September 2006 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.

Certain gene mutations elevate ovarian, breast-cancer risk

Approximately 10 percent of all cancers have a strong hereditary component. That is particularly true for women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations that expose them to a 90-percent risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. By contrast, women without this syndrome have about a 10-percent chance of developing breast cancer and slightly less than a 2-percent chance of developing ovarian cancer, according to the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation.

“While these statistics sound alarming, there are steps every woman can take to manage this increased risk,” says Dr. David Scott Miller, a gynecologic oncologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “First, it is extremely important for women to know their family history of cancer. Second, if it is determined that a woman is at increased risk after undergoing genetic counseling and testing, she should discuss the various strategies for managing this risk with her health-care provider.”

Women who are found to have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations should consider more intense clinical monitoring, including mammograms, pelvic exams and a blood test called a cancer antigen-125 test, says Dr. Miller, chief of the division of gynecologic oncology at UT Southwestern. Other options include medication or preventive surgery. Medical advances, Dr. Miller notes, now enable surgeons to perform these operations with minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in gynecology and obstetrics.

Media Contact: Toni Heinzl

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.

Even as you work out, bacteria may be bulking up at the gym

Routine trips to the gym for exercise can help boost health and fitness, but you might leave the facility with a nasty infection if you don’t guard against germs.

Gyms are often hotbeds for the much-dreaded methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA infection, as sweaty people share equipment, exercise mats and locker rooms, says Dr. R. Doug Hardy, an infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

MRSA, a bacterial staph infection resistant to many antibiotics, is transmitted when skin contacts contaminated surfaces.

“Bacteria can survive on the surface of shared gym equipment or towels and infect the body through an open wound, causing red, swollen, painful and even fatal skin infections,” Dr. Hardy says.

In the past, most antibiotic-resistant staph infections occurred in health-care facilities, but now MRSA infections occur commonly in the public arena, including gyms, he says.

Dr. Hardy urges gym users to follow federally endorsed health guidelines, including: bandaging any skin areas that have cuts or abrasions; not sharing personal items such as towels; using a barrier such as clothing or a towel between your skin and shared equipment; wiping surfaces of equipment before and after use; and washing your hands after workouts.

Visit to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services in infectious diseases.

Media Contact: Cliff Despres

Melding sleep patterns, school requirements can be end-of-summer bummer

Many kids’ summer sleep routines — staying up later and sleeping later — must quickly change as school begins. Studies tend to show that many children don’t get enough sleep and report being tired at school.

Sleep experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center say instead of trying to adjust bedtimes, adjust wake-up times to help your children get used to the school-year schedule. Dr. John Herman, a pediatric psychiatrist and sleep specialist, says that if you send kids to bed early, they’re likely to just lie awake for a while instead of dropping off to sleep earlier. But if you wake them up earlier, they’ll be tired enough to go to sleep earlier the next night.

Children of different ages also have different sleep requirements. The average 5- to 12-year-old needs 10 hours sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Teens should get between 8 ½ to 9¼ hours. In the teen years, a child’s internal clock resets itself, creating a biological desire to stay up later and sleep later.

A slightly earlier bedtime may help the child feel better and perform better in school. To get kids ready for bed, UT Southwestern experts also suggest that they avoid caffeine, and limit TV and video game time in the evening because they can stimulate the brain. Instead, encourage reading and other quiet activities as part of the bedtime routine. Also, maintain the same bedtimes on weekends as weekdays.

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UT Southwestern’s clinical services in psychiatry.

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Preparation is critical for outside activities in the heat

Heat-related injuries are especially dangerous for people who exercise or work outdoors in the heat of the summer. UT Southwestern Medical Center cardiologist Dr. Benjamin Levine, a sports medicine specialist, says people should be aware of ways to combat the heat and stay hydrated.

“For short-duration exercise, like working out at the health club or taking a run, exercisers should drink when they are thirsty, and then make sure they salt their food and replace the salt and water lost in sweat,” he says. “For serious athletes or workers, weighing themselves before and after a workout can give them a sense of how much sweat they are losing, and improve the precision of fluid replacement.”

Dr. Levine also discourages drinking too much water when exercising outside, as that can lead to a rare complication called hyponatremia – a condition marked by a loss in the body’s sodium content that can result in physical symptoms such as lethargy, disorientation, seizures and even respiratory distress.

“The old saying, ‘Stay ahead of your thirst’ is dangerous and should be abandoned,” he says.

Visit to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services in heart, lung and vascular.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales

Earlier cochlear implantation improves toddlers’ speech

The earlier deaf infants and toddlers have a cochlear implant, the better their speaking abilities are by the time they are 3, new research shows. Dr. Ann Geers, an otolaryngologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and researchers at Washington University in St. Louis examined the tested language skills of 76 children 3½ years old who had cochlear implants, comparing those skills to the length of time of the they had had an implant. Longer implant times coincided with better and more complex   vocabularylanguage, they reported.

“The earlier you implant the device, the better the results,” Dr. Geers says. Cochlear implants mirror mimic the natural way the ear translates sound waves to electrical waves that are then interpreted by the brain. Hearing aids simply amplify the sound waves. Cochlear implants are targeted to those with nerve deafness, which patients can be born with or can acquire as part of the aging process, from injury, from excessive noise or from toxic reactions.

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UT Southwestern’s clinical services in ears, nose and throat.

Media Contact: Russell Rian



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