Can hair dye increase breast cancer risk?

Can hair dye increase breast cancer risk?

In her recent doctoral dissertation, researcher Sanna Heikkinen from the University of Helsinki and Finnish Cancer Registry evaluates the contribution of the use of hormonal contraceptives and hair dyes to the spectrum of breast cancer risk factors.

The analysis included self-reported survey data from 8000 breast cancer patients and 20,000 controls from Finland.

According to the results, use of hormonal intrauterine device was associated with 52% increased risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women, when compared to women who had used copper intrauterine device.

The use of other hormonal contraceptives was, by contrast, associated with 32% higher breast cancer risk among younger women under 50 when compared to women who did not use hormonal contraceptives.

There was also a 23% observed increase in the risk of breast cancer among women who dyed their hair compared to those who didn’t.

To confirm the roles of these factors, further research on the effects of hormonal contraceptives, most specifically hormonal intrauterine device, and hair dyes is needed with other populations and a prospective study design.

“The biggest risk factor in breast cancer is high age, and known lifestyle-related risk factors include late age at first birth, small number of children, high alcohol consumption, and sedentary lifestyle,” Heikkinen stresses.

Many of these factors have become significantly more common in Western countries, including Finland, during the last decades.

In her research, Heikkinen also investigated the amount of opportunistic mammography, which was found to be very common. More than 60% of responders reported having had a mammography before the screening age of 50.

“Women should be more extensively informed of the harms of opportunistic mammography, such as accumulating radiation burden and the potential consequences of false positive or negative findings,” Heikkinen says.


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University of Helsinki. “Hormonal contraceptives and hair dyes increase breast cancer risk.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 March 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170309120440.htm>.

Good news for mature women: weight loss is possible after menopause

Talk to a woman in menopause and you’re likely to hear complaints about hot flashes and an inability to lose weight, especially belly fat. A new study shows how regular exercise can help reduce weight and control bothersome symptoms such as hot flashes, even in women who previously led sedentary lifestyles. The study outcomes are being published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Decreased estrogen levels during the menopause transition often create an array of physical and mental health issues that detract from a woman’s overall quality of life. The article “Improvements in health-related qualify of life, cardio-metabolic health, and fitness in postmenopausal women after a supervised, multicomponent, adapted exercise program in a suited health promotion intervention: a multigroup study” reports on 234 Spanish postmenopausal women aged 45 to 64 years who had at least 12 months of sedentary behavior and engaged in a supervised 20-week exercise program for the study. After the intervention, the participants experienced positive changes in short- and long-term physical and mental health, including significant improvements in their cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. In addition, they achieved modest but significant reductions in their weight and body mass index, and their hot flashes were effectively managed. This is especially good news for women who are reluctant to use hormones to manage their menopause symptoms and are looking for safe but effective nonpharmacologic options without adverse effects.

“Growing evidence indicates that an active lifestyle with regular exercise enhances health, quality of life, and fitness in postmenopausal women,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. “Documented results have shown fewer hot flashes and improved mood and that, overall, women are feeling better while their health risks decrease.


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The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “Weight loss actually possible after menopause.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215084052.htm>.

Can eating soy products affect breast health?

Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers have used animal models to reveal new information about the impact — positive and negative — that soy consumption could have on a common breast cancer treatment.

The scientists have uncovered the biological pathways in rats by which longtime soy consumption improves effectiveness of tamoxifen and reduces breast cancer recurrence. But they also show why eating or drinking soy-based foods for the first time while being treated with tamoxifen can, conversely, reduce effectiveness of the drug, and promote recurrence.

The study, published in Clinical Cancer Research, uncovers the molecular biology behind how soy consumption, especially its most active isoflavone, genistein, affects tamoxifen — both positively and negatively.

It also mirrors what has been observed in breast cancer patients, says the study’s senior investigator Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, PhD, professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi.

“There has long been a paradox concerning genistein, which has the similar structure as estrogen and activates both human estrogen receptors to a degree. Estrogen drives most breast cancer growth, yet high soy intake among women in Asian countries has been linked to a breast cancer rate that is five times lower than Western women, who eat much less soy,” she says. “So why is soy, which mimics estrogen, protective in Asian women?”

More than 70 percent of the 1.67 million women diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide in 2012 was estrogen-receptor positive, and tamoxifen and other endocrine therapies meant to reduce the ability of estrogen to promote cancer growth, are the most common drugs used for these cancers. Although endocrine therapies can be highly effective in preventing or treating breast cancer, about half of patients who use them exhibit resistance and/or have cancer recurrence.

Employing a more advanced rat model of breast cancer and tamoxifen use than has been used in past studies, the researchers found that the timing of genistein intake is the central issue.

Longtime sustained use of genistein before development of breast cancer improves overall immunity against cancer, thus protecting against cancer development and recurrence, says the study’s lead researcher, Xiyuan Zhang, PhD.

“It also inhibits a mechanism called autophagy that would allow cancer cells to survive, which explains why it helps tamoxifen work,” says Zhang, a member of Hilakivi-Clarke’s laboratory when this study was conducted. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institutes of Health.

Previous studies in women show no evidence of adverse effects of soy intake on breast cancer outcome, the researchers say, adding that research has also shown that Asian and Caucasian women who consumed as little as 1/3rd cup of soymilk daily (10 mg. of isoflavones) had the lowest risk of breast cancer recurrence.

The animal studies suggest it is a different story when soy consumption begins after breast cancer develops.

Starting consuming genistein in a diet after breast cancer develops in the animals did not trigger anti-tumor immune response to eliminate cancer cells, Zhang says. “We do not know yet why this made the animals resistant to the beneficial effects of tamoxifen and increased risk of cancer recurrence,” she continued.

Animals consuming genistein as adults on had a 7 percent chance of breast cancer recurrence after tamoxifen treatment, compared with a 33 percent recurrence with rats exposed to genistein only after breast cancer developed.

“We have solved the puzzle of genistein and breast cancer in our rat model, which perfectly explains the paradox seen in earlier animal studies and patients,” says Hilakivi-Clarke. “While many oncologists advise their patients not to take isoflavone supplements or consume soy foods, our findings suggest a more nuanced message — if these results hold true for women. Our results suggest that breast cancer patients should continue consuming soy foods after diagnosis, but not to start them if they have not consumed genistein previously.”


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Read this article on ScienceDaily: Georgetown University Medical Center. “Understanding when eating soy might help or harm in breast cancer treatment.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 February 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170201092711.htm.

Study concludes: Grilled meat deadly for breast cancer survivors

Findings published in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicate that higher consumption of grilled, barbecued, and smoked meat may increase the mortality risk among breast cancer survivors. In the study, entitled “Grilled, Barbecued, and Smoked Meat Intake and Survival Following Breast Cancer,” Humberto Parada, Jr., MPH, and colleagues evaluated the link between grilled/barbecued and smoked meats and the survival time after breast cancer.

High-temperature cooked meat intake is a highly prevalent source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other carcinogenic chemicals and has been associated with breast cancer incidence, but this study assessed whether intake is related to survival after breast cancer.

In a study population of 1508 Long Island women with breast cancer, subjects were interviewed and asked about their consumption of four types of grilled, barbecued, and smoked meat. The women were asked about their intake in each decade of life and were asked to specify the seasons in which the foods were most frequently consumed. At the five-year follow-up, participants responded to the same questions, which asked about the time period since the original questionnaire.

Findings include:

  • Among the 1508 case women, 597 deaths were identified, 237 (39.7%) of which were related to breast cancer, after a median duration of follow-up of 17.6 years.
  • Compared with low intake, high intake of grilled/barbecued and smoked meat prior to diagnosis was associated with a 23% increased hazard of all-cause mortality.
  • High vs low intake of smoked beef/lamb/pork intake was associated with a 17% increased hazard of all-cause and a 23% increased hazard of breast cancer-specific mortality.
  • Lifetime grilled/barbecued and smoked meat intake and prediagnosis annual intake of grilled/barbecued beef/lamb/pork and poultry/fish were not associated with mortality.
  • Compared with women with low prediagnosis and low postdiagnosis intake of grilled/barbecued and smoked meat, continued high intake was associated with a 31% increased hazard of all-cause mortality.
  • The increase in risk of death from any cause was similar in magnitude among women who reported high prediagnosis and low postdiagnosis intake of grilled/barbecued and smoked meat.

The study’s findings support the hypothesis that high consumption of grilled, barbecued, and smoked meat may increase mortality after breast cancer.


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Journal Reference:

  1. Humberto Parada, Susan E. Steck, Patrick T. Bradshaw, Lawrence S. Engel, Kathleen Conway, Susan L. Teitelbaum, Alfred I. Neugut, Regina M. Santella, Marilie D. Gammon. Grilled, Barbecued, and Smoked Meat Intake and Survival Following Breast Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2017; 109 (6): djw299 DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djw299

Read this article on ScienceDaily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170105212820.htm

Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group of Santa Rosa Focuses on Cervical Health Awareness Month

Dr. Lela Emad offers hope for women concerned about cervical cancer risks, and shares important tips for staying healthy.

Healthy Women January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and there’s good news for the 13,000 women in the United States who are expected to be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year; early detection increases the 5-year survival rate for women with invasive cervical cancer (the worse-case scenario) by up to a whopping 92 percent. “To catch it early, a woman must get screened annually,” explains Dr. Lela Emad OB/GYN, “This is an important factor for the four out of five women who do not receive routine check-ups that includes a Pap Test.”

What is cervical cancer

At one time, cervical cancer was the most prominent cause of cancer death for American women. But, thanks to early detection and new treatment options developed over the last 40 years, the cervical cancer death rate has been cut in half. The real hero in this story is a simple test most women are very familiar with; the Pap test. This screening procedure makes it possible for healthcare professionals to catch minute changes in the cervix well before it has a chance to develop into cancer. Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early – when it is in its most curable stage – giving women with a positive diagnosis an even better chance of beating the disease.

The latest statistics from the American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States;

  • About 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed
  • About 4,210 women will die from cervical cancer

What causes cervical cancer?

The vast majority of both women and men will become infected with the Human papillomavirus or HPV at some point during their lifetimes and HPV is found in about 99 percent of cervical cancers cases. Although most HPV infections are benign and disappear on their own, some persist. Of the more than 100 different types of HPV most are considered low-risk and do not lead to cervical cancer. But some high-risk HPV strains persist to cause cervical cell abnormalities and go on to develop into cancer. The two types of the virus HPV-16 and HPV-18 are consider the most high-risk HPV strains.

Who gets cervical cancer

Most cases of cervical cancer are found in women between the ages of 20 and 50, and even women who have entered into menopause may still be at risk. About 20 percent of all cervical cancers are found in women over the age of 65. Cervical cancer rarely occurs in women who have received routine screenings for the disease during the years before they turned 65. In the United States, Hispanic women are most likely to get cervical cancer, followed by African-Americans, American Indians and Alaskan natives, and whites. Asians and Pacific Islanders have the lowest risk of cervical cancer in this country.

What is cervical cancer?

Cancer initiates in the body when otherwise normal cells begin to grow out of control, and it can affect any part of the body and even spread to other areas of the body. Cervical cancer begins in the cells lining the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (womb). Although cervical cancers start from cells in the pre-cancerous stages, only some of the women with pre-cancers of the cervix will go on to actually develop cancer. It normally takes a number of years before cervical pre-cancer turns into full blown cervical cancer, but it can happen in less time in some women. For most women, pre-cancerous cells resolve on their own without any treatment. But, treating all cervical pre-cancers can prevent almost all cervical cancers.

Symptoms of cervical cancer

Symptoms of the more advanced disease have been known to include abnormal or irregular vaginal bleeding, pain during sex, and/or unusual vaginal discharge. Abnormal bleeding symptoms outside of regular menstrual periods, after sexual intercourse or douching and bleeding after a pelvic exam can be symptoms of cervical cancer as can bleeding after menopause. Other symptoms include pelvic pain not related to the menstrual cycle, heavy or unusual discharge, increased urinary frequency and pain during urination. Of course, these symptoms could also be signs of other health problems not related to cervical cancer, but the best way to find out is to talk to a healthcare provider.

Prevention

Precancerous cervical cell changes and early cancers of the cervix generally do not cause any unusual symptoms. For this reason, routine screening through Pap and HPV tests is the best way to catch precancerous cell changes early, thereby preventing the development of cervical cancer.

“Pap test screening is obviously the first line of defense against cervical cancer,” says Dr. Emad. “We recommend Pap tests for women on a semi-annual basis after turning 21.” Regular gynecological Pap tests are the best way to detect most abnormal cell changes due to HPV well before they become cancer.

“Early detection of precancer cells makes it possible for a woman to be effectively treated before it becomes malignant, but unfortunately not every woman in committed to receive a regular Pap Test. This needs to become a priority for every woman, and particularly those who are intent on staying healthy.”

About Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group

Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group offers comprehensive testing with the latest available technology to screen for a full-spectrum of diseases and symptoms, and to monitor conditions as they develop in order to maximize patients’ health and well-being. The Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group strives to better the lives of all women with a holistic approach to women’s health. Visit the website to learn more or call 707-579-1102 to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Susan Logan Recognized as Among the “Top Doctors” in the Bay Area by San Francisco Magazine

Susan Logan, M.D. of NCMA Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group has been selected by the San Francisco Magazine as among the top Obstetrics and Gynecology doctors for 2017.

San Francisco Magazine recently queried area doctors to nominate their choice of best physicians in eight Bay Area counties for 2017. Almost 1,000 nominations were submitted and a little over 500 physicians were selected by the healthcare research company managing the award process. Results were announced the magazine’s January 2017 issue.

Under the category of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Women’s OB/GYN Medical Groups physician Dr. Susan Logan has been selected for this honor by San Francisco Magazine for two years consecutively.

Dr. Lela Emad of the Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group says, “Dr. Susan C. Logan is a respected, caring OB/GYN certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She has been a part of our group since the early 90s, and has played an integral role in building the practice. We are honored to have her among our providers and her patients are lucky to have someone so knowledgeable to deliver such quality caring support for their healthcare needs.”

Dr. Logan also serves as Antepartum Testing Medical Director at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, as well as the Medical Director of the Sweet Success Program.

About the Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group

With a team made up of compassionate, expert doctors, midwives, nurses and medical assistants aimed at providing unmatched care to patients, the Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group offers a full range of obstetrics and gynecology services to women in the North Bay region.  Services offered include;

  • general gynecological health screenings
  • state-of-the-art diagnostics
  • comprehensive pregnancy and postpartum care
  • full mid-wifery services
  • minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery
  • uro-gynecological procedures
  • incontinence care
  • menopause care
  • laser hair reduction, skin care and Botox Cosmetic

Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group’s staff of physicians include; Lela Emad, MD, Shazah Khawaja, MD, Amita Kachru, MD, and Susan Logan, MD. Together, these doctors share a unique whole-body approach to medicine as they strive to find the underlying causes of a woman’s health problems, rather than simply treating the symptoms.

The team of health professionals at Women’s OB/GYN is committed to both alleviating short-term ailments and maximizing long-term health. The practice partnered with Northern California Medical Associates (NCMA) in 2014 to strengthen its network of experienced healthcare providers, directly benefitting patient access to healthcare specialists in the area.

The Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group strives to better the lives of all women with a holistic approach to women’s health. To learn more about these fine physicians and the many services provided by the Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group visit the website. Call for an appointment at (707) 579-1102.

Women who enter menopause at or before age 40 more susceptible to bone fracture

If you’re in menopause before the age of 40, you have a higher fracture risk. That fact has already been proven by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) clinical trials. Now a new study evaluating the same WHI data further concludes that, even with calcium and vitamin D supplements, your risk of fracture is still higher. The study is being published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

For years, calcium and vitamin D have been touted for their abilities to increase bone mineral density. Hormone therapy is also recognized for its ability to help ward off osteoporosis. That’s what prompted this latest study to evaluate the effectiveness of calcium, vitamin D, and/or hormones in offsetting the higher fracture risks for women experiencing early menopause. Based on an evaluation of nearly 22,000 women included in the WHI trials, women aged younger than 40 years already in menopause had significantly higher risks for fracture than women who experienced menopause between the ages of 40 and 49 or after 50, regardless of treatment intervention.

Although the findings are disappointing for women experiencing an early onset of menopause, the study did open the door to a number of questions and possibilities. For example, women with early menopause are candidates for hormone therapy until at least the average age of menopause (52 years) to reduce the risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and cognitive and mood changes. It is possible that earlier initiation of treatment for those with early menopause with calcium, vitamin D, or hormones; more appropriate dosing of young women, longer duration of treatment; or longer duration of follow-up could provide better bone protection and ultimately reduce fracture risk.

“This study highlights the need for healthcare providers to take into consideration a woman’s age at menopause onset when evaluating patients for fracture risk,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. “Women at risk for bone loss need 1,200 mg of calcium per day, with adequate vitamin D, and encouraged to get as much as possible through diet due to concern that too much supplemental calcium may increase atherosclerotic plaque in women. Women with early menopause should discuss whether they are candidates for hormone therapy with their providers, appropriate amount of calcium, vitamin D and hormones.”


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North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “Link between early menopause, higher risk of fracture, new study confirms.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 November 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161102155224.htm.

Researchers find Vitamin B3 beneficial for pregnant women to treat preeclampsia, prevent strokes

Vitamin B3 nicotinamide may help treat pregnant women who suffer from preeclampsia by preventing strokes and in some cases, even stimulating the growth of their fetus, research indicates.

Scientists in Japan and the US have found that vitamin B3 nicotinamide may help treat pregnant women who suffer from preeclampsia by preventing strokes and in some cases, even stimulating the growth of their fetus.

Up to 8% of pregnant women suffer from preeclampsia, a deadly disease characterized by high blood pressure, blood vessel damage, high levels of protein in the urine and fluid retention that causes swelling in the legs and feet. In some cases, preeclampsia is also believed to restrict a fetus’ growth.

Blood pressure-lowering drugs do not improve blood vessel damage. In fact, they reduce blood supply to the babies, which could lead to fetal death.

Until now, the only treatment for preeclampsia-affected pregnant women has been delivery of the baby. Now, researchers at Tohoku University, in collaboration with US scientists, have found that nicotinamide — also referred to as Vitamin B3 — relieves preeclampsia in mouse models. Moreover, they have also discovered that nicotinamide can even improve fetal growth in mothers with preeclampsia.

“We had previously shown that endothelin, a strong vessel narrowing hormone, worsens preeclampsia. But inhibiting the hormone is harmful to the babies,” says Associate Professor Nobuyuki Takahashi of Tohoku University’s Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, who co-led the study.

“In contrast, nicotinamide is generally safe to mothers and babies, corrects the blood vessel narrowing effect of endothelin, and reduces stress to the babies. Accordingly, we evaluated the effects of nicotinamide using two mouse models of preeclampsia caused by different mechanisms.”

The researchers concluded that nicotinamide is the first safe drug that lowers blood pressure, reduces urine protein and alleviates blood vessel damage in preeclampsia-affected mice. The researchers went on to show that in many cases, nicotinamide also prevents miscarriage, prolongs pregnancy period and improves the growth of the babies in mice with preeclampsia.

“Nicotinamide merits evaluation for preventing and treating preeclampsia in humans,” says Oliver Smithies, a Weatherspoon Eminent Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Smithies is a Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, and co-leader of this study.

The research team hopes that if the treatment works in humans, nicotinamide could help treat preeclampsia and prevent fetal growth restriction associated with the disease in pregnant women.

Journal Reference:

  1. Feng Li, Tomofumi Fushima, Gen Oyanagi, H. W. Davin Townley-Tilson, Emiko Sato, Hironobu Nakada, Yuji Oe, John R. Hagaman, Jennifer Wilder, Manyu Li, Akiyo Sekimoto, Daisuke Saigusa, Hiroshi Sato, Sadayoshi Ito, J. Charles Jennette, Nobuyo Maeda, S. Ananth Karumanchi, Oliver Smithies, Nobuyuki Takahashi. Nicotinamide benefits both mothers and pups in two contrasting mouse models of preeclampsia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; 113 (47): 13450 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1614947113

Read this article on Science daily:  “Potential treatment for pregnant women who suffer from preeclampsia found in a vitamin.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161219100556.htm>.

New study takes on age-based mammography cut-off guidelines

As of December 2015, 410 mammography facilities in 39 states across the United States have already registered to be part of the National Mammography Database (NMD).
Credit: Radiological Society of North America

 In the largest-ever study on screening mammography outcomes, researchers found that there is no clear cut-off age to stop breast cancer screening. The findings were presented in November at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). This research adds support for guidelines that encourage screening decisions based on individual patients and their health status.

Mammography is the standard imaging exam for breast cancer screening. Guidelines on what age to stop breast cancer screening have been a source of controversy and confusion in recent years. In 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released new guidelines which stated there was not enough evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening mammography in women aged 75 years or older.

“All prior randomized, controlled trials excluded women older than 75, limiting available data to small observational studies,” said Cindy S. Lee, M.D., assistant professor in residence at the University of California, San Francisco. “There has been a lot of controversy, debate and conversation regarding the different breast cancer screening guidelines, even among major national organizations, over the past few years.”

Using data from the National Mammography Database, Dr. Lee and her research team analyzed data from over 5.6 million screening mammograms performed over a 7-year period between January 2008 and December 2014 in 150 facilities across 31 states in the U.S. The research team looked at patient demographics, screening mammography results and biopsy results. Data from over 2.5 million women over age 40 were sorted into patient groups by age in 5-year intervals (40-44, 45-49, etc.).

Four standard performance metrics were calculated to evaluate the performance of screening mammography for each age group: cancer detection rate, recall rate, positive predictive value for biopsy recommended (PPV2) and biopsy performed (PPV3). Recall rate is the percentage of patients called back for follow-up testing after a screening exam. Positive predictive value reflects the percentage of cancers found among exams for which biopsy was recommended or performed. Ideal screening performances would have a higher cancer detection rate, PPV2 and PPV3, and a low recall rate.

Overall, researchers found mean cancer detection rate of 3.74 per 1,000 patients, recall rate of 10 percent, PPV2 of 20 percent and PPV3 of 29 percent. Based on increasing age from 40 to 90 years old, these performance metrics demonstrated a gradual upward trend for cancer detection rate, PPV2 and PPV3, but a downward trend in recall rate.

“The continuing increase of cancer detection rate and positive predictive values in women between the ages of 75 and 90 does not provide evidence for age-based mammography cessation,” Dr. Lee said.

The findings lend support to the argument that the decision whether or not to stop screening should be informed by an individual’s personal health history and preferences.

“We know that the risk of breast cancer increases with age,” Dr. Lee said. “With the uncertainty and controversy about what age to stop breast cancer screening, we want to address this gap in knowledge using a large national database.”


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Read this article on Science Daily: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161128132213.htm

Women who have their last baby after 35 are mentally sharper in old age

Participants in the study were tested on verbal memory, attention and concentration, and visual perception

mom

A new study has found that women have better brainpower after menopause if they had their last baby after age 35, used hormonal contraceptives for more than 10 years or began their menstrual cycle before turning 13.

This is the first study to investigate the association between age at last pregnancy, which can be a marker of a later surge of pregnancy-related hormones, and cognitive function in later life, said Roksana Karim, lead author of the study and assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“Based on the findings, we would certainly not recommend that women wait until they’re 35 to close their family, but the study provides strong evidence that there is a positive association between later age at last pregnancy and late-life cognition.”

Postmenopausal women who had their last pregnancy after 35 had better verbal memory. Those who had their first pregnancy when they were 24 or older had significantly better executive function, which includes attention control, working memory, reasoning and problem solving.

The main hormones at play are estrogen and progesterone. In animal studies, estrogen has a beneficial impact on brain chemistry, function and structure; progesterone is linked with growth and development of brain tissue, Karim said.

The study, published this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, includes 830 women who, on average, were 60 years old. The data was adjusted for age, race and ethnicity, income and education.

Participants were given a series of tests that included assessments of verbal memory (remembering a list of words or retelling a story after some distraction), psychomotor speed, attention and concentration, planning, visual perception and memory.

Previous research has shown that many women experience brainpower and memory declines in their postmenopausal years. An outpouring of estrogen and progesterone, especially in later life, appears to be beneficial, Karim said.

Pregnancy, the pill and more hormones

The study found that other reproductive events were also important to later life cognition. More time between first and last period — longer reproductive life — proved valuable for executive function.

“Starting your period early means you have higher levels of the female sex hormone being produced by the ovaries,” Karim said. “Girls are receiving the optimal levels early, so it’s possible that their brain structures are better developed compared to those who are exposed to estrogen levels associated with menstrual cycles at a later age.”

Use of the pill or other hormonal contraceptives for at least 10 years was beneficial for verbal memory and critical thinking ability.

“Oral contraceptives maintain and sustain a stable level of sex hormones in our blood stream,” Karim said. “Stable is good.”

Women who didn’t carry their pregnancy to term and those who gave birth to two children had better overall cognitive ability, verbal memory and executive function when compared to women who had only one full-term pregnancy.

“The finding that even incomplete pregnancies are beneficial was novel and surprising,” said Wendy Mack, the study’s senior author and professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine. “In general, our findings are intriguing and are supported by other clinical studies and animal studies.”

In humans, however, previous studies have shown that “pregnancy brain” exists, meaning researchers found that pregnant women have poorer verbal memory, word fluency and word-list learning when compared to non-pregnant women.

“The issue is the human studies haven’t followed women for the long term,” Mack said. “They just looked at women during pregnancy. We are not sure if we can expect to detect a positive estrogen effect at that point, as the many bodily changes and psycho-social stressors during pregnancy also can impact women’s cognitive and emotional functions.”

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and included data from two clinical trials: Women’s Isoflavone Soy Health and Early vs. Late Intervention Trial of Estradiol.


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ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2016.  www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161117150032.htm