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The cancer tests you really need—and those you don’t

Based on talks with experts and review of current research, Consumer Reports Health gives you the following advice:

Breast cancer:

Women with dense breasts—that is, who have relatively little fat in their breast tissue—face a greater breast cancer risk, in part because mammography is less accurate in them. Women aged 50 to 74 should have mammograms every two years. Women in their 40s and those 75 and older should talk with their doctor to see whether the benefits outweigh the potential harm and chances of false alarms.

Cervical cancer:

Women 21 to 30 should have a Pap smear test every three years. Those aged 30 to 65 can go five years between tests if they have a human papillomavirus test at the same time to check for the virus that can cause the cancer. Women older than 65 with a history of normal test results don’t need retesting.

Colon cancer:

Colonoscopy poses risks, including bleeding and punctures of the colon, so it shouldn’t be done more often than necessary. People aged 50 to 75 should get screened for colorectal cancer. If a colonoscopy doesn’t find cancer or precancerous polyps, you can usually wait a decade for your next test. If one or two small polyps are found, get a repeat test in 5 to 10 years. If you have more serious polyps or are at high risk, ask your doctor whether you need more frequent tests. Also, ask about alternatives: sigmoidoscopy (exam of the lower third of the colon) every five years plus a stool test every three years; or a stool test every year.

Prostate cancer:

Men should not routinely get a PSA test, especially if they are younger than 50 or older than 74. If you are between those ages, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of the test, and your risk factors.

Lung cancer:

The test should be done only for those ages 55 to 80 who smoked a pack per day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years, and either currently smoke or stopped within the last 15 years.

Ovarian cancer tests:

Women with risk factors—such as a family history of ovarian or breast cancer and those who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes—could consider the tests. Also talk with your doctor if you have abdominal pain or bloating, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or unusual vaginal bleeding, which can suggest cancer.

Just say no to whole-body cancer scans:

Whole body scans are done with a CT scan, which uses multiple X-rays, sometimes combined with positron emission tomography (PET) scans, which involve injecting you with a radioactive material that can be traced as it travels through your body. Experts warn that the PET/CT scans are far more likely to lead to false alarms and unnecessary exposure to radiation than to spot cancer in healthy adults.


Mobile phone use linked to skin allergy

Mobile phones and their accessories may contain sufficient amounts of allergens such as nickel, chromium, cobalt and plastics/glues to cause allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), reveals an online literature review.

Two meals better than six for some diabetics

Eating two large meals a day may be more beneficial than six small, frequent meals with the same caloric content for weight loss and glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes, a study has shown.

Beat those hunger pangs with pulses

Beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils keep you fuller longer, says a new study. The optimum amount to eat for managing and losing weight is 160 grams a day. Pulses are also a great source of protein and are helpful for those looking to lower cholesterol and manage diabetes as well.

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