/publications/issue/2007/2007-08/2007-08-6701

Women's Health Watch

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Obese Women More Likely to Avoid Cancer Screenings
Women who are severely obese (body mass index =40) are less likely than other women to get necessary cancer screenings, even though their extra weight increases their risk for developing and dying from the disease.

Researchers from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey/New Jersey Medical School in Newark analyzed data from 8289 women aged 40 to 74 years who took part in the 2000 National Health Interview Survey. They found that women who were severely obese were up to 10% less likely to be up-to-date on clinical breast examinations, mammograms, and Pap smears. They also found that these women were 51% less likely to adhere to their physicians? recommendations for mammograms and 83% less likely to follow up on Pap smear recommendations, even though physicians recommended the screenings equally for both obese and nonobese women.

The study authors plan further investigation into this phenomenon. Data from patient focus groups showed that these women ?don?t like to be examined.? The study was reported in the June 2007 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Women Have Twice the Risk of Midlife Stroke
A new study from the Stroke Center and department of neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that women in the United States are twice as likely as men to experience a stroke during middle age (ages 45-54 years).

The trend might be due to increases in both heart disease and weight gain among women. The study also looked at other factors that might cause this inclination. They found that women have a steeper rise than men in several factors for heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The researchers collected data on 17,000 American men and women involved in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Among these participants, 606 reported having had a stroke. The researchers found that women aged 45 to 54 years were more than twice as likely as men in the same age range to have had a stroke. There were no differences in other age groups. The researchers were concerned because of the trend of stroke among women becoming even greater as the American population ages. The findings were reported in the June 20, 2007, online edition of Neurology.

Depression May Accelerate Bone Loss in Older Women
Older women who experience depression tend to lose bone at a faster rate than women who are not depressed, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota determined depressive symptoms and took 2 hip bone mineral density (BMD) measurements in 4177 women aged 69 years and older who were participating in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures.

Each measurement was taken an average of 4.4 years apart. The researchers found that ?the more depressive symptoms women had, the greater their rates of bone loss.? In age-adjusted models, the average BMD at the hip fell 0.96% per year in 200 women with depression, compared with 0.69% in 3977 women without depression.

Researchers stated that ?the mechanism of this association is unclear, but the finding of greater rates of bone loss in depressed subjects suggests that this may be a factor in the observed association with fractures.? They conceded that further research is needed to confirm these observations and ?to clarify the effect of specific treatments for depression on the rate of bone loss in depressed people.? The findings were reported in the June 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Antiplatelets Lower Preeclampsia Risk
A meta-analysis showed that pregnant women who received antiplatelet agents daily experienced ?moderate but consistent reductions? in the risk of developing preeclampsia and premature births, compared with women who did not receive the medicines. Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous condition that may develop in late pregnancy and may lead to convulsions if not treated. Symptoms include high blood pressure, fluid retention, abnormal weight gain, and the presence of protein in the urine.

Researchers from the United Kingdom and Australia examined the data from 31 randomized studies involving a total of 32,217 pregnant women. The results showed that those who took low daily dosages of aspirin or other antiplatelet therapies had a 10% lower risk of developing preeclampsia. The risks of giving birth early or having a pregnancy with a ?serious adverse outcome? were also 10% lower for those taking the antiplatelets. The researchers noted that ?no particular subgroup of women was substantially more or less likely to benefit from [the drugs] than any other [subgroup].? The findings were reported in the May 26, 2007, issue of the Lancet.