thyroid gland

  1. Do cellphones cause brain tumors?

    I remember 12 years ago a friend of mine was scheduled for thyroid cancer surgery. An acupuncturist had told him he just needed acupressure, so he called to get my opinion.

    I told him of course he needed the surgery.

    He was relatively young, had no strong family history of the disease and no exposure to any major source of radiation... except for one. As we spoke, I found out he was using his cellphone for buying and selling for 8 hours or more every day!

    Keep in mind the thyroid gland is in the throat region, right next to where he was holding that cellphone -- blasting it with electromagnetic radiation all day long.

    I presumed all that cellphone use played a role in his cancer, and the studies since then have only made me even more certain.

    Now, Britain's Health Protection Agency claims its own review of the research finds no link between cellphones and cancer -- but I just don't buy it. They don't seem to buy their own conclusion, either, since they also cautioned against excessive cellphone use by children.

    If cellphones are so safe, why would they need to caution anyone against using them?

    Answer: They're not safe. One major study found that people who use cellphones the most over a decade have a 40 percent increase in the risk of a potentially deadly brain tumor called a glioma.

    Another study found that cellphones change brain activity in the region closest to the phone. It's not clear what this means yet -- but it's proof they do something to the brain.

    There are enough question marks now that the World Health Organization added cellphones to its list of possible carcinogens.

    Despite all that, I know most people will give up their cellphones when they give up their cars, hairdryers, and credit cards. In other words, it's just not going to happen.

    If that's the case for you, then take a few simple steps to protect yourself (and make sure the rest of the family follows suit).

    First, never hold the phone right against the ear. I know some people use Bluetooth devices to separate the phone from the ear, but those give off their own signals.

    Instead, use the speakerphone or at least a pair of wired headphones with a microphone in them. Some new phones come with these.

    Don't keep them right against your body when you're not using them, since there's evidence they might actually weaken bone, which could increase your risk osteoporosis.

    And since studies have shown they can affect sperm quality, men should never keep them close to their privates.

    Finally, when you get to your office or home, turn the phone off completely and switch to the landline.

  2. Hidden risks of heart scans

    Diagnostic heart scans such as CT angiograms can lead to cancer, kidney damage, false positives and overtreatment -- and they don't even improve outcomes in healthy patients.

    If that's not enough to scare you away from any doc who orders up a scan "just in case," consider this: These tests can also cause lasting or even permanent damage to the very gland that helps control everything from weight and blood pressure to heart health and sexual function.

    The scans use iodide dye, and not just a little bit. They use hundreds of times the daily limit for iodide -- and the reason there's a limit at all is that iodide can knock your thyroid gland down for the count.

    Now, a new study of 1,800 Boston-area heart patients lays out the risk in black and white: Patients with thyroid problems are up to three times more likely to have had a scan involving iodide dye than those without.

    Out in the real world, that adds up to one extra patient battling an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) for every 33 given the dye, and one extra patient with an underactive one (hypothyroidism) for every 36 given the dye.

    That's nearly six out of every 100 patients with one form of thyroid problem or another, according to the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    That's a risk you don't have to face -- because there are much better, safer and far more accurate ways to check on your cardiovascular health.

    One leading naturopath, Dr. Mark Stengler, recommends a simple blood test to measure levels of an enzyme that shows up whenever your arteries are battling the ravages of inflammation.

    The enzyme is called lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2, or Lp-PLA2, but don't worry about trying to memorize any of that. The only name you need to remember is PLAC, which is the test that checks for those levels -- and you don't even have to "go alternative" to get it.

    The PLAC test is actually approved by the FDA as a means of testing both heart and stroke risk -- but you might have to point that out to your own doc if he still wants to pump you full of dye and blast you with radiation.

    If your Lp-PLA2 levels top 235 ng/mL, you're at risk. Some docs will tell you to take statins, but who wants to face all the risks of those meds? Dr. Stengler offers a much better solution: antioxidant vitamins and a sensible Mediterranean-style diet.

    Sounds like a good plan to me even if you're not facing heart risk.

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