Does Gender Matter?
Oral Contraceptives and Cancer
Weight and Cancer
American women still haven't heard the whole truth regarding the health problems smoking can cause. Women do face problems with their reproductive health that men do not. Over time, smoking can decrease women's levels of the hormone estrogen, putting them at increased risk for the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis. Smoking also has been linked to infertility, early menopause, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, and cervical cancer. A study in the April issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that the majority of American women are clueless about the threats that smoking poses to their fertility and their chance at a healthy pregnancy, says Hugh S. Taylor, MD, of Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.
Historically, medical researchers have assumed that, other than their reproductive systems, men and women basically reacted the same way to drugs. This view is challenged. In its report, ``Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?'' a panel of U.S. scientists convened by the Institute of Medicine to review medical research programs, noted that the sexual differences extend to the cellular level. Men and women differ in their patterns of illness and life spans, the report observed, they are exposed to disease differently, have different methods for energy storage, have different metabolisms and respond differently to drugs. ``Sex ... is an important basic human variable that should be considered when designing and analyzing studies in all areas and at all levels of medical and health-related research,'' the committee wrote.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending that all sexually active women age 25 and younger and higher risk older women be screened for the sexually transmitted disease as part of their regular doctor's visits, The Associated Press reports. The recommendation comes following a study last month in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which finds that only 32 percent of doctors surveyed screened sexually active teenage girls for chlamydia, the most common bacterial STD in the United States, the AP says. Chlamydia may initially cause no symptoms, but left untreated it can lead to serious pelvic infections and infertility.
Researchers found that children in high-quality programs scored better on language and thinking tests than those who stayed home. But researchers also found that children spending more than 30 hours a week in child care were almost three times as likely to exhibit aggression, disobedience and defiance as those in day care less than 10 hours a week. The longer young children spend in day care away from their mothers the more likely they are to be overly aggressive by the time they reached kindergarten.Principal researcher Jay Belsky of Birkbeck College in London was presenting the findings in more detail Thursday in Minneapolis at a meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.
"There is a constant dose-response relationship between time in care and problem behavior, especially those involving aggression and behavior," Belsky told reporters. Belsky, a research psychologist who worked at Penn State University until two years ago, added that children who spend more than 30 hours a week in child care "scored higher on items like "gets in lots of fights,' "cruelty,' "explosive behavior,' as well as "talking too much,' "argues a lot,' and "demands a lot of attention.' "If more time in all sorts of (child care) arrangements is predicting disconcerting outcomes, then if you want to reduce the probability of those outcomes, you reduce the time in care," said Belsky. "Extend parental leave and part-time work." For parents struggling to juggle work and child-raising, the news compounded their daily dilemmas.
Oral Contraceptives and Cancer
Nearly 1 million people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer worldwide last year, says the World Health Organization. According to the American Cancer Society projections more than 135,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease this year. According to a study conducted by Italian scientists from the Institute of Pharmacological Research in Milan, Italy, published on 16th in the British Journal of Cancer, women had about a 20 percent lower chance of developing the disease if they used oral contraceptives. The study pulled together the evidence from 19 international investigations into a possible link between birth control pills and cancer of the colon and bowel. It is the first comprehensive analysis of the topic. The findings are similar to those of a recent study which suggested that hormone replacement therapy (HRT), could protect women from colorectal cancer to the same degree. Over the last 20 years death rates from bowel cancer have dropped more in women than in men, partly due to estrogen found in oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, according to some scientists.
Caution: Studies have shown there appears to be other anticancer benefits to the pill, but that it may also promote some types of cancer. Research suggests it may ward off ovarian and womb cancer but increase the risk of breast cancer.
The number of cancer drugs in the pipeline has more than tripled in the past decade, with 402 medications now in human testing across the nation, according to a new survey by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Nineteen (19) Massachusetts' companies are developing about 35 drugs and testing them in roughly 60 clinical trials against virtually all forms of cancer, including breast, prostate, lung, colon, skin, stomach and pancreatic cancers, as well as solid tumors, lymphomas and leukemias.
Weight and Cancer
Up to one-third of cancers of the colon, breast, kidney and digestive tract are attributable to too much weight gain and too little exercise, the World Health Organization's cancer agency said.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has designated Monday, May 7 as "Melanoma Monday" and May as National Skin Cancer Detection month. During May, dermatologists will participate in special screening programs. By 2010, one in 50 Americans will get melanoma. It's increasing faster than any other cancer in the U.S. More than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in 2001, and 51,400 of them will be melanoma. That's a 9% increase over 2000. Middle-aged men are the main reason for this increase. Part of the increase may be due to the ease in which people can travel from less sunny environments like New York City to high sun areas like Puerto Rico. "Melanoma is not a death sentence. It can be prevented, and if it's detected early, it's 95% curable," says Roger I. Ceilly, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Iowa in Des Moines, and the chief of the dermatology section at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. His advice is to apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes prior to sun exposure to give nit a chance to kick in, and then re-apply it every two hours, or even more frequently. Other tips to prevent melanoma and other skin cancers include avoiding sun exposure during the peak sunlight hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and wearing protective clothing: a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, and pants.
"Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter," said baseball legend Leroy "Satchel" Paige.
However, regular physical activity could represent an important and potent protective factor for thought process decline and dementia in elderly persons. The protective effect of activity was particularly strong among women, but men also saw a mental payoff from exercise, say Danielle Laurin, MSc and colleagues in the March issue of the journal Archives of Neurology. Laurin and colleagues suggest that physical activity may protect against mental decline by helping to maintain blood flow in the brain, improving oxygen use by the brain, and by making the organ's use of nutrients more efficient. They also point to animal studies suggesting that activity could stimulate the release of important natural growth factors that help reinforce the brain's center for memory and learning.
The National Institute on Aging recommends for older people an exercise program that includes:
Endurance exercises, which increase stamina and may help delay or prevent diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease and stroke;
Strength exercises, which increase metabolism helping to control weight and regulate blood sugar. Studies show, they also may help prevent osteoporosis;
Flexibility exercises, which may help prevent and aid recovery from injuries; and
Balance exercises, which help prevent falls -- a major cause of broken hips and other injuries that lead to disability and loss of independence.
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, April 2001
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