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Interview With Sir Elton John; Tips to Save Your Skin from the Summer Sun; How College Grads Can Get Health Insurance

Aired May 23, 2009 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. Welcome to HOUSE CALL -- the show that helps you live longer and stronger. Thanks so much for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

First up, my interview with music icon, Sir Elton John. He is raising millions of dollars for AIDS and he told me what he's planning on doing with it all.

Plus, we got some tips on saving your skin from the summer sun. You've got to start this and get it started today.

And, congratulations, you just graduated from college. Now, you need health insurance. I got help.

You are watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: But first, let's start with some fears about swine flu. Everybody's heard about this by now. And this week, we saw a couple of things. A handful of New York schools were closed. The state also reported its first confirmed swine flu death but investigators determined the death of a 16-month-old boy was not linked to the flu.

There's also been a Missouri man who died and had swine flu but the county medical examiners will determine the exact cause of his death. They're not sure about it yet.

The acting director for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says the outbreak is not winding down. But as we investigated, we found that most Americans, they are not worried about this. A CNN/Opinion Research poll says only 17 percent worry that someone in their family could catch it, 28 percent don't really fear it anymore, and 63 percent claim they were never worried about it in the first place.

The question, of course, for a lot of people: should you be worried?

I thought about this a lot. And here's what I can tell you. Viruses can fizzle out as the weather gets warmer. And it is seasonable flu that causes more death on average than H1N1. But still, we're going to want to watch how this all transpires over the fall and winter months in particular.

Also, pay attention to what scientists are doing right now. They're working on a possible vaccine -- a lot of news about this. This is the way it works. A small number of labs around the world are trying to create what's known as a seed strain -- think of it as the perfect virus to serve as a template for the possible vaccine.

Once it's grown, labs will send it to the manufacturers and if those vaccine-makers get the go-ahead from the Department of Health and Human Services, they'll begin growing the H1N1 virus in as many as 900 million fertilized chicken eggs. Now, if it grows well in eggs, they will test it in animals, probably mice, and then people. If that all works, it will go to the Food and Drug Administration for the final thumbs up.

Now, as you might imagine, that whole process takes a while, anywhere from four to six months. This is a very complicated process. We, of course, are going to be following the story closely over the next several months here on HOUSE CALL and we will bring you all the latest developments.

Now, this week, a gathering of scientists from all around the world in a biotech conference. They were talking about vital medical research, from stem cell to diabetes to HIV/AIDS. One keynote speaker was Sir Elton John. He sat down with me to talk about his role in raising awareness and his fight against AIDS.


GUPTA: So, what are you -- what are you doing here today?

ELTON JOHN, MUSICIAN: I'm doing a speech about the situation with AIDS in America basically. And how we need to address what's going on. We seem to be falling a little behind in America.

I find this disease very cyclical. Every 10 years or so -- after we spend a lot of money trying to educate people, a new generation of people and we tell them to have safe sex, and to abstain sometimes, but have safe sex, wear condoms -- we find after 10 years, another core group of people come along and we have to start all over again -- which is really, really frustrating because it takes money, you know, for education.

GUPTA: What was going through your mind in the '80s, as HIV/AIDS was becoming something that people were dealing with -- what were you, Elton John, thinking about that?

ELTON: I don't know what I was thinking about. I look back on my life now, and I remember I did a record with Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight, called "That's What Friends Are For." And I think that was my only decent contribution to what was going on.

I should have been out there with the act up people. I should have been more on the front line. When I got sober in 1990, I realized that, you know, I had been so self-absorbed and I regretted that I had not really joined in speaking up against what was happening in the early '80s, which was really frightening stuff. So, I don't know where I was. I don't know where I was. And I really, deeply regret that. And I'd tried to make up for lost time by being far more outspoken. Now, I'm sober and devoting much more of my time to giving back and to do as much as I can to prevent this disease from spreading. But I honestly don't know where I was. I'm a shamed of myself.

GUPTA: Well, this foundation of yours has become one of the most reputable and, I think, high impact foundations in the world of AIDS.

JOHN: Yes.

GUPTA: When you look at your foundation now and you're talking to your -- to the people who work with you, how do you measure success?

JOHN: In America, for the last four years, I measure success by the fact that we have a four-star rating from the Charity Navigator, for the last four years. We micro-manage our money, we don't waste any money, and, you know, that four-star rating from the Charity Navigator is a must as far as we're concerned. We've had it four years in a row.

GUPTA: How do people respond to you? I mean, when you come in and you talk about HIV/AIDS, do people say, "Look, there's a celebrity talking about another cause" or they're saying that's Elton John talking about AIDS?

JOHN: They know that I'm for real. You know, we've been around since 1992. Our track record speaks for itself. And I -- you know, I don't really fault my image to -- you know, I try and keep it as low key as possible because I think there's a fine line in dignity and, you know, we give money. We go out there and we get our hands dirty.

Some people use their celebrity to promote things but they don't get their hands dirty. And, you know, you have to get your hands dirty.

GUPTA: You're in there. You're in the midst (ph).

JOHN: Yes. Thank you.

GUPTA: Good luck. Thanks for so much for the work you're doing.

JOHN: Thanks.

GUPTA: We appreciate it.


GUPTA: You know, today, 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV and there are about 50,000 new cases every year. Since Elton John began his foundation 17 years ago, he's raised more than $150 million and service programs in 55 countries around the world. If you want to catch the rest of that interview with Sir Elton John, log on to Now, coming up: If you find sunscreen labeling to be little bit confusing -- stay tuned. From SFP to UVB, we're going to help you understand the lingo, and most importantly, pick the right product.

Plus -- graduated, unemployed and booted from their parents' health insurance. If you're a student in this situation, we got some tips to keep you covered.

Stay with HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: And we are back with HOUSE CALL. Time for the medical headlines.

First up, an investigation continues into a Minnesota family who a judge ruled must give their son chemotherapy. It's a remarkable story. The family had been giving 13-year-old Daniel Hauser natural remedies to treat Hodgkin's lymphoma, but the judge found the boy had been medically neglected, and that with chemotherapy, Daniel had a 90 percent chance of survival.

Despite the specific judge's order, Colleen Hauser and her son failed to appear at a follow-up hearing early this week. There are lots of updates on the story. We're going to bring them to you as they develop.

In other news, if you love your MP3 player, this probably won't be music to your ears. MP3s could potentially lead to hearing loss. At maximum levels, the devices can reach about 115 decibels. Now, for the sake of reference, that's louder than an average power saw. Pretty bad considering studies show, repeatedly going above 85 decibels can damage your hearing irreversibly.

Here's a good rule of thumb, something I do myself. Go to your settings on your MP3 or your iPod -- do it right today if you can -- adjust the maximum volume around 60 percent of maximum. That should keep your ears safe even if you listen to music all day long.

Up next: Tips to protect your skin in the summer sun.

HOUSE CALL returns in 60 seconds.


GUPTA: Memorial Day weekend, I love this time of year -- the unofficial start of summer. Many of you will be spending hours in the sun in the months ahead. Unfortunately, this year, though, more than 1 million of you are also going to be diagnosed with skin cancer.

I hate to be such a bummer but we got to talk about this.


GUPTA (voice-over): Armed with SPF 70 sunblock and a hat, Stephanie White is going outside to walk her dog. She is not taking chances anymore. For years, Stephanie lived in the sun. Growing up in Florida, she was always at the beach or she was outdoors.

STEPHANIE WHITE, SKIN CANCER PATIENT: I was actually 40 hours a week out in the sun Monday through Friday.

GUPTA: As she got older, her years of sun exposure caught up with her. Now in her 40s, she's been diagnosed with all three types of skin cancer, including a melanoma spot she found on her arm.

WHITE: I thought I was too young to have melanoma skin cancer. I didn't know anything about melanoma. I knew that it was malignant and I knew that it could be very serious.

GUPTA: Skin cancer actually begins develop in our younger years. Too much sun exposure can cause burning which destroys our skin's cells. That damage can lead to skin cancer as we get older.

DR. GEORGE VERGHESE, DERMATOLOGIST: In your 20s or in your 30s, you're accumulating these sun burns, all these mutations in your skin cells -- and a lot of these changes don't start to express themselves until you're 30, 40, 50.

GUPTA: First step towards cancer-free skin? Never go outside without sunblock. No matter what season of the year it is. And if you love the outdoors, try to avoid certain hours of the day.

VERGHESE: The times that you should actually avoid the sun is almost like from 12:00 to like 3:00 p.m., especially going to a beach.

GUPTA: If you think you're too pasty to hit the beach, try the new tanning products instead of a tanning bed. Studies have shown tanning beds can cause skin cancer in younger people.

VERGHESE: It's concentrated ultraviolet radiation. It's almost like the skin cancer effect, somehow a combination. So, it almost accelerates that total UV radiation that you're getting so people, you know, manifest these skin cancers at much younger age.

GUPTA: And as you get older, continue these habits. But add one more -- know your body. The only way to catch skin cancer early is to look for abnormal moles or spots.

Stephanie White knows every mark on her body. And when they begin to change, she sees her dermatologist. Knowing her skin, she says, is what saved her life.


GUPTA: Now, we all know sunblock can work to help prevent burns, help prevent disease, the question for a lot of people: how do you pick the right one? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen. That's our first piece of advice.

I want to tell you what that means. Take a look here. This is an animation. When we talk about sun damage, we are talking about damage to the skin at a very, very basic level. If you go ahead and show the skin there, show the two different types of UV light. First, UVB light, that's the stuff that causes redness here. That causes sunburns. But there's also UVA light that can cause wrinkling, it can cause longer-term damage.

Here's the issue. When it comes to SPF specifically, you're typically talking about UVB protection and not UVA protection. A lot of people pay attention to SPF. What you really need to do is find something that offers you broad spectrum against both, UVA and UVB.

Now, a lot of people wonder about strength. SPF 85 sounds like more protection than SPF 30 or SPF 15. But the differences between them can actually be quite small.

Take a look here: SPF 15, less than about 6 percent of harmful rays; SPF 30, about 3 percent; SPF 85, less than 1 percent of harmful rays. So, not a lot there. You're only going to get slightly more protection with the higher SPFs. It doesn't mean, of course, that you should let yourself bake in the sun any longer. The recommended minimum for everybody every day is an SPF 15.

Now, regardless of the numbers, here's something to keep in mind -- it's the amount that counts. Studies have shown that most people don't apply the recommended one ounce required for good protection. That's quite a bit of sunscreen -- one ounce. Whatever SPF if you decide on, reapply that sunblock frequently.

We are taking your questions, "Ask the Doctor," that's next.

But first, out of class? Out of insurance. We got some affordable options for the newly minted college grad.

Stay with HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL.

You know, it's college graduation time and along with looking for jobs, many new grads are also trying to find something else -- affordable health insurance. In this week's "Empowered Patient," senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen gives us some tips.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, I'm sure you remember your college graduation. It's such an exciting time and there are so many things to think about -- finishing up studies, going out to get a job. And sometimes, college graduates forget one important thing -- and that is health insurance, or maybe they think they don't need it because they're young and healthy.

But take a look at this statistic: 34 percent of college graduates do not have health insurance for some period of time after graduation. That means that if they -- God forbid -- have a car accident or some terrible diagnosis, they're on their own.

So, in this week's "Empowered Patient," we have some tips for graduates. First of all, know your rights. In some states, an insurance company has to keep you on your parents' policy even after you graduate. So, if you go to, you'll see a link to all the different states and what their rules are.

Also, consider COBRA. That means that you'll have to pay to stay on your parents' policy, but it might not be as much as you think because it's only the student. You're not paying for the parents, you're just paying for the student. And students, of course, tend to be young and healthy.

Also, shop around for a policy. You'd be surprised. There are actually some relatively low prices out there. Prices vary by geographic region. And, again, you're paying for someone who's young and healthy. So, it might not be as expensive as you think. We have some prices on

And now, if you look here, you see 2009 graduates. I hope, at least, some of them are thinking about health insurance. Sometimes, college grads are called the "young invincibles." They think, "Oh, nothing could happen to me," when the sad fact is that, well, sometimes, things can happen.

I think that's actually in my alma mater, Columbia University. Glad to see it.

You have to think about health insurance, sometimes things do happen, you don't want to be uncovered. Sanjay?


GUPTA: All right. Elizabeth, thanks. And for the full list of tips on ways to find affordable insurance before and after graduation, visit


GUPTA: It's time to "Ask the Doctor." Let's jump right in.

Kiran from Pennsylvania asks this, "My 18-month-old daughter suffers from eczema. What is the best treatment option?"

Great question. You know, the red, itchy, crusty skin can be extremely uncomfortable especially for babies. The good news is that it is treatable. That's the first piece of good news.

And there are some specific things you can do. Bathe her no more than once a day, first of all, and for a short period of time. That may seem counter-intuitive but it works. Use a warm bath and a little bath oil, preservative-free, this helps retain the moisture after her bath.

Also, use a mild soap. Look for that on the label specifically. Apply moisturizing lotion for sensitive skin. And finally, avoid all kinds of perfumed laundry detergents. Something you may not have thought of. Now, there can be severe cases and doctors may recommend hydrocortisone lotions, antihistamines, or even an antibiotic if the skin becomes infected.

We got another question now. Terry from Louisiana asks this, "Canola oil is one of the most popular on the grocery shelf. I heard some negative remarks recently. Should I be using it?"

Well, I'll tell you. I don't know what you heard about this, but canola oil is ranked one of the best oils to use. Now, let's break it down. Let's breakdown some of the fats on this. There are three types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Now, saturated fat is the bad fat. You want to avoid that one. The other types can actually help control your level of cholesterol. They're good fats.

And guess what, research shows the fatty acid composition of canola oil in particular is the most favorable in terms of health benefits. It has the lowest levels of saturated fats. So, using moderate amounts of canola oil on your cooking can help you achieve a better balanced diet.

So, good luck to you and your cooking. You can share that information with your friends.

Tea drinking, it's good for your health. We're going to tell you how.

And later in the show, my first stop on my Fit Nation Tour was last weekend. And it was Cleveland. I'll tell you all about it when HOUSE CALL returns.


GUPTA: You know, a cup of tea cannot only satisfy your thirst but benefit your health as well. I'll tell you why brewing up a few cups a day could help you live longer.


GUPTA (voice-over): A cup of tea a day may help keep the doctor away. Yes, a recent review of nine different studies suggests drinking at least three cups of green or black tea a day may significantly reduce the risk of stroke up to 21 percent.

Now, a natural health advocate, Dr. Andrew Weil, explains what makes tea so good for us.

DR. ANDREW WEIL, AUTHOR, "EATING WELL FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH": Basically, it's got a very high content of powerful antioxidant compounds that help boost the body's defenses against cancer, heart disease, other chronic diseases.

GUPTA: Research has found black tea may also decrease the risk of Parkinson's. Green tea may help in reducing bad cholesterol and cut your risk for colon cancer. Experts say the anti-inflammatory action and an amino acid found in black and green tea could help protect the brain. But keep in mind, tea is not a substitute for medication and some teas are loaded with caffeine.

WEIL: Tea is a stimulant like coffee and other caffeine- containing plants, but the stimulation of caffeine seems to be less jangling than that of coffee, possibly because it has other compounds that are relaxing.

GUPTA: And as summer approaches, keep in mind, you don't reap all the benefits of drinking iced tea. The good ingredients stick to the ice. You don't get all the proper nutrients. No doubt, more research needs to be done to brew up a direct correlation between tea consumption and the added health benefits.


GUPTA: Up next on HOUSE CALL: See what a local YMCA is doing to help underprivileged kids get fit.

You're watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Fit Nation is back and our annual Fit Nation Tour takes us across America. This year, we decided to do a program for children we're calling "We Run the City." Now, kids run the first 25 miles of a marathon over the course of several months and run their final mile in the home city's big marathon. Take a look.



JOHN CARDONE, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, YMCA: The program is taking inner city kids -- we've about 800 that ran today. And, you know, it's the YMCA's commitment that we're going to provide opportunities for any kid or any child that walks through our doors.

ANNOUNCER: Coming home right now, folks, this is an (INAUDIBLE) training program. This isn't just a one-day wonder for these kids. They are actually finishing the last leg in the fit marathon journey today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over here, we have a group of the "We Run the City" runners. Give them a round of applause. Congratulations to this "We Run the City" group.


JOHN BALL, JR., WE RUN THE CITY PARTICIPANT: I was running and they were cheering me on at the end, and that was so fun. And I just liked it.

CARDONE: Now, the primary goal is to give these kids the opportunity to participate in a great event like this, open their eyes to a lot of new opportunities, and, you know, just have an opportunity to change their lives.


ANNOUNCER: We also have posters.

EUGENE SANDERS, PH.D., CEO, CLEVELAND METRO SCHOOL DISTRICT: We Run the City gives us an opportunity to get out, to learn healthy habits, and to be among friends when we do it. So, it's a wonderful opportunity to work together and to be among the students is obviously a lot of fun as well.


GUPTA: And the Fit Nation Tour continues. It's a chance for us to get off the television screen and talk to you directly. Our next stops are going to be Seattle, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Chicago. Come out and see us. We want to hear from you.

And if you missed any part of today's show, be sure to check out my podcast Thanks for watching HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

More news on CNN starts right now.