Claudia Kalb

Stories by Claudia Kalb

  • The Truth About Spf

    With an ever-growing array of sunscreen products, it's easy to get confused about what to buy. Some basics: SPF (sun protection factor) ratings apply to a band of ultraviolet light called UVB, the key culprit in skin cancer. SPF 15 (the lowest number recommended by doctors) blocks all but 1/15, or about 93 percent, of UVB. (SPF 2 blocks just 50 percent; SPF 30, about 97 percent.) Don't assume that SPF 60 will protect you twice as long as 30. Unlike the vast variation between SPF 5 and 15, the difference between 30 and numbers above is so minimal that the FDA may eliminate the higher ratings and call the entire category "30-plus."Another band of light called UVA seems to play a role in skin cancer, too. So many products promise "broad spectrum" protection. But with no UVA ratings (at least for now--they may soon be required), there's no way to tell what you're getting. You can, however, look for specific ingredients that block UVA, like zinc oxide, avobenzone and titanium dioxide....
  • Overexposed

    Skin Cancer: With Temps Rising, So Are Rates Of This Deadly Disease. How Scientists Are Hunting For New Treatments--And Better Approaches To Prevention.
  • Should You Have Your Baby Now?

    A Group Of Doctors Thinks Advances In Fertility Treatment Have Given Women Too Much Hope. Its New Ad Campaign Is Bound To Stir Up Public Controversy--And Private Anguish
  • Painkiller Crackdown

    OxyContin was developed to do good: relieve debilitating pain. But since the powerful drug debuted in 1996, it has become increasingly known for a dangerous side effect--the potential for serious addiction ("Playing With Painkillers," April 9, 2001). Abusers crush and snort the pill to get an intense narcotic rush. Some "doctor-shop" to get multiple prescriptions; others buy the drug for up to $1 per milligram on the street. In a new environment where doctors are being encouraged to treat patients more aggressively for pain, a critical new dilemma has emerged: can OxyContin be responsibly prescribed to patients who need it without being "diverted" to those who don't? ...
  • Playing With Pain Killers

    Over The Past Decade, Doctors Have Focused New Energy On Managing Their Patients' Pain, And Sales Of Prescription Painkillers Have Tripled Since 1996. For Most People, These Drugs Are A Blessing. For Some, They're A Nightmare.
  • Dare Checks Into Rehab

    For more than a decade, Salt Lake City schools did as other schools did: they taught kids about drugs the DARE way. There were cops in the classroom, DARE T shirts and bumper stickers and the message "Just say no." But last summer, Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson lambasted DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) as "completely ineffective," canned the city's budget for it and booted it out of the schools. DARE "has been a complete waste of money, a fraud on the American people," he says. "We should put our resources behind programs that work."It was one of the boldest strikes yet against the nation's most popular drug-prevention program. Over the last decade, studies have repeatedly shown that the simplistic message of the $226 million program has little effect on keeping kids from abusing drugs--yet it continues to be used by 80 percent of schools. Now DARE is finally admitting it needs an overhaul. Last week officials announced they will be revamping the program, with the help of ...
  • Folkman Looks Ahead

    On the 10th floor of Boston's Children's Hospital, Dr. Judah Folkman--a gentle presence with a racing mind--sits down to talk. He offers coffee and cookies. He teaches, he questions, he wonders. He plunges back to the past, hurtles ahead to the future and then, bounding through his lab in his scientist's white coat, he marvels at the present. "Look at this," he says, peering at a cylinder filled with sloshing red liquid. "These are human tumor cells." Tiny white dots, like grains of sand--they are the vicious beasts that Folkman, 68, has spent a lifetime trying to tame. And not, he insists, without the help of others. Walking past lab tables cluttered with flasks and tubes, he greets his collaborators, boasting about their discoveries. "I'm conducting an orchestra here," he says. "I'm listening to the music."And the tempo is picking up. Angiogenesis, Folkman's once derided theory that tumors grow by recruiting blood vessels for nourishment, is now widely accepted as a promising...
  • Can This Pill Stop You From Hitting The Bottle?

    Addicts know the pattern all too well--that roller-coaster ride of intoxicating highs and wasted lows. David Nott's journey has been one of the worst. At 28 he was a successful underwriter for Lloyds Insurance in London with a Porsche, a Ferrari and a country manor. But after two decades, Nott's life had spiraled into a mess. His addiction drowned his fortune, ruined three marriages and propelled him toward suicide. Drug of choice: alcohol. Breakfast was cheap Spanish wine; then came the vodka--a sickening cycle of passing out and coming to. He craved both another drink and a better life. "Once I was holding a glass of vodka and shaking and crying," says Nott, now 48. "I didn't want to drink it, but I couldn't stop."It's a battle far too many are losing. Alcohol abuse costs this country a staggering $185 billion a year in everything from lost workdays to drunken-driving accidents--more than all illegal drugs combined. Six million Americans persistently misuse alcohol, and 8 million...
  • Seeing A Virtual Shrink

    When Rita Lowitt, a Berkeley marriage and family therapist, isn't meeting clients in her office, she's treating them from home. Some nights, she might comfort a nervous new mom. Others, a stressed-out CEO or a fortysomething with a disappointing sex life. Her clients share their most private feelings, but Lowitt can't see their tears or hear their sighs. She may not even know what time zone they're in. Confused? Lowitt is counseling people online. "We're all more pressed for time, trying to avoid despair," she says. Internet counseling is "immediate, it's focused, it cuts to the chase."It had to happen someday. Buy online. Date online. Visit the shrink online. Everything, it seems, is a virtual commodity--as long as you have a keyboard and credit card. Five years ago, only a handful of therapists offered e-mail counseling and interactive chats; now, there are whole clinics of them, like here2listen.com, where Lowitt practices. An estimated 250 to 300 counseling sites exist, charging...
  • A Cancer 'Smart Bomb'

    Two summers ago, Douglas Jenson was so wiped out from battling Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) that he could do little more than sit by his window, watching the numbers on a thermometer rise and fall with the sun. Today, thanks to an experimental drug called STI571 (brand name: Glivec), Jenson, 67, is biking in Oregon and planning a trip to the Caribbean. "I feel wonderful," he says.So do his doctors. STI571, a "smart bomb" drug that targets leukemia cells without harming healthy ones, first made headlines last year when researchers announced that white blood counts returned to normal in 31 out of 31 patients who had taken the pill. Last week scientists were back, reporting new data on just over 1,000 patients. In one trial, more than 90 percent of 532 people on the drug saw blood counts return to normal. And under microscopic examination, 28 per-cent showed no evidence of cancer left in their bone marrow. The drug even helped--though not as dramatically--some patients in the...
  • The Meaning Of Falling

    Ann Schneider has the spirit of a child--but a body succumbing to age. Her physical decline started 13 years ago, when she tripped and dislocated her hip. A hip replacement got Schneider, now "80-plus," back on her feet and, until last March, she was still out line dancing with her friends. But Schneider's joint has weakened over the years, and after several recent falls in her bathroom, she is barely able to walk. She's still lively, gets out as much as she can--even doing volunteer work--and is optimistic that her condition will improve. But another fall is her greatest nightmare. "That is the biggest fear of many older people," she says, "that fall, that big fall, that changes your life."For millions of Americans, many of them our parents and grandparents, that big fall threatens like a fault line. Other symptoms of aging sneak up slowly: hearing dims, vision blurs, muscles weaken. But a serious tumble strikes without warning, and can shatter bones in an instant. One in three...
  • 'Nobody Expected This'

    When Dick Cheney left George Washington University Hospital only two days after his heart attack last week, at least one of the election's surprise headlines seemed to fade quickly. A few hours after his minor surgery, Cheney, 59, reassured the nation on "Larry King Live" that he felt fine. At Thanksgiving the next day, he dined on turkey with his family in the hospital and phoned staffers, sounding, said one, like his usual good-natured self. By Friday morning, Cheney was smiling and out the door. "I should be able to return to a full and normal life," he insisted.If it had to happen, Cheney's latest heart attack--his fourth in 22 years--went well from a medical perspective. He checked into GW immediately after feeling chest discomfort at dawn last Wednesday. Doctors detected a 90 to 95 percent blockage in one artery, then successfully inflated a stent to restore blood flow. Cardiac enzyme levels, which mark the extent of heart-muscle damage, showed only minor elevations. "This...
  • Physics Envy

    When 260 physicists gathered for a recent conference at the University of Michigan, they chatted in their usual vocab: compactification, tachyon condensation, flop transition. All unintelligible to human life forms. But standing out in this galaxy of obscurity was author and Columbia University physicist Brian Greene, 38, who has spent the last year and a half touring the country to explain string theory--an abstruse branch of physics and the subject of his 1999 book, "The Elegant Universe"--to the masses. Articulate, witty and totally nongeeky (black jeans, contacts, former wrestler, vegan), Greene's gravitational pull rivals a black hole's. In the words of one 37-year-old telephone operator who joined a standing-room-only crowd to hear him speak in Michigan: "He is hot."Add that to the physics lexicon. Greene's theatrical lectures--which include lots of metaphors, cool 3-D visuals and dry humor--routinely draw hundreds. The paperback of his book, a Pulitzer finalist, has been on...
  • 'We Have To Save Our People'

    Four years ago aids researchers were ebullient about the development of powerful new drugs. Last week the more than 12,000 delegates gathered for the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, were more subdued. Some 34 million people worldwide are now infected with HIV or AIDS, the bulk of them in Africa--yet politics, rather than medicine, dominated the headlines. There was intense frustration over South African President Thabo Mbeki's focus on poverty, not the virus, as South Africa's No. 1 killer, and his consulting dissident scientists who deny that HIV causes AIDS. And there was anger over limited access to expensive drugs in the developing world. Former South African president Nelson Mandela, in closing the conference, summed up the challenge. "We have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people," he said. "History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now--and right now."Medical reports presented at the conference and several...
  • What Boys Really Want

    All that stuff you've heard about how girls are ignored and oppressed and boys get all the attention in school? It's just a "myth," says philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers in her new book, "The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men." Girls are actually flourishing, says Sommers--boys are the ones in trouble. They're trailing their sisters in the classroom and they're at greater risk for learning disabilities, drug abuse and crime. In this all-girls, all-the-time milieu of ours, boys have not only been ignored, she argues, they've been dismissed. And now, on top of all that, they're viewed as defective by misguided feminists and psychologists who are trying to mold them into the other sex. "Boys badly need our attention," Sommers warns. "It is late, but not too late."A brazen attack against leading child researchers like Harvard psychologists Carol Gilligan and William Pollack--both of whom have shaped current thinking on girls' and boys' development-...
  • When Weight Loss Goes Awry

    At 5 feet 5 and 110 pounds, Amelia Greenberg was about as overweight as an earthworm. But last summer, as friends started dieting, she decided to lose five to 10 pounds. Within a few months Amelia, now 15, was on the death march called anorexia nervosa. Daily meals shrank down to "a grape, a mushroom and a cracker." Her weight plummeted to 84 pounds, her heart rate to a terrifying 31. In a weak but determined voice from her bed at the Children's Hospital in Denver, Amelia--a straight-A student and cheerleader--says, "I would never want this to happen to anybody else."Unfortunately, it is. While kids on one extreme are getting bigger, others are wasting away. Statistics say that 1 percent of adolescent girls and young women suffer from anorexia nervosa and 1 to 3 percent from the purging disorder bulimia nervosa--but those numbers are conservative. They don't take into account kids with serious borderline symptoms, or the two groups that experts say appear to be growing in number:...
  • Stars, Money And Medical Crusades

    When Joan Samuelson first traveled to Capitol Hill to lobby for Parkinson's research funding in 1991, nobody knew or cared much about the disease. The hearing rooms where she testified were small, the turnout spotty. If she was lucky, she'd get to meet with a representative's legislative assistant, who'd say: "I only have 10 minutes--but I'd prefer to wrap it up in five." There was, says Samuelson, "a complete vacuum of awareness."Cut to last fall, when Samuelson arrived on the Hill with Michael J. Fox on her arm. Those five-minute meetings? Come in, the congressman would say. Stay an hour. When Fox testified, asking for an additional $75 million in research money for Parkinson's this year (they got part of it), the Senate hearing room was mobbed. "The mood was electric," says Samuelson. "Everyone from pages to prominent senators wanted a picture." Next week Samuelson, president of the Parkinson's Action Network, will announce the organization's new name--the Michael J. Fox...
  • Fading Of The Light

    It's a cruel visual trick: you see someone in front of you, but you can't make out her features. Is it a friend? A stranger? Your own child? This is the heart-wrenching reality of severe age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It attacks the macula, home of the sharp central vision that enables us to read fine print, distinguish colors and drive safely down the road. Victims of AMD retain their peripheral vision, but the details in front of them--including the faces of the people they love most--blur and fade. "When you lose your vision," says John Bukowicz, 74, who suffers from AMD, "you lose everything."Today an estimated 13 million Americans have some form of the disease. As the population ages and life spans lengthen, the number will multiply. Doctors know little about AMD's causes, and they have no cure. Still, there is hope. Last month the FDA approved Visudyne, the first drug to treat the most serious AMD. And scientists are actively researching other therapies. In the...
  • Unhealthy Habits

    Ok, there are those dreaded pimples and that mess of raging hormones. But most American teens aren't battling the scourges of adulthood--cancer, heart disease, arthritis. What young people are facing is their own minefield of health risks: an overwhelming array of behavioral and lifestyle choices and pressures from what to eat to whether or not to smoke or use illegal drugs. What they decide now could affect their health for a lifetime. Here's a look at how they're doing:Eating: Snack foods and sodas rule. On a scale of zero to 100 in the government's Healthy Eating Index (80 and up being "good"), teens scored in the low 60s, earning them a big fat "needs improvement." Only about one in 10 adolescents gets the recommended two to four daily servings of fruit. They do slightly better with veggies, with about one fourth scarfing down the recommended three to five. But that doesn't mean they're filling up on carrots and spinach--french fries, potato chips and pizza sauce all count.Even...
  • Still Sexy After All These Years

    What a sexual past. They reveled in the birth-control pill, free love and premarital bliss. But today, baby boomers are edging unwillingly closer to their golden years and it's their sexual future they're thinking about--as in, "I have a sexual future, right?"There's no getting around the fact that sexual performance, interest and satisfaction can change over time. "Certain things go down with age," says John McKinlay, principal investigator of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS), a major survey of men's health. "Number one is erections." For many men, that means two things: longer to get there, not as firm once you do. Others are less fortunate. Between the ages of 40 and 70, the probability of complete impotence triples from 5 to 15 percent, according to the MMAS. Poor health and habits--diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and smoking--are all major contributors. In women, it's hormones that go down. Estrogen levels drop dramatically at menopause, thinning the vaginal wall...
  • Good News About Giving Up Booze

    Even with the best interventions, alcoholism is notoriously difficult to treat. So although a new pill called acamprosate troubles those who fear it will be viewed as a quick fix, it's also raising hopes. Data from U.S. trials in 601 patients have not been released, but principal investigator Barbara Mason, director of the University of Miami's Division of Substance Abuse, told NEWSWEEK that in patients motivated to quit drinking, the drug boosted abstinence at rates comparable to those found in a group of European studies. In one important measurement of efficacy in those trials, patients taking acamprosate increased the number of days they didn't drink by about 10 to 25 percent over a placebo.Mason says the pill--which appears to work by quieting neurotransmitters associated with alcohol dependence without serious side effects--must be used together with behavioral therapy. The FDA is expected to review trial data by the end of the year. "It's not magic," says Mason, a research...
  • Learning Right From Wrong

    To the legal system, the answer is clear: children have the requisite moral sense--the ability to tell right from wrong--by age 7 to 15, depending on which state they live in, and so can be held responsible for their actions. The Roman Catholic Church pegs it at the early end of that range: children reach the "age of reason" by the tender age of 7, a milestone marked by their first confession of sin and holy communion. Developmental psychologists and other researchers who study the question are not so sure. How old a child must be to both know in his mind and feel in his heart that lying, stealing, cheating, hurting--let alone murdering--are morally wrong is a matter of scientific debate.But the question of when is not nearly so fraught as the question of how. Although they pretty much agree that living in a crack house--with people who respond to challenges with violence, and bereft of parental love, supervision and models of moral behavior--can leave a child's conscience stillborn...
  • Drugged-Out Toddlers

    We thought toddlers had it easy. No bills to pay, no bosses to please--just ice cream and a little mischief on the brain. But America's tiniest citizens, some still in diapers, are now the newest members of the Ritalin and Prozac nation. The numbers are small, but in a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association last week, researchers reported that the use of certain psychotropic drugs, like antidepressants and stimulants, in 2- to 4-year-olds doubled or even tripled between 1991 and 1995.The study gave no reasons for the increase, but experts say frustrated parents, agitated day-care workers and 10-minute pediatric visits all contribute to quick fixes for emotional and behavioral problems. Even with the best of intentions, says Julie Magno Zito of the University of Maryland and the study's lead author, "you have a confluence of social forces together who collectively say, 'I don't have time for anything else'."The new data raises serious questions about how...
  • A Time To Decide

    Women diagnosed with breast cancer know one basic fact: the earlier their malignant cells were detected, the better the odds for survival. But things aren't so simple when it comes to treatment--especially if the diagnosis is ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS. Many patients have never even heard of the condition and doctors, who call it everything from pre-cancer to noninvasive breast cancer, are still trying to figure out the best treatment: Mastectomy? Lumpectomy? Radiation? "There's a lot of confusion out there," says Dr. Kimberly Van Zee of New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.Unlike tumor cells, which ball up into lumps, DCIS fans out along the milk ducts--patients usually can't feel a thing. But thanks to mammography, DCIS detection has soared over the last three decades, now making up almost 20 percent of new breast-cancer diagnoses. This year alone, it will strike 43,000 American women. On its own, DCIS stays confined to the ducts and is highly curable. The...
  • Coping With The Darkness

    Anne Breon had been through it all before. For seven years she watched an aunt who had Alzheimer's disease languish in a traditional nursing home. The care was adequate, but Breon was desperate to do better for her aunt's sister, 88-year-old Lillian Reinke. Last fall she moved Reinke into a special Alzheimer's unit at Brighton Gardens, an assisted-living facility in suburban Chicago, where residents take field trips to a nearby arboretum, feed Daisy, the house dog, and visit a beauty shop to have their hair done. Even though some residents are in the middle stage of the disease, they seem to like the bustle and activity. Reinke can stroll from the kitchen through the sun porch to an enclosed garden without feeling trapped--but Breon doesn't have to worry that she'll wander out and get lost. A new Alzheimer's innovation, a personalized "memory box," which holds Reinke's old Christmas decorations and other mementos, helps guide her to her room. "Coming here is a joy," says Breon. At...
  • Mideast: The First Steps In A Delicate Dance

    They never shook hands, not even in private. So say U.S. officials describing the chilly if historic two-day meeting in Washington between Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. But Barak certainly tried to defrost the atmosphere. The Israeli leader managed to engage the reserved Shara in small talk several times, at one point discussing savory Yemenite shellfish--"I can't eat it," lamented Barak, alluding to Kosher laws--and trading stories about their kids. Barak's schmoozing may help when negotiations resume Jan. 3. While the two made little headway on key border issues, negotiators note that Shara and the Syrian press have stopped demanding a return to the "June 4, 1967" border--which for years has been Damascus's code for all of the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee and its shoreline. If Syria is willing to compromise there, it could produce a major breakthrough. Even so, U.S. officials expect several rounds of talks before a peace deal...
  • The War On Disease Goes Miniature

    The future of medicine is vast--and it's also amazingly small. One day in the next century, thanks to the burgeoning field of nanotechnology, you could walk out of the doctor's office with a prescription for cancer detectors so tiny you can't see them. In this Lilliputian world, units are measured in nanometers--10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair. The idea is that if we can build new drugs and devices molecule by molecule, the way the tissues and organs in our own bodies are formed, we can make them much more targeted and effective.One of the hottest areas of nanoresearch is better drug delivery. Scientists are now working on a miniaturized sensor for diabetics that mimics the glucose-detection system in a healthy body. The device, possibly implanted under the skin, would monitor blood-sugar levels, then release insulin as needed. And researchers at MIT recently made a prototype for an entire mini-pharmacy: a microchip (implanted or swallowed) with as many...
  • A Debate On The Origins Of A Plague

    It is an ironic and unsettling hypothesis--that the effort to fight one great human scourge might have given rise to another. But in "The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS," British writer Edward Hooper builds a case for the possibility that the HIV-1 virus first reached humans in oral polio vaccines given to a million people in Africa between 1957 and 1960. The theory first gained attention in a 1992 Rolling Stone article, then was debunked by a scientific committee. Now Hooper, after 600 interviews and a decade of research, has assembled a vast body of circumstantial evidence, increasing, as one scientist puts it, "the plausibility factor." He details the African vaccine trials, then carefully maps out a coincidence in time and place with early AIDS cases. He says he's "97 percent persuaded" the hypothesis is right.Scientists generally agree that HIV-1, which most closely resembles a virus found in chimpanzees, jumped from chimp to human--probably as hunters...
  • Viagra May Still Be Mostly A Guy Thing

    Viagra's got a pretty solid record when it comes to performance in men. But will it work for women, too? Some swear by it, and a small pilot study of women has found that the drug can boost sexual response significantly. But the reality for big populations may be less promising. NEWSWEEK has learned that in the first large-scale clinical trial involving women, Viagra does not appear to work miracles. Dr. Raymond Rosen, a Pfizer consultant, told researchers at a medical conference at Boston University last month that the data is "not going to show broad or robust effects" in females. Later, Rosen told NEWSWEEK his comments were based on informal feedback from investigators. Pfizer wouldn't comment on the trial results, which they plan to release at a scientific meeting next year.Pfizer's study included 800 pre- and postmenopausal women in Europe who suffered from sexual dysfunction, which can mean anything from lack of libido to difficulties with arousal or orgasm. Future studies...
  • What Dreams Are Made Of

    The stuff of dreams--bizarre, fleeting and mysterious. But are they significant? Psychoanalysts and neuroscientists have been on opposite sides of the couch over that question for decades. Dreams, the analysts say, are what Freud called the "royal road to the unconscious," revealing our deepest hidden desires in symbolic imagery. Scientists, however, have long viewed dreams as mechanical, the byproduct of random brain activity--neurons that blast off automatically.As psychoanalysts celebrate the 100th anniversary of Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams" this week, fresh scientific research is reinvigorating the debate. Studies show that brain areas responsible for emotion and perhaps even motivation may play a role in the dreaming process. Analysts are touting the findings as vindication of Freudian thinking, which has been under harsh attack in recent years. Most scientists stop far short of boosting Freud. But, says Dr. J. Allan Hobson, a Harvard neuroscientist who has helped...
  • How Parents Can Help

    One day they're crawling around in the sandbox; the next day they're prowling the Internet. Tweens like to think of themselves as all grown up--but they still need plenty of support and guidance from parents. Some tips: ...
  • Weighing The Health Risks, In Your Body

    In this overweight nation, there's a feeding frenzy for weight-loss pills. Metabolife International says it expects to sell $900 million worth of supplements this year. At its peak, Fen-Phen was taken by millions of Americans eager for a quick way to shed extra pounds. More than 1 million have tried the drug Meridia since its debut in 1998. And earlier this year, after just one month on the market, close to 100,000 prescriptions had been written for a competitor pill, Xenical.But the wish for an effective, risk-free diet pill is about as realistic as the search for a free lunch. Both Xenical and Meridia (like Fen-Phen) are prescription diet drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Metabolife, by contrast, is a "dietary supplement." The FDA considers it a food, not a drug, so it doesn't require government approval before landing in stores. The supplement contains a smattering of herbal components, including bee pollen, ginger and goldenseal. Its most active--and...