Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hormones raise breast cancer risk

Hormone replacement therapy can raise the risk of an uncommon type of breast cancer fourfold after just three years, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.
They found women who took combined estrogen/progestin hormone-replacement therapy for three years or more had four times the usual risk of lobular breast cancer.

For many years, doctors had thought hormone therapy could protect women from chronic diseases, especially heart disease.

But use of HRT plunged after the 2002 Women's Health Initiative study found that HRT could raise the risk not only of breast and ovarian cancer, but of strokes and other serious conditions.

Research since then shows the incidence of breast cancer dropped by 8.6 percent between 2001 and 2004 in the United States -- along with the decline in HRT use.

Doctors stress that younger women who need the drugs to relieve serious symptoms of menopause should still consider taking them because new, lower-dose formulations are available and doctors now know to prescribe them for short periods of time.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Women heart Health

While it is true that men generally suffer from heart disease at an earlier age, it was not recognized until recently that women suffer from heart disease in greater numbers than men later in life.

There are several controllable risk factors that women can monitor to take charge of their heart health:

- Cholesterol
According to a recent survey by the Society for Women's Health Research, less than one-third of women know their cholesterol number. A person’s total cholesterol is made up of low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL), and triglycerides, another fatty substance found in the blood. A desirable level of total cholesterol is less than 200. Some research indicates that low levels of HDL cholesterol and high triglyceride levels are a stronger risk factor for women than they are for men.

- Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and the most important risk factor for stroke. It is particularly important for African American women, who are more likely to have hypertension than are Caucasian women

- Sedentary Lifestyle
Quite simply, the absence of physical activity can be damaging to your heart. Some studies show that heart disease is almost twice as likely to develop in sedentary people as it is in those who are more active.

- Diabetes
Women with diabetes have between two to six times the risk of developing heart disease and are at much greater risk of having a stroke than women without diabetes.

- Obesity
Being overweight can lead to high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It is also a risk factor by itself for heart disease.

The good news is that there are ways to combat these risks. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight are extremely important. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats is also important. Quitting smoking and not using tobacco products can also help to prevent heart disease.

The Society reminds you to speak with your health care provider about monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure levels to check for any changes. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years.

Taking charge of these risk factors early in life can make a big difference to your heart health as you age.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Multiple skin cancer risk behaviors

Whether you’re basking on the beach during vacation, coasting down glittering white snow on a weekend ski trip, or simply walking the dog or running errands, sunlight’s ultraviolet rays can damage your skin year-round. Yet a new study by behavioral researchers shows that most American adults engage in multiple behaviors that boost their risk of skin cancer by increasing their exposure to UV rays.

These behaviors include infrequent use of sun-protective clothing; staying outside in the sun rather than seeking shade; infrequent use of sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more; indoor tanning with a sunlamp or tanning bed within the past year; and getting sunburned within the past year.

Collectively, skin cancer of all types is the most common cancer in the United States and the incidence has increased over the past three decades.
According to the American Cancer Society, during 2007, an estimated 1.1 million Americans received a diagnosis of basal- or squamous-cell skin cancer or the more invasive, potentially lethal melanoma.

Heredity plays an important role in skin cancer. For example, a typical portrait of someone at risk of skin cancer would show a natural blonde or redhead with very fair skin that freckles and burns more easily than it tans. Melanoma, in particular, is known to run in certain families.
However, overexposure to ultraviolet light—something controlled by behavior—is a major factor in increased skin cancer risk.

Researchers found that younger adults were particularly likely to engage in multiple behaviors that increase skin cancer risk.
Men, Caucasians, smokers, persons who consume high levels of alcohol and persons who report having skin that is not especially sensitive to the sun were also more likely to engage in behaviors that placed them at increased skin cancer risk.

Since the UV damage to the skin is cumulative, lack of protection by young people is likely to drive a continued increase in skin cancers as these generations grow older over the next decades, this new research on behavior relating to skin cancer risk may help target the highest-risk groups with educational messages tailored for them.

Ultraviolet radiation exposure is the most important modifiable risk factor for all types of skin cancer.
Wearing protective clothing like a wide-brimmed hat, avoiding sun exposure during the middle of the day, when rays are strongest, seeking shade, using sunscreen and avoiding indoor tanning have all been recommended by various agencies, but all available data suggest that the majority of American adults don’t follow this advice and instead have high rates of UV exposure and sunburns.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Smoking Quitting

84 percent of ex-smokers who consulted with their doctor or another healthcare professional during their final successful quit attempt believe that giving up would have been more difficult if they had tried to quit alone – according to the results of a new European survey.
The survey, which investigated the attitudes of nearly 1,000 ex-smokers on smoking and smoking cessation, revealed that 74 percent of those who consulted a healthcare professional would be likely to recommend this approach to others wanting to quit.

In addition, the survey revealed that those who consulted with their doctor or another healthcare professional during their successful quit attempt are significantly more likely to think they will not go back to regular smoking, compared to those who quit alone.

Only 13% of all ex-smokers contacted in the survey consulted with a healthcare professional to help influence their quit attempt. With healthcare professionals being the source of professional support and being able to advise on new ways for the individual to quit, this suggests that smokers aren't always seeking the support which is available to them when trying to give up
The survey found that those who were heavy smokers or who had previously attempted to quit were more likely to find quitting difficult than those who smoked less and those who had not tried to quit previously. In addition, those smokers who found it more difficult to quit were more likely to seek their doctor’s advice than to quit without support.
The survey also revealed ex-smokers’ motivations to quit. Leading cited reasons to quit included concerns about potential health problems (45 percent), the cost of buying cigarettes (28 percent), the negative impact on family health (22 percent) and diagnosed health problems (22 percent).

Interestingly, the implementation of a national smoking ban was also a motivation to quit, with approximately a quarter of respondents (23%) citing it as having an impact. This was particularly true in Italy, one of the countries with the longest-standing nationwide smoking ban in place – 40 percent of Italian respondents agreed the ban had been influential.

The vast majority of ex-smokers say that since quitting smoking, they feel much better about themselves in a number of ways. Seventy-nine percent agreed that their sense of taste and smell had noticeably improved once they had quit. Although many of the ex-smokers surveyed recognised the harmful effects of cigarette smoking even before they quit, 86 percent agreed that quitting smoking has had a noticeable impact on their general wellbeing.