January 2004 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

NURSING MOMS PASS ALONG MORE THAN NUTRIENTS TO BABY

Breast-feeding moms who come down with the flu or other viral infections should continue nursing their little one even though they are ill, says Dr. Dorothy Sendelbach, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

"People tend to think that if you are sick, you should stay away from babies, but in this particular case it is OK because mothers produce antibodies in their milk that can protect babies from getting the same infection," Dr. Sendelbach says.

She warns that one side effect to sick mothers who abruptly stop nursing is that they are likely to feel worse because they will become engorged with milk.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem

ARTIFICIAL TANNING DOES NOT DO A BODY GOOD

People desiring a year-round tan spend countless hours during winter under sun lamps. But watch out - regular artificial sun tanning can increase the risk of malignant melanoma, a sometimes fatal skin cancer, as well as premature aging of the skin.

"Dermatologists view any form of ultraviolet radiation, whether from an artificial tanning light or the sun, as being detrimental," says Dr. Stan Taylor, professor of dermatology and director of the skin surgery and oncology clinic and melanoma center at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "Good studies show that even brief exposures to ultraviolet light, the light responsible for inducing a tan, creates DNA damage in skin cells."

Dr. Taylor recommends using one of the many sunless tanning sprays or lotions on the market, which are available in shades of light, medium or dark.

Media Contact: Scott Maier


EXERCISE MAY REDUCE RISK OF DEVELOPING BREAST CANCER

Exercise not only keeps you fit - it also could reduce your chances of developing breast cancer.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas speculate a regular routine of brisk walking, swimming or bicycling may protect against breast cancer by lowering body weight. They believe that fatty tissue produces hormones and growth factors - e.g., estrogen and insulin - that may promote tumor growth.

"So many of the risk factors for breast cancer cannot be modified, such as being a woman, getting older or having a family history," says Dr. Susan Hoover, assistant professor of surgical oncology at UT Southwestern. "However, physical activity may be a modifiable risk factor allowing for breast cancer risk reduction."

Media Contact: Scott Maier

VACCINE ASIDE, THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO WARD OFF THE FLU

If flu vaccines run out this year, don't panic: There are old-fashioned - and medically sound - ways to keep from getting the virus.

The main way people can avoid getting the virus is to wash their hands several times a day, especially after interacting with others or visiting high-traffic, public places, says Dr. Gregory Schneider, assistant professor of family practice and community medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Dr. Schneider recommends a little hand cleansing while you're holiday shopping at the mall and as soon as you get home. And wash up after eating out or going to church.

People should avoid rubbing their eyes, as the eyes, nose and mouth are the places the flu virus enters the body. In addition, doctors say people should drink fluids, get aerobic exercise and cut down on alcohol consumption. Smoking also increases the chance someone will contract the virus by depressing the body's ability to fight it off, Dr. Schneider says.

Last but certainly not least, don't panic if the vaccine runs out this year. Chances are, you're not going to catch the virus - especially if you follow these simple guidelines.

"Though it's easier said than done - relax," Dr. Schneider says. "There is evidence that stress impairs the immune system and can make you more vulnerable to colds and the flu."

Media Contact: Steve O'Brien


A CAMPAIGN TO RAISE AWARENESS OF HORMONE THERAPY

To better educate women of menopausal age - typically between 45 and 55 - the Food and Drug Administration recently issued official guidelines and launched a national campaign to raise awareness regarding the benefits and risks of menopausal hormone therapy. To get the word out, the FDA has teamed up with women's health organizations, including the National Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Hormone therapy, often called hormone replacement therapy or HRT, is the only treatment for symptoms of menopause that has been approved by the FDA, says Jane Kass-Wolff, a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

"The FDA guidelines are a tool to alert women to the symptoms of menopause and counsel them regarding whether they might be a good candidate for HRT," says Ms. Kass-Wolff. "The FDA offers clear and concise information about hormone therapy, so that each woman can make the decision that is best for her. It also urges women to discuss the topic with their health-care professional before making any decision."

In addition, the FDA recommends women use hormones at the lowest possible dosage and for the shortest time needed. More than 10 million women use hormone therapies - estrogen alone and estrogen with progestogen - for relief from menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness and thinning of bones.

Media Contact: Donna Hansard

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