July 2010

Sex on the Brain: Differences Between Men and Women

Many people assume that brain differences between men and women result from sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. This is not true. In fact, increasing numbers of studies find large reliable distinctions between the sexes. These effects are often seen early in development and before sex hormones are expressed. The research examining sex-specific brain mechanisms finds variability in structure, neurotransmitters, and the expression of specific genes in males and females.

Many Physicians Not in Line with Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines

A survey of more than 1,200 primary care physicians indicates that many are not following clinical practice guidelines on recommended screening intervals for cervical cancer, both with regard to traditional Pap testing as well as a newer screening method, a DNA test for the human papillomavirus (HPV). The FDA has approved HPV DNA testing for use in conjunction with Pap testing, a process called co-testing, for women age 30 and older.

At the time the survey was conducted, guidelines from the American Cancer Society and those from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advised extending the interval between screenings to 3 years for low-risk women over the age of 30 after three consecutive normal Pap tests or a single normal co-test (a normal Pap test plus a negative HPV DNA test). Guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also are consistent with a longer interval between screening tests.

Measuring Peak Heart Rate in Women

Women who measure their peak heart rates for exercise will need to do some new math, as will physicians giving stress tests to patients.  A new formula based on a large study from Northwestern Medicine provides a more accurate estimate of the peak heart rate a healthy woman should attain during exercise. It also will more accurately predict the risk of heart-related death during a stress test.