Osteoporosis does not only affect older people. While one woman in three and one man in 12 over the age of 70 is a sufferer, the condition can affect people in their 20s. This preventable disease can hit astronauts and swimmers - or anyone who takes too little weight-bearing exercise such as walking. It is particularly important to build up a "bank" of calcium by the age of 35, to prevent osteoporosis in later life. The Irish Osteoporosis Society is launching a Meath support group tonight at 8 p.m. at the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan. Speakers include Dr Mary Randles, on HRT options. For further information, call the society's help-line: 01-8258159.

Diagnoses of skin cancer are doubling every 10 years - but, judging from the current cover of Vogue, suntans are back in fashion. Sun-beds have been linked to skin cancer and the ultraviolet radiation they emit can be as damaging as the sun's rays. The UK Health Education Authority is launching a campaign to warn of the risks of sun-beds - which include eye irritation or conjunctivitis, a bumpy rash, dry skin and sunburn. So why does a suntan make you feel so healthy?

Allergies are on the increase - but US research has found that household bleach may have a partial answer as even relatively low concentrations of bleach can destroy proteins which are a common source of allergic reactions. Researchers suggest the bedding of asthma sufferers should be washed in bleach - but before anyone gets carried away and bleaches their sofa, rugs or curtains, they also point out no studies have been carried out into the use of bleach on soft furnishings.

Mothers who give their babies soothers may be depriving them of valuable breast-feeding time, according to a US study. The researchers found mothers who used soothers were more likely to breast-feed for a shorter time and to use the soother to extend the periods between feedings, although this could result in an insufficient milk supply. Many benefits of breast-feeding (providing immunity for the child and reducing the woman's risk of breast and ovarian cancer) are known to depend on the duration of full breast-feeding, the researchers say.


T'ai Chi, the slow-motion form of exercise popular in China, can reduce blood pressure in older adults as much as aerobic exercise, but without accelerated heart-rates. The US study of 62 overweight over-60s with high blood pressure found even low-intensity exercise can produce real health benefits - so the dignified T'ai Chi movements are as good as jumping about, getting hot and wearing lycra.

--(Journal of the American Geriatrics Society)

Asthma is on the increase and is not helped by the fact that many asthma sufferers dislike their inhalers and are reluctant to use them, US research shows. But a new inhaler may change this. Until now, many asthma sufferers have had to use two inhalers - one to control inflammation and one to protect against asthma symptoms. Clinical studies have found combination inhalers such as Seretide, produced by Glaxo Wellcome, to be effective and well-tolerated.