Women’s Health News Round-Up: November 15, 2013


This week’s news round-up focuses on health events and new or revised health resources.  What’s included?  A New York Times article about the question of why Americans weigh more now than we did 40 years ago, Diabetes Awareness Month, lesbian/bi/queer women and STI risk, and the relative benefits of HPV vs. pap screening.

Gut bacteriaWhy do Americans Weigh More Now than We Did 40 Years Ago?
For many people it seems clear that the “obesity epidemic” (a phrase we don’t like) is due to bigger portion sizes and less physical activity, a view that is not supported by the research – you cannot tell how much someone eats or exercises just by looking at them.  However, a recent article in the New York Times explores one important factor with which few people are  familiar – changes in the gut bacteria that help us digest carbohydrates, provide vitamins, and regulate how much fat our body stores.  Click here to read the article.

National Diabetes Month 2013November is Diabetes Awareness Month!
Diabetes is a preconception health issue.  Uncontrolled, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes raise the risk of problems for baby and mother. Diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans and an estimated 79 million people are at risk for developing it. During November, the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) and its partners are working with individuals, families and communities to take action and encourage simple, but important lifestyle changes to improve their health – particularly if they have diabetes or are at risk for the disease.

Also during Diabetes Awareness Month, the American Diabetes Association, which sponsors the event, is focusing on raising awareness that diabetes is a condition that affects people who have it on a daily basis.  They are inviting people with diabetes to share their photos and stories of living with the disease on Facebook as part of their “Day in the Life of…” campaign.

What to cook if you have diabetes? You can download “Tasty Recipes for People with Diabetes and Their Families” by clicking here (PDF – 1 MB).

Lesbians in love - still from the Taiwanese film, Spider Lilies"Are women who have sex with women at risk for getting STIs?
The Womenshealth.gov website recently updated their website for lesbian and bisexual women.  They now provide a whole section on how STIs are transmitted during sex between women.  In addition to impairing fertility, untreated STIs – including some that are more likely to affect women who have sex with women and trans men,  can affect a developing fetus and raise the risk for preterm birth.  Access the health fact sheet here.

a doctor talks to her patientHPV Screening vs. Pap Smears
Finally, a new study published in the Lancet suggests that screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV) is more effective than Pap tests for protecting women against invasive cervical cancer.  This is life-saving news for the 12,340 who are diagnosed with the condition annually.  Get the full story here.


Weekly Health News Round-Up: October 25, 2013


In the news recently – Breast Cancer Awareness Month, youth and herpes immunity, a possible vaccine for those who already have the condition, and a new contraceptive method on the horizon.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Image from mammogram reminder e-card from healthfinder.govThis October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. About 1 out of every 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point during her life. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women. While breast cancer is more common in women over age 40, younger women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancers should also talk to their doctors. And men are not immune; over 2,000 are diagnosed each year.

The good news is that breast cancer is very survivable, especially if it’s found and treated early.  Here are some tips from healthfinder.gov:

  • Your risk increases if a close family member has had breast or ovarian cancer.
  • If you are age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about mammography.
  • Women ages 50 to 74 need mammograms every 2 years.
  • If you are male, click here to learn more about breast cancer in men from the NIH National Cancer Institute.

Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms. Here are a list of questions to guide that discussion.  Never had a mammogram? Nervous?  Click here for a short video about what to expect.  Want to share this information with a friend or family member?  Send an e-card to show you care.

Can eating peanut butter in adolescence reduce breast disease risk as an adult?

On the prevention front, a new study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment suggests that eating peanut butter regularly during the preteen and teen years appears to decrease the risk of developing benign breast disease as an adult.  Click here to read more.

Growing Number of Youth Lack Herpes Simplex 1 Antibodies

holding handsAccording to a new CDC study, many U.S. teens may be more likely to get genital herpes because they didn’t get cold sores as kids.  Published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases and available online, the findings show that fewer of today’s teens have been exposed in their childhood to herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), a common cause of cold sores, than U.S. adolescents in previous years. Without these antibodies, today’s teens may be more susceptible – when they become sexually active – to genital infections also caused by the virus, particularly through oral sex. To learn more about herpes, check out TeenSource.org, as well as the San Francisco DPH City Clinic website.

Herpes Vaccines on the Horizon?

herpes virusAccording to the CDC, approximately 1 in 6 U.S. adults between the ages of 14 and 49 has been infected by Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2), usually associated with genital infections.  A much larger number of people are estimated to be infected by Herpes Simplex Virus 1, which can result in oral or genital outbreaks. While not usually a life-threatening disease, research shows that people with herpes are two to three times more likely to acquire HIV, and that herpes can also make HIV-infected individuals more likely to transmit HIV to others.

vaccinations by injectionHowever, two vaccines currently under investigation may help to slow the herpes epidemic.  According to a report presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Denver, Colorado on Sept. 12, 2013, a new vaccine may reduce transmission of the virus by reducing “viral shedding” via the skin among those who already have HSV-2.  A study published in New England Journal of Medicine in January 2012, found that another vaccine was partially effective at preventing the genital transmission of HSV-1 among women.  While it had no effect on HSV-2 transmission, those women who received the investigational vaccine had fewer than half (58%) the cases of genital herpes caused by HSV-1 compared with women who received the control vaccine.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Phase 3 Trial of 1-Year Contraceptive Vaginal Ring Shows Positive Results

Nestorone 1-year contraceptive vaginal ringThe Population Council announced at the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine that its 1-year vaginal ring is as safe and effective as other birth control methods that contain both estrogen and progesterone.  The Stage 3 trial involved more than 1,100 healthy, normally ovulating women across 12 study sites in Australia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Women who participated in the study were highly satisfied with the ring, found it easy to use, and indicated that they would recommend it to other women. The ring was also well-accepted by their partners.

According to Ruth Merkatz, Ph.D., Director of Clinical Development for the Population Council’s Reproductive Health Program, “If approved by regulatory authorities, the ring will offer a unique contraceptive option: a contraceptive that is effective for one full year, is under the woman’s control, and does not require insertion by a health care professional.”  To learn more, go to http://www.popcouncil.org/projects/115_OneYearCombVagRing.asp

Weekly Round-Up: Women’s Health News 8.16.13


In this week’s news – more benefits to breastfeeding, the wide use of withdrawal as birth control, post-partum depression among urban women, a new HIV treatment, help for smokers who want to quit, and decreases in the U.S. infertility rate.

One Third of All U.S. Women Uses Withdrawal for Birth Control
If you and a partner have used withdrawal for birth control, you’re not alone.  A new study found that up to 1/3 of sexually active U.S. women between the ages of 15-24 has done so.  While withdrawal can be almost as effective as condoms for pregnancy prevention when used perfectly, it is a very difficult method to use, resulting in a failure rate of 30%.  While many women use withdrawal when they cannot afford more effective hormonal methods of birth control, this will hopefully become less common since the Affordable Care Act requires that all insurance plans cover contraception with no co-pay.  If you are using withdrawal, it is very important to take a daily vitamin with folic acid in case you do get pregnant (see the Go Folic! website). Click here to learn more about the study.

New Moms – Breastfeeding May Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer!
A new analysis published in this month’s Journal of Clinical Nursing found that breastfeeding for more than six months may safeguard nonsmoking mothers against breast cancer. The same does not seem to hold true for smoking mothers, though. These findings add to the list of benefits of breastfeeding for women and their babies. Click here to learn more.

Urban Moms at Greater Risk for Post-Partum Depression
A new Canadian study found that that women living in urban centers with more than 500,000 inhabitants were at higher risk of postpartum depression than women in other areas. Postpartum depression is a serious health concern for women and their children and women who lack of social support and/or have a history of depression are at greater risk.  To learn more about the study, click here.

Thinking of Becoming an Ex-Smoker? Meditation May Help
One of the first actions doctors recommend to a woman smoker who wants to get pregnant is to quit smoking. But that can be easier said than done. A small study conducted by the University of Oregon’s department of psychology found that learning a particular type of meditation technique might make it easier for smokers to cut down, at least on a short-term basis. Mindfulness meditation is designed to help people to relax, focus on the current moment and, essentially, go with the flow of thoughts and sensations. Click here to learn more.

Good News for Would-Be Parents – U.S. Fertily Rate is Decreasing!
A couple is considered to be infertile if they have been having unprotected vaginal intercourse for 12 months in a row without experiencing a pregnancy. According to the National Health Statistics Report, the rate of infertility among U.S. couples, ages 15-44 declined between 1982 and 2010, from 8.5% to 6.0%. Click here to download the full report (PDF).

New HIV Drug Just Approved
On August 12, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Tivicay (dolutegravir), a new drug to treat HIV-1 infection. It can be used to treat HIV-infected adults who have never taken HIV therapy (treatment-naïve) and HIV-infected adults who have previously taken HIV therapy (treatment-experienced). The drug is also approved the drug for children ages 12 years and older weighing at least 40 kilograms. Visit the FDA website to learn more.

Weekly Round-up: Women’s Health News 8.9.13


Volunteering is good for your healthCould Being a “Do-Gooder” be Good for Your Genes? The “Good News” is yes!  We now know that our health is only partially inherited and that our environment can turn genes “on” or “off,” something referred to as gene expression. Recently, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles analyzed the genes of 80 healthy adults whose happiness came from either living a purposeful life or from self-gratification. Those whose happiness came from living a meaningful life had healthier genetic expression in their immune cells and lower levels of inflammatory gene expression. In other words, their immune systems were stronger and they had lower levels of inflammation, which can lead to chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.  Click here to learn more.  Want to do your body good?  Check out Volunteer Match.

Trying to get pregnant?Should you spend money on antioxidants if you’re trying to get pregnant? Maybe not.  A new review of 28 supplement trials conducted by researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand found no evidence that taking antioxidant supplements will improve women’s chances of getting pregnant. Researchers also found only limited information about potential dangers associated with taking antioxidant supplements, such as miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Only 14 of the 28 trials reviewed looked at harmful effects. However, those trials that did look at potential harm found that the risk was no higher in women taking antioxidants than in those who received a placebo or standard treatment.  Click here to read more.

Have questions about whether you should spend money on supplements?  A new NIH blog post provides the answer.Should You Take Dietary Supplements? Speaking of supplements, a new post in the National Institutes of Health “News in Health” August newsletter takes a look at taking vitamins, minerals, botanicals and more – when they are beneficial and when you might be wasting your money. Among those supplements the article supports taking? Folic acid for reproductive-age women, of course! The article is available at http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Aug2013/Feature1

Photo: Mother and daughter holding handsPutting HPV Cancer Prevention on Your Back-to-College Checklist Almost all sexually active people get HPV at some point in their life, but most never know they have been infected. Each year in the United States, about 17,000 women get cancer that is linked with HPV, and cervical cancer is the most common.  The CDC now recommends that all girls and boys get vaccinated against HPV by the age of 13.  Unfortunately, CDC data indicates that vaccination rates in girls aged 13-16 failed to increase between 2011 and 2012.  To learn more, visit the CDC’s “Back-to-School” campaign page.  While there, read Jacquelyn’s story, who is a mother of two and cervical cancer survivor.

Can some women skip surgery for breast irregularities?Can Some Women Safely Skip Breast Surgery?
A new study published in the journal Radiology finds that certain lesions probably won’t progress to cancer. The study involves two breast conditions – atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). According to one of the researchers, Dr. Kristen Atkins, Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, women with either condition should be followed closely. This might involve repeat imaging every six months, or yearly mammograms with supplemental MRIs or ultrasound. Click here to access the study.
USPSTF releases new HIV testiing guidelinesNew HIV Screening Recommendations Include Pregnant Women and Youth
The US Preventive Services Task Force has updated its recommendations for HIV screening to include pregnant women and everyone ages 15-65.  The recommendation also calls for health providers to screen younger adolescents who are at increased risk for HIV.  The recommendation for pregnant women includes “those who present in labor and whose HIV status is unknown.”  To read more, go to www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org

 

Weekly Round-Up: Women’s Health News 8.2.13


Our top story this week involves the number of young people who report experiencing dating violence – more than 1/3 of U.S. teens and young adults, according to a new study from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, California.

one in three youth have experienced dating violenceSurvey Finds that 1 in 3 Young Americans Has Suffered Dating Violence
More than one-third of U.S. teens and young adults say they’ve suffered abuse during dating and about one-third say they’ve been perpetrators of abuse, new research finds. About one-quarter say they’ve been both an abuser and a victim.  These are the results of a new survey conducted by researcher, Michele Ybarra at the Center for Innovative Public Health Research.  She and her colleagues surveyed 1,058 young people, ages14 to 20. Intimate partner violence is associated with poor school performance, poor self-esteem, depression and thoughts of suicide.  It also increases the risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections through reproductive coercion (partner messing with your birth control or pressuring you to get pregnant or have unprotected sex).

plastic water bottles are among the products that contain BPATrying to Get Pregnant?  Avoid BPA, a Chemical in Plastics
A Harvard study reported this week that Bisphenol-A, or BPA, a common chemical in plastics, may hurt fertility. BPA, which is often found in products like water bottles  and food storage containers, has previously been in the headlines  due to concerns  over its long-term safety.  However, this is the first study to look at how it harms human ova (eggs), the female sex cell.  Researchers fround that exposure to BPA caused  a decrease in the percentage of eggs that matured, an increase in the percentage of eggs that degenerated,  and an increase in the number of eggs  that went through spontaneous activation —  when an egg acts like it’s been fertilized,  but it hasn’t been.  To learn more about the study, click here.

don't get a tattoo over a mole or birth mark as this may make it harder to detect a beginning skin cancerTattoos Can Hide Malignant Melanomas, Experts Say
While not exactly reproductive health news, enough of us on the Go Folic! staff have tattoes that we wanted to share this study. Our most important take-away? When choosing where to put a tattoe, avoid moles and birthmarks – the ink in tattoes can make it difficult to see changes that could be a sign of skin cancer. Read the whole study here.

Weekly Round-Up: Women’s Health News 7.26.13


This was another week full of women’s health news. If you see that we’ve missed something, please post a comment or email it to us and we will publish an addendum!

New standards for STIs screening and treatment in TeensYouth and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) As reported by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Linda Carmine of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York and her colleagues provided updates on the diagnosis and management of sexually transmitted infections in adolescents and young adults, “with an emphasis on ‘what’s new’ in the field.”  The review was published in the 6/17 issue of the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent GynecologyClick here to read a summary of the findings.

Does your reproductive health provider ask you about your stresses?Does your family planning provider ask you about the stresses in your life? A study published in the June issue of the journal, Contraception, found that, in young women who experience depression or elevated stress are less likely to consistently use hormonal contraceptive methods like the pill.  The researchers recommend that health providers address clients’ psychological and emotional status when helping them make decisions about birth control methods. Click here to read the study abstract.

What if barbie dolls looked more real than this>Barbie and Body Image – What if Barbie looked like a normal woman? It’s not exactly news that few women, if any, look like Barbie in real life.  It’s also not news that Barbie is not the best tool for encouraging healthy body image among little girls.  But what would happen if Mattel(T) modified Barbie, giving her more realistic body proportions?   One enterprising artist decided to see. Would we like her better? Would she be better for little girls’ self-esteem?  We’ll let you be the judge!  Click here to see a blonde Barbie’s before and after picture (on Upworthy)!

7 of 10 women in u.s. seek reproductive health services every year7 of 10 Women Use Reproductive Health Services A new report from the Guttmacher Institute found that 70% of U.S. women of reproductive age make at least one medical visit for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services each year. Uninsured women are significantly less likely than either privately or Medicaid-insured women to receive SRH services. Our hope is that the provisions for women’s preventive care included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare), will make a difference for uninsured women who are currently going without.  To read the report, click here.  To learn more about ACA requirements for women’s health care, click here.

the HPV vaccine may protect against throat cancerGet Vaccinated, Prevent Throat Cancer? A new study suggests that young women who are vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) not only protect themselves from cervical cancer, but from throat cancer as well.  HPV is responsible for up to 70 percent of oral cancers, so getting the vaccine is an important step towards keeping your throat healthy!  Click here to read more about the study.

Weekly Round-Up: Women’s Health News 7.19.13


From new treatments to gonorrhea to the role of birth control in improving maternal and child health, it was a week full of promising health news for women. Read on!

gonorrhea bacteriaBreakthrough in Treating Gonorrhea
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States with an estimated 800,000 gonorrhea infections per year.  An increasing number of these cases involve a strain of the bacteria that is resistant to current antibiotic regimens.  However, a recent trial conducted by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health found that two new antibiotic regimens using existing drugs could be effective in treating this resistant strain.  This is exciting news since untreated gonorrhea, which can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. Visit the CDC newsroom for more information.

A healthy mom and her toddlerContraception Key To Decreasing Maternal, Child Deaths, U.N. Panel Says
The World Health Organization estimates that a woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes every 90 seconds.  Now, according to a United Nations report released this month, improving access to contraception should be a key element in efforts to reduce maternal and child deaths.  In one of our favorite sayings, Family Planning = Healthy Women = Healthy Families = Healthy Communities. To read more, see this article in the Los Angeles Times‘ “Science Now” reports.

teengirlsCalifornia’s Teen Birth Rate Continues to Drop
Over the past 20 years, California’s teen birth rate has dropped from a peak of 70.9 per every 1000 girls, ages 15-10 in 1991 to a low of 28.0.  California state attributes the decline to an aggressive multi-pronged approach that includes comprehensive sex education in high schools, community-based programs that promote parent-child communication about sex, and services and support for pregnant and parenting teens.  We believe that another contributing factor is the State’s commitment to increasing teen access to family planning services. To read the press release, click here.

Good news for HIV+ women who want to get pregnant!
A new National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found that the anti-HIV drugs recommended for pregnant HIV+ women do not appear to increase their children’s risk for language delay. Read more…

birthcontrolpillsWhy do some women get pregnant on the pill?
Amanda Mascarelli tackled this question this week in the Washington Post’s Health & Science section.  She started looking for the anser after getting pregnant twice while on the pill.  While most on-the-pill pregnancies occur due to missed pills, a small percentage of women will get pregnant even when using the method correctly.  The other women?   Read how her research lead her to switch to the IUC here.