Living alone may be bad for your health. Danish researchers began studying 3,346 men, average age 63, in 1985, tracking their health for 32 years. Over the period, 89 percent of the men died, 39 percent from cardiovascular diseases. The analysis, in European Heart Journal Quality of Care & Clinical Outcomes, found that men who lived alone had a 23 percent increased risk for dying prematurely from any cause and a 36 percent increased risk for cardiovascular death. Living alone was not associated with dying prematurely for those in the highest socioeconomic group — the 19 percent of study participants who had a university degree or worked in an executive position. But for the rest, the lower the socioeconomic status, the higher the risk for death. “It’s paradoxical that the more we live in concentrated populations in big cities, the more people are living alone” said the lead author, Dr. Magnus T. Jensen. “Social isolation is a global problem and won’t be solved on an individual level. Structurally, how can we design cities so that they are built for social interaction?”

Cancer-fighting gene can fuel some tumors

A cancer-fighting gene known as the “guardian of the genome” actually promotes certain tumors, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego. That means drugs that affect its activity may backfire in some cases, fueling a tumor’s growth. The gene, called p53, makes a protein that causes abnormal cells to self-destruct before they turn malignant. Mutated forms of the gene don’t perform this function as well. About half of cancers have a mutated p53 gene, making it the most commonly mutated gene in malignancies. As such, it has been a major target of drug development to restore normal function. But in certain instances restoring normal function could help the tumor grow. So knowing what these drugs will do to a particular cancer is vital. The study demonstrates a point that oncologists have been making for decades: Cancer is not one disease. What we call cancer is hundreds of genetic diseases that share certain characteristics.