We get a steady stream of health information involving the risk of cancer, heart disease and everything else you can imagine. Some of this information is enlightening, some scary, and some just strikes you as ridiculous.
A study recently came out confirming in the United States, something that has been previously documented in other countries: the taller you are the greater the cancer risk, all other things being equal.
Nothing like news you can use. What are you going to do – stand in a hole the rest of your life? The risk is real, albeit modest; the exact mechanism is still being worked out.
Suggested reasons include taller people have more cells, and thus more chance for those cells to get in trouble (mutate). Perhaps taller people are just closer to the sun, and have a couple of centimeters less atmospheric protection.
Personally, I have always secretly believed the rarified air that tall people breathe might be a bit toxic, but what do I know, I’m not tall.
Left-handedness is known to be a little dangerous, something about being wired as a lefty in a right-handed world. More car accidents for instance. But surprisingly, being left-handed also is associated with modest increased risk of breast cancer.
Coming up with a reasonable mechanism for this is a feat of mental gymnastics. The theory is exposure to certain hormones while in the womb can influence both your chance of being a southpaw and having breast cancer. If that is the reason, teaching yourself to be ambidextrous probably won’t help.
Being married also has a big effect on not only your cancer risk, but your stage when diagnosed; your response to treatment and your 5-10 year survival. The risk reduction benefits of marriage are not limited to cancer. The risk is reduced for virtually every cause of death you can name – even shark attacks. Again with the mental gymnastics.
It is not commonly known, but working the third shift is associated with increased cancer risk. This is a bit puzzling because most third-shift workers like those hours, the quieter pace, and fewer supervisors around. One would think less stress would have less cancer risk, but they don’t .
The theory is third-shift work causes sleep cycle disruption, which changes some blood hormone levels in a harmful way – whatever that means.
But in the midst of all these odd, if not totally bizarre cancer risk items, there is a small glimmer of hope. If you are a left-handed, tall person who works the third shift, and you are, God forbid, unlucky enough to get cancer, they have recently found cancer is protective of/lowers the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Lucky you?
And this is not a case of getting run over by a truck before your heart disease gets you. Apparently chemotherapy has some effect on the immune system that helps protect against Alzheimer’s.
And you thought it was hard enough to not smoke and figure out which one was the organic zucchini. Now you have to worry about being left-handed!
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.