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Health & wellness

Be Well

Fewer preterm births tied to smoking bans

Implementing indoor smoking bans in public places may contribute to fewer preterm births, according to a study by researchers from Hasselt University in Belgium.

They looked at more than 600,000 births that occurred between 2002 and 2011. Public smoking bans were phased in within the country beginning in January 2006. The study found no decrease in preterm births — babies born before 37 weeks — before the bans. However, data showed a 3 percent reduction in preterm births after January 2007, when the workplace and restaurant bans had taken effect, and another 3 percent decline after the bar ban in 2010.

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The findings suggest smoke-free zones can reduce smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, both known to contribute to premature birth, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Implementing indoor smoking bans in public places may have contributed to fewer preterm births.

CAUTIONS: The study did not look at whether the women were exposed to smoke or whether they were smokers, and it showed only a correlation; it didn’t prove that smoking bans result in fewer preterm births.

WHERE TO FIND IT: British Medical Journal, Feb. 15

Some cancer deaths linked to alcohol

As many as 3 percent of all cancer-related deaths nationwide in 2009 may be attributed to alcohol consumption, a study by Boston University researchers suggests.

They looked at the US death rate in 2009 from seven types of cancers — including oral, female breast, and colon cancers — for which alcohol consumption is considered to be a risk factor. They also reviewed surveys on alcohol sales from the same year and estimated that alcohol consumption may have led to between 18,200 to 21,300 cancer deaths nationwide.

Oral and esophageal cancers were the most fatal types of cancer related to alcohol in men, accounting for nearly 6,000 deaths. In women, nearly 15 percent of breast cancer deaths may have been attributed to alcohol, the study found.

The more alcohol a person drank, the higher their risk of death, but the study also found that about 30 percent of alcohol-related cancer deaths occurred in both men and women who consumed one and a half drinks or less a day. The findings suggest that there is no clear amount of consumption that could be considered safe, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: As many as 3 percent of all cancer-related deaths in the United States in 2009 may be attributed to alcohol consumption.

CAUTIONS: The study used data from previous surveys and study findings, which may not have considered other factors that could have contributed to cancer deaths. It is unclear what type of alcoholic drinks were consumed, and what kind may increase the risk.

WHERE TO FIND IT: American Journal of Public Health, Feb. 14

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