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Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(7):1265

Some devices have a low profile. According to survey results published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, many gynecologists may have “forgotten” about intrauterine devices (IUDs) because of their infrequent use. While the IUD is a safe and effective form of contraception, only 0.8 percent of women using contraception in the United States use an IUD. Of the 400 practicing OB-GYNs who responded to a mailed survey, 79 percent reported inserting 10 or fewer IUDs in the past year. Low use of IUDs is associated with fear of litigation and the concern that they can cause pelvic inflammatory disease.

“Still looking for the perfect match? Ask your next date if you can smell his T-shirt.” A study published in Nature Genetics and reported in the New York Times showed that women select mates who match them genetically. This study was based on women choosing boxed T-shirts that they “would prefer to smell all the time.” The women's preferences closely matched each woman's paternal genes. Biologists refer to these genes as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes. Researchers believe that matching MHC genes prevents the risks of inbreeding and outbreeding.

Even games can be harmful to your health. A case study published in BMJ describes an incidence of hand-arm vibration syndrome in a 15-year-old boy who played a computer game up to seven hours a day. The boy had a two-year history of painful hands that became white and swollen in the cold and red and painful when warmed. He explained that he frequently used the “vibration mode” of his game's hand-held control device. According to the authors of the letter to the editor, this is the first published case of a child diagnosed with the syndrome, which was first described in 1985 as a disease of industrial workers with prolonged exposure to vibrating tools such as chain saws. The authors note that the popularity of these games may result in more cases of the syndrome in children.

The children of depressed mothers prefer the couch to a seesaw. A study presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity annual meeting and reported in Psychology Today surveyed the television watching habits of 150 low-income mothers of preschool children. The study showed that the children of depressed and obese mothers watch an average hour more of television per day than children of mothers who aren't depressed and obese. These results might reflect the fact that the mothers themselves watch more television and the children repeat their mothers' behavior.

Moderate drinking has been shown to have some cardiovascular benefit, but taking up alcohol in middle age might not be the healthiest choice, according to a prospective study published in Heart. British researchers evaluated alcohol's effects on health in 6,503 men between the ages of 40 and 59 without diagnosed heart disease. Specifically, they examined the health of men who began drinking after age 40, starting with those who drank alcohol regularly (at least one drink per week). While regular drinkers had a decreased risk of major heart disease events and a lower risk of dying from heart disease or other cardiovascular causes, new drinkers did not decrease their risk for heart disease and were more likely than regular drinkers to die from noncardiovascular causes.

Long after conflicts have ended, weapons continue to injure and kill. A study published in The Lancet describes the number and severity of injuries sustained by land-mine clearers over a 10-year period. In a group of 73 mine clearers working for a single charity in seven countries, 92 traumatic injuries were sustained, 15 percent of which were fatal. In 59 percent of cases, limbs were injured, resulting in an amputation rate of 30 percent.

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Copyright © 2002 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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