Monday, November 26, 2007

Smoking Obscures Test Results for Down's Syndrome

If a woman smokes in early pregnancy, her risk of having a higher blood levels of chemicals associated with Down's syndrome and the level of Fetal NT (nuchal transparency) is increased, but it isn't necessarily because her baby has Down's syndrome.

Because smoking increases the chemical biomarkers and fetal NT, this screening may be ineffective for mothers who smoke, leading to overestimation of the risk of Down's syndrome and unnecessary amniocentesis.

Fetal NT is done using an ultrasound scan to check on the levels of fluid behind the fetus' neck. A higher level of fluid indicates a risk of Down syndrome. The other tests are done from taking blood samples.

Researchers concluded that the tests may need to be adjusted for these higher levels in smoking women to allow for greater accuracy in determining the risk of Down's syndrome in the developing fetus.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Saturday, November 24, 2007

FDA Investigating Chantix Suicide Reports

The FDA is investigating reports of suicidal ideation (thoughts) experienced by people taking the drug Chantix which is prescribed to adults to help them stop smoking.

The FDA has also asked the manufacturer, Pfizer,for any information on additional cases that may be similar in patients who have taken the drug since the report citing erratic behavior in an individual who had used Chantix.

FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research is working to complete an analysis of the available information and data. When this analysis is completed, FDA will communicate the conclusions and recommendations to the public.

In the meantime, FDA recommends that health care providers monitor patients taking Chantix for behavior and mood changes. Patients taking Chantix should contact their doctors if they experience behavior or mood changes.

FDA also advises that, due to reports of drowsiness, patients should use caution when driving or operating machinery until they know how using Chantix may affect them.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hormones and Mood Disorders

Women need to be aware that key life cycle events bring on hormonal changes that can affect mood. Although it is normal to have mood changes during times of hormonal fluctuations, these can also trigger mild to severe mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, particularly during pregnancy, postpartum and perimenopause. Dramatic changes in hormone levels can lead to postpartum depression and increase cardiovascular mortality for women in perimenopause.

According to a report at the Society for Women's Health Research, areas of research that need further exploration include:

* Pregnancy: Research is needed to better distinguish symptoms of depression from normal responses to the stressful experiences of pregnancy.

* Postpartum: Registries of collected reproductive safety information on antidepressant, antipsychotic, and anticonvulsant medications must be created.

* Perimenopause: Research is needed to uncover the susceptibility markers that predict which women are at risk for developing depression during perimenopause.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pedometers Encourage Increased Activity

Remember when you vowed to increase your physical activity, joined a gym, or planned to go for a walk or a jog daily? Like most of us, you probably didn't follow through for long. Giving up on an exercise program can be costly, not just in terms of our health either - think of all the money wasted on that gym membership.

But a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that using a small and inexpensive device, called a pedometer, increased physical activity in those wearing it. The pedometer measures the number of steps a person takes. While wearing a pedometer, the average person in the study took 2,183 extra steps per day - the equivalent of an extra mile of walking.

The study also found that pedometer wearers lost weight and had improvements in their blood pressure readings.

"The results suggest that the use of a pedometer is associated with significant increases in physical activity and significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure. Whether these changes are durable over the long term is undetermined."


Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunlight and Vitamin D3 Prevent Endometrial Cancer

Researchers have found a clear association between low exposure to sunlight and the incidence of endometrial cancer. Reviewing data on endometrial cancer, researchers at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California at San Diego, found that endometrial cancer rates were highest in the highest latitudes in both hemispheres.

Exposure to sunlight, specifically UVB rays, cause the body to make Vitamin D3 which has previously been linked to lower risks of breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancer. The study indicates that Vitamin D3 levels are also important in preventing endometrial cancer.

"This is the first study, to our knowledge, to show that higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced risk of endometrial cancer," said Cedric F. Garland, Dr. P.H., professor of Family and Preventive Medicine in the UCSD School of Medicine, and member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center. "Previous epidemiological studies have focused on estrogen levels either natural or through hormone replacement therapy which play the major role in development of the disease, and on fat intake, which plays a smaller role. Since most women cannot control their natural levels of estrogen, and very low levels of fat intake are not acceptable to most American women, this article provides evidence that vitamin D adequacy should be considered as part of a comprehensive program for prevention of this cancer."

The study is published in the November 16, 2007 issue of the journal, Preventative Medicine


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Colon Cancer Genes Blocked by Grape Powder

Something as simple as adding grapes to your diet could help protect you from colorectal cancer, the third most common form of cancer. Colorectal cancer kills half a million people worldwide each year.

A study led by Dr. Randall Holcombe at UC Irvine found that low doses of freeze-dried grape powder inhibited genes linked to the sporadic development of colorectal cancer.

Working with colon cancer patients, the researchers gave one group 20 milligrams daily of resveratrol(a nutritional supplement derived from grape extract) as a pill; another drank 120 grams daily of grape powder mixed in water; and a third drank 80 grams daily of grape powder.

The group taking 80 grams of grape powder showed a reduction in cellular signaling pathway known as the Wnt pathway. The Wnt pathway has been linked to more than 85 percent of sporadic colon cancers. The treatment had no effect on existing tumors. The researchers did not know why the lower dose of grape powder was more effective than the higher dose and there was no effect with the resveratrol alone.

“This is truly exciting, because it suggests that substances in grapes can block a key intracellular signaling pathway involved in the development of colon cancer before a tumor develops,” said Holcombe...

Eighty grams of grape powder equal a half glass of wine or 1 pound of grapes, which is equivalent to three dietary servings of grapes, according to the USDA. Holcombe and his colleagues are currently designing a clinical cancer prevention study to see how a daily diet of 1 pound of grapes affects Wnt signaling.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Being Overweight Increases Some Cancer Risks for Women

According to a report in the British Medical Journal, about half of all womb and esophageal cancers in women are related to being overweight or obese.

Obesity is a risk factor for many cancers in women but, age is also a factor. The risk for breast cancer increases in overweight women after menopause but bowel cancer is more likely to occur before in the years before menopause in women who are overweight.

For more information, read the Cancer Risks for Overweight Women.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Give the Gift of Health - With a HealthCare Gift Card

Highmark, a health insurer based in Pennsylvania, has come up with a novel idea for gift-giving this holiday season. You can give the gift of health with a pre-paid gift card that can be spent on health related services.

Highmark has partnered with Visa to offer the Healthcare Gift Card which can be purchased in amounts from $25 to $5000. The card itself will cost an additional $4.95.

The card can be used at physician or dentist offices, pharmacies and even health gyms. For those who have little or no health insurance coverage or whose copays can be burdensome on a small budget - such as seniors or college students - this gift can be extremely useful.

The cards are only available in Pennsylvania currently but Highmark has plans to widen the market and make them available in more areas.

You can get the card by going to or you can call 1-877-850-3774.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Laparascopic Hysterectomy Not Superior to Total Hysterectomy

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has released a new Committee Opinion stating that laparascopic vaginal and supracervical hysterectomy is not superior to total abdominal hysterectomy, does not have clear benefits over total hysterectomy and should not be recommended as a superior technique.

Supracervical hysterectomy leaves the cervix intact. Recently it has been suggested as a way to reduce post-surgical recovery time and reduce urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunctions following hysterectomy. However, the ACOG states that a review of the evidence does not indicate significantly better postsurgical outcomes for supracervical hysterectomy when compared with hysterectomies that remove both the uterus and the cervix. Women who choose the supracervical procedure are also at an increased risk for future problems with the retained cervix and may require additional surgery.

Research does not show any drastic differences in urinary incontinence, urinary frequency, or bladder emptying between the two procedures, although one Danish study found that women with supracervical hysterectomy had higher rates of urinary incontinence than women who had total hysterectomy.

"There has been renewed interest in supracervical hysterectomy as a way to reduce operative complications and reduce the effects of hysterectomy on urinary and sexual function. Unfortunately, these possible benefits are not supported by recent evidence," says Denise J. Jamieson, MD, chair of ACOG.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pelvic Health and Women

Women have very special health concerns and it's not always easy to talk to your health care practitioner about "private" issues. To make things worse, a lot of what goes on in the lower regions of our bodies seems mysterious and many women have had their complaints dismissed by doctors and others as either being normal or possibly even "all in your head".

That's why it's important for women to know about their pelvic health and conditions that might affect it. WebMD has an extensive article about what conditions might plague women at different stages of life. The article is informative and sometimes surprising. For instance, did you know that blondes have a higher risk of pelvic prolapse? Did you know that 70% of all women have fibroids by age 50 and that fibroids are more common in African-American women than any other group? Do you know how to distinguish a yeast infection from bacterial vaginosis?

Women at every stage of life - 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond - face special concerns and reproductive health issues. The WebMD article explains the most common pelvic health problems for women in each decade of adult life. Every woman needs to be informed on the health issues that concern her as a woman, at any age.