You Can Go Ahead and Keep Talking
News flash for long-term cellphone users: You can probably stop worrying about cancer. A comprehensive study published in the current Journal of the National Cancer Institute looked at cellphone records from more than 420,000 people in Denmark who began using the phones between 1982 and 1995 and analyzed how many got cancer compared with the overall population. There was no increased risk of tumors in the brain, salivary glands, eyes, or inner ear. Nor was there a heightened risk of leukemia. In fact, the cellphone users seemed to be at slightly lower risk-which study authors can't explain but say might be due to chance. It's also possible that the early cellphone users differ socioeconomically from nonusers and have healthier lifestyles. A caveat: People whose phones were listed in a company name weren't part of the study-and business people might have been the heaviest users.
Hair Today, Cancer Tomorrow?; The More You Earn, the More You Pay; Teens' Easy and Cheap New High
Hair Today, Cancer Tomorrow?
Losing their hair to middle age pushes many men to take antibaldness drugs. But one popular drug has an unintended consequence: It skews results from the prostate-specific antigen test used to screen men for prostate cancer. Research laid out in the current online version of Lancet Oncology shows that Propecia "can reduce PSA values by 50 percent," says Claus Roehrborn, a urologic oncologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "So a man in his 50s might get a result of 2, when it's really a 4, which is more alarming." The higher number could indicate a growing cancer. Merck, Propecia's maker, does note in its patient information that the drug affects PSA values, but this is the first published work showing the surprising size of the effect. (The company funded this research.) The finding should be a red flag for physicians as well as patients, says Martin Resnick, chair of urology at Case Medical Center in Cleveland. The prudent thing to do for men on Propecia, according to Resnick and Roehrborn, is to double their PSA values. - Josh Fischman
The More You Earn, the More You Pay
Beginning in January, most Medicare beneficiaries will see their Part B premium rise by $5 a month, to $93.50. But more-affluent seniors, for the first time, will bear a cost that is pegged to their income. Single people with $80,001 to $100,000 in income and couples with $160,001 to $200,000 will pay $105.80 a month. At the top end, singles with incomes over $200,000 and couples with over $400,000 will pay $161.40. Your premium will be assigned based on how much income you reported on your 2005 tax return. The change affects about 1.6 million people-who are just now receiving the bad news in the mail. For more information, you can call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213. - Michelle Andrews
Teens' Easy and Cheap New High
A cough suppressant common in over-the-counter cold medications is increasingly a drug of choice among kids looking for a high. New research, published in the December issue of Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, found a 15-fold increase in dextromethorphan abuse among California adolescents between 1999 and 2004 based on calls to the California Poison Control System-growth that researchers say is consistent with the trend in two separate national databases. High doses can elevate heart rate, cause seizures, and compromise respiratory and cardiovascular function, says Ilene Anderson, a researcher in the School of Pharmacy at the University of California-San Francisco and one of the study authors. Schering-Plough's Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold Tablets was the product most commonly abused, though a long list of cold medications contains dextromethorphan. Julie Lux, a spokesperson for Schering-Plough, emphasizes the importance of using the products as directed. - Sarah Baldauf
This story appears in the December 18, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.