This week in the medical journals
By Katrina Woznicki
Editor's note: CNN.com has a business partnership with MedPageToday.com, which provides custom health content. A medical journal roundup from MedPage Today appears each Thursday.
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Women's health punctuated the news in the major medical journals this week, including an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that dramatically showed one more difference between women and men.
In that study, doctors at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago reported how a new way of measuring healthy women's fitness gave them an early warning of their risks of heart disease and death, allowing plenty of time for lifestyle changes to reduce those risks. Treadmill exercise-capacity tests, it turns out, are gender-specific. Those devised for men are not accurate prognosticators for women, the study found. The American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology exercise guidelines are based solely on data from men.
Wanted: Female doctors
Also this week in women's health, a study published in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy revealed that many women who are in need of a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer simply don't want the exam done by men. Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor found that women skipped colonoscopies unless guaranteed a female doctor.
The preference for a female doctor was so strong that 87 percent of the women surveyed said they would be willing to wait a month or longer to have the procedure done by a woman, and 14 percent said they would even pay $200 more.
But most of the women who had reported having a colonoscopy said they didn't care whether their gastroenterologist was male or female.
Trolling for chlamydia
Focusing on younger women, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that putting chlamydia collection swabs next to pap smear or pregnancy test kits during patient visits helped boost chlamydia diagnoses by 10 percent.
Chlamydia screening was even better when collection swabs were provided as patients got their prescription contraceptives filled, researchers reported in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Teens, cigarettes and diabetes
On the teen-health front, a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association showed that youngsters age 12 to 19 who smoked or were exposed to secondhand smoke faced a greater risk for developing metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease.
The University of Rochester study of 2,300 adolescents found this risk to be greater among overweight teens. Nearly one-quarter of overweight teens in this study who also smoked had metabolic syndrome, compared with about 5 percent of overweight kids who didn't smoke or were not exposed to secondhand smoke.
Diabetes-pancreatic cancer link
Moving from Rochester, New York, to Rochester, Minnesota, a team of Mayo Clinic researchers reported in Gastroenterology that patients age 50 and older who had been newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes had a greater risk for developing pancreatic cancer.
The 44-year study of 2,100 patients 50 or older diagnosed with diabetes found 18 of these patients were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within three years of their diabetes diagnosis. That's a 7.94 percent higher rate than seen in the general population.
Because pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed when it's advanced and essentially incurable, the researchers said the presence of diabetes might be a sign to help doctors catch the disease in its earlier stages.
Tamiflu for bird flu?
Meanwhile, the specter of a bird flu pandemic made the news again. Studies in two journals reported that a pandemic of such avian flu could be nipped in the bud if there are enough doses of the prescription flu drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) to go around and if patients were quickly quarantined. The studies, appearing in the journals Science and Nature, used computer simulations to model what would happen in Thailand if humans contracted avian flu and passed on the disease to others.
Using preventive antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu would be more effective than flu vaccines, researchers at Emory University in Atlanta and at London's Imperial College said, because flu vaccines often only work against specific strains of flu.
The drawback? Stopping a possible pandemic in its tracks would require a global stockpile of at least 3 million doses of Tamiflu -- which doesn't exist -- and other antiviral drugs like it. Also, authorities worldwide would have to be prepared to act fast.
Do allergies protect against cancer?
Itchy eyes and a runny nose may make enjoying the great outdoors difficult for asthma and hay fever sufferers, but they appear less likely to die of cancer. That's according to a study on 1.2 million people by researchers at the University of Ottawa. They found a 12 percent reduction in the risk of dying from all types of cancers among people who suffered from hay fever and asthma. Patients who had only hay fever showed an 8 percent reduction in cancer death, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The researchers said it's possible people with allergies may have a different kind of immunity than does the general population.
Problems with nighttime births
Babies born during the night had a 12 percent to 16 percent greater risk of dying than babies born during the day. That perplexing finding, based on the study of more than 3 million infants born in California in the 1990s, had researchers at Stanford University questioning whether a nighttime staffing issue at hospitals could be involved.
After finding doctor fatigue did not contribute to the problem, the researchers said in Obstetrics & Gynecology that there was evidence indicating that while hospital staff appeared prepared for the more complicated, multiple births, they appeared less prepared for what they assumed would be a low-risk, single-baby birth that developed unexpected complications.
Mind over stomach
And finally, when it comes to food, the brain may be stronger than the stomach. A study appearing in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that people might be psychologically persuaded to avoid unhealthy foods if they are convinced they have bad memories of eating that food, even if the memory is false.
Researchers at the University of California at Irvine convinced individuals that they either vomited or got nauseated when eating strawberry ice cream or cookies as a kid.
Implanting a false childhood memory in adults is called false feedback. The technique worked; 20 percent of the study group believed ice cream had made them sick in the past and so showed a preference against that food.
However, the technique did not work in convincing participants they had unpleasant memories of eating chocolate chip cookies.
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