Science Interviews


Sun, 14th May 2006

Science Update - Monopoly and Lung Cancer

Chelsea Wald and Bob Hirshon From Aaas

Part of the show BSE, Cervical Cancer and Toxoplasmosis


Chelsea - When you are playing monopoly having a get out of jail free card makes landing in jail much less of a worry, and some scientists want to know if there is a similar effect in real life.

Bob - Exactly if there were a cure for lung cancer, would you start smoking? A recent study by University of Florida Professor of Marketing Joel Cohen and his colleagues offers some insight. They found that for people predisposed to risky behaviours like smoking and gambling learning about potential remedies to the problem made them more likely to downplay the risk and indulge, but for people with no such vices the information had the opposite effect.

Joel - The availability of a remedy would only convince non - users that, boy there were serious risks here and convince them of the correctness of their behaviour.

Bob - So remarkably marketing remedies can sometimes hurt the people who are most in need of help.

Chelsea - So it is with a little trepidation that we present to you the next story, which is that there may soon be a get out of jail free card for people putting on a few extra pounds.

Bob - Yes and this features the same dermatologist mentioned on the Naked Scientists recently: Fox Anderson from Harvard Medical School who found a new way to erase tattoos. Well now he is saying lasers can erase fat cells. Anderson noticed that certain wavelengths of light are absorbed by fat cells better than other cells of the body. So he worked with laser physicist Fred Dylla of the Department of Energy's Jefferson Lab in Virginia who tuned a powerful laser to that wavelength. Anderson then used the laser to zap away fat; first in pieces of pork then, Dylla explains, in samples of human tissue.

Fred - And that is the experiment he did down here using our free electron laser and he found he could selectively kill and damage fat tissue about one centimetre below the skin without affecting the skin.

Bob - In the future he says the technique could potentially clear up cellulite, melt down excess body fat, or even scour away unhealthy fat from arteries

Chelsea - Next week we will be talking about that most loved and reviled of all hormones, testosterone. Until then I'm Chelsea Wald.

Bob - And I'm Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.


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