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'Low testosterone CHD link'; 'Grapefruit a breast Ca risk'; 'Burger dye triggers cancer'

The big health stories from this week's papers, digested

'Low testosterone CHD link'

The story

Older women with low levels of testosterone are at increased risk of heart disease, report the Daily Mail and BBC News Online.

The source

Belgian scientists examined 56 postmenopausal women who had severe atherosclerosis. The results, published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, found the women had significantly lower levels of testosterone than healthy controls.

Expert view

Dr Tim Chico, clinician scientist and honorary consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said: 'All the study shows is that women who have atherosclerosis have lower testosterone. It doesn't really mean it has anything to do with the cause of heart disease. I certainly wouldn't prescribe testosterone patches for women, simply because it would expose them to a higher risk of coronary heart disease.'

'Grapefruit a breast Ca risk'

The story

Eating grapefruit every day could raise the risk of developing breast cancer, according to BBC News Online.

The source

A cohort study of 50,000 postmenopausal women found that eating grapefruit daily raised the risk of breast cancer by up to 30%. Grapefruit is thought to inhibit the metabolism of oestrogen – which has long been associated with breast cancer risk. The results were published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Expert view

Liz Baker, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: 'Although the chemicals in grapefruit are known to interfere with the action of several drugs, this is the first and only study to show a link between grapefruit and breast cancer risk, and the researchers themselves say the results need to be confirmed in follow-up studies.'

'Burger dye triggers cancer'

The story

A dye added to sausages and burgers could trigger cancer, warn the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Times and BBC News Online.

The source

Scientists from the European Food Safety Authority said the colorant E128 was a 'safety concern'. Their research on mice showed the chemical is metabolised to aniline which has both carcinogenic and genotoxic effects.

Expert view

Professor Alan Boobis, professor of toxicology at Imperial College London, said: 'The research is pretty robust, based on the fact that E128 can be metabolised to aniline. It's suspected it reacts directly with DNA, which means there is no level at which it could be considered safe. If you consider the risk to the consumer any risk is very low, but it depends on the level consumed, duration, and the individual concerned – which is why the EFSA has withdrawn it.'

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