Health Updates 26 June 2012

  • Could fertility drugs make kids shorter?  “For those who need help getting pregnant, the thought of having a child who’s a little shorter than other kids probably won’t be much of a worry.  But the question of whether infertility treatment causes unanticipated consequences remains fertile ground for researchers. In a study scheduled for presentation Saturday at the Endocrine Society annual meeting in  Houston, researchers found full-term children conceived with fertility drugs were about one inch shorter than their peers.  The researchers wanted to find out whether there was a difference in height among children whose mothers used only ovarian stimulation by fertility drugs such as Clomid (clemiphene) without in-vitro fertiliization (IVF).  Children conceived with the help of ovarian stimulation alone account for about 5 percent of all births in the developed world, according to the researchers.   Previous studied have suggested that children conceived by IVF may be taller than naturally conceived kids.  The researchers wanted to know if something in the process of IVF, which includes fertilization and culture of embryos in a laboratory dish, could affect stature.  So they studied children conceived without IVF, but with the assistance of fertility drugs that cause ovulation….The children conceived with the help of fertility drugs were nearly an inch shorter than the others, although still within the normal range, even with differences in their parents’ height taken into account.  Parental height is considered the key factor in determining a child’s height.  The height difference was greater in boys, who were more than an inch shorter on average than naturally conceived boys.  There was no significant difference in general physical health between the two groups of children.  The authors speculated that the height difference may be due to something that happens around the point of conception.  They suggested it could be caused by ‘imprinting’ variations — changes in the way genes are expressed, which could be related to the process of ovarian stimulation. (HealthDay)
  • Employment key to helping veterans adjust to life back home: “Having a job and social support are among the factors that greatly reduce the risk of violence by US veterans, a new study finds.  Researchers analyzed the responses of nearly 1,400 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and participated in a survey conducted between July 2009 and April 2010.   The veterans were from all branches of the military and all 50 states.  One-third of the veterans said they had committed acts of aggression towards others in the past year.  Most of those incidents involved minor aggression, but 11 percent of the veterans reported more serious violence.  The researchers found that certain factors were important in preventing violence by veterans: having a job; meeting basic needs; living stability; social support; spiritual faith; ability to care for oneself; the ability to adapt to stress; and the sense of having control over one’s life.  Veterans with these factors in their lives were 92 percent less likely to report severe violence than those without these factors.  More than three-quarters of the veterans did have these factors and thus posed a low threat of violence. ‘When you hear about veterans committing acts of violence, many people assume that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or combat exposure are to blame.  But our study shows that is not necessarily true,’ study leader Eric Elbogen, research director of the Forensic Psychiatry Program in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and psychologist in the US Department of Veterans Affairs, said in a university news release.  Instead, the study found that veterans who didn’t have enough money to cover basic needs were more likely to be violent than those with PTSD.”  (US Health and Human Services/
  • Really?  Eating soy increases the risk of breast cancer? “Soy milk, tofu and other soy products contain phytoestrogens, chemicals that can mimic the behavior of the hormone estrogen.  Because estrogen fuels many breast cancers, soy has long been a source of concern: Can it heighten the risk of breast cancer or raise the odds of recurrence?  In the lab, phytoestrogens can stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.  But in human studies, scientists have not found that diets high in soy increase breast cancer risk.  In fact, most have found the reverse.  In a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009, scientists who looked at 5,042 people in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study found that soy was linked to a significantly lower risk of breast cancer recurrence and mortality.  But the study, while encouraging, was carried out in China, so questions lingered about the extent to which the findings applied to women elsewhere.  In a more recent multiyear study, published in May in The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionscientists followed nearly 10,000 breast cancer survivors, many of them in the United States.  They found that women who ate the most soy had lower rates of  cancer recurrence and mortality.  Though the findings reflect only a correlation, they suggest that the concerns about soy and breast cancer may be unfounded.  The bottom line: Despite concerns about its phytoestrogen content, eating soy has not been shown to promote breast cancer. (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • Study: Dramatic increase in abuse of Rx painkillers“The illicit use of prescription painkillers has increased dramatically in recent years, particularly among men ages 18 to 49, according to a new report.  Between 2002 and 2010, there was a 74.6% overall increase in the number of individuals taking prescription painkillers chronically — on more than 200 days each year — for nonmedical purposes, according to Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, of the CDC in Atlanta.  Among men, chronic use increased by 105.3%, Jones reported in a research letter in Archives of Internal Medicine.  ‘The findings is important because it parallels increases in overdose deaths, treatment admission, and other negative effects associated with opioid pain relievers in recent years,’ he observed.  For instance, in 2009 alone there were 15,597 fatal overdoses involving drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.”  In general, the findings are also a warning signal that greater efforts are needed for public health authorities to focus efforts on preventing, not just reporting,  the sickness and death associated with illicit nonmedical pain reliever drug-taking, especially among young American men. (Nancy Walsh, MedPage Today)

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