The 10 most popular stories from 2016 - as picked by you

Medical practice

We contacted our crack tech team of boffins and asked them to compile a list of 2016's most visited stories. The results were somewhat surprising. While stories on diet and exercise are always popular we weren't expecting so much interest in pubic hair…

10: Ibuprofen-like painkillers linked to an increased risk of heart failure 

"Ibuprofen could raise the risk of heart failure by up to 83%," the Daily Mirror warned in September.

But this was a misleading headline as the "83%" figure was related to an obscure type of painkiller called ketorolac and not ibuprofen, which should be a safe option for any festive headaches.

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9: Exercise is 'most effective' method of preventing lower back pain

"Exercise is the best medicine to banish back pain and stop people taking sick days," the Daily Mirror reported at the beginning of the year; which turned out to be another misleading headline.

The study was looking at ways to prevent, not treat, lower back pain. Still, current guidelines recommend that people with back pain remain as active as possible.

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8: Many women think shaving pubic hair is 'hygienic'

"More women think shaving pubic hair is 'hygenic' [sic] despite greater health risks," The Independent reported in July.

An online survey of more than 3,000 US women found that more than half of women who groomed their pubic hair did so for "hygiene reasons".

But as we pointed out at the time, like most things we have on the body, pubic hair does have a purpose, such as protecting against infection.

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7: Grooming pubic hair linked to increased STI risk

"Women and men who regularly trim or remove all their pubic hair run a greater risk of sexually transmitted infections," BBC News reported earlier this month.

Still, the study the BBC reported on couldn't prove cause and effect. It could be that some groomers decided to take up the practice after getting an STI.

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6: Warning over babies sleeping in car seats

"Long periods sleeping in car seats may be dangerous for young babies," the Daily Mail reported. The results of a small study suggested spending long periods of time in a car seat may lead to babies having breathing difficulties.

Researchers used a novel baby car seat simulator designed to reproduce the vibration a baby experiences when placed in a rear-facing car seat in a car travelling at 30mph.

Francine Bate, chief executive of the Lullaby Trust, the charity who funded the study, advised parents to keep a watchful eye on babies travelling in a car seat, and to also avoid driving long distances without taking a break.

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5: Study says there's no link between cholesterol and heart disease

"Controversial report claims there's no link between 'bad cholesterol' and heart disease," the Daily Mail reported. A new review looking at previous studies on the role of so-called bad cholesterol in heart diseases was released in June.

Like any review its results are as only reliable as the studies being looked at.

It should also be noted that nine of the authors are members of THINCS – The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics; so not exactly dispassionate observers.

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4: Gut bacteria may be linked to 'dangerous' body fat

BBC News reported that: "The make-up of the bacteria found in human faeces may influence levels of dangerous fat in our bodies."

A study from September found a link between certain patterns of bacterial diversity – the different types of bacteria in the gut – and levels of visceral fat. Visceral fat is stored around the internal organs and is associated with a higher risk of metabolic diseases.

Exactly what we could do to alter gut bacteria patterns in our favour is currently unclear.

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3: Talc and ovarian cancer: what the most recent evidence shows

"Talc 'is linked to ovarian cancer','' the Mail Online reported. That was the finding of a recent study looking at whether talcum powder can increase the risk of ovarian cancer – an association made newsworthy by a high-profile court case in the US.

Researchers studied more than 2,000 women with ovarian cancer and a similar-sized control group who were free of disease. Overall, they found a 33% increase in the risk of ovarian cancer with genital talc use. However the study was unable to prove a direct cause and effect relationship.

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2: Link between indigestion drugs and dementia 'inconclusive'

"Indigestion pills taken by millions 'could raise the risk of dementia by 50%'," reported the Daily Mail. This headline is about a class of prescription drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as omeprazole, used to treat heartburn.

While the headline sounded scary there was no cause for alarm. The study the Mail reported on compared two very different groups.

Those taking PPIs had poorer health, and were more likely to be taking a greater number of medicines and have conditions linked to a higher risk of dementia. A study where the characteristics of the two groups are more closely matched would be a useful next step.

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1: Zika virus - your questions answered

The beginning of 2016 may seem like a long time ago now as so many things have happened. So it may be hard to remember that in January there was just one big health news story – the Zika virus.

First detected in Uganda in 1947, this mosquito-borne virus suddenly starting spreading through South America. 

It has now also spread to Central America, the Caribbean, South East Asia and some of the southern states of the US.

While the virus is not harmful in most cases it can trigger birth defects in the form of abnormally small heads (microcephaly).

There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus and pregnant women are advised against travelling to areas known to be affected.

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Article Metadata Date Published: Mon, 21 Aug 2017
Author: Zana Technologies GmbH
NHS Choices