In Brief



Vitamins don't stop prostate cancer

Vitamins E and C and the nutrient beta carotene don't protect against prostate cancer, says the latest study in the continuing, confusing quest to determine when supplements really help health.

Previous research has yielded conflicting results, and even this new study of almost 30,000 men published in this week's Journal of the National Cancer Institute doesn't settle the issue. Indeed, while vitamin E showed no effect on men overall, the study leaves open the possibility that it might help smokers.

Smokers were 71 percent less likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease if they had taken high doses of vitamin E for many years. But, perplexingly, the risk of earlier-stage cancer increased among vitamin E-using smokers.

Smoking raises the risk of prostate cancer, and even if further research concludes that vitamin E somehow tempers that risk, kicking the habit would be far more protective, the researchers said.



Most would not decide baby gender

Do you want a boy or a girl? A recent national survey found most people would just as soon not make the decision.

The study, the first to examine the demand and preference for sex selection in the United States, found that 77 percent of people who wanted more than one child indicated they either preferred an equal number of boys and girls or had no favorite as to the sex of their children.

"We found that only 8 percent of people would use pre-implantation sex selection for nonmedical reasons," said Dr. Tarun Jain, assistant professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Illinois at Chicago and senior author of the study published this month in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

"It was even more surprising that they would not make the choice, even with a simple pill," Jain said of the study, which polled 1,197 people, 587 men and 610 women.



Many presidents had mental illness

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln experienced bouts of despair so profound that friends were concerned he might commit suicide.

Ulysses S. Grant, the general under Lincoln who later rose to the presidency, often avoided social occasions and retreated into alcohol.

All told, almost half of American presidents from 1789 to 1974 had at least one mental illness in their lives, according to a recent analysis of biographical sources by psychiatrists at Duke University Medical Center. And more than half of those presidents, the study found, struggled with their symptoms -- most often depression -- while in office.

"What is hopeful about this is that it is evidence that people can suffer from depression or other mental problems and still function at a presidential level, if not at their best," said Dr. Jonathan Davidson, who, along with Dr. Kathryn Connor and Dr. Marvin Swartz, cataloged symptoms from presidential papers and biographies and identified those disabling enough to qualify as disorders. They reported their findings in the current issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

New York Times News Service

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