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Medical News Notes – May 17, 2010

Medical News NotesApple iPad can cause insomnia. Sleep loss may lead to Type 2 diabetes. The environment may be the No. 1 cause of cancer. These and other interesting news from the world of health and medicine in this week’s Medical News Notes.

iPads Can Cause Insomnia?

If you like to read a book or magazine to help you fall asleep, doing so using the new Apple iPad may not be the way to do it. According to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center in Santa Monica, Calif., the iPad’s liquid-crystal display emits light that inhibits the body’s secretion of melatonin, which helps triggers drowsiness. Televisions and computer screens have the same effect, which can lead to insomnia. By contrast, e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle use a technology known as e-paper that simulates the look of an actual printed page and thus lacks this sleep-inhibiting effect. When it comes to making your sleepy, going old school may be more effective than any new gadget. And a book won’t break if you drop it on the floor.

Lost Sleep Can Lead to Diabetes-like Symptoms

And speaking of lost sleep … Researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands have discovered that people who had just one night of short sleep can show signs of insulin resistance, a condition that often precedes Type 2 diabetes. It now appears day-to-day insulin sensitivity is not fixed, even in healthy people, but depends on how much sleep a person gets the night before. So if you want to avoid Type 2 diabetes and the health problems that come with it, just sleep it off.

Toxic Environment May be No. 1 Cancer Cause

A toxic environment may be more responsible for cancer than either genetics or even lifestyle factors. This is according to the President’s Cancer Panel, an advisory group established by the National Cancer Act of 1971. Stating that the dangers posed by environmental factors have been greatly underestimated, the panel said that eradicating carcinogens from where people live, work and play should be the government’s No. 1 cancer-fighting priority. The panel listed pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceutical by-products, household chemicals, auto emissions and tanning beds as common cancer-causing agents. The authors specifically noted that, despite public fears, cell phone radiation was not on their list of common carcinogens.

Mammograms of Little Use to Younger Women

Women under age 40 will likely find annual mammograms to be a little use and also potentially harmful. This is the conclusion of researchers from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who analyzed more than 100,000 medical records of women ages 18 to 39 who received their first mammograms in 1995. They found that the tests detected few cancers but produced an alarming number of false positives, which led to further tests, including painful biopsies, as well as the heighten anxiety such results inevitably produce. Their recommendation: Women with an average risk of breast cancer should begin annual mammograms only after age 40.

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