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Originally published Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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Mouthwash as an acne treatment

The People’s Pharmacy on Listerine to clear blemishes; damage to kidneys caused by anti-inflammatory drugs; and the controversy over cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease.

Special to The Times

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Q: I thought I’d share my experience using Listerine as an acne treatment after reading about it in your column. I have tried all types of antibiotics and topical prescriptions on the market. Nothing has worked as well as applying Listerine morning and night. Who knew it could be that simple?

A: Listerine was first brought out as a surgical antiseptic sold to doctors starting in 1879. By the early 20th century, it was being promoted to consumers as a mouthwash. It also was touted for dandruff and “bad skin.”

The herbal oils and alcohol in Listerine have antimicrobial properties, and many readers have reported success using it for fungal infections such as jock itch, dandruff and nail fungus. Other readers also have found, as you did, that it helps clear blemishes.

Q: I am a 16-year-old girl who has had bladder problems since I was 8. I was taken to the hospital for pain in my left hip, and the doctor prescribed two pills (500 mg each) of naproxen to be taken twice daily.

I had pain in my stomach and back, and I couldn’t sleep. Then my urinary system shut down completely. I had taken the drug for almost three weeks before another doctor took me off. I was in the hospital for seven weeks and was just released with no improvement.

I know the drug did this to me. Has anyone else had this severe reaction?

A: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen can harm the kidneys (Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, October 2009). A recent study of marathon runners found that those who took ibuprofen before the race to ward off muscle soreness were more likely to develop temporary kidney failure as a result (BMJ Open online, April 19). Your story is a reminder that pain relievers may have serious side effects.

Q: How important is it to lower cholesterol levels to reduce the overall risk of death from heart disease? I worry about the possible unintended consequences of lowering cholesterol if you don’t need to. Will it increase the risk of cancer?

I read a study suggesting a shift in focus and would welcome any information you can offer.

A: Although cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, its importance has become increasingly controversial (Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, September 2006). Some researchers believe that inflammation may be a better predictor of heart problems. Others suggest that hostility is a key risk factor (American Journal of Cardiology online, May 2).

A new Japanese study shows a link between low LDL cholesterol and an increased risk of liver cancer (Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, March). The authors suggest that low LDL cholesterol may be a marker for preclinical cancer.

For three decades, researchers have been debating whether low cholesterol increases the risk of cancer or whether early cancer causes cholesterol levels to drop. This issue has not been resolved.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website:www.peoplespharmacy.org

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