Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hysterectomy Increases Incontinence Risk

Removal of the uterus increases a woman's risk of urinary incontinence, according to a Swedish study. The study conducted by the Karolinska Institutet shows that women who have had a hysterectomy are more than twice as likely to undergo surgery for urinary incontinence as women who have not had removal of the uterus.

The highest likelihood of incontinence surgery is within the first five years following the removal of the uterus, but the higher risk for incontinence remains throughout a woman's life. The risk is increased for women who have had a hysterectomy before menopause and for women who have had multiple vaginal deliveries.

Hysterectomy is sometimes the best treatment option - in the case of cancer, for instance - but doctors should educate women on these findings if the surgery is considered for more benign conditions.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Laura Bush Campaigns for Breast Cancer Awareness

First Lady Laura Bush was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this week to help launch a breast cancer screening facility. Mrs. Bush was there as apart of a US-Saudi initiative to raise awareness about breast cancer in a country where there have long been taboos about even mentioning the disease.

About 70% of breast cancers in Saudi women go unreported until they are in a very late stage. In the past, social customs and taboos have made it socially improper to call the disease by name.

"Breast cancer does not respect national boundaries, which is why people from every country must share their knowledge, resources and experience to protect women from this disease," Bush said in a speech at the King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh.

"The cure for breast cancer can come from a researcher in Washington or a young doctor in Riyadh," she added.

Mrs. Bush knows how important it is to make women aware of the risks and symptoms of breast cancer. Both her mother and grandmother suffered from the disease.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dieting? Don't Cut Out Chocolate

If you're dieting, whatever you do, don't try to give up chocolate. Psychologists now say that women who try not to think about chocolate and abstain actually end up eating more chocolate as a result.

Psychologist James Erskine, of the University of Hertfordshire, who led the independent research, said: "The act of avoidance seems to completely backfire.

"We found that if you try not to think about eating chocolate, it tends to lead you to eat more. In other words, thinking about chocolate is not dangerous – but trying not to think about it is."

Diet experts say that trying to totally eliminate "sinful" foods can backfire. The best diet is one that includes balanced nutrition and sensible eating.

Besides, with all the health benefits of chocolate that researchers have discovered lately, why would you want to give it up?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Aspirin Not Effective Against Heart Attack in Women

Doctors regularly prescribe aspirin for patients who are at risk for heart attack, but a new report says that aspirin may only be effective for men.

A report from The James Hogg iCAPTURE Centre for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research, states that the results of 23 previously published clinical trials involving more than 113,000 patients, indicates that aspirin only lowers the risk of non-fatal heart attack in men, and there is no significant risk reduction for women.

"Trials that recruited predominantly men demonstrated the largest risk reduction in non-fatal heart attacks," says Dr Don Sin, one of the study's authors. "The trials that contained predominately women failed to demonstrate a significant risk reduction in these non-fatal events. We found that a lot of the variability in these trials seems to be due to the gender ratios, supporting the theory that women may be less responsive to aspirin than men for heart protection."

"From our findings we would caution clinicians on the prescribing aspirin to women, especially for primary prevention of heart attacks," says Dr Sin. "Whether or not other pharmaceutical products would be more effective for women is unclear; more sex-specific studies should now be conducted."


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sunlight Exposure Decreases Risk of Advanced Breast Cancer

Vitamin D has been suggested as cancer preventative in past studies but now there is a study that links sunlight exposure and therefore, Vitamin D production, directly to a decreased risk of breast cancer.

A study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology states that researchers found that women with high sun exposure had half the risk of developing advanced breast cancer - cancer that has spread beyond the breast. The findings were only observed in women with naturally light skin color and only applied to advanced disease, suggesting that Vitamin D may be important in slowing the growth of breast cancer cells. The effect was not seen in women with darker skin color, possibly because dark-skinned individuals produce less Vitamin D than light-skinned people with the same amount of sun exposure.

The study correlates with previous studies showing that frequent sun exposure lowered the risk of breast cancer. However, researchers do not advise sun-bathing as a prevention for breast cancer due to the increased risk of skin cancer that may result. Instead they suggest that supplementing Vitamin D in the diet through multivitamins, fatty fish and fortified foods like milk may be the safest way to achieve adequate levels of Vitamin D.

Exposure to sunlight may decrease risk of advanced breast cancer by half

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NIH Announces Vulvodynia Awareness Campaign

The National Institutes of Health is announcing the launch of the Vulvodynia Awareness campaign. Vulvodynia is a chronic and unexplained pain and discomfort of the vulva which may affect some 14 million women at some time in their lives. Because many health care practitioners are unaware of the condition, it is not always diagnosed promptly.

NIH Office of Research on Women's Health, the National Women's Health Resource Center, NIH components, and thirty federal and non-federal partners are launching the Vulvodynia awareness campaign to bring attention to this condition that can affect the lives and personal relationships of women of all races, ethnic groups and ages.

The campaign will be officially launched on Wednesday, October 27, 2007 at the National Press Club at 10 AM. The National Press Club is located at 529 14th Street, NW in Washington, DC. The event is open to the public.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Women Know (and don't know) About Breast Cancer

A survey taken by Women's Day and National Women's Health Resource Center reveals what women already know - and don't know - about breast cancer facts.

When it comes to risk factors, a majority of women were right on target, knowing that having a family member who has had breast cancer increases your risk of the disease and 9 out of 10 women were aware that even without a family history of breast cancer they could still be at risk.

However, 47% of women didn't know that getting older raises your risk for developing the disease, and only 32% of women surveyed thought that being overweight puts them at risk, but research shows that it does.

The rates for first mammograms at age 40 are high, 91%. But fewer women, only 75% get them annually as recommended. Women not getting regular mammograms gave the following reasons:
*15% think it costs too much
*12% think it's too painful
*10% are worried that the doctor will find something.

Remember, you should get your first mammogram at age 40. A mammogram is the best way to diagnose the disease at an early and treatable stage.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Genetics of Obesity

I don't know what turned the tide in research but it seems lately there have been quite a few startling discoveries about obesity and the genetic aspect thereof. Last month there was a report on research at UT Southwestern Medical Center on the discovery of a gene called adipose, that appears to make some people naturally heavier than others.

Now, researchers at the University at Buffalo have found more possible genetic reasons for overeating and obesity. According to their report, people who have genetically lower dopamine levels tend to eat more, and find food more reinforcing (rewarding). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps make behaviors and substances more rewarding. Having fewer dopamine receptors means that you would have to eat more of a favorite food in order to experience the "feel good" reward from it.

The researchers caution that not all people with this genotype will be obese nor does having the genotype cause obesity in and of itself.

"Behavior and biology interact and influence each other," says lead author, Leonard Epstein, PhD. "The genotype does not cause obesity; it is one of many factors that may contribute to it. I think the factors that make up eating behavior are in part genetic and in part learning history."

The study article, "Food Reinforcement, the Dopamine D2 Receptor Genotype, and Energy Intake in Obese and Non-obese Humans" is published in the October issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hypertension Increases Diabetes Risk

Women who have high blood pressure are up to a three times greater risk for developing diabetes type 2 than those with optimal blood pressure. These are the findings of a study published in the European Heart Journal.

The study followed the health of 38,000 women over a period of ten years. The women fell into one of four groups according to their blood pressure levels at the start of the study.

Optimal BP: below 120 systolic, 75 diastolic
Normal BP: 120-129 systolic, 75-84 diastolic
High Normal BP: 130-139 systolic, 85-89 diastolic
High BP: 140 and over systolic, over 90 diastolic

At the end of the ten year follow-up, and adjusting for lifestyle factors such as exercise, BMI, ethnicity, smoking and alcohol intake, the researchers found that women with hypertension had a three fold higher risk of developing diabetes. Obesity was found to be a separate risk for diabetes, and women in all weight categories were equally at risk for diabetes if they had blood pressure in the highest category. Women whose blood pressure rose during the study, but stayed in the high normal range had an increased risk of 26% compared to 64% for those who had progressed to hypertension.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Low Fat Diet Reduces Ovarian Cancer Risk

A new study published October 9 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that a low fat diet can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in post-menopausal women.

A total of 48,835 post menopausal women were randomly assigned to an intervention group or a comparison group.

The intervention group followed a diet that reduced total fat intake to 20% of overall diet and increased the consumption of vegetables, fruits and grains. The comparison group ate their normal diet. The women were followed for 8 years.

During the first 4 years of the study, the ovarian cancer risk was about the same in both groups, but over time there was a marked reduction in risk for the intervention group which increased with time. The longer the low fat, high fruit and vegetable diet was maintained, the lower the risk of ovarian cancer. And for women who ate a high-fat diet prior to the study, the risk reduction was even greater.

The researchers conclude that a low-fat diet may reduce the incidence of ovarian cancer.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Healthy" Restaurants Make Us Fat

Can eating in a "healthy" restaurant actually make you choose to eat more? According to studies by Brian Wansink of Cornell University, people eating at restaurants that advertise themselves as being healthier, consumed more calories than those eating at restaurants that make no such claim.

For instance, customers eating at Subway which advertises lower-fat and calorie items, chose additional side items that added both fat and calories to the meal - 131% more calories. Customers did this more often than diners at other restaurants like McDonalds, and the end result is that diners eating at Subway underestimated the caloric content of their meals.

"In estimating a 1,000 calorie meal, I've found that people on average underestimate by 159 calories if the meal was bought at Subway than at McDonald's," says Wansink. Since it takes an energy imbalance of 3,500 calories to put on one pound, that extra 159 calories could lead to almost a 5-pound weight gain over a year for people eating at Subway twice a week compared with choosing a comparable meal at McDonald's with the same frequency, he says.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Genetic Cause Found for PMDD

Researchers have found a genetic variant that appears to be linked to PHDD or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a condition that affects between 5-8% of women. Women with PMDD suffer symptoms similar to PMS but more intense so that they interfere with quality of life. Symptoms include emotional and physical problems, such as irritability, marked depressed mood, anger, headaches, weight gain and more.

A new study published in the October 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry reveals the findings of genetic testing and analysis on women diagnosed with PMDD and healthy control subjects. They found genetic variants in the estrogen receptor alpha gene. The association with PMDD ws only seen in women with a variant in another gene, catechol-o-methyltransferase. Researchers report that women with PMDD have an abnormal response to normal hormone levels, and are differentially sensitive to their own hormone changes.

John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, comments, "We have been waiting for molecular genetics to provide some insights into the neurobiology of PMDD and this report from Huo et al. provides a welcome starting point for this research area." He adds, "In the case of PMDD, we are interested in the internal, hormonal environment as well as external environmental factors, such as stress. This report suggests that genetic factors may influence both dimensions of PMDD vulnerability."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Top Ten Diets for Heart Health

In recent years, diet books have become bestsellers and there is no argument from the medical community that obesity is a major complication in many medical conditions, including the nation's number one killer, cardiovascular disease. A recent study at at the University of Massachusetts Medical School reviewed diet plans in view of how they affect heart health.

Researchers said that people can lose weight in the short term on any one of a number of diet plans, but their interest was in how well these plans do in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The plans were rated on dietary quality, such as the ratio of white to red meat, ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat, and quantities of fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, cereal fiber and trans fats, all of which are known to affect cardiovascular health.

The highest rating on the scale is 70 points. Here is the list of the top ten plans for heart health in order:

1. Ornish (64.6)
2. Weight Watchers High Carbohydrate (57.4)
3. New Glucose Revolution (57.2)
4. South Beach/Phase 2 (50.7)
5. Zone (49.8)
6. 2005 USDA Food Guide Pyramid (48.7)
7. Weight Watchers High Protein (47.3)
8. Atkins/100 g Carb (46)
9. South Beach/Phase 3 (45.6)
10. Atkins/45g Carb (42.3)

The study, “A Dietary Quality Comparison of Popular Weight-Loss Plans,” was published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Calcium Fights Cancer Spreading to Bone

The new advice from the American Association for Cancer Research is drink your milk. A strong skeleton is less likely to be penetrated by metastasizing cancer, and the best way to strengthen bone is dietary calcium. They believe that dietary calcium may be the way to prevent breast cancer from spreading to bone.

70 percent of patients who develop advanced breast cancer will have secondary tumors in the bone. The cancer breaks down the bone, which leads to more pain and leaves the bone even more susceptible to further cancer growth.

By studying the effects of a calcium deficient diet in mice, researchers at the ANZAC Research Institute in Australia concluded that calcium deficiency was a factor in higher cancer cell proliferation.

"These results could have implications for patients with breast cancer bone metastases or who are at high risk for developing metastatic disease," Dunstan said. "Many older women in our community are known to be calcium deficient due to low calcium dietary intake or due to vitamin D deficiency. These women could be at increased risk for the devastating effects of bone metastases."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

There's good news from the American Cancer Society. According to their statistics, the breast cancer rate continues to drop about 2 percent per year and has been doing so since 1990. However, the rates have not dropped as significantly for African-American women as they have for white women. Although the decrease in the overall rate is credited to early detection and treatment, the recent drop in reported cancers may be due in part to fewer women having regular mammogram screenings.

Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, accounting for one in four cancers diagnosed in US women. Some risk factors can't be changed, such as gender, race and family history. However, some risk factors for breast cancer can be eliminated with lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.

For information on screening, detection, risk factors and treatment for breast cancer, go to the American Cancer Society website.

Get involved in the fight against breast cancer by participating or supporting the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks being held country wide.