People's Pharmacy

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

November 04, 2005|By JOE AND TERESA GRAEDON

How dangerous is it to drink wine if you are at risk of breast cancer? My mother died of breast cancer, so I know I am at higher-than-average risk.

My husband and I drink a glass of wine with dinner most nights, but I rarely have more than one.

Women who drink three glasses of wine daily increase their risk of breast cancer by more than 40 percent (British Journal of Cancer, Nov. 18, 2002). Women who drink alcohol and get little folic acid in their diet (200 micrograms or less) may double their chance of developing this disease.

New research suggests that women who consume ample folic acid (more than 400 micrograms daily) have no increased risk of breast cancer, even if they drink a couple of alcoholic beverages daily (British Medical Journal, Oct. 8, 2005).

I am a substitute teacher. With all the germs the kids pass around, I am constantly fighting off colds.

I used to take echinacea, but I read that it's not very effective. What can you tell me about zinc or other natural remedies? I steer clear of over-the-counter cold remedies because I have heard they make things worse.

Results from echinacea studies have been disappointing. Several recent double-blind trials have found that this herb has no advantage over placebo for treating colds.

You're justified in doubting the value of some over-the-counter cold remedies. Such common ingredients as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may actually impair the body's ability to fight a cold.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters. Write in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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