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Am Fam Physician. 1998;58(5):1055-1056

Cigars may be hip, but they aren't harmless. A study by Kaiser Permanente comparing 225 cigar-smoking men with 14,200 nonsmokers showed that cigar smokers had a 25 percent higher mortality rate. Men who smoked two cigars per day had an 87 percent higher risk of dying of cancer than nonsmokers and were 89 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease. Downfalls of cigars are that they contain a large amount of tobacco and are smoked for a very long time, reports Internal Medicine News.

Behold the power of music. A study reported in Nature showed that musicians have auditory cortex changes that are detectable on magnetic brain imaging. The study evaluated responses to sounds in 13 nonmusicians and 20 musi cians who were in their 20s and who had practiced 10 to 40 hours per week for the past 15 to 21 years. When partici pants listened to notes from a piano, the response (seen as magnetic fluxes) was 25 per cent higher in musicians than in nonmusicians. When the participants listened to beeps with the same frequencies as the piano notes, no differences were observed. The investiga tors conclude that musicians use more neurons for process ing sounds and the area of the brain that encodes sounds is larger in musicians than in nonmusicians.

Can house paint come from a dairy farm? It may be able to soon. Millions of gallons of milk contaminated with penicillin, which is fed to cows to hinder infections, are disposed of each year. However, a company in Wisconsin has developed a way of removing the penicillin. The milk still would not be safe for consumption, but it could be turned into latex for paint and a possible $15 million industry, according to Business Week.

Hey buddy, can you spare a kidney? Permission for organ donation is not easy to obtain from a grief-stricken family. A study by the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that waiting until the family members have come to terms with the impending death of their loved one to ask about organ donation may help. The study also found that the consent rate was only 9 percent when a hospital staff member spoke with the family alone. The rate rose to 67 percent when the family was approached by the Organ Procurement Agency (OPA) coordinator. The rate went up to 75 percent when a family was approached by both a hospital staffer and an OPA representative together.

Cat lovers beware. A recent study in Internal Medicine News found that cat bite wounds are more likely to become infected than dog bite wounds. Eighty percent of cats and 50 percent of dogs carry an organism, Pasteurella multocida, which can cause severe infection. With 52 million dogs and 55 million cats in American homes, there's about one dog and one cat for every five persons. Although the annual rate of dog bites is between 1 and 2 million and only 3 to 15 percent of animal bites are cat bites, cat bites are more likely to become infected.

Patients who participated in Glaxo Wellcome's Asthma Self-Management Program spent less time in the hospital and more time living life. Participants who completed at least five asthma management classes reported a 77.9 percent decrease in the number of days spent in the hospital and a 48.8 percent reduction in the number of visits to the emergency room. Urgent care visits decreased by 32.5 percent, while the number of scheduled visits increased by 6.0 percent. The number of days participants missed school, work and other activities fell by 55.1 percent, and there was also a decrease of 76.2 percent in the number of less productive work days.

More government money should be spent on AIDS research, say 51 percent of people participating in a telephone survey conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, while 32 percent feel the amount being spent for AIDS research is “about right” and 8 percent feel it's “too much.” About 75 percent think the government should help AIDS patients pay for treatments regardless of their income level. After being told that this type of spending would mean higher government costs, 64 percent would still support government aid, while 29 percent would oppose it. Results of the survey were cited in Family Practice News.

The effects of second-hand smoke can follow a child all the way to the operating table, according to researchers from the American Society of Anesthesiologists. In a study of 499 children aged one month to 12 years, reported in Anesthesiology, investigators found a link between secondhand smoke exposure and respiratory problems while under anesthesia. Girls were more likely than boys to be affected, especially those with mothers who had little education. The children's exposure to tobacco smoke was determined by a urine test that measured cotinine levels. Breathing complications during anesthesia were directly correlated with the amount of nicotine detected in their urine.

The 90s man and the 90s woman may be more alike in their attitudes regarding family life than people know. The Changing Workforce survey of 2,877 workers shows that men are spending more time with their children and doing more housework than they did in 1977. More men than women plan on caring for elderly relatives, and men would also like the opportunity to slow down their job progress during family-centered stages of life. These are all attitudes previously attributed to women, says The Wall Street Journal.

Young first-time mothers are more than twice as likely as older mothers to have depression. A recent study showed that among 15- to 17-year-old mothers, 48 percent of black mothers and 28 percent of white mothers were depressed; in 18- to 19-year-olds, 37 percent of blacks and 33 percent of whites were depressed; and, in 25- to 34-year-olds, 25 percent of blacks and 14 percent of whites were depressed, according to the American Journal of Public Health.

The piercing hum of the dentist's drill could become a distant memory—if Swedish researchers have anything to say about it. A new gel, Carisolv, dissolves tooth decay with far less sensation than drilling provides. Carisolv is a mixture of three amino acids and sodium hypochloride, and dissolves decay in about a minute. The residue is simply brushed away with a special tool. About 1,000 people have been treated with Carisolv and 500 dentists are now involved in the program. The gel will be marketed in Britain and other parts of Europe if the testing continues to go well, reports Physicians Financial News.

Do you remember to look both ways when you cross the street? A survey in USA Today by the National Safety Council reported that 6,100 pedestrians were killed and 80,000 were injured in 1996. Fifty-one percent were crossing or entering an intersection, 13 percent were off the road (driveway, parking lot, etc.), 12 percent were walking in the road, 5 percent were standing in the road, 4 percent were playing in the road, 4 percent were involved in some other activity in the road, 1 percent were pushing or working on a vehicle, 1 percent were working in the road and 9 percent were injured in uncertain circumstances.

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