Today’s Headlines: Cancer Risk, Organic Produce and Oxygen

The things giving you cancer aren’t what you think they are. There are a lot of factors that contribute to someone’s risk of cancer, but a recent survey of Americans found that most don’t have a good sense of what those things are. “According to a new study, fewer than half of Americans are aware that some major lifestyle factors can affect their cancer risk. Instead, many people worry about cancer-causing claims that aren’t backed by scientific evidence.” The most common factors contributing to risk of cancer include obesity, physical inactivity and diets high in red meat or low in fruits and vegetables. Instead, “between 54 percent and 62 percent of survey respondents believed that psychological stress, hormones in beef, genetically modified foods, and ‘food additives’ raise people’s cancer risk. Just over half believed artificial sweeteners cause cancer.” Unfortunately, many of those items have little to no evidence of being linked to cancer. The team thinks the media is partially to blame. “People may see news stories about individual studies finding a link or no link between a lifestyle factor and a given type of cancer. But in science, no single study is the final word. It’s the whole body of evidence that matters.” The team emphasizes that exercising, not smoking, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and minimizing red meat in your diet are some of the best ways to avoid cancer. (CBS)

Going organic may lower exposure to certain pesticide. Many people buy organic produce with the assumption that it lowers their exposure to pesticides. But organic food producers still use pesticides and studies hadn’t convincingly shown that those who go organic actually end up with less of the chemicals in their system. “Using dietary exposure data, the study looked at organophosphates (OPs), one of the most widely used type of insecticides in the United States. While OPs have been shown to have health consequences in those directly exposed to the chemical, we don’t know whether adverse effects may be occurring in people exposed to OPs solely through food.” To test this, the research team compared the urine of those who regularly ate conventionally grown produce and those who ate organic. “They found that people who ate conventionally grown produce had high concentrations of OP metabolites in their urine, while people who reported eating organic produce had significantly lower levels. In fact, those who ate the least organic produce had as much as twice the pesticide levels as those who ate organic the most frequently.” Just finding metabolites doesn’t mean there are consequences to health. The team says the next step is to look for health effects in those with higher OP levels. (TIME)

Women use more oxygen than men do. Next time you have trouble keeping up with your husband, remind him that his body uses oxygen a little more efficiently than yours. “Researchers have found that if you set a healthy man and a healthy woman in a room and ask them to exercise for the same amount of time, the woman’s respiratory muscles will demand more oxygen to complete the task. Over a course of four days, researchers had healthy women and men complete 500 experimental exercises to test how hard their respiratory muscles had to work and how much oxygen they were using to finish the same physical exercises. Study participants then mimicked the breathing patterns associated with their incremental exercises while sitting on the bikes but not exercising. Despite a linear relationship between increased breathing and the respiratory muscles’ oxygen uptake among the men and women, the efficiency of these muscles was significantly lower in women. That discrepancy was most pronounced at maximal exercise.” The researchers say knowing this could help improve treatments for women who have diseases that affect their heart and lungs. (Fox)