NOVEMBER 01, 2006

Breast Cancer Can Come from Both Parents When most women are screened for breast cancer, they make sure they indicate any incidence of breast cancer in their mother's family line. They may not realize that breast cancer from their father's side can also contribute to their risk for the disease. A new study has found that women often report fewer paternal cases of breast cancer than maternal ones, even though the numbers are about the same, thereby underestimating their actual cancer risk. The findings were published in the September 2006 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Researchers looked at the results of an earlier study, in which over 800 women who did not have breast cancer at the time were questioned about their family's cancer history. About 16% reported breast cancer on their mother's side, but only 10% reported it from their father's side. The researchers fear that this misinformation could mean suboptimal accuracy in genetic cancer screening in women.

C-sections Linked to Higher Rates of Infant Death

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that the mortality rate of infants born via voluntary Cesarean delivery (C-section) is higher than for those born via vaginal delivery. The rate for C-sections is 1.77 deaths per 1000 live births, while the rate for vaginal delivery is 0.62 deaths per 1000 live births. It had been assumed that the differences were due to the higher risk profile of mothers who had the surgery, but the study involved low-risk mothers who had no known medical reason to undergo the procedure.

The researchers analyzed data from over 5.7 million live births and about 12,000 infant deaths from 1998 to 2001. Of these births, 311,927 were by C-sections. They found that babies delivered by C-section had more than twice the risk of neonatal mortality than those delivered vaginally, even after adjusting for socioeconomic and medical risk factors.

The rate of C-sections in the United States increased from 20.7% in 1996 to 29.1% in 2004. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 1.2 million live births in the United States in 2004 were by C-section. The results of the study were published in the September 2006 edition of Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care.

Alternative Treatments for Menopause Not Effective

Almost 50% of American women going through menopause seek relief of symptoms through alternative or complementary treatments.A systematic review of some of these therapies, however, shows that there is little evidence that any of them work. Researchers reviewed data from 70 randomized controlled trials of alternative treatments. They found insufficient scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of any of the most commonly used remedies, including herbs, mind-body techniques, magnets, homeopathy, naturopathy, or culturally based non-Western medical treatments.

One study compared 56 patients who consumed a soy drink to relieve their menopausal symptoms with 55 patients who drank a medically inactive beverage. The study showed no difference between the 2 groups. The scientists also compared 9 studies of mind-body therapies, and, although the therapies varied in quality, none were found to be better than placebo treatments. In 6 trials of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs, none were shown to produce a significant benefit over controls for menopausal symptoms. The results of the analysis were published in the July 24, 2006, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Drinking While Pregnant Increases Child's Risk of Alcohol Disorders

Mothers who drink 3 or more alcoholic beverages at any one time during their pregnancy increase the risk of their child developing an alcohol disorder by the time the child turns 21. Researchers have known that maternal drinking has been linked to difficulties in thinking, learning, and memory, as well as mental and behavioral problems in affected children. They wanted to assess the risk of alcohol disorder development in the children of women who drank during their pregnancies. The results were published in the September 2006 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Researchers from the University of Queensland, Herston, Australia, studied a group of 7223 mothers who were interviewed at their first prenatal visits between 1981 and 1984. The mothers and their children were assessed at birth; 6 months; and 5, 14, and 21 years. Only 2555 children completed the assessment at 21 years, and of these, 640 met criteria for an alcohol disorder; 333 of these reported developing the disorder before age 18 and 307 between ages 18 and 21. It was found that those participants whose mothers drank more than 3 glasses of alcohol on any one occasion during early pregnancy were 2.47 times more likely to develop an early-onset alcohol disorder (before age 18) and 2.04 times more likely to develop a late-onset disorder (between ages 18 and 21).