Smoke and Fears

By Scott LaFee

May 8, 2019 7 min read

Cancer deaths overall in the United States dropped more than 25% between 1991 and 2016, but the good news is not uniform and there is room for improvement. Nearly a third of all cancer deaths are due to cigarette smoking, but while tobacco use is in decline, some populations remain at a higher risk of mortality. For example, only about 6% of female college graduates smoke while more than 30% of men with less than a high school education do.

Exercise is linked to cancer risk. We can attribute 2% of all cancer deaths to a lack of physical activity. Just over a quarter of all adults in 2018 reported they did not participate in recreational physical activity or exercise.

Body of Knowledge

The average bra size in the U.S. is 34DD, according to the most recent data available from retailers. That's up from the average 34B a couple decades ago.

Get Me That, Stat!

Between 2011 and 2017, at least 259 people died while attempting to take a selfie in a dangerous location — such as at the edge of a cliff or while feeding a wild animal — according to a new study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care.

Mark Your Calendar

May is a busy month, celebrating heightened awareness for arthritis, better hearing, food allergies, hepatitis, mental health, osteoporosis, stroke, teen pregnancy prevention and the Mediterranean diet. It also includes National Stuttering Awareness Week and Don't Fry Day, the latter being related to skin cancer prevention, not avoiding doughnuts and fries (which, by the way, aren't so good for you either).


8.2: Total average number of hours American teens sat each day in 2016

6.4: Total average number of hours American adults sat each day in 2016

7.0: Daily sitting hours for adolescents in 2007

5.5: Daily sitting hours for adults in 2007

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

Stories for the Waiting Room

More than 90% of veterinarians say they have been asked by patients about cannabis products for their pets, according to a Colorado State University survey. One-third say they are asked at least once a week.

Doc Talk

Muscae volitantes: Sometimes, if you stare intently, you can see tiny spots or filaments drifting across your field of vision. These are bits of protein, cell fragments and other material passing through the eye's vitreous humour and over the retina. What you're actually seeing is the shadow they cast upon the retina or the refraction of light passing through them. Most people call them "floaters." The Latin medical name means "flying flies."


"Nineteen percent of doctors say that they'd be able to give their patients a lethal injection. But they also went on to say that the patient would have to be really, really behind on payments." — Jay Leno (1950-), comedian

Medical History

This week in 1953, a heart-lung machine designed by Dr. John Heysham Gibbon Jr. was used to successfully complete open-heart surgery on patient Cecelia Bavolek, demonstrating that an artificial device could temporarily mimic cardiac functions. Gibbon created his first devices in 1937 and was eventually able to replace the heart and lung activity of a cat for 25 minutes. By the late 1940s, with financial and technical support from IBM president Thomas J. Watson, Gibbon had produced an improved device that cascaded blood down a thin sheet of film for oxygenation while preventing damage to corpuscles.

Perishable Publications

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, needlessly complex words and opaque phrases like "nonlinear dynamics." Sometimes they don't, and they're still hard to figure out. Here's a real title of actual published research: "Ocular Lawnmower Injuries."

Published during October 1988 in the journal Ophthalmology, this study highlights the menace to vision that is the lawnmower — or at least the lawnmower of yore. It recounts an average of 70,000 injuries annually from 1977 to 1987 involving lawnmowers. Roughly 5% involved the eyes, everything from corneoscleral lacerations and intraocular foreign bodies to traumatic hyphema and retinopathy.

All proof that a rock garden can look quite lovely.

Sum Body

Sure, you can go to the gym to work out muscles like the biceps, quads and abs. Everybody does. But are you paying any attention to these muscles?

1. Psoas major: A muscle in the hip that connects the upper femur with the lumbar spine and lower femur with what's known as the iliacus muscle. More commonly considered a hip flexor muscle that stabilizes the spine and helps you stand up straight.

2. Levator scapulae: Conjoins the skull and neck with the shoulder blades. Primary stabilizer in repetitive shoulder exercises and critical to the act of shrugging.

3. Piriformis: Responsible for external rotation of the knee, which helps prevent things like meniscus tears. Located under the gluteal region. It keeps the knee from buckling during normal activities like walking.

4. Brachialis anticus: An upper arm muscle residing beneath the biceps brachii. It's really the foundational muscle you're admiring when flexing those guns.

5. Popliteus: Located below the knee near the shinbone. It's responsible for unlocking your knees, which allows walking. Also vital to standing and sitting. A strong popliteus improves walking ability and helps avoid hip injuries.

Last Words

"Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys." — Nova Scotia train dispatcher Vince Coleman (1872-1917), just before the Halifax explosion in 1917, which involved two vessels colliding, one of them laden with high explosives.

The resulting blast, debris, fires and collapsed buildings killed approximately 2,000 people in the area. Coleman actually left the station but then returned to send additional warning messages to inbound trains, which stopped in time.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Free-Photos at Pixabay

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