January 2012

How often should women have bone density tests?

Experts recommend that older women have regular bone density tests to screen for osteoporosis. But it’s been unclear how often to repeat the tests. A study of nearly 5,000 women now reports that patients with healthy bone density on their first test might safely wait 15 years before getting rescreened.

Smoking teens can get text help to stop

Teens who start smoking could smoke more over their lifetimes– which may be made shorter as a result. It’s a good reason to quit.

But teen smoking expert Dr.Yvonne Hunt of the National Institutes of Health says quit programs are often designed for adults, and teens are not little adults – they think and talk differently, and have different smoking patterns.

So Hunt and her coworkers developed a tool to help teens quit. Teens spend a lot of time texting, so SmokefreeTXT sends six weeks of teen-friendly texts to their cellphones. Teens can register at teen.smokefree.gov.

Red or White (wine, that is) may make a difference

Drinking red wine in moderation may reduce one of the risk factors for breast cancer, providing a natural weapon to combat a major cause of death among U.S. women, new research from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center shows. The study, published online in the Journal of Women’s Health, challenges the widely-held belief that all types of alcohol consumption heighten the risk of developing breast cancer. Doctors long have determined that alcohol increases the body’s estrogen levels, fostering the growth of cancer cells.

New Collaboration Benefits Women Faculty in STEM

A recent blog talked about the importance of support women in the STEM fields.    A good example is the new partnership between our University and the U of Chicago:

Northwestern University and the University of Chicago have launched the Chicago Collaboration for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, a three-year effort to enhance the recruitment and advancement of women faculty members in those fields.

Updated ruling on contraceptive coverage

Bulletin:  The US Dept. of Health and Human Services modified the final ruling that required new health insurance plans to cover contraceptive services without a copay or deductible by August 2012  based on comments received from the public.   To quickly recap:  many non-profit religious employers objected to this new policy because their religious beliefs did not support contraception.

More Support of Women in STEM Fields Needed

National Science Foundation (NSF) —which is the leading source of Federal grants for many fields of basic research crucial to US technology development and job creation—is also calling upon universities and research institutes to adopt similar policies for their employees and grantees.

Pregnancy and hypothyroidism

Based on a new study of nearly 118,000 women, researchers estimated that nearly 500,000 pregnant women with gestational hypothyroidism may go undetected each year.

Asian women were almost five times more likely to test positive for gestational hypothyroidism than African-American women (19.3% compared with 6.7%) and slightly more likely than Caucasian and Hispanic women (16.4% and 15.2%, respectively).

Why it is harder for women to lose weight?

Women typically find it harder to lose weight and inches than men.  This, in part, is due to the fact that  men have more lean muscle mass and a higher resting metabolic rate. Another issue that makes weigh loss challenging for females:   women store fat differently from men–more of it goes to their thighs, buttocks, and hips, where it can be harder to shed.  Finally, female hormones promote the storage of calories as fat, and fat takes up more space than muscle.

As the obesity rate keeps rising, especially among teenage girls, we need to press for more sex based research on exercise, diet, hormones and metabolism!


Affirmative Action Law Benefits Women in India

 Hillary Clinton changed the way Americans think about women in politics, and new Northwestern University research suggests that an affirmative action law in India is doing the same for Indian women. The research, published Jan. 12 in the journal Science, focused on the long-term outcomes of a law that reserved leadership positions for women in randomly selected village councils in India.

Top Women’s Health Stories for 2011

The Institute for Women’s Health Research at Northwestern University publishes a monthly e-newsletter on timely issues in women’s health. Our January 2012 edition focuses on scientific breakthroughs and public policies that we think could influence future research and the clinical care women women receive.   We call these ‘game changers’.