If you're reading this, you're probably among the majority of Israelis who think health stories are more interesting than sports. A new independent poll conducted by Market Watch found that fully 55.2 percent prefer health articles compared to only 30.8% who are more interested in sports. The telephone survey was conducted on a representative sample of 500 people aged 18 and up, and was commissioned by a public relations company. Almost 10% said that neither subject interests them, and 2.6% said both are of equal interest. Women are significantly more interested than men in health issues, and the deeper one's religious observance, the more likely one is to be interested in health. Three-quarters of the women preferred to learn about health from the media, compared to 34% of the men. Although sports interests people aged 18 to 24 more (48.9% preferred sports to 43% who preferred health), 66.4% of those aged 25 to 34 preferred health to sport. Over half of those 35 and over were more eager to learn about health than sports. Those who call themselves "religious" or "traditional" were much more interested in health compared to secular people (51.8% of whom preferred sports news). Individuals with an academic education were more likely to prefer health articles than sports, but even 48% of those with less than a high-school diploma preferred health, compared to only 25.8% who preferred sports. Market Watch president Avinoam Brug said part of the understanding of health is apparently connected to strength and power - the Israeli macho. Thus men have a preference for sports over health stories, which involve knowing about disease. It may be that men think that if they don't read newspapers they will be healthier, or that someone who does read is worried [about his health]. So they prefer to say they are more interested in media related to sports, although most participate only from their armchairs. CUSTOMIZED MELANOMA VACCINE A new vaccine that can prevent the return of melanoma in patients who have already been diagnosed and treated has been developed by a team at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem. Prof. Tamar Peretz, head of Hadassah's Sharett Institute of Oncology, and Dr. Michal Lotem headed the team that developed the vaccine, which is customized for each patient. Still in the experimental stage, it has shown promising results, and a vaccine aimed at reducing the risk of recurrence in colon cancer is next. The technique involves taking the patient's surgically removed tumor cells and culturing them in a lab. Patients are then injected with a vaccine derived from their own cells, which induces their immune system to attack any subsequent cancer cells. Clinical studies showed that 68% who were vaccinated survived an average of six years, compared to an average of 37 months for untreated patients. The potential vaccine is not helpful and could even be harmful to patients whose cancer cells have metastasized. HEALTH FUND TRENDS Maccabi Health Services and Kupat Holim Meuhedet - the second and third largest of the four health funds - increased their membership in 2007, while the number of people in Clalit Health Services and Kupat Holim Leumit declined. Clalit, still the largest public health insurer, comprises 53.2% of the 7.2 million Israelis who are automatically part of the National Health Insurance system, while 24.3% are in Maccabi, 13.1% in Meuhedet and 9.5% in Leumit. These statistics have been compiled by Dr. Jacques Bendleck, head of health insurance and wages at National Insurance Institute, in its annual report on health funds. The NII collects health taxes from all residents and distributes them according to the numbers of members with more expensive conditions to treat. The report can be found (in Hebrew) at www.btl.gov.il. Last year, only 1.6% of Israelis - or 116,000 people - switched health funds by signing forms at a post office. Clalit lost 0.3% of its members and Leumit 0.4%, while Maccabi and Meuhedet increased their memberships. According to the NII report, Maccabi and Meuhedet's membership have a higher average income than the other two. Maccabi members have a 41% higher income, on average, than Leumit members, and 31% higher income than Clalit members. INDIA EXPERT AT HAREDI HOSPITAL It might seem that Bnei Brak's haredi-owned Ma'ayanei Hayeshua hospital would be unlikely to seek instruction from an Indian expert. But a renowned authority in endoscopic gynecological operations was recently invited to the non-profit hospital to perform operations broadcast to dozens of physicians, department heads and experts throughout the country. Prof. Shailesh Puntambekar was brought here by Ma'ayanei Hayeshuva's chief of gynecology, Prof. Gabi Oelsner, and the Endoscopic Society. Puntambekar, one of the most experienced keyhole surgeons in the world, presented a lecture and joined a team of the hospital's surgeons for minimally invasive surgery to remove a diseased uterus. Oelsner said endoscopic (laparoscopic) surgery is routinely performed at the hospital. In fact, the Bnei Brak medical center is one of the few in Israel where most of the gynecological operations are performed endoscopically. "But there is always something to learn, especially from one of the world's experts in the field." Oelsner was the first Israeli surgeon to perform endoscopic surgery in ectopic (outside the uterus) pregnancies when he served as gynecology chief at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Laparoscopic surgery saves patients much pain and prevents infections, while speeding recuperation, he said. After conventional surgery, a patient is discharged in a week to 10 days, while a patient undergoing laparoscopy is released the next day at the latest.