WOMEN'S HEALTH WATCH
Air Pollution More Harmful to Older Women
A recent study from the University ofWashington showed that breathing commonpolluted air in urban areas is moredangerous to older women. Researchersstudied the data of 65,893 postmenopausalwomen between 50 and 79 years ofage without previous cardiovascular (CV)disease in 36 US metropolitan areas from1994 to 1998. Exposure to air pollutantswas assessed using air monitors locatedclosest to each woman's residence.
By study's end, 1816 women had oneor more fatal or nonfatal CV events,including death from coronary heart orcerebrovascular disease, coronary revascularization,myocardial infarction (MI), orstroke. The average exposure of thewomen was 13 millionths of a gram offine particulates of pollution per cubicmeter of air; each increase of 10 millionthswas associated with a 24%increase in the risk of a CV event and a76% increase in the risk of death from CVdisease.
Women are traditionally more susceptibleto CV disease by virtue of their biologicalvariations from men. It is believedthat the particulates travel deep into thelungs to spark inflammation that can leadto MIs and strokes. The particles comefrom burning fuel in cars, factories, andpower plants and are usually seen collectivelyas urban haze, or smog. The resultsof the study were published in theFebruary 1, 2007, issue of the NewEngland Journal of Medicine.
Did You Get the Memo?Women's Offices Dirtier Than Men's
A study from the University of Arizona suggested that women'soffices have about 3.5 times more germs than men's. CharlesGerba, PhD, a microbiologist at the university, explained that thereare 3 main reasons why women's office spaces tend to harbormore germs: they use hand lotion more frequently, which trapsgerms on surfaces; women tend to be around children more thanmen and can become carriers of various microbes from them; andmost women wear makeup, which also absorbs germs and can getscattered by brushes, sponges, and hands.
There are other ways women tend to bring more germs into theoffice. Dr. Gerba warned against stashing snacks in desk drawers, atrend found more in women than men. Mold can accumulate indrawers that hold snack foods, and Dr. Gerba suggested wiping theinsides of the drawers with disinfectant wipes regularly. He alsonoted that women's purses can pick up a great many germsbecause of their consistent presence on various floor surfaces. Dr.Gerba advised using a purse that can be easily wiped off regularlywith a disinfectant wipe, such as one made of nylon or leather.
Breast Density Linked with Cancer
Women with dense breasts—a mainly genetic conditionthat affects roughly 1 of every 6 women—are about3 times more likely to develop breast cancer, according tothe results of a new Canadian study. Past studies hadshown that detecting cancer among women with greaterbreast density was difficult because the denser tissuescan hide a tumor on an x-ray, making it harder to find witha basic mammogram. This latest research showed thatwomen with denser breasts are more likely to develop thecancer anyway.
The average 50-year-old woman has about a 2.5%chance of developing breast cancer within the next 10years. Women with more lean tissue in their breasts thanfatty tissue have 3 times this risk. The researchers encouragedthese women to have digital mammograms conductedby a breast specialist, instead of a film-based one,which are usually read by general radiologists without theexpertise needed to pinpoint breast cancer.
Moms Who Dine on Fish Could Boost Baby's Brain
According to new research from the US National Institutes ofHealth, women who eat seafood during pregnancy might beincreasing the brainpower of their babies. The results were publishedin the February 2007 issue of the Lancet.
The study tracked the eating habits of 11,875 pregnantwomen in Bristol, Britain. At 32 weeks gestation, the womenwere asked to complete a seafood-consumption questionnaire.They answered similar queries 4 more times during their pregnanciesand up to 8 years after their children were born. Theresearchers concluded that women who ate >340 g/week offish or seafood—about 2 or 3 servings per week—had smarterchildren with better developmental skills. The children of motherswho abstained from seafood were 48% more likely to havelower verbal intelligence quotient scores, compared with thechildren of mothers who ate high amounts.
Past advice encouraged pregnant women to avoid fishbecause of the possibility of consuming high levels of mercury.The metal is found in small amounts in fish and other seafoodand can accumulate in the human body. High amounts havebeen shown to damage the nervous systems of developingfetuses. Those who wish to avoid this risk may consider fish oilsupplements; a separate study from Australia showed that pregnantwomen who took these supplements also had childrenwith better developmental skills.