Lab Report: Health, Science and Medicine

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CHILD BEHAVIOR

Self-Control: The Key To Health and Wealth

Every kid throws temper tantrums and behaves impulsively once in a while. But new research suggests that a lack of self-control during youth may predict health problems, less financial stability and a criminal record by adulthood.

In a survey of more than 1,000 children who were studied from birth to age 32, scientists found that kids who scored lowest on measures of self-control--those who were more impulsive and easily frustrated and had the most trouble with delaying gratification or waiting their turn in line--were roughly three times as likely by adulthood to report having multiple health problems and addictions, earning less than $20,000 a year, becoming a single parent or committing a crime than kids with the most self-control.

The good news is that self-control can be learned. Children in the study who improved self-control on their own as they grew older reported fewer health and criminal behavior problems than those who remained impulsive. So school and family interventions that teach kids to self-regulate early on may lead to healthier and more stable adults.

SMOKING

The Complex Link Between Tobacco And Breast Cancer

The list of cancers associated with smoking is a long one: lung, esophagus, throat and larynx, as well as kidney, bladder, pancreas and stomach. Now add breast cancer to the toll.

Until now, studies had not been able to definitively link smoking to breast cancer because of tobacco's double-edged effect. While its carcinogens can trigger tumors to grow in breast tissue, its ability to block estrogen, a hormone that promotes breast cancer, may actually work to suppress malignancies. The latest research clarifies the risk, finding that premenopausal women who smoked had a higher risk of breast cancer than women who didn't, but after menopause, women who puffed cigarettes were slightly less likely to develop the disease than nonsmokers. The theory is that postmenopausal women have low levels of circulating estrogen and may benefit further from tobacco's antiestrogenic effects.

Overall, the added breast-cancer risk from regular smoking at any age was 6%, but that figure shot up for heavy smokers. Women who lit up before age 18 and smoked for three decades or longer had a 25% greater chance of the disease than nonsmokers.

Given the small window of time during which smoking may protect against cancer in the breast, it's a good idea to kick the habit now.

FROM THE LABS

Mammograms Do Double Duty

Mammography is one of the best ways to detect breast cancer early, but the routine scans may also be useful for picking up signs of kidney disease. X-ray-based mammogram screenings expose calcium deposits--one of the by-products of malfunctioning kidneys--in the arteries of breast tissue.

Can Home Air Filters Prevent Heart Disease?

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