Doctor, doctor: Does popcorn prevent cancer? | Medicine

I read a research study, presented to the American Chemical Society, that popcorn is good for preventing cancer. Can this be true? Should I let my children eat a lot more of it?
There's a big problem in extrapolating from results reported in animals to human beings – and the popcorn story comes from an interesting but solitary animal study. We are very far from knowing how popcorn might change the risk of cancer in people, if it does at all. But we do know, from years of experience and our knowledge of nutrition, that excessive intake of popcorn can lead to obesity and probably also to overdosage of salt, which can induce high blood pressure. So if you encourage your children to overdo their popcorn consumption, you almost certainly won't change their cancer risk, but will probably increase their chances of heart attack and stroke. When we know a bit more about the reason for the apparent influence of popcorn on cancer in the laboratory – such as from a particular chemical in the mix – then we might be better able to make a judgment.

For the last three years or so, I've often woken up in the morning with a severe stiff neck that means I can't move my head to one side at all. The stiffness lasts for three or four days, is relieved only slightly by painkillers and there are no other symptoms. Could it be a virus? Should I be worried?
There's no evidence that a virus infection could lead to three years of symptoms like yours, so you have to look for another cause for your stiff neck. The fact that you wake up with it this way suggests that your posture when asleep isn't right – is your pillow firm enough to support your neck while you are sleeping? Active exercises to stretch your neck may also be an idea: a helpful one is the first stage of the Alexander technique, in which you lie on the floor with your head resting on something firm and just high enough to tilt your chin down slightly, and then stretch the rest of your body away from your head. This can stretch the neck muscles and prevent stiffness. If you can, lie like this for about 15 minutes, three times a day. You may be surprised by the results.

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