Questions from our Readers

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Can sun exposure cause skin cancer?

Yes, without a doubt, chronic and prolonged sun exposure can cause skin cancer. Filipinas and other oriental women are a butt of jokes in the U.S. when they carry an umbrella on the beach. While this may look funny to Americans, who sun bathe and expose as much of their skin to sunlight as possible, the practice of getting under the shades even on the beach is a healthy one that also prevents skin wrinkles and skin aging. American dermatologists agree. Skin cancer is more prevalent in countries were people frequently expose themselves for hours to the rays of the sun. While sun-blocker skin cream perhaps helps, it is no guarantee to prevent skin cancer. As a matter of fact, some of them contain chemicals (one of them benzophenone) that are themselves suspected to cause skin cancer. Having a chest X-Ray once is year, of even more often, if medically needed, is safer than a prolonged and chronic exposure to the sunlight.

Is it true aspirin can help prevent cancer of the colon?

Yes, on top of its good cardiovascular effect by lowering the incidence of heart attack and stroke, aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), the popular old fashioned home remedy for headaches and pains, has been found to be beneficial also in lowering the chances of cancer of the colon. Many physicians themselves take aspirin (80 mg, as in baby aspirin) once a day for prophylaxis against heart attack and stroke. Since aspirin, like any drug, have possible serious side effects, like stomach bleeding, etc., it is prudent for everyone to do this under the guidance and supervision of a physician.

Are there foods that prevent cancer?

Yes, broccoli and strawberry, for instance, have been tagged as colon-cancer lowering foods. Fish, vegetables and fruits in general are wholesome food, compared to red meats (like pork and beef), eggs and butter, which are high in cholesterol and can cause arteriosclerosis (hardening of the artery), leading to arterial blockages in the heart and brain, etc. The high fiber contents of fruits and vegetables, especially the green-leafy ones, have a "brushing" and "cleansing" mechanical action on the colon walls, besides the beneficial antioxidant and healthy nutrient effects of fish, fruits and vegetables. Other high fiber foods include bran and wheat cereals, and oatmeal. The other breakfast cereal "-flakes" on the market are not as healthy and nutritional as those three.

Are the "vitamin-mineral food supplements" as good as advertised?

Most manufactured by reputable companies in the United States are. Unfortunately there is no scientific oversight body, especially in Asia and some European countries, that monitors and controls the manufacturers of these food supplements, for the efficacy, quality and safety of their products. Even the Drug and Food Administration (FDA) in the United States does not apply to these "food supplements" the very stringent requirements and controls it applies to the manufacture, prescription and use of drugs and medications. So, practically any company can manufacture and sell "food supplements" and make any claims it wants to market the products to the unsuspecting public, without scientifically verifiable proofs and controls. But good vitamins are good for our body. So, public beware! Consult your physician.

I am confused with all the media hype on health supplements. Are these necessary for good health?

No, most of those products advertised are not necessary to attain good health. As long as the economic incentive is there, opportunists will be abound with their bank accounts open, for us, the public, to transfer our money to. And without any laws in the book on this matter to protect Mr. and Ms Juan dela Cruz , it behooves all of us to take extreme caution against the rampant gimmicks on the market today. I guarantee you that you will feel better if you keep your money under your pillow, or better yet, in your own bank account.

To have a healthy body and mind, all you have to do is to (1) eat right (fish, fruits and vegetables, staying away from red meat and eggs); (2) take a regular inexpensive one-a-day multivitamin supplement manufactured by a reputable company; (3) have 6-8 glasses of filtered water a day, two or more glasses of which could be skim milk;(4) have at least 6-8 hours of sleep a day; (5) quit smoking; (6) exercise daily, like ballroom dancing and/or aerobics and/or walking; (7) manage stress by lightening up, enjoying yourself, listening to music that soothes you, reading a good book, listening to good jokes, going out with family members or friends on weekend outings or regular vacations; and, (8) under your physician's guidance, Vitamin E (400-800 IU a day) and aspirin (80mg once a day), if no contraindication exists, may be added to your standard prescription to good health. This is not only a more inexpensive therapy, but the most scientific, most rational, most effective, and the safest path to take to reach your goal of a healthy body and a sound mind.

Is it safe to take sleeping pills?

Hypnotics (sleeping pills), like any other drugs, must be taken only under the direction of a physician. This is one drug that is most commonly used and abused. This could also be habit forming or addicting. Your body and mind should be relaxed and you should need sleep. If you had taken a nap in the afternoon, your system may not sleep at night; or, if you are excited or tensed and uptight, your adrenaline will keep your stimulated and awake. This is one reason why we recommend a glass or red wine at supper time, to relax you and also to protect your heart (with the substance found in the skin of red grapes, where red wine comes from). This, of course, should be done under the concurrence of your physician.

Can one catch venereal diseases from toilet seats?

No. Venereal diseases (like gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, etc.) are sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and are spread around through sexual intercourse. Men have used the toilet-seat excuse in the past, but wives and girlfriends are now smarter.

If I am not coughing, does it mean I do not have lung tuberculosis?

No. Pulmonary Tuberculosis does not always present itself with a cough. While cough is the most common symptom, majority of patients do not any symptom at all except perhaps a complaint of "not feeling well." This is true even when the chest x-ray already shows distinct signs of tuberculosis. Before the effective drugs against tuberculosis were discovered, the disease behaved almost like cancer, spreading throughout the body, killing the patient. Today, pulmonary tuberculosis is curable. In the past decade or so, there have been reports of drug-resistant forms of the disease. For prophylaxis and health maintenance, it is a good practice to have a regular annual medical check-up, or sooner if you have some concerns about your well-being.

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.