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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Wednesday
Oct032012

Indoor Tanning Tied to 170,000 Skin Cancers Annually

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Indoor tanning increases the risk of two types of common skin cancers, especially among those exposed before the age of 25, a new review of previously published studies shows.

This international study, published Tuesday in the journal BMJ, combined the results of 12 studies on nearly 81,000 people.

By comparing the data linking indoor tanning and skin cancer, researchers estimated that the activity may account for more than 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancers -- basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas -- in the United States each year.  In particular, exposure to indoor tanning before the age of 25 was linked to an increased risk for basal cell carcinoma, according to the study.

These findings show that "indoor tanning is dangerous, especially for young people," said study senior author, Dr. Eleni Linos, assistant professor in the department of dermatology at the University of California San Francisco.

Specifically, Linos and her colleagues found that those who reported ever using indoor tanning had a 67 percent higher risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 29 percent higher risk for basal cell carcinoma.

There are several types of skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute website.  Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma form in the higher layers of the skin, while melanoma originates in the cells that create pigment.  It is melanoma that is the most deadly form, but non-melanoma cancers strike many more Americans -- more than an estimated two million in this year alone.  Linos added that non-melanoma skin cancers affect nearly one in five Americans over the course of their lifetimes.

"With this study, we finally have strong evidence that tanning beds contribute to all types of skin cancer including basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma," Linos said.  "The risk of all three types of skin cancer is significantly higher in young people.  This means there is a clear cancer risk for teenagers who use tanning beds, and it's hard to argue with regulations to protect children from cancer."

She said that while non-melanoma skin cancers are less deadly, their impact is enormous.

"Their treatment adds up to the fifth-most costly cancer for Medicare," she said, citing research that showed that the cost of diagnosing and treating these types of skin cancers ranges from $1,200 to $2,100 per case.

Cancer experts not involved with the study called the findings startling.

"This data is really strong," said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.  "We have been very concerned for a long time that tanning beds clearly cause cancer and we have been recommending against their use."

These findings may renew calls to better regulate indoor tanning, according to the study authors.

"A national ban for those under 18 is a first step, because that is the group at highest risk," Linos said, adding that many states are already doing this.

Representatives from the tanning industry balked at the idea of bans and stiff regulations for a practice they said comes with health benefits that may offset the risks.

"Tanning beds are a good source of vitamin D, which is associated with many health benefits," said John Overstreet, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Indoor Tanning Association.

Such an argument may not be enough to convince many health experts, however.  In 2009, the World Health Organization placed all forms of indoor tanning in the same category as such cancer-causing agents as tobacco smoke and asbestos.

"Vitamin D is important for general health, and can be obtained both through sunlight but also through the diet," Linos said.  "The risks of indoor tanning outweigh the benefits, especially for young people."

Moreover, she added, tanning beds are typically used by young healthy women who are not at risk for Vitamin D deficiency and conditions linked to low vitamin D levels.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct032012

Pathological Grooming Now Categorized as a Form of OCD

Courtesy Nicole Santamorena(NEW YORK) -- When Nicole Santamorena was a baby she pulled her hair for comfort when she was distressed or sick.  But that coping mechanism eventually escalated into pathological grooming behavior so serious that she was bald by middle school.

"I had to wear a hair piece and a bandana," said Nicole.

Today, the 17-year-old from Putnam, N.Y., still fights the urge to pull out hair, but therapy, a good support group and even Internet friends with the same compulsive behavior have all helped.

Medical experts are baffled by these behaviors.  But now they are giving more scrutiny to pathological groomers, those with dermatillomania [picking scabs], trichotillomania [pulling hair] or even simply nail biting.

"The problem is we don't have data -- it's not something we collect because we always thought of these behaviors as benign," said Dr. Nilay Shah, a neurologist and medical director of the Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco, N.Y.

"It's common enough to see 20 or 30 percent of all kids at some point along a spectrum that we call pathological, but other than that it's a wild guess."

Soon, all of these repetitive habits will be included in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-V or the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders under the broader category of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

"That's a great thing," said Shah, who treats Nicole for other health issues.

"The beauty is that a categorization in the DSM-V gives it a whole new light," he said.  "And the research institutions can have a unified definition and approach that will lead to drug company and NIH funding."

Doctors know that OCD is a spectrum of disorders.  Compulsive hand washers and germaphobes exhibit repetitive behaviors as a kind of magical thinking to ward off something bad happening.

Pathological groomers like Nicole, on the other hand, derive stress relief and pleasure from their tics.

"There is a sensation I get before I pull," Nicole said.  "It's like a pulsating scalp and if I don't pull, it doesn't go away.  It's kind of a compulsion."

Studies suggest that the behavior is also genetic.  Nicole's mother picks her skin scabs and her father bites the hair from his knuckles.

"When you look at the brain wave activity, it does correspond with obsessive compulsive disorder," said Shah.  "We know consciously that it's not right or logical or reasonable, yet cannot help doing it.  And for a brief moment it feels better -- there's a release."

Researchers speculate that on a microscopic level, the signals or neurotransmitters in the brain are involved and often use antidepressant medications to help treat these behaviors.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct032012

Woman Goes from Obese to Fitness Competitor

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wiltrina Jones struggled with obesity her entire life, surrounded by the sweet treats of her native New Orleans and then working in the food industry while in high school, throughout college and then as an adult.

At her peak weight, she stopped stepping on the scale because she knew the scale didn’t go above 350 pounds.

That all changed the day Jones, 43, logged on to a website created for members of her high school to reconnect.  When she saw how her classmates looked, she vowed to change.

“I had two good friends that were in the band with me, and when I came across their pictures, they were fit and toned,” she told ABC's Good Morning America.   “I just stood there looking at their pictures with my mouth open, actually gasping, just looking, wondering.”

“I asked myself, with tears rolling down my eyes, ‘How come they look like that and I look like this, and we’re the same age?’” she said.  “And that made me want to change my life.  I wanted to be fit.  I wanted to be healthy.  I didn’t wanna look like I looked anymore.”

Jones, who now lives outside Atlanta and works as a dog groomer, began her weight loss slowly, walking on the treadmill at the gym for 30 minutes a day and making small changes in what she ate.  Within five months, she’d lost 68 pounds.

That weight loss was quickly undone by a knee injury that sidelined her for 10 months and caused her to regain the 68 pounds, plus a few more.  When the doctor told her she would need surgery if things didn’t improve, Jones vowed to get healthy again.

Motivated by a friend, she followed a no-carb diet for 30 days, and then began to figure out ways to incorporate carbohydrates back into her food plan so she could turn her gains into a lifestyle, not a diet.

Next, Jones tackled her fitness, returning to the gym and taking on something new: weight-lifting.  While it didn’t happen overnight, Jones eventually saw definition in her arms and legs and was encouraged by her fellow gym-goers to start competing in bodybuilding competitions.

“I always said, ‘Well, no, no, I’m not doing that,’” Jones said.  “And one day, I was just working out in the mirror, as I do every day, and I was just looking at myself, as I do every day and I said, ‘Why not?  You’re going to sculpt your body and just sculpt it for nothing?  Why not compete?’”

“So, when the competitors came in one day, I said, ‘I’m going to do it.  I’m going to compete,’” she said.  “And I’ve been on the track of competing ever since.”

For the past 11 months, Jones has followed a workout routine that sees her in the gym six days a week, two times a day, for a total of at least six hours a day.

She also follows a meal plan that allows her to eat the same foods she’s always enjoyed, just baked in a more healthy way and served in smaller portions.  Instead of fried chicken she’ll have baked chicken, and instead of an all-you-can-eat buffet, she’ll use a saucer round as a plate.

“The main thing you want to do is to watch your fat, watch your carbs and watch your calories,” she said.  “If you control those three things, you’re going to lose weight.  That’s what I’ve learned.”

Jones now wants to use what she’s learned to build a career from her passion -- fitness -- and help other people achieve what she has.

“I want to teach people how to live healthier lifestyles, how to eat, and I want them to know it can  be done,” she said.  “If I could do it, absolutely anybody in this world can do it.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct032012

Let's Not Talk About Sex?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Parents who feel uncomfortable talking about sex with their teens have it easier than they think. It’s your kids who are the ones having anxiety attacks about what you’re going to tell them.

A new Family Circle survey of 2,000 adults and adolescents ages 15-18 finds that a whopping 82 percent of youngsters feel some degree of discomfort when mom and dad sit them down for a talk about sex and relationships. Meanwhile, 50 percent of parents admit some unease about discussing these topics.

Nine out of ten teens tell Family Circle they prefer no more conferences with the folks about sex while over 16 percent concede their parents have never even broached the subject with them.

Parents may also be in the dark somewhat about the nature of their children’s sexual activity with 81 percent of those with teens who are sexually active saying they knew their kids had intercourse although just 45 percent with youngsters who admitted having oral sex were aware of it.

Family Circle editor-in-chief Linda Fears says that teens often cite embarrassment for the unease they feel when parents speak frankly about sex but often as well, they think lectures aren’t necessary because they already feel informed from the amount of sexual content available to them in the media, entertainment and pop culture.

There also may be some disconnect in other areas between adults and teens:

  • Forty-two percent of parents claim they’ve spoken many times about telling their children how to abstain from sex but only 27 percent of teens say they’ve gotten that talk.
  • Twenty-nine percent of parents tell the survey they’ve spoken many times about birth control methods but 35 percent of teens say they’ve never heard that from their folks or only had once.
  • Thirty-nine percent of parents say they’ve explained the risks of sexting (sending sexually explicit text messages) but 41 percent of teens claim their parents have never talked about it or did just once.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct022012

Fast Food Diet Participants Paid to Purposely Gain Weight

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are making an unusual offer: They are paying people to add fat to their own bodies by eating an extra 1,000-calorie fast food meal each day for three months.

Dr. Samuel Klein, the lead researcher in the study, wanted to do some basic research on why only some people who gain weight develop diabetes and hypertension, while others do not. It's something he said he couldn't research by feeding food pellets to lab animals.

"What you learn in rodents does not always translate to people," Klein said. "What you learn on flies and worms won't translate to people."

Fast food turns out to be a perfect food pellet replacement because it is good for measuring exactly what people are eating. The five restaurants chosen for the study were McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC.

"[Fast food restaurants] have very regulated food content," said Klein, the lead researcher of the study. "We know exactly the calories and macro-nutrient composition within fast food restaurants, so it's a very inexpensive, easy and tasteful way to give people extra calories."

There was also a cash incentive. Participants could earn up to $3,500, depending on how long it took them to reach the weight goal. They had to gain five percent to six percent of their body weight during the three-month span and then they could work to shed the pounds again. Researchers monitored their weight from week to week.

The hospital put out an ad seeking participants, and several people came forward.

Dawn Freeman, a 50-year-old nurse who had finished the program, started out weighing 170 pounds. She said she gained 16 pounds over the course of eight weeks.

She was compensated a total of $2,650 for her effort, including $50 to lose all the weight again, which she did with diet and a lot of walking exercise to help her get down to 162.8 pounds. The hospital guides participants through the weight loss.

Freeman said gaining weight fast -- with a doctor's permission -- only sounds easy and even seemed easy at the first meal, when she ate a Big Mac and large fries from McDonalds.

"It was really good and you know the next night I went to Taco Bell and it was, it was wonderful," she said. "This is after I have already eaten dinner."

But Freeman eventually found out that gaining weight in a hurry is really hard.

"This is not pleasant for them," Klein said. "It's not easy to stuff your face every day for a long period of time."

Freeman said she started to feel awful after two weeks, "I could hardly breathe anymore."

Now she is glad it's over. But another participant, Dave Giocolo, was about to find out that this experiment was not a food lovers' dream.

The 48-year-old bathroom design and supply salesman, said when he heard the medical school's ad on the radio while commuting to work, he called them right away.

The St. Louis native's starting weight was 249.9 pounds with a goal of adding about 15 pounds for the study. So Giocolo, who never went without his morning McDonald's breakfast burrito, started eating quarter pounders for the sake of science.

He made so many drive-in runs that he knew the calories by heart, but around week four, those burgers and fries started to catch up with him. Giocolo said his knees and ankles started aching.

"It's getting harder to move," he said.

Metabolism is a mysterious thing. For Giocolo, the weight went on, slowly it seems. One week he actually lost about a pound. That's when researchers told him to up the quantities. Around week 11, he said he was ready to be done with it.

Just last week, Giocolo finished the weight gain part of the study, hitting 268 pounds -- a gain of just over 18 pounds. He was compensated $3,225, and will receive more when he gets his weight back down to baseline.

Now his challenge is to lose the weight, helped maybe by the fact that he said he has lost his appetite for fast food, at least for a while.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct022012

Beta Blockers May Not Prevent Heart Attacks and Strokes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New research suggests that beta-blocker pills don't prevent heart attacks, strokes or cardiac deaths in patients with heart disease, but doctors are torn over whether there's enough in the study to make them want to stop prescribing the drugs. Beta blockers have been a standard heart medication for decades.

The study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, looked at nearly 45,000 patients with prior heart attacks, coronary artery disease or risk factors for coronary artery disease, and found that those on beta blockers didn't show significantly lower rates of heart attack, stroke or cardiac death than those not on the medication.

"This is a very compelling study that has the potential to shake up the conventional wisdom that exists regarding the role of beta blockers in the management of patients with cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Randal Thomas, a cardiovascular specialist at the Mayo Clinic. "At a minimum, it will lead to new studies that address this issue once again."

Beta blockers work by blocking adrenalin receptors in the brain that become activated when the body is stressed. Beta blockers are used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety and other conditions.

Some doctors say they are glad beta blockers are being questioned because their use had been "written in stone" for so many years, but others say using a non-randomized data sample is not as reliable as a randomized drug trial.

While the authors attempted to account for differences between the patient groups that might have had an impact on their health, they did not have access to information on why some patients were prescribed these drugs and some were not, said Dr. Richard Besser, the chief heath and medical editor at ABC News.

Dr. Melvin Rubenfire, who directs cardiovascular medicine at the University of Michigan, said he'd been hoping for a study like this, but it won't change his prescribing habits because he uses beta blockers only in specific cases. Rubenfire also weans patients off the pills 18 months after they have a heart attack if they experience adverse side effects, such as fatigue and erectile dysfunction.

Rubenfire said the existing data wasn't enough to determine which patients would benefit from beta blockers, and what kinds of beta blockers are better than others. Beta blockers include at least six brand names, including Sectral, Tenormin and Zebeta.

Even study coauthor Christopher Cannon, a professor at Harvard Medical School, said he will continue to prescribe beta blockers to his patients, adding, "I would not make too much of this" because the study is only observational.

"All it can do is raise up an idea for us researchers to consider for further study," he said.

Cannon said this research shows that it's unclear whether beta blockers add more benefit than the other therapies developed in the decades since beta blockers became a standard of practice for treating patients with heart disease. Since patients are often taking several drugs, it's hard to pinpoint how much one agent helps compared with another.

Dr. Steven Nissen, who chairs the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said the medicine might not be ideal for all of the patients it's prescribed to, but a new randomized, controlled trial will be necessary to change guidelines for prescribing beta blockers.

"Abandonment of this type of therapy for post-MI [post-heart attack] patients based upon an observational study is not warranted," he said.

For the time being, the study raises questions, said Dr. Harlan Kumhulz, a professor of medicine, epidemiology and public health at Yale University.

"The question it raises is about how long after having a heart attack should patients remain on beta blockers?" Kumhulz said, noting that beta-blocker patients didn't have better outcomes than the other patients did after the first year. "The study cannot definitively answer that question -- but raises doubts about the need to continue to take them for the rest of a patient's life."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct022012

Concerns Rise Over Bondage Depiction in "Fifty Shades"

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages(PHILADELPHIA) -- Robert Dunlap, a certified sex educator from California, gets three or four requests a day from couples expressing an interest in and even seeking coaching for the latest trend in kink -- BDSM, an overlapping acronym for bondage and discipline; dominance and submission; sadism and masochism.

"It's such an explosion," said Dunlap, co-founder of the online site, Sex Coach University. "It's happening now because of the book."

The book, E.L. James' trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, has sold 32 million copies since its e-publication earlier this year and spawned the new cultural phenomenon.

"It's absolutely been astounding how many students we get inquiries from on a daily basis," he said. Dunlap is also getting requests from sex educators to learn proper coaching in the practice.

Devotees say that even though the popularity of the book "normalizes" what used to be a fringe sexual practice, they worry that a piece of fiction gives BDSM a "bad" name.

"On the one hand if you are looking at it as a formulaic romance novel, it fits the formula perfectly," said Emily Prior a BDSM/Kink/Fetish teacher at Sex Coach University and director of the Los-Angeles-based Center for Positive Sexuality. "But if your audience is people who already are in a lifestyle or are being introduced to the lifestyle, it starts to give misinformation."

"It perpetuates the ongoing idea that people who do this are broken in some way," she said. "And this is not true."

Dunlap, who has chronicled the practice of BDSM, interviewing hundreds of fetishists for his 2001 film, Beyond Vanilla, said that the practice demands strict rules of safety.

"When two people want to get involved, their negotiation is up front," he said. "They are going to have a safe word: 'When I say, it ends. Period.' Most use a stop sign. Green means 'go.' Yellow means 'caution' and 'red' ends it."

"Play is also negotiated," said Dunlap. "For example, if you are doing flogging or whipping, 'Tell me during the process if you want to be hurt. Is it too hard? Is it too soft?'"

The BDSM craze has hit Britain, as well, according to Susan Quilliam, a relationship psychologist and sex advice columnist who is writing an academic piece on the trilogy for the Journal of Family Planning as well as running an exploratory workshop for the British couples.

"Fifty Shades has been roundly criticized by the BDSM community and its depiction of the lifestyle is inaccurate," she wrote in an email to ABC News. "Christian Grey's initial seduction of Anastasia breaks every rule in the BDSM book."

Quilliam said the relationship portrayed in the book is exploitive "on both sides and therefore emotionally unsafe and not sane."

The book views Christian Grey as dominant because of an abusive childhood, which practitioners claim is an "untrue reflection."

Most importantly, Quilliam worries about couples who experiment with BDSM for the first time based on the book.

But sex coach Prior said the books are not "suddenly going to make this all mainstream -- that's silly ... What's fantastic about it is that it shows [BDSM] is not abnormal and people can allow themselves express themselves within their relationships."

She said BDSM encompasses a wide range of sexual acts "from zero to 60."

"It's not all extremely pain related, harsh and serious sadistic-masochistic behavior," Prior said. "There's a whole lot of other stuff, too and it has every range to it."

And Dunlap argues that Fifty Shades of Grey has one "powerful" message to readers that can protect couples from violence.

"People should sign agreements that this is how they are going to play," he said. "That's how the majority in BDSM do it…There is a contract so everything sexual is agreed on up front."

In clubs where BDSM is practiced, members who overstep the rules are ostracized, he said.

"I was shocked at the popularity," said Dunlap. "People have become much more sophisticated about what they want to do. When I was a little boy my uncle said something to my aunt: 'You are going to get a spanking later.' Then, I thought, 'Oh my god, what did she do?' Now that I am older…"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct022012

Having 5 Babies: The Challenge of Pregnancy with Quintuplets

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When Meryl Ferraro was on bed rest for two months, awaiting the birth of her quintuplets in an Arizona hospital, the Olympics were on television almost constantly during the first three weeks of her stay. As her belly grew, she said he began to see making her pregnancy last 34 weeks as her own sort of Olympic challenge.

"It's just determination," Ferraro said. "If you decide this is what you want, you've got to give it all you have."

Most quintuplets are born between 24 and 28 weeks into pregnancy, sometimes causing them to be born with underdeveloped lungs, cerebral palsy, and sight and hearing deficiencies. So it was crucial for Ferraro to keep her babies inside as long as possible to give their tiny bodies more time to grow. Full-term pregnancy is typically about 38 weeks.

Early on, doctors told her to reduce the number of fetuses she was carrying, but Ferraro and her husband, John, decided they couldn't bear to choose which babies would live and which would die. After John read a chapter in a book about multiple births written by Dr. John Elliott, they found out he lived 45 minutes from their California home and gave him a call.

Elliott specialized in high-risk pregnancies. He delivered his first quadruplets in 1984, and has delivered 99 sets in all. He'd also delivered 12 sets of quintuplets when Ferraro met him.

And this month, he delivered two more sets of quints: one to Meryl and one to Carmen Matthews, who met Meryl in July and gave birth a few weeks before Meryl did. Both families temporarily moved to Arizona to keep Elliott as their doctor when he relocated to Banner Desert Medical Center in July. (John actually took all the seats out of his van and put a mattress in back when Meryl was 23 weeks pregnant, so he could drive her from their home in Southern California to Mesa, Ariz.)

Both moms were nurses; both sought fertility treatment; and both gave birth to five babies with September birthdays.

Once Matthews gave birth, Meryl was even more uncomfortable -- both ready to hold her babies in her arms and desperate to keep them inside just a few weeks longer. Quoting her husband, Meryl said giving birth to quints at 32 weeks instead of 28 weeks was like the difference between a "fender-bender and a front-end collision." She'd take the fender-bender.

Her water broke at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday morning, when she was 32 weeks and five days pregnant. All five babies were born via Caesarean section between 11:01 and 11:04 a.m. There was a team of 24 people in the operating room and another 50 in recovery.

When she went into labor and knew she wouldn't make it to 34 weeks, Meryl said the first thing she felt was anger. In the Olympic challenge she dreamed up, 33 weeks was only worth a sliver metal, and she wanted to reach the 34-week mark she'd imagined as gold.

"I was so mad because I had this goal, and, to me, I didn't reach it," she said.

But in the days since delivering, she's gotten to know the three girls and two boys she felt nudge her from the inside for so long. She already knows Gabby can sleep through anything, Addy (the smallest) is a fighter, and Riley (the biggest) is kind of lazy, she said. She calls Riley "my chubber."

Although Meryl says her stomach feels as sore as if she's done "1,000 crunches," and she's getting used to walking again after two months in bed, she can go home to her temporary apartment in Arizona today. The quints will stay in the NICU until they're ready to leave, too.

Always a step ahead, Carmen Matthews, who gave birth on Sept. 6, is waiting for just one more baby to leave the NICU before she and her family can go home to North Carolina.

"I'm definitely glad that we did what we did," Matthews said. "We couldn't have asked for better outcomes. It was a lot of sacrifice for all of us, but it was totally worth it."

As Matthews spoke into the phone, a few of her new babies cooed in the background.

Elliott said having a plan and keeping a positive attitude plays an important role in his patients' outcomes. For the Ferraros and the Matthews, it was a comfort to have each other.

"I think it helped both of these families to have somebody else going through the same thing, same fears, same questions," Elliot said. "It was special. It just doesn't happen."

Elliott said he's able to get his patients to carry their high risk pregnancies between four and six weeks longer than average because he uses magnesium sulfate to prolong pregnancies longer than most doctors. Once he puts the mother on the drug, she's often uncomfortable -- with chest pain, muscle weakness, blurred vision and headaches -- but those symptoms usually go away after about three days, and the medication can extend the gestation period for months.

"Most people don't know that because they're afraid to go three to four days," he said. "If you don't know how to treat it in an aggressive way, you're going to fail."

Although the babies are doing well, Dr. James Goldfarb, who directs the University Hospital's fertility center in Cleveland, said having more than one baby as a result of fertility treatments is something to be avoided because of the associated health risks. He said fertility specialists' goals should not just be to get their patients pregnant; it should be to help them have healthy families. He said even triplets are 20 times more likely to be born with cerebral palsy than single babies.

Goldfarb said doctors and patients need to be conservative about administering fertility shots. He recommended that they implant only one embryo at a time. He said doctors also need to be mindful that some patients can't reduce their number of embryos for moral or religious reasons.

"Patients come to us desperate to get pregnant, and the last thing they're concerned about is being too pregnant," Goldfarb said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct022012

Womb-Scratching Technique May Boost IVF Success

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- What if a quick, cheap and relatively painless procedure could double the chances of becoming pregnant through in-vitro fertilization?  British researchers say a simple scratch to the uterine lining might do just that, but some experts are skeptical.

A new review of eight previously published studies suggests women who have their wombs gently scraped a month before starting IVF are twice as likely to have babies. The procedure, called local endometrial injury, takes about 15 minutes and costs as little as $200.

"Because the success rate of IVF is modest, these results are of considerable interest since the proposed intervention is neither expensive nor time-consuming and is apparently devoid of significant complications," the review authors wrote.

In IVF, a woman's eggs are plucked from her ovaries and fertilized in a laboratory.  The resulting embryos are then transferred back into the woman's womb, but fewer than half will implant in the uterine lining and result in a pregnancy, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.

"It's a very complicated biochemical process," said Dr. Richard Paulson, director of the Fertility Program at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.  "The embryo has to chemically communicate with the surface of the endometrium, give a kiss of death to some of the cells underneath to make room for implantation, and then invade the tissue much like a cancer."

The new review, published in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online, suggests a small scratch in the endometrium can boost the receptivity of the uterus to an implanted embryo.  But some experts say the studies cited were flawed; most of them lacked proper control groups.

"Certainly this warrants revisiting the issue," said Dr. James Goldfarb, director of the University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland and past president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies. "I think the value of this review is that it might entice people to do good randomized control studies so we can know if this truly helps or not."

The idea of scratching the womb to aid implantation stemmed from the observation in 2003 that women who had endometrial biopsies after one or more failed IVF cycles were more likely to get pregnant.  But it's unclear how an endometrial injury might improve implantation.  Some studies suggest the tiny scratch triggers the release of growth factors from the uterine lining.  But the timing of it -- one month before a woman starts IVF -- raises questions.

"All those cells are going to be sloughed off," said Paulson, explaining how the uterine lining sheds with each menstrual period.  "That's a problem."

The procedure, Paulson said, also defies Mother Nature.

"Teleologically, this would never have occurred in nature," he said of injuring an organ to boost its function.  "You might be allowing the implantation of an embryo that would not normally implant."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct022012

Baby Suffers from Rare Blood Hardening Disorder

Obtained by ABC(NEW YORK) -- Most mothers don't worry about hugging their babies.

Jenna Buswell, a Washington state mother of two, does worry about such close contact.

Buswell's bundle of joy, her 7-month-old son Casen, has a rare vascular condition that causes his blood vessels, skin and muscles to harden, and it will only worsen as he gets older.

"It's progressive, so once the skin starts to harden and thicken it becomes extremely painful," Buswell told ABCNews.com. "Right now, he is so, so little that we're noticing that to touch there are areas that are sensitive so we have to be careful about how we place him."

The condition, so rare that Casen is only one of 14 known cases in the world, is called glomuvenous malformations plaque type and is caused by a missing glomulin gene. If left untreated, it could ultimately lead to heart failure, Buswell said.

Lesions were immediately noticeable on Casen's chest when he was born, but it wasn't until the Buswells saw a geneticist nine weeks later that they began to get answers.

"The geneticist pieced it together and on a whim notified a few other doctors in the U.S. ... and then at that point notified the husband and wife doctor team in Belgium, who identified the gene Casen is missing," Buswell said.

Dr. Miikka Vikkula and his wife, Dr. Laurence Boon, are the only doctors in the world who have established a treatment for the condition, Buswell said. The couple practices in Brussels, 5,000 miles from the Buswell's home in Puyallup, Wash.

The Buswells, who also have a 3-year-old daughter, Cora, made the trip to Belgium this past summer to meet with Vikkula and Boon.

Casen will need monthly laser treatments for up to three years, which will help keep his vessels from hardening and it's hoped give him a shot at living a normal life.

"Our doctors in Belgium are the only doctors we've seen who have been able to give us a clearer picture about what we need to do to treat him," Buswell said. "We're struggling with how are we going to provide that for him."

The family's Puyallup, Wash., community wants to make sure Buswells don't have to worry about paying for the treatments. Strangers have donated thousands of dollars and held fundraisers to help cover the estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. A local drag-racing enthusiast was so touched by Casen's story that he said he planned to sell his beloved 1957 Chevy Bel-Air and donate the proceeds to the Buswell family.

"It gives us hope we're going to be able to do whatever it is we need to do," Buswell said.

Buswell, a special education teacher, and her husband, C.J., a contract administrator at a construction company, are now looking into a move to Belgium, a place where neither has ties, to cut down on the costly commute they'd otherwise face going from Washington to Brussels once a month.

Stefanie Putkowski, a registered nurse who works with the National Organization for Rare Disorders, said it's not uncommon for families to move thousands of miles to get treatment for a rare disease, but it's usually within the U.S.

"It's remarkable this family is considering moving to Belgium, but it's not at all inconsistent with the types of things we see all the time," Putkowski said. "Once there is a treatment, families will go to any length to obtain treatment for their child."

And for the smiling, wide-eyed 7-month-old, his parents are willing to do just that.

"My hope is he is able to do all the things little boys should do. Run around, ride his bike, play with his sister," Buswell said. "And grow up and live a fairly normal life."

 

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