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Quitting smoking may lower risk of cataracts

Men who quit smoking may reduce their chance of developing cataracts in the eyes, which can impair vision, especially in older people, a Swedish study found. But their risk remains higher than for people who never smoked, even after decades.

In 1997, more than 40,000 Swedish men ages 45 to 79 completed a questionnaire on their lifestyle, including their smoking habits, and were followed over 12 years. Study researchers compared the participants’ data to a registry of cataract extractions over the same period of time.

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Those who smoked more than 15 cigarettes per day had a 42 percent higher chance of undergoing a cataract extraction than those who never smoked. Among men who quit smoking that heavily, the risk of undergoing a cataract extraction dropped by half after more than 20 years.

The heavier the smoker was before he quit, the longer it took for the risk of developing severe cataracts to decrease. Even two decades after quitting, though, the risk for cataracts did not reach the level of men who reported never smoking.

BOTTOM LINE: Men who quit smoking may reduce their chance of developing cataracts.

CAUTIONS: The study relied on self-reports of the participants’ smoking habits, which may not be accurate.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Ophthalmology, Jan. 2

Teens often don’t talk to doctors about sex

About one-third of adolescents may not talk about their sexual health with their physicians during annual physicals, according to a study conducted in North Carolina.

Researchers at Duke University recorded discussions that 253 adolescents had during visits to 49 physicians at 11 clinics in the Raleigh-Durham area. They analyzed the amount of time spent discussing sexual health issues such as sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy prevention and the extent of the teens’ participation in the conversations.

Sixty-five percent of the visits included some discussion about sexual health. Thirty percent of those discussions lasted up to 35 seconds, and 35 percent lasted longer. Sexual health talks happened more frequently with female patients. Physicians were always the first to bring up the topic but did not push for a discussion if the adolescent did not engage, the study found.

It takes more than 35 seconds to read aloud sexual health questions recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the researchers wrote, adding that physicians are an important resource to promote healthy sexual development in adolescent patients and may be missing opportunities to counsel them.

BOTTOM LINE: About one-third of adolescents may not talk about their sexual health with their physicians during annual physicals.

CAUTIONS: The amount of time spent discussing sexual health is only one measure of the quality of the conversation. The study may not reflect how much teens talk to doctors about sexual health in other parts of the country.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Pediatrics, Dec. 30, 2013

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