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Modern Times for Men

Married men who spend time with their wives and kids have lower testosterone levels than bachelors. The discovery suggests that having less of the hormone could play a part in encouraging men to devote their energies to the family rather than looking for another partner.

In male birds from monogamous species, testosterone levels fall after they form a pair and start taking care of their young. Artificially raising levels of testosterone is known to cause the males to stray. This suggests that testosterone boosts competition for mates while lower levels encourage fatherly behavior.

Anthropologist Peter Gray and a team from Harvard University wanted to see whether the same happens in men. They measured testosterone in the saliva of 58 men who were either single, married or married with children. In all the men, hormone levels fell over the course of the day as part of a natural daily cycle that peaks in the morning. But the decrease was greater in the married men than in bachelors. "And fathers seem to show an even more dramatic difference from unmarried men," says Gray.

The researchers suggest that lower testosterone makes dads less likely to stray, and encourages them to be true to their wives and spend time with their families. In turn, being around the family may lower testosterone, creating a continuous feedback loop. Next, Gray wants to study the testosterone in men who have separated from their wives, but have joint custody of their children.

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People who spend more of their working lives in jobs where they have few chances to decide what work to do and how to do it tend to die earlier than employees who are given more decision-making opportunities, according to Dr. Benjamin C. Amick III, of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Many jobs in which employees have little control tend to be highly repetitive with little variety in the skills they use. This can prevent people from becoming engaged in their work. "If people aren't working meaningful jobs, that affects their health," Amick says, because they are more likely to adopt risky health behaviors.

In addition, passive jobs, in which people may have to struggle to stay alert and awake, can be quite stressful. Previous research has shown that uninteresting jobs can cause a release of stress-related hormones. "And the really sad thing is, we know how to make work meaningful, and it doesn't come at the cost of reduced productivity," Amick says.

His findings are based on surveys of the physical and psychological working conditions of members of 5,000 households. The investigators followed the study participants from 1968 to 1991, determining the amount of time individuals spent in different types of jobs.Jobs were classified according to decision-making opportunities, psychological demands, security, support and physical demands.

Amick's team found that people who spent their working lives in jobs where they had to make the fewest decisions were 43% more likely to die than people in jobs with a lot of decision-making opportunities, and the increased risk continued for up to 10 years after they left their jobs. People who spent their working lives in passive jobs, described as those with low demands and low control over what work they do and when, were also 35% more likely to die up to 10 years after the job ended than those who spent their lives doing active work. In contrast, people who spent their working lives in psychologically demanding jobs did not appear to be more likely to die than those who occupied low stress positions.

Amick and his colleagues found that people who spent their working lives in jobs that offered only a small of opportunities for decision-making were less likely to die early than those with no control at all. He says, "You can give people a modest amount of control, and that's a good thing for them."

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Japan has announced that the number of deaths from overwork -- known as karoshi -- increased 68 percent to a record 143 this year. A survey conducted by the Health Ministry showed the number of work-related deaths from stress, mental disorders or depression nearly doubled to 70 in March of 2001/02 from the pervious year. 31 were suicides. Of those who died of overwork, 133 were men and 10 were women, 49 were in their 50s and 38 in their 40s.

Health Ministry officials think the number of deaths from overwork will continue to rise as Japanese companies shift from the traditional life-time employment system to a system based on merit rather than seniority. People are putting in longer and longer hours to try to keep their jobs. A ministry official says, "We fear that the number of 'karoshi' may continue to increase partly because work-related pressure is likely to build up on workers."

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Mike Blaylock, of Hariogenics Inc., stores thousands of strands of hair in an underground vault for men who are waiting for a cure for baldness. He hopes that scientists will eventually be able to make new hair from these strands.

The hair is stored in a climate-controlled cellar below a hair salon in Portland, Oregon. Blaylock says, "This is a sensitive issue for a lot of men out there. We definitely think there is going to be plenty of demand for this kind of service."

Hairogenics can store about 800,000 bags of vacuum-sealed hair. So far nearly 200 customers have signed up even though it isn't officially open yet. Daniel Kerr, who isn't even going bald, says, "It's a precaution. Even if I don't go bald, maybe when I get old, there might be a way for me to get my young hair back."

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A pioneering technique using dogs to detect prostate cancer is being developed byresearchers at Cambridge University who think a dog's sense of smell can provide a better early warning system for some cancers than modern scientific testing.

They hope to change the screening process for prostate cancer by training dogs to react to cancer cells in urine samples. English dog trainer Charlie Clarricoates will carry out the experiment.

"If there is a consistent change in odor the dogs will be able to detect it, of that we are in no doubt. At the moment identifying prostate cancer is an inexact science. The tests are serum tests which provide a lot of false positives and some false negatives. These create a lot of problems, especially as the next stage of diagnosis is multiple biopsies, says Dr. Barbara Sommerville, of the University's Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine. ?Our research would be based on the fact that a dog's sense of smell is so acute that it can detect any change in odor. There have been recorded cases of dogs spontaneously alerting owners about changes to moles that have turned out to be cancerous."

Clarricoates has already started the process of training three dogs ? Tarn, a two-year-old Black Labrador, Chip a four-year-old German Shepherd, and Bliss, a seven-year-old Golden Labrador. He says, "Dogs have been used to assist people suffering from epilepsy, the dog tells the owner they're about to have an attack. That can only be done with the dog's scent part of its brain, telling the dog that its owner's hormone system and temperature is changing, so I'm pretty sure dogs can do this.

"We don't know what they're actually going to be smelling, he says. ?All we know is that a urine sample from someone with cancer will be different."

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Doctors in Asia are treating an increasing number of men who have become severely injured by trying to increase the size of their penises by injecting themselves with Vaseline and other oils. Now U.S. doctors say the trend is catching on here.

The injuries consist of severe deformations caused by tissue damage and erectile dysfunction. Gangrene can also develop if infection sets in. "The practice of embellishing the human body by injecting oils beneath the skin has been known for over a century," says Manit Arya of the Institute of Urology and Nephrology (IUN) in London. "Increasing the size of the girth of the penis is common in South East Asia as well as in Japan. For instance, in Japan, the Yakuza (Mafia) often plant spherical objects under the skin of the penis to increase its size."

Manit and his colleagues at the IUN recently treated a 31-year old British man. "The man had used a high-pressure pneumatic grease gun to inject his penis, Manit says. "But the girth of the man's penis continued to grow and he was no longer able to achieve an erection. He needed urgent treatment for both problems." The man was treated by careful removal of dead tissue under the skin of the penis by surgery, and was offered psychological counseling.

Few plastic surgeons will do a penis enlargement operation. "Unlike breast implants where some women experience severe side effects, in all of these cases of penis enlargement by injection of oils, dangerous side effects develop," says Manit. "The skin of the penis either dies or else becomes severely ulcerated in all cases."

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