Health Updates 12 March 2012

  • Kids who bully may be more likely to smoke, drink: “Middle and high school students who bully their classmates are more likely to use cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana than other students, according to a new study.  Ohio State University researchers examined bullying and substance use among more than 74,000 students in all public, private and Catholic middle and high schools in Franklin County, Ohio, which includes Columbus.  About 30 percent of middle school students and 23 percent of high school students were deemed to be bullies, bullying victims or bully-victims (those who are both perpetrators and victims).  Substance use was defined as smoking, drinking or using marijuana at least once a month.  Fewer than 5 percent of middle school students reported substance abuse.  Among high school students, 32 percent drank alcohol, 14 percent smoked cigarettes and 16 percent used marijuana.  There was a link between bullying involvement and substance use….marijuana use was reported by only 1.6 percent of middle school students not involved in bullying [for example’, compared with 11.4 percent of bullies, 6.1 percent of bully-victims and 2.4 percent of victims”. (HealthDay)
  • Contraceptive use carries no bigger HIV risk: “Women who use oral contraceptives do not appear to have any increased risk of acquiring HIV, researchers said here.  In a retrospective study, combined oral contraceptive use was associated with a non-significant 12% reduction in the risk of HIV infection…women who used progestin oral contraceptives had a  2% increased risk of HIV infection….But, depending on the types of statistical analyses employed, there was a 37% increased risk of HIV acquisition with injected hormonal contraceptives….Even if that risk is real [researchers asserted]…the benefits of contraception would likely outweigh the risk….’There are significant social, economic, and health benefits, such as reductions in unwanted pregnancy, maternal morbidity and mortality, and infant mortality’.” (MedPage Today)
  • Shark cartilage may contain toxin: “Shark cartilage, which has been hyped as a cancer preventive and joint-health supplement, may contain a neurotoxin that has been linked with Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Scientists at the University of Miami analyzed cartilage samples collected from seven species of sharks off the coast of Florida.  The specimens all contained high levels of a compound called beta-methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA, which has been linked to the development of neurodegenerative disease….The findings are important because of the growing popularity of supplements that contain cartilage from shark fins.  The products are widely sold and remain popular with consumers who view them as cancer fighters or as a remedy for joint and  bone problems.  The notion that shark cartilage can prevent cancer grew largely from the popularity of the 1992 book Sharks Don’t Get Cancer.” No sharks were harmed for the study. (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • Keeping young athletes safe from sexual abuse: Parents who want to protect their kids from sexual abuse need to reassess the notion of ‘stranger danger’ – the belief that children should be on guard around strangers because they’re most likely to be molested by someone unknown to them, experts say.  In truth, at least four of five cases of childhood sexual abuse are perpetrated by someone who knows the child, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  ‘Parents need to get away from that mythology and deal with the reality [that] if it’s going to happen, it’s going to be someone within your circle,’ said Nancy McBride, national safety director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  ‘It’s going to be somebody you know.  I know it’s scary, but we need to come to grips with that’.  That reality was underscored in the past year by allegations of child sexual abuse against assistant coaches at Penn State and Syracuse universities…parents should be on guard against anyone who wants to spend an unusual amount of time with their children, particularly if the person makes promises or comes up with justifications.  ‘A coach says, ‘your child really has potential.  I can bring it out in him or her but I’ll need to spend more time with them’, McBride said.  Another red flag is an adult who showers a child with gifts or spends lots of money on the child.”  Note, too, that trustworthy adults who work with children will not take any offense at a parent’s protectiveness: “Anybody who’s on the up and up is going to welcome scrutiny….They’re going to welcome a background check.  Look for that openness’.” (

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