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New Studies Shed Light on Women's Health Topics

New Studies Shed Light on Women's Health Topics

January 2, 2014 — Journals recently published several women's health-related studies on topics ranging from the public's understanding of breast cancer risk to the link between prenatal diet and nut allergies. Summaries appear below.

~ Adolescent sexual health: Physicians in the U.S. spoke about sexual health issues in 65% of visits with their teenage patients, but the conversations lasted an average of just 36 seconds, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics, the Los Angeles Times' "Science Now" reports (Kaplan, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 12/30/13). Researchers at Duke University analyzed annual visits for 253 adolescents ages 12 to 17 at 11 clinics in North Carolina (UPI, 12/31/13). Doctors brought up topics related to dating, sexual activity, sexual identity or sexuality at 160 of the visits, while teens' parents broached such subjects at four of the visits; teens themselves did not initiate any of the discussions in the study. Girls were more than twice as likely as boys to have longer discussions, and African-American teens were nearly 60% more likely than other patients to discuss such issues with their doctor, the study found ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 12/30/13).

~ Angelina Jolie: Although actress Angelina Jolie's announcement last May that she underwent a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer helped raise awareness, it did little to increase the public's understanding of breast cancer risk, according to a study in Genetics in Medicine, NPR's "Shots" reports. Researchers at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins surveyed more than 2,500 U.S. residents, finding that about 75% of respondents knew that Jolie had received a mastectomy, but fewer than 10% fully understood the genetic condition that prompted her decision to undergo the procedure (Singh, "Shots," NPR, 12/20/13).

~ BRCA screening: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that primary care providers screen asymptomatic women with a family history of certain cancers to determine whether that family history could be associated with an increased risk of BRCA1 or BRCA2, two genetic mutations that can raise the risk of breast cancer, according to updated guidelines published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Medical News Today reports. The guidelines, which affirm USPSTF's 2005 recommendations on BRCA screening, state that women who have a family history of breast, ovarian, tubal or peritoneal cancers should undergo genetic counseling and, if needed, BRCA testing. The task force recommends against routine genetic counseling and testing for women with an average risk of the mutations (Medical News Today, 12/23/13).

~ Lactation consultants: Women who spent an average of three hours with a lactation consultant were nearly three times more likely than those who received conventional prenatal care to breastfeed their newborns for at least three months, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, Reuters reports. For the study, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York conducted two clinical trials, one among low-income women and one among more economically diverse women. In the first group, 16% of women who met with lactation consultants were breastfeeding at three months, compared with 6% who had no extra help, while in the second group, 17% of those who had a consultant and electronic prompts from their doctors were still breastfeeding, compared with 8% who did not receive such help (Doyle, Reuters, 12/23/13).

~ Peanut allergies: Children born to women who consumed nuts more than five times monthly during pregnancy had a lower risk of developing nut allergies, compared with children of women who avoided nuts, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, MedPage Today reports (Petrochko, MedPage Today, 12/26/13). Researchers from Boston Children's Hospital used data from a national study of female nurses ages 24 through 44, who reported what they ate between 1991 and 2009. The study found no link between eating nuts while pregnant and an increased risk of nut allergies among children, provided that the women themselves did not have nut allergies (Seaman, Reuters, 12/23/13).