19 August 2009
This is the VOA Special English Health Report
People since ancient times have used aspirin-like medicines to fight pain and reduce high body temperature.
Modern research has found other uses for aspirin. The drug acts as a blood thinner. It can help blood flow past a blockage in an artery. Blockages can cause heart attacks or strokes. As a result, patients at risk of blockages might be advised by their doctors to take a low-strength aspirin every day.
And research continues. A new study has shown that aspirin can improve survival in colon cancer patients.
It involved about one thousand three hundred patients with colorectal cancer. The cancer had not spread to other parts of the body yet. The study compared patients who took three hundred twenty-five milligrams of aspirin at least two times a week with those who did not use aspirin.
The study found that the aspirin users had an almost thirty percent lower risk of dying from their cancer. That was during an average of eleven years after the cancer was discovered.
Andrew Chan of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital led the study. Doctor Chan says the effects appeared especially strong among patients with tumors expressing an enzyme called COX-2. Two-thirds of colorectal cancers produce that chemical. Doctor Chan thinks the aspirin works by blocking it.
The study appeared last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was an observational study. In a controlled study, some patients would have taken aspirin. Others would have received a placebo — sugar pills — for comparison.
Last year, Doctor Chan reported that a long-term study of almost fifty thousand men showed that aspirin can help prevent colon cancer. But the effects required at least six years of regular use. And the greatest risk reductions were in those who took more than fourteen aspirins per week.
But the researchers warned that the dangers from such large amounts of aspirin should be carefully considered.
Aspirin is a kind of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. The earlier study found comparable reductions from the use of other NSAIDs, but not from the use of acetaminophen.
All of these drugs have their uses but they also have risks. Aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach, the intestines and the brain. People who might want to consider taking aspirin as a preventative measure should first talk to a doctor.
And that’s the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver and available at voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.
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They are the symbols of our times — cell phones. From Europe, to Asia to the Middle East, four billion people use them worldwide.
In this Chinese film, aptly titled “Cell Phone,” a man’s life is destroyed by his cell phone when he forgets it at home. His wife discovers it and his affair with a younger woman.
A Senate Hearing this week didn’t deal with people’s private lives.
International researchers and U.S. lawmakers looked at whether radiation emitted from cell phones will kill you.
They did agree that some studies have linked heavy, long-term cell phone use to cancer of the brain.
Physician Siegal Sadetzki advises Israel’s Health Ministry.
“I believe that cellphone technology which has many advantages is here to stay. “The question that needs to be answered is not whether we should use cell phones but how we should use them.”
Health warnings to cell phone users have been issued by governments of several countries.
Dr. Linda Erdreich represents the $4 trillion wireless industry. She says there’s no need for concern.
“The current evidence does not demonstrate that phones cause cancer or other adverse health effects.”
But Teresa Gregorio’s experience raises questions. She says she used a cell phone, beginning in the mid-1990’s, even giving up her land line. Bad news came in 2008. She has an inoperable brain tumor.
“I had used a cell phone for 2-3 hours a day right here on my right side, right where my tumor was or is.”
270 million people in America use cell phones. Seventy percent of teens or pre-teens have them. Younger children are even more vulnerable.
“Radiation gets much more deeply into the head of a 5-year-old or a 3-year-old than it does into that of an adult.”
Epidemiologist Devra Lee Davis says children, because they have thinner skulls, are more at risk. “The science needs more work,” she said, “but I want to ask are we really prepared to risk our children’s brains until we find out for sure whether this is a hazard?”
Although results of studies on a cancer link are contradictory, scientists are urging consumers to be safe rather than sorry.
The idea is to keep the phone away from the body. Use earphones or a headset, keep your phone on your belt– not in your pocket.
Texting is better. It keeps the radiation down and the phone further away from you.
Senator Tom Harkin chaired the hearing. He says he’s just beginning to ask questions.
“I am reminded of this nation’s experience with cigarettes. Decades passed between the first warnings about smoking tobacco and the final definitive conclusion that cigarettes cause lung cancer,” Harkin said.