November 30, 2004

Health: Notebook ; A Shocking Appeal for Money

A COUPLE of years ago, Sally Munton held a 50th birthday party at The Ivy restaurant in London for 50 friends. Within a year, five of them had been diagnosed with breast cancer, including Sally herself. There is no reliable screening technique available for women younger than 50 - mammography is not effective in pre-menopausal women because their breasts are too dense. So the five friends began an appeal to fund research at the Royal Marsden Hospital, where they were treated, into a new system that might be used in women as young as 20.

It involves analysing a tiny sample of fluid from the milk ducts extracted using a breast pump. The research is led by the consultant Gerald Gui, and it could offer the chance of early diagnosis to young women who are at a high risk of developing aggressive forms of breast cancer. But they need pounds 250,000 to get the project off the ground. See www.shocking

IS YOUR child fat? It may be hard to tell. A study by researchers in Plymouth found that only a quarter of parents recognised when their child was overweight - and only one in four of them described themselves as even "a little worried about it."

Many were themselves overweight yet more than 40 per cent judged their weight to be "about right," according to the study in the BMJ. It is difficult to see how efforts to tackle the "health crisis" of obesity can succeed if the people who matter - parents - do not see it as a crisis.

PROBIOTICS IN yoghurts and fruit drinks are ubiquitous, as are the health claims for their beneficial qualities. Now, Professor Ian Rowland, of the University of Ulster, and his research team have shown they can inhibit tumour promotion. Preliminary results from an EU-funded study also show "promising results".

BOTTLES OF tequila are being sent out by FAS Aware, a new charity, to publicise the plight of the 7,000 babies a year born with foetal alcohol syndrome.

According to Gloria Armistead, even one drink can harm an unborn baby. "Yet our research shows 60 per cent of professional women aged 25 to 40 feel it is all right to drink at least some alcohol while pregnant. For nine months of their life we are urging women to err on the side of caution."

THE TESTOSTERONE patch to boost low sex drive in women is being aggressively promoted in the US. The Food and Drug Administration has granted the treatment a fast-track review and Procter & Gamble, the manufacturers, claim it can increase sexual activity by 74 per cent. Critics claim that the patch's benefits have been exaggerated, and it should be used with caution because it may mask a serious underlying condition.