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Sanjay Gupta MD

Cell Phones May Have Played A Part In Johnnie Cochran's Brain Tumor; The Meaning Of Dreams; Lance Armstrong's Physiology; NASCAR Is Athletic; Exercise And The Elderly

Aired October 16, 2005 - 08:30   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could cell phones be related to brain tumors? Are our dreams trying to tell us something? And how do athletes from NASCAR drivers to Lance Armstrong leave others in the dust? We're driven to find out on HOUSECALL.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning and welcome to HOUSECALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And this morning, we're investigating some of the myths and mysteries about our health.

Let's start with cell phones and brain tumors. Johnnie Cochran lost his fight against brain cancer earlier this year. And his doctor says cell phones may have played a part in his disease.


GUPTA (voice-over): The news of her father's illness opened a wellspring of sadness and fear in Johnnie Cochran's daughter, Tiffany. Her father, relatively young and healthy, struck suddenly by a brain tumor.

TIFFANY COCHRAN, JOHNNIE COCHRAN'S DAUGHTER: It was traumatic, because I thought well, a biopsy, that's not good. MRI. You know, I put two and two together. And I knew it wasn't good.

GUPTA: So she turned to her father's physician, renowned Los Angeles neurosurgeon Dr. Keith Black to answer the question asked by so many when cancer strikes. Why? And he offered the family an opinion they found stunning.

COCHRAN: He explained that this type of cancer is a balance between environment and genetics. But he thought for my dad, he thought it was more environment. And he said perhaps cell phone usage.

KEITH BLACK, DR., CEDARS-SINAI: My own belief is that there probably is a correlation between the use of cell phones and brain cancer, even though there's no scientific proof.

GUPTA: Dr. Black, who's the head of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, believes one day science will catch up to what he's already seeing with his own patients.

BLACK: We know that people that use cell phones a lot also complain of headaches, difficulty with concentration and with memory. You know, this is a microwave antenna. So you're essentially cooking your brain when you hold the receiver right next to your brain.

GUPTA: Now that's a hypothesis that Dr. Howard Frumpkin, who studies the relationship between cancer and cell phone use vehemently disputes.

HOWARD FRUMPKIN, DR.: The level of energy is so different with a cell phone than it is with a microwave oven or with some of the other big sources of energy, that there's really no way to equate two. They're a completely different phenomena.

GUPTA: Still, Dr. Black points out something else that troubles him. Cochran's tumor was on the left side of his brain. He was known to hold the cell phone on that same side. Dr. Black's experience with his own patients.

BLACK: We do than there's a significant correlation between the side that one uses their cell phone on and the side that you develop the brain tumor on.

GUPTA: Today in the United States, 175 million people use cell phones. Worldwide, the number is 1.6 billion. And according to the FDA, they say this. "There is no hard evidence of adverse health effects on the general public from exposure to radiofrequency energy while using wireless communication devices".

Dr. Frumpkin insists there's no way cell phones could have led to Cochran's or anyone else's death, given the scientific evidence.

FRUMPKIN: I'm worried that if people hear claims like that, they'll be unduly concerned. This is a very low probability kind of a thing approaching the zero probability.

So I think that there's no evidence to support the idea that Mr. Cochran's brain tumor resulted from cell phone use.

GUPTA: While the FDA says no study has definitively drawn a connection between cancer and cell phone use, the agency points out there haven't been any studies to rule one out either. The FDA and Dr. Frumpkin agree that more studies should be done protectively.

COCHRAN: That was my wedding day.

GUPTA: Tiffany Cochran realizes the question of whether cell phone use was a factor in her father's fatal illness cannot be answered today. And Cochran's friend and doctor, Keith Black, stresses cell phone moderation and using an ear piece to be on the safe side.


GUPTA: And the cell phone industry, of course, had its own response to this story saying this, "Unfortunately this type of claim is not new. This is an issue that should be guided by science and public statements that ignore the enormous body of available scientific research or fail to contribute to it do not serve the public's interest.

The American cancer Society in conjunction with Discovery Health Channel and "Prevention" magazine published its top 10 cancer myths. Wireless phone use ranked eighth."

Of course, we'll continue to follow this story and bring you any new developments as they arise.

Now we move on to another place, where your biggest fears and your highest aspirations all play out through your dreams. Are they a harbinger of things to come? Or just fantasy world of what happens to your body as you live out those dreams.


GUPTA (voice-over): The stark recurring image of a shadowy figure tearing through the woods, running from something or the nonsensical flash of images seemingly without meaning. This is how many of us live in our dreams.

ROSALIND CARTRIGHT, DR., RUSH UNIV. MEDICAL CENTER: In waking we learn to speak so that we can communicate with each other in longer, more logical, more verbal terms. In sleep, we're speaking almost poetically. It's much more imagistic, sensory, condensed, symbolic, if you like.

GUPTA: It happens during three distinct periods during the night called rapid eye movement or REM sleep. During each period of REM, our dreams become more involved, complex.

CARTRIGHT: At the end of night, you can have, you know, a great big full length feature. You can have a 45 to 60-minute REM period with many scenes and many episodes. And it would be quite exciting and very different from the first one.

GUPTA: Surprisingly, during those episodes of sleep, the brain's activity is just as active as when we're awake.

ERIC NOFZINGER, DR., UNIV. OF PITTSBURGH: The only difference is that we're unconscious. We're not aware of all of the processes that are happening in our minds and in our brains.

GUPTA: While we lie unconscious, we're dwelling in the most primitive parts of the brain, dealing with emotions that we may not always perceive when awake.

NOFZINGER: The brain is dealing with basic kind of instinctual feelings, fears, anxieties, motivation, sexual themes.

GUPTA: So that dream about taking a test naked could point to an anxiety about a challenge we're facing in waking life. And those dreams about running away or falling may signal feeling out of control.

NOFZINGER: As we understand our situations in the dream, it can help us to understand where we are in terms of resolving some of these conflicts in our lives, conflicts that maybe we weren't even conscious of in our waking lives.

GUPTA: Our bodies bear the brunt of those conflicts and anxieties. Heart rate and blood pressure soar during dreams. And the muscles seize up to prevent us from act them out.

Are dreams more than a nightly flash of garbled images? Or can they be useful to us in our waking lives? Studies say understanding those nighttime forays may help with problem solving during the day, even memory. And REM sleep is linked to something called procedural learning. So your dreams could help cement your ability to play that complex music piece, ride a bike, or play chess.

But researchers say dreams go even deeper, helping us to figure out who we really are.

NOFZINGER: It's one of the few times when everybody can be an artist or everybody can be a musician.

GUPTA: A space where our truest selves and the ones we hope to be converge.


GUPTA: Coming up on HOUSECALL, he survived cancer, won the Tour de France. Stay tuned for a lesson in amazing physiology.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some call him super human, but we've got the answer on just how Lance Armstrong has become one of the best endurance athletes in the world.

First answer this. How many calories does the average rider in the Tour de France burn per day? Find out after the break.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Checking our quiz, we asked how many calories does the average rider in the Tour de France burn per day? The answer, 5,900 calories. And they ride for more than 20 days.

GUPTA: The heart of a champion, that's a phrase that brings to mind grit and determination. In Lance Armstrong's case, it also means a different sort of physiology, one that's helped make him one of the best endurance athletes of our times.


GUPTA (voice-over): He's possibly the best endurance athlete in the world. Most of us know Lance Armstrong's name, but few know how he does it.

It all starts with his genes. Edward Coyle is director of the human performance lab at the University of Texas in Austin. World record holders, Olympic medalists, and promising elite athletes all come here to increase their performance. At the young age of 21, Lance Armstrong was one of them. Coyle evaluated his physiology regularly for seven years. EDWARD COYLE, UNIV. OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN: We found that even at a young age, because of his intense training, he had a big engine, a big heart and was able to consume large amounts of oxygen. Probably less than one percent of the population would have as much of a genetic head start as Armstrong has.

GUPTA: Lance Armstrong's physiology characteristics are nothing short of astounding. His heart, it can pump nine gallons of blood per minute working at his hardest, compared to only five gallons per minute for the average person.

In one minute of maximum exertion, Armstrong's heart can beat twice that of a normal person. His lungs, he gets almost double the amount of oxygen out of every breath that a healthy 20-year-old would. Everyone takes in the same breath, but Armstrong uses his two times more efficiently.

He also has more red blood cells to deliver oxygen to his body, meaning he can breathe better at higher altitudes. And that's a key in the treacherous Pyrenees and Alps mountains along the route of the Tour de France.

His muscles, Lance's muscles produce less lactic acid than most people, which means his muscles can go longer and harder without major fatigue.

COYLE: An average person, when going through exhaustion, would have to stay stopped or wouldn't be able to move for, you know, for 10, 15 minutes. Well, Armstrong's able to recover within just a couple minutes, within one or two and then go right back up to maximum. You know, that's why you'll see him repeatedly trying to break away and then eventually succeeding.

GUPTA: While Lance may have the genetics and conditioning of a world class athlete, he has also had cancer lingering in his genes. He was diagnosed with the disease before ever winning the Tour de France.

COYLE: Lance visited the laboratory eight months after finishing chemo. And essentially, we found nothing wrong with his body. And that really helped him in giving him the confidence that he could pick up right where he left off.

GUPTA: All of this can ultimately make many people think Armstrong is super human.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy's a superhero.

GUPTA: And that's a question his mother has heard many times before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Lance super human? That's a question everyone has asked. He didn't get that way sitting on the couch eating potato chips. So lots of hard work, a lot of dedication.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: And hard work, that is something that Lance Armstrong is certainly known for, but here's a question. Do you think the same thing about NASCAR drivers? You might be surprised. Stay tuned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the same as going on a long run or a bicycle ride or something like that. It's hard core.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think NASCAR drivers just drive? Well think again. A different kind of NASCAR is just ahead. But first, this week's medical headlines in "The Pulse".


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies use a pacifier at bed time. They say it may help prevent SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The new recommendations also suggest babies sleep in their parents room, but not in their parent's beds. SIDS is the leading cause of death in U.S. infants between one month and one year old.

And further evidence that getting too little sleep is making Americans fat. New research shows that being bleary-eyed from not enough Z's or a irregular sleep patterns may disrupt the hormones that regulate appetite.

The Columbia University study found people aged 32 to 49 who slept less than seven hours a night were more likely to be obese.

Christy Feig, CNN.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSECALL. NASCAR, a sport that used to bring to mind just fast cars, but not so drivers. Well, that's changing. Carl Edwards is just example. He's one of NASCAR's rising stars. He's won two races this year, and he's in the chase for the Nextel Cup Championship.

Now Edwards credits his fitness with giving him the edge.


GUPTA (voice-over): Even if he's not driving, Carl Edwards likes to keep his heart racing with a mix of cardio and weights seven days a week.

CARL EDWARDS, NASCAR DRIVER: A place like Bristol, I know we've gone like 250 laps before without stopping. And that is intense. I mean, you're breathing heavy, your heart's beating. And it's the same as going on a long run or a bicycle ride or something like that. It's hard core.

GUPTA: How hard core? Well, a study found race car drivers on an oval track like NASCAR's sustained heart rates of 120 to 150 beats per minute. About the same level as a serious marathon runner for about the same length of time.

Research into car racing also shows that aerobic and resistance training helps drivers handle the G-forces. One of the pioneers of this fitness boom, Edwards' teammate and mentor, Mark Martin. He began working out seriously in 1988.

Martin, who wrote the book, "NASCAR for Dummies" says there are three benefits. Drivers suffer fewer injuries because their muscles protect their bones and internal organs. The drivers are better able to handle the intense heat in the car. 120 degrees or hotter because they start with a lower pulse. A strong upper body helps a driver steer better when the car is not handling well.

Fitness routines and special diets now abound among NASCAR drivers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I get older, I find I need to do more things to stay in shape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lightweights and reps, a lot of reps so that I can have some strength and some muscle mass for a crash or impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I run a marathon in January. I'm planning to run another marathon this winter some time.

GUPTA: Of course, not all drivers have joined in the fitness craze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Channel up, channel down, volume up, volume down. That's about extent of my fitness routine.

GUPTA: In the long run, Edwards is convinced being fit will have him in victory lane more often jumping for joy.


GUPTA: We're looking at what it takes to get into victory lane and the physical impact of driving in crashing cars at speeds of 180 miles per hour. You're going to be surprised by this. I know I was especially surprised when I got behind the wheel myself.

So make sure to watch "NASCAR, Driven to Extremes" at Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Just ahead, the final weigh-in for our get going teams at weight loss camp. Stay tuned.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For a while, I really felt that I was going to be overweight for the rest of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shauna and Nathan leave the cocoon of camp. Find out how much weight they lost and why they're scared to go home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. In our fight against childhood obesity, we've been tracking the progress of two teens at weight loss camp. Elizabeth Cohen is back now with their last day in camp and their final weigh-in.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nathan Russin has a lot to be happy about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you willing to commit to the responsibilities of being an elder?


COHEN: In just four weeks, Nathan lost 19 1/2 pounds at Wellspring Adventure Camp.

As for the other camper we've been following 14-year-old Shauna Rubec.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've lost 23 pounds.

SHAUNA: All right!

COHEN: Shauna started camp at 239 pounds and ended at 216. Nathan, who's 13-years old, started camp at 200.5 pounds. His ending weight, 181. It's been a long and intense journey for all the campers.

For a while you thought you couldn't change.

SHAUNA: For a while, I really felt that I was going to be overweight for the rest of my life.

They're really too big.

COHEN: Now she's gone down three pant sizes, from a 16 to a 12.

What's the best thing that happened to you this summer?

SHAUNA: That I gained so much confidence in myself.

COHEN: And she'll need that confidence when in just a few hours, she goes back home.

SHAUNA: Hit it! Hit it!

COHEN: Spontaneous volleyball games outside her bunk will be a thing of the past. She'll have to figure out how to work exercise into her busy school schedule.

When you go home, you're hopefully still going to be creating goals for yourself.

No more one-on-one counseling. And perhaps most importantly, Nathan and Shauna won't be surrounded by supportive friends, who are going through the exact same thing.

NATHAN: I'm nervous because here you're not put out where there's a McDonald's on every block and there's a Pizza Hut everywhere. You're given the foods that are healthy for you. And you're given activities that will help you. And at home, you're surrounded by all these things that hurt you really badly.

COHEN: Are you a little scared to leave the cocoon?

NATHAN: I am a little scared, because what if I can't do it?

COHEN: The hope is that this taste of success will linger even after summer ends and they've said their good-byes.

Elizabeth Cohen, Campton, North Carolina.


GUPTA: That's just incredible. Thanks, Elizabeth. Good luck to Shauna and Nathan as well. I hope you guys can keep it up.

Coming up now, the golden years are becoming the Olympic years from competition to the local gym. Seniors are getting moving and staying healthier.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. Well, we've looked at some surprising and amazing athletes in today's show. As Elizabeth Cohen reports, the benefits of being athletic and even competing, they don't go away with age.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: IF I go three or four days without exercising, I feel bad.

COHEN (voice-over): It's not just idle play. How Craftec and Jerry Swartz, both well into their 60s, are sharpening their skills to compete against other seniors in games sponsored by the Olympic committee. Competitive sporting events for people over 50 are becoming increasingly popular throughout the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a chance to do something new. I like to win. Make no mistake about it.

COHEN: More and more studies show that exercise has substantial benefits at this stage in life.

BRUCE FEINBERG, DR., CANCER SPECIALIST: Lots of studies demonstrating everything from natural killer selectivity to muscle energy to endorphin release seem to share the common outcome that exercise promotes good health, not just physical health, but mental health.

COHEN: Researchers believe exercise is a good first line of defense against depression. Also, it may enhance certain mental functions such as memory, the ability to organize, and the capacity to multitask. And older adults who stay in shape are more apt to stay socially active as well.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN.


GUPTA: All right, Elizabeth, thanks.

Unfortunately we're out of time for today. Make sure to tune in next weekend when we tackle food allergies. Why can peanuts be so deadly? Can you outgrow allergies to eggs? We're talking about preventing and living with sometimes deadly food allergies. That's next weekend, 8:30 Eastern.

Also, click on to You're going to find the latest medical news, upcoming HOUSECALL topics, and a health library as well.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.