Health Buzz: Hot Tea and Throat Cancer, and Other Health News

How circumcision may prevent STDs; America's slow progress on electronic health records.


Study: Hot Tea May Increase Risk of Throat Cancer

Drinking tea that is too hot may increase your risk of throat cancer, suggests a new study published online in the British medical journal BMJ. A team of researchers traveled to Iran's Golestan province, where residents tend to drink mostly very hot tea and water and where there's an unusually high rate of esophageal cancer, reports. The researchers studied the tea, alcohol, and smoking habits of 871 people, 300 of whom had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. They found that those who regularly drank "very hot" tea were eight times as likely to have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, compared with those who drank warm or lukewarm tea, WebMD reports. Those who preferred "hot" tea had twice the risk of esophageal cancer, compared to those drank warm or lukewarm tea. Other contributing factors included socioeconomic status, a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables, and poor oral health habits.

In the United States, many loyal tea drinkers believe the beverage is good for your health. And it may indeed offer some benefits, such as helping you to focus.

Circumcision's Effect on the Spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

A study of 5,000 initially uncircumcised Ugandan men in this week's New England Journal of Medicine found that once the men underwent circumcision, their rate of acquiring herpes virus infection plunged by 28 percent and they were 35 percent less likely to get infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), which is responsible for genital warts and, in women, cervical cancer, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reports. Previous research has shown that circumcision reduces infection with HIV by 60 percent. Other studies, however, have shown no difference in rates of certain sexually transmitted diseases between circumcised and uncircumcised men. And circumcision may be beside the point when it comes to making a decision on whether to have safe sex, which is known to reduce the rates of transmission of STDs.

The Slow Progression of Electronic Health Records

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that just 1.5 percent of hospitals have equipped all of their major medical services with comprehensive electronic health records, U.S. News's Avery Comarow reports. Add 7.6 percent for hospitals with EHRs in as few as one clinical unit. Computerized physician order entry (CPOE) of prescriptions is in use at 17 percent of hospitals. Those figures are "abysmally low," Ashish Jha of the Harvard School of Public Health, the report's lead author, said at a press conference Tuesday. The main reasons identified by the thousands of hospitals that responded to a massive survey: not enough money to buy the systems (which can cost $20 million to $100 million), not enough money to maintain them, physician resistance, and unclear return on their investment.

Consider these 6 ways electronic medical records could make your life safer and easier, and read about how they can help keep your family healthy, too.

—January W. Payne

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