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Health in brief

FDA campaign takes on hormone therapy

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 10, 2003

WASHINGTON - Women who choose hormone therapy to treat symptoms of menopause should use the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time.

That's the theme of a new government campaign that aims to help women confused by news about the risks of long-term hormone use - even as hormones remain a mainstay for treating hot flashes.

A year ago, a major study concluded long-term use of the hormones estrogen and progestin is more dangerous than once thought. The pills significantly increased a woman's risk of a heart attack or stroke beginning in the first year of use and increased the risk of breast cancer after four years of use.

But hormone therapy has some benefits. It's considered the most effective treatment for hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. It's also one option to prevent bone-thinning osteoporosis.

Tuesday, the FDA unveiled a Web site, www.fda.gov/womens/menopause with hormone information, including a pocket guide to bring to the doctor's office when discussing options.

Food pyramid to take into account age, other factors

WASHINGTON - The Agriculture Department plans to revise its food guide pyramid to include for the first time consideration of people's age, gender, weight and the amount of exercise they get in helping calculate their dietary needs.

Eric Hentges, executive director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said the proposed formula and accompanying promotional materials will be aimed specifically at people who are overweight or who don't get enough exercise.

Hentges said the pyramid's basic premise will remain. Consumers will be encouraged to limit total fat intake to 30 percent of their calories and saturated fat to less than 10 percent.

The department plans to publish its proposal Thursday and collect opinions from the public and experts before making changes.

Study: Brisk walking can reduce breast cancer risk

CHICAGO - Brisk walking for just an hour or two weekly can help older women reduce their risk of breast cancer by nearly 20 percent, even if they have used hormone pills for symptoms of menopause, a study found.

The findings are based on data from a landmark study that linked hormone use to breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes. They suggest that exercise might help counteract, but not cancel out, the slightly increased risk of breast cancer faced by longtime hormone users, said lead researcher Dr. Anne McTiernan of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

The findings appear in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Also . . .

"COMFORT FOOD' CALMS BRAINS: Tasty high-fat "comfort food" works like a calming drug in the brains of chronically stressed-out rats, a study has found, suggesting stressed people might be hitting the potato chips and chocolate cake for good reason.

"Basically, they're self-medicating," said Norman Pecoraro, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center and co-author of the study, which appears in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

GOVERNMENT WANTS SMALLPOX PILL: The federal government is giving $36.1-million to Chimerix, a small biotechnology company, to develop a pill that could be used to treat and possibly prevent smallpox infection, providing a possible alternative to a vaccine.

No drugs are approved to treat smallpox once a person has it, so the only countermeasure is vaccination to prevent infection. The government's grant will extend over four and a half years and cover the animal and human testing that would be needed to get the drug approved, company and government officials said.


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