How to Stay Well
GP Phil Kieran on the truth behind three health scares
From make-up that can cause meningitis to a link between bacon sandwiches and bowel cancer, certain newspapers and websites love a good health scare story. But how much should we believe?
As part of new C4 series How to Stay Well, doctor Phil Kieran sorts the facts from fiction. TV Times sought a consultation with GP Phil, 34, to learn how worried we should be.
1 Do smartphones cause infertility?
The story: ‘If men keep smartphones in their front trouser pockets, the radiation is cooking their testicles and making them infertile.’
The SCIENCE: ‘Fertility rates are calculated by how many children people are having, but it’s not just about the ability to have children.’
VERDICT: ‘No concrete proven risk.’
2 Does bacon give you cancer?
The story: ‘A year ago, the headlines said bacon is as bad as cigarettes, because the World Health Organisation put it in the same category of things that can cause cancer. It said there was an 18 per cent increase in your risk, which sounds huge.’
The SCIENCE: ‘Your risk of getting cancer if you didn’t eat any bacon or things like that is about five per cent. If you ate bacon on a daily basis, it’d go up to six per cent. So one per cent of five per cent is one fifth – which is 20 per cent. It’s one of the most misleading statistics!’
VERDICT: ‘You won’t sell newspapers by saying eating bacon increases your risk by less than one per cent.’
3 Does make-up cause meningitis?
The story: ‘The headline I found the biggest stretch with was that outof-date make-up can harbour deadly bacteria that cause meningitis.’
The SCIENCE: ‘We sent some out-ofdate make-up to a microbiology lab and there were bugs in it, but the risk of these things causing you any significant health problems are tiny.’
VERDICT: ‘Make-up already has antibacterials in it to stop this sort of thing happening. If you’re the only person using it, any bacteria is probably coming from you.’
unwanted call: Can mobiles cause male infertility?
Doctor Phil Kieran