Sunday, April 27, 2008

I've Been Telling Doctors This for Years

....and they've just laughed.

Masturbation 'cuts cancer risk'

Men could reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer through regular masturbation, researchers suggest. They say cancer-causing chemicals could build up in the prostate if men do not ejaculate regularly.

And they say sexual intercourse may not have the same protective effect because of the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, which could increase men's cancer risk.

Australian researchers questioned over 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer and 1,250 who had not about their sexual habits.

This is a plausible theory

Dr Chris Hiley, Prostate Cancer Charity
They found those who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to develop the cancer.

The protective effect was greatest while the men were in their 20s.

Men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.


Previous research has suggested that a high number of sexual partners or a high level of sexual activity increased a man's risk of developing prostate cancer by up to 40%.

But the Australian researchers who carried out this study suggest the early work missed the protective effect of ejaculation because it focussed on sexual intercourse, with its associated risk of STIs.

Graham Giles, of the Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne, who led the research team, told New Scientist: "Had we been able to remove ejaculations associated with sexual intercourse, there should have been an even stronger protective effect of ejaculations."

The researchers suggest that ejaculating may prevent carcinogens accumulating in the prostate gland.

The prostate provides a fluid into semen during ejaculation that activates sperm and prevents them sticking together.

The fluid has high concentrations of substances including potassium, zinc, fructose and citric acid, which are drawn from the bloodstream.

But animal studies have shown carcinogens such as 3-methylchloranthrene, found in cigarette smoke, are also concentrated in the prostate.

'Flushing out'

Dr Giles said fewer ejaculations may mean the carcinogens build up.

"It's a prostatic stagnation hypothesis. The more you flush the ducts out, the less there is to hang around and damage the cells that line them."

A similar connection has been found between breast cancer and breastfeeding, where lactating appeared to "flush out" carcinogens, reduce a woman's risk of the disease, New Scientist reports.

Another theory put forward by the researchers is that ejaculation may induce prostate glands to mature fully, making them less susceptible to carcinogens.

Dr Chris Hiley, head of policy and research at the UK's Prostate Cancer Charity, told BBC News Online: "This is a plausible theory."

She added: "In the same way the human papillomavirus has been linked to cervical cancer, there is a suggestion that bits of prostate cancer may be related to a sexually transmitted infection earlier in life."

Anthony Smith, deputy director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University in Melbourne, said the research could affect the kind of lifestyle advice doctors give to patients.

"Masturbation is part of people's sexual repertoire.

"If these findings hold up, then it's perfectly reasonable that men should be encouraged to masturbate," he said.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Best Current Explanation of Credit Crunch

Reprinted in its entirety. Click title to go to source.

Payback Time
By Eric J. Fry

Never in the history of the vibrant US economy have so many owed so much in so many different ways. So now that credit is fleeing from the U.S. economy like finance CEOs from responsibility, the economy is certain to struggle. Slumping home values won't help.

Get ready for the "Era of De-Leveraging."

The U.S. economy is leveraged...too leveraged, which is not a good thing to be when credit becomes scarce. Without fresh access to borrowed capital, a leveraged entity will struggle to survive...and often perish. (Bear Stearns illustrates the point).

Leverage is a bipolar financial creature. During boom times, it provides delicious pleasures. But when economic activity contracts, leverage breaks out a whip and doles out misery. Here in the 50 States of America, the whip-cracking/misery stage has arrived...and the U.S. economy is ill-prepared for the abuse. The US economy, led by its imprudent financial sector, is over-leveraged...painfully over-leveraged.

Even using generous assumptions about the value of assets on bank balance sheets, the leaders of the US financial sector owe $40 for every dollar of assets they own. And let's not forget WHAT they own: bad loans, impaired derivatives, and a "Love Canal" of complex financial assets that carry mark-to-imagination pricing. And let's not forget either that even after all the Fed's regulation-bending bailouts and desperate rate cuts and backroom M&A deals, the US financial sector is still carrying about twice the leverage it carried three years ago and about triple the leverage it carried one decade ago.

So what's the point? Just this: All bubbles deflate... and America's credit bubble will be no different.

The "Era of Excess Leverage" perished sometime last summer; the Era of De-leveraging has arrived. This new era will be much less fun than its predecessor. During the last five years, American finance companies and individuals embarked on a frenzied borrowing binge. They levered-up big time. The banks and brokerage companies leveraged themselves to better fulfill their corporate mandate: maximizing returns to management. And individuals leveraged themselves to add square footage, leased SUVs and Himalayan yoga retreats to the standard-issue American dream.

That was lots of fun.

But now, home prices are falling, which means that the prices of the mortgage-backed exotica littering bank balance sheets are also falling. Therefore, leveraged banks and individuals must now de-lever, which will be no fun at all.

As America de-levers, the American economy will certainly stumble. Banks will sell whatever they can sell – including parts of themselves – to raise cash. Individuals will sell whatever they can sell – including the roofs over their heads – to raise cash. The weakest members of both contingents will go bankrupt, which will further depress prices of the assets that the leveraged survivors will still be trying to sell.

Best case, dear investor, asset values will continue grinding lower. More likely, asset values will drop rapidly, as credit drains from the economy. This process of credit contraction is almost certain to hobble economic growth and to imperil the survival of every leveraged financial institution and individual.

Contracting credit annihilated Bear Stearns in less than one week. Contracting credit will invite similar hardships upon the entire US economy, notwithstanding the Federal Reserve's desperate maneuvers to prevent them. No doubt, the Fed will continue combating the credit contraction with an endless barrage of rate cuts, bailouts and "temporary" loans. But immediate victory seems improbable. The forces of deleveraging are simply too large and too powerful...and these forces have already gathered considerable momentum.

Therefore, in the new era that has just begun, many investments will struggle. But do not despair; the Federal Reserve has wrapped a bow around the commodity sector. Ben Bernanke's gift to investors will be an unimaginably robust and durable commodity rally. Yes, there will be large, severe selloffs in this sector, but the Fed's frenetic efforts to "save the markets" have set in motion an inflationary storm surge that seems likely to drown the US dollar, while whisking commodity prices to much higher ground.

Oil is the new dollar. By extension, so is wheat...and cocoa...and aluminum. "I have the growing sense that paper money - any paper money - isn't a good store of value," observes Dan Denning, editor of the Australian Daily Reckoning. "I think investors are realizing that they can't move their wealth from one currency to another and preserve they are doing the next best paper wealth for claims on tangible assets."

Meanwhile, demand for commodities continues to swamp supply. So the commodity sector looks like a pretty friendly place for investors, despite the ever-present risk of severe selloffs. But the investor who tries to avoid these short-term selloffs could easily miss a very long-term bull market. In other words, today's commodity markets might resemble the S&P 500 of August 1987, but probably not the S&P of March 2000.

I don't "know" anything, of course. I'm just guessing that commodities are still a "buy." Therefore, my historical frame of reference for today's commodity market is not the S&P 500 of 1987 or of 2000; it is the S&P of 1994.

In February 1994, the S&P 500 had more than doubled off of its 1987 lows and seemed very richly priced at about 25 times earnings, especially considering the fact that Greenspan had just initiated a new tightening cycle. Over the next 12 months, the Fed Funds rate DOUBLED from 3% to 6%.

So what happened next?

The stock market sold off just like it was "supposed to"...for about 9 months. The S&P slumped about 10%. But then the market spent the next six years skyrocketing. From its 1994 peak to its 2000 peak, the S&P would TRIPLE. The Nasdaq would soar 7-fold over the same timeframe.

In other words, I think it's too early to be a seller of commodities. Sell the financials and buy commodities...once more with feeling.