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Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(2):156

Breathe a big sigh of relief—or better yet, phone a friend! A study published in the International Journal of Cancer suggests that people who use cellular phones are not at any greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma than those who don't use them. Questionnaires were completed by 1,013 participants, 551 of whom had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Researchers found that persons who had used a cellular phone fewer than 10 times, 10 to 100 times, or more than 100 times in their lifetime were not at increased risk of the disease compared with persons who had never used a cellular phone. These risks also were not associated with the duration of calls or the person's age at first use, but the study did find a nonsignificant increased risk in men who had used cellular phones for more than eight years. However, less than 5 percent of participants said they had used a cellular phone for at least six years or for 200 hours or more in their lifetime. (Int J Cancer, November 15, 2006)

Persons who seek medical advice online may not be getting accurate information, suggests a report released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Fifty-three percent of 2,928 persons polled said the health information they found on the Internet impacted the way they care for themselves or someone else. Fifty-eight percent said results from their most recent online search affected their decision about how to treat an illness or medical condition, whereas only 35 percent said the information affected their decision to go to a physician. More alarming, however, is that only 15 percent said they “always” check the source of the health information found online, 10 percent said they do so “most of the time,” and nearly 75 percent said they do so “only sometimes,” “hardly ever,” or “never.” According to the study results, one reason for this could be that only 4 percent of popular health Web sites disclose their sources and only 2 percent disclose how their content is updated. (Pew Internet & American Life Project, October 29, 2006)

According to a study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, rates of smoking have declined among Western medical students, but the use of alcohol and drugs has gone up. Questionnaires were mailed to 765 students in 1973, to 522 students in 1990, and to 537 students in 2002. Researchers found that the prevalence of smoking declined from 28.8 percent in 1973 to 15.3 percent in 1990 and to 9.2 percent in 2002. However, the prevalence of alcohol use had increased to 82.5 percent in 2002. There also was an increase in the number of students who had ever been offered drugs. The authors are concerned that personal misuse of addictive substances among medical students may mean they will fail to take substance misuse by their patients seriously. (Drug Alcohol Depend, November 8, 2006)

The East African highland banana is a diet staple for many Ugandans, but Australian scientists think its nutritional content could use a boost. Unlike bananas sold in Australia, the highland banana is low in iron, vitamin A, and iodine, and almost one half of Ugandan children younger than five years have iron deficiency anemia, despite consuming an average of 1 kg (32.3 oz) of bananas each day. Therefore, scientists are using a process called biofortification, which uses genetic engineering to increase the protein, mineral, and vitamin content of the highland banana. Although another crop could replace the banana, scientists note that it would be better to work with crops already in Africa, especially because Uganda is the second largest banana producer in the world. The project, which is sponsored by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, may expand to other parts of eastern Africa in the future. (The Australian, October 24, 2006)

Playing an instrument is more than just music to a patient's ears—it also may alleviate some of the symptoms of schizophrenia that respond least well to medication. In a small study conducted by researchers from Imperial College London, patients with schizophrenia were encouraged to express themselves by playing a variety of musical instruments. Compared with patients receiving standard therapy alone, those also participating in music therapy had greater improvement in symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Although other factors, such as severity of illness, could not be completely ruled out, the researchers feel these initial results warrant further study. (Reuters Health, November 1, 2006)

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Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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