DEAR DR. ROACH: I read that wearing a bra increases the risk of breast cancer, since a bra prevents drainage of lymphatics in the breast and this lymph fluid contain toxins. Is this true? -- P.P.L.
ANSWER: No, this isn’t true. The idea comes from a 1995 book (not a peer-reviewed scientific study), which had many basic flaws. Several well-done studies have shown that there is no significant increased risk (there was a nonsignificant trend toward decreased risk) in breast cancer among women who wear bras more frequently. There also has been no evidence that lymphatics contain cancer-causing toxins, and women who have damage to the lymph system (specifically women with a history of cancer requiring removal of the lymph nodes that drain the breast) have no increased risk of breast cancer.
Questions about breast cancer and its treatment are found in the booklet on that subject. To obtain a copy, write:
Book No. 1101
628 Virginia Dr.
Orlando, FL 32803
Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. ROACH: Can a man catch a disease by performing oral sex on a woman? -- Anon.
ANSWER: Yes, but it isn’t common. The main area of concern with oral sex is the human papilloma virus, HPV. Some strains of HPV increase cancer risk. In recent years, the prevalence of HPV-related cancers in men has been increasing.
cers of the head and neck. It is thought that oral sex may be part of the reason for this.
Hopefully, the increased use of HPV vaccines will break this cycle.
Other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and gonorrhea, can be transmitted via oral sex, but this is unlikely. Transmission of HIV through oral sex is possible but very, very unlikely. The use of a dental dam (a 6-inch square of latex or nitrile) reduces STD transmission risk.
DEAR DR. ROACH: My husband is 88 years old. He has atrial fibrillation. The strange thing is that when his heart goes into this rhythm, he burps constantly. It’s very annoying to him and to people around him. His cardiologist has no clue as to why this happens. Do you? -- J.H.
ANSWER: Atrial fibrillation is a chaotic loss of rhythm in the heart. It can be present all the time, or it can come and go, in which case it is called “intermittent” or “paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.” Both constant and intermittent a fib can cause the problem of a too-fast heart rate. But they also increase the risk of a blood clot, which can cause a stroke if it goes to the brain and blocks the blood supply to brain tissue.
As far as burping being associated with a paroxysm of atrial fibrillation, I do have at least a clue why this happens. The vagus nerve takes information to and from both the heart and the digestive system. It is not clear to me whether issues in the digestive system can trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation, but many people identify burping as a symptom during atrial fibrillation events. Whether this is cause or effect is not clear.
I’m publishing this answer more because burping can be an important indication of the existence of this serious rhythm disorder. If left untreated, 5 percent of people will have a stroke in any given year. Because atrial fibrillation is so important, people with episodes of periodic burping (and their doctors) should consider the possibility, especially if there is an associated fast or irregular heart rate or palpitations.
One German study suggested that simethicone (Gas-X and others) might be able to stop atrial fibrillation in people whose atrial fibrillation is triggered by intestinal gas.