'" Morand has seen more cases of orthorexia in recent years, perhaps because of an increased emphasis on the "right" foods.

While orthorexia is relatively new (and is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), as with all disordered eating it stems from insecurity. "Those feelings create anxiety, so the person uses control over food to numb distress," says Morand. An anorexic is preoccupied with the quantity of food; an orthorexic with its quality. This focus on food can lead an orthorexic to social isolation, limited nutrition and, if she eats "incorrectly," self-loathing. If you're struggling with any disordered eating, talk to a doctor. -Bonnie Schiedel

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bulbs

Do it now: Plant bulbs

September is the time for planting most spring-flowering bulbs, in particular daffodils, crocuses and bulbous irises, Back to the Garden author Ursula Buchan tells Best Health. But leave the tulip bulbs until November, she adds. (Don't worry; we'll remind you!)

Related:
Best Health News: August 2009
Canada's best medical care for women
5 simple rules for your healthiest life