Women's Newsletter
May 3, 2010

Worth Quoting
"It doesn't hurt to be optimistic. You can always cry later. "

--Lucimar Santos de Lima


In This Issue
• Severe Morning Sickness Passed From Moms to Daughters
• HPV Test Beats Pap Smear for Cancer Screening
• Study Makes Strides in Understanding Ovarian Cancer
• Black Women Wait Longer for Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment
 

Severe Morning Sickness Passed From Moms to Daughters


THURSDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- The daughters of women who suffered from a severe form of morning sickness are three times more likely to be plagued by it themselves, Norwegian researchers report.

This form of morning sickness, called hyperemesis gravidarum, involves nausea and vomiting beginning before the 22nd week of gestation. In severe cases, it can lead to weight loss. The condition occurs in up to 2 percent of pregnancies and is a common cause of hospitalization for pregnant women. It is also linked with low birth weight and premature birth, the researchers said.

The new study suggests "a strong influence of maternal genes" on the development of the condition, said lead researcher Ase Vikanes, a graduate student at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo.

"However, environmental influences along the maternal line, shared risk factors such as life styles reflected in BMI (body mass index) and smoking habits, infections and nutrition might also be contributing to the development of hyperemesis gravidarum," she added.

The report is published in the April 30 online edition of the BMJ.

According to Vikanes, hyperemesis gravidarum was once thought to be caused by psychological issues, "such as an unconscious rejection of the child or partner." But her team wanted to see if genetics was actually the culprit.

For the study, Vikanes's team collected data on 2.3 million births from 1967 to 2006. They tracked the incidence of hyperemesis gravidarum in more than 500,000 mother-daughter pairs and almost 400,000 mother-son pairs.

They found that if a mother had the condition, her daughter was three times more likely to develop it as well. However, there is no increased risk to the female partners of men whose mothers suffered through it.

Vikanes hopes the finding adds new insight into this condition. Besides helping to illuminate possible causes, "our findings might help health care personnel who treat and counsel women with a family history of hyperemesis gravidarum," she said.

Brad Imler, president of the American Pregnancy Association, said that "hyperemesis gravidarum is a serious condition that creates health risks for both the mother and the baby. "Research into the causes and treatments of this condition are essential for discovering ways to alleviate the condition along with the health risks related to it," he said.

Imler cautioned that a three-fold increase in risk is not something that should cause fear among pregnant women. That "means going from 1 in 100 to 3 in 100 incidences," he noted.

Genetics appears to have a relationship with the condition, Imler said. "However, it would be important to have further research that controlled for environmental factors, dietary intake, and lifestyle habits, which also tend to be carried on from one generation to the next," he added.

Dr. Gene Burkett, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that, "for a long time we have thought there is a familial component, and this gives us the first real information on which we can say, 'Yes, there seems to be something that we need to pursue.'"

However, Burkett said that the results need to be replicated in different populations before one can be sure the link is genetic.

More information

For more information on morning sickness, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.


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HPV Test Beats Pap Smear for Cancer Screening


WEDNESDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors can detect more serious precancerous lesions in the cervix by testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) than through conventional cervical screening with a Pap smear, a new study suggests.

HPV, a common sexually transmitted disease, can cause cancers such as cervical cancer. The disease is especially prevalent in young women.

In the new study, led by Ahti Anttila of the Finnish Cancer Registry, researchers studied the experiences of 58,282 women aged 30 to 60 who took part in routine cervical screening between 2003 and 2005.

The women were randomly assigned to receive an HPV test or a Pap smear test. The researchers then tracked the women for five years.

The HPV screening tests did a better job at detecting serious precancerous lesions on the surface of the cervix, known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN III), according to the report published online April 28 in the BMJ.

The researchers cautioned that they didn't detect very many cervical cancer cases. Still, they wrote, "considering the high probability of progression of CIN III lesions in women aged 35 years or more, our results are important for prevention of cervical cancer."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on cervical cancer.


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Study Makes Strides in Understanding Ovarian Cancer


MONDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- New understanding about the early stages of ovarian cancer may lead to the development of a new screening test for the cancer, U.S. researchers say.

In the study, scientists uncovered early tumors and precancerous lesions in inclusion cysts, which fold into the ovary from its surface.

"This is the first study giving very strong evidence that a substantial number of ovarian cancers arise in inclusion cysts and that there is indeed a precursor lesion that you can see, put your hands on, and give a name to," lead author Jeff Boyd, chief scientific officer at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, said in a news release. "Ovarian cancer most of the time seems to arise in simple inclusion cysts of the ovary, as opposed to the surface epithelium."

Boyd and his colleagues analyzed ovaries removed from women with BRCA gene mutations (who have a 40 percent lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer) and from women with no known genetic risk factors for ovarian cancer.

In both groups of women, gene expression patterns in the cells of inclusion cysts were dramatically different than normal ovarian surface cells. For example, the cells of inclusion cysts had increased expression of genes that control cell division and chromosome movement. The researchers also found that cells from very early tumors and tumor precursor lesions frequently had extra chromosomes.

"Previous studies only looked at this at the morphologic level, looking at a piece of tissue under a microscope," Boyd said. "We did that but we also dissected away cells from normal ovaries and early-stage cancers, and did genetic analyses. We showed that you could follow progression from normal cells to the precursor lesion, which we call dysplasia, to the actual cancer, and see them adjacent to one another within an inclusion cyst."

With these findings, researchers can try to develop new screening tests to detect ovarian cancer in the earliest stages, when it is still treatable. Ovarian cancer kills nearly 15,000 women in the United States each year. Fewer than half of ovarian cancer patients live more than five years after diagnosis.

The study was published April 26 in the journal PLoS One.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about ovarian cancer.


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Black Women Wait Longer for Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment


THURSDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Black breast cancer patients have to wait longer for diagnosis and treatment than white patients, regardless of insurance status, a new U.S. study finds.

Researchers from the GW Cancer Institute looked at 581 breast cancer patients who were examined between 1997 and 2009 at seven hospitals and clinics in Washington, D.C. and found that:

  • Insured black women and uninsured white women waited more than twice as long to be given a definitive breast cancer diagnosis than insured white women.
  • Lack of health insurance slowed the speed of diagnosis among white patients, but having insurance did not lead to quicker diagnosis among insured black women.
  • Overall, black patients waited twice as long as white patients to begin treatment after breast cancer diagnosis.

"We thought having health insurance would even the field and that insured black women would have had the same rate of evaluation as insured white women, but that was not the case in our study," Heather Hoffman, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, said a news release from the school.

The findings highlight the need for improved outreach and other types of assistance for black patients.

"Black women should be the focus of breast cancer screening outreach and follow-up because they experience greater delays in diagnosis and in treatment than white women, regardless of insurance status," Hoffman said. "We need to determine what other barriers contribute to diagnosis and treatment delays in insured black women and all uninsured women."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about racial disparities in cancer screening and treatment.


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