Women's Health Watch

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No Link Between Meat Intake and Breast Cancer
Eating meat does not contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer in women, according to a study reported in the May 15, 2009, issue of the International Journal of Cancer. Some studies have found that women who eat a lot of red and processed meat are more prone to develop breast cancer, compared with other women; but other studies have found the opposite.

The current study included 120,755 postmenopausal women who participated in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. At study onset, the women detailed what they ate and how often they ate certain foods. They also included information on their methods for cooking meat.

During the next 8 years, 3818 women developed breast cancer. The researchers found that the breast cancer risk was not linked with intake of total meat, type of meat, or how it was prepared. The group concluded that the findings "do not support the hypothesis that a high intake of meat, red meat, processed meat, meat cooked at high temperatures, or meat mutagen is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer."

Health Care Costs Tough for Women
A survey of >2000 women indicated that they are more likely to have trouble meeting rising health care costs to get the proper medical care, compared with men, according to a May 2009 report by The Commonwealth Fund.

The survey, which included 2616 adults aged 19 to 64, found that 7 of every 10 working-age women (64 million) either had no health insurance, insufficient health care coverage, difficulty paying bills, or a lack of access to needed medical care because of cost. Overall, 52% of the survey participants said cost prohibited getting medical care, compared with 39% of men.

Paying medical bills is another hurdle for women. "Women are more likely than men to be paying off health care bills over time," said Michelle Doty, PhD, coauthor of the report and director of survey research for the nonprofit foundation. She said that 45% of women had problems with medical bills, compared with 36% of men.

Race, Ethnicity Affect Donor-Egg IVF Outcomes
Data on the outcomes of in vitro fertilization (IVF) using donated eggs showed it is not as successful for black women, compared with women of other races and ethnicities.

The study was recently presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians&Gynecologists. The researchers looked at data on 29,948 donor-egg IVF cycles, and analyzed 60% of these cycles in which there was no indication that the donors and mothers varied in ethnicity.

The researchers found that "compared to white women, black women were more likely to have a failed cycle prior to embryo transfer, less likely to achieve pregnancy, and less likely to have a live birth." The researchers noted that the differences cannot be accounted for by disorders of the uterus or fallopian tubes.

Older Pregnant Women May Have Complications
A study reported in Obstetrics&Gynecology (May 2009) examined why the percentage of pregnant women with pre- existing conditions has risen. The researchers hypothesized that the increase was triggered by more obese women and older women having babies. Using data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey, the investigators compared data from 2001 to 2005 with data from 1993 to 1997.

Whereas the overall rate of delivery complications remained at 28.6%, the incidence of preexisting medical conditions among women delivering infants rose from 4.1% to 4.9%. High blood pressure, preeclampsia, diabetes, asthma, and bleeding after delivery all increased. The researchers noted that obesity, which also is associated with high blood pressure, is increasing and also may be a reason.

Thyroid Disease, Liver Cancer Connection Found

Women with hypothyroidism for >10 years face a greater risk of liver cancer. Men with the condition, however, do not face the same risk.

The researchers compared the occurrence and nature of thyroid diseases in a group of 420 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer, and a control group of 1104 patients without thyroid disease. The investigators also took into account factors that could affect the patients' outcome, such as demographic factors and family history of cancer.

Reporting in the May 2009 issue of Hepatology, the researchers found that women who had hypothyroidism for more than a decade were 2.9 times more likely to develop liver cancer, compared with patients without the thyroid disease. For the patients who also had diabetes and chronic hepatitis virus infection, the risk increased to 9.4 times and 31.2 times, respectively.

FAST FACT: Women are 2.7 times more likely than men to acquire an autoimmune disease.