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Screening Males for Aortic Aneurysm

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has issued a new recommendation for routine screening of older males for abdominal aortic aneurysms. The recommendation was published in the February 1, 2005 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.


Ultrasound is sometimes able to detect large abdominal aortic aneurysms before they rupture, therefore allowing time for surgery to repair them. Proper screening can greatly reduce deaths from these ruptures.


Those at greatest risk are men aged 65 to 75 with a history of smoking anytime for any duration in their lifetimes.


New HPV Vaccinations on the Horizon

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer. Most of the time, there are no symptoms. Proper screening during routine exams is the only way to diagnose HPV before it can progress into cervical cancer. This is not always possible in developing countries.


There are currently vaccines under development for the more potent strains of the virus: HPV 16 and 18. Early trials of vaccines developed by Merck and GlaxoSmithKline have shown encouraging results. However, it is unknown at this time how long the immunity will last.


These vaccines will be most significant in developing countries where routine HPV and cervical cancer screenings are not widely available.


These vaccines could be on the market within 5 to 10 years.


Anxiety Could Lead to Death in Women

A new study found that women who have anxiety and phobic disorders may be more likely to die of heart disease than otherwise healthy women. This study was published in the February 1, 2005 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Researchers measured levels of phobic anxiety among the women based on their answers to the Crown-Crisp index. This tool measures the degree of phobic anxiety on a scale of one to 16, with higher scores indicating more anxiety. Women who scored four or greater on the survey were at an increased risk of dying suddenly from coronary heart disease in general, compared to those in the lowest quarter of the population.


Women who suffer from anxiety and phobic disorders are also more likely to have other risk factors leading to heart disease, including smoking, drinking alcohol, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. These other factors explained much of the increased risk; however, even after controlling for these heart disease risk factors in the study, women with phobias still tended to have a higher risk of sudden cardiac death.


New Test May Detect Alzheimer's Disease

A new test, called bio-barcode assay, may be able to detect and possibly diagnose cases of Alzheimer's disease in living patients. This test works by detecting a protein found in cerebrospinal fluid that is thought to cause damage to the brain leading to memory loss. This protein is an amyloid beta-derived diffusible ligand, or ADDL.


In one study, the bio-barcode assay found higher levels of ADDLs in participants thought to have Alzheimer's than in healthy participants. Though these findings are encouraging, it is still too early to consider it a true Alzheimer's diagnostic. However, if the same results are repeated in larger future studies, this test could be very significant in the early detection and treatment of this disease.


Hormone Injections to Prevent Premature Births

Weekly injections of the hormone derivative 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17P) may significantly decrease the number of preterm births. According to a study in Obstetrics and Gynecology (February 2005 issue), weekly 17P injections in women with high-risk pregnancies may have prevented nearly 10,000 preterm births in 2002.


Though these findings are hopeful, more research must be done on the role of preventing preterm births. Healthcare providers are urged to exercise caution using 17P until more results are available. This therapy should be restricted to pregnant women who start prenatal care between 16 and 20 weeks of gestation, or who have histories of spontaneous preterm birth or singleton gestation.