California Just Issued a Health Warning for Cell Phones—But It's Not as Scary as It Seems

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The cell phone's reputation as a health risk is nearly as old as the technology itself. Worried consumers have blamed the device for everything from cancer to infertility, but with little evidence to back up these claims, experts have been split on the issue. Now California has come out with a list of guidelines in response to these supposed risks, Forbes reports.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released the warning [PDF] earlier in December following a lawsuit from University of California-Berkeley researcher Joel Moskowitz. Moskowitz claimed that the state of California was putting citizens in danger by withholding information on the potential side effects of cell phone usage.

The newly released document focuses on avoiding radiofrequency (RF) energy specifically. Cell phone signals are one source of RF energy, and because it's a type of radiation, it's a common source of phone-related cancer fears. The CDPH recommends reducing exposure to the energy waves by sending text messages instead of making calls, using the speakerphone or a headset when talking on the phone, and carrying your phone in a bag rather than your bra, pocket, or belt holster. The department also suggests breaking the habit of sleeping with your phone in your bed, or at least turning it off or activating airplane mode before falling asleep.

Cell phones release more RF energy at some points than others, like when you're traveling in a vehicle, streaming or downloading content, or using a phone in an area where the signal is weak. But even when RF energy from cell phones is at its strongest, it's still not as great as the radiation from X-rays or ultraviolet rays from the Sun, and the jury's still out over whether it poses a threat to your DNA at all.

Past research linking RF energy to brain cancer has come with some major caveats: One study found that rats exposed to RF energy were more likely to develop brain tumors, but those rats were hit with seven times the radiation a person would get from a cell phone (and also they were rats, so not a perfect replacement for humans). Even the CDPH acknowledges the limits of the evidence in the studies it cites:

These studies do not establish the link definitely, however, and scientists disagree about whether cell phones cause these health problems and how great the risks might be.

So if it makes you comfortable, go ahead and sleep with your cell phone on your night stand instead of under your pillow. But maybe don't use the warning as an excuse to start declining all your calls. 

[h/t Forbes]

Can Watching the Super Bowl Give You a Heart Attack?

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iStock.com/skynesher

With the clock nearing zero, the 2006 divisional round playoff between the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers looked to be over: It was the fourth quarter, with one minute and 20 seconds left, and the score was 21-18. Pittsburgh held the lead and, by all appearances, was about to score again.

Pittsburgh's offense lined up on the Indianapolis 2-yard line and handed the ball to future Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a cannonball of a man who famously went by the nickname "The Bus." Nearly everybody assumed Bettis would pound the ball through the goal line. Instead, Colts linebacker Gary Brackett forced a fumble. The Colts picked up the ball and nearly ran it back for a touchdown. For Steelers fans, it was a sudden and heartbreaking turn of events. Literally.

Watching from a bar, a diehard Steelers fan named Terry O'Neill watched the ball tumble to the ground and suddenly felt a pain in his chest. Luckily, two firefighters in the crowd helped resuscitate him.

"My heart just quit beating completely," O'Neill later told the South Pittsburgh Reporter. "For all intents and purposes, I died."

Research indicates he wasn't the first. Watching a high-stakes game could actually kill you.

A 2002 study in The BMJ, which focused on the health of English soccer fans, found that a "myocardial infarction can be triggered by emotional upset, such as watching your football team lose an important match." A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed the World Cup-watching habits of German soccer fans and found that watching a stressful game more than doubled viewers' chances of experiencing a cardiovascular event. A similar result was found when other researchers looked at cardiovascular deaths in the Netherlands after the country's soccer team lost the European soccer championships on a penalty shootout in 1996.

In 2011, a study published in Clinical Cardiology looked at the Super Bowl specifically and found that deaths increased after the big game in the losing city, finding an "absolute increase in all cause mortality" in people over the age of 65. The researchers argued:

"Acute risk factors usually involve some form of stress—physical, emotional, or both—that increase the sympathetic nervous system and releases catecholamines. The subsequent increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and ventricular contractility increase oxygen demand and may change the shear stress of blood against an atherosclerotic plaque, contributing to plaque fracture."

This particular study, however, has received some criticism. It only looked at mortality statistics for the 1980 and the 1984 Super Bowls, a relatively small sample. Some researchers said the study went too far in implying that the Super Bowl caused death, considering that the viewer's behavior and health history (and not the events of the game itself) could have been responsible. Super Bowl Sunday, after all, is a day filled with fatty fried foods and copious amounts of alcohol—all possible risk factors for a cardiovascular event.

As Gregg Fonarow, director of the Cardiomyopathy Center at UCLA, tells LiveScience, "It may be other behaviors associated with important sporting events rather than the stress of watching the home team lose that may explain these associations." Additionally, pre-existing conditions could be a huge contributing factor. (This was the case for our fateful Steelers fan.)

Study limitations aside, becoming invested in the outcome of a sporting match is undeniably stressful on the heart. A recent (though small) study out of Canada surveyed the heart rates of hockey fans during games, revealing "a mean increase of 92 per cent among the 20 test subjects, rising from an average rate of 60 to 114 beats per minute," according to the Montreal Gazette. In other words, people sitting and watching TV had heart rates equivalent to people undergoing mild exercise. Their heart rates only got higher when they watched games in person.

Of course, you don't have to do a study to learn that close games can cause a diehard fan's heart to pound—just go and ask one. And if they mutter, "This team is going to kill me!," kindly suggest that they step away from the TV before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

12 Dermatology Terms Defined By Dr. Pimple Popper

Viewers of Dr. Pimple Popper's YouTube channel won't be surprised that their favorite dermatologist—whose real name is Dr. Sandra Lee—is taking the world by storm. Not only does she have an explosively fun game, her SLMD Skincare line, and a new season of her TV show, she also just released a book, called Put Your Best Face Forward: The Ultimate Guide to Skincare from Acne to Anti-Aging. Dr. Lee stopped by the Mental Floss offices to define 12 dermatological terms that you'll often hear her discuss with her patients.

1. Comedone

This word, which comes from Latin, once referred to what people in the 18th century believed were little worms in the skin. Now, Lee says, a comedo or comedone is "the medical term for a blackhead or a whitehead. It's essentially a pore that's clogged with dirt and debris, dead skin cells, oil."

2. and 3. Blackhead and Whitehead

A closeup image of blackheads on the nose.
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Open comedones are blackheads and closed comedones are whiteheads, according to Lee. "The fact that a blackhead is open means that it's more exposed to oxygen, so it oxidizes, it turns darker—that's why it looks black," Lee says. "But a whitehead has a fine layer of skin over it so it stays unexposed to the sun. It stays a whiter color."

Whether you have blackheads or whiteheads, Lee says, the treatment is similar. One route is extraction: Blackheads can be removed at home, with the aid of a comedone extractor, which is Lee's preferred method; you can get the one she uses here. "It's a Schamberg type extractor and I use it because I think it does create less trauma,” she says. "I can go around the area and just extract the blackhead like that." Whiteheads can also be extracted, but because the skin must be pierced, Lee advises having a dermatologist handle that—if you try to do it yourself, "you can traumatize your skin," she says.

There are also products that will eliminate blackheads and whiteheads—look for ones that contain salicylic acids or retinol. You can find products containing those ingredients in Lee's SLMD Skincare line.

4. Hard pop

Viewers of Lee's YouTube channel will be familiar with this phrase, "a term that I sort of made up to describe pops or procedures that I do that are a little more invasive or a little harder, a little more advanced, maybe," she says. "I usually use it to describe the surgeries we do, something that requires a scalpel, maybe some stitches, there may be some blood involved." Hard pop compilation videos on her channel feature excisions of cysts, for example.

5. Soft pop

On the opposite side of the dermatological spectrum from hard pops are soft pops. "A soft pop is usually something that involves a comedone extractor or even your finger," Lee says. Think things like blackheads. "There's usually no blood or knicking or using sharp objects. And those are usually the most popular [videos] and really the gateway drug, so to speak, of popholicism."

6. Pilar Cyst

According to Lee, this type of cyst—which is also called a trichilemmal cyst, and is filled with keratin—occurs on the scalp 90 percent of the time, but "they can occur in any hair-bearing part of the body," she says. "It is derived from a hair root sheath, or part of the hair follicle, and it's a common growth—it can run in families, so it has a hereditary basis to it. This type of pop is really kind of cool to see visually because the wall or the lining of this cyst is thicker. It's almost the consistency of an olive." Because of this, Lee says, pilar cysts typically pop out whole, making them satisfying to see—"and satisfying for me as a surgeon, because I know I got rid of the whole thing."

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7. Epidermoid Cyst

As with pilar cysts, epidermoid cysts can occur wherever there's a hair follicle (though it comes from a different part of the follicle). They're the most common type of cyst, according to Lee. "It's essentially just a balloon under your skin," she says. "Your skin sort of gets tucked under and it's now shedding into this closed space. That's why it grows, because there's just macerated keratin under there." On her YouTube channel, Lee describes the texture as having a "'cheesy' consistency, and there can be a pungent odor."

While pilar cysts have a thick wall, the lining of epidermoid cysts is thinner. Because of this, Lee says, an epidermoid cyst "tends to break easily, and more commonly gets inflamed or infected, because if you traumatize it and it breaks under the skin it elicits a reaction from your body. Your body tries to destroy this foreign body under the skin." This also complicates matters for her, because if she leaves any bit of the cyst behind, it can recur.

8. Dilated Pore of Winer

In her book, Lee calls the dilated pore of winer "the king of the comedones." They are, she says, basically giant blackheads. "It's dilated to such an extent that it changes the topography of the skin," she says. "They're particularly satisfying to see because they're usually huge and you can't imagine someone has something this size on them, and when you remove them they often come out entirely whole."

9. Keratosis pilaris

An image of keratosis pilaris.
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Colloquially called chicken skin, Keratosis pilaris is "a form of dry skin, it's a form of eczema," Lee says. The condition is characterized by tiny, red or brown colored bumps that typically appear on the upper arms, but it can also show up on the face, the butt, or the front of the thighs. "People don't like the appearance of it, and the feeling of it, because you see these little bumps, it's like your hair follicles are more pronounced—it's very bumpy. It's almost like a keratin plug, a skin plug there," she says. "It's really a self conscious thing—you don't want to wear things that bare your arms or your shoulders because you feel like people can see it, and also when people rub up against your skin, it doesn't feel soft, it feels prickly."

To get rid of the bumps, Lee says, you should use products that exfoliate your skin. "My skincare line, SLMD Skincare, has products specifically designed to help exfoliate the skin and to help improve this feeling, this roughness that you feel," she says. You can find them here.

10. Lipoma

In the season two premiere of her TLC show, Lee removes 68 lipomas from a patient's forearms. "A lipoma is a collection of benign fat cells in that space in us that has fat, it's called the subcutaneous space," she says. "I say it's as if one fat cell decided to divide upon itself and create its own little utopia under the skin, because a lot of times it's sort of walled off and separate and looks different than the regular fat under the skin."

According to Lee, lipomas are benign, and "they don't have to be removed, but they are bothersome to people because they can grow to pretty big sizes and really be a source of embarrassment," she says. Her patient had familial multiple lipomatosis, which causes many lipomas to form. "She was very self-conscious about it, and that’s very understandable. Because even though they're benign, they're pretty disfiguring," Lee says. "It makes you realize how often we expose our forearms. Most of us don't even think about it, we take it for granted."

11. Steatocystoma

Fans of Lee's channel will know steatocystomas thanks to her patient Momma Squishy, who has a number of these cysts, which form in the sebaceous glands. According to Lee, steatocystomas aren't as common as pilar or epidermoid cysts. "These cysts have oil glands lining the wall of the cyst, so these are particularly satisfying to pop because they kind of come out like melted butter," she says, also comparing them to linguine noodles. "The sac is very thin-walled but very strong and so you can usually pull it out with a tweezer and forceps and take it out in its entirety."

12. Milia

An image of milia under the eye.
iStock.com/vchal

These tiny, keratin-filled cysts are "pretty common," according to Lee. "They kind of come out like little pearls. They're really pretty. They look like little birdseed, almost. We mostly get them around our eyes because it's a very thin-skinned area. They're deep enough under the skin that you can’t really squeeze them. You definitely have to nick the surface of the skin, which is again something that I don't advise a person does. They should see a dermatologist to do it. And it's nice to get them removed because they can drive us crazy. You can feel this little pebble, this little ball under your skin."

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