Mind Over Human Growth Hormone
I've written before about concerns in the medical community that older men who take human growth hormone (HGH) to ward off the effects of age may not be getting what they bargained for. Might younger men who take HGH to bulk up—including all the baseball players who have caused such controversy—also be fooling themselves that they're experiencing an effect? As HealthDay reports, a study of recreational athletes has found that those who thought they were taking the performance-enhancing drug tended to perform better—even if they were actually taking a placebo. "There is actually no firm scientific proof that growth hormone actually does enhance athletic performance, despite a widespread belief in its ability to do so," one of the authors told HealthDay. Indeed, a literature review, published in May in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found no evidence that HGH could boost athletic prowess. And here's another intriguing tidbit of information about the placebo effect: Costly placebos seem to work better than cheap ones, according to a study published last March by a Duke University researcher.
Controversy Brews Over Genetic Testing Companies
Controversy is brewing in California this week after health regulators there demanded that 13 direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies halt sales because of consumer complaints about the accuracy and cost of their tests, the Associated Press reports. Prostate cancer is one of the diseases many of these tests purportedly screen for—a condition that affects 1 of 6 American men. A reliable genetic screening test for prostate cancer would be a boon for men as there are steps men can take to prevent the disease from developing.
However, an unreliable test—say one that overestimates a man's risk—could easily spark undue anxiety and push men toward unnecessary treatments. For men pondering a genetic test for prostate cancer, the National Society of Genetic Counselors has some advice: Consider these three questions first, they caution, and be aware that the test can raise more questions than it answers. In a related piece of news, the New England Journal of Medicine published a letter this week from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers critical of the science behind an emerging genetic test for prostate cancer called Focus5. In January, the test made the front page of the New York Times. "The planned marketing of a test...is premature and may cause more harm than good," that letter warns.
Men's Health Tip: Avoid Getting Diced by Your Lawnmower
The Hartford Courant ran a story this week reminding men of health risks associated with lawn mowing. To me, the most surprising fact from the story is that 12 percent of Americans apparently drink beer while they mow. Seems pretty obvious that these aren't good activities to mix, but as I've blogged about before, men don't have a good track record when it comes to risk taking. (For a grimace-inducing but also relatively instructive look at how men get into so many accidents watch this YouTube video. STATS, a group affiliated with George Mason University that monitors the media's use of statistics, has more on the risks of lawn mowing, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has tips to help keep mowing safe, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This Week in the Blogosphere
The Corpus Callosum wonders whether Gardasil, a vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer in girls, will ever be used to fend off throat cancer in men. The Fathers & Families blog applauds the public displays of fatherly affection displayed during the Lakers-Celtics NBA championship postgame festivities. Slashfood questions whether a pint of beer is really a pint of beer. The Art of Manliness explains when it's OK for men to cry—and when it isn't.