We asked leading Chicago doctors to weigh in on these common health conceptions
Myth or Fact? Don’t go outside without wearing sunglasses.
Fact. For good eye health, it’s important to wear sunglasses. “They should be worn all year long, even on cloudy days,” says Lisa Rosenberg, MD, an ophthalmologist at University Eye Specialists. “Ultraviolet light from sun exposure can cause damage to almost all parts of the eye, in addition to the skin around the eye.” Cataracts and macular degeneration are associated with excessive sun exposure, as are skin cancers of the eyelids and benign growths of the conjunctiva called pingueculae. “Wearing sunglasses with proper UVA and UVB protection reduces risk for diseases of these ocular structures,” she says. Sunglasses also help patients who suffer from dry eye symptoms by protecting their corneas from wind and smoke.
Myth or Fact? Cell phones can cause cancer.
Unclear. “Experimental work has shown that energy released from cell phones can affect the physiology of the brain, suggesting that biological processes are affected by cell phone use,” says Bakhtiar Yamini, MD, a neurosurgeon at University of Chicago Medicine. While some studies have demonstrated an association between cell phones and brain tumors, others have shown no correlation. “Unfortunately, all these studies have some form of inherent bias that can skew the true results,” he says. “While there is no definitive link between cell phone use and brain tumors, the studies that have shown an association generally indicate that long-term cumulative use is worse.” Until more definitive studies are performed, he says, it is advisable to limit children’s and teenagers’ exposure to cell phones and to use headphones or ear buds.
Myth or Fact? Take extra calcium supplements for strong bones.
Myth. “While calcium is an important component of bones, there is weak evidence showing that loading up on calcium supplements improves bone health or prevents fractures,” says Julia Bruene, MD, a sports medicine physician with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. “Recent studies have shown that excessive calcium supplementation can actually increase the risk of heart and vascular disease.” Diets that are rich in calcium—including dairy products, green leafy vegetables and broccoli—are heart healthy and will supply you with the calcium you need, she says. —Laura Drucker
Originally published in the Spring 2017 print edition