THE CLAIM

Heart attack symptoms differ according to sex.

THE FACTS

Apply liberally: Sunscreen doesn’t increase melanoma risk.

In a study financed by the US National Institutes of Health, scientists focused on female heart patients and found that in the weeks before their attacks, 70% had severe unexplained fatigue, 48% had disturbed sleep, and slightly fewer than half had shortness of breath, indigestion and anxiety. During the attack, around 50% had shortness of breath and weakness; slightly fewer than half experienced extreme fatigue, profuse cold sweat and dizziness. Other studies had similar findings. The American Heart Association says chest pain is still the most common warning sign in both sexes, but while men can experience atypical symptoms too, women should be particularly aware of them.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Women are more likely to experience non-classic symptoms.

THE CLAIM

Sunscreen can increase the risk of melanoma.

THE FACTS

Is it possible that a product meant to protect against skin cancer might actually cause it? Several studies have investigated claims that zinc oxide and other compounds in sunscreens might have harmful effects. Some studies showed that zinc oxide and titanium oxide—intended to block ultraviolet rays—can create free radicals in the presence of sunlight, and free radicals cause cell damage. Others point to a general rise in melanoma cases over the years, particularly in people who use sunscreen.

But that may be misleading. For the compounds to cause harm, they must penetrate skin cells. Research in Australia, which has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, found that does not happen. “The weight of current evidence is that they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer dead layer," read one report. Other studies looking for a link between melanoma and sunscreen found no evidence. They noted that people who sunbathe often or have greater sun sensitivity are more likely to use sunscreen, possibly explaining the associations.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Studies suggest zinc oxide and other compounds in sunscreen do not damage cells or increase melanoma risk.

THE CLAIM

You should not mix blood thinners and cranberry juice.

THE FACTS

Most people know that cranberry juice can lower the risk of urinary infections. But in 2003, doctors found what appeared to be a less beneficial side effect. A few people taking the popular anticoagulant warfarin complained that drinking large amounts of cranberry juice seemed to cause unusual bleeding. Investigators theorized that compounds in the fruit might deactivate an enzyme that normally breaks down warfarin. British health officials issued warnings. Many experts now suspect that the cases were coincidental.

Researchers at Tufts, Boston, found no evidence that cranberry juice enhanced warfarin’s effects. Nor did a study in 2007, where patients who drank up to 237ml of cranberry juice a day had no greater risk of bleeding.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Cranberry juice, in moderation, is safe with anticoagulants.

©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES

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