Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stone Cold Balls

I found this article in today's paper, and it sort of triggered a cascade effect of data from the back of my brain, possibly because a slight fever that I've been suffering from for a few days finally broke last night:
Body Heat Linked to Armstrong's Recovery

AP Medical Writer

July 25, 2006, 8:10 PM EDT

CHICAGO -- A new but unproven theory says body heat might explain Lance Armstrong's astounding victory over testicular cancer. The theory -- disputed by Armstrong's doctor -- refers to the unusually high cure rate for testicular cancer, even when it has spread to other parts of the body. [....]

According to three Johns Hopkins University researchers, the reason for the good prognosis might have to do with the fact that the temperature of the testicles is a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body. That's to enhance development of sperm, but it might also make cancer that develops there sensitive to heat, the researchers said.

And so, their not-yet-mainstream theory goes, when testicular cancer spreads to other, warmer body parts, the higher temperature might damage it and render it more vulnerable to cancer treatment.

Understanding the basis for what they call "the Lance Armstrong effect" might lead to ways to help make other kinds of cancer more treatable, the researchers said in an article in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. [....]

"There is no direct or even indirect evidence even remotely supporting this hypothesis," said Nichols, a specialist at Oregon Health & Science University's Cancer Institute.
True enough, but...

There is strong evidence that cooling the body can provide all sorts of benefits.

I'm not talking about air conditioning, although that certainly helps, but cooling the body, providing it a way to shed the heat it manufactures in its daily processes, has a salutary effect on its internal functioning.

For example, a little-known but highly-studied treatment for high blood pressure is regular cool showers, no more than 65-70 degrees F. Ocean temperatures, in other words (if you live in the North). This helps stabilize your circulatory system by triggering your autonomic response, the same response that protects you when you drown in icy water.

Moreover, studies have shown that cold showers will also increase your immune response, making you less susceptible to communicable diseases. And cold water stimulates endorphins, which provide you with more energy and pain relief. Cold water also stimulates neurons that improve your mood, making you feel exhilirated and motivated.

(A good article on the benefits of cold showers and it's practical application in your daily life is here)

Some of those old wives tales had some merit, and clearly the one about taking a cold shower to depress your sex drive was one, but not for the cold water itself: it's the body's response to the shower that makes the sex drive seem less important an urge, as you satisfy some of the ancillary anxieties associated with sex with the stimulation of endorphins.

So the next time someone tells me I've got stone cold balls, I'm going to be sure to thank them. Then go take a shower!