Lung cancer lurking in your clothes dryer?  |

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TO YOUR HEALTH #12345_20220510

FOR RELEASE WEEK OF MAY 9, 2022 (COL. 2)

BYLINE: From Keith Roach, MD

TITLE: Is Lung Cancer Lurking in Your Clothes Dryer?

DEAR DOCTOR. ROACH: I heard that air fresheners and fabric softener sheets can cause lung cancer. Is that true? — PG

ANSWER: It is true that according to a 2011 study, these products emit volatile organic compounds. VOCs comprise a large group of chemicals, some of which increase the risk of cancer if taken in high enough doses for a long enough period of time.

Some of these include alcohol and acetaldehyde, both of which are known to be definite or probable carcinogens. Nevertheless, a lot of alcohol is consumed and acetaldehyde is found in ripe fruits, among other things.

The study found products listed as “organic,” “green,” “natural,” or “non-toxic” that contained similar amounts of potentially toxic or hazardous chemicals. The nature of the study precluded any assessment of the magnitude of risk from exposure to these chemicals. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the chance of developing cancer from continuous exposure to acetaldehyde to be less than 1 in 100,000. The effect of multiple volatile organic compounds working together has not been studied.

To say that “air fresheners cause lung cancer” is sensational and doesn’t really address the factors a person should be concerned with, such as from using fabric softener with the laundry.

It is clear that these products can cause allergic reactions. I see respiratory symptoms and skin rashes quite frequently. However, my best guess from the studies I’ve read is that the risk of developing cancer from these products is very, very small.

DEAR DOCTOR. ROACH: I am writing on behalf of my 91 year old father who has been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. He has seen a specialist who is willing to proceed with the operation. My father’s symptoms include numbness (dysesthesia) in his fingers to the point that he cannot easily button shirts and shoelaces. Is there a treatment you would recommend that addresses the deafness directly? My father hardly feels any pain and has no problems grasping. He wonders if nerve compression could be coming from the neck and shoulder and if chiropractic, massage, or exercise therapy could be the answer. He is very reluctant to have surgery. –TS

ANSWER: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by nerve compression in the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a literal space tunnel bounded by the carpal bones (bones of the wrist) and their ligaments, and by a connective tissue structure called the flexor retinaculum.

Compression is relieved by surgical release of the retinaculum, allowing adequate space for the nerve. Surgery is the definitive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, but surgery is not always necessary. Lifestyle changes, such as wearing a wrist brace, and medication can sometimes prevent a person from needing surgery.

You didn’t give a good reason why your father needs an operation now. Surgery on any 91-year-old should not be taken lightly, including carpal tunnel removal, which is a very effective operation with a low complication rate. But low complication rate doesn’t mean zero, and I recently saw a patient whose nerve was damaged from the surgery.

Before surgery, the surgeon should be absolutely sure that nerve compression is taking place in the wrist, not the shoulder or neck. Your father needs an EMG scan. If surgery is necessary because other treatments have not worked or because there is evidence of severe nerve damage such as weakness or muscle atrophy, I strongly recommend consulting a hand surgeon who has specific expertise in this surgery.

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dr Roach regrets that he cannot reply to individual letters, but will include them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to [email protected] or mail them to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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