Polyps are collections of cells, small clumps within various organs like the nose, the bowel, the ear, the uterus, and the vocal cords. There are essentially two kinds of polyps, pedunculated and sessile. Pedunculat-ed polyps are cells on a stalk like a lollipop. The sessile polyps are flat and part of the tissue on which they arise. Some polyps have cancer producing potential, and this depends on where they are, the size, and the tissue of origin.

Colorectal cancer begins as polyps so most gastro-enterologists must look for them. Most polyps are not malignant. Fifty percent of us have polyps in our colons (the large bowel) and most are not cancerous. Predisposing factors to cancerous polyps are smok-ers and obese individuals. Anyone above the age of 50 must have a colonoscopy every 10 years. African American people should begin to have colonoscopies at age 45 and also have a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Polyps can occur in the nose and the ears as well. In the ear, the polyp can cause loss of hearing and the polyp begins with a bloody discharge from the ear. These are usually benign tumors that require surgery. Four percent of adult people have polyps in their nose, and there are more males than females with them. They are very small and cause some trouble: con-ditions like obstruction of the nose, post nasal drip, loss of smell, facial pains, and fluid in the nasal cavity. Rarely are these polyps cancerous.

In one of our next discussions, we can talk about polyps of the endometrium (inside the uterus) and polyps of the vocal cords, a particular problem for aspiring singers.

How do I keep my brain healthy? (FP Upper Saddle River)

This is usually a question asked by people over 50 years of age. The second major cause of death in older adults is dementia and this deserves some attention. Of course, all dementia is not Alzheimer’s disease. There are many forms of dementia and young and old people can become demented. There are even some dementias that occur in young people. The youngest person with dementia I have known was 41 and the onset of dementia in the young person is tragic. While any dementia can be Alzheimer’s, there is fronto-temporal dementia, Lewy Body disease (as in Robin Williams and now Ted Truner), and finally vascular dementia. Research into the cause of this dreaded dis-ease increases year to year as our population ages.

Some of the factors that are bad for brain health include the following: not getting enough sleep, social isolation or trying to live by yourself, eating junk food, listening to loud music, being sedentary, overeating, lack of sunlight, being dehydrated, eating too much sugar, injuring your head repeatedly, being overly exposed to pollution like smoke or exhaust, and finally eating too much salt.

There is concerted effort to explore brain injuries and something we call CTE known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Someone with a history of repetitive brain trauma like athletes and more recently our sol-diers coming back from combat zones who have been repeatedly exposed to blasts and head trauma may experience CTE. This causes dementia and eventually death. Blows to the head that do not cause pain called asymptomatic concussions and those that cause pain called symptomatic concussions are at the root of CTE. There is no cure for CTE. Parents of children who play little league football and professional NFL members are all alerted to the potential for CTE and its long-term effects.

Is there danger in popping a pimple? (QWT Saddle River)

Everyone has the urge to pop a pimple at some time in their life. It’s usually the way it looks that encourages you to pop it and make it go away. Well, playing with a pimple is likely to make it worse. You are at risk for more inflammation and you’ll get more swelling, and perhaps a more widespread infection.

It’s also likely that you will have a scab form, which results from the “pus” that comes out of a pimple. If you are a young lady or man with acne, it is virtually impossible to cover the scabbed pimple with make-up. The entire scab and remnant of infected pimple can produce a scar, which could become discolored and really look bad. Also, your hands could be dirty and you might—as some do—use dirty tools to pop a pimple. The skin is a natural barrier to infections of all kinds and popping pimples tears the skin with the result that bacteria can enter into the skin and cause a greater infection. My advice is to have a dermatolo-gist (skin doctor) take a look at your pimples and pop them professionally. The dermatologist will probably give you some acne medicine, and maybe some topical antibiotic to prevent further pimples from forming and treat the break in the skin caused by the patient.