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Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(11):2169

Striving for the perfect tan may be a form of addiction. The Archives of Dermatology released a study that shows sunbathing can be as addictive as alcohol or drugs. Using adapted alcohol and drug abuse questionnaires, researchers surveyed 145 beachgoers in Galveston, Tex. The interviewees answered questions about sunning habits and their feelings. The scientists found that approximately 26 or 53 percent of participants, depending on which questionnaire was used, could be defined as having “ultraviolet light tanning” dependency. The study results suggest that dependency may be a result of endorphin production in skin exposed to ultraviolet light. (Arch Dermatol, August 2005)

Stress out! According to results of a new study in the British Medical Journal, women who experience high levels of daily stress could be less likely to develop breast cancer. Researchers followed 6,500 women for 18 years and gathered information on self-reported stress levels and related symptoms. By the end of the study, 251 women had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Researchers determined that the women with high stress levels were 40 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than the women who reported low stress levels. However, researchers warn that having high levels of stress is still a risk factor for heart disease and other illnesses. (BMJ, September 10, 2005)

A daily cup of joe does more than just kick-start the morning. University of Scranton (Pa.) researchers announced at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society that coffee is the number one source of antioxidants for Americans. Using a database from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, researchers studied the antioxidant content of more than 100 different foods and drinks, as well as the average U.S. per capita consumption. According to the study, the average person receives approximately 1,300 mg of antioxidants daily from coffee. (American Chemical Society press release, August 28, 2005)

Want another reason to quit smoking? According to the Royal National Institute of the Blind, smokers are twice as likely to lose their sight later in life compared with nonsmokers, although few people are aware of this risk. Smoking is linked to an increased chance of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD affects approximately 10 million people in the United States and is the most common cause of blindness among people older than 55 years. In a British survey conducted by the AMD Alliance UK, researchers found that 41 percent of smokers would quit smoking if they knew that it could harm their eyesight. (Royal National Institute of the Blind press release, September 2005)

Parents’ real-life habits affect children’s pretend play, according to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Researchers found that young children with parents who regularly smoke and drink in their presence often mimic these actions while playing. Researchers studied 120 children, three to six years of age, who were playing with a doll and pretending to shop for groceries. They discovered that children whose parents drank alcohol at least once a month were three times as likely to have their doll “buy alcohol,” and those with parents who smoked were four times as likely to have their doll “buy cigarettes.” (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, September 2005)

Brownbagging it may help children maintain a healthy weight. Results of a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal show that children who eat packed lunches from home are less likely to become overweight than those who purchase school lunches. Researchers surveyed fifth graders, parents, and principals at elementary schools in Nova Scotia in 2003 and found that students who ate school lunches were 39 percent more likely to become overweight. The authors conclude that this stems from the low nutritional value of the average school lunch. (CMAJ, September 13, 2005)

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Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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