Confronting Misconceptions About Cancer Prevention The growing body of research about ways to prevent cancer can be overwhelming for people trying to make healthy choices. Health professionals discuss risk factors and talk about the attitudes and beliefs many Americans have about cancer prevention — from changes in diet to applying sunscreen.
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Confronting Misconceptions About Cancer Prevention

Confronting Misconceptions About Cancer Prevention

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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The growing body of research about ways to prevent cancer can be overwhelming for people trying to make healthy choices. Health professionals discuss risk factors and talk about the attitudes and beliefs many Americans have about cancer prevention — from changes in diet to applying sunscreen.


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Lately, we've done a number of programs about living with cancer. Today, we're going to focus on cancer prevention and why so many Americans feel there's little or nothing they can do about that.

A nationwide survey, published in this month's issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention finds, well, a lot of confusion. Many people believe that almost everything causes cancer. More than a quarter believe there's not much we can do to prevent its onset. And more than 70 percent say there's so much conflicting information, they don't know what's right and what isn't.

Later on in the program, if it's summer, there must be rock concert reunions. The Police and Genesis are just two of the bands touring this year. Will you pay to see your golden oldie rock band together again? And we'll check in with some fans watching the soccer match of the year.

But first, cancer prevention - are you confused? What works? What doesn't? Our number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. Email is You can join the conversation on our blog at And we begin with Jeff Niederdeppe. He's a researcher at the University of Wisconsin and lead author of the study we're talking about. He joins us from the Sports Byline Studios in San Francisco. Nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

Dr. JEFF NIEDERDEPPE (Lead Researcher, University of Wisconsin): It's a pleasure to be here, Neal.

CONAN: And you point out that in many respects, we know quite a lot about prevention. Why do you think so many people feel helpless?

Dr. NIEDERDEPPE: Well, I think - we don't know for sure, but I think there are at least three things that may be going on here. First, cancer is a disease that's widely feared. And while a little bit of fear can help motivate people to act, too much fear can really cause people to throw up their hands and give up. So I think that might be one factor.

Second, cancer is a very complex disease to communicate about. It actually refers to over 50 specific different diseases. Lung cancer is a different disease than is breast cancer, with different risk factors and different causes. So that can be confusing as well.

And third, I think sometimes we get so caught up in the most recent news story that we forget that there are solid recommendations out there, particularly when it comes to avoiding smoking, exercising regularly and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

CONAN: And those are things that are known to be successful. Yet, I think it was over a quarter of the people said - do you agree that there's little you can do to prevent the onset of cancer? And they said yes.

Dr. NIEDERDEPPE: That's right. Twenty-seven percent agreed that there's not much people can do to lower their chances of getting cancer. So that really suggests there is pretty widespread confusion and helplessness out there.

CONAN: And how does that break down? Did you further look into what kind of people were answering that question, what groups of people - demographics?

Dr. NIEDERDEPPE: We did, and the most striking finding, I think, was with regards to education. People without a college degree felt a lot more confused, helpless and fatalistic than people who had graduated college - so really suggesting that there's an educational component here.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And what about differences in culture, race?

Dr. NIEDERDEPPE: Well, it's interesting, Neal. Previous studies have looked at a different kind of fatalism, and that's the idea that if you get cancer, you're going to die from it. And the previous studies have really found that African-Americans and Hispanic and Latino populations were more likely to feel this way.

When it comes to fatalism about cancer prevention, however, we found the opposite, in fact, that African-American and Hispanic Latino populations were less likely to think that everything causes cancer and that there's nothing they can do about it.

CONAN: Hmm. Our number, if you'd like to join our conversation, is 800-989-8255, 800-989-talk. Email is - our guest, Jeff Niederdeppe. And let's get Karen on the line. Karen's calling us from Tucson, Arizona.

KAREN (Caller): Hello, Neal. Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

KAREN: I've been a cancer nurse, working with cancer patients and other cancer nurses for over 30 years now. And I've taught the Oncology Nursing Society's chemotherapy class to thousands of nurses around the country. And I've taught oncology content to undergraduate and graduate students. And I've always emphasized that 85 percent of the causes of cancer are controllable by our diet, exposure to sun, smoking, drinking, etc. And health care providers know this, and I'm wondering if you have any comments as to why the general population is not getting this information or feel so helpless.

I think this is a real problem, because there is a very fatalistic attitude about this. But we need to keep in mind, too, that it's only been within the last 30 years or so that we actually can cure a lot of cancers that before were not curable. So we're only maybe one generation into being able to cure this, and that's where the old attitude may come from. And I'll take my answer off the air. Thank you so much. I enjoy your program.

CONAN: Thanks, Karen. Appreciate that.

Dr. NIEDERDEPPE: Well, Karen, I think it's a good point. And I think I really like to emphasize the role that doctors and nurses can play here. It's really striking how influential just a simple question of the doctor or nurse asking a patient if they smoke, advising them to quit and helping them to find treatment can have in terms of promoting somebody to try to quit smoking.

So I think doctors and nurses can ask every person who comes in if they smoke. And if so, help them get into treatment. If they're overweight, they can ask about their diet and exercise patterns. You know, the doctor is going to not only know about the state of the science about these things, but they also know the patient's medical history and are, I think, a very important component here of helping to give clear, simple messages about what people can do about it.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And one of the things that I found interesting was the last survey that examined these beliefs about cancer was back in 1986. This seems pretty significant. Why wait so long between surveys?

Dr. NIEDERDEPPE: Well, there have been surveys in sort of smaller geographic locations, so people have done surveys in California, and among simply specific populations - women only in rural areas, for instance. But I think there's a renewed interest - particularly with the explosion of information that's available on the Internet and, you know, a number of channels that are available to people in the media - to really understand where people are getting this information and how they're making sense of it. So the National Cancer Institute has been focusing on this a lot in the last few years, and I think we'll see a lot more attention to this issue moving forward.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get Mike on the line. And Mike is with us from Michigan.

MIKE (Caller): Hello.


MIKE: I'm calling regards to a study that was done by John Hopkins in the '90s, relating to broccoli sprouts and their anti-cancer properties, and then the subsequent FDA warning by consumer - or by to consumers not to consume these products, even though they are one of the most beneficial available on the market today. What are your views - what kind of thoughts have you got?

CONAN: I guess this comes out of the category of confusing different kinds of studies. But Jeff, I'm not sure you're familiar with those particular studies.

Dr. NIEDERDEPPE: I'm not, actually, but I know that today, if you look at the National Cancer Institute's specific recommendations and more or less any cancer group making recommendations here, one of the most important things that people can do is eat those fruits and vegetables. Five or more servings a day will help reduce your risk of cancer in the long term. So I would definitely encourage you to eat those Brussels sprouts and your greens moving forward.

CONAN: All right, Mike. Good luck with that.

MIKE: Thank you.

CONAN: And let's get Kris on the line. And Kris is calling us from San Francisco.

KRIS (Caller): Hello.


KRIS: Hi. This is first time I've called in. I'm a nurse - I'm an advanced practice nurse. I actually was an oncology and a hospice nurse before I became a breast cancer patient and went to metastatic a couple of years ago. And I, frankly, am a little angry at the comment by the nurse who - I've also taught nursing myself. And perhaps I'd heard her incorrectly about 85 percent of the cancer could possibly not be…

CONAN: Could be prevented.

KRIS: …prevented if we did the things we should. I think that nurse who probably doesn't have cancer needs to go to the second floor at UCSF in the breast cancer center and talk to some of the women there, because I have been talking to them. I was a vegetarian. I walked every day. I worked every day. I never smoked or drank, and I have metastatic breast cancer. And most of the women that I've met over there and in the San Francisco area were very healthy people. So I guess what I want to get around is blaming the patient syndrome, which seems to come up quite a bit. And I've been, actually - you know, I witnessed some of it on the other side of the way here as a patient. And I'll take any of your comments off the air. Thank you.

CONAN: All right, Kris. And good luck with it.

KRIS: Thank you so much.

CONAN: And, obviously, genetic disposition plays a large role, people think, in breast cancer in particular. Isn't that right, Jeff?

Dr. NIEDERDEPPE: That's absolutely right. Certainly, family history and genes can put people at an increased risk of cancer. And I think in that circumstance, it's all the more important to really focus on the things that we know that we can do. So scientists estimate that about 30 percent of all cancer deaths are attributable to smoking. And from about 15 to 20 percent of cancer deaths are attributable to obesity. So the number that I've heard thrown around is about 50 percent - not 85, but there's certainly some uncertainty about what that specific number is. But we don't know everything, but I think we can focus on the things that we do know about not smoking, about eating fruits and vegetables and about exercising regularly. And, you know, you can't guarantee you're not going to get cancer, but you can put the odds in your favor.

CONAN: Jeff Niederdeppe, thanks very much for being with us today. Thanks for your time.

Dr. NIEDERDEPPE: Thanks. It's been a pleasure.

CONAN: Jeff Niederdeppe, a researcher at the university of Wisconsin, lead author of the study we've talking about. He's been with us at the Sports Byline Studios in San Francisco.

Cancer prevention information comes through various media: TV, pamphlets in the waiting room, and, of course, that rumor machine the Internet. Joining us now to talk about this glut of information is Michael Wolf, assistant professor of medicine, director of health literacy and learning at the Northwestern University. He is with us from member station WBEZ in Chicago. And, first of all, welcome. Nice to have you on the program today.

Dr. MICHAEL WOLF (Professor of Medicine, Director of Health Literacy and Learning, Northwestern University): Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And what's the primary means that people get their information about cancer and cancer prevention?

Dr. WOLF: Well, I mean, my first comment reading this article is that they're probably not getting a lot of information at all. People get a lot of information, all of it from prints - where they get through the newspapers or through reading the information off of the Internet, some multimedia tools. A lot of times, we're expecting information to come from our health care providers or physicians and patients. And a quick comment on what one of the callers mentioned about the blaming the patient, that there is this issue, that we do expect - you know, that there may be that issue, but we expect a lot to be coming from out providers. Most patients view their physician or their nurse as the - one of the most trusted sources of health information for them, and a lot of that may not be communicated right now.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Well, we're going to take a short break. So stay with us if you would, Michael Wolf. And if you'd like to join our conversation: 800-989-8255 -800-989-TALK. Email is I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We all know at least a few ways to help prevent cancer: stop smoking, slather on the sunscreen. This hour, we're sorting out some other claims from the dangers of cell phones to the wonders of broccoli. Our guest is Michael Wolf, assistant professor of medicine and director of the Health Literacy and Learning program at Northwestern University, and we welcome your questions about what works and what doesn't. 800-989-8255 - email: You can check out our blog at And Michael Wolf, I wanted to follow up about how people get their information and who gets the challenge of health literacy campaigns. I mean, it's easy to put a pamphlet in a doctor's office. It's not so easy to get that to the right people before they go to the doctor's office.

Dr. WOLF: That's right. I think they're a lot of good points have been brought up, that - first off - there's a lot of information, a lot of different sources of information people can get from - it seems from this study, this issue of being - feeling somewhat kind of out of control and not being able to prevent cancer. Maybe that they're, one, being overwhelmed by a lot of information that's conflicting, and also that they're maybe not getting the right messages from the sources that should be communicating this information. We see a lot of different areas where we see health information that should have been communicated to patients not getting to that - not getting to the target. And therefore, if patients don't have the information, how can they act on it?

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And there was one finding in the survey about people's confusion over - there are so many conflicting reports. And I guess the news media has to accept a certain degree of responsibility for that.

Dr. WOLF: Yeah, possible. But, I mean, I think part of the issue is helping consumers of health care information do a better job of maybe navigating this information, and also having heath care providers, you know, work very closely with their patients to get their messages out. And also to be in line to kind of standardize this information also with public health campaigns. So everybody's coming from a united front and getting the right messages out to patients so they know in a very clear, explicit manner what you want patients to do, what they - what are these recommendations for cancer prevention?

CONAN: Well, joining us now is Dr. Sharonne Hayes. She's a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and a preventive cardiologist. She directs the Women's Heart Clinic, and she joins us from studios at the Mayo Clinic. Nice to have you on the program today.

Dr. SHARONNE HAYES (Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota) It's great to be here.

CONAN: And Dr. Hayes, you're on the frontlines, talking to patients about preventive care. Many of the behaviors that prevent cancer can also help prevent heart disease. Do people listen to you?

Dr. HAYES: They listen to me, and sometimes they hear what they want to hear. And many come to me with a lot of misconceptions that are similar to and addition to the things mentioned in the study - by the study author. People have a variety of reasons they aren't doing what we think they all should do. Perhaps they've tried and failed, and so this is a coping mechanism to say, well, there's no point. Some have tried, but tried and didn't have the tools to do it. You know, I had one patient, she said, well, I've heard that eating Chinese is really healthy and will help me lose 40 pounds. And she described her Chinese meal as being refried things and sweet and sour pork, because that was Chinese.

CONAN: Right. You always have to worry when anything's refried, yes.

Dr. HAYES: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And I think all the studies came out showing that Chinese food was loaded with fat. It was just - it tastes good. But what makes a patient care about what they should or shouldn't do, when you're talking about motivation?

Dr. HAYES: Well, I think motivation - sometimes we have to help the patients find the motivation. Perhaps they do have a fatalistic view, that they're going to get cancer because - or heart disease because many of their family members did. So, empowering them so that they can say, well, perhaps you can make some lifestyle changes or we can give you some medication that might help prevent this. Your genetics do not determine everything about you. Other time is, I don't have time for myself. I don't have time to lose weight, exercise, do these healthy behaviors. So then I might help try to find a motivation such as you're doing it for the family. If you eat healthy, you're a role model for your children. If you don't do these things, you may not be well enough to care for your family. I think each patient, you have to find what is going to be their motivation. And sometimes, they're very motivated, just don't have the information.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some more callers in on the line. Let's go now to - excuse me, Tracy - Tracy with us from Portland, Oregon.

TRACY (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

TRACY: Your first guest mentioned that college graduates tend to be more optimistic about their, you know, chances with cancer. And I'm wondering how much relates to possibly the ability for college graduates to have jobs that have access to better health care, or even just health insurance in general, if there's any correlation there or if the study followed that.

CONAN: Well, our guest who did the study has left us. Michael Wolf, might you be able to help us on this?

Dr. WOLF: If there's a correlation between whether or not there's an access issue in education attainment? Is that the question that's being asked?

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Yeah, well, since the study found that people with college degrees were less likely to be fatalistic, might that reflect the fact that they're probably a little wealthier and probably have better access to health care?

Dr. WOLF: Absolutely. I think we know that education is probably one of the strongest indicators of socio-economic status in the United States, so definitely, I think that it's probably picking up a lot of that.

CONAN: I wonder, in your practice, Dr. Hayes, what do you find?

Dr. HAYES: Well, I think there's also data that, in fact, those people have a right to be more optimistic, because we know that higher levels of education - actually, they have better outcomes with diagnoses of cancer or a diagnoses of heart disease. So, in some sense, it is probably a realistic optimism. I think…

TRACY: (unintelligible)

CONAN: I'm sorry. What did you say?

TRACY: What is related to? I mean, I guess, you know, you said that they have more reason to be optimistic because they, you know, have better results, but what - why?

CONAN: Why do they have better results? Yeah.

Dr. HAYES: Well, it's very complicated, why the - and I appreciate my colleague also chiming in, but some of it is they have been exposed to often - and had the leisure time try to pursue healthier pursuits. If you are struggling to make ends meet, then the last thing that you're really going to be thinking about is going out for a 30-minute walk. Or perhaps you're going to be buying very calorie-dense foods that may not be healthy for you because that's what is available in the local bodega. So I think that education equals higher socio-economic, and there are a lot of benefits that come with that.

Dr. WOLF: I can chime in just briefly, this is a very complex issue - and I appreciate the comments you made, my colleague at Mayo Clinic made - that there's a lot of issues as regards as regards to the - having the knowledge and skills to be able to engage in the self-care activities that you have to do for day-to-day health tasks and to know - and also manage those things that may be having to conflict with stressful environmental cues that you have to deal with. So how do you deal with that, and on top of having to deal with your daily activities, managing a couple jobs, etc.?

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Tracy.

TRACY: Great. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Good question. Yeah. Let's go now to Mike - Mike is with us from Ithaca, New York.

MIKE (Caller): Hi, there. Hi, Neal.


MIKE: Yeah, this is a - guess what I'm trying to say is going to be a continuation in response to Tracy's point and - or, not in response, but as the same idea. I mean, I'm in a marginalized group. I'm disabled and disfigured and was often in academia, while getting my degree, put in more marginalized labs and more marginalized parts of the dorm, where other people like foreigners who couldn't speak English well or other people disabilities were, and there was more conflict there. And people used chemicals from the lab and household kitchen chemicals as weapons. And I was hit by the crossfire when someone threw radioactive iodine at someone else.


MIKE: And all - I did everything for cancer prevention - the vegetarian diet. The whole bit. I got a cancer in 98. I wasn't expected - in the autumn, I wasn't expected to last till March. I worked very hard on trying to recover from it, and by April, I was completely clean. Around New Year's, I went into remission.

But I had to work very hard at it, and there's still complications from it today. But people wonder, you know, why do you try to lead such a healthy lifestyle? It really didn't help you. And I said, yes, it really did. When I tell people that someone threw radioactive iodine at - one technician at another and I got the crossfire, people don't believe it really happened. So they're less likely to take my health advice on how they should prevent their own potential cancer seriously because I had it myself. But part of the problem is people do save kitchen chemicals and lab chemicals to use as weapons, some punky people who haven't been civilized properly or socialized properly is part of the problem as well.

CONAN: Well, Mike, congratulations. I'm glad you're in remission. We appreciate that. And thanks very much for the call.

MIKE: Thank you for the program, too.

CONAN: And Dr. Hayes, I wanted to ask you about one thing that Mike said. You know, this feeling that some people have of, you know, well, something's going to get you. We're all going to die. It's, you know, that fatalistic part that really comes out in the study.

Dr. HAYES: Well, I think we are all going to die of something, but I think most of us, we're likely - because of today's health care and others - to live a long time. And we - as they age - we want to live well right up to the end. And I think that treatment for cancer or treatment for heart disease or stroke or many of the diseases that a healthy lifestyle can either prevent or delay is very time consuming and painful and costly.

And so if we can live well and these healthy behaviors can help keep you out of a nursing home. They can help prevent a hip fracture. Exercise can do a lot of things other than preventing heart disease or cancer. So I think that this - that's - when I'm sitting with a patient and talking to them who may say, oh, I've seen that Hollywood heart attack where somebody just clutches their chest and they die - that seems like a good way to go. And I try to point out, well, the risky behaviors that you're doing may cause some other things that aren't such a, quote, "good way to go," and help them understand that they'll live better as well.

CONAN: Let's get Robin on the line. Robin is calling us from Reno, Nevada.

ROBIN (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

ROBIN: I'm a genetic counselor. And I've had two patients who recently told me that their oncologist told them that we are all born with cancer cells. Now, I understand that cancer derives from a normal body cell, but it seems kind of a stretch to say that we're all born with cancer cells.

CONAN: Wouldn't you say that's true, Dr. Hayes?

Dr. HAYES: I think it would be a stretch. I'm not sure in what context those patients were told that, and again, I'm not a cancer specialist.

CONAN: But I don't believe we're born - I'm not a cancer anything specialist. I certainly don't have an MD, and I don't even play one on the radio, but I don't think we're born with cancer cells.

Dr. HAYES: We're not born with cancer cells, nor are we born, necessarily, with heart disease. But we can start developing it pretty early if we don't take care of ourselves.

CONAN: But Robin, I guess people - what you're saying is people are really easily confused.

ROBIN: Well, an additional thought here was - I think that the thought was that we're born - all born with cancer cells, and it's our immune systems - immune system dysfunction that allows those cancer cells to propagate into a detectable cancer.

CONAN: Well, that's a new theory, and we could be hearing from the Nobel committee anytime now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBIN: Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Robin. It's - the rumor mill - and Dr. Hayes, you must - ideas that are wilder than that.

Dr. HAYES: Much wilder than that, and I think that the - patients get exhausted by the messages they see in the media. I mean, I can give a particular example, which isn't directly - but women and hormone replacement therapy, it changes on a day-to-day basis. And so at some point, patients become numb to the messages, and they do become fatalistic because they feel like it doesn't really matter what I do, because it's going to be wrong in a week. Somebody's going to - you know, what they tell me to do now is going to be wrong next week.

CONAN: Coffee's good for me, coffee's bad for me. The hell with that, I'm going to have two cups.

Dr. HAYES: That's right. Exactly. I'm going to do what I want to do. And I think the other thing that we struggle with is there has never been a study that showed smoking is good. There's never been study that showed exercise and physical activity is bad for you. But those messages that it's good for you get drowned out sometimes, and they're so simple and they're so unsexy that there isn't a lot of appeal.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Dr. HAYES: And so I think we have to keep repeating that, even if we physicians and the media start sounding like a broken record.

CONAN: We're talking today with Sharonne Hayes, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Also with us, Michael Wolf, assistant professor of medicine and director of Health Literacy and Learning Program at Northwestern University. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And here's an email question from Steve in Syracuse, New York. Where did cancer come from? Is it something that's always been a factor in life? Is it something we notice simply because we live longer and aren't dying of something else earlier in life? If not, is it something that is a factor in the environment of the post-industrial era, where out-gassing plastics and other factors are part of our daily lives?

I wonder, Michael Wolf, if you had a thought about that.

Prof. WOLF: Well, I mean I think I would direct that to my colleagues in the Robert Lurie Cancer Center or other oncologists or cancer researchers as far as the etiology of the disease. But, I mean, I think this is getting - a large part of just people not knowing - I mean, this is a great question. Just because people don't know what this is, they don't understand it very well even though they're getting some, I would say almost inundated by information about - you know, everybody knows that smoking can kill you, but - or it can - linked to many diseases, I think there's still an issue of kind of consolidating this information and asking how can we confuse patients less and give them a clear answer to what this is all about?

CONAN: Let's go to Joanne. Joanne's with us from Portland.

JULIANNE (Caller): Hi.


JOANNE: I'd like to ask one question and follow up on one statement. One statement that one of your experts made was that well-educated people may tend to be getting less cancer. Is that correct?

CONAN: Is that what we were saying?

JOANNE: I think so. There was a special (unintelligible) that education…

Dr. HAYES: It's not necessarily that they get less cancer…

CONAN: Hold on. We're trying to get an answer for you, Joanne. Go ahead.

Dr. HAYES: It's not that they get less cancer, but they tend to have a better survival once they get cancer. And that may be due to a variety of things.

JOANNE: Oh, okay. Health insurance.

CONAN: Probably.

Dr. HAYES: Perhaps health insurance, healthier behaviors, better access to care, and etc.

JOANNE: Oh, okay. So I didn't hear that one right. And the other one was, you just briefly brought up the hormone replacement and the kind of messages that women are getting on - from the media. Doctors now and women are really - they have a kind of a knee-jerk response to the big estrogen study that was conducted a couple of years ago, and estrogen comes off sounding like toxic waste - estrogen replacement therapy.

Nevertheless, that study, as far as I know, only evaluated patients taking just the, you know, the classic Prempro or Premarin kinds of drugs. It didn't evaluate any plant-based or compounded kinds of hormone replacement therapy, and I think that it skewed the discussion of estrogen replacement in such a way that now, probably many women are really afraid to touch it with a 10-foot pole, no matter how much they suffer.

CONAN: Dr. Hayes?

Dr. HAYES: Well, I can confirm Joanne is correct. There are many women who have decided, despite perhaps very miserable and life-affecting symptoms, that they won't because of fear of this. She's also correct that they looked at only two forms of hormone therapy, not a wide range. And also, the other issue with that study that's been publicized is the average age of the women in that study when they entered was age 63, which is older than most women who are using hormones. So there are a number of studies going on right now which are trying to look at those women who are most likely to take hormones right around menopause when they're having a lot of hot flashes, and we may see some benefits. So I think you're right, Joanne. I don't think we should throw out hormones as a potential treatment, but we don't have the data to say we should be using it to prevent disease, either.

CONAN: Joanne, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

JOANNE: Thank you.

CONAN: And I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there. I guess we still have time to say stop smoking, go out and take a walk and eat your fruits and vegetables. So those are things that we know work. And the sunscreen, too, that works.

Dr. Hayes, thanks so much for your time today.

Dr. HAYES: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Sharonne Hayes, cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where she directs the Women's Heart Clinic, and she's a preventive cardiologist. Also thanks to Michael Wolf, assistant professor of medicine and director of Health Literacy and Learning Program at the Northwestern University. Appreciate your time today.

Prof. WOLF: Thank you.

CONAN: When we come back, some notable rock reunions this summer. This is NPR News.

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