Health Buzz: Childhood CT Scans Raise Cancer Risk

Can ‘new urbanism’ bring health to your neighborhood? Plus, 10 healthy summer vacations

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Study: Childhood CT Scans Can Triple Risk of Brain Cancer

Children who get two or three CT scans have a higher risk of developing brain cancer and leukemia later in life. That's according to a study published Wednesday in the Lancet, which stresses that the risk is still small and likely outweighed by the need to get the test. Researchers studied nearly 180,000 patients under age 22 who had a CT scan between 1985 and 2002. They found that 74 of them were diagnosed with leukemia, while 135 had brain tumors. As few as two CT scans of the head in childhood can triple the risk of developing brain tumors, according to the study, while five to 10 of these scans can triple the risk of leukemia. CT scanning allows doctors to look inside the body more accurately than conventional X-rays, but provides a higher dose of radiation. "If you need a CT scan, get one," health physicist Owen Hoffman, of the consulting firm SENES Oak Ridge, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., told U.S. News. "This doesn't mean that you're going to come down with cancer. The added information from a CT scan far outweighs the cancer risk. But the risk is there, and it's such that you should ask your doctor, 'Do I need the scan?' The doctor should have the information to reassure a patient that the scan is really necessary."

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  • Can 'New Urbanism' Bring Health to Your Neighborhood?

    Consider for a moment the land of 1970s children's TV, where "it's a beautiful day" in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Won't we be his neighbor? Of course, we will! On Sesame Street, that halcyon hub where humans live alongside puppets, we encounter friends on their stoops and joyfully discover our neighbors: "They're the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street. They're the people that you meet each day!"

    These shows introduced us to the world through the neighborhood, a place brimming with a sense of community and belonging. Trouble is, many of us live in a world that doesn't even come close to this ideal. Instead, much of America lives in areas circumscribed by sprawl. Whirring cars and long, sidewalk-less routes make traveling by foot a risky proposition even as Americans face the twin threats of inactivity and obesity.

    Researchers are increasingly pointing out the health hazards of these environments, where sedentary, isolated lifestyles have made us fat, lonely, and depressed.

    That, along with the expense and inconvenience of sprawl, has led to soaring demand for urban living and the mixed-use, high-density developments that have gained popularity in suburbs. In either case, it's about living amid convenient goods and services and the intangible spirit of a vibrant community. At the forefront of the movement is the Congress for New Urbanism, a nonprofit organization that promotes restoring cities and reworking suburbs into walkable and sustainable communities. But the desire for these places is largely driven by two burgeoning populations—Millenials and baby boomers. [Read more: Can 'New Urbanism' Bring Health to Your Neighborhood?]

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    • 10 Healthy Summer Vacations

      Summer has arrived, bringing with it endless vacation opportunities. But while traveling may sound exciting, getting out of town isn't always good for you. With the desire to splurge lurking around every corner, vacationers often abandon their healthy eating habits and exercise routines, undermining the effort they put into preparing for bathing-suit season.

      But just because you're leaving the gym behind doesn't mean you can't keep up the hard work. Gayl Canfield, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, claims that it's just as easy to stay on the wagon as it is to fall off. "Look at it as a challenge," she says. "Ask yourself: 'What are the things that you can do in this location? What's going to get you out and active?'"

      Canfield insists that finding enjoyable alternatives to the gym is easy. "If you're going someplace tropical, you can rent kayaks," she says. "And if you're going someplace like San Francisco, you can simply bring a sturdy pair of tennis shoes and walk everywhere." U.S. News has come up with 10 vacation spots that are both fun and good for your health.