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On Health And Discrimination In Hiring

From a [recent] article in the New York Times on hiring discrimination against people who smoke:

“There is nothing unique about smoking,” said Lewis Maltby, president of the Workrights Institute, who has lobbied vigorously against the practice. “The number of things that we all do privately that have negative impact on our health is endless. If it’s not smoking, it’s beer. If it’s not beer, it’s cheeseburgers. And what about your sex life?”

I think he’s right, more or less, in a slippery-slope sort of way, seriously.

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

The Link Between Oral Sex And Head And Neck Cancer

USA Today published a pretty accurate article regarding the rise of certain head and neck cancers with the increased popularity of oral sex and number of sexual partners.

The factor that creates this link is the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is associated with tonsil and tongue cancer. Alcohol and tobacco use is more highly linked with such oral cancers, but HPV does appear to be an independent risk factor.

A 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that younger people with head and neck cancers who tested positive for oral HPV infection were more likely to have had multiple vaginal and oral sex partners in their lifetime. Having six or more oral sex partners over a lifetime was associated with a 3.4 times higher risk for oropharyngeal cancer — cancers of the base of the tongue, back of the throat, or tonsils. Having 26 or more vaginal-sex partners tripled the risk. The association continued to increase as the number of partners in either category increased.

Of greater concern is that “French” kissing may also potentially be a mode of transmission.

The good news (if you’re a young non-smoker diagnosed with HPV-positive tumors) is that about 85 percent of non-smoking people with HPV-positive tumors survive. That number drops to 45 or 50 percent in people who smoke and are HPV-negative. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

Big Tobacco: A Government Scapegoat Favorite

Smokers of the world unite! It’s strange for a physician to be sympathizing with the tobacco companies, purveyors of the opium of the people. Am I a stealth nicotine addict, an apologist for Big Tobacco who supplies me with my daily fix? This scurrilous allegation can be vaporized in a one-question quiz:

Q: Identify which two of the three individuals listed below are cigarette smokers:

– John Boehner, newly elected Speaker of the House , 3rd in line to the presidency

– Barack Obama, Commander-in-Chief and leader of the free world

– Michael Kirsch, Hemorrhoid Examiner

I’ve never smoked and I detest the habit. It kills people and separates lower income Americans from money that could likely be devoted to more worthwhile endeavors. I remember caring for folks with end-stage emphysema as a medical resident and thinking that this disease was worse than cancer. I haven’t changed my mind.

Yet I have felt for years that Big Tobacco is demonized by the press and the government as Big Scapegoat, and this blame shift has always troubled me. I am well aware that the tobacco companies are guilty of many offenses. They have lied about their corporate practices, advertising strategies and manipulation of nicotine content. These companies — like any individual or business — should be held accountable with available legal remedies. If crimes were committed, then I’m sure this nation has a few idle and altruistic attorneys who can fight them in the courts. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

How Much Pesticide Is In That Cigarette?

I had a fascinating discussion with an ex-tobacco farming expert. He’s an expert because he used to grow tobacco, but not anymore. If you’re a smoker, or user of any tobacco leaf product, what he said should shock you. I take that back — you’re a smoker: “shocked” is never going to happen to you.

What did he say that was so striking? I’m not a farmer, so it became a little difficult to understand all the science behind the conversation. Needless to say, he said they used to farm vegetables and tobacco side by side. He said something about potato farming being timed with tobacco crops, and when the potato market went south he got out of the tobacco farming business for good and went with just vegetables. Now he’s a full-time vegetable farmer.

While he was a tobacco farmer, how did he run his tobacco farm? Like I said, he grew vegetables and tobacco side-by-side. He used different pesticides for the vegetables than he did for the tobacco farming. He farmed based on the concept that people who ate vegetables were looking for a healthy food. So he used pesticides in their lowest recommended concentration and applied them at the longest recommended time frame between applications and used the safest formulations available. None of his chemicals carried the skull-and-crossbones warning. And what about the tobacco farming? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

Screening For Lung Cancer: New Findings And Continued Controversy

Lung cancer screening has been an area of considerable controversy. Before today, there had been no evidence that screening patients for lung cancer, either with a CT scan or chest x-ray, saved lives.

For years, doctors have been waiting for the results of the large, randomized National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), conducted by the National Cancer Institute.

[Yesterday] it was announced that the trial was stopped early, with a bold, positive finding:

All participants had a history of at least 30 pack-years, and were either current or former smokers without signs, symptoms, or a history of lung cancer.

As of Oct. 20, 2010, the researchers saw a total of 354 deaths from lung cancer in the CT group, compared with 442 in the chest x-ray group.

That amounts to a 20.3% reduction in lung cancer mortality — a finding that the study’s independent data and safety monitoring board decided was statistically significant enough to halt the trial and declare a benefit.

Previously, only breast, colon, and cervical cancer has had the evidence back up its screening recommendations. It’s still early in the game, but it appears that lung cancer may be following in that same path. That said, there are a variety of concerns before opening up the floodgates to screening chest CTs. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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