You don’t have to take pills to sleep soundly but you might need a reliable clock

March 4, 2012

Pyjamas are an important part of the formula for dumping your sleeping pills.

Dunno if you spotted the bothersome news item about people regularly taking certain sleeping pills being much more likely than the rest of us to suffer an early death.

The drugs at issue included benzodiazepines, such as temazepam; non-benzodiazepines, such as zolpidem, eszopiclone, and zaleplon; barbiturates; and sedative antihistamines.

An American study found those taking high doses of these commonly used pills faced a significantly increased risk of cancer.

Alf was by no means unnerved by this news, because his whisky intake seems to ensure he does not need pills to get a good night’s kip.

But some of his constituents were deeply troubled and wanted to know what Pharmac or other medical authorities in Wellington are doing to affirm the awful truth of the American research.

And what should they do?

The short answer is that the head of Pharmac is telling people who use sleeping pills not to be alarmed by the study linking their use to the risk of an early death.

Moreover, Medsafe is on the case and will investigate the findings of the study, which have been published in the British Medical Journal.

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Getting cancer is bad enough but it’s worse if you happen to live in the central North Island

January 3, 2011

So my advice to you, young man, is to persuade your parents to stay here in Zimbabwe and not emigrate to Palmerston North.

Alf is braced for a hard time, next time he turns up at the Eketahuna Club.

He has been badly let down by his colleague, Tony Ryall, our Minister of Health.

Ryall declined to be questioned on Radio NZ’s Summer Report this morning about a shortage of oncologists and the axing of chemotherapy for some patients by the central North Island cancer treatment service.

Under the new rules, MidCentral District Health Board no longer will accept referrals for patients who are less likely to benefit from the treatments.

Less likely to benefit?

Who will make this life-or-death decision?

Oh, yes. Doctors.

This is deeply disturbing.

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A safety dilemma – your health is at risk whether or not the bloody plane stays in the air

November 6, 2010

But if you remain airborne, you might get cancer.

Yet another element of modern living – and travelling – has been found to cause cancer, or is suspected of causing cancer.

Alf already knew – of course – that flying can be bad for your health if the bloody plane does not come back to earth as intended.

A new danger has emerged – the risk of getting cancer.

It comes from sitting in planes that remain airborne throughout a scheduled flight.

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Cheers – and if a pint a day keeps cancer at bay, what will two pints do?

January 21, 2010

Alf is giving some deep thought this morning to the pros and cons of changing his drinking habits.

Before he decides if he should drink less Scotch and more beer, he will do a bit more research. But the way he understands it –

Researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg have discovered that beer contains a powerful molecule that helps protect against breast and prostate cancers.

Found in hops, the substance called xanthohumol blocks the excessive action of testosterone and oestrogen.

It also helps to prevent the release of a protein called PSA which encourages the spread of prostate cancer.

Wow. Sinking a pint of beer would be like taking out an insurance policy to preserve your prostate without pickling it.

You would have to have your prostate in good nick to deal with the problem of disposing of the beer after if passes through your system, of course. Prostate problems notoriously make emptying your bladder a time-consuming chore, or have you clambering our of bed regularly through the night to go for a pee.

At least, that’s what afflicted mates of Alf tell him.

But what goes into beer that enables it to keep cancer at bay?

Scientists have long known that substances in hops help to block oestrogen. This is the first time, however, that they have been found to also inhibit testosterone.

‘Research is still early but in trials we hope to further demonstrate that xanthohumol actively prevents prostate cancer development,’ says Clarissa Gerhauser of the Heidelberg centre.

If successful, xanthohumol may one day be developed as a cancer-fighting drug.

So which brews are likely to be richest in xanthohumol?

The Mail in Britain helps answer that by consulting a beer authority.

‘Hops give beer its bitter flavour, so traditional bitters and ales will contain far more of this substance than light lagers,’ explains Ben McFarland, author of the World’s Best Beers.

Beers highest in hops, he says, are India pale ales such as those made by the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, South-East London. First brewed in the 1800s, these ales were made with high levels of hops to act as a natural preservative for export.

Ales such as Sharp’s and local bitters will also be hop-rich, containing around three to four times more than a typical light lager. Drinks such as Guinness owe their dark colour to malt and contain moderate levels of hops.

Inevitably, the wowsers are having their say.

Alcohol Concern warns you should only drink beer within recommended limits – two to three units

Yeah, Alf can go along with that. He was always one for preaching moderation.

But how big is a unit?

Alf will be recommending to the Eketahuna Club management committee it be defined as a gallon.

Better to be sozzled than sizzled

June 7, 2009

Alf will be off to the Eketahuna Club, later in the day, for health reasons.

Once inside, he will be safe from exposure to the sun rays that cause skin cancer.

It’s a dangerous five-minute stroll, from his home to the club. During those five minutes – at least on days when the sun is shining on Eketahuna – he is vulnerable.

The Eketahuna golf course - Alf plays it safe.

The Eketahuna golf course - Alf plays it safe.

But he is much less vulnerable inside the club than he would be if he spent the afternoon out in the garden, or out on the golf course…or engaged in a raft of other outdoor activites.

Alf’s practice of settling into the club for health reasons is endorsed by a report in the Herald on Sunday today.

One in five Kiwis is at maximum risk of developing potentially deadly melanoma, according to new international research.
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Data that drives one to drink

March 2, 2009

A posting at Macdoctor headed “Drinking Your Way to Cancer” initially came as a disagreeable surprise.

Based on a report in The Press, it tells of a recent British study using a cohort of a million women which found that even a small amount of alcohol can increase your chances of getting cancer.

Alf was relieved – momentarily – he’s a bloke.

But he spluttered on his pint on learning –

Apparently the wierdos at the World Health Organisation have classified alcohol as a class 1 carcinogen along with asbestos, formaldehyde, mustard gas and plutonium-239.
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