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Tough It Out, Sonny Boy!

Offers some good news about getting old. A study of 68 cancer patients by Michael A. Zevon, Roswell Park Cancer Institute (Buffalo, N.Y.), found those age 55 and over sensed cancer-related pain to a lesser degree and also endured it more competently. The biggest wimps.

Finally, some good news about getting old. Contrary to popular folklore, the elderly feel pain less acutely and can control pain more effectively than their younger counterparts.

In a study of 68 cancer patients, Michael A. Zevon, Ph.D., and colleagues found that those age 55 and over not only sensed cancer-related pain--such as a tumor's pressure on a nerve-- to a lesser degree but also endured it more competently. Oldsters accurately predicted its duration or recognized that strong medicine could quell its intensity.

The biggest wimps? Younger men, of course. They reported experiencing the most severe pain and feeling most distressed about its onset, the researchers told the American Psychological Association.

It could be that cancer contracted in the younger set is more aggressive or that pain's receptors become less sensitive in old age, muses Zevon, of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. But not surprisingly, the impact of cancer's pain on quality of life is identical in both young and old. So who says only seniors get crotchety?