DO MORE HOUSEHOLD FIREARMS EQUAL MORE HOMICIDES?
In the United States, two out of three homicide victims are killed with firearms. Because little is known about the role of household firearms in homicides, the authors of a study appearing in Social Science and Medicine sought to examine a possible association. Analyzing data from the 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, they found that one out of three American households reported owning a firearm. States with higher rates of household firearm ownership had 60 percent higher homicide rates than their counterparts. States within the highest quartile of firearm ownership had homicide rates that were 114 percent higher than states in the lowest quartile. Although causal inference is not warranted on the basis of the present study alone, the findings suggest that the household may be an important source of firearms used in homicides. (Soc Sci Med, February 2007)
ASYMMETRIC SKIN CANCERS SEEN IN MANY DRIVERS
Do you drive with the window down and the sunroof open? If so, you might want to close them to protect your skin, suggest study results presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. Researchers analyzed 898 patients with asymmetric skin cancers and found that 53 percent of these cancers occurred on the left side of the body, especially on the cheek, arm, scalp, and hand; of those, 64 percent occurred in men. Compared with the women, who spent about one hour per week driving, the men averaged three hours or more. Squamous cell carcinoma caused 178 of the skin cancers, whereas basal cell carcinoma was the source of 608 cancers. In countries where the driver’s seat is on the right side of the vehicle, study results indicated that skin cancer occurs predominantly on the right side of the body. Windows tinted with ultraviolet protection do not offer much defense against skin cancers, say researchers, because the protection only lasts for about five years. The authors note that applying sunscreen appears to help. (Reuters Health, February 2, 2007)
PLAYING VIDEO GAMES MAY PREDICT SKILL LEVEL OF SURGEONS
Study results published in the Archives of Surgery suggest that surgeons who are skilled at playing video games are less likely to make errors during surgery. Researchers asked 21 surgical residents and 12 surgeons about their video game habits before they participated in simulated surgical drills that assessed their skill level. Fifteen of the participants had never played video games; nine said they played up to three hours per week; and the remaining nine said they played more than three hours per week. During the study, the participants were asked to play three video games for 25 minutes. Those who had regularly played video games in the past for more than three hours per week made 37 percent fewer errors during the surgical drills, were 27 percent faster, and scored 42 percent better overall than participants who had never played video games. Current video game players made 32 percent fewer errors, were 24 percent faster, and scored 26 percent better overall in the surgical drills than their colleagues who had never played video games before the study. The researchers note that surgical training, especially for laparoscopic surgery, should include video games, which may bridge the gap between surgeons and screen-mediated applications. (Arch Surg, February 2007)
ARE OFFICE SPACES GERMIER THAN BATHROOMS?
According to a University of Arizona professor, the average office toilet seat has 400 times fewer bacteria than the average office workspace. Additionally, the office desks of women have three to four times the amount of bacteria compared with the desks of their male coworkers. Although the workspaces of women routinely looked cleaner than the workspaces of men, the researcher found that women tend to keep products that easily transfer germs (e.g., cosmetics) in their desk drawers. Most of the women also kept food in their desks, which can harbor microorganisms. The single germiest item studied was a man’s wallet, which is often kept in the back pocket of his pants, providing a warm area in which bacteria can grow. The work surface with the highest concentration of bacteria, however, was the telephone. Using a disinfectant or a hand sanitizer on office spaces usually can help eliminate most germs. (The Kansas City Star, February 15, 2007)